a farmer inforont of a peeling blue door with a lamb in one arm and a large phone with an aerial in the other, he wears shades and is bearded, the lamb has been dabbed with bright yellow iodine.


A box file label in 1980s style graphics in blue and yellow, the handwriting reads 'Cuttings News Mag 1990 -'

Sarah, intern with Orkney Museums and the Pier Arts Centre, has been with us here at the Gunnie Moberg Archive this last week. She worked her way through a file of Gunnie’s newspaper clippings from the 1990s. These have now been catalogued and can be browsed in at Orkney Library & Archive.

Gunnie Moberg worked as a freelance photographer for the press from the late 1970s, sending rolls of film south. In a pre-digital age photographers shot on a couple of cameras so they could send the undeveloped films to different papers, sometimes only seeing their work when it was printed in the paper. Cut out of the papers and stored carefully in a box file, Gunnie was building a decade by decade archive of her work in print and, consequently, an archive of the island’s representation at the turn of the century.

Gunnie Moberg’s photography news clippings from the nineties reveal a fascination with Orkney and island life in the Scottish national papers. Stories about remoteness and technology and the possibilities therein are beautifully typified in this portrait of telecrofter John Ruscoe, his head office 500 miles away in Manchester. In an article from The Herald in May of 1992, John, wresting a giant walkabout phone and a wriggling iodined lamb, is simultaneously involved in lambing and software design.

the cover of the Herald Business report newspaper section, image on cover of a farmer inforont of a peeling blue door with a lamb in one arm and a large phone with an aerial in the other, he wears shades and is bearded, the lamb has been dabbed with bright yellow iodine.
The Herald May 1992

In November of 1994 Scotland on Sunday printed Gunnie Moberg photographs of Rousay alongside the article by Will Self about the writer’s self-imposed exile to the island.

‘Gradually I began to feel my sense of geography shifting. I was becoming Rousaycentric. England and the south was an impossibly tropical and decadent region; the Faroes began to take on the aura of a possible holiday destination; Reykjavik  plausible cultural centre. As I walked to the Taversoe of the evening, I could see the lights of Kirkwall twinkling across the water. Ah!, I would think to myself, disapprovingly, there’s that Babylon of a place, full of distraction and debauchery.’   Will Self

This black and white photograph shows old farm machinery in a sculptural jumble.
Spectrum Magazine, Scotland on Sunday, 27 November 1994

How else was Orkney being depicted in the nineties? A 32 page Orkney pull-out in the Herald is full of Gunnie’s loving portraits of the place. Also in the pull-out, a feature on craft industries tells the story about how Stromness fisherman George Sinclair wowed Paris with this Gunnie Moberg fashion shoot for Tait and Style.

A fisherman in cap and warm smiling face is swaddled in a huge black and hwite scarf wrapped round his neck.

The Herald, 8 March 1994

Throughout the decade Gunnie was steadily being asked for new portraits of George Mackay Brown. In one photograph the home-grown writer enjoys home brew with author Duncan McLean. Here at the archives one of the many boxes of documents on shelves in strongrooms bears the name D91. It is the collection of Duncan McLean’s working notes and proofs from his books, including Bunkerman the book reviewed in this edition of The Orcadian.

Two authors, one older one younger sit together each nursing a cup of ale.
The Orcadian 22 June 1995

In a Sunday Post magazine article in November of 1991, photographers are asked ‘to let their lenses sum up their feelings’ about Scotland. How does Gunnie Moberg respond? ‘This is Scotland to me because it represents a nation that goes in head first in any given situation.’

A row of haybales reach off into the distnace, sticking out of the end of the facing bale a pair of wellies suggest that the farmer has been baled up too.

image: Gunnie Moberg D135-2-449

A photo page spread shwoing views of Scotland and portraits.

Sunday Post November 1991

The Orcadian’s 1999 obituary for Orkney filmmaker and poet Margaret Tait is accompanied by Gunnie Moberg’s portrait of the artist.  Margaret Tait’s archive is also held here at Orkney Library and Archive, her collection of personal communications, photographs, scripts, scene sketches and poetry workings is now fully catalogued and searchable. The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney, holds an archive of Margaret Tait films and with an ongoing programme of public screenings.  The films are also available to view by appointment with the Pier Arts Centre.

This portrait is part of the next Gunnie Moberg exhibition ‘White’ at the Library in Kirkwall – more about that soon. Click here to see one of Margaret Tait’s films Tailpiece (leaving Buttquoy) on the LUX collection site.

The photograph in the newspapper clipping is of an older woman looking directly into the lens with clear rimmed winged glasses and her white hair blowing in the wind glows against the black background.
The Orcadian 1999

Come in to the archive and ask for box D135/30 if you would like to see any of these clippings or browse many more newspaper stories with Gunnie’s pictures.

Thank you  to Sarah and also to Andrew, who has been here on work experience and spent an afternoon putting Gunnie Moberg’s 1979-1989 newspaper clippings in chronological order.

One thought on “Telecrofting

  1. I remember Gunnie taking that pic of me and GMB. George’s seat was quite sunken, and he was a bit shrunken, and when we first sat next to each other I was towering above him, with his forehead about the level of my elbow. I was sitting on some kind of hard stool, so nothing could be done with me, but Gunnie cajoled George into standing up so she could pile up several cushions on his chair; when he sat down again he was about a foot higher, and dignity was restored. I think this palaver explains whey we are both grinning so happily – that and the excellent home brew.

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