Posted by Mark on Tuesday, 15 September 2015
It’s not all building works on Orkney, there are occasions when we get a break and visit something that is going on the island. Visitors are often surprised by the amount of events that are organised on the island and it is often difficult to choose what to attend. The Orkney Science week has just finished and there was also the Rock festival, shortly to be followed by the Blues festival, and in between all this there was the second open day of Twatt airfield with flights in a passenger bi-plane that used to serve the island. This open day was on Sunday afternoon and so as the weather was lovely although a bit too windy for the Bi-plane to fly as it turned out, we decided to pop up there shortly after it opened at 12.00 and I had promised Anna a Buffalo Burger if she behaved herself!
When we arrived there was already a number of cars there. Entrance was free as were the guided tours that were being run. We had a quick look into the remains of the cinema there, it was amazing how much of the original features were still there considering that the place has been abandoned for so long. The cinema was also a theatre and many of the great stars of the day performed there during the war, the likes of Gracie Fields and Vera Lynne.
The airfield was run by the Navy in the second world war and hence was known as HMS Tern, there was another RAF base close by as well as two dummy airfields built to deter any bombers. Our guide gave us an interesting tour and we ended up at the control tower where there were refreshments and a small display of photos and maps from when the base was active. We knew very little about the place before this, it being a pile of buildings that we sometimes passed on the way to Birsay.
After coming out of the control tower we bumped into our friend and fellow John Rae Society Trustee, Norman Shearer who is a qualified guide. He told us that they have been caught by surprise at the popularity this year of the open day as last year they only had 26 people turn up! This year it must have been in the hundreds!
Anna didn’t get her burger as the queue was rather long and we had steak planned for the evening, so we drove up to the Tea Rooms at Birsay to see our friend Vickie who works there. We walked into the tea rooms and a couple of the other tables greeted us along with the staff. The tourists sitting at the other tables looked up to see if they recognised the celebrities who had just come it, they soon went back to their food disappointed when they saw it was us!