Corrigall Farm Museum
The road strikes due north from just before Binscarth and Finstown, and then a smaller road turns right and meanders into the heart of Orkney (which Harray may well be, in every sense).
We feared that we might get lost, in this unfamiliar territory. But no: a signpost appeared, then another. The car stopped at last beside a cluster of little low buildings among the fields.
Here is quintessential Orkney. This is the source of Orkney life and the meaning of its history. After The Orkneyinga Saga, perhaps the most meaningful of Orkney books is John Firth's Reminiscences of an Orkney Parish, a plain and beautiful account of Orkney rural life in the mid-19th century -- how the people lived and worked and enjoyed themselves, what customs were grained into them, how they faced the great mysteries of birth and love and death... Life, in the physical and economic sense, was much harder then for the common folk of Orkney, but, girt around with the age-old rituals of agriculture and with simple sure beliefs, it was more meaningful also.
Here, at Corrigall Farm Museum, is John Firth's account translated into solid stone, vivid to all our senses. The byre for the cattle, the horse's stable, the barn and the kiln where the harvested crops were brought, the but-and-ben where the people lived generation by generation -- these are more than rather simple country buildings; they are symbols of an austere and beautiful way of life that had its beginnings, perhaps, in tribes whose language and names are lost, the builders of Skara Brae and Brodgar and Gurness.
The opening of Corrigall Farm Museum is an important event. There has been saved, before it was too late, the true meaning of Orkney, in stone that will take a long time to erode. And inside the stone complex are the symbols, plough and harrows and scythe and flail and winnowing doors and quern and loom: the complete cycle of life.
While we wandered gratefully from place to place, a peedie black kitten with enormous ears flowed around us, and seemed to be very much at home in this piece of old early-rooted Orkney.