Our museum

We have a wealth of unique resources including artefacts and a vintage lifeboat all within an old lifeboat station building that tell the story of the Longhope lifeboat from 1874, its humanitarian role and its place in the cultural soul of our community

The Thomas McCunn is probably the only seaworthy vintage lifeboat in her original setting, and is still slipway launched on special occasions. She is our main exhibit and the sparkling jewel in our crown. (Hours spent with the Brasso.)

The museum is the old lifeboat station where the Thomas McCunn was launched from while in service. (1933 -1962). In 1999 this station was closed and a new station established at Longhope. We were so fortunate to have acquired this old station to convert into our museum.

Geordie Taylor, the first custodian of the museum, talks about the Thomas McCunn.

See our staff and volunteers page here.

Displayed on the walls of the museum are some magnificent and evocative paintings by Harry Berry depicting various rescues including an interpretation of the last moments of the T.G.B.

We have a dedicated page to the Longhope Lifeboat Disaster of March 1969 here. 

Harry Berry was a local artist (1905-1994) who was very involved in lifeboat life and his artist skills were varied. We also have on display examples of his venture into plaster cast plates and ornaments.

See more of Harry Berry’s painting on our Arts & Culture page.

Amongst all our other curios, medals, vellums and maritime memorabilia, poignantly hanging on a peg is an old oilskin, sou’wester and pair of thigh length boots looking like they’ve  just been taken off after a hard passage at sea. Stand quietly beside them and you can almost hear the banter from long ago.

Most importantly hanging solemnly beside the lifeboat are the Service Record Boards which record all the past rescues and lives saved from all past Longhope lifeboats.

Discretely we have an area in the museum dedicated to those who were lost when the T.G.B. capsized while out on service.

Although not on display as yet we have an immense collection of amazing archival material that is presently being digitised. These written records are absolutely precious, unique, emotional and informative. We hope to display our archive in the future.

Rocket line and Line thrower from Thomas McCunn such as would be used in a breeches buoy operation.

Ship’s compass from a French trawler. Steam engine model built by Jackie Shearer.  Masthead lantern from the Ben Barvas. Rollocks. Divider and parallel rulers for making mapping measurements. Flare pistol by Webley & Scott. Silverware from the wreck of the Oljaren rescued in 1931 by the Thomas McCunn. Binoculars presented by the RNLI to Robert Johnstone 1952 for services in the rescue of the steam trawlerDorbie.

This object is a button stick, used when polishing buttons to protect the uniform. It is one of the artefacts we have that give a personal insight into the everyday lives of the lifeboat crews.

Ever wondered why we talk about knots per hour?

Knot, in navigation, measure of speed at sea, equal to one nautical mile per hour. Thus, a ship moving at 20 knots is traveling as fast as a land vehicle at about 23 mph (37 km/hr). The term knot derives from its former use as a length measure on ships’ log lines, which were used to measure the speed of a ship through the water. Such a line was marked off at intervals by knots tied in the rope. Each interval, or knot, was about 47 feet (14.3 metres) long. When the log was tossed overboard, it remained more or less stationary while its attached log line trailed out from the vessel as the latter moved forward. After 28 seconds had elapsed, the number of knots that had passed overboard was counted. The number of knots that ran out in 28 seconds was roughly the speed of the ship in nautical miles per hour. (Encyclopaedia Brittanica)

Ship’s Log from a wreck on Pentland Skerries

Royal Navy copper rum funnel and copper drip tray. Paraffin jug from Cantick Head Lighthouse.

images: Orkney.com / Mary Harris / Rebecca Marr

How to fInd us


11am to 4pm

Entry is free