THE dull morning gave way to a glorious afternoon on Saturday to confirm Voe’s reputation as the lucky show.
The blue and white sky, the white tents against the mauve and turquoise Mulla houses and the sparkling backdrop of Olnafirth set the scene for the 27th show, one of the biggest and most successful ever with a record 600 plus livestock entries from Gott and points north, and east from Whiteness to Skerries.
A large contingent of ponies and their riders, all immaculately turned out, strutted their stuff. Many came from Whalsay and were able to jump thanks to the dry conditions.
The livestock made a welcome return to the show after the disappointment of last year when the foot and mouth scare prevented them from appearing, and there were several new entries from people who had not exhibited before.
Prize winner Robert Ramsay, a veteran of many shows, said he was “always hopeful” of winning. He keeps pure bred Shetland kye at Ollaberry, a variety he said were not so popular nowadays: “Everything gets bigger, the breeds are getting bigger.” And small breeds cost as much to slaughter. Nevertheless he likes them as
they eat rough grass, as do his Shetland sheep: “Easy-keep kye and easy-keep sheep.” His sister and niece had entered in the Shetland category too, with a shiny chestnut-coloured hand-milking cow winning first prize. “She’s very spoilt,” said Robert.
Two of his kye have made their way to Essex, where they are kept by Mike Sandison in a 58-strong pedigree herd. Visiting the show was a delight, he said: “It’s wonderful to come to a real country agricultural show, there are so few in England now and none in Essex. This is a real social occasion.”
Exhibitor Edmund Nicolson from Wethersta, who entered Highland cross shorthorn kye (hairier to cope with the weather), said he was delighted to see so many entries, crofters and farmers having been depressed about the low cattle prices last year.
But participating in agricultural shows is about love, and admiring the black, moorit and catmuggit sheep with their badger-like markings was visitor Jo Kemp from Galloway, a member of the Shetland Sheep Society who owns a flock of 180. She said: “Shetland sheep are survivors. They want to live and they’re never ill for very long. The meat is delicious and the only thing I’ve got on the ground is calcified seaweed.”
Fellow member of the society Scott Baillie from the USA, who has timed his visit to take in two country shows, keeps 30 Shetland sheep. “They have to pay their way but I keep them primarily for their wool. Shetland wool is the finest and softest wool quality of any breed.”
And the prize-winning fleeces from Addie and Margaret Doull bore this out. The fleeces were housed in a tent with pet rabbits, delightfully white and fluffy or sleekly dark grey, more interested in their cabbage leaves than the visitors.
More children’s pets were in the poultry section, which had a large number of junior entries. Speckled hens and shiny black bantams delighted visiting bairns and the number of entries demonstrated the popularity of poultry keeping.
Greeny-blue Shetland eggs were on show in the produce tent, together with traditional black tatties. Baskets of garden-grown vegetables – cabbage, lettuce, leeks, parsley, onions and carrots – were magnificent, and congratulations to Urafirth School for their entries of carrots, beetroot and homegrown fruit, including gooseberries.
The youngsters’ exhibits were delightful – miniature croft houses and gardens on trays and and weird and wonderful people and animals made of vegetables. A marrow man with bean arms, blackberry mouth and flower skirt and hair, a pepper face with broccoli hair and tiny tomato arms and a courgette creepy-crawly with radish eyes were just some of the creations – and “well done” and “highly commended” rosettes provided encouragement to those who did not win prizes.
There was homemade butter and all manner of preserves, and a chance to try Tony Gerrard’s prize-winning home-made wine – rice and raisin, elderflower or rhubarb.
The rose and honeysuckle perfumed flower tent was similarly impressive. Strange cacti, lilies and carnations, dahlias and nasturtiums combined in pink, white and orange glory. The hanging baskets of fuschia and petunia stole the show, with a huge white ball of blooms being the overall winner.
North Haven Care Centre showed puce geraniums there and had many entries in other departments too, including hand made greetings cards and knitwear. Their cushions were beautifully designed – square ones with geometric shapes separated by fluffy edges, and others in round wheel shapes with furry rims.
And centenarian Ruby Lindsay had a range of knitted soft toys – boys and girls in stripy outfits and pointy noses, with a white teddy with yellow costume and round hat winning first prize.
Again the children’s entries impressed, with knitted lions, penguins, brides and grooms and ice cream cones.
Prize winner Morag Hay, who produced an impossible-looking spiral scarf, said: “It’s awful easy.” But, she said, it would be good to get more entries from teenagers. “I know they make lovely things at school. Primary entries and adult entries are good, but it’s difficult to get teenagers to enter.”
Primary school crafts were in evidence with shells glued onto wooden boxes from the very young and Lego models, the winner being a magnificent battleship, from the older pupils. There were wonderful metal and woodwork and recycled items – baskets made from woven newspaper, strips of drinks cartons and others of drinks tin strips.
Art work and photography covered the walls, and a photo of cattle taken from under a cow’s belly was memorable, as were the numerous sunrises, sunsets and seascapes. There were a huge number of entries, with the trophy for most outstanding exhibit going to Kareen Hunter.
Next door were the cakes, always wonderful to behold, with a basket-weave iced fruit cake from Whalsay one of the star attractions.
But the wonderful T-shirt and ice cream day meant show visitors spent a lot of the day outside. The aroma of roasting coffee from the Coffee Consulate wafted from a tent, and further into the showground long
snaking queues formed for the candy floss stall and the barbeques.
Traditional music was played and the penned sheepdogs were enjoying the occasion.
Spinning and weaving were demonstrated outside, and Ewen Balfour demonstrated traditional kishie making with Shetland oats. And from everywhere the sound of the kye could be heard. Ewen said: “It’s no the same without them.”
Folk brought their teas outside and sat on the grass while bairns played around with fancy balloons. The Jarl’s Squad came and went, the line dancers performed and the show princess and her attendants, resplendent in shimmering purple, were driven round the park.
There was all the fun of the fair at the Salvation Army’s popular coconut shy, and a tug of war rounded off the afternoon.
The overall prize in the livestock section went to Kenny Anderson from Gonfirth with a young cross-bred beef calf, the presentation being made by NFU vice president Nigel Miller, with reserve Emily Moss for her Shetland pony.
A special new prize was on offer this year – an overall prize for non-livestock items donated in memory of the late Kenny Jamieson, to be judged from the overall winners in each sections. But how to choose a winner from entries as diverse as peppermint creams and lacy shawls?
Eventually this went to Rose Williamson of Eshaness for an heirloom patchwork quilt of hand stitched hexagonal pieces which took nearly eight months to make. Reserve was Ina Irvine from Whalsay (who knitted handspun wool shawls for the Queen of Norway and Camilla at the opening of the museum). Mrs Irvine won two prizes for handknit items in handspun Shetland wool and a trophy for the most outstanding entry
in construction, design and finish.
Show president Helena Johnson, the first woman president, said the day was made perfect by the wonderful weather and the high number of entries and visitors: “Everyone’s got a smile on their face and I’m proud to be here. Thanks to all the committee for their help and everyone for putting up the tents. All the entries are up, visitor numbers are up and there are lots from outwith Shetland. I couldn’t ask for better.”