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  A Year of Orcadian Tradition

"July is a riot of schoolchildren. And a doucer riot of tourists, saying, "How quaint!"
Fields are scored with green and yellow geometry."


July In bygone days, there was no time in July for festivals.

Although the the long days, and nights of perpetual twilight, had descended on the islands, winter was rapidly approaching. Chores needed doing. Fish had to be caught and dried for the winter. Peats were cut, spread, brought in and stacked - an onerous task, believe me I had to do it as a boy - and other work around the farm or croft carried out.

It is therefore not surprising that there are no recorded traditions in Orkney surrounding the month of July.
  Despite this, as always we can turn our heads further north to the Shetland islands where a date observed as "Martin o' Balymas Day" was observed.

This day, July 4, was also celebrated to the south of Orkney, in Caithness, but here it was known as "St Bulgan's Day". As these dates exist in the areas immediately surrounding Orkney, it is fairly certain that we can assume the occasion was once marked by Orcadians also.

The names of the day used in Shetland and Caithness is a corruption of "St Martin of Bullion's Day" which is in turn a mispronunciation of "Martin le Bouillant".

In the Northern Isles, this feast day took over the day traditionally ascribed to St Swithin and was said to mark the beginning of six weeks of dry weather. If the feast was greeted by a gale of wind, however, as is unfortunately all too common, rain would be sure to follow.
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