Orkney Image Library

<< back
Black Building
The Orkney Image Library

Help us get organised! If we haven't correctly identified which area this picture is best listed under, please select it below and click Done!

view a random pic
Black Building

The Black Building when it was black - almost. The date is a guess
Picture added on 05 September 2007
This picture is in the following groups
Black Building
Please check but I am sure the photo is the wrong way round.
Added by Bobby Leslie on 07 September 2007
You're right Bobby. Sorry about that. Steven, if you can't fix it at your end please delete it and I will re-upload it correctly.

[Changed noo- Steven]
Added by Sandy on 12 September 2007
Ah! The Black Hut as we used to call it. It was a super walk when we were kids round that way and very few cars if we took the bikes. I always wondered what could be in it as there were no windows. In picture #3564, it's sad to see it like this but it was an eye sore I guess. Sandy, you say that it was a WWII Operations Centre. What actually went on in there? Was it to do with Scapa Flow?
Added by Barbara on 13 September 2007
Barbara, I don't ken. I read somewhere that it was a Sector Operations Centre. This would be to do with aircraft, I think. Can anyone add to this?
Added by Sandy on 13 September 2007
It was a wartime plotting station for tracking aircraft. The boards and charts were still in the building when the GPO ( telephones ) took it over as a repeater station.
Added by Grant Leonard on 13 September 2007
When you see the wartime films with WRAFS pushing markers across table maps and phones ringing it was like that. It was the Sector HQ for the Orkney Air Defence zone. All the data from Radar stations and Observer Corp lookout posts was rung in and plotted on the table map. Descions to scramble fighters and sound air raid alerts were taken their. As a child I remember in the Kirkwallian school magazine some pupils had got in as a report and there was a good few pages of pictures inside. One I remember was the operations board still had the chalk message of the last active interception still on it. When the inside was gutted did some one keep these artifacts or were they skipped. Be a shame to demolish such an important artifact of Orkneys wartime archaeology. In fifty years time when the German high seas fleet has corroded away, our children will curse us for destroying so much potential tourist attractions!
Added by Graham Macdonald on 13 September 2007
Well done Graham. I knew I had read about it somewhere (see #3564). There is an essay and some photos in a Kirkwallian published in 1974. This date is a guess because I cannot find a publication date in the mag. I am using clues from other contents. The photos are small but clear. I will have a go at scanning them and see what the results are like. Good when things come together like this.
Added by Sandy on 13 September 2007
Great information and really interesting. What did the GPO do with it if it was still as they'd left it during the war? What about Wee Fea at Lyness then? I read it was a Telecommunications Exchange Station but could it have also been like the Black Hut? I've never been to the Scapa Flow visitor centre which will be a must when I next come "home". Has anyone photos of the outside of Wee Fea and its entrance 'then and now'? What has become of it? Was it true that there were oil tanks in this hill? There must be a book I could read about all this.
Sandy, all your photos are G R E A T.
Added by Barbara on 14 September 2007
When i joined the GPO we still had the repeater station there. Jack Neilson was in charge and he had a key to get into the SOR section. You put on a master switch and the whole building lit up. It was dry as a bone and looked like they had just closed up for the night. The state boards were still there and on them was written " this sector ops room closed in 194? having assisted in the destruction of ? enemy aircraft." I took a picture but it is long since lost. Some of the GPO men kept boats there and other big things. I think a caravan was there too. You had to be careful going in as some of the floor boards were missing. When I moved into Jack Neilsons house at the cheese factory I discovered where they had gone. He had used them to floor the attic. Parts of the plotting table were there too.

On of the GPO engineers who enjoyed a small dram went missing one weekend and a large search was mounted, harbour dragged, and such like, but on Monday morning he was found in the building. He had gone in but had not put the lights on. There were many rooms off the main ops room with a balcony for the duty officer to look down on the plotting table.It would have made a great dance hall.

Its a great pity the GPO did not put the Telephone Exchange up there instead of the carbuncle the put up in the 60's. As for Gus Glue's vandalism!!!!!!!!
Added by William Watters on 14 September 2007
Barbara, go to www.scran.ac.uk and put in royal navy oil tanks and see what happens. the web site address is too long for me to copy. My father was at the building of the ' tunnel' It was used for oil fuel until the mid 70's. We had to repair the telephone there quite often. Tommy Shand was the man who looked after it and the Lyness Social Club. That was some place. A one arm bandit that had BIG jackpots at least £20!!
Added by William Watters on 14 September 2007
Thanks William. Scran is really good. Loads of photos.

Added by Barbara on 16 September 2007
Am I the only one who is disgusted by the fact they are now going to tear this building down?
Added by Magnus on 30 September 2009
Not at all, i am aswell. Although i am only 18, and so don't know the ins and outs of the building and it's goings on. I feel that it is an integral part of Orkney's history that shouldn't have been left to rott into the condition that it is now in. When it goes (as it has now been decided it will) it will be sadly missed; future generations are going to hate us for letting it go. Garenteed!
Added by Nicola Muir on 26 October 2009
<< back

Black Building

Black Building from the airBlack Building brick?Black Building modelBricks from the Black BuildingRemains of the Black BuildingRemains of the Black BuildingWhat was the Black BuildingVirtual Black Building, 4 of 4Virtual Black Building, 3 of 4Virtual Black Building, 2 of 4