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History Of Wick Library

Chapter 6

1975 – Present


Highland Regional Council was formed on 16 May 1975.

Caithness County Council – Education Service comes under the control of the Highland Regional Council. Libraries come under Libraries & Leisure Services.


Wick Heritage Centre leaves the Library and moves into new premises.


Refurbishment of Wick Library at a cost of £50,000

Excerpt taken from the John O’Groats Journal dated 26th March.


For the past few months workmen have engaged in a variety of tasks on the Carnegie Library in Wick.

Last year the roof structure was found to have deteriorated badly, and in recent weeks some £29,000 has had to be spent in repairs to the structure and in making the roof waterproof.

Since the Museum display in the upper floor was removed last year to the Wick Heritage Centre in Bank Row, alterations have been made to convert the main upper floor area into a gallery and exhibition space, which will be available for local exhibitions and displays, and for visiting exhibitions, some privately promoted and others brought in by the Highland Regional Council as part of its touring programme.

The first exhibition will open at the end of April and will consist of work from Wick High School Art Department. It is hoped to develop a regular programme of exhibitions. Individuals and organisations interested in using the gallery are invited to get in touch with the Branch Librarian, Mr Morrison or the Regional Arts Officer, Miss Neesham.

The next phrase of work on the building which will start next week is the improvement and alteration of the ground floor Branch Library area. Regular users of the Library will be aware of the poor condition of the entrance steps and doors, and the entrance path is to be re-laid and the doors replaced. It had been hoped that wheel chair ramps could be provided at the entrance but the design of the portico and entrance steeps have made this impossible in a form which would have been acceptable in a building with this historical character.

Within the library, a new book issue counter will be located just inside the inner doors and the staffroom will be relocated away from the public area. The existing staff area behind the counter will be brought into the main lending space, and additional shelving provided there and elsewhere will allow bound newspaper files to be accommodated. Book stock from the reference and local study collection, including the Mowat Room collection (some of which will be directly available for the first time) Some of these collections will be made available only by special request.

The Children’s Library will be transferred to the room known as the Biography Room and will be refurbished with modern library shelving of a height suitable for children.

Under changes which were made in the Library Service over the last two years, Wick no longer has a need to carry duplicate copies and reserve stock for use in other libraries, and with changes now taking place it will now be possible to carry a wider ranging collection of recent book stock selected for its appropriateness to the reading habits of the Wick community and the area which the Library serves.

This phrase will cost almost £11,000 and will take three or four weeks to complete. While there may be some disturbance to the routine work and indeed to users of the Library, it is hoped to be able to complete the work without closing the Library at all, and readers are asked to be sympathetic to any problems which they may encounter during this period.

The total cost of all the work done on the Library building will amount to some £50,000 when complete. The building will then be in sound structural order and will provide improved and more to up-to-date facilities for using the Library, including reader borrowing and reference. The addition of a Gallery should be a valuable asset to Wick.


St. Fergus Gallery holds its first exhibition.


David Morrison takes early retirement.


Miss Lorraine MacDonald becomes next librarian.


Miss Lorraine MacDonald resigns from her post.

15th September

North Highland Archives officially opened by Mrs Jess Campbell.


The Highland Regional Council and the former District Councils in the Highlands ceased to exist on 31 March 1996 becoming the Highland Council.


Miss Jennifer Shanks becomes next librarian at Wick.



Restructuring of the Library Service into different areas due to decentralisation.

Mrs Joyce Brown, Thurso Librarian, becomes Caithness Area Library Officer.

Ms Jennifer Shanks becomes Assistant Librarian for Caithness.


Wick Library celebrates its one hundred years with a series of events.

Report on the Centenary Celebrations for Wick Carnegie Library done by Jennifer Shanks.

6 September 1998 was the centenary of the opening of Wick Library, originally known as the Carnegie Public Library. Built on land gifted by Sir John Usher and with the principal financial backing from Andrew Carnegie, it has withstood the test of time well and continues today to provide a similar service.

In order to celebrate such an important occasion, library staff discussed and decided upon a range of activities and events to take place.

These began in May with various children’s competitions for pre-school to P7 age children. Distributed throughout the country with first and second prizes of £5 and £4 book vouchers for each of the four age groups, entries received numbered over five hundred. Six traditional rose bushes were given to the library as a gift from the Caithness History Group to mark the centenary and these were planted along one wall of the library in a similar location to rose bushes previously planted there in the early 1900’s.

In conjunction with Thurso and Wick High Schools a competition for S3 pupils was run. Entrants were asked to compose a piece of work as befitting the title “Carnegie: His life and times”. The winning entrant, as judged by Councillor Falconer Waters, was Alistair Dewar of Reay who attends Thurso High School. His factual entry was both informative and of a very high standard.

The beginning of July saw a flag flying from the library’s flagpole which is situated above the main entrance. The chosen flag was that of Wick Burgh, depicting St Fergus being rowed across an expanse of water, and it was given on loan to us for three months.

A display of memorabilia and old photographs was also created with items given on loan by members of the public. These included an old library book dust jacket, old styles of reader tickets and other items of the era such as snuff boxes, a top hat, silverware and numerous sepia photographs of Wick and its inhabitants.

The last weekend in July was the start of Wick Gala Week and staff decided to enter a float with the theme of “Wick Library: Past and Present”. The combined work of staff from the library staff, the St Fergus Gallery, the North Highland Archive and family and friends, created a float that collected £231.78. We also won third prize in the ‘Most Topical’ category, the prize money of which paid for an evening ten-pin bowling for all involved.

On Saturday 1 August an Open Morning was held and Cream Teas were served to visitors. The audio-visual collection was also launched on this day and the winners of the children’s competitions were presented with their prizes. A total of 55 people partook of tea and home-baking. The most recent event was an Evening View of displays in conjunction with the North Highland Archive and the St Fergus Gallery. This event was by invitation only and took place on Wednesday 9 September. The gallery had an exhibition of Norwegian tapestries and the Archive displayed comparative maps of the centre of Wick one hundred years ago as well as the present day. The library had a display of John Mowat’s antiquarian books on display.

Alistair Dewar was presented with a £25 book token and Mr. John Inkster, Rector of Thurso High School accepted a glass engraved book entitled ‘Wick Carnegie Library Centenary Book of Merit’ on behalf of the school attended by the winning entrant. 1998 is the inaugural year but the prize will now be competed for annually. Around 70 people attended; an evening finger buffet was provided. As the library’s Centenary year draws to a close, it is concluded that the events and activities have helped to raise the library’s profile in the community and to promote the materials and information available through the library service.


Wick Library becomes part of refurbishment plans for the library service.


31st January

Refurbishment of the library starts.

Contracts were awarded to the Highland Council’s Commercial Operations for masonry work, painting, joinery work, carpet & carpeting fitting. Subcontractors for the Council for electrical work went to G. A. Barnie, and design and fitting of shelves went to LFC services. R. J. MacDonald was awarded the contract for the carpet and carpet fitting.

Also on the 31st of January, a temporary library was set up in the hall and also in the St. Fergus Gallery.

13th March

Library reopens to the public.


150 years of Public Libraries, Robert MacLennan M.P. for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross donates book to Wick Library, a copy of Muir of Huntershill.

13th of April

Mr Jamie Stone, Member of the Scottish Parliament, officially re-opens the newly re-furbished Wick Library.


Miss Jennifer Shanks resigns her post as Assistant Librarian for Caithness at Wick Library.

Miss Amanda Robertson appointed to position of Assistant Librarian for Caithness at Wick Library.


9th July

Six computers of the People Network funded by the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) available for public use.


Miss Amanda Robertson resigns her post as Assistant Librarian for Caithness at Wick Library.


While I was working, this tall elderly man came to the library. He informed me that he worked here in the later part of 1930s – 40s. He introduced himself as Mr. Iain Harper. He was up for a few days to trace his family tree. I mentioned to Mr. Harper that I was doing a book on the history of the library and showed him a draft copy of it. Mr. Harper told me a wee bit about his time at Wick Library. I asked Mr. Harper if he would like to include some information in the book about his time spent working in Wick Library.


Letter from Mr. Iain Harper sent to me of his time working in Wick Library, also had a couple of pictures.

30 Parkfield Road, 

Dated 8th August 2003

In 1936 I was at school and I was interviewed by Dr. Robertson for a post at the Library at 8.00pm till 10.00pm. This was to put away books in their right places and to put the tickets, which everyone had, in their right order in a tray. I was also to look after the Reading Room. On Saturdays I was to work twice Patty Malcolm who was off to play football. This was to last until Patty Malcolm was called up to the army in 1938.

I then entered the library as a member of staff. The hours were 10am to 6pm and from 12 noon until 8pm. John Glass and I worked these hours. I brought flowers into the library and put them in the porch and into the library. There were none there and I used pots taken from our house. And I put a large Indian box on the top of the filing cabinet where all the titles of the books were kept. It was also my job to put new cards for books that were issued. There were no fines and a lot of books were not returned.

There was a paper-back which had advertisements on it and which was issued to everybody that borrowed books. There was a box, which we sent away to a library with books that anyone ordered. I remember that Mrs ___ the minister wife of the Bridge St. Church, ordered, and I gave her the book which was covered with a paperback and a little while after that she came back with a “dirty book” and told me off. The “dirty book” was kept on a shelf under the counter and had a paper-back on and I picked one of them. When I say “dirty book” it was nothing like to-day. We knew the people who liked them.

There was a small library of new book, which everyone paid to use. I forgot the price. There was a box of books for Thurso and the ones we sent were brought back. The Chief of the Home Guard, Major McHardy used to tell me to join up and I did. I remember the day that war was declared. We had shutters for the windows and I had to put them up.

I was away in 1940. I think there was a book for the box that we sent away and people used to refer to it. The box used to go by train. Everything was different then. You have a nice library.

Yours sincerely,

Iain Harper.

North Highland Archive
Located upstairs in the Wick Library building, the North Highland Archive was established in 1995, by the then Highland Regional Council and with the help of European Regional Development funding, to act as a satellite repository to the main Highland Council Archive in Inverness.

Its purpose is to preserve, promote and make publicly available the records of the current local government body, together with those of its predecessors, namely Caithness County Council, the Town Councils of Wick and Thurso and the Commissioners of Supply.

The collecting policy also allows the archive to accept records on deposit from organisations and individuals outwith the council, the ownership of such papers remaining with the depositors. Consequently, the archive is a treasure-trove of original documents and volumes spanning four centuries, and constituting a “memory” for Caithness on a vast array of subjects.

The first full-time member of staff was Trudi Mann whose sterling work did much to get the repository up and running from 1995 until 2002. The first professional archivist, Lisa Farrelly, was appointed in 1995, followed by her successor Brenda Lees who took up the post in 1998 and replaced by the current archivist, Phil Astley in February 2003 who is ably assisted by Gail Inglis over was appointed in May 2002 as Archivist Assistant.

The diversity of the collections held at the North Highland Archive is mirrored by the wide range of enquiries that are dealt by the staff. During the summer months the search-room bustles with ancestor hunters, often from the other side of the world, discussing the finer details of their family trees with information gleaned from census returns or old parish registers.

Throughout the course of a year, however, television crews, schoolchildren undertaking projects and Ph.D. students all pass through the doors to see what they can find.

Aside from records of local government which, in case of Wick Town Council, date as far back as 1660, collections worthy of note include the papers of Wick Harbour Trust including harbour masters’ log books (1850 – 1900), those of the Customs and Excise authority for the port of Wick, and the Sinclair Macdonald and Son collection of architects, papers and plans in which can be found details of the design and construction of many notable buildings in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney.

Phil Astley,
North Highland Archive,
Wick Library


Nobody can tell what will happen to our library in the next hundred years but the people of Wick and the surrounding area can definitely decide the fate of this wonderful old building. I hope this building will still be used for its true purpose as a library for another 100 years. I also hope that somebody will come along and decide to do another book about our library’s story over that new century.

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

Iain Harper

Iain Harper, left, Patty Malcolm, middle and
John Glass, right.

Chapter 7