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North Highland Archive Index  

North Highland Archive NEWSLETTER No 12
October - December 2001

Thank you to everyone who gave up part of their holidays or retirement to cover the desk in the absence of the archivist: Harry Gray, Gail Inglis, Angela Lewis, Kirstin Mackay, Anna Rogalski, and Kathy Wares. Having new blood behind the desk has proved to be a great success, and feedback from customers has been good. It is hoped to keep a bank of reliefs for future periods of staff shortage. Gail will now be working Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays until the end of December, so many long neglected tasks should now get done.

A stall is being prepared by the Caithness History Society on local shops through the 20th century. This can be seen at the Heritage Fair to be held in the Assembly Rooms October 6-7th. A slightly larger exhibition on this theme is planned for the archive reading room later in the year.

Dates for meetings for the 2001-2002 session are posted here, and the AGM is planned for 1 November.

NHA, Wick Library, Sinclair Terrace, Wick KW1 5AB
(Tel) 01955 606 432 (Fax) 01955 603000 Brenda.Lees@highland.gov.uk


Several more Caithness County, Thurso Town Council and Wick Town Council minute books have been transferred from Market Square, now covering up to c.1980. There is a 30-year closure on this material, but records are now here and available for years up to 1971.

All reels for Caithness and Sutherland have been ordered; we hope to have them early next year. As heavy demand for this material is expected, when it arrives, we will ask people to book reels and microfilm readers in advance (as a temporary measure only) to give everyone equal access. There will obviously be no need to book to see non-microfilm items as normal.

Also on its way are microfilms of the Caithness landward valuation rolls 1855-1878. They were originally ordered some time ago, but have only just reached the head of the queue for microfilming (by the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh, who hold the originals). The microfilms should now be here shortly. Valuation rolls were taken yearly on all major properties from 1855, but ours only start at 1878. Wick burgh valuations from 1855 are already held here.

From early October, we will have access to hundreds of architectural plans from the SINCLAIR-MACDONALD practice. Cataloguing may take some time! but this is a collection of national importance, going back much further than any surviving building warrant from the Highland Council and its predecessor bodies. Recent conservation work through lottery funding obtained by RCAHMS (Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in Scotland) has helped ensure their long-term survival. The Sinclair Macdonald practice made this project possible by transferring ownership to RCAHMS, but they will be held here. Please ring in advance if you are interested in looking at any of these plans, as they will initially be off-loaded in the Bruce building next door.

Cuttings of his poetry with annotations in his own hand, put together c.1890, have been deposited by Jessie Gunn Mackenzie of Toronto, Canada.

Various items have been transferred by Georgeson's, and more are expected. Much of it is under a closure period, but some items are immediately accessible. These include architects' plans for conversion of the Station Hotel, Wick, in 1970; an inventory of writs relating to some of the lots at the Links of Pulteneytown between the years 1826-1918 (more detail can usually then be obtained from our sasines' extracts and confirmations/inventories); plans of Wick Harbour including a good quality tracing-cloth copy of proposed improvements in 1906; and a scheme of locality' stipend for Bower parish, 1929, listing proprietors, tenants and crops.

Thanks to Bruce de Wert for transferring this material and to Marigold Durrand for her help at the Thurso office, where more material is being sorted for a further deposit.

We have been given a photocopy of a charter from 1476 (lands of Noss, Earl William of Caithness, brought in by the present Earl of Caithness). A translation from the Latin is available with it. Many more people have deposited family trees, printed pamphlets etc. They are too numerous to list but especial thanks to Iain Aitchison for bringing so many trees, and to John Davidson for the pamphlet on the Wick-registered schooner the 'Ban Righ', partly based on his research here.

We have sent off for indexes to the 1851 census for the following parishes: Dornoch (parish and burgh), Latheron, Olrig, Reay, Thurso and Watten.


A reel-by-reel list to the OS Name Book for Sutherland (the survey preceding the first OS map, available for Sutherland on four microfilms) has now been completed by Gail, who is also working on a detailed index of the 1841 census. A database of names, district and page numbers for this census has been deposited by Carole and Graham Mellor. This can be consulted by staff in the reading room on request, and is proving very useful to researchers, particularly where the name is relatively unusual.

Edna Morrison has finished listing the Hetty Munro collection. Well known for her war diaries, this archive also includes witty sketches, poignant correspondence and a collection of rare letterheads, books and pamphlets. Anyone who is interested can receive a free copy of the list by e-mail or by post if they send a stamp. It may also shortly be available over the net on www.caithness.org

Anna Rogalski has listed the records of the Keith family, solicitors in Thurso (P38). This list is also available by e-mail. She has also started on a collection of letters from local figures such as John Sinclair and George Mackie, covering the dates 1832-1861 (ref. P209). This will also be available by e-mail when complete.

Kathy Wares has been continuing with an index to the first volume of minutes of the Wick Educational Trust. This runs from the years 1888-1932. The index will include names of staff at the various schools within Wick burgh and parish; also pupils in receipt of bursaries etc. This is particularly useful for schools where admission registers do not survive.

Harry Gray has been working on original letterheads and our 'local history files', which principally consist of articles from local newspapers and can be a quick way of obtaining information on everything from buildings to events. Started years ago by Trudi Mann, we have recently had to get extra shelving to house it.

Shipping and fishing boat registers.
Peter Bruce is near the end of the 7th book of fishing boat registers. Thanks to the help of Glynis Mackay at Market Square, typing and indexing has almost kept pace with the transcriptions. Vessels registered between 1869-1900 are now covered.

Births, death and marriages notices - Northern Ensign
Garry Robertson has now completed a transcript of these for the years 1850-1858. Entering these onto disk has fallen slightly behind, but we should have caught up by Christmas. You are welcome to ask for updates!

Local experts. We regularly get asked, especially by visitors to the area, if we know anyone with personal experience to supplement what we can find from the written records. I am trying to get together some phone numbers of people who would be willing to share their memories, experience and knowledge of particular families, places or trades. Sandy and Clara MacLeod have already offered, and would be happy to hear from anyone interested in the railways. I would be very grateful to hear from anyone else who would like to share their expertise on some aspect of Wick and Caithness in years gone by.

And finally…Does anyone know where we could get hold of a small fridge for the kitchenette? We have been given enough money to get a good second-hand one (it will mean visitors get proper milk in their coffee and tea instead of the dried stuff) but I haven't found one yet!