"Here I was reared on this island,
where the green fields roll to the rolling sea.
Here among the seagulls and the falling spray."
name is Sigurd Towrie.
Born on December 22, 1968, I, like my forebears,
for countless generations, have lived all my life in Orkney.
I am married to Fiona, who hails from Stromness,
about 16 miles to the west of Kirkwall.
Together with our sons, Audun and Einar, we live in Blackha' (pictured below),
an old house, in Kirbister — a small area on the border of the parishes of Stromness and Sandwick.
Our home originally belonged to Fiona's grandfather
and sits in the shadow of the hill known as Cringlafjold, about
four miles from the town of Stromness and a short distance from the spectacular
sea-cliffs of Yesnaby.
I work for The
Orcadian, one of Orkney's two newspapers. Based in the newspaper's Albert
Street offices, in Kirkwall, I spend my days in Kirkwall returning
home to Kirbister each night.
Naturally, living in Orkney - as well as family
influences - has instilled me with a love of the islands' history,
folklore and landscape
and I hope some of this appreciation comes across in these pages.
I am the eldest of three children - the only son
of Ruth and Albert Towrie.
Both sides of my family are from very old Orcadian
The Towrie - ignore the spelling, it's pronounced "Toory" - family come from
the island of Sanday,
one of the most northerly of the islands, while my mother was a
Borwick from the main town of Kirkwall.
It has been suggested that
the name "Towrie" is a variant of another Orcadian name
"Towers" - pronounced locally as "Toors". It has been recorded that this surname was first
recorded in Orkney in 1481 and referred to one John Towers, a Frenchman
from the town of Tours.
Who knows. But there are other possibilities. The surname "Turi" can also
be found to the far north of Norway, and among the Saami people
This also makes sense as Orkney's North Isles, Sanday in
particular, has strong traditions of the Norway Finns (the old name
used to describe the Saami) settling in the islands. It is interesting
to note that the correct pronunciation of "Towrie"
is remarkably similar to this Saami name.
There is only one "Towrie" family and
the majority of my relations still live on Sanday.
Like many Orcadian surnames, my mother's maiden
name, Borwick, derives from a Norse placename. In this case, Borwick comes from a bay
in the West Mainland parish of Sandwick.
Meaning "Broch Bay" in Old Norse, the
name was first recorded in Orkney in 1579.