05 March 2022

Among Angels in the SFO

SFO member – and Edinburgh Concert Administrator – Catriona McLean, had the good fortune to undertake a trip to Orkney in 2021.

She reports on an interesting, SFO-related encounter whilst there.

Catriona’s trip to Orkney

As part of my recent trip to Orkney, I took a tour of Westray (one of orkney’s northernmost islands) with the company Westraak.

They were fantastic guides and full of stories about the island.

One of these was about a shipwreck in the 1730s.

We were shown the dramatic location by the cliffs and told how one islander tied a rope around his waist and was lowered down to attempt a rescue. He was able to grab a baby from its mother on the stricken boat but, due to the weather conditions and darkness, no further rescue was possible.

The following morning the only remaining evidence of the wreck was a piece of wood with the word “Archangel” on it.

The baby was given to a childless couple.

They named him “Archie Angel”.

The name lived on in Westray until the 1930s.

The guide then asked a seemingly random question.

“Do you know John Mason?”

“Yes!” I screeched.


It turns out that John is a descendant of Archie Angel.

Both names live on in John’s son, Jamie Mason’s, name and also in Jamie’s boys’ names.

In the local museum in Westray, there were pictures showing some Angel/Mason relatives and their handiwork

All this made me pause to think how different my life would have been without little Archie Angel.

NOTE: This article first appeared in the SFO’s January 2022 Newsletter. Find out more about joining up – it’s free! – to receive our quarterly newsletter HERE.