How often do you say, “How I wish I had listened more carefully to granny’s stories”? For “granny” substitute parents, grandad, great uncle, great aunt, and many others of the older generations. I certainly have a list of questions for several deceased relatives.

There are two stories where I don’t have to rely on my memory because BBC Radio Orkney, back in the 1980s, recorded my granny. She talked about a lifeboat rescue when she was six as well as the time she spotted a submarine early in WW1. My parents recorded those two short items off Radio Orkney, onto a cassette. Quite hi-tech in those days. No date on the cassette of course, but at least we have it.  You can listen to the recordings on this page.

But it’s not just the stories, it’s hearing granny’s voice again too. As the recording was for the radio, she spoke “proper English”, some of the time.  There is clear Orkney intonation, often dialect with some typical expressions. The shipwreck took place on “a right coorsh night” (a very stormy night) in 1898. Over eighty years later, she could still say “I mind hid fine”.

I’m very grateful to Radio Orkney for recording granny and preserving that bit of my past. But it’s not only my past, for her memories and the way she spoke illuminate the history of her community too. That’s why I’ve made the recording available through my one-place study on North Walls and Brims. Local archives, including the Orkney Library and Archive, do and have done oral history work too. Scotland’s Rural Past has links to a few projects while Tobar an Dulchais/Kist o Riches has over 30,000 recordings. Check and see if there is anything that will fill out your granny’s stories.

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