Wick oral history project has 100,000 reasons to celebrate
13th July 2018
Wick Voices, the Wick Society's oral history section, has broken through the 100,000 barrier in terms of listener response to its collection of online recordings.
That's how many individual plays there have been since the project was set up less than two years ago with the aim of preserving local voices for posterity.
Volunteers arrange audio interviews with local people from all walks of life about their memories, experiences and stories. The edited recordings are uploaded to the Wick Society's website where they are freely available to listen to or download.
There are now 137 audio files on the Wick Voices section of www.wickheritage.org and the collection continues to grow.
There were almost 6500 plays in June alone, helping to take the total number of listens over the 100,000 mark.
Interviewees come from various parts of Caithness, but mostly from Wick and the east coast. Subjects covered so far have ranged from schooldays and childhood games to shops and workplaces, and from wartime recollections to sport, art, music and leisure. Operation Snowdrop in 1955, when some communities were cut off by severe winter weather, is mentioned in several recordings.
Some stories are poignant, some are reflective and others are light-hearted. In some cases they give details of working practices that have long disappeared. Whatever the topic, every recording offers its own insight into local life and local people.
The Wick Society is the voluntary organisation that runs the award-winning Wick Heritage Museum in the town's Bank Row.
Ian Leith, chairman of the Wick Society, said: "Wick Voices is capturing and preserving our heritage and is building a legacy.
"We are pleased that these natural storytellers have been happy to share their memories, and we are delighted with the response from listeners."
Doreen Leith leads the project. As well as carrying out interviews, she regularly gives presentations about Wick Voices to local groups.
She said: "I'm amazed by the positive response and I feel privileged to be part of the project. Feedback suggests that people are listening throughout the world."
She added: "One man told me that he listens to Wick Voices while ironing. I know of one lady who sits down with a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon to listen to Wick Voices."
Fellow volunteer Alan Hendry said: "I feel we are creating an important archive of reminiscences to be enjoyed and valued by present and future generations. It's local history as told by the people who have lived through it.
"We are always grateful to our interviewees for agreeing to share their stories and for giving up their time to be recorded."
The recordings vary in length from just a few minutes to half an hour or more. Generally they feature a single interviewee, although there are a couple of joint interviews and a recent addition was a compilation of voices from members of Caithness Textile Artists.
Earlier this year Wick Voices recorded a series of interviews with people directly involved in STEM (science, technology engineering and maths) to coincide with the 2018 Caithness International Science Festival.
As well as being accessible on the website, all recordings will be kept on a database in Wick Heritage Museum.
To check out the recordings go to www.wickheritage.org
Ian Leith (right), chairman of the Wick Society, with his wife Doreen, who leads the Wick Voices project, and fellow volunteer Alan Hendry (centre). In the background is a photo of Davy Nicolson, whose interview on the subject of Whaligoe Steps has been one of the most popular recordings to date.
Photographer - Fergus Mather