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About the author

"Here I was reared on this island,
where the green fields roll to the rolling sea.
Here among the seagulls and the falling spray."

My 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.

Blackhall

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.

My Family

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 stock.

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 of Lapland.

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.

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