Public toilets are a necessity which have been located at the Esplanade for at least 120 years.
The facilities have changed considerably over the years.
These toilets were located at the far south end of the Esplanade, right below the Old Tolbooth.
It was a rather basic building, but with nicely decorated walls, as can be seen in the picture to the right, and of course it was only for Gentlemen, Ladies should not have such needs at that time.
The building must have been rated rather important, it even had a gas light above the door. In the middle picture we can see that the town lamplighter Thomas Johnston has his ladder raised against the toilet.
In the third picture we can see how near the toilets came to being destroyed during the storm that hit Shetland in February 1900.
The next toilets were a much more impressive building, located at the north side of Harbour House, almost at the same spot as the current toilets built in 2009. It must have been built at the same time as Harbour House, around 1906, and designed by the same architect. It has the same details around the entrance and windows as Harbour House has around it's door.
This might have been the best designed toilets, they fitted in beautifully with Harbour House.
The sign on the wall says "Gentlemen", but hopefully the "Ladies" had a place to do their necessities too.
These toilets, further north on the Esplanade, designed by Richard Moira, (who was responsible for many projects in Lerwick at that time), and built in the 1960s, were believed by many to be one of the least well suited buildings, architecturally, on the Lerwick waterfront.
The building was demolished in autumn 2009.
Lerwick Port Authority intended to build a 'welcome pavilion' for cruise ship visitors on the vacant site, but this is still undecided.
As a side point to the disposal of these toilets the wood from the building, rather than going to landfill, became incorporated into the annual bonfire at the Sandwick Social Club.
When the toilets were built, the signs read Men and Women, prompting the Up Helly-Aa bill to carry the following ditty:
"Men and Women we may be,
But let's preserve our nicety,
And ask old Moira why the Hades,
We can't just be Gents and Ladies."
The choice of wording for the signs appears to have attracted an unusual level of attention, including a short discussion at a meeting of the Lerwick Town Council, shortly before the building was completed, in May 1961. A fact which arguably went some way towards ensuring it got the above mention on the Up Helly-Aa bill.
While some Lerwick Town Council members were adamant that in their opinion, anything less than "Ladies" and "Gentlemen" was inappropriate, the majority feeling at the meeting appears to have been one of indifference, and they moved on to other business without any action being taken.
The New Toilets
At the end of June 2009, new toilets were opened at the Esplanade. They are located at the same place as the toilets from 1906. They were designed by Nick Brett, of Richard Gibson Architects.
It is a rather nice looking, white painted, double gabled building, with the gables facing the sea. The old "Welcome to Shetland" sign is incorporated in one of the gables, hopefully this will not mislead the tourists that this is the Tourist Office.
The toilets became very popular when they opened, The Shetland News reported on the 6th of October that according to SIC statistics, 432 large toilet rolls were flushed away in the previous three months, almost twice the amount used in the previous toilets during the same period of 2008.
There have been discussions about the cost of the building; £420,000.