It is inarguable that Orkney is unusually rich in old buildings, writes Garry Finlayson. But there were two, not particularly old by Orkney standards, which seemed ancient to a boy growing up in Kirkwall.
One was the Grammar School, now reborn as the council offices and though I have never experienced it in its new form I assume it’s a well-lit place of rational discussion – quite a change really. In my day it was a gloomy Victorian remanent ruled with an iron rod – or leather strap, I should say. Not one word of a lie: my pal Mike once got the belt from the headmaster (who I won’t name, for superstitious reasons) for making an appointment with the careers advisor. I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? But true, nonetheless. I’ve described it to my children as Hogwarts after the wrong side won. Of course other people will remember it differently.
The other was the Old Library in Laing Street. A much happier set of memories altogether: endless hours trawling shelves, often indiscriminately, judging books by their covers. I spent day upon day in the Orkney Room – you had to ask at the desk for the key, but once you were in nobody bothered you from opening time till close. The Orkney archives were very different in those days – none of the efficient and detailed organisation seen in the new library – you could just dive in and come up spluttering for air several weeks later.
So I am seriously looking forward to experiencing the building in its new role a week on Saturday (22 February). It is now the home of Kirkwall’s finest music venue The Sound Archive and Grooves Records (when I was a boy we had to order 45s at the fishing tackle shop). As soon as I heard about this development my soul shouted a loud YES! What a great use for what is a fine building with an honourable history.
We Shoogles are delighted to be coming to play at the The Old Library on the 22nd and look forward to seeing a lot of old friends. But remember where you are – so SHHH …
Shooglenifty plays The Sound Archive at The Old Library, Laing Street, Kirkwall on Saturday 22 February 2020. Get your tickets here >>