Flotta Memories: our final fantastic Year of Stories winner
Congratulations to Katrina McGhie of Ayrshire, winner of our November Year of Stories competition. As this is the last of our monthly competitions, we decided to give an extra special prize of a £300 voucher – and it's now on its way to Katrina, just in time for Christmas!
This month we received an exceptionally good selection of entries, and it’s been hard for us to pick a winner. (We will mention some of the runners up separately.) In the end, Katrina’s story won our hearts with its mixture of strong family emotions, a favourite Ola Gorie collection - that’s very timely just now as the Northern Lights dance across our wintery skies - and some fascinating Orkney history dating back 80 years.
Katrina and her mum Rachel.
‘My mum and her two brothers and parents moved to Flotta during the Second World War and stayed in a House called Goldhall. My grandfather was a mechanic and helped make roads and maintain the machinery. They stayed there for five plus years.
‘Mum is still alive today and talks about how difficult life was. She will tell of how strong the storms were. One time she was looking after her younger brother while her mother was working, and had to go the well for water. (She was eight years old and her brother was two.) She tied a rope around her waist and her wee brother so he wouldn't get lost or blown away.
‘She talks about seeing all the warships in Scapa Flow, what a sight that must have been. She remembers how she and her brothers used to get chocolate from the American sailors, the Italian chapel being built, the list goes on! She has a terrific memory for a 91-year-old, and loved her time in Orkney.
‘I bought her the North Star earrings for her 90th birthday as she always talks about seeing the Aurora Borealis and how beautiful it was. I love talking to her about the time she spent in Flotta.
‘I am so proud of her: how she had to cope bringing me up through illness and how much I love and admire her. When I saw your request for stories, I thought what a great thing it would be share her story about Orkney and Ola Gorie. She means the world to me!’
And your story means the world to us, Katrina!
Goldhall is still standing – just – though it is ruinous and uninhabited. I wonder how such a modest croft house came to have such a grand name? It's strangely fitting for a memory involving jewellery.
In another coincidence, Ola’s father Patrick Gorie was also stationed on Flotta during World War II – though he only had to travel from Kirkwall to take up his posting. It’s intriguing to wonder whether he ever crossed paths with Katrina’s mother and grandparents.
Ola and her parents, Minnie and Patrick Gorie, 1939.
All the photos in this blog - apart from our family one of Ola - are by Rebecca Marr. They show some of Flotta's surviving defences and lookouts from WWII, built when Scapa Flow was the headquarters of the British North Atlantic Fleet. We wonder if Katrina's grandfather had a hand in building any of these?
Thank you again to Katrina for sending in her story, and to everyone who entered our competition over the past few months. It has been fascinating and very touching to read your stories.