The school opened on 25 August 1932, with the usual attendance of notables including Dr Hugh Marwick, Executive Officer (aka Director of Education for Orkney), and John Learmonth, Rector of Stromness Academy, a former pupil of North Walls.1The Orkney Herald, 31 July 1932, p 4 column f. British Newspaper Archive per : accessed 15 September 2020.

The Orkney Herald, 31 July 1932, p 4 column 6. British Newspaper Archive per : accessed 15 September 2020. (& other cuttings)

After a tea (first things first!), the opening ceremony went ahead. Mr GL Thomson, acting as chairman, said that North Walls school had been “a source of great anxiety to the Education Committee”. On one occasion, he was present in the old school and “saw the two teachers standing back to back taking their respective classes”. But now “a nicer or prettier school could not be wished for”.

The new and the old schools (thanks to M Forsyth for photo)

It had seating accommodation for 60 pupils, pegs and a washhand basin in the lobby, three radiators and a fireplace to keep the children warm. The architect was Mr Isaac Dunnet, Stromness, and the builder Mr Liddle, Orphir. (Isaac Dunnet (1872-1947) was born in South Walls. He also designed the Stromness Academy and was a joiner by trade.)

The Orkney Herald, 31 July 1932, Splendid new school for North Walls, p 4 column 6. British Newspaper Archive per : accessed 15 September 2020

After a suitably worthy speech by Mr John Learmonth, the school was declared open. A craftwork display and concert followed.

I can’t imagine that my father, then an 11 year-old pupil, enjoyed much of that day! Maybe the evening was more to his taste:

The Orkney Herald, 31 July 1932, Splendid new school for North Walls, p 4 column 6. British Newspaper Archive per : accessed 15 September 2020

“well-lit, well-ventilated and well-heated”

So ran the Inspector’s report on the school, 5 May 1933.2School Inspectors’ Reports. Orkney. Junior Secondary Schools North Walls. 1933 report. GB234. ED18/2145/29-30. National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. The roll at this point was 50. R. Barron, the inspector noted that a scheme of work had been submitted for “a two years’ advanced division course to include instruction in cookery and rural science.” All was not quite rosy for he recommended “the provision of wire receptacles for the disposal of lunch papers and other matters… so that the playground may be kept free of litter.”

That advanced division course certainly went ahead for my father and his four classmates, including one girl, did cookery and knitting, with varying degrees of success as illustrated here.

Copy of a page from a pupil's cookery notebook, North Walls, School, Orkney, early 1930s, describing flour.
Cookery notebook, c 1934. (Photo (c) Jane Harris)
Kettleholder, c 1934 (Photo (c) Jane Harris)

Later years

My father had only three or four years at this school but my mother had seven, arriving as a newly qualified teacher in August 1948. The school was already busy as its roll included children of staff from the naval base at Lyness and in addition all junior secondary pupils now came to North Walls. This made necessary a third teacher (her!) and new classrooms, a dining room and kitchen which were not quite ready for the start of the new session. At one stage the three teachers had almost 100 pupils between them.

Woodwork and metalwork were eventually taught in the old school building though by the early 1960s there was a room for this purpose in one of the Horsa huts, with cookery taught in the other room. A second hut was used for the dining hall. At that stage the old school was only used for PT (physical training, later PE, not sure what the term is now!) when Mr MacDonald (“Jo”) came over. He broke the gas mantles doing cartwheels.

I’m very grateful to North Walls folk for some of this information; their comments on Facebook are the inspiration for this blog post. Please feel free to add more in the comments.

School photos

Check out some photos from the late 1940s/early 1950s here. These photos show some of the pupils only.

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3 comments so far

  1. Margaret Forsyth says:

    This is fascinating.

  2. Jennifer Chalmers says:

    Yes I know a few of them.. Arthur B. James H. Seranne R. David my cus.

    1. Janealogy says:

      Thanks for your comment. Hoping to get a few more photos.

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