The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Economy

This section looks at the economy of Orkney over the centuries, during which the islands have seen many periods of boom and bust.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, the whaling, herring and linen industries, straw-plait making and kelp production were all very successful in their day and created wealth for the owners and employment and a regular income for the workers.

All of these industries declined for one reason or another, leaving many in a precarious position.

There have been periods when Orcadians have emigrated in order to find work and dreadful times when people were forced to head to the shores to find limpets, winkles, spoots (razor fish), crabs and even seaweed to prevent starvation.

In some cases, people died through starvation because their bodies were too undernourished to fight off simple infections and disease.