21st May 2018
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Fond memories of Vaila Mae as sixareen enjoys her first outing

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By RYAN TAYLOR

AN AMAZING way of remem­bering our Vaila Mae.

That was the sentiment of 17-year-old Miriam Brett when she attended a naming ceremony of the first sixareen to be built in Lerwick for over 100 years.

The teenager, together with her 11-year-old sister, Amy Goddard, won a museum-led competition to name the replica model of the traditional fishing boat at the Shetland Museum and Archives.

Over 270 entrants were received for the contest, and museum staff were impressed by the quality of the suggested names.

The event was held as part of the Johnsmas Foy celebrations last weekend, enabling Miriam and Amy to launch the boat and be among the first to row her.

Miriam chose the name after her friend, Vaila Mae Harvey, who died tragically of cancer last month at the age of 16.

Speaking at the ceremony, Miriam said: “There are two main reasons for our choice of name for the new sixareen.

“One reason for the name is that it reflects the associations with the sixareen and Vaila Sound.

“But the main reason for our suggestion is that it is also the very lovely name of our dear friend, Vaila Mae.

“It is wonderful to be able to launch such a beautiful boat for Vaila Mae.

“We are all so very pleased. This means so much to Vaila’s friends and family.

“Naming the sixareen is an amazing way of remembering our Vaila Mae.”

Amy said she was “so happy” to be launching the boat.

“Vaila Mae was very, very special and we all love her and miss her so much,” she said.

“And plus, it is such a beautiful name for a Shetland boat, to go with a very beautiful girl.

“This is a very special way of remembering our Vaila Mae.”

Hundreds of people turned up to see Vaila Mae, as well as a smaller haddock boat Laura Kay, take to the waters for the first time.

The Vaila Mae was built in the boat shed by the museum.

Craftsmen Jack Duncan, Robbie Tait and Malcolm Hutchison took just over three months to put the boats together.

The Vaila Mae is based on the Industry, the last survivor of the Haaf fishing days, which the museum displays.

Curator Tommy Watt said the event had been a real success, adding that hopes were high the vessel could be put into regular use for visitors.

“It was fantastic to see so many folk come up and see us and support us on the day,” he said.

“The sixareen played a huge part in Shetland’s economic history in the past and it is also one of those boats that has an emotive connection because of the many disasters there have been.

“People in these boats were very much at the mercy of the sea, so an opportunity to get one built is a tremendous achievement.

“There is one other replica but it is ashore. If we can get volunteers to help us use the sixareen it would be used to row around the harbour.”

Short trips for daring volunteers were organised last Saturday, and Mr Watt said the physical strength needed to keep the boat on the move was a surprise to some.

“When you consider these boats were being taken far out to sea you realise how demanding a job it was,” he said.

Nevertheless, the short trips in the harbour were successful, and now the museum is looking for volunteers to take visitors out in it on a regular basis.

Wood for the Vaila Mae came from wind-blown trees at the Sullom plantation.

It is believed this could be the first time Shetland grown wood has been used for this purpose.

Sixareens, also spelt Sixern, were regularly built in Shetland and used extensively for the Haaf fishing until the end of the 19th century.

But the building of them declined rapidly as larger vessels became established.

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About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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