25th February 2018
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Special spinning wheel auctioned

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Stewart Thomson and Hollie Shaw with the spinning wheel he has donated for auction in aid of the new Fair Isle Bird Observatory. It is made from local materials, including some bits from the old observatory. Photo: Dave Wheeler

Stewart Thomson and Hollie Shaw with the spinning wheel he has donated for auction in aid of the new Fair Isle Bird Observatory. It is made from local materials, including some bits from the old observatory. Photo: Dave Wheeler

A specially-made spinning wheel is to be auctioned to raise funds for the newly-built Fair Isle Bird Observatory, which is due to open on 1st May.

An incredible £4 million has already been raised for the construction of the new building, a substantial part of which was raised publicly.

Funds are still needed to cover the cost of internal furnishings, however. Just over half of the amount has already been raised, but there is £20,000 still to go.

To help with fund-raising for the remaining figure, Fair Isle man Stewart Thomson has kindly donated one of his handmade spinning wheels, which is to be auctioned to the highest bidder on 31st May.

The spinning wheel is made from local materials, which includes wood reclaimed from the old observatory as well as some from the new one, making it a rather special commemorative item.

Mr Thomson is a crofter and self-taught craftsman. He began making spinning wheels in the early 1970s from wood found around the island.

In his time he has made 110 wheels, though there are currently “two on the bench” in the process of being built.

Since he began Mr Thomson has crafted wheels for customers all over the world. “I’ve got ones in Japan, Norway, Canada, Scotland, England . . . all over.”

As each one is entirely hand made it takes Mr Thomson “a while” to craft each one. He said: “It takes about a fortnight, I would say it’s about 200 hours.”

Made from local materials, each one is a work of art and completely individual, and is also fully work­ing. Mr Thomson said: “I never make them as ornaments, I make sure they are good spinners first.”

As such they are in high demand, and usually sell in excess of £300.

The spinning wheel being donated is Mr Thomson’s 106th wheel. Bids have already been taken and it is hoped a good amount will be raised.

The funds will be put towards the internal furnishings of the obser­vatory, such as carpets, furniture, paint and equipment.

Fair Isle Bird Observatory administrator Hollie Shaw said she was amazed at how much money had been raised so far.

She said: “People have been doing lots of little things, and it may seem quite small at the time but it all makes a difference.”

For more information or to have a chance of winning Mr Thomson’s spinning wheel, call the observatory on (01595) 760258.

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