The many islands of Orkney are known as places of beauty and tranquillity. In some ways they offer a refuge from the more stressful way of life on the British mainland. But Orcadian life in the past was harder than today: the land was tilled by toil and sweat, and fishermen braved the changeable sea in their dark-sailed boats. Although much has been written about Orkney in those bygone days, there is nothing quite so effective as a good variety of old photographs when it comes to bringing the past to life.
Thanks to the pioneers of photography represented in Gordon Wright's selection
of images, we are able to gain a fascinating insight into life in the Orkney islands from the 1860s to the 1930s. These decades were times of great change in Orkney, and these photographs bear witness to developments such as the mechanisation of farming, and events such as the herring boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which brought employment and prosperity to the islands.
Gordon Wright was born in Edinburgh in 1942 and educated in the city. He served an apprenticeship in the camera department of John Bartholomew & Sons Ltd before moving to W & A K Johnston & Co and then Banks & Co. In his spare time he illustrated and designed the nationalist quarterly magazine Catalyst and published books of Scottish poetry. In 1973 he left the printing industry and set up business as an independent publisher. Over the next three decades he published many books by Scottish writers. He is also an accomplished photographer and has had two exhibitions of his work: 'Glisk: Photographs of the Scottish Literati' at the Netherbow, Edinburgh, in 1979 and 'The Write Stuff' at the National Library of Scotland in 2001. In 1993 he received the Oliver Brown Award for services to Scotland. In 2013 he published the first volume of A Great Idea at the Time, his memoirs (available as an illustrated ebook for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone from iTunes).
'Back in print, after more than 20 years, is this collection of historic Orkney photographs taken by leading photographers of their day ... The 195 illustrations are a remarkable record, bringing to life almost every aspect of daily work and toil in the islands, including transport within and to the islands, from the first buses to the first motorcycle and two-seater sidecar, and a mid-1930s Aberdeen Airways Dragon which used the grass airstrip at Cumminess near the Brig o'Waithe. The herring boom, which brought prosperity to the islands, and the gradual mechanisation of farming, are illustrated too, with the old photographs able to convey better than words, what it was like to live here "in the good old days." Anyone who missed this fascinating book the first time round should get a copy now while it is still available.'
-- The Orcadian