This week the focus shifts to one of Northmavine’s top sports – merry tiller racing. As things hot up for the annual Merry Tiller Grand Prix at the Big Bannock, North Roe, this weekend, we’ve managed to catch tiller driver ANDY STEPHEN during a rare training break. Many of the drivers this weekend are from the Williams stable (that’s Peter Williams) and we wish them luck with this highly dangerous, competitive event.
Andy Stephen in training for the big event.
Photo: Kerrie Craigie
My first taste of action was at . . . The Gilbert Bain Hospital on March 17th, 1982.
I mainly got into tiller racing because . . . My father said I had a natural tiller talent. I also saw Peter Sinclair racing. He had great form and I aspired to be as good as him.
A big influence was . . . Stuart o’ Stenness – aka Crazy Iron Horse. No-one has done as much as him for the sport. He’s shown what can be done with sheer determination.
As a youngster my sporting heroes were . . . Wrestlers Ultimate Warrior and Big Daddy; boxer Muhammed Ali; badminton players Lillias Ratter and John Scollay.
Currently I most admire . . . Footballers Adam Doull and Daniel Johnson of the Wrultizers; cricketer Liam Doull; carpet bowlers Martin Mowat and Willie Leask.
My best achievements are . . . Second place twice and third place three times in the Merry Tiller Grand Prix, a 100 metres swimming certificate and my cycling proficiency.
The best thing about tiller racing is . . . Sherry Chicane and Stout Island. Also the socialising and the camaraderie between tiller racers.
And the worst thing . . . The Islesburgh Fire Skeeters and when my brother, John, wears a costume too revealing for the race.
Adiding memories are . . . Not many . . . perhaps due to Sherry Chicane and Stout Island. I’ve never won a race but watching Peter Sinclair overtake me on the last corner is an abiding memory that will stay with me for ever.
A way of improving tiller racing would be . . . The introduction of an undercover synthetic kale yard to make all-year training a possibility.
This is the only way the sport can evolve and improve. The introduction of testing for anabolic steroids would also help as some competitors are improving too quickly for it to be natural.
My ambitions are to . . . Learn to sing . . . And maybe one day win the Merry Tiller Grand Prix.
My hobbies apart from tiller racing are . . . Playin wi me “snorie ben”; goin ta da craigs; playing the Nintendo Wii – the new virtual tiller racing is an excellent addition to Nintendo games; collecting Honda trikes; and very, very, very occasionally I have a tune on the guitar.
Musically I like to listen to . . . My dad singing Maggie or The Old Rugged Cross, Adam Johnson, Ryan and Ross Couper and of course dir dad Alex.
I like to read . . . The Shetland Times; Merry Tiller Monthly; Da Willie Sandison o’ da Snaabul in Nibon trilogy, Oor Willie and Da Broons.
And watch . . . Father Ted; Friends; Porridge; 2 and a Half Men.
The best films I have seen . . . The Shawshank Redemption; Naked Gun; A Fish Called Wanda; Blade 2 & 3; Die Hard 1 & 4; Lowrie Dines in Hillsook; and all the Big Bannock DVDs.
My favourite food and drink is . . . This is a tough one. A double king rib supper with six crab sticks – eenoo I have to up my calorie intake during training for the race – washed down with Vitamin T (Tennents lager) and Stewarts rum.
My favourite actors/actresses are . . . Chrissie Manson, Peerie Walter, Joe Robertson and Willie o’ Ayredale . . . in fact all of the Ronas Drama group and Tommy Lee Jones.
The best places I have visited are . . . Da Hilltop Bar in Yell; Da Pierhead in Voe; The Hillsook Hotel; Da Fort fish and chip shop in Lerook; and Da Cactus Bar in Vilnius, Lithuania.
If I could live anywhere in the world other than Shetland, it would be . . . Forvik Island.
My pet hates are . . . Queues in Da Fort Chip Shop; dockans; kecksies; and muckle stanes when I’m rotovating.
The living person I most admire is . . . Jimmy Tetley of Whalsay.
Because . . . He has the ability to sproot soe like no-one has done before.
The five people I would invite to my dream dinner party are . . .
Jimmy Tetley, Alex Couper, Jimmy Stewart, my girlfriend Kerrie Craigie and Murray Mayfield.
Anything to add . . . I am delighted to see there is a chip shop opening in Brae and I hope that lots of folk come to the Bannock this year and have a good time.