by Lawrence Tulloch
Old pier crumbles
The old ferry pier at Gutcher is rapidly falling into a bad state of disrepair. At one time it was an essential piece of infrastructure. The inter island steamer the Earl of Zetland used to call at Gutcher and almost all of the stock, lambs and cattle, was shipped from the pier by flit boat.
After World War II it was given a major facelift and it was the terminal, and home, to the ferry that served Unst and Fetlar. In those days the ferry operated by the late Davy Johnston MBE was for foot passengers only.
With the coming of the present day ferries the pier has not had any maintenance work for a very long time. In fact it is little used and it has silted up until the outer end of it is completely dry at low tide.
It is just a matter of time before the end collapses, and with the slip part of it overgrown with seaweed and slime it is not a safe place for children to play. While it is hard to see a bright future for the old pier it would be sad to see it go entirely and, adjacent as it is to the breakwater, it forms a dock for small boats.
The cost of travel
Much has been written and spoken about the high cost of petrol and diesel, and for the first time since the roll on/roll off ferries were introduced in the early 1970s folk in the North Isles are openly discussing and comparing notes on the cost of travel and looking for ways of avoiding trips to Lerwick.
For many homes in the North Isles to go to Lerwick means a round trip of over 100 miles and this, along with the ferry fare, now costs upwards of £20 in a medium sized car. If this cloud has any silver lining at all it means that it is no longer cost effective to shop in the Lerwick supermarkets.
It could be that more folk will stay at home to do their shopping locally but country shops get all their supplies by road and ferry so they are not immune from the increased costs. We are told that the ferry services’ bill for fuel will be an extra £1m this year and that officials are having to look at the fares structure and timetables in a search for increased income and savings.
If fares were to be substantially increased on Yell sound this would be, along with the increased cost of motoring, a double whammy. For fares to be re-introduced on the Bluemull sound service to Unst and Fetlar would be a bitter blow indeed, especially for commuters crossing both sounds. Decisions will be made at the end of the summer season and in the meantime folk in the North Isles will keep their fingers crossed.
Any motorists travelling the length of Yell from ferry to ferry, in the last few weeks, have been slowed down by pipe laying, re-surfacing and other road works. There are as many as four sets of temporary traffic lights or areas of single-track road controlled by a convoy system.
It all adds up to necessary and welcome work, that will benefit the community but, in the short term, it has caused frustration for the more impatient. Lights sometimes malfunction and remain red at both ends, however it is the convoy system that comes in for the most criticism.
It seems a great waste of resources and a clumsy way of regulating speed to have three men in three different vehicles operating it. One small truck leads the convoy while the other two are parked at either end with a man in each changing the stop/go signs.
Visitors to Skerries
It has been a busy weekend in Skerries with lots of visitors who were all made very welcome. In spite of the bad weather the Chinese night in the hall was a great success, the chefs were kept busy and Skerries folk look forward to their return.
On Saturday it was the worst weather since “Da Yachty Doo” began and the race from Lerwick was cancelled. Thanks to the Swan and a Norwegian yacht there were boats at the pier. The supper-dance went ahead but with the bad weather putting paid to the ferry. The music that came from locals and visitors was much appreciated.
Making a welcome return to Skerries were Jo and Ian King and two of their family, David and Anna. Jo and Anna were teachers in Skerries but moved away 20 years ago. So far this year 33 yachts have visited Skerries, some from far away places and some local.
On Sunday July 13th Unst Angling Club held the 3rd sea angling points competition of the season. Leslie Stickle was the winner with a catch of 236 lbs; he also had the heaviest fish, a 13lb 13oz cod. Steve Douglas was 2nd with 135lbs, Steve Palmer 3rd with 107lbs and Lindsay Thomson 4th with 103lbs. Michael Thomson was the only junior to compete and he landed 210lbs.
Lindsay Thomson said that nearly all the fish caught were cod, a species plentiful around the north of Unst.
The club’s next outing will be on July 27th, a pairs trout competition fished from boats for the Hellina Braun Trophy.
Fish landings at Cullivoe
Cullivoe continues to be a busy landing port for the white fish industry. During the week beginning the 13th 10 boats landed a total of 2,300 boxes. Official figures show that in the period from April 2007 to February 2008 fish landing dues in Cullivoe amounted to £39,638.28, making it second only to Lerwick as Shetland’s leading landing place.
World Quickplay Hnefatafl in Fetlar
On August 2nd there will be a Grand Tournament of this ancient board game hosted by Fetlar’s own grandmaster Peter Kelly. The day will start at 11.30am with a simple presentation on how to play before the duelling commences. Each duel will be scored and the person with the highest score at the end of the day will receive a unique Hnefatafl insignia and the title World Quickplay Hnefatafl Champion.
The Hall Café will provide lunches for competitors and their families but they have to be pre-booked. Entries will be received until Wednesday 30th July and entry forms and information can be obtained from Peter Kelly on (01957) 733242.
Ice cream sundaes
Following on from the success of Ice Cream Sundae in June the Fetlar Hall Café is offering a three course Sunday lunch menu on August 3rd from 12pm till 3pm. Again the homemade ice creams will be the dessert choice. Bookings are essential for this and can be made through the Interpretive Centre on (01957) 733208 between 11am and 3pm (weekdays) and 1pm and 4pm (weekends).
In the Fetlar Hall tomorrow is the Fetlar Kirk Sale from 2.30pm till 4pm. Refreshments and a wide selection of goods will be on sale and all proceeds will go to the Fetlar Kirk.
On Sunday 27th July the North Isles Farmers Market is on in the Baltasound Hall from 2.30pm till 5pm. There will be a wide variety of local produce in the main hall, including URGE and local pork. Local crafts are on sale in the library. The Yoal Club will provide this month’s soup, teas and home bakes. To book a table for produce call Anna on (01957) 755245, for a craft table call Sarah on (01957) 711367.