Highlands & Islands

Deserted island discs: Band's surprise find on abandoned Scottish isle

Neon Waltz on Stroma Image copyright Ronan Park
Image caption Neon Waltz's lead singer Jordan Shearer and at the keys of the abandoned reed organ, keyboard player Liam Whittles

Music played on an old harmonium found inside the former schoolhouse of an abandoned island features in a new music video for a Scottish band.

Neon Waltz had gone to Stroma, a tiny isle that lies in the Pentland Firth between the Caithness mainland coast and Orkney, for the video and a photo shoot.

Stroma Image copyright Neon Waltz
Image caption Getting to Stroma involves a short journey by boat from the Caithness coast

The band members came across the reed organ while exploring the island's deserted buildings.

Lived on for centuries, Stroma had a thriving population of more than 300 people in 1901. Farming, fishing and supplies from the mainland sustained the community.

The number of islanders declined over later years and in 1962 the last 12 inhabitants left.

Stroma continues to be used for grazing livestock.

Stroma Image copyright Neon Waltz
Image caption Stroma was abandoned in the 1960s

John O'Groats-based Neon Waltz, which was one of music magazine NME's New Bands for 2015, planned to use the island and its deserted buildings as a backdrop for new band images to mark the release of their forthcoming album, Strange Hymns.

Drummer Darren Coghill said: "The view from my kitchen window of the Orkney Isles is blocked only by Stroma.

"There's nothing other than a mile of water between me and the rock. I look at it every day, but the maddest thing is that I'd never been.

Neon Waltz on Stroma Image copyright Ronan Park
Image caption The band chills out during their visit to the island

"Finally getting the opportunity to go I didn't know if it could fulfil what my imagination was suggesting.

"We took an acoustic guitar and a little Casio battery operated keyboard with us hoping to make some recordings on the island - possibly the first ever recordings.

"We had no idea that we'd find this organ and that it'd work."

Neon Waltz on Stroma Image copyright Ronan Park

He added: "Sometimes it just all adds up: the song, the sound, the surroundings, the people and the history. I see the island in a totally different way - there's something really magical about it for me now."

Keyboard player Liam Whittles sat down at the harmonium and with lead singer Jordan Shearer and guitarist Calvin Wilson recorded a rendition of the band's single, Heavy Heartless.

Neon Waltz on Stroma Image copyright Neon Waltz
Image caption The band is local to the north Caithness coast

Photographer and video director, Ronan Park, said: "Stroma sits in view of where the band lives at the very northern tip of Scotland, a fascinating place and the perfect place for their album cover photo shoot.

"We knew that the island's properties had been left intact with some belongings left behind, but had no idea we'd stumble across a working musical instrument.

"What happened when Liam hit the keys of the harmonium took our breath away and the impromptu performance that followed was unforgettable."

Neon Waltz on Stroma Image copyright Ronan Park

All images are copyrighted.

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