Monday, June 14, 2010

The Orkney and Shetland Society in Chicago.

The Orkney and Shetland Islands are usually spoken together, even though there are lots of differences. Orkney has about 70 islands and Shetland has 100 islands, more or less.. They are located where the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea off the northern most tip of Scotland.

Centuries ago these islands fell under the power of seafaring people from Norway looking for land and treasures, Today one can reach adulthood on these islands without having crossed a busy street, ridden on an airplane or an elevator. There is an old joke which says that one day the wind stopped blowing and everyone fell over. The people are closer to Norway than to London.

In the nineteenth century, the northern isles suffered through severe changes and between 1871 and 1881, 4600 Shetlanders and 4200 Orcadians left for distant lands. Many of them came to Chicago, Illinois. With the discovery of oil on the North Slope the population has now stabilized.

In 1885, twenty-six men met in Chicago to form the Orkney and Shetland Society. Their mission was to provide aid to “those of our country who may require our aid and for the advancement of the social and intellectual culture of its members. The following men were elected: President - Peter B. Driver; Vice-President - John Johnson; Secretary - Robert Flaws and the Treasurer was John Harper.

At first the Society voted down the admission of women, but five years later elected 120 ladies to “honorary” membership. They later changed their constitution and women were admitted to full membership.

In 1891, the Orkney and Shetland Society and the John O’Groats Caithness Society held the first "Union Scotch Picnic" at Des Plaines, IL. It rained, of course, and the attendance was greatly reduced. The O. and S. Society grew to be a strong organization with over 500 members.  More about the O. and S. tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Dear colleagues

    Would your Orkney and Shetlad Society members like to study their Northern Isles heritage from their own homes??
    We here at Scotland's University of the Highlands and Islands offer several Orkney and Shetland Culture courses which can be accessed all over the world. Your members can access this module by module or full time - whatever works for them. You can find details of MLitt Orkney and Shetland Studies and our other interdisciplinary MLitt courses: MLitt Viking Studies; MLitt Highlands and Islands Culture; MLitt Highlands and Islands Literature; and MLitt Island Studies (and our exciting summer school programmes available in Orkney and Shetland) on our website at . This is the only programme of its kind that focuses on studying the history, culture, literature, archaeology and language of the Orkney and Shetland Islands; communities of significant strategic importance through the ages.
    Come with us on a journey to explore the islands’ unique culture and heritage, delivered by the prize-winning Centre for Nordic Studies team.
    Here is a bit of a taste of what we offer in Orkney and Shetland Studies:
    Orkney and Shetland: Myths and Origins
    Archaeological Heritage of Orkney and Shetland
    Medieval History of Orkney and Shetland
    Modern History of Orkney and Shetland
    Traditional Custom, Belief and Folklore of the Northern Isles
    The Orkney and Shetland Tongues
    Early Scottish and Norse Literature
    Historical and Cultural Perspectives of the North Atlantic Rim
    Orkney and Shetland literature
    The Language and Palaeography of Older Scots
    Exploring Creative Writing
    The North Atlantic Rim Literary Context

    Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions! I would be most grateful if you would pass these details to your members.

    Best wishes from the Northern Isles