The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Orkney Dialect

The Dialect Project run by Tom Rendall

The aims  of the Scapa Flow Orkney Dialect Project  were  to  record, analyse  and present experiences and stories of how the cultural, historical and economic activities in and around the Flow have influenced the use of Orkney dialect in the community. Scapa Flow has experienced great changes, especially over the last century, which have affected the use of dialect and the way that the community has coped with a variety of external influences.

The use of dialect during and after the Wars has focused on the impact of great influxes of service men and women. The opening of the Churchill Barriers marked a transformation in transport links, making a significant impact on daily life, and influencing the relationship between the Mainland and South Ronaldsay.

The variations in the use of dialect on South Ronaldsay, Flotta, Hoy and the other islands around Scapa Flow have been considered and will be compared. The influence of the oil industry on the use of dialect around the Flow, focussing on Flotta, is mentioned. A number of other cultural and economic activities, such as fishing, farming and crafts, have affected the use of dialect around the Flow, and those will feature in the literature to be produced when the fieldwork is complete.

 It is important to consider how modern living has affected the use of dialect in the Scapa Flow area. Interviews are primarily based on the use of language, along with the effects of demographic/economic change and movement of people.

Analysis has taken the following factors into account: community, age range, gender occupation, economy, historic context and traditional skills within the parish or island. Memories of the changes in farming, along with the effects of both World Wars and migration to the area surrounding Scapa Flow, have featured, as has their impact on dialect and on the way of life in the community.

This project has not only focused on historical aspects, but has also examined perspectives from younger people. While memories of yesteryear are useful and illuminating, it is important to cover more current and contemporary outlooks which, in themselves, help the understanding of the past and how history has shaped the future.


Tom Rendall                                                                           April 2010