National Geographic : 1953 Oct
535 British Combine Shetland's Gossamer Woolen Shawl Could Slip Through a Wedding Ring Lacy in look, it covers nearly three square yards but weighs three ounces. Its wool, plucked from necks of sheep, was hand-spun into thread thinner than fine cotton. Few women skilled in the art are left. professes by means of his music to banish the rats from their habitation." The atmosphere of Orkney buses is leisured and serene. Passengers greet each other cheerily in curiously high-pitched voices and give an impression of friendliness and well being. The source of much of Orkney's prosperity is the egg. Its export of eggs is worth about 14 times the net taxable value of the islands. At big packing stations they are tested, graded, and shipped to Leith and Glasgow. The Ayre egg-packing station at Kirkwall is one of the largest in Scotland. Sixty Million Eggs a Year Orkney handles 60,000,000 eggs a year. At the season's height a million and a quarter eggs a week may go through the station at Ayre, where an old mill was converted for this use. I watched girl workers testing the grading at a machine which can handle 10,000 eggs an hour. Most testers pass 2,000 to 2,500 eggs through their fingers hourly. The annual turnover of the Ayre station alone is worth more than $2,100,000, and local farmers and crofters are themselves the shareholders. Ork ney's income from eggs is about half the islands' total farm income. From eggs we passed to cheese, visiting a factory run by the Milk Marketing Board. About 6,000 gallons of milk pass through it daily, and whey and butter are also produced. The cheese finds its chief market on the Scottish mainland. The whey is sold back to the farmers for pig food, which may be one reason why pig breeding is becoming very popular in Orkney. To catch a boat to Orkney's North Isles one must be up betimes. Delicate opal tints of moonset and sunrise competed in the mirrorlike lagoon when I reached the Earl Sigurd at 6:30 on a calm morning. Breakfast on board should be previously ordered, but the steward was obliging, though there was no mutton chop this time! From the peaty isle of Eday we turned east to Stronsay, once an important fishing center. So flat is the island that from a distance its gray two-storied houses seem to rise out of the water.