The Centre for Nordic Studies welcomes applications to study with us for a January start. Our next semester starts on Monday 28th January, and you can choose to study with us full or part-time on any of the four MLitts we have on offer.
You might like to study the written word with MLitt Highlands & Islands Literature, or the way of life in the region with MLitt Highlands & Islands Culture. You might like to narrow your focus a little and do an overview of the Northern Isles with an MLitt in Orkney & Shetland Studies, or widen it right out and do an MLitt in Viking Studies. The choice is yours!
You can apply online via the course links above, or get in touch with us to chat, either by phone (01856) 569300 or via email CNS@uhi.ac.uk.
The Centre for Nordic Studies - UHI, in partnership with Shetland Amenity Trust & Lerwick Port Authority, would like to invite candidates to apply for the following PhD project:
The Traditional Shetland Boat: History, Folklore and Construction
Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a first class or upper second-class honours degree or Masters in a relevant discipline, such as ethnology, history, cultural studies, or similar.
Further information can be obtained from Dr Andrew Jennings, Centre for Nordic Studies, NAFC Marine Centre, Port Arthur, Scalloway, Shetland ZE1 0UN. Tel: 01595 772494. Email: email@example.com
For a copy of the application form please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Applicants should apply by submitting an application form and CV to the Administrator, Centre for Nordic Studies, Kiln Corner, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1QX or by email to email@example.com
Closing date for applications including references is 1st March 2013
Making, Working, Producing:Historical Perspectives on Women, Gender & Production
This year’s Women’s History Scotland annual conference will take place in Orkney and our theme explores the historical experience of women's relationship with unpaid and paid work.
The programme is full and varied, addressing issues relating to women’s work on the land, in relation to arts and crafts, knitting and lacemaking, as well as factory work and work in the fishing industry. The geographical spread ranges from close to home (Orkney) to the Nordic states and speakers are joining us from the Orkney, the rest of Scotland, England as well as international speakers from Canada and Scandinavia. The Sue Innes Memorial Lecture this year will be given by Elizabeth Ewan (Research Professor of Scottish History, University of Guelph, Canada) with the title ‘Producing Women in Pre-Modern Scotland’, followed by a civic reception.
An exciting new opportunity is coming up this summer, with the launch of a new summer school by the Orkney College UHI Centre for Nordic Studies and Art and Design departments. The course is entitled ‘Orkney Through Time’ and is a week-long indulgence in illustrated talks, field trips and practical hands-on creativity.
Through the week, participants will progress in time from the islands’ Pictish past, through the Viking and Middle Ages, to the traditional farming community and the contemporary art and culture of Orkney. Each day will contain an illustrated academic lecture, exploring the culture and art of each era, ranging from the elegant but enigmatic Pictish symbol stones, through Viking sculpture and medieval literature, to Northern Isles traditional custom and belief and the poetry and art of our recent past. The lectures are enhanced by field trips centred around the five day-themes, where we will see Pictish art, Viking runic inscriptions, and medieval architecture and explore the traditional farming community. Each day, participants will make their own creations, led by the Orkney College Art and Design department and local artists, who will lead the students in exploring various techniques such as textile art, stone carving, photography and traditional photo manipulation, and felting. The last day will be spent in the renowned Pier Arts Centre, where the theme is Fine Art, An Unfolding Gift, followed by a printmaking workshop. At the end of the course, participants will go home with a selection of artwork of their own creation.
Lynn Campbell or Ragnhild Ljosland
Centre for Nordic Studies
01856 569 300
Orkney College Art and Design
Location: Orkney Mainland
This year in Orkney we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dr John Rae, surgeon for the Hudson's Bay Company, arctic explorer, adventurer, outdoorsman, finder of key elements that eventually became the Northwest Passage and finder-outer of the fate of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Victorian England couldn't take what he found out so his name was vilified and he was the only arctic explorer of his generation not to receive a knighthood.
Pah! In our eyes he will always be a hero, and Orkney has given over a whole year of events to him. Some of the staff from CNS are involved in the conference around his birthday (September), but there are loads of other things going on.
Just to whet your appetite, here's the leaflet.
You can find out more on the website http://www.johnrae200.co.uk/
A feast of authentic Viking age food will be on offer in Orkney later this summer.
Following up on last year’s success, the Centre for Nordic Studies is once again organising a banquet based on what we know of the Viking diet from saga literature and archaeological excavations.
Dr Ragnhild Ljosland of the Centre for Nordic Studies, part of Orkney College UHI, said: “The Viking feast itself will be prepared by the West End Hotel and will form the main part of the event.
Nick is a Master of Art’s history student from Brock University in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. He added a co-op stream to his degree which enabled him to work for 8 months as a part of his degree and for one half of this term he has opted to come, live and work in Shetland. At present he is working on developing an online database of the Viking Age, which will map Viking raids, battles and place-names. He will be giving a lecture in the forthcoming Viking summer school, which he attended himself several years ago. He is also carrying out his own research into the early Church in Orkney and Shetland.
Nick appears to be enjoying his stay in Shetland, ‘During this work term I have gained experience that wouldn’t have been able to get at home. I have been able to work with database entry as well as a bit of course planning for the Viking Summer School. The skills which I will attain from this co-op will be very important to me when I begin my career in Canada! What I have enjoyed most about this work term is Shetland itself. The people and the culture here have helped me feel at home.’
Dr Andrew Jennings of CNS Shetland says, ‘It is great having an enthusiastic international student like Tim here to help. I hope he will be the first of many! If there are other students out there who would like to work for a spell in Shetland at CNS. We can find you challenging, useful work to do. Get in touch.’
Dr Angela Watt has recently been appointed as lecturer at the Centre for Nordic Studies in Shetland, joining Dr Andrew Jennings and Silke Reeploeg in the NAFC Marine Centre UHI in Scalloway. Previously she was one of the first graduates with a First Class BA Honours in culture studies of the Highlands and Islands, which was obtained through the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Dr Watt’s PhD thesis, The Implications of Cultural Interchange in Scalloway, Shetland, with reference to a perceived Nordic-based Heritage, was supervised by Professor Margaret Grieco, Professor of Transport, Napier University and Dr Donna Heddle, University of the Highlands and Islands Centre for Nordic Studies, Orkney.
Dr Watt’s PhD investigated and developed a theoretical model of cultural interchange as one of the main principles governing the development of cultural identity and the conceptualisation of culture as a process. Her case study focused primarily on the village of Scalloway, Shetland, the ancient capital of the Shetland Islands, utilising a qualitative framework to explore the legacy of visual and narrative histories. She undertook research in Shetland, Scotland, Orkney, Faroe, Norway and New Zealand, investigating cultural links, the visuality of heritage practice, and the lessons we can learn from this. Copies of her thesis will be donated to Scalloway Museum and to the Lerwick Museum and Archives and she anticipates receiving feedback from the community.
Although she now lives in Lerwick, Angela has a strong family connection with Scalloway; she is the youngest daughter of Jim and Liz Watt at Ladysmith Road, and granddaughter to the late Jim and Ella Watt at Port Arthur. As a child, her father was a lighthouse keeper, which meant regular “shifts” to different stations around Scotland. The family settled in Scalloway before the last lighthouse was automated and she attributes these varied experiences to her interest in culture(s) and maritime identities.
Her current research includes the heritage of lighthouses as a family space and the representation of islands and lighthouses in film and literature; both within a Scottish and global perspective. She is also particularly interested with identifying and recording elements of cultural discourse, knowledge, visuality or narrative, whilst it remains within living memory. She is fascinated with practices which transform intangible culture, ideas or knowledge into tangible and marketable products of culture; for example, the creation of a local jewellery tradition which is inspired by mythology and narrative histories. In her lecturing role at the Centre for Nordic Studies , Dr Watt will be teaching on the following modules in the forthcoming academic year:
- Orkney and Shetland: Myths and Origins
- Traditional Customs, Beliefs and Folklore
- From Atlantis to Utopia; the nature of islandness.
Dr Angela Watt
Centre for Nordic Studies (CNS)
NAFC Marine Centre UHI
T: +44 (0) (01595) 772493
Across the Sólundarhaf: Connections between Scotland and the Nordic World Selected Papers from the Inaugural St. Magnus Conference 2011, edited by Alex Sanmark and Andrew Jennings, has just been published in the Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4. This volume includes 21 papers which cover many varied topics from the Viking Age to Modern Orcadian Literature. The papers include Stormy Crossings: Scots-Scandinavian Balladic Synergies by Donna Heddle, Shetland’s Trade with Northwest German Territories during the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Century by Kathrin Zickermann and Old Norse Cultural Influence in the Work of Christina M. Costie by Ragnhild Ljosland.
For further information see here http://www.eaglehill.us/JONAonline/jona-S4-2013.shtml
New paper by Centre for Nordic Studies staff: Ragnhild Ljosland: "Language planning confronted by everyday communication in the international university: the Norwegian case", in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, special issue on Language policies and practices in the internationalisation of higher education on the European margin. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01434632.2013.874436
CNS helps Highland Park launch new whisky: The Norse themed whisky Freya at Kirkwall launch event on the 6th of February 2014. Ragnhild Ljosland had the honour of portraying the Norse goddess, Donna Heddle played the harp, and Vara Hrolfswiffe and the Hoy Vikings told stories and gave it all a good viking feel!
For those with an interest in the Vikings, the Picts and the Gaels, the Centre for Nordic Studies is excited to announce a joint teaching project with the University of Iceland and the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies. From January 2015 the Centre will be offering a new MLitt module entitled Celts and Vikings in Contact: the North Atlantic a Shared Cultural Space.
Around 700AD Celtic peoples dominated the North Atlantic. The Picts lived in the Northern Isles of Scotland, while Gaelic-speaking clerics from the Hebrides and Ireland had sailed to the Faroe Islands and Iceland. By 900AD these areas had been settled by the Vikings. The peoples and cultures were changed by their contact. This module will explore the result of this interaction between peoples and the extent to which cultural syntheses developed, both in the British Isles and in Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. It will examine the impact of the Gaels on Icelandic settlement and their continued impact of Icelandic folklore, and the reasons why they were written out of official Icelandic historiography. It will also explore Norse elements in the culture of the Gaelic areas of Scotland and Ireland and the creation of societies of mixed Gaelic Norse ethnicity. It will be a multi-disciplinary study including archaeology, folklore, history, place-names, genetics and literature.
This will be team taught by Professor Donna Heddle, Dr Andrew Jennings and Dr Alexandra Sanmark from UHI, and Professor Gisli Sigurdsson, Professor Terry Gunnell, Dr Agnar Helgason, Dr Elín Ingibjörg Eyjólfsdóttir and Vilborg Davíðsdóttir from Iceland. The module will be available as an option for students on any of CNS programmes including Viking Studies, or as a standalone option for students throughout UHI. If you want to know more about the module contact Dr Jennings on 01595 772494 or Dr Sanmark on 01856 569301.
The purpose of the trip was to attend the Scandinavian and Baltic Studies conference at Yale, for which the Centre for Nordic Studies successfully proposed and organised a stream entitled “Reconnecting with the Nordic: Aspirational Identities in the Nordic Periphery”. In addition, Dr Alex Sanmark, Dr Andrew Jennings, and Dr Ragnhild Ljosland attended a runology symposium at Harvard, and also met with the international offices and academics and Yale and Harvard, initiating contact between these institutions and the UHI.
With keynote addresses from
Professor Tony Jones CBE
Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The conference has the following aims:
- to explore creativity and its relationship with place and landscape, academically and creatively
- to propose that creativity should be at the heart of our community
- to explore Orkney’s creativity present and future
- to bring together the creative and education sectors in Orkney and beyond
- to showcase creative practice and the creative industries in Orkney
- to offer practical workshops and one-to-one mentoring
We welcome papers from academics and practitioners alike in art and cultural identity related topics such as:
- Creativity and its relationship with place, landscape, and cultural identity
- Cultural cross currents in art and literature, especially Celtic and Norse
- The nature of creative practice
- Orkney and creativity
- Creativity and community
We hope to take forward a selection of papers from this conference for online publication.
Papers will be 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion. In addition to individual papers, suggestions for panel topics are welcome. Panels exploring a particular issue around the theme are encouraged, and these would receive one hour including paper presentations and discussion.
The deadline for submissions is Friday 13th June 2014.
Please submit your abstract(s) for consideration (max 300 words) to Prof. Donna Heddle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For panel submissions, please submit both an abstract for the whole panel and abstracts for each individual paper.
The tour will replace the inaugural lecture which was scheduled for December 2013 and was regrettably postponed due to bad weather. Professor Heddle said: “I’ve had many enquiries about the lecture that was due to take place in 2013 upon being awarded my Professorship with the University. Going out and about is very much part of the Centre’s community engagement strategy, and I was delighted to respond to the many requests to go on tour with the lecture. I am very much looking forward to it!”
Professor Heddle’s tour, beginning on Tuesday, 1st December in Stromness, will cover the islands of North Ronaldsay, Eday, Shapinsay, Sanday, Stronsay, Rousay, Westray and Hoy, as well as the mainland locations of Kirkwall, Stromness, St Margaret’s Hope and Deerness. Each lecture begins at 19:30 and ends at 20:30. The lectures will be free of charge and bookings are not required.
For the lecture timetable, please see http://edit.www.uhi.ac.uk/en/research-enterprise/cultural/centre-for-nordic-studies/events/a-2018grand-tour-of-orkney2019-lecture-series
Read our newsletter for January here
A new book on the supernatural has just been published and it includes a chapter on the island of Fetlar by Dr Andrew Jennings. The book is entitled Folk Belief and Traditions of the Supernatural . It is a scholarly collection which explores historical and contemporary folk belief and traditions of the supernatural around the globe. Andrew hopes it will inspire people to experience Fetlar’s supernatural heritage for themselves.
Everyone is cordially invited to attend a free public seminar given by Associate Professor Jay Johnston, University of Sydney, on Monday 25 April in Orkney College, at 7.30pm. The title of the seminar is Troublesome Objects: Ritual and 'Magical' Material Culture of the Highlands and Islands.
Associate Professor Jay Johnston (University of Sydney) is an interdisciplinary scholar who investigates ritual and its use in identity formation, healing practice and cultural exchange. She is particularly interested in the role of material objects, animals and the natural environment in these practices. Trained in religious studies, continental philosophy, gender studies and art history, her research examines concepts of materiality, embodiment, image agency and epistemology. These theoretical concerns are investigated via several research projects strongly grounded in the evaluation of lived experience including ritual practice and cultural exchange in Late Antiquity and in Scottish and Norse cultures pre-1400; complementary and alternative medicine and its historical precedents; and human–animal–environment relations (eco-criticism).
She leads the international research project “The Function of Images in Magical Papyri and Artefacts of Ritual Power from Late Antiquity” funded by the Australian Research Council. Her publications include Stag and Stone: Religion, Archaeology and Esoteric Aesthetics (forthcoming, Equinox 2017); Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West (Routledge 2013, coedited with G. Samuel); Angels of Desire: Esoteric Bodies, Aesthetics and Ethics (2008) as well as over 20 book chapters and research articles. In addition Jay continues an active engagement with the visual arts, following on from previous roles in the museum sector as a manager, educator and curator. She is particularly interested in integrating creative practice and academic research.
Obituary by Brian Smith
William P.L. Thomson, 1933-2016
Many Shetlanders, my age and older, have fond memories of Willie Thomson. He taught geography and history for 13 years at the Anderson Institute, invariably referred to as “Steepie” by his pupils.
He got the sobriquet at teachers’ training college, after giving a practice talk about the geography of Russia. His examiner complimented him. “Excellent work,” he said. “But it is worth remarking that we speak about the steppes of that country, not the steepies.”
William Paterson Loudoun Thomson was born in Newmilns in Ayrshire in 1933, the son and grandson of parish ministers. He seems to have received his third Christian name from the parish church there, where his father, John Gardner Macleod Thomson, preached for twelve years.
In 1939 Thomson senior was appointed as director of religious education at Dundee Training College. Willie went to the High School there, and later studied geography and history at the University of St Andrews.
After teacher’s training his first charge was in Lerwick, in 1958. He set up the department of geography at the Institute from scratch, and a few years later became the principal teacher. When his friend John Graham left to become headmaster at the Central School, Willie was appointed assistant head.
He married Elizabeth Watson, a native of Kincardine, in 1960, and their children were born in Lerwick.
The election of a Labour government in 1964, re-elected two years later, and the formation of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, inspired many. Willie became a committee member of the Shetland Council of Social Service, encouraged by enthusiasts like John Graham. Soon he was vice-chair of Shetland Labour Party.
He stood as a Labour candidate for the Town Council in May 1968, was elected and served until 1971.
Sometimes the work was less inspiring than he had hoped. He told me that the evening when the Council devoted an hour to discussing the purchase of a polisher for the Town Hall was especially trying.
As well as teaching and debating, he was doing research. In 1969 I unearthed an extraordinary plan in Lerwick Sheriff Court, dated 1822, which portrayed and named every little rig – hundreds of them - in the township of Funzie in Fetlar.
Willie came to see it, and was entranced. It inspired his first academic article, about Shetland runrig, published the following year in the Scottish Geographical Magazine.
He left Shetland to become rector of Kirkwall Grammar School in November 1971. There was plenty to do: the new school at Papdale was being built, and was not fully occupied until 1975.
As he settled down in Orkney he didn’t take up his political interests again. He told me that he found Orcadians less argumentative than Shetlanders, and that he preferred that. Instead he devoted more and more time to historical research. His colleague Ray Fereday, teacher of history at the Grammar School, abetted him.
“The half-hour before the beginning of the school-day”, Willie wrote later, “is usually a busy time, requiring all sorts of last-minute arrangements.
“But if, as often was the case, Ray had been in the archives on the previous evening, all thoughts of immediate problems were put out of our minds. … I do not think that our priorities were wrong.”
Willie got interested in General Burroughs, an unpleasant Rousay landlord of the late nineteenth century. Burroughs’ factor had stayed in Papdale House, where Willie now lived. He studied Burroughs’ accounts and his economic stratagems in his predecessor’s study.
The result was The Little General and the Rousay Crofters, crisis and conflict on an Orkney estate, published in 1981, a smashing piece of work.
From then on books and articles flowed steadily from Papdale. Kelp-making in Orkney (1983) is a fine monograph, beautifully illustrated by the late Anne Leith.
Then came the first edition of his great History of Orkney, in 1987, commissioned by the bookseller Thin’s in Edinburgh. There is no history of a Scottish county to match it.
Dealing with whole epochs, from Pictish times until Thatcherism, he deployed old and new sources to tell the story of the small archipelago. He kept up his Shetland interests: there are many references to what was happening, and what was different, in the northern group of islands.
Willie retired in 1991, and he and Elizabeth moved to Burray. He devoted the next quarter of a century to writing articles and gardening. The main characteristic of his work in that period has been revision and rethinking.
I can only give a few examples, from his huge repertoire of publications. A new edition and a revised edition of History of Orkney appeared in 2001 and 2008. Willie didn’t just correct the errors inevitable in such a large work; in many cases he recast his arguments entirely.
He didn’t give up thinking about runrig, a subject which has taxed the ingenuity of many scholars. In 1998 he published a new account of the situation in Shetland, based on a study of what had happened at Funzie again, at Norwick in Unst and at Laxobigging in Delting. He looked at the landscape as well as documents: I recall that his visit to Laxobigging resulted in a soaking and a bad cold.
By examining the effect of the 18th century population increase on Shetland society, and on the form of agricultural settlements, Willie explained for the first time the dynamic quality of runrig here. His work on the subject is only rivalled by that of Desmond McCourt on rundale in Ireland.
In 1995, meanwhile, he had been examining theories proposed by Hugh Marwick, his predecessor as rector of Kirkwall, about Orkney’s oldest farm-names and their chronology. Marwick’s ideas had long been regarded as holy writ. Willie concluded that Marwick had misconceived the problem: the key concept involved, he said, wasn’t chronology but hierarchy. Willie’s “Orkney farm-names” is an exceptionally important piece of work.
He didn’t just concentrate, as Marwick tended to do, on Orkney’s oldest and most “important” names. In an article of 1985 he had written, entertainingly, about the names and activity generated in what he called Orkney’s “pioneer fringe” in the nineteenth century, when “improvement” was in full swing. Twenty years later he produced a more detailed and nuanced account of that subject.
I mention one more article: an account of “The latter days of the earldom estate”, where he discussed how that venerable domain splintered into fragments after the First World War.
All these papers, and others, sometimes rewritten, are collected in his Orkney Land and People, published in 2008.
When the Orkney historian J. Storer Clouston died, in 1944. Hugh Marwick said that he felt as if he had been left alone by himself in an empty room. Over the years I spent countless hours in discussion with Willie Thomson, about runrig, taxation and rent, the archaic fiscal units of Orkney and Shetland, and much else.
His ill health in recent years disrupted our conversations. But I look back tonight with nothing but delight at the acute observations, the flashes of insight, sometimes spiced by wit, of my teacher and friend during fifty years.
The publication is by Barbara Crawford and Alexandra Sanmark, entitled "The Orkney Husby Farms - The onomastic, historical and archaeological context". You can find it in Husebyer - status quo, open questions and perspectives, edited by Lisbeth E. Chistensen, Thorsten Lemm and Anne Pedersen and published in the series Studies in Archaeology & History, Vol. 20:3 Jelling Series by the National Museum, Copenhagen.
She was invited to join the organising committee after getting involved with the Association through work on her PhD, which takes a Bakhtinian approach to the dialogues concerning marine renewable energy in Orkney.
We have no doubt it will be an exciting week for Becky, who is also presenting her research at the conference in addition to her duties on the committee.
If you would like to find out more, go to http://change2016.co.uk/
Andrea Blendl is moving to Orkney from Germany, having previously gained an MLitt in Viking Studies with the Centre for Nordic Studies. During her time in Kirkwall, she will collaborate with the Orkney Museum in researching runic inscriptions from the western Viking diaspora
Catherine McCullagh will be based in Orkney and Shetland and is a joint supervision with Heriot-Watt University and the Shetland Museums and Archives. She comes to us from the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. She will be looking at maritime heritage in the context of highly vulnerable environments, focussing on how it can be interpreted and utilised to foster sustainable community development and create museum products while preserving it as a resource. Cait was previously a student with UHI on the Scottish Cultural Studies programme and went on to a masters in Archaeology at the University of Oxford so we are very happy to welcome her back!
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We would like to congratulate all who graduated, those were here in person on the day and equally also those who live elsewhere and could not be with us in Orkney on the day.
Professor Viveka Velupillai, from the University of Giessen will show how Shetland dialect fits within the larger field of ‘contact linguistics’. She will describe her study of the Shetland language pre-oil. She will show how she analyses the Shetland data, and discuss from a global perspective some features of pre-oil Shetland which are currently eroding. CNS are collaborating with Shetland Museum and Archives on this occasion. Each year Shetland Museum and Archives commemorates a Shetland scholar in a memorial lecture. This year the Shetland writer James Stout Angus, author of A Glossary of the Shetland Dialect, is being commemorated.
The lecture will be on Friday at Shetland Museum and Archives Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7.00pm start.
A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Student Exchange Agreement have been signed between UHI and Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s foremost universities. This is the result of discussions and collaboration between Dr Andrew Jennings, Centre for Nordic Studies, and Professor David Gray, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie and CNS Visiting Professor. This MOU will encourage collaboration in rural studies, island studies, aquaculture, and agriculture. Both institutions are keen to build productive relationships and exchanges between staff members, and to cultivate student exchanges. It is also hoped to develop a summer study course in Scotland.