Published: 20/12/2017 17:11 - Updated: 20/12/2017 17:19

Gaelic TV show will chronicle 140 years of life in Wick


Bridge Street in Wick is one of the areas to regularly feature in the Johnston Collection. Picture: Johnston Collection
Bridge Street in Wick is one of the areas to regularly feature in the Johnston Collection. Picture: Johnston Collection


TENS of thousands of photographs which have told the story of how people lived in Wick for more than 140 years are to feature in a television programme tonight.

The Johnston Collection will be the topic of a programme called Linn de Dhealban

Johnston Collection which will be broadcast on BBC Alba on Wednesday, December 20.

Members from the Wick Society will appear on the programme explaining how a collection of photographs have documented life in Wick all the way back to the mid 19th century.

The Johnston Collection has more than 50,000 images which have been taken by three generations of the Johnston Family between 1863 and 1976.

Wick Society chairman Ian Leith said his organisation was approached by a TV production company after it discovered a previous show about the Johnston Collection called The Ghost in the Glass and wanted to make an updated version.

“A company called Caledonia TV saw Ghost in the Glass which was produced some years ago,” he said.

“They thought it would be a good idea to make a new show about the Johnston Collection.”

“They took their idea to BBC Alba who agreed to commission it.

“They were up here for a couple of days to do various pieces of filming.”

The collection was first established in 1863 by Alexander Johnston who worked as a commercial photographer in Wick.

Over the next 143 years the business passed through three generations of the families up until another Alexander Johnston when the business ceased trading in 1976.

Once the business closed its doors, the extensive collection of images in the form of glass plates and negatives was handed over to Wick Society so it could be put on display at its museum in Bank Row.

Volunteers at the society are responsible for scanning and digitising over 50,000 images from the collection that are now mostly available to view online.

The collection largely focuses on life in Wick.

But it also has images of other parts in Caithness and neighbouring areas including Helmsdale and Strath-Halladale.

Mr Leith said the story of the Johnston Collection is one which captures people’s imaginations across the globe.

He said Wick Society receives a lot of interest internationally about the images.

“The Johnston Collection contains over 140 years of social history in Wick,” he said. “It is an important part of our town’s history and it is a unique collection of photographs. Other areas may have photographic collections of their own, but few have collections as comprehensive as this.

“It is internationally renowned and we receive a lot of queries from across the world from people looking for images of their ancestors in Wick.

“But increasingly we are getting orders for images from the collection to be used at exhibitions and displays internationally.

“It is a source and resource that is used for many different purposes.”

Mr Leith will appear on the TV show along with other local historians Harry Gray and Fergus Mather.

Other representatives of the Wick Society will also be on the show.

It will be broadcast in English with Gaelic subtitles on BBC Alba on Wednesday, December 20 at 9pm and Christmas Day at 11pm.

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