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History Of Wick Library

Chapter 5

1930 – 1975


14th August

Death of Captain D. W. Milligan County Librarian on the 9th of August 1931.

Excerpt from the John O’Groat Journal 14th August 1931. Caithness Education Committee Appreciation to the late Mr Milligan and a Provost’s tribute to Mr Milligan.


Sincere tributes were paid to the late Captain Milligan at the monthly meeting held on Tuesday of Caithness Education Committee, of which his brother-in-law, Bailie John Harper is chairman. “Since we last met.” Said Mr George King, vice-chairman, “death has taken from us our librarian, Mr Milligan, the chairman’s brother-in-law, who passed away rather suddenly on Sunday last. To me, the announcement of his death was unexpected and gave me quite a shock. I knew that he had not been in good health for some time, but I was quite unprepared for the tragic tidings of his death. Mr Milligan, as you all know, took a whole-hearted and intense interest in the work of his department. It is nearly eight years since he received the appointment of librarian to the Carnegie Library in Wick, and in the working and development of the county school library scheme, which was in its initial stages when he took charge, he had spared no effort to make the scheme the success which it ultimately achieved. And in the negotiations which recently successfully culminated in the county library unification scheme we have been much indebted to Mr Milligan for his help, counsel, and influential intervention with the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust in the matter of grants from the funds of the trust. Mr Milligan has proved himself a most genial disposition and manner had popularised him with the community which he so faithfully and diligently served, and it will be very difficult to replace him in the office which he held. I beg to move that we record in the minutes a deep sense of the Committee’s profound regret at Mr Milligan’s death and of our sincere sympathy with Mrs Milligan and her family in their grievous bereavement and affliction.”

Mr Alex. Bruce, Wick, wished to second Mr King’s motion, and would like to endorse all the remarks he had made. He could profess to be the only member who was intimately associated with Mr Milligan because he was the oldest member of the library committee. He could speak of the highly satisfactory way which the librarian carried out his duties. Mr Milligan’s place would be difficult to fill, and they would sincerely miss his genial presence.

The Chairman thanked the members on behalf of his sister and her sons.

Provost’s Tribute

Provost Duchart, at the opening of the Henderson Memorial Nursing Home, referred to the sad loss the Nursing Association committee had sustained through the death of Captain Milligan, one its members. He had been a member of the committee at the beginning and was a very keen and active worker, and was interested in everything which pertained to the welfare of the home.



Excerpt form the John O’Groat Journal 12th of August 1932


Appointment of Mr K. Stewart


Mr Kennedy Stewart, M.A., Edinburgh, was unanimously appointed county librarian of Caithness, subject to the approval of the County Council, at a meeting of the administration and finance committee of the Council held at Wick on Friday. Colonel E. W. Horne, Convener, presided over a good attendance.


The meeting was convened for the purpose of interviewing Mr Kennedy Stewart, M.A., Edinburgh and Mr Alexander J. Tait, A.L.A., Glasgow. These two candidates were included in the short leet of three recommended by the library sub-committee. The third candidate had since accepted another appointment. Before interviewing the candidates a general discussion took place.

Mr J. Abrach Mackay, Castletown, said one of the candidates was ineligible for the post in the terms of the advertisement. The clerk said that the Carnegie Trustees had approved of the three on the leet. Colonel Horne said that the original proposed advertisement stated that candidates must hold certificates of the Library Association, but “must” was alter to “should” on the motion of Mr J. Abrach Mackay.

Mr Abrach Mackay said that the library committee’s recommendation was that at least three certificates must be held. That was the reason why he suggested “should.” The Carnegie Trustees said that the appointment of Mr Glass was not in terms of the advertisement, because he did not hold any certificates. Now there was one of the candidates, approved by the Trustees, who had no certificates. That was why he thought they should have re-advertised.

Trustees Approved.

Mr D. A. Sinclair, Wick – But the Trustees have approved of this man, and we can’t do anything. We had given way to them already.

Mr Abrach Mackay – We won’t give away to them again?

Mr John Mackay – Have the Trustees expressly stated that there should be three certificates?

Mr J. Abrach Mackay – Yes

Colonel Horne – They have not stated that. They stated that candidates must be approved by them.

Mr J. Abrach Mackay – I can quote correspondence direct from the Trustees to the secretary of the library committee stating that candidates should have at least three certificates. But there is no use humbugging about the matter. All that we are concerned about is that we are not going to be the laughing-stock of the community by appointing a young man, other than Mr Glass, who does not hold one single certificate of the Library Association.

Mr Alex. Bruce, Wick, asked if any of the candidates held certificates.

Mr J. Abrach Mackay said Mr Tait held three certificates.

“Quite Public.”

Colonel Horne said any correspondence to which Mr Mackay referred was private correspondence.

Mr J. Abrach Mackay – It is quite public.

Mr Alex. Bruce said he thought the position was that the three names were sent up to the Carnegie Trustees, who intimated that they were prepared to approve of any one of the three. What Mr Mackay said was perfectly right. All candidates did not have the three certificates required.

Colonel Horne – As far as Mr Stewart is concerned he is an M.A. and holds very high certificates in many subjects, and he had also had a good deal of experience in the S.S.C. Library in Edinburgh.

Mr D. S. Leitch, Watten, said they might proceed on the understanding that they were going to interview Mr Stewart, and if he had not the certificates he could get them later.

Mr Alex, Bruce – I think we should decide whether we are going to re-advertise.

Ex-Provost Brims, Thurso moved that the candidates to be interviewed and this was unanimously agreed to.

Mr Stewart.

Mr Stewart was called first, and after being introduced by Colonel Horne he was asked to tell his qualifications and experience.

Mr Stewart said he had four years’ library experience in the S.S.C. Library in Edinburgh. He was trained there by Dr Malcolm, who was one of the best known librarians in Edinburgh. During his first three years there he was studying for his M.A. degree, and was not then serving full time in the library, but his forth year he was working full time. He was accustomed to taking full charge of the library when Dr Malcolm was away, and did the usual work of cataloguing, classification, and recording of books given out.

They specialised very much in reference work, not only in legal reference, but historical work for University staff and students. After leaving the S.S.C. Library he joined the B.B.C. staff in Scotland as junior announcer in Edinburgh. Since then he was selected to organise a new department to gather Press information for the whole of Scotland. He was in touch with about 16 newspapers for three years. After organising that department he took over another branch of programme work which was most difficult. This was outside broadcasting, and the point he wished to stress here was that in outside broadcasting one was dealing with a function which entirely outwith one’s control. He had also to deal with all sorts of people.

At as subsequent stage he became a representative for the Edinburgh Station and in touch with the B.B.C. He was responsible for administration and routine with a staff of between 20 and 30. He left the B.B.C. owing to a personal disagreement. Since then he had taken up free-lance journalism and had done propaganda for the Unionist Party in Scotland.


Mr Alex. Bruce – Had you any experience in real public library work?

Mr Stewart – No, but I have studied the general question.

Mr John Mackay, Wick – You have no experience in book-buying for the general public?

Mr Stewart – No, not really, but I have done a considerable amount of reviewing for various Scottish newspapers.

Mr George King, Berriedale, said that in connection with the appointment there would be a good deal of lecturing to students in the schools in outlying districts, and instructing pupils and teachers alike as to what was the best class of literature to be used and encouraged.

Mr Stewart said he had done a certain amount of lecturing.

Mr J. Abrach Mackay – You would have no difficulty in taking those much discussed certificates in six weeks?

Mr Stewart said he could not do it in six weeks, but within a year. He did not think, however, that the certificates were necessary with a University degree and library training. Quite frankly, he said, he would be loath to take them. He did not think they were worth taking where one had a University degree and general training. If they were insisted upon he would be prepared to take them, and estimated to do so within a year, unless they were extremely difficult.

In reply to Mr Abrach Mackay, Mr Stewart said his salary had risen in four years from £260 per annum to £525 per annum.

Mr Tait.

Mr Tait was then interviewed. He stated that he had commenced his library experience in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. In 1925, and since then been engaged in every branch of the work, including cataloguing of books, classification, and the distribution of books to the public. He had been for two years in charge of the statistical department, dealing not only with the Mitchell Library but also the 25 branches in the various districts in Glasgow. Each branch sent in a weekly report from which he compiled information for the newspapers, and monthly reports, for the committee meetings. He compiled the annual reports as well and made graphs and charts showing the increase or decrease in classes of books. The periodical department had also been under his charge for a year, and dealt with periodicals of all descriptions.

In reply to Colonel Horne, Mr Tait said he had been seven years in the library. There was a staff of 40 males, and his place was about half-way up.

Mr J. Abrach Mackay asked if the Mitchell Library was a central library.

Mr Tait said they issued between 10,000 and 12,000 a week.

Mr Alex. Bruce – Had you anything to do with the district lending library?

Mr Tait – Yes

He said he been doing library work since he left school. He had qualified for entering the University, but took up library work instead.

Mr Stewart Favoured.

Following the interview most of the members expressed their opinion in favour of Mr Stewart. Mr J. Abrach Mackay said it was unfortunate that they should have to appoint a man who had not a single certificate. The man in the street could say that this candidate had no certificate any more than Mr Glass, whom they had turned down, and they dare not contradict it.

Mr John Mackay said he would like to see the post re-advertised, but if all the members wanted an appointment now he would fall in with that. Mr J. Abrach Mackay said there were men in Wick and Thurso with distinguished university degrees who might have applied for the post. He felt very strongly in the matter. Mr George Green, John O’Groats, said Mr Stewart had library experience as well as his university degree.

This was the end of the discussion, and it was unanimously agreed, on the motion of Ex-Provost Brims, that Mr Stewart be appointed to the post, subject to the approval of the County Council.


Mr. Kennedy starts his new job as County Librarian.


20th April

Mr. Kennedy Stewart, M. A., resigns from the post of County Librarian.

Excerpt from the John O’Groat Journal 20th of April 1934 of Caithness Education Committee report.

Resignation of Librarian.

The Clerk read from the minutes of the Library Committee that Mr Kennedy Stewart, M.A., county librarian, had resigned from his post, and had accepted an appointment with a commercial firm. He asked to be released from his duties at the earliest convenient date after 21st April.

Rev. J. A. Martin said he, as convener of the Library Committee, wished to express the regret of the Education Committee that Mr Stewart found it necessary to send in his resignation. It was only about 1½ years since Mr Stewart was appointed, and from what he (Mr Martin) could gather, the impression of the community with regard to the work of the librarian was fairly unanimous that he served the Committee very efficiently and very satisfactorily.

The changes which have been introduced by Mr Stewart during the short time were all previously contemplated by the library sub-committee some time before the librarian was appointed, but, as convener of the committee, it was a pleasure to him to have such a willing and helpful colleague as Mr Stewart. The librarian had certainly not been idle, and the work done in the compilation of a catalogue, the sorting out of the old books and the rebinding of other volumes was most necessary, and had been successfully carried out by Mr Stewart.

The library was now much improved, and was more like a reading library. They should record in the minutes their appreciation of Mr Stewart’s services. He moved they report the resignation to the County Council, and if the Council was so advised they should remit the question of the appointment to the library sub-committee to bring in a report to the next meeting, if possible.

At the suggestion of the library sub-committee, Mr Stewart had prepared two memoranda, one dealing with the work done in the county library at Wick, and the other dealing with the work which he thought ought to be done in the section of the county library at Thurso. Copies of these memoranda would be supplied to the members of the library sub-committee, and after perusing these the committee would be in a much better position to make another appointment.

Mr Leitch seconded Mr Martin’s motion, which unanimously agreed to. It was decided that Mr John Glass, assistant librarian, should act as interim librarian during the vacancy. The arrangements were left in Mr Martin’s hands.

April - June

Mr John Glass, assistant librarian, reinstated as interim librarian until a county librarian has been appointed.

15th June

Excerpt from the John O’Groat Journal 15th of June 1934 of the Caithness Education Committee.

Mr Fred. W. Robertson M. A., Dempster Street, Wick, was unanimously appointed principal librarian for the county, in succession to Mr Kennedy Stewart, who recently resigned.

Appointment of Librarian.

The Committee had under consideration the appointment of a successor to Mr Kennedy Stewart, county librarian. The appointment to the Education Committee, subject to it being approved by the Carnegie Trustees.

Applications for the post where considered by the Library Sub-Committee at a meeting on Friday. When the Education Committee advertised the post, they confined it to local applicants with an Honours University degree. There were two candidates – Mr John E. Donaldson, B. A., (Oxford), Thurso Street, Wick, and Mr Fred. W. Robertson, M. A., (Edin.), Dempster Street, Wick.

After discussion, it was agreed, on the motion of Dean of Guild Ball, Wick, seconded by Mr. W. M. Brims, Thurso to recommend the appointment of Mr Robertson. The Clerk read a letter from Rev. J. A. Martin, Wick, convener of the Library Sub-Committee, stating that he regretted he could not attend the Education Committee meeting and containing a report of the meeting at which the appointment was considered.

The report stated the Committee had carefully considered the applications and testimonials, and in view of the fact that both candidates were local and were well known to the members it was felt necessary to interview them. They were both regarded as satisfactory so far as education and culture were concerned, but neither of them had training in library work.

The director of education had informed the Committee that the Carnegie Trustees would approve of the appointment of a person with University training, provided he later passed the final examination of the Library Association. Mr W. M. Brims asked if the Carnegie Trustees had stipulated when the examination should be passed. Mr McHardy read a letter from the Carnegie Trustees stating that the successful candidate would enter for the examination as soon as possible.

Limiting the Application.

Mr Brims said he had the pleasure in moving the adoption of the recommendation. Provost Campbell seconded the motion. Mr John Mackay said he thought the Committee made a mistake in limiting the applications to local candidates for the post of county librarian in Caithness. He expected quite a number of applicants. It was necessary, he thought, for the Committee to readvertise the post in several Scottish daily newspapers, because the present applicants were without the Library Association’s final certificate.

From the Carnegie Trustees letter it seemed that the certificate was necessary, or at least it was very desirable. He moved the vacancy be readvertised. The Chairman said that question had been considered before. The Committee knew there were two local men who were unemployed and were suitable for the post, so they restricted the advertisement to local applicants.

Mr Anderson said when Mr Stewart was appointed he did not stay long, and if they appointed an outside man again the same thing might happen. If they included all Scotland, he added, it was doubtful if they would get two applicants with such high qualifications as Mr Robertson and Mr Donaldson possessed. They were fortunate to have such men in the county ready and willing to take up work.

There was no more discussion and the vote was taken. It was practically unanimous in favour of Mr Robertson, Mr Mackay receiving no support for his amendment.


John Mowat dies on January and leaves his collection of Books and Manuscripts to Wick Library.


5th January

Report made to the Education Committee about the Reading Room being vandalised. Children under the age of fifteen are denied access to the Reading Room. For a trial period the room will be closed from 12.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. Pictures stolen, papers scattered across the floors and walls marked.

County Librarian was quite certain the same thieves who went around Britain, about a year ago, stealing pictures, also took these pictures. Perth Library had the same experience and it was a problem concerning all local authorities, including the British Museum. The Committee agrees that the Reading Room be closed for a period, possibly for a month for decorating and sorting the damage.


7th June

Sub-Committee of the Education for Libraries have ask how much will a painting cost to be done of Neil M. Gunn, for recognition of his literary works. County Librarian to approach a local artist to find out.

4th October

County Librarian reported back to Sub-Committee with the cost. The cost would of the painting would be around £250 - £300 from a local artist Donald M. Sutherland. It was agreed by the Sub-Committee that the money be raised by public subscription, and the painting be housed at Wick Library. Donald. M. Sutherland, local artist was authorised by Sub-Committee via County Librarian to do the painting.


27th October

Qualified Assistant to help with the County Librarian based at Wick Library.

Two applicants received for the position of Principal Assistant Librarian. Mr. P. Malcolm, Chief Librarian for county of Sutherland, 6 Manse Park, Brora and Miss E. I. S. Rowan, District Librarian (Glasgow Corporation) 4 Braefield Drive, Thornliebank, Glasgow.

Mr. P. Malcolm was the successful candidate for the position of Principal Assistant Librarian. David Morrison appointed to Principal Assistant Librarian after sudden death of Mr. Malcolm.

3rd November

Lord Birsay (Mr. Harald Leslie, formerly Sheriff-Principal of the Northern Counties) performs the ceremony at Mackay’s Hotel to hand over the portrait to Dr. Neil M. Gunn, which is going on exhibition in Edinburgh, and will be returned back to Caithness and housed in Wick Library.


4th May

Report by County Architect dated 15th April was read out to the Education Committee with a quote from Messrs Parker, Winder and Achurch Ltd., Birmingham, about how much it would cost to provide a bronze plaque for the Entrance Hall with the inscription of the original roll of donations and bequests, as well as other individual strip plates for the library. Total cost would be £88 19s 7d for all the work. Committee gives their authorisation to proceed with the work.


8th June

Administration and Finance Committee receives two quotes for work to be done on a new staff room and toilets. First quote by Mr. J. W. Calder, of Lochshell, Wick of £599 7s and second quote from Messrs Miller and MacDonald, Henderson Square, Watten of £622 12s. Contract goes to Mr. J. W. Calder.


Christmas period, Wick Library had a most difficult time; the heating system in the library failed, leading to an explosion in the library. Plans have already been adopted for renovating the library.


7 May

Education Committee hears from Reverend R. R. Sinclair about the recent explosion, which had occurred during the repair work by the Scottish Gas Board to the gas heating system. The Committee noted a report by the County Clerk that a letter had been sent to the Gas Board that the heating system should be restored as soon as possible to a satisfactory condition prior to its recent conversion to an alternative type of gas.

2nd July

With reference to a previous report submitted to the Education Committee on a serious incident, which had occurred involving the gas-heating boiler following its recent conversion to operate under a new form of gas.

A letter dated 10th of June was submitted from Calor Gas, Limited, Weybridge, Surrey stating that the position of the boiler in its present position without any low level ventilation was unsatisfactory.

The report recommended that various measures should be taken to provide ventilation and fitting of safety devices.

A report submitted by the County Architect dated 1st of June was also submitted, stating that structural measures suggested in the Calor Gas report would cost an estimated £750. The report also recommended the replacement of the old existing pipes and radiators. The County Architect suggested that it would now be a suitable time to convert it to electricity.

An electrical off-peak heating system was estimated at £1117.

After the discussion, the Committee appoints a Sub-Committee, consisting of Provost W. G. Mowat, Mr Alexander Rugg (County Convener), Bailie Kenneth H Gunn, Police Judge David Nicol, Police Judge W. F. Dunnett, Mr W. S. Finlayson, Reverend R. R. Sinclair and Mr C. Donaldson to consider in detail the proposals by Calor Gas Limited and the County Architect, along with the alternative costs of other types of heating, and to report back at the next meeting of the Education Committee.

3rd December

The need for a reading room was submitted by Reverend R. R. Sinclair and Mr A. B. Henderson, and then put forward to the Education Committee.

The Librarian reported that the accommodation in the library was inadequate for such provision. Mr Alexander Rugg suggests to the Committee to make use of the Health Clinic next door to the library, which would be surplus to requirements due to the completion of the new health centre in Wick. The Committee agrees to this and will investigate making use of the premises belonging to the County Council.


Wick Library Improvements:

4th March

A report submitted by the 23rd of February 1970, by the County Architect to the Education Committee.

Containing details of proposals for the execution and alterations and improvements to Wick Public Library and Museum by the County Architect at an estimated cost of £10,250 for Substantial Structural work, electrical work, renewal and replacement of book shelf units, provision of miscellaneous items of furniture and furnishings, and redecorating. The report also details the need for a fire escape and other measures suggested by the Fire Prevention Officer.

Relevant plans were submitted for these proposals three years ago to a special Sub-Committee appointed to investigate the need for improving the accommodation in the library. These recommendations were made after a lengthy consultation with the Fire Prevention Officer.

The Committee agreed to look at the proposals that the County Librarian indicated. Apart from the rise in population in Wick and surrounding areas, the improvement should serve the needs of the population for many years ahead.

Limitation imposed on the library and the grounds around, could not allow an outward extension; as a result a newspaper reading room could not be provided. The ground floor consisting of adult lending department, children’s department, reference room and staff rooms, and on the floor, a museum, students’ room, storage room and depute librarian’s room.

The Committee express their disappointment at not having a newspaper reading room. But they still reaffirmed their interest in a newspaper reading room, possibly resulting from the acquisition of the welfare clinic next door to the library, which had become surplus to requirements.

This suggested a possibility of a link- up being built from the library up to the welfare clinic, therefore resulting in a reading room.

After a full discussion the Committee agreed to put a request to the County Architect about the practicability of the welfare clinic being linked to the library as a reading room.

And to approve in the meantime the plans for various alterations etc., as submitted, subject to be reviewed in light of Architect’s report on the proposed reading room.

The County Clerk indicated that certain difficulties arose with title to the premises of the welfare clinic. These would have to be sorted out before the clinic could be used for library purposes.

6th May

A report submitted by the 29th of April, by the County Architect to the Education Committee.

About the practicability and the cost of the welfare clinic being linked to the library:

estimated cost £900; after careful consideration by the County Convener to the Committee it was decided to leave it until the next meeting, with a Sub-Committee being appointed to visit Wick Library and investigate this proposal and the major scheme within the library itself already recently approved. The County Clerk was to be asked to sort out the difficulties of the welfare clinic title deeds and to find out if the Health Committee were prepared to transfer over the welfare clinic to the Library Sub-Committee.

3rd June

Education Committee appoints a Sub-Committee consisting of Provost W. G. Mowat, Dr Alexander Rugg and Reverend R. R. Sinclair to investigate in detail the proposal for provision of a reading room in the welfare clinic and linking it to the library, as well as to investigate the proposal for the major scheme within the library itself.

2nd July

Administration and Finance Committee receives two quotes for work to be done on a fire escape. First quote by Donald M. Sutherland, Haster, Wick for £585 and second quote by Robert Sutherland, Telford Street, Wick of £767. Committee accepts the offer from Donald M. Sutherland, of Haster, Wick.

2nd December

Note submitted by Sub-Committee investigating on behalf the Education Committee. And also a report submitted by the County Architect dated 20th November 1970, stating that the estimated cost of the works proposed by the Sub-Committee was £9050 on the basis of electrical work carried out on the whole of the library, and the difference in cost between the original proposed improvement scheme and the modified scheme by the Sub-Committee being only £1200, consideration be given to proceeding with the entire scheme at this time.

After discussion about the first floor of the library, the Education Committee approved the execution only of the works recommended by the Sub-Committee at the present time, at an estimated cost of £9050. Also it was further agreed that the work should be carried out as a matter of urgency in view of the unsatisfactory condition of the library.

Reverend R. R. Sinclair indicated that the provision of a reading room within the existing library should be kept in the forefront of the Committee’s minds.



Dr. Fred Robertson hands in his notice of retirement to the Caithness County Council, Education Committee.

11th November

Two applicants for the position of Caithness County Librarian based at Wick Library.

David Morrison, Morven View, Reaster, Caithness and K H Shafee of 40 Capel Lane, Exmouth, Devon. Committee agrees to appoint David Morrison, Principal Assistant Librarian, for the Post of County Librarian based at Wick Library.


3rd January

Dr. Fred Robertson, County Librarian, based at Wick Library for nearly 40 years, retires.

4th January

David Morrison, Principal Assistant Librarian, takes over the post of Caithness County Librarian, based at Wick Library.


Wick Heritage Centre opens a small museum based at Wick Library.

Foreword & Acknowledgements
Chapter 1  Libraries in Wick and Pulteneytown before 1887
Chapter 2 1887 – 1891
Chapter 3 1891 – 1900
Chapter 4 1900 – 1930
Chapter 5 1930 – 1975
Chapter 6 1975 – Present
Chapter 7 Librarians
Photo Gallery