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History Of Wick Library

Chapter 7

George Bain,

The first Librarian at Wick Parish Carnegie Library.

Born in Wick on the 27th October 1833 son of James Bain & Isabella Rugg.

Started work as an apprentice with the John O’Groat Journal then when to work with his father James Bain at the fishcuring, later on his own. When the Free Library Act was adopted in 1887 he became the first librarian in the old premises in Union Street appointed on the 14th of April 1888, and continued to be the librarian when the New Carnegie Library when it was opened in 1898 and retired from the position on the 30th of March 1920, made consulting librarian by the Library Committee for his services.

Never married, died on the 14th January 1923 at Sunbeam Terrace, Wick and is buried in Wick Cemetery.

Excerpt from the John O’Groat Journal 19th January 1923.

Mr. George Bain, Librarian, Wick.

The death occurred at his residence, Sunbeam Terrace, Wick, on the evening of Sunday, Mr George Bain, consulting librarian.

Mr Bain was born in October 1833, in Wick, and was thus in his ninetieth year. During his long life he resided in his native town, and his well-known figure was familiar to more than one generation. When a youth he served his apprenticeship as a compositor in the “John O’Groat Journal” Office, and his reminiscences of that time was most interesting, being before gas engines and linotypes.

He was afterwards associated with his father, Mr James Bain, in the fishcuring business at their station at the Shore on the Wick side of the river. Later he carried on business on his own account, and in the seventies and eighties he was a prominent curer, being will and favourably known among all classes engaged in those days in the staple industry.

Like most curers, he encountered the multifold vicissitudes of those speculative times. Mr Bain; however, was an optimist, and his genial nature stood him in good stead. During his fishcuring days his literary abilities were recognised and were much in request in the way of drafting letters to the Government of the day, and to the Fishery Board.

During this period he occupied for a short time a seat on the Council Board. He was also a favourite with the ship captains and crews of the local schooners, an in the evening of his days he enjoyed a yarn at the pilot-box with the old deep sea mariners.

When the Free Library Act was adopted in Wick Mr Bain was appointed as first librarian in the old premises in Union Street, and he continued office when the New Carnegie Library was built in Sinclair Terrace, in the erection and equipment of which he took a deep interest.

Three years ago he retired from active work, but retained the office of consulting librarian. He was a keen chess player and was well known on the local bowling green and at the curling rink at Bilbster. Mr Bain was a great reader; indeed there were few books which the library but came under his keen scrutiny. Of a peculiarly bright and cheerful nature, with a laugh and a joke for everyone, he was extremely popular with readers. Strangers who called on him for information regarding the town and county found in him a rich mine of antiquarian lore.

Though latterly confined to his house Mr Bain continued to take and interest in all affairs connected with the town. He was unmarried, and his only sister predeceased many years ago. During his illness he was devotedly nursed by his housekeeper, Miss Bruce, who has long resided with him. His passing removes another worthy landmark, and his death will be regretted not only in Wick, but by a wide circle of friends now scattered abroad.

The funeral took place on Wednesday to Wick Cemetery and was followed by his three cousins – Messrs John Miller, fishcurer; William Miller, merchant; and Alexr. Miller, clerk of works – along with the Library Committee and a large gathering of the general public, including many of our most prominent citizens. Rev. D. Beaton conducted the service at the house, and Rev. Mr Robertson offered up prayer at the grave.

Source of information – John O’Groat Journal, www.familysearch.org  and www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

Daniel Sutherland,
Acting Librarian for Wick Parish Carnegie Library.

Daniel Sutherland was appointed Librarian to succeed from George Bain, who retired from the Library, on the 30th of March 1920. Served until his dismissal in June 1923. I will not go into the circumstances of his dismissal from the Library by the Library Committee.

Captain Donald William Milligan,
Librarian for Wick Parish Carnegie Library,
Becomes the first Caithness County Librarian.

Born in Wick on the 18th May 1875 son of John Milligan & Janet Bruce.

Married to Margaret Crawford Harper daughter of James Harper and Jessie Corner on the 14th of September 1905 in Wick. They had two children, two boys Jack and Jim.

Receive a commission in the 1st Sutherland Rifle Highland Volunteers then became 5th Seaforth Highlanders as rank of captain.

Commander of B Company 5th Seaforth Highlanders beginning of the 1914 – 1918, invalided out of the army due poor health at the end of 1916.

Became the proprietor of Messrs Swanson Brothers, Dempster Street, a well-known drapery and tailoring business. Appointed librarian 14th August 1923 of Wick Carnegie public library, started work on the 1st September then was appointed to the position of County Librarian based in Wick Library.

Died on the 9th of August 1931 at West Banks Avenue, Wick and is buried in Wick Cemetery.

Excerpt from the John O’Groat Journal 14th August 1931.

Captain D. W. Milligan
We regret to announce the death, which occurred on Sunday morning, of Captain D. W. Milligan, county librarian, Wick. Captain Milligan had been ill for some weeks, but his recovery was confidently looked forward to. He had, in fact, passed what was thought to be the worst phrase of his illness and been able to go outside for a day or two, but unfortunately he took a relapse. Serious complications set in, and he passed away at his home at West Banks Terrace.

Captain Milligan’s death was heard of with painful surprise by his many friends in the North. They were looking forward to having the pleasure of congratulating him on his recovery from a serious illness, and his passing therefore came as an unexpected shock.

A native of Wick, Captain Milligan was only 56 years of age. He was one of the best known men in the North, partly because of the enthusiasm with which he undertook to do but mainly on account of his kindly good humour and unfailing willingness to do everything in his power for anyone who asked his aid. Many people will miss him and mourn his death.

From early manhood Captain Milligan took a keen interest in the Volunteer movement, and on October 9, 1903, he received a commission in the 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteers, which five years later became the 5th Seaforth Highlanders. A smart, energetic officer, he received well-merited promotion, and when his battalion proceeded to France he went with them in command of B Company. He had mobilized at the outbreak of the war and had taken an active part in the strenuous training at Bedford.

Captain Milligan was extremely popular with all ranks of the “Fifth.” Unfortunately, however, the strain of the war undermined his health and at the end of 1916 he was invalided out of the service on account of rheumatoid arthritis. But his war work did not cease. He returned home and laboured enthusiastically for the comrades he had left at the front.

He devoted much of his time arranging for the dispatch of comforts to the troops. Mainly because of his efforts 5000 pairs of socks, 1000 woollen shirts, innumerable cigarettes and other gifts were sent to various battalions of the Seaforth in France.

His interest in disabled ex-soldiers and in orphans and dependants left destitute by the war is well known to many people in Wick. At the end of the war he was one of the founders of the local British Legion Club and was two years its chairman. He was a member of the Territorial Army Association of Caithness and also represented the Seaforth Highlanders Association in the county.

Captain Milligan was formerly proprietor of Messrs Swanson Brothers, Dempster Street, a well-known drapery and tailoring business. He gave up that business, however, shortly before his appointment as librarian at Wick eight years ago. As a librarian Captain Milligan excelled. Without exaggeration, it can be said that no public official put more enthusiasm and energy into his work.

All who use the library will remember Captain Milligan with feelings of deep gratitude. He did remarkable work. Not only did he reorganize the classification system, improve the lay-out of the departments and readers free access to the book-shelves, but he made the library grounds a pleasing sight, with beautiful flower borders and a well-kept lawns.
His work for the reading public will have lasting effects. Public interest in literature of all kinds stimulated to an extraordinary degree by his efforts. He founded a book club, carried out the rural library scheme under the Education Authority, and finally put outstanding work into County Council’s unification of libraries scheme. It was mainly due to his efforts that Caithness was the first county in the country to adopt unification.

All parts of the county found the benefit of his work. But, above all that, his personal charm brought many readers to the library. It was great pleasure to visit him. If one asked for a certain book he would spare no pains to procure it, and he did so in such an obliging, happy manner that it is little wonder that the number of readers increased. Caithness, in fact, under his guidance, came to be recognised as the “best read” county in Scotland.

The whole county, therefore, will mourn for his passing. Deep sympathy is felt for Mrs Milligan – who is a daughter of the late Mr James Harper and Mrs Harper, Argyle Square – and their two sons.

There was a very large attendance at the funeral to Wick Cemetery on Wednesday. Impressive services were conducted by Rev. D. S. Sutherland, Congregational Church (to which Capt. Milligan belonged) at the house, and by Rev. A. Ross, B. D., and Rev. G. Gray, M. A., at the graveside. Pallbearers were – Messrs Jack and Jim Milligan (sons); Bailie Harper, Mr Fred. Harper and Mr Alex. Sutherland (brothers-in-law); Colonel J. J. Robertson. D. S. O.; Mr Frank Dunnett and Mr G. B. Kelly.

Source of information – John O’Groat Journal, www.familysearch.org and www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

John McAndrew Glass,
Assistant Librarian,
Wick Parish Carnegie Library.
(Interim Librarian)

Born in Wick on the 1st February 1892 to Peter Glass and Mary McAndrew.

Married twice, first marriage took place on the 8th of July 1917 in Wick to Elizabeth Ann Mennie, daughter of Charles Mennie and Annie Mackay. They had two children, two girls Diana McAdie & Adelaine.

Elizabeth his first wife died on the 14th of January 1922.

His second marriage took place on the 22nd of September 1922 in Wick to Mary Ann Couper, daughter of Catherine Couper. They had six children, three boys and three girls, Peter, James, John (known as Jack), Margaret, Norma & Kathleen. He died on the 9th of October 1972 in Wick and is buried in Wick Cemetery.

Mr John Glass had several jobs before working at Wick Library. Started work with a blacksmith, and then joined the railway as a fireman, finally joins the police force. Time of the 1914 – 1918 War, join the arm forces as a signaller with the Royal Garrison Artillery. Mr. Glass was wounded twice, once at Ypres then at Cambrai, the second time seriously wounded to be exact in 21 places.

In 1921 went to work as an Assistant Librarian in Wick Library, appointed to Interim Librarian, for four months by the Library Committee, and again by the Caithness Education Committee due to the death of the County Librarian, Captain D. W. Milligan. When Mr. Kennedy Stewart filled the position of County Librarian, Mr. John Glass when back to his old position as Assistant Librarian, and returned back again to Interim Librarian when Mr Kennedy Stewart resigned from his post in 1934 until a successor was found, Dr Fred. W. Robertson became County Librarian a couple of months later. Mr. John Glass went back as Assistant Librarian. After 38 years in the Library service Mr. John Glass retired.

I would like to point that Mr John Glass was severely wounded in Cambrai in the First World War. He was wounded in 21 places and rejected medical advice to have his leg amputated, he rather put up with the suffering. Always hirple along “under his own steam.” This he was privileged to do for 55 years following discharge.

Source of information – John O’Groat Journal, his son John Glass & www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk 

Kennedy Stewart, M.A.,
Caithness County Librarian.

Appointed Caithness County Librarian in August 1932.

Mr. Kennedy Stewart resigns from the position of Caithness County Librarian.

Mr. Kennedy Stewart was a Major in the Royal Army Service Corps, was captured in 1940 at St. Valery, France by the Germans. Held in Germany as a prisoner of war, until 1945.

Dr. Fred. W. Robertson, M. A.,
Caithness County Librarian.

Born 2nd January 1907 in Wick son of George Robertson & Mabel Ross

Educated at West Banks School and Wick High School then went to Edinburgh University graduated M.A., with first honours, then took Ph.D. in Mediaeval History, which involved some studies in Paris, France.

Appointed to Caithness County Librarian in June 1934 served until his retirement on 3rd January 1972.

Married to Margaret Bremner, they had two children, one boy and one girl, Duncan and Garry.

He died on the 1st October 1993 in Wick and is buried in Wick Cemetery.

Other information: while studying in Edinburgh he was active in the Edinburgh Caithness Society. And active in the Mercantile Debating Society and a founder member of the Scottish National Party branch in Wick. A Honourary Sheriff Substitute for Caithness in the 1960s.

David Ralston Morrison, ALA,
Caithness County Librarian,
Caithness and Sutherland Divisional Librarian,
And then Wick Branch Librarian.

David Ralston Morrison, born in Glasgow on the 4th of August 1941. Married Edna May Wade Hanson on the 21st August 1963 in David Livingstone’s Memorial Church, they have two children, one boy and one girl, Ewan & Glenna. David & Edna also have two grandchildren, Theo and Frances May, children of Ewan & Beatrice Morrison (nee Colin).

David was educated at Glasgow High School for boys, Hamilton Academy and Strathclyde University. Started librarianship with Lanarkshire County Libraries, prior to coming to Caithness, was a librarian in the Edinburgh School of Art.

Came to Caithness in 1965 to taken up the position of Principal Assistant Librarian under the County Librarian, Dr. F. W. Robertson. David was based in Thurso Library where he oversaw the removal of the library from the Old Town Hall in Thurso to its present situation at Davidson Lane, Thurso.

When Dr. Robertson retired, David was appointed to the position of County Librarian on the 4th January 1972.

Until regionalization to Highland Regional Council in 1975 the following was achieved.

1. Introduction of the Mobile Library Service.
2. Introduction of Primary Schools Service.
3. Introduction of 2 more professional staff.
4. Significant increase in book fund.

In 1975 came the regionalization of Highland Regional Council. David was not afraid to be quoted, “What was promised was maximum devolution of decision making. In reality since 1975 all we had has been maximum centralization.”

1975 - 1992. David was appointed as Divisional Librarian for Caithness and Sutherland, then Area Librarian for Caithness and Sutherland, latterly because he refused to venture to work and live in Inverness, his job title become Wick Branch Librarian.

Also in 1975, there was Ian Smith who had to be found a position in the local governmental reshuffle. He was appointed as an extra member of staff of Wick Library, for a long time David had wish to appoint an Archivist for the extremely fine uncatalogued collection of documents and manuscripts. Ian Smith under the supervision of David was put to the task of organizing the collection.

This was the early version of the archival work, what we have now is the North Highland Archives set-up in the later half of 1990s to preserve these documents and manuscripts in a proper and professional environment which today does a tremendous job with a professional Archivist at the helm.

Over the years David have been involve in organizing events and clubs. Wick Festival of Poetry, Folk and Jazz (for seven years) also the Wick Folk Club (also seven years). Has always participated in county life and regards Caithness as his spiritual home. The first home of Wick Heritage Centre was in the Library Museum.

David retired early in 1992. As he says, “Enough is enough when you’re under pressure.”
In his private life David, is well known as a poet, short storywriter, editor and artist. His magazine Scotia Review is still going after more than 30 years. In 1984 the National Library of Scotland celebrated the magazine by holding an exhibition.

The National Library of Scotland also holds the Scotia Review magazines and David’s own manuscripts. David’s wife Edna retired from Wick High school as school librarian for 18 years. David last view is that he fully intends to live, die and be buried in Wick.

Lorraine Macdonald
1993 – 1995

Jennifer Shanks
1997 – 2001

Amanda Robertson
2001 – 2003

The following names of the staff working in Wick Library at the present:

Library Staff
Full-time Sheila Mather Senior Library Assistant
Full-time Robert Bain Library Assistant
Relief Cover Alison Bain
Relief Cover Margaret Bremner
Relief Cover William Eaves
Relief Cover Daniel Parsons
Relief Cover Mary Somerville

Caithness Mobile
Full-time Pat Message Mobile Driver
Part-time Lorna Mackay Library Assistant
Relief Cover Robin Inglis

Sutherland Mobile
Job-Share Alistair Sinclair Mobile Driver
Job-Share Hamish Henderson Mobile Driver
Relief Cover William Nicolson

North Highland Archives
Full-time Phil Astley Archivist
Full-time Gail Inglis Archivist Assistant

St. Fergus Gallery

Full-time Jane Miller Gallery Attendant
Relief Cover Wilma Barker
Relief Cover Malcolm Cowtan

Wick Library

North Highland Archives

St. Fergus Gallery Caithness Mobile

Sutherland Mobile

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