Week 58: Orkney Island

Missionaries have P-Day which stands for preparation day on Monday’s here in Scotland Ireland Mission.  Since I work in the office my P-Day is Saturday which is why we have the weekends to do what we want with.  Since Sister Gifford and I both have “assignments” (they can’t give us callings) in the ward that keep us busy on Sunday’s we try to cram as much as we can into our Saturdays so we don’t leave any stone in Scotland unturned.  But this week we got subs and went to Orkney Island.  It was a wonderful weekend.  Elder and Sister Miller came with us.

First off though, one of my assignments in our ward is to work with the new converts on getting their family history going.  Our goal is to find a name they can take to the temple to do baptisms for.  This becomes a challenge since the majority of the new converts we have are first: not from Scotland or America but from China, Romania, and Brazil; and second they are very often university students whose parents have no idea they are getting baptised or if they do know, they won’t give permission for them to get baptised for their grandparents who have passed on.  Last week as I was working on the computer with one of our new investigators Sister Allred and Sister Osmond had both opened up their family history as well.  Sister Allred said something about her great, great, great grandfather who settled Manti and I’m thinking to myself –

no my great, great, great grandfather settled Manti.  But I brushed it off thinking maybe the Morley’s and the Allred’s were friends and there together.  I’m sure it wasn’t singly settled just by Isaac Morley.  But then I mentioned his temple apron that hangs inside the Manti Temple and she said that is so cool.  Who is he?  When I said Isaac Morley she said wait, that’s my ancestor.  So there I found a new cousin right here in Edinburgh.  Then Sister Osmond was saying, wow you guys are cousins.  How cool.  And then it dawned on me.  The Calls are related to the Osmond’s through the Covey line.  So that made us cousins too.  So here we are… cousins serving together in Scotland Ireland Mission.

The other great thing that happened this week was Elder Schmidt made it back to Scotland after going home to get his tonsils out.  It turned out to be a longer process than we anticipated and we were getting worried we wouldn’t see him again.  So glad to have him back.  Here he is poking into my office to say hi before they head off to Dundee.  Elder Schmidt, Elder Shiels, Elder Elton and Elder Peterson.

Well we have been planning a trip to Orkney Island since the time we went to Stornoway on Harris and Lewis Island.  (Not sure that’s exactly what you would say but the islands are the Hebrides Islands.)  We have missionaries on three of the islands above mainland Scotland.  Orkney, Lewis, and Shetland which is a 12 hour ferry ride so we are still trying to decide if we want to do that.

To get to Orkney you drive up to Thurso which is a 5.5 hour drive and then you get on a ferry for a 90 minute ferry ride.  We left the office at noon on Friday totally prepared to leave the office unmanned for the weekend.  President even offered us Monday off since Monday is another bank holiday.  Not much work gets done on bank holidays and he told us to close the office.  On the way to Thurso, which by the way is a beautiful drive, we stopped quickly to get a glimpse of Dunrobin Castle.  This castle is visible from miles away and is beautiful.

You see the large towers poking up from forests of trees.  I am so glad we got a chance to stop and take a few pictures.  We didn’t go into the castle because we didn’t have time but it is the largest of the great houses in the Highlands with 189 rooms.  It dates back to the 1300’s, is continually inhabited, was used as a naval hospital during the first world war and as a boy’s boarding school from 1965 to 1972.  It would have been fun to go into.  It sits right on the Moray Firth and was even more stunning coming back on Sunday and seeing it from the water side.  (In Scotland Firth means an inlet of water or a coastline.)

Well, after a long drive we finally got to the ferry.  I thought we were well on our way for a fun weekend but I didn’t realize how crazy the ferry ride was going to be.  The water was so choppy we couldn’t even walk on the ferry.  We had to sit down right

away and every time I tried to get up I couldn’t walk in a straight line.  Sister Miller and Sister Gifford had to sit with their bags and both of them used them several times.  Elder Miller just disappeared to go sit by the mens restroom.  But we finally made it to Orkney and got to our hotel room in Kirkwall.  The ferry leaves mainland Scotland from Scrabster which is right by Thurso and arrives on Orkney at Stromness.

Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day on Orkney.  We said something about it to a man who lives there and he said they get one day a year like that so we felt very lucky.  The temperature was about 65 degrees and the wind was there but not too bad.  We were very happy.  We ate breakfast at our hotel and then headed out to pack in as much as we could in a day.  We first went to the Earl’s Palace and the Bishop’s Palace.  They share the same lots.

The Earl’s Palace was as nice a palace as we’ve seen in ruins.  The detail and the design were totally fancy compared to other buildings in this state.  It was built in 1601 – 1606 by Patrick Stewart, the Earl of Orkney.  He built it to incorporate the old Bishop’s Palace and spent more than he had with his taste for luxury.  He was an illegitimate cousin of King James VI and was known as ‘Black Patie’ and had a reputation for cruelty and violence.  He lost the Palace just a few years later and spent his days as a prisoner in Edinburgh and Dumbarton for ‘moneyfauld wrongis’, along with theft of lands and funds, oppression of local people, kidnapping, torture and murder.  He was indicted for treason in 1610 and ultimately beheaded in 1615.  The Bishop’s Palace right next door was first built in 1137 but the part we saw was erected in 1541 – 48.  We climbed to the top of the tower and got some beautiful views of Orkney.

After that we drove out to a place called Maes Howe. This is a mound out in a field that when you enter through a tunnel that you have to bend clear over to get through for about 30 or 40 steps opens up into a tomb. This dates back to Neolithic peoples, about 3000 – 2000 BC.  We couldn’t take pictures inside but there were standing stones as the corners of the room and you realized that the tunnel was one long

standing stone on it’s side on each side of the tunnel as well.  There was also writings on the walls that date back to 1100 AD when the Norse Crusaders found the tomb and broke into it and must have used it for some time.  The tunnel that leads into the tomb is in-line with the setting of the mid-winter sun and illuminates the tomb for a few weeks during December and January.

Speaking of standing stones – I don’t know if you remember the Callanish Stones I saw in Stromness.  They were used as the model for the stones in Disney’s Brave.  Well, Orkney has standing stones as well.  Scientists believe the Standing Stones of Stennish are some of the earliest standing stone circles in Britain.  No one really knows what the stones were used for but they are huge and really neat to see. Very near by is the Ring of Brodgar which is another ring of standing stones.  This massive stone circle originally had 60 stones dating back to 3000 BC.  36 stones still stand today; along with 13 prehistoric burial mounds and a rock ditch that runs the full circle around the stones.

Then we were on to Skara Brae.  This is a Stone-Age village which was uncovered on the coast in 1850.  Preserved beneath the dunes was this 5,000 year-old village with 10 different houses, tools, toys, stone beds and stone dressers or shelving.

Next we were on to a site called Gurness which was very similar to Skara Brae but was built during the Iron Age.  This site was discovered when Robert Rendall went to the seaside to do some painting.  He set up his easel and his three-legged stool and sat down to paint.  The leg of his stool went down into the ground and after digging a bit he uncovered the top of the staircase on the tower which was in the center of this village.  Scientists now know that this was built around 400 to 700 AD by the Picts.

Just so you know who the Picts are… The Romans called the Picti which means ‘Painted Ones’ in Latin.  They were northern tribes that during the Dark Age of Scotland were the largest kingdom. They repelled the conques

ts of both Romans and Angles, creating a true north-south divide on the British Isles. They disappear from history by the end of the first millennium.

The Picts took part in one of the most decisive battles in Scottish history – the Battle of Dun Nechtain (Dunnichen). If the Picts had lost, Scotland might never have existed. For the Angles of Northumbria it was simply a disaster – ending their domination of Scotland.



After that we started heading back to Kirkwall and made several attempts to get some good baby lamb photos.  Since I was driving I didn’t get many photos on my phone so hopefully I will get some good ones later from Elder Miller.   When we got back to town we went and visited the St. Magnus Cathedral which is known as Britain’s ‘the Light in the North’.  It’s a beautiful large cathedral but like all gothic cathedrals there is no feeling of the spirit in the cold, stone walls. I do enjoy walking around in them though.  They are very interesting.  This cathedral was built by Vikings in 1137.  We went back later in the evening and listened to part of a choral concert there.

We then met our Orkney Elders, Elder Wayment from Henefer, Utah and Elder Rothlisberger from near Snowflake, AZ for dinner at a local Indian restaurant that is known because Chef Ramsey has visited there a few times.  Still not as good as Jashan’s right here by us.  But fun to visit with the Elders. Sunday we attended the Orkney Branch which meets in the local Grammer School.  But don’t be fooled, this has to be one of the nicest public schools I have ever seen.  But the dear members of this branch pray daily for a building of their own some day.  They have a total of 55 members but are lucky if 20 come.  We were there for fast and testimony meeting which was sweet and filled with the spirit.  Good people on Orkney.  We won’t forget them.

After church we drove out to another island to see an Italian Chapel that was built during World War II.  From 1942 to 1945 this small island held a military camp and a POW camp.  The POWs were Italian soldiers of the 6th Anti Aircraft Regiment of teh Mantova Division and men from the Italian Tank Corps.  They were brought here to assist with the building of causeways to link the small chain of islands together.  The prisoners had a wide range of abilities from artists and sculptors to electricians and iron workers. To make camp more homey the prisoners laid concrete paths and planted flowerbeds. They constructed concrete benches and tables so they could sit outside.  They entertained themselves by putting on lavish productions in a makeshift theatre.  They published a newspaper and made a billiards table. They organised sports competitions against other POW camps and crafted small trinkets which were sold to local people.

But they lacked a chapel.  They longed for a chapel.  So in 1943 they were given to huts and they placed them end to end.  They began work on their sanctuary. They completed works of art to embellish the areas in the hut as they worked to make it beautiful.  Lampshades were made out of tin cans.  They found colored glass and scrap wood from shipwrecks and created masterpieces.

This was a special part of our journey as my own dad built a chapel during the Korean War.  This was a chapel for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Although the circumstances were different, my dad wasn’t a POW but he was a soldier stationed in Korea, away from his new wife and family.  It’s always nice to know that God is not forgotten even during times of war and strife.

Here are the pictures of the Italian Chapel built by POWs in 1943.

We made it back to the ferry, rode back to Scrabster without any seasickness this time and drove home to Edinburgh.  We got home at 12:30 AM safely but very tired.  Luckily Monday was a bank holiday so the President told us to just take the day off!!  I’ll tell you what we did today (Monday) next week.

Love you.  If you are still reading – you are a champ.  This was a long one.  Sorry mom.  I know you print this all out.  There are lots of pictures.  I tried to limit them.

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