The Kirkwall Airport is near to the farm where my husband Tom and his siblings were born and grew up. For many of us, this was the place of first arrival when we ventured to the Orkney Islands.
I never pass the airport without a little thrill of remembrance: flying over the green islands that first summer of 2015, the flat map images of the islands that I'd poured over for so many years appearing below me in glorious 3D as we flew above them, heralding the new life that awaited me in Orkney.
This is another kind of remembrance of the airport, written for me by my beloved brother-in-law, Jim Muir. Thank you, Jim.
(Archive photos of the airport kindly provided by Orkney Library & Archive)
There are many people throughout the world who have lived close to an important landmark: a famous battle site or historic building, a football stadium or a major music venue.
Well, I was brought up on a farm very close to Kirkwall Airport in Tankerness, slightly east of Kirkwall. For me, living next to the airport has been a very interesting experience.
The Kirkwall Airport's original name was Grimsetter Airport because Grimsetter was the name of one of the small farms that were bought and converted into the airport.
When I was about four years old our family moved out of the
farmhouse when the original thatched roof was removed and replaced by sheets.
We stayed in some old Nissen huts above our house, which were used during World War II.
One of these huts had a small wooden porch just outside the door. The west wall of this porch, which faced the airport, had a small knothole or something which was exactly equal with my eye level.
Whenever I heard a plane overhead and coming in to land, I used to run into the porch and watch it landing.
At that age, I assumed that was what the hole was meant for, which must have been very confusing for my parents!
When I was a schoolboy, there were very few types of aircraft carrying passengers, letters and mail to Orkney.
I can remember Dakotas, Leopards, and a few small double-winged aircraft that looked as though they belonged to a different era.
When I went to Tankerness Primary School, the headmaster was rather sneering about the fact that although I lived very close to the Kirkwall Airport, I knew nothing about passenger jets throughout the world's airlines.
Personally, I couldn't understand how he expected me to know all about planes that couldn't possibly land here and never came here, like American Boeings and British Comets.
As the years went past, planes increased in size to meet the greater demand.
By 1966 the main runway at the airport was lengthened to accommodate the bigger Viscounts and Dart Heralds which were being introduced.
A squad of workers were employed, complete with diggers, to get the soil removed from the land intended for the extended runway, and machines to finish the work.
My brother Cecil was one of the workers involved. He must have been about eighteen at the time.
As we live so close to the airport, we have become so used to aircraft flying over us that we rarely notice them. The exception would be if a plane from the North Isles flew over our house while coming in to land.
Accidents or incidents at Kirkwall Airport are almost unheard of, but a potentially serious one took place in October 1979, when a Viscount aircraft operated by Alidair was coming in to land.
It was a windy day with gusting crosswinds. On touching down, one of the propellers touched the runway and forced the aircraft off its normal flight path.
The plane ran off the runway and on to the grass, causing the nose of the plane to collapse.
We never knew what had happened until later, when we saw a plane off the runway. It was too badly damaged to repair, but happily none of the passengers or crew was injured.
One of the big problems we have in the East Mainland is fog and low cloud, especially in summer.
For years this caused delays in aircraft taking off and landing at the airport during foggy weather.
In 2001 HIAL (Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, the Kirkwall Airport company) decided to overcome these problems by installing landing lights (or ILS) on the land just beyond the two ends of the runway.
These lights could be switched on during very cloudy weather but the deal could only be done by buying land from the nearby farmers.
There were four farmers whose land was wanted, and one of them was myself.
Three of us employed the same agent to fight our cause and as this land sale was a one-off, we decided to fight for a figure higher than HIAL was prepared to offer.
However, it soon became obvious that they were not prepared to negotiate.
Eventually they forced us into a position where we had little choice but to accept their offer.
The money I received was very welcome at the time, but the way we were treated left me feeling a bit bruised by it all.
A particularly sad event took place in 2009. My brother Cecil, who I mentioned earlier regarding the runway extension, was married and living in London.
In May 2009 he was diagnosed with cancer, and he came back to Orkney for a while. Towards the end of the year he and his wife went back to London.
My brother John and I went with them to the airport to see them leave. This was a heartbreaking event for me because I knew we'd never see him again.
This was true. He died the following May.
There has been a climate and environment conference in Glasgow to find ways of slowing climate change.
Three issues are at the forefront: reducing the use of fossil fuels, reducing the number of petrol and diesel vehicles and interestingly, reducing gas emissions from farm animals!
However, up to now, little mention has been made of passenger jets carrying people to holiday destinations around the world.
We will have to wait and see what the outcome of this will be. I hope that whatever course of action they take will turn out to be the right one.
~ Jim Muir, Valdigar ~
A few of the gorgeous mosaics that grace the terminal walls, by artist Sheila Scott.
Mermaid image (Rhonda's pages) and storyteller image (Tom's pages), and all other illustrations except where noted are here by the courtesy of our dear friend - Stromness author, artist and historian, Bryce Wilson MBE, who owns all copyrights. Thanks, Bryce!