Tributes paid to Fair Isle writer Lise Sinclair, a ‘real cultural champion’
Tributes have flooded in after one of Shetland’s most gifted writers, Lise Sinclair, died from a brain tumour aged 42 last weekend.
The poet and songwriter died in hospital in Glasgow overnight from Saturday into Sunday. She had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in May, undergoing surgery the following month.
Lise is survived by her husband Ian and four children, Tom, Hannah, Alice and Lowrie.
The premature loss of a generous woman described by those who knew her as one of the islands’ most talented, intelligent and passionate writers has come as a huge blow to people throughout Shetland – especially those in her native Fair Isle, where her funeral takes place at noon today.
All Shetland Arts venues will observe a minute’s silence to coincide with the gathering in Fair Isle to remember Lise’s “extraordinary life”, and to recognise the huge contribution she made to the arts in Shetland, Scotland and internationally.
Writer and broadcaster Mary Blance was a close friend of Lise, having known her “since she was a lass at the school”, and hosted her as recently as this year’s folk festival in early May.
“She was a hugely original voice,” Mary said, “both with her poetry and with her songwriting, and things that she achieved like A Time to Keep, which I think you could call her masterpiece.
“She was equally talented wherever she turned her pen. She wrote some really wonderful dialect poems as well as English. Very rich, and when you read it you can hear her Fair Isle twang in it.”
Mary said it was difficult to come to terms with the loss of Lise, which has devastated those in the Fair Isle community where she grew up. She was at the heart of so many things that went on in the small island.
“She taught music in the school, she worked with the Fair Isle Times, she ran the choir,” she said. “If there was anything that needed doing she was the one that’d have ideas, and make sure things happened.
“She was never fairt to speak out – she always argued for the causes that she believed in. She was just so warm, friendly and generous-spirited. I will miss her an awful lot.”
South Mainland councillor Billy Fox said the news had come as a huge shock: “She was such a mainstay on the Fair Isle scene, and a great literary and musical ambassador for Fair Isle and Shetland,” he said. “I just can’t imagine how they must be feeling.”
Editor of the New Shetlander magazine Brian Smith said: “Lise Sinclair was a very important contributor to the New Shetlander over many years. We welcomed her splendid poems and are devastated to have lost her.”
Music promoter Davie Gardner described Lise as “a hugely talented, creative, imaginative, committed musician, poet and all-round lovely person whose loss will be felt way beyond the boundaries o’ her native island and Shetland”.
He added: “Fair Isle and Shetland have lost a real cultural champion, not to mention one of life’s genuine lovely folk.”
A beautifully written contribution on the Scottish Poetry Library’s website spoke of how her friends had been “shocked by the news of her illness and the rapidity with which it took her life, and our thoughts are with her family in deepest sympathy”.
“Her energies were prodigious: not only in poetry and music, but also as a mother, as a crofter, as a teacher, and it is very hard to think of those radiant energies being stilled.”
* Today’s Shetland Times includes a moving eulogy from Malachy Tallack, who was a close friend of Lise.