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This website is now hosted, maintained, and developed by Parallel 58. New developments will be taking place over the next few weeks including the addition of the last few thousand images, completing the digitisation phase of the project. Other upgrades will include user registration, favourites lists, integration with social media, and photo commenting.

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Current image count : 33801


Welcome to the Johnston Collection
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The Johnston Collection represents the work of three generations of Caithness photographers who captured images of life in and around the area between 1863 and 1975. During that period they produced around a hundred thousand glass plate negatives. Of these, around fifty thousand survive and are held in trust by the Wick Society.

The Johnstons captured an era when Wick was the herring capital of Europe. "The silver darlings" as the herring were fondly known used to attract over a thousand boats which crowded the harbour during August and September each year, and thousands of migrant workers would swell the town's population. They were photographed preparing the boats, setting sails, landing catches, and onshore in scenes of intense activity. Also photographed were teams of workers who gutted, cured, packed, and carted the salted herring for export across the world.

The collection represents a unique record of Wick's development and its importance as a major herring fishing port, as well as unique scenes from many other areas of industry and general life across Caithness and Sutherland.

Family history

The vast majority of surviving images in the Johnston Collection are studio portraits of those living in and around Caithness and Sutherland during the Johnston period. For this reason, the collection can be an invaluable tool for anybody with an interest in their family history. If your family lived in the region during the period, simply typing your surname into the search box is a great way to start.

Details are sparse for many of the photographs in the collection, and for this reason if you recognise people or places in the photographs or just have a story to tell about one of them, we would be very happy to hear it and add it to the rest of the information.

We need your help

The information in this database has been put together by a small group of volunteers over a very short space of time. It is a work in progress, and we need your help to complete the project! If you see mistakes in the information which is attached to the photgraphs then please let us know by filling in the form at the bottom of the image page. We need the public to get it right for future generations!