In the past week I've had two conversations about the name of the gallery: "What does it mean?" and "how do you say it?" And as I've lost count the number of times over the past seven years I've answered both of those, I thought I'd put it the record straight - and share some photos of the Byre coming into being.
Byre is a Scottish - and old English - word for cowshed. As I'm Scottish it was a word I had heard all my life and it never occurred to me that not everyone would know what it meant - or even know how to pronounce it. So, if you've always wondered - here it is: it's pronounced to rhyme with 'desire' not 'fir' or 'fur' or some other even stranger variants.
I chose the name for two reasons: the gallery, and our house to which it is attached, were built on the site of old barns on a hilly slope on the edge of the village. We decided to call the house 'Hillside' but I wanted to give the gallery a separate identity.
The way we were - summer 2010
This part of the building was once used to keep cows so it seemed a really appropriate choice, to recognise it's agricultural heritage; and as I'm Scottish, I thought 'byre' sounded a bit prettier than cowshed.
A blank canvas
The word 'byre' also has very happy memories for me. It was the name of a theatre in St Andrews, the town in Scotland where I went to school. Not only did I enjoy attending productions there, but once a year - every January - the school drama group took over the Byre for a week to stage a play. It was the most amazing week: for a teenager with more than a passing desire to tread the boards, it was a fantastic opportunity to work in a 'real' theatre. Those cold January days and evenings of giving your all in a Shakespeare or Restoration comedy were among the happiest of my school days - I just loved the whole experience. When I was searching for the right name for the gallery, I heard the news that sadly the Byre theatre was closing so it seemed the absolute right thing to do to have a little bit of my St Andrews memories in Millbrook.
Happily, St Andrews University bought the theatre in 2014 and the Byre is once more a going concern. And 'our' Byre is still going strong too. And I hope you'll agree it does sound nicer to say that you've found an amazing painting or piece of jewellery at the Byre than in the Cowshed.
Beam me up
And we're open...