The story of the bookshop

Just like a cat, you never really own a bookshop, and the people who have cared for this bookshop have been Charles Senior, John Broom, Tam MacPhail and the current handler Sheena. It opened in 1970 as a second hand bookshop run by Charles Senior. When John L Broom, the local librarian, took it over he began to sell blue penguin paperbacks. By the time time Tam took the reins in the late seventies maps were on sale. Tam, a blow-in from California via Argyll, worked for John Broom and the pattern was repeated when Sheena worked for Tam for sixteen years before becoming boss cat.

Stromness Books & Prints has also published several volumes, firstly Stone Built by Gunnie Moberg, Tam’s wife. Most recently the bookshop published Fiona MacInnes’ Iss.

Charles Senior, George Mackay Brown, Susie Gilbertson, John Broom & artist Sylvia Wishart in Rackwick, Hoy.  Photograph: Bunty Wishart

Stromness Library John Broom.GUNNIEMOBERG

John Broom in Stromness Library. Photograph: Gunnie Moberg

Tam MacPhail. Photograph: Rebecca Marr

But a drive in bookshop? Tam tells the story here at around 3mins 45secs…

Here’s the link to the fuller version of Stromness Hometown made back in 2011.

Contributors at stop 5: Graham Place were
Bunty Mowatt
May Stockan
Eric Flett & Ian McInnes (c.1990)
Tam McPhail
Adrian Harray
Ella Duncan & Bryce Scott
Edgar Ramsay (1976)
Ros Bryant

Before it was a bookshop the premises were part of Stockan’s bakery. Before that the tiny building was a tea shop, a painters and a grocers.

Graham Place image courtesy of Stromness Museum. Stromness Books & Prints is central and the building on the right was demolished to widen the road for horses and carts.

More about Stromness here.

8 thoughts on “The story of the bookshop

  1. Interesting blog and great to see the bookshop and those who have run it through the years. (The woman in the middle of the Rackwick photo is Susie Gilbertson)


    1. Hi Alison. Contributors are all listed above. Some newly recorded for Stromness Hometown in 2012, the ones with years in brackets from the archive

      Liked by 1 person

  2. PS – really enjoyed the audio too. Would love to know who the contributors were.


  3. That was lovely. To hear all the different voices, memories and history was magical and , of course, the photos. Brought a tear to my eye. Such a boony toon wae lovely folk!


  4. Gordon Wright (retired publisher) June 9, 2020 — 3:39 pm

    Stromness Books and Prints is one of my favourite bookshops and I’ve visited most of the others in Scotland with my heavy bag of book samples. When I first visited Orkney in June 1973 I called in to see Charles Senior and found John Broom working there. I had met John in Edinburgh when I photographed him for Catalyst Magazine. Charlie looked through my samples and gave me an order for a few titles. I don’t remember it being a secondhand bookshop at this time. I visited John in his home that evening and met George Mackay Brown for the first time.


  5. Southfield Cottage, Summerfield Road Dunbar EH42 1NL March 17, 2022 — 12:32 pm

    Looking forward to being in the shop early May.


    1. Great we look forward to seeing you!


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Location 1 GRAHAM PLACE, STROMNESS, ORKNEY, SCOTLAND Phone 01856850565 Hours Open Tuesday to Saturday 2 -6pm. If we are not open you can ask the neighbours at No.3 above the bookshop who will be happy to let you in anytime.
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