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:-