The love of books, the legacy of friendship.
This is what I discovered when I entered Betty’s Reading Room
The traditional glorious feeling of warmth that a library bestows greeted me as I entered the open door. And yet, this was no ordinary library. Within the four walls of a bothy, the presence of a gentle spirit graced the room full of books, musical instruments, a writing-table complete with paper and pen, comfortable couches with colourful quilts, and heartwarming photos with an unspoken message of “friends read here.” I sensed a story was to unfold as I perused the shelves and read the words on a wooden sign: “By the sea, all worries wash away.”
What is a bothy, you ask? It was new to my vocabulary as well. It is a term that comes from the isolated mountainous areas of Scotland, Northern England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Having lived in Northern Canada, I recognized the definition, even though we have different names for this open-door policy in remote areas. A bothy is a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for any wayfarer to use without cost. In cold climates there is always need for shelter, a place to stay warm while winds, rain and snow play gleefully outside.
Betty’s Reading Room is located by the small ferry terminal in Tingwall, a tiny settlement on the north-east coast of Orkney’s West Mainland, which looks across the Gairsay Sound to the islands of Gairsay, Wyre and Rousay.
Craig Mollison and Jane Spiers chose to breathe life into a derelict bothy, as a tribute to their beloved friend, Betty Prictor who passed away unexpectedly in 2007.
April 2012, Betty’s Reading Room was opened to travelers waiting to catch the Ferry.
Betty loved books.
A Reading Room – what better way to remember a dear friend by creating a space that would encourage the love of reading. The invitation to borrow books, even keep books from the collection, is open to all.
Every year, on the first Thursday in March, the United Kingdom and Ireland celebrate World Book day. Today, from my home in Vancouver, I share that special day with my friends from across the “pond” by reading the poem by Julia Donaldson that was on the wall at Betty’s Reading Room.
I opened a book and in I strode
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.
I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.
I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.
I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.