Bernie Bell: Rerwick, Tankerness

Rerwick B Bell

WWII remains at Rerwick, Tankerness (B Bell)

One day,  Mike and I went for a walk to Rerwick in Tankerness.  It’s a place with a lot of WW2 buildings.  This one fascinates me – it’s partly submerged now – half full of water.  What  interests me is….the lichen on the window-sill has formed a pattern.  I like the combination of the colours – yellow black-edged lichen on the wooden window-sill and the grey concrete.

It’s a bit of Orkney history, quite near in time, yet – concrete and a wooden sill, and the lichen making patterns – patterns which look vaguely human, reminds me of some ancient rock art.

If folk are interested, they could go there and see for themselves.  Rerwick is an un-usual kind of place – very peaceful, a fine piece of coast-line, yet with the war buildings sticking up all over the place. And this one is half under water – there are even steps going down to the door – under the water.

I think it’s ace.


I sent these images to friend Jeanne (Bouza-Rose), who used them as the basis for some art-work on a pretend standing-stone. Jeanne had had the idea of having a large Odin-stone-type-thing to encourage photo taking and money donating. Continuing the human theme – there was a space for folk to put their faces in, as part of the pattern – like there used to be at old-fashioned sea-side fairs.  
Jeanne Bouza Rose 2

Jeanne Bouza Rose

She’d had the idea for a while and had wanted to use it for the Shopping Week special day at Graham Place two years ago, but only got Jim Middlemass to make it last year.  It was used at Shopping Week and at the Ness Open Days.  It will be probably be appearing at the Ness Open Days this year, as well, in the Stenness School.  Make a date for your diaries …July 16th and August 20th.

How many levels of time does this bring together!

Bernie Bell is a regular contributor to The Orkney News

See also our articles on Bernie Bell’s Walks, World War II sites in Orkney to visit and one featuring the art of Jeanne Bouza Rose.



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5 replies »

  1. Hey Bernie….loved your article on the WW 11 Buildings…there is one such building near the Stromness golf course where my wife and I would have lunch. The howling wind and rain made it even better…thank you, Richard (love yr fungi photos)

  2. And hello Richard
    If you and your wife are ever back in Orkney, Rerwick is a good place to walk, with lots of interest – if the tide is out, there’s a pool, nearly enclosed by the rocks. One time, when the tide was right out, we walked out along the stony bit that sticks out into the sea, on the left hand side. I wonder if folk used to maybe wait ’til the tide was in, then put nets across the gap at the end, then just harvest the fish, as the tide went out? If you go there, and the tide is out, you’ll see what I mean.
    The war buildings aren’t of inherent interest to me, but the rocky coast there, is great – monumental slabs of stone. Another thing I like about a walk at Rerwick, is the grand sweep of everything – great sweeps of the sky and of the land.
    I’m glad you mentioned the fungi – I thought maybe people were getting fed up with them!

  3. PS
    I say that the war buildings aren’t of inherent interest to me, and they weren’t, except for the sunken one, with steps and a door to the underwaterworld. Then….Ian Collins sent me some pictures he’s taken there, and…he turns what I saw as grey, concrete, grim, war memories, into…..interesting lines, shapes, shadows, colours. I’d send you them, but I don’t know if he’d like me to do that. I’ll ask him!
    Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  4. 3.4.22……

    We went for a walk to Rerwick today. Re. the structure I mentioned which was half underwater. We presumed that it was because the surrounding land is so wet. Today, we saw that the water has all drained away! It looks like there is a small drain in one of the corners. This must have been blocked for years, and the water accumulated. Someone has cleared the drain, and the water has drained way, which very much changes the atmosphere of the place.

    Another sign of the site being cared for is that someone has been folding back the turf which has started to accumulate over the edges of the round metal things with numbers on them in the centre of the gun emplacements. The numbers were beginning to be hidden but are now clear in one of the emplacements.

    It’s good to see that the place is being taken care of.

    It’s a cold, wet, windy day, and we were thinking of the soldiers there, keeping watch in all weathers – no fires allowed presumably. Mike said it would have reminded his Dad of going to the Quartermasters store to ask for ‘Pants, woollen, long’. And that set me off singing……..“There were rats, rats, big as bloomin’ cats, in the store, in the store. The were mice, mice playing football with the rice, in the Quartermasters store.”

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