Forty-nine questions

image above: a page from the album of photographs of Gunnie Moberg and her family kept by her mother Margot Moberg.
Gunnie used the album as a source of photographs to create new albums for her own children.


Alistair Peebles has written an article on Gunnie Moberg for this month’s Living Orkney magazine recollecting the gift she gave of friendship and the gift she was given of creativity.

Recently we held an open day at the Gunnie Moberg Archive and over fifty people came in to browse through some of the archive boxes and see some of the many prints, diaries, books and newspaper clippings that tell some of the life story of Gunnie Moberg. One of those people had read Alistair’s article and came along to find out more about Gunnie. That is the gift of an archive – that people can still get to know a person after they have gone, through their work and their words and the material they gather around themselves as they go through life. 

Here is one of the many newspaper articles that Gunnie cut out and kept. Lerwick in knickers, fear of going over a pier in a car, a taste for lamb and everything from the sea, fanatics, fleas, and being remembered as a Swedish-Orcadian – here is Gunnie in her own words in The Orcadian Questionnaire from 1989. If ‘a can opener that cuts round the whole rim’ is the answer, what is the question?

Thank you to The Orcadian.

A picture of a photographer The Orcadian 1989

Name: Gunnie Moberg

Age: 48

Marital status: Married to Tam MacPhail

Children: Four boys, Colin 29, Llewelyn 27, Paul 26 and Tomas 24.

Occupation: Photographer

Previous jobs: Art therapist in a psychiatric hospital

Star sign: Taurus

Car: Volkswagen Polo

Pets: Dog

Childhood heroes: Can’t remember. James Dean was one.

Favourite food/drink: Lamb and everything from the sea (well, you can leave out whelks).

Hobbies/Leisure activities: Crazy about gardening.

Miscellaneous likes: Being out of doors, when people give me flowers.

Miscellaneous dislikes: Housework, speedboats in the harbour on a quiet summer night.

Favourite TV shows: No TV now. Did enjoy Tutti-Fruttis. I thought Sybil, in Fawlty Towers, was hilarious, I know people like her – none like John Cleese though, pity. David Attenborough’s programmes are fantastic.

TV shows you always switch off: I never switched them off, that is why I got rid of the TV. I would watch anything and hate myself afterwards.

Superstitions: I do not like it when a black cat runs across the road when I am driving.

Ambitions: To give up photography and paint.

Did you enjoy school: Yes, I had a great time – I did not take it too seriously.

What is your idea of perfect happiness: Northing waiting to be done.

If you won £1 million how would you spend the money: I wouldn’t have a clue! I like the story about the two fleas who won the pools and bought a dog in Tenerife.

What is your greatest fear: Going over a pier in a car.

What has been your biggest regret/disappointment: That I probably will never get to the Antarctic.

Which living person do you most admire: So many.  in Orkney, Marjorie Linklater. Who wouldn’t like to be like her, at 80!

Which living person do you most despise: I don’t like fanatics like the Rev. Ian Paisley.

Which living person do you most desire: Many, but I know a wonderful man called Campbell…..

What is the trait you most deplore in others: Stinginess. I once had a neighbour, not in Orkney, who was very grand. She used to come over woth soup bones that she had boiled twice, thinking I would get a third boiling out of them!

Do you believe in God: I pray on aeroplanes.

Who are your favourite film stars: Tom Conti, marvellous voice and Michael Caine.

Who are your favourite authors: Newly discovered Faroese writer William Heinesen, poetry by T.S. Elliot, GMB, American Robinson-Jeffers, South American Pablo Neruda.

Who are your favourite singers/musicians: Elisabeth Soderstrom, Elisabeth Schwazkopf and Jaquline du Pre, to name a few.

What is your favourite holiday destination: I hate going away, but like most places when I get there.

Where would you most want to live: Orkney is fine, but I miss the white winters.

What is the greatest love of your life: Well, there IS this man Campbell. You will have guessed by now that Tam is just a nickname.

If you ruled the country for one day, what changes would you make: I would make the environment issue top priority. We are seeing the whole world coming together over the Gulf crisis. I would hope the same energy, effort and money could be spent on saving our planet.

What sports team do you support: Get excited when Sweden is in the final of any sport.

What has been the proudest moment of your life: Maybe, when I got my first scoop with my picture splashed across the front page on all the big national papers, including The Sunday Times and The Observer.

What has been your most embarrassing moment: Many! Maybe, while photographing in Shetland, on a hot day, losing my skirt which I had tied around my middle. Realising there was no chance of me finding it, in miles of heather, I had to go on the bus, to Lerwick, in my knickers. What happened in Lerwick is my second most embarrassing story.

What has been your most romantic moment: Certainly not my honeymoon! Tam promised to take me somewhere warm. We got married in Edinburgh, in January and the warm place turned out to be the old Odeon Cinema where we watched Where Eagles Dare.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life: At this very moment, a can opener that cuts round the whole rim.

What is your idea of ultimate luxury: Swimming in the sea, above 18 degrees.

What are your all-time favourite five records: All Sibelius symphonies – that takes care of the question, but especially No.2 and No.5. Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony, Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and everything by Janacek.

What makes you most depressed: Darkness – very Swedish – they all commit suicide in the winter.

What is your favourite motto: Do unto others.

What do you most dislike about your appearance: That I look like my work room, untidy.

What do you consider the most important virtue: Honesty.

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue: Success – I think it is seen as a virtue today.

How would you like to be remembered: A newspaper article once described me as Swedish-Orcadian, now that would be nice!

One thought on “Forty-nine questions

  1. I forget what a natural humorist and storyteller Mum was… However I remember when this article came out how deeply touching the ‘success as a virtue’ observation was. Now that I live in the heart of Napa Valley in California, USA that answer has brought me back to the reality of what is important in life many times over.

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