Olrig Observations & YouTube Channel

Welcome to our digital media page.

Olrig Observations is a small but growing series of short podcasts on a variety of topics, ranging from objects of interest and stories of characters from history, to reminisences about past events of importance or amusement! Created by our volunteer members, each podcast offers a sometimes personal glimpse into some aspect of the social, industrial, agricultural, maritime, military and archaeological heritage of the village of Castletown within the Parish of Olrig in Caithness.

Our YouTube Channel currently features a selection of audio-visual presentations and videos of local scenes. We are hoping to grow our offering to include videos of our heritage workshops, craft demonstrations and other heritage based activities.

You can listen to the podcast episodes or watch the videos either by clicking on the links above, or via the embedded players and indexes below:


Olrig Observations


The Edwardian Postcard The fascinating story behind a postcard posted in Castletown, Caithness, Scotland, in November 1909.
The Missionary Muriel reveals some reminiscences of William Waters from Bowermadden, whose passion to become a successful overseas missionary in the late 1700s didn't run entirely to plan....
The expeditionary adventures of James 'Forbie' Sutherland. Local man James 'Forbie' Sutherland's adventures on board James Cook's 'Endeavour' in exploring and charting the lands of the south Pacific.
Vikings, Tythes and the Parish of Olrig. Whilst out walking on the Dunnet Head peninsula, Muriel enjoys the panoramic view of the Parish of Olrig and reflects upon some aspects of the influence the Vikings and the Church had upon past life in the Parish.
The Barque Samarang and Captain John S Goudie. A time-worn ninetheenth century oil painting of the Barque Samarang passing the Rock of Gibralter sparks an investigation into the three-masted vessel's fascinating history, and during the voyage of discovery a lesson is learned that all is not always what it seems....
The late Victorian Mourning Dress Lindsay Broomfield, a professional costume maker with a passion for heritage costumes reviews our entry to the virtual Highland Threads Exhibition. The mourning outfit dates from the turn of the twentieth century and was lovingly passed down from mother to daughter over four generations. The outfit represents a time when the approach to death, funerals and widowhood were vastly different from attitudes today.
The St Dunstan's Clock Jayne relates the story behind an unusual clock which features braille markings and an engraved plaque 'St Dunstan's 1915 - 1965'. The tale reveals some of the terrifying ordeals local man Walter Mackay experienced as a young man during World War I and his bravery and indomitable spirit after the war.
The Custer Tablecloth is a unique and poignant memento of the many service personnel who were based at RAF Castletown during WWII. The story behind it gives a flavour of the impact such a large military operation had on the village of Castletown and the surrounding area. The very existance of the tablecloth is down to the forward thinking of a young woman who captured evidence of an important but transient moment in history in a distinctive and personal way.
Birkle Hill on the south-east edge of Castletown may not be high in absolute terms, but it offers a commanding view of the surrounding farmland, the village of Castletown and Dunnet Bay. Muriel researches the derivation of the name 'Birkle' and explores some of the features associated with the hill, uncovering many connections with the humble Birch tree.
Elizabeth Yates, whose family have strong connections local to the village of Castletown in Caithness, was appointed Mayor of the Onehunga Burough in New Zealand in the late 1800s, and in doing so became the first female mayor in the history of the British Empire. Her appointment broke long established social barriers, and whilst not universally popular amongst her male counterparts it was an achievement that so impressed Queen Victoria she sent her congratulations and encouragement
Damien Farlow and the Heritage Buildings. An enchanting yarn about Damien Farlow of Caledonian Properties, who meets local worthy Wullie Bain and becomes entranced by the history and heritage of the buildings he was employed to survey.
The 1847 Corn Riots at Castlehill Harbour. In April 1847, the proposed export of local grain by boat from Castlehill Harbour by landowner William James Sinclair of Freswick was seen as a great social injustice by some of his tenant crofters. They took matters into their own hands, marching on the harbour and storming the vessel to prevent it being loaded and leaving the harbour. Muriel recounts the true story of the events that took place and the fate of the rioters.....
Echoes of the past on Olrig Hill. Olrig Hill stands proud over the Parish of Olrig, and from the top uninterrupted views can be had over most of Caithness and the rugged coastline bordering the Pentland Firth. Over the millennia the hill has featured strongly in the lives of the local inhabitants, from iron age settlements, use as a site for signalling and communications, public hangings, and military operations, to more modern activities like Scout and Guide camps and the latest telecommunications systems. Not forgetting the ghostly goings on regarding the Piper of Windy Ha....
All hands to the pump! Water. A precious commodity and essential to all human, animal and plant existence. We tend to take the availability of clean, safe drinking water as a given in our modern age, but it wasn't always so and remains an aspiration for many. Muriels explores life in our parish when collecting fresh water from springs and wells presented a physical challenge and a daily chore before water was made more readily available as a public service.
The Power of the Sea. They that go down to the sea in ships: and occupy their business in great waters. (These men see the works of the Lord: and his wonders in the deep.) Prompted by the name of a distant Polish port, Muriel recalls some local maritime events illustrating the power and influence of the sea which connects us all.
The War Knife. Muriel's research into the original owner of an old multi-blade pocketknife that was donated to Castletown Heritage Society reveals a fascinating account of a World War I Black Watch soldier and a remarkable link to a Girls School in the north of England.
Crop Production at Mt Vernon farm in 1822. A recently discovered page of accounting information provides a fascinating insight into the social aspects of crop production at a small Caithness farm on the outskirts of Thurso in 1822. Muriel brings the chronological entries to life, exploring the work involved, cost and extensive labour requirements to prepare the ground, sow corn and bere (early barley), harvest and gather in the crop for over-winter storage.
The Tale of the Olrig Selkie Grave. Local writer Gail Anthea Brown is passionate abut the rich folklore involving Castletown and the Parish of Olrig. In this episode Gail recounts the original tale surrounding the Olrig Selkie Grave, which lies in the Old Graveyard at Castletown.
The Tale of the Quarryside Rabbit. The sight of a rabbit at the side of the road just outside Castletown causes Muriel to ponder the lot of the rabbit and our relationship with them.
James Traill of Rattar. James Traill, Sheriff Depute of Caithness, is probably best known as the founder of the Caithness Flagstone Industry. But there is much more to this man - he was in his time the senior law representative in Caithness, a renowned agricultural improver, and of course the talented entrepreneur who spotted the commecial opportunity that could be realised through the extraction and export of Caithness flagstone world-wide. Muriel reveals a little of the background of this talented individual.
Lady Janet's Elusive Daughter. Muriel investigates the curious story of Wilhelmina Barbara Traill, the eldest daughter of Lady Janet Traill and, she reveals, the surrogate daughter of Mary Dehaney, fiance of the lamented Sir John Sinclair, the 11th Earl of Caithness. The story starts with the donation of a heavy circular brass plaque to Castletown Heritage Society....
A Load of Old Rope. Rope is a commodity that is perhaps taken for granted - it is readily commercially available with sizes and specifications suitable for a myriad of applications, such as securing loads, hauling fishing nets or towing vehicles. Murial takes us back to a time before the era of industrially manufactured rope, to when rope and string was made from whatever materials were available to hand locally, such as straw, rushes, grasses, and even daffodil leaves!
Lost in the Post. When Muriel is handed a letter, handwritten by a Caithness businessman in early 1806, the upsetting contents prompt her to find out more. Her investigations reveal that the social consequences arising from the north mail robbery of 1805 stretched far beyond mere financial loss.
Daisy's map. 100 years ago Margaret Sinclair (known as Daisy) emigrated to Canada as a twelve year old. Homesick for Castletown she drew a map in pencil of the village. Now the map has returned to Caithness and provides an insight into life as Daisy saw it.
Watch Out. While checking her watch, Muriel ponders on the local history of the timepiece.


YouTube Channel

When clicking on the links below some browsers may advise that for security reasons it is unable to open the YouTube channel within the CHS webpage and give you the option to open the link in a new tab or page. Please select this option to visit the channel.

In cases of difficulty, please navigate to the Castletown Heritage Society YouTube channel and directly select the required video.

Views around Castletown

Following the Threads of History - A glimpse of our past as revealed by remnants of cloth

One Caithness family against Napoleon - The Williamsons of Banniskirk 1803 - 1812
Frances Purves of Thurdistoft, Castletown - The amazing story of a Caithness ex-pat
What ever happened to Janet Oal? - Migration, slavery and the power of family ties. How family research revealed many 19th century issues.
Caithness Commemorations - A pictorial tour around some familiar, plus lesser well visited locations, antiquities and monuments in Caithness, dipping into the stories and people of times past associated with them.
Harbourmaster William Baikie. Muriel explores the story of William Baikie, believed to have been a harbourmaster and pilot at Castlehill Harbour during the heyday of the Castlehill Pavement Works in the mid 1800s.