Year of Stories Runners Up

Our final Year of Stories competition drew a bumper bunch of entries. As well as our winner, Katrina McGhie, we’d like to share some stories that were only a whisker behind in our affections.

Here is a lovely emotional memory from Jess Eve, about her father, and the wonderful gifts he brought back from his fishing holidays in the Highlands. Lovely photos too!

‘My father was a sheep farmer with a passion for freshwater fishing. Each year he spent two or three weeks in the Highlands leaving me, my mother and sister hundreds of miles away on our Devon farm, holding the fort and looking after all the animals. In those days my parents had very little money and we lived in a tied farm cottage. Holidays were rare. Thinking back, it was an incredible act of selflessness on my mother’s part, to forego trips to Scotland so that my father could have a well-earned break (or maybe she just hated midges!?) However, my mother’s cousin shared my father’s passion for fishing and invited him to stay with his family in various amazing lodges and locations. They were very special times for my father who died, aged only 59, after many years battling with cancer.

‘Every year we looked forward to Dad’s return because he would ALWAYS bring back a little gift for each of us. I don’t know where he went to do his shopping but usually it was a piece of silver Ola Gorie jewellery! Although, at the time (early 1980s), being a teenager (and without the internet), I didn’t fully appreciate Ola’s skill or the stories behind the collections. However, one of my favourite gifts was a pair of Cecily stud earrings. I have only ever lost one item of jewellery and it was one of these earrings which I managed to flick out of my ear when taking a jumper off. It fell through the floorboards of a boat and vanished forever! I was devastated as it wasn’t long after my father’s death in 1992 and I was still grieving the loss.

 ‘It wasn’t until many years later, having stumbled across Ola’s website, that I realised that she still made these little earrings. Of course, I immediately ordered a pair and I now have not only my favourite pair of earrings again but an interesting tale about them too!

‘My Mum, who is 85 and lives in a dementia care home, to this day still wears a silver Odin’s bird ring on her little finger. It is smooth, worn away even, but still very much loved.

‘Ola’s jewellery is for a lifetime and beyond…’


Our second runner-up in our final Year of Stories competition comes from right here in Orkney. It's from Barbara Flett in the parish of Harray.

'My love for Ola Gorie jewellery began when I was 16 years old and given the St Peter's Cross in silver for my birthday.

'My admiration for Ola's jewellery has never faltered and I now have a magnificent collection which I have been given for special birthdays or saved up and purchased myself. My collection includes my first purchase, from back in 1998, of the Ingibiorg round pendant, which I admired for many months before purchasing, swiftly followed by the matching drop earrings; only a few years ago I also purchased the matching studs.

'I have since acquired the True pendant along with the studs, the Drift pendant drop earrings and studs, and the Faray pendant and stud ear-rings, all in 9ct gold. Heh, what's not to like?!

'However, my most precious item of jewellery I acquired last year. My mam was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and sadly passed away a few short weeks after her diagnosis. The last words I told her were, "See you tomorrow, mam, I love you", but, sadly, I didn't get to see her the next day as she passed away suddenly and without me by her side.

'After a few months had passed by and I felt strong enough, I popped along to the shop and the girls ordered a ring for me. It was the Runic 9ct gold ring that reads "I love you". This ring has so many meanings, not just happy and joyful to those getting married, but, for me, a special reflection of my feelings for my mam. It is my absolute pride and joy, I wear it every day and when I look at it I think of my mam. Oh, my goodness, it is making me feel quite emotional putting this into words.'

Us too, Barbara, us too

Our third and final runner up in our last Year of Stories competition is Lillian Hunter, whose story has strong Orkney connections. She calls it, ‘A Wonderful Mistake.'

‘I came into the world on 21st April 1956, following a rushed car journey from the lighthouse buildings in Stromness to the Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall. My parents were originally from Rousay, but my father joined the lighthouse service in 1951. As I was growing up my father was a lighthouse keeper at several lighthouses around Scotland, including in Orkney.

‘Although I eventually married and settled in Buckinghamshire, I always took my family home to Orkney. During one of these visits, my husband decided to buy me a present for our Ruby Wedding Anniversary, and we went to look in The Longship, Ola’s shop opposite the cathedral in Kirkwall. As soon as I saw the Stroma ring, I knew it was the one for me, as, along with the Pentland Skerries and Auskerry, my father had been a lighthouse keeper in Stroma. A ruby replaced one of the diamonds. I wore this ring with pride for several years, informing people of the significance of its name.

‘After my father passed away, I found his service history, and realised he had never been a lighthouse keeper on Stroma. If he was aware of the reason why we bought this ring, he kept quiet. Every time I wear this ring, I laugh and think of my wonderful father, and his link to many of the Orkney islands – just not Stroma! It really was a wonderful mistake.’

It certainly is a wonderful story. Lillian sent us a wonderful photo too, showing her father on his way to the Pentland Skerries.

She also sent some further reminiscences of her father:

‘My dad was an interesting character and had many a tale to tell, to anyone who would listen. He was born in Rousay and was brought up by his grandmother, after his mum died of TB when he was two. She also cared for his brother Jim and his blind uncle. She must have been a remarkable, resilient woman, like many other islanders. After leaving school he worked as a farm servant, until he joined Balfour Beatty during the war and was involved in the building of the second Churchill barrier. His service record from the lighthouse board records that he was a ‘trapper’ before signing up to the NLB. This sounds very exotic, but he was actually catching rabbits with a ferret. He had many stories, from his time spent as a lighthouse keeper, but I believe the story of his involvement in saving the lives of the crew of an East German vessel, the Kathe Niederkirchner, after it ran aground on the Pentland Skerries in August 1965, depicts the man he really was. His proudest moment was the day he received the BEM for his service to the Northern Lighthouse Board.’

It's a privilege to share his story, Lillian, and yours, as it has been to share all the wonderful Ola Gorie stories we have received this year!

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