By RYAN TAYLOR
GREY skies and rain showers were forecast from the beginning, but no-one was expecting last Saturday’s Walls Show to become the setting for a winter wonderland.
In the end, though, that is exactly what it did – although the festive atmosphere was not the result of plummeting temperatures and snow-capped scenes.
Instead, it was down to a bus-load of guitar-strumming Santas to provide the incongruous Christmas scene.
The collection of St Nics – mostly made up of staff from the Clickimin Centre – had found a novel way to celebrate one of their party’s birthday, by donning red suits and beards before arriving at the show.
While it was perhaps unlikely they were there to appreciate the prime beasts farmers and crofters had taken with them to the show, there was no denying the fine quality of the livestock in the pens.
Billy Garrick, of Norby, Sandness, certainly got a surprise when his Charolais calf was judged the supreme beef champion for the day.
He said he was glad to see a good number of entries after a lull in recent years.
“I’m fairly pleased with it,” Mr Garrick said. “I’m very surprised. It’s always a chance you have when you come here.
“I’m glad to see the kye numbers up. There has been a year or two that there hasn’t been so many here, but there is more interest now.
“There have been lots of things that have dampened down spirits, but it seems to have gone fairly well this year. Most things are of a pretty good standard.”
Judging the cattle was Shetland North councillor Addie Doull.
He said while the standard of entries had been good, the numbers were disappointing.
“It demonstrates the amount of time and dedication that folk have to put in to enter stuff for the show,” he said.
“There is a lot of preparation and a lot of commitment.”
Kye were not the only beasts to impress the judges, however.
Such was the size of Laurie Manson’s supreme sheep champion, it was easy from a distance to assume the Suffolk ewe was a tup.
Bought from the Davishill flock in Aberdeenshire, the ewe is no stranger to rosettes, having been the supreme sheep at Walls two years ago.
“It’s her size and shape that made her stand out,” Mr Manson said. “She is a very big ewe.”
Despite that, her owner was still surprised when she won the top prize for sheep.
“The standard of the sheep in general has really been very high,” he said. “I didn’t hold up much hope of winning it with the quality of the other competitors. Surely the judge likes big Suffolks so this ewe fitted the bill.”
The impressive ewe has been a worthwhile investment for Mr Manson, who had a gimmer lamb from her that won at the Unst Show recently. But the prized Suffolk is bowing out of the limelight from now on.
“She’ll be retiring now, but hopefully her gimmer will be here another year as a ewe,” Mr Manson said.
Not all the plaudits for sheep fell to Mr Manson, however.
He was given a close run for his money by six-year-old Skeld lass Nicola Robertson.
Her father Chris helped the Skeld school pupil enter the cheviot gimmer, which came out as reserved supreme champion.
That, together with the prize-winning pet pony entered with sister Emma, certainly made Nicola’s day at the show one to remember.
Jim Nicolson, from Lonabrek, Aith, was “very pleased” to have come out with the best Shetland ram.
The secretary of the Shetland flock book trust, and owner of some 200 sheep, agreed the standard of the competition had been high.
“I was very pleased because the standard I was competing against was very good,” he said.
In the ponies section Jackie Syme, of Netherdale in Walls, picked up the prize for overall champion with her stallion Skalberg Archibald.
The overall prize for poultry went to Magnie Manson, 17, of Skeld for his cross-breed hen.
He said winning the prize had come as “quite a shock” as he was not expecting to get a rosette.
The day was not just about animals, however. A host of handicrafts, needlework, home bakes and garden veg were also given pride of place to keep crowds enthralled.
Ruby Gray, of Anchorlea in Skeld, won the trophy for the best flower arrangement.
She said the time and effort required to make her arrangements a success were worth it for the end result.
“It is time consuming. With garden flowers you never can be sure of what will be available, so you just have to make the best of what you get,” she said.
Chrissie Sinclair won first prize for her garden produce.
Amateur photographer Kevin Smith won a competition for his scenery photograph, which showed windmills from Reawick beach.
But it was down to the artwork and creativity of Dawn, Edward and Patrick Nicolson, to really capture the imagination.
Their efforts helped create the best scarecrow which took pride of place outside the Walls church.