Isles Views 08.08.08

The late John Henderson

ONE of the biggest gatherings ever seen in Cullivoe assembled on Saturday for the funeral of John William Henderson (John o’ Gloup).

John was extremely well known and mourners from south and Orkney joined the hundreds of folk from every corner of Shetland to pay their last respects.

The funeral service was held in the hall as there was no way that the small Cullivoe kirk, St Olaf’s, could cope with such large numbers either for seating capacity or parking space.

Everyone appreciated the Rev. Charlie Greig’s address; it was so simple and sincere, and he was so calm and re-assuring, a tower of strength.

Mr Greig pointed out that he was conducting the service not so much as a minister but more as a friend and a friend of the family. He recalled, among other things, the new year’s morning when he helped John to feed the kye and muck out the byre.

Others who paid moving and amusing tributes were councillor Allison Duncan, John Webster from the coastguard service and Louis Johnson from the Methodist chapel in East Yell.

Louis said that it was fitting that the service was taking place in the hall because John had walked every yard of the coastline of Yell to raise money for the building of it.

John had cancer and it was known for several weeks that his death was imminent. During this time he remained cheerful. He was free of pain, he could enjoy his many visitors even if they had come to say goodbye and he could enjoy his food, especially the fish that was his favourite. He was deeply grateful for the dedicated work of his carers and the love of his family.

As a fiddler John loved music and he asked Margaret Scollay to play at his funeral. Through her he arranged to have Bryan Gear and Steven Spence play as well. He wanted nothing sad or mournful and his request was granted; they played two sets of rollicking reels including the tune that Steven composed for John some years ago.
For many the most tearful moment of all came when the Cullivoe Fiddlers, the group that John was a founder member of, played more reels while the coffin was wheeled out to the hearse. He now rests in the beautiful cemetery that surrounds the ruins of the ancient Kirk of Ness.

Bluemull Sound ferries

Many folk in Unst have voiced concern and anger at the level of ferry services to Unst and Fetlar earlier in the summer during a period when there were breakdowns and vessels away for dry-docking and overhauls.

The Bigga was put to the Bressay run when the Leirna was out of action and this left the old Thora to cover on Bluemull Sound, resulting in a significant loss of capacity on the route at the busiest time of year.

In Unst, in the aftermath of the RAF withdrawal, there has been major private investment in the tourist industry. A number of those fledgling businesses were trying to maintain longer hours to cater for visitors and felt that they had suffered a loss of trade from the ferry situation.

Alistair Christie-Henry and David Polson from the SIC ferry services attended a meeting of Unst Community Council to explain the thinking behind the decisions taken in this regard. Community council chairman Laurence Robertson told them that the Unst community was very unhappy; he said that Unst and Fetlar folk had had to put up with lowered capacity four times in the course of a year.

In answer Mr Christie-Henry gave a number of reasons why the Bigga had gone to Bressay. Bressay sea staff, particularly masters and engineers, were familiar with her and to use another vessel might involve training, which could not currently be afforded.

Figures show that the need is greater on the Bressay service during the week although Unst’s need is greater at the weekends. Community councillors said that the timing of refits should be looked at for the future but Mr Christie-Henry could give little cheer on this front.

He said that four of the bigger ships, Daggri, Dagalien, Linga and Leirna would all have to go south next year for their overhauls and the resurgence of the oil industry was making dry-dock slots harder to obtain. The contract will be put out to commercial tender – it will be over £50,000 – and any vessel over 20 years old has to come out of the water every year. The ferry service is planning up to 18 months ahead and looking at shipyards as far away as Denmark.

Also attending the meeting was councillor Robert Henderson and on the question of rising fuel costs, he said the extra £1 million now required would come from the infrastructure services budget until October.

Mr Christie-Henry said that ferries used 4.5 million litres of fuel each year and if costs continued to rise services would have to rationalised. But at the moment nothing was ruled in and nothing was ruled out.


A community meeting will be held in the Uyeasound Hall on Tuesday, 12th August at 6pm. The purpose of this meeting is to outline the findings and emerging recommendations from the study into transport links across Bluemull Sound.

The meeting will give people an opportunity to hear the findings and to comment before finalisation and formal reporting to ZetTrans and Shetland Islands Council.

Emma Perring, of ZetTrans, said there would be other chances to give feedback but they were keen to attract as many folk as possible to the Uyeasound meeting.

They have distributed posters and sent letters to folk in Unst and Fetlar. Sandwiches and tea will be provided. Anyone who cannot be there but who wishes to make their feelings known is welcome to contact ZetTrans on (01595) 744868 or e-mail

Back to Bouster

Back to Bouster is the name given to the project undertaken by the family and friends of the late “Peerie” Willie Johnson, to erect a permanent memorial to the world-renowned guitar player who died last year.

The preferred site is near to the ruins of the family home in Bouster at the Herra in Yell.

A concert, to raise funds, is to be staged in Lerwick Town Hall on Tuesday 12th August and it will be, as they say, an event of two halves. While Willie played with the very best of traditional musicians it is probably true to say that his first love was jazz.

The concert, therefore, will reflect both cultures and among the many outstanding musicians taking part will be Harris Playfair from the world of jazz and Lell Robertson from the Herra, a lifelong friend of Willie and turned 80 himself, a highly-respected traditional fiddle player.

Evelyn Leask, Willie’s sister, is at the forefront of the project and recently, with the permission of the landowner Robert Cunyngham-Brown, she and her husband Bill visited the site and the old house. It proved to be even more derelict, and smaller, than she remembered it and she found it hard to imagine how the family managed to live there.

While they were there it came on a heavy shower and they had to retreat to the car. When the rain stopped the sun came out to create the most beautiful double rainbow over the proposed site for the memorial. Mrs Leask says that she felt that Willie was with them when she remembered that Willie’s very favourite tune was Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Killer whale

All summer there have been regular sightings of a pod of killer whales cruising around the islands looking for food.

Another regular sighting is of a solitary animal, a bull. So regular is he, in his habits, that the ferrymen on Bluemull Sound look for him every Monday.

On different Mondays they have been very close to him giving passengers a wonderful sighting of this spectacular beast on the surface and sometimes jumping out of the water. Ferry master Tom Thomason has captured some of his antics on film as well as in still photographs.

Open day

As Isles Views reported last week, Sunday is the day when the Centre for Creative Industries has its open day.
More details of the attractions to enjoy are emerging. Cheryl Jamieson from Unst will be selling her glassware, Pauline Walsh will have textiles on display and for sale and Sarah Hoseason will bring her textiles. There will be refreshments available through the day.

On a personal note, it is 50 years today since I started my first full-time job and 10 years today since I “retired”.


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