OFF THE BEATEN PATH
THE ISLAND OF HOY IN THE ORKNEYS
Scotland, with its numerous islands, has an enormous coastline and has been very much involved with the sea in a variety of ways whether it be fishing, ship building or other maritime trades. The sea itself has also impacted the land in many ways. The waters around Scotland are often treacherous –the world’s third largest whirlpool is found off its coast. Because of this, lifesaving operations are crucial and the establishment of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, a charitable organization founded in 1824 was an important development. Much of what has been said so far about the sea applies not just to Scotland of course, but to the entire coastlines of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland as well. Many people have been rescued from the seas by the brave people who have devoted their time and energy and risked everything in order to try to save the lives of others in danger on what is often an extremely inhospitable environment. So it was with some pleasure that we get to salute those people who give so much to help others in this issue.
It was while looking for information about the lifeboats in Scotland that we came upon the lifeboat museums which are scattered around the different areas. One of the museums which caught our attention was the Longhope Lifeboat Museum in the Orkneys. While the suspicion is that many people have not heard of Longhope or the island of Hoy where the museum is located, it is the scene of the first of the films made in collaboration by the famous motion picture duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The film is The Spy in Black and stars Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson. There are scenes in the film that were shot on Hoy – most notably the Old Man of Hoy which figures in the film. The area is also famous from WWI and II where it served as the main naval base for the British Fleet and this is significant in the film as well.
Although the Orkneys and Shetland are sufficiently far north that they often wind up in a little inset on the maps, they should not be overlooked. Hoy and South Walls, an island now connected to Hoy by a causeway, are treated as a single island in the census. The island located in the Orkney group has a number of interesting places and some spectacular scenery some of which is caused by the erosion of the cliffs by the sea.
The island is known for its odd geological formation, a sea stack, called the Old Man of Hoy. This 449 foot high geological feature is the result of the seas which have eroded a cliff down to a single pillar or column. (This figures prominently in the Powell Pressburger film and there are shots of it in the 1939 film.
In addition to the interesting geological features, the island is a bird sanctuary for two aquatic birds, The great skua and the red throated diver.
Important though to us for this issue is the Longhope Lifeboat museum.The Longhope Lifeboat Station was established 140 years ago and has provided the area with valuable service in some very treacherous waters. The station and its crews have been the recipients of more than 25 awards for gallantry. These come from both Britain and foreign countries. A memorial to a disaster which occurred in March of 1969 can also be g found here. Her majesty Queen Elizabeth was present at the unveiling of the memorial
The old lifeboat shed in Brims which was used from 1874 to 1906 still stands and is now used for other purposes.
The restored Lifeboat, The Thomas McGunn can not only be seen, but can also be rented for films and television.
The museum can be contacted though any of the following people:
The current lifeboat station is open to the public. Tours can be pre-booked and there is a gift shop as well.
Although “off the beaten path”, a trip to the Orkneys is an experience not to be forgotten.