September's Year of Stories Winner

Congratulations to Kay Foubister, our September Year of Stories winner. Our theme was ‘History and Heritage’, and Kay’s story weaves her own personal memories through a much more ancient past:


‘When I turned 18, my parents gave me the earrings that were inspired by the Viking whalebone plaque found as part of an excavation at Scar on the island of Sanday, where I’m from. But the personal connection is stronger than that.

‘At the time of the emergency archaeological excavation on the Scar Viking burial ship, I was at school in Kirkwall and living in the hostel. There were a number of pay phones in the hostel and parents would call the numbers and whoever answered would go and fetch the person the call was for. One night I was told my dad had called for me. When I got down to the pay phone the first thing he said to me when I answered was, ‘You’ll never guess what I’m looking at and how old it is.’

‘My parents ran a guesthouse on the island and the archaeologists excavating the Scar site were staying at the house. That night they were using our tables to pack and prepare the finds for transport. My dad was looking at the newly discovered whalebone plaque and called to tell me about it. A couple of years later I got my present of the earrings. Many years later I bought the pendant to match.

‘This piece of jewellery is very special to me as it is not only named after my home island and the amazing whalebone plaque discovered there, but also it reminds me of a phone call I had with my dad when I was a teenager away at school. At the time there was only a boat three times a week to Sanday as the ro-ro pier wasn’t built. Back then the Kirkwall Grammar School pupils from the northern isles only got flown home one weekend per term so the first time I actually saw the plaque was when it was exhibited in Tankerness House Museum.’

Thanks to Kay, not just for her story, but for sharing the evocative photo of Belsair guest house at the time it all happened.

The whalebone plaque was discovered in 1991, and has made its home since then in The Orkney Museum on Broad Street, Kirkwall, just a few metres from our shop and studio. It’s a beautiful object with a fascinating background story: read more here

Ola’s interpretation of designs on the plaque include a dragon’s head pendant (gold version shown above) and a ring with abstract patterns. 


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