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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Ross Campbell Origins: Farewell to Stromness (30) RE: Origins: Farewell to Stromness 22 Apr 17

I've been trying to track down a story I had from a guest at an event hosted by Ron Baxter at Fylde Folk Festival many years ago. Can't recall the lady's name or find the written version which I am sure she supplied soon after, so I thought I should set down what I do remember.

The lady's father's main folklore study was the history of dance, particularly how new dance forms came to spread from cultural centres where they might have been first introduced (royal courts, society balls, etc) to rural areas, how long the process took and whether the new fashions would be adopted into local culture. He corresponded with people all over Britain and Ireland on the topic. A respondent from Orkney sent him this tale.

Her grandmother had worked as a serving-lass in one of the local "big houses" in Stromness as a young girl. Her work was mainly in the kitchen and thus away from the public areas of the house, but on the occasion of one great gathering her colleagues called her through to the door of the great hall to witness a sight they must have thought worthy of note - the waltz had come to Orkney for the first time! The occasion was a ball held in honour of Sir John Franklin and his crew. Their last land-fall before setting off in search of the North-West Passage was at Stromness, where they would have picked up water from Login's Well, a regular supply-point for whalers and other distant-water traders.

As I said above, I haven't been able to find any documentation for the story, but it made an impression on me at first hearing. Ron and I had some time before put together a set of songs and stories about the Franklin Expedition and the searches that followed. This story added a very poignant detail. Interest in the mystery of how the Erebus and Terror and their crews met their end continues to the present day, when the remains of the vessels themselves seem to have been found.


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