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Then and now
Index number : JN20767B007
Decade: 1880 - 1889 Location: Thurso
Shore Street, Thurso and the Turnpike, c.1880s
The Turnpike dates from the 1600s and has a distinctive, rotund, two storey 6 1/2 foot diameter turret enclosing a flight of stairs; it originally had an external staircase curving round to reach the upper floor.
Located at 16 Shore Street it is situated in the part of the town where the fisher folk stayed. This area was known locally as the "Fisherbiggins", biggin being the Scots word for dwelling. Note one of Thurso's famous fishwives carrying the catch from the harbour to her customers.
The initials D.W.K.R. and the date 1686 are carved in relief on a stone mounted on the west gable. It is said that the building was once used for religious meetings with sermons being conducted from it.
The building was sketched, and later painted, by renowned artist L. S. Lowry when he visited Thurso in 1938. This painting, entitled 'Street Musicians', was sold for £842500 at Sotheby's to an American collector in 2014.
During the 1950s the turnpike was under threat from some members of Thurso Town Council who wanted the building demolished. Fortunately the decision to renovate the building was taken and it remains a unique reminder of the old town.
The children standing at the door of the turnpike are Mackays. Their father was Alexander Mackay, Alan McIvor's great grandfather, who was harbour master at Thurso and 2nd coxswain on the Thurso lifeboat. ----- Thanks to Alan McIvor for the information above.
The Turnpike was photographed in a ruinous state by the Francis Frith company in 1952.
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