A part of the LIFTE volunteer research programme, Lesley Joyce was tasked with examining old maps of Orkney in the hunt for clues relating to early trade in the islands.
Here she outlines one of the highlights of her research…
This is my favourite piece from the Mackenzie maps.
When I began the search, I didn’t pay much attention, but the more I looked, the more I discovered.
The drawing appears to personify the way of life for Orcadians in the 18th Century. Farming and fishing, indicated by the plough, sheep, lobster, and the cod in the forefront suggesting the importance of these industries on Orkney. Swan and seabirds also possibly being part of consumption on the islands.
To the rear of the plate, we can see fishermen on land, and a small boat bringing goods ashore, while the whale to the right could represent the (declining) whaling industry. Although I found no illustrations of ships within the maps, they are represented here with the suggestion of busy seas and harbours.
The dangers can also seen with a wreck to the far right, amongst the rocks around the islands. The man leaning against the rock, appears fairly wealthy from his dress, a possible merchant, contemplating the successes shown here.