‘Sea Haven: Stromness in the Orkney Islands’ is a book that is treasured in Stromness and beyond. It immortalizes many well-known Stromnessians and looking at these photos again gives us a glimpse into a way of life that is familiar but, fast becoming another layer of history, woven into the rich fabric of this town.
In 1989, Keith Allardyce was commissioned by Stromness Community Council to document the town and the social, cultural and economic life of its residents. It gave a ‘snapshot in time’ recording a wide range of everyday activities by ordinary people.
It also recorded the historic stone paved winding streets, the houses and the ever-changing face of the street. Looking through the pages of this book it is hard to think that these photographs were taken 30 years ago.
We have to thank the foresight of the Stromness Community Council of 1989 and its Chairperson Doris Stout for commissioning this book which has left a valuable photographic archive. ‘Sea Haven’ was also enriched by text written by Bryce Wilson and a foreword by George Mackay Brown. There will be many others who collaborated on this book, from the people who are in the photographs to those who provided a cup of tea, or in one instance, their cat ‘Paddy’ who was borrowed to feature in Captain Jock Sutherlands drawing room. Behind many of the photographs there will be stories on how it was taken and the interaction between photographer and subject.
Keith spent a lot of time in Orkney and knew it well. He lived here for a time from 1974 when he moved here to become an RSPB summer warden and pursue his photographic interests. He later became a relief lighthouse keeper employed by the Northern Lighthouse Board covering all the manned lighthouses in Orkney.
The photographic archive which led to the publication of “Sea Haven” was donated to Stromness Museum in 2020 by Stromness Community Council. The archive consists of a large collection of slides, many of which did not make it into the final selection for the book. The slides are currently being digitized to enable these images to be more accessible to the public and enjoyed more widely.
Over the coming months we plan to post some of these on our social media platforms to enable them to be enjoyed and spark memories.