Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, September 4, 2017: What do you do in Kirkwell, Orkney Islands on a wet and windy day? Visit the Orkney Wireless Museum, of course! It is one of those delightfully cluttered and chaotic museums that invite exploration.
There are all sorts of radios, and other somewhat related things, like jukeboxes, phonographs, and, WWII memorabilia. The World War II stuff is there because the Orkney Islands have one of the world’s great natural harbors Scapa Flow, for a long-time safe harbor to the Royal Navy. The Germans wanted very much to get in to the Flow during both world wars, and during World War II a German U boat got in and sank the HMS Royal Oak killing more than 200 seamen and officers. (The ship’s bell is part of a memorial in St. Magnus Cathedral.) Because of the need to protect the fleet the British deployed much of their experimental radar in the Orkneys and some of that equipment is on display, along with radios for home use and ship radios. But there are also old program guides (“BBC Radio Times.” One of my favorite exhibits is a working crystal radio tuned to BBC 5 Live on AM.
The conversation with the volunteer running the museum is interesting and entertaining as well. It was not really crowded, even with a full cruise ship in town, (three other people, one working on a documentary) so he had time to tell stories. It’s a must see for any radio head who visits Kirkwall.