Folking Great

A surefire way to discover the best festivals is to ask the musicians who play them. Musicians love coming to Orkney, whether it's for the islands themselves, with their remote, Norse-influenced otherness, stark sea-girt beauty and wealth of archaeological treasures, the wholehearted welcome they receive from a music-loving population, or the thriving local music scene that this year contributes 20 home-grown acts to the 2008 festival programme that starts this week, May 22nd-25th.

"No other festival I've been to can compare with the atmosphere in Stromness that weekend," says Bob Gibbon, who took over this year as chairman of the organising committee. "A lot of festivals take place in community centres, village halls, fields or whatever, but Orkney Festival is just in the air."

"It's like a party that just goes on for four days," says Kris Drever, the Orkney-born singer and guitarist who is now one of the UK folk scene's fastest-rising stars, as both a solo artist and a member of Lau, and who features among this year's festival headliners.

This stylistic cross-pollination is a strong feature of Orkney's music today. Underlying the scene is a solid foundation of traditional music tuition, both in schools and through independent ventures such as the Wrigley Sisters' Centre of Music, established by native-born duo Jennifer and Hazel in 2004 after years of international touring, and now seeking to expand.

Besides Drever's homecoming appearance, a very strong line-up for Orkney 2008 includes the superb Irish-American band Solas, multi-award-winning English singer-guitarist Martin Simpson, turbocharged Balkan/jazz dance music from Moishe's Bagel and the Highland ceilidh king himself, accordionist Fergie MacDonald. There's also a first-ever folk festival appearance by the acclaimed Scottish Fiddle Orchestra.



Magnificent man and his flying machine

It was Tuesday, 8 May,1933 and Captain Ernest Fresson was taking off on the first scheduled flight in the Highlands – from Inverness, via Wick, to Kirkwall, establishing what would become the longest continuously-operating scheduled air service in
Europe and probably the world.

Scouting out his routes in his little Gypsy Moth, he prepared the ground – and the air – for Highland Airways, which he established with help from the Inverness motor engineers Macrae & Dick. Fresson's ability to get mail and passengers through in all weathers became a byword. "He was a highly-skilled pilot and a determined businessman who adopted the north of Scotland and stuck with it, right through very acrimonious times," said Morgan.

The foggy weather which threatened that first flight, as well as the hazards of flying those fragile early aircraft, returned to haunt last Thursday's 75th anniversary celebrations, when the planned flypast over Inverness was transferred to Orkney because of predicted fog.

Just over a year after that historic flight to Orkney, he inaugurated the UK's first scheduled airmail service on the same route and went on to open up many other Highland and island routes now taken for granted.

He is also credited with the concept of Britain's first Tarmac runway, at Hatston, Orkney. By the Second World War, his airline had become part of the early British Airways and after the war it was nationalised, along with other domestic air services, into British European Airways.

What a Lady Part 11

KIRKWALL dental nurse Natasha Groundwater has made it into the top 20 of The Sun's Miss Scotland competition.NatashaGroundwater.jpg

"It's absolutely fantastic, I'm still overwhelmed!" said Natasha, who was chosen to face the public vote after a photo shoot in Glasgow last weekend. "So far it's all been a really good experience, to have everyone from Orkney behind me would make it even better."

The final ten contestants will take part in the glamorous Miss Scotland final in Glasgow's Princes Square on May 25, where the judges will decide who walks away with the crown. The highly sought-after title comes with a £10,000 prize and contract with Scotland's fastest growing marketing agency, DADA.

The lucky winner will also jet off to Ukraine to represent her country at the glittering Miss World competition.

What a Lady

Pentland Ferries’ new catamaran was officially named in the Philippines on Tuesday.

Owner Andrew Banks, and his wife, Susan, travelled out to Cebu for the ceremony, which saw the vessel named Pentalina.


The Pentalina is due to be launched on Thursday 24th, and be sea trialled and completed, ready for the voyage back to the UK. She is expected to come into service in early summer.

May Madness - Turriedale May 7-14th.

Orkneycrofts is offering a special for Turriedale May 7-14th.

May Special Offers.




The fully stocked kitchen will be supplied free of charge this week only.