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Daphne Home Lorimer MBE
Anne Brundle

Daphne Lorimer at work in the Orphir Store
Sorting Isbister bones - Daphne at work in the Orkney Museum store in Orphir

Daphne has known Orkney for a long time, ever since she came to visit her aunt and uncle at Orphir House in the 1940s.

It was Orkney that brought Daphne and her husband Ian together, for they met on the plane north when Daphne was coming up on holiday and Ian was on a bug-hunting trip. After they married they continued to live and work in London, where Daphne combined home life and motherhood to Andrew and Vincent with a career as a radiographer. And Ian ran the family business. Daphnes and Ian each developed other interests to the level of serious specialist skills, Ian in the study of moths and Daphne in archaeology.

Daphne first became seriously involved in archaeology in London with Hendon and District Archaeological Society (HADAS), a wonderfully active organisation that organised exhibitions and lectures, staged an authentic Roman-style banquet and excavated and published a Mesolithic site on Hampstead Heath.

Her skills in lithics are now less well-known than her specialism in the study of excavated human bone. She has written many specialist reports on the human bones from excavations in many parts of Scotland, from Iona and Dundee to Shetland. She has also done an awesome job as a volunteer at the Orkney Museum, sorting the thousands of human bones from the Neolithic tomb at Isbister in South Ronaldsay.

The youngest Neolithic Steward
Euan Humphreys - the smallest steward at the 1998 Neolithic Conference

Daphne brought her skills from HADAS to the Orkney Heritage Society. She served on the Committee for many years and was Chairman from 1996 to 2002. She was the inspiration and guiding force for the Orkney Heritage Society's organisation of two major archaeological conferences in Orkney - Neolithic Orkney in its European Context and Sea Change: Orkney and Northern Europe in the Later Iron Age AD 300-800.

These very succesful conferences attracted international delegates and were also attended by many local people, including the organiser's baby son!

In December 1996, under Daphne's guidance, and after much consultation, Orkney Heritage Society (OHS) founded the Orkney Archaeological Trust (OAT). The Trust was to take over the Heritage Society's archaeological function, including the day-to-day management of the post of Orkney Archaeologist, also with a wider remit to promote Orkney's archaeology - not only in the county itself but to the the wider world.

As Chairman of the Trust Daphne has done this with great skill and tact, her high point as Chairman being a signatory of the Declaration of Intent to protect Orkney's World Heritage Site, 'The Heart of Neolithic Orkney' which includes Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe.

Orkney Archaeological Trust continues to go from strength to strength, now in partnership with the Orkney College in the Masters degree in Archaeological Practice which is seeing rising student numbers. There have been many excavations in Orkney over the past few years, and two visits by Time Team, one to the Ness of Brough in Sanday and the other to Minehowe in Tankerness.

Besides all her archaeological work and commitment to Orkney's wider heritage, Daphne has also been very active in many other committees and organisations, from Save the Children Fund to the SWRI, from Friends of St Magnus to the Orphir Church. She brings enthusiasm, humour and grace to all that she does and still manages to have time for her many friends.

We wish her well in this, her second retirement.

OAT's Best Friend
Liz Gilmore

Peter Kirk official opening
Daphne Lorimer at the official opening of the refurbished St Peter's Kirk in Sandwick

At the Committee Meeting on 19th January, the Committee of Friends of Orkney Archaeological Trust (FOAT) discussed what might be an appropriate retirement gift for Daphne Lorimer.

The Committee guessed that Daphne would not want a personal gift and the following is an extract from the proposal which was agreed unanimously.

"In recognition of Daphne Lorimer's work for FOAT and to show our admiration, respect and affection for her, the Committee of FOAT wishes to set up The Daphne Lorimer Fund... The Fund will be held within the FOAT bank account but will be shown separately in all accounting procedures… The Fund will be available to provide interest-free loans for students of archaeology studying at Orkney College."

On 20th January, Daphne was contacted by 'phone to be told that her retirement gift had been discussed. Daphne immediate confirmed that the Committee's guess had been right and that she was horrified at the thought of a personal gift. However, when the nature of the gift was explained to her she said that she was delighted and flattered by the gesture.

Daphne's retirement from the Committee means that she will no longer be working for Orkney's archaeology in person but her Fund will be there to help the archaeologists of the future.

Daphne Home Lorimer Bone Detective
Anne Johnson

Daphne Lorimer at work in the Orphir Store
Daphne Lorimer at work behind "Castle Lorimer"

Little did I think when I started washing 'pot' at the Orphir Store that one day I would be helping Daphne with the very famous bones from the Tomb of the Eagles.

Jean another volunteer and myself agreed to help Daphne measure and record these bones, little realising what a precise task this would be, but Daphne assured us that we could cope, so undaunted we set about the work of measuring and re measuring really not knowing what we were doing.

Daphne being of generous nature though was very patient and came out from behind the fortification of boxes called 'Castle Lorimer' to help us with complex measurements of long bone, toe bone, rib bone etc., and was on the move quite a lot in the early days as we needed a great deal of help.

Today we still do and have been known on a winters afternoon to take boxes of bone fragments to Daphne's home for her to look at with the excuse that we were cold and in need of a cup of tea.

Actually we were in need of help as neither Jean or I could determine from the fragments, which were smaller than my thumb nail, what we were looking at. 'This is a piece of thoracic vertebrae, this is femur, this is lumber vertebrae, this bone is from a child under the age of six' etc., etc., through all this Daphne has never become impatient with us and has imparted only enthusiasm with every question.

Every bone has a story about the person it once was and Daphne is the great de-coder and solver of the mystery of the bones.

I would like to thank Daphne for opening up a new world that I never thought I would be lucky enough to be part of and for giving two old things a new interest on a Thursday afternoon.

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