Shapinsay Speaks is a community led project by local volunteers who have been collecting memories from the past 80 years of the history of the small Orkney island of Shapinsay. Material from the project is being shared on this website thanks to a ‘Stories, Stones and Bones’ grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded in 2017 to Shapinsay Development Trust. We hope you enjoy digging into Shapinsay’s past with the help not only of long term residents but also from some of the newer people who’ve chosen to make their homes here and who are becoming a part of the history that’s being made today.
We would like to say a big thank you to all those who have contributed to this website by sharing or gathering stories for everyone to enjoy and also to Shapinsay Heritage Arts and Crafts for allowing us to use some of their wonderful collection of vintage photos of the island to help illustrate the topics covered. Thanks also to the Science Ceilidh Band with Lewis Hou and Helen Le Mar for holding events on memory which helped stimulate interest in collecting some of our island’s stories as in the event below ……
Little did Richard and Sue Lawrence know when they moved to Shapinsay that their new home would immediately connect them to the island’s past because of its relevance to local people. The couple moved to North Schoolhouse from South Wales last July and have been busy renovating the former school room (being the labourers to Barry Moncrieff’s skills) much to the interest of some former pupils who’ve dropped round to see the lathe and plaster as it was stripped away and to view the original stonework before the room is fully converted into a new kitchen and living area.
Says Richard, “we knew that there was some work to do but to strip it out and see its construction and then to hear accounts of people that have actually attended the place as a school is really interesting”. They were left a vintage photo of a group of schoolchildren outside the front of the building by the previous owners and they are looking forward to delving through other pictures from the building’s past at the Heritage Centre and finding out more.
They’ve been told that the room stopped being used as a school around 1949 and was then used as a Sunday School and Hen House! The couple are finding it fascinating and Richard has recorded some thoughts about it all for the ‘Shapinsay Speaks’ oral history project, “this is part of the island’s history and in a very small way we’re involved,” he says.
As part of the conversion the original school floorboards have been uncovered beneath a false floor and these will be lifted and used once insulation has gone in underneath, “so that at least there’ll be a little bit of the school in the finished work”.
Richard and Sue are no strangers to doing their own homes up and have been involved in several projects over the years, working together as a team. They couldn’t wait to get going with the work again after the Christmas break with Sue posting a picture of herself on Facebook in full renovation mode even on New Year’s Day!
Here Richard describes the couple’s feelings at finding themselves uncovering an important aspect of the island’s history and making some new friends as a result:-