Views from the Scord 10.10.08

Harbour news

THERE were limited movements in Scalloway Harbour in the week up to Friday.

The Lowestoft-registered survey vessel Ocean Observer came to port to seek shelter and lay in for several days. The 2,820grt vessel is said to be surveying around the Solan Field, west of Shetland. This substantial oil field is under extensive investigation and is deemed as commercially viable. It is expected to begin production in 2010.

The Anglian Sovereign also called in for shelter at the weekend.

Fishing activity was low at the market with five boats landing a total of 837 boxes. The Guardian Angell, Prevail, Radiant Star, Tranquility and the NAFC Marine Centre vessel Atlantia contributed to this total.

Line caught mackerel landings were still good with a variety of small craft landing a total of 92 boxes in the week to Friday.

Community council

The Burra and Trondra Community Council met on Monday this week, having a relatively short meeting with no new items to add to the agenda. The majority of business related to responses to previous communications made to the SIC on a variety of matters.

Discussion was also held on the subject of presentations made to long-serving members. Charlie Laurenson, Tom Smith, John Lucock and Michael Goodlad were honoured for serving 29, 25, 23 and 17 years accordingly and gifted beautiful stained glass lamps made by Harry Tait of Trondra.

Harry, who lives in Trondra but is originally from Burra, was thought a particularly appropriate craftsman for the manufacture of the gifts.

The issue of speeding through Trondra, particularly on the new section of road that has been likened to a runway, was once again discussed with a report back from the Northern Constabulary that a few drivers had been caught speeding during their observations of the road.

The salient point in the matter seems to be that rather than the stereotypical “boy racers” or youngsters being the worst offenders here it is very much an issue involving all age groups and, notably, workers leaving Burra in the mornings are regularly flouting the law.

A fond farewell

Burra, and perhaps Shetland as a whole, are bidding a fond farewell to two prominent members of the community this month as they depart for pastures new.

Tom and Mary Smith of Toogs have been integral parts of the Burra community for over 30 years and both have, through their commitment to their work and home lives, left a substantial positive impression on the area and will be sorely missed. Their level of involvement in community life is reflected in the gestures made by locals to wish them well on their onward journey.

The weekend before last a surprise party was staged for them in the Bridge-End Outdoor Centre, perfectly orchestrated to remain a genuine surprise for them by being masked as the relocation of a meeting that Tom himself had organised.

Over 60 locals lay in wait for an evening of socialising, reminiscences and plentiful soup and bannocks. During the evening presentations, including two aerial photographs of their home area in Burra, were made on behalf of the community.

A specially written lightsome song was performed by Bobby Hunter and Mike Hannah, in the spirit and melody of a regular panto song, in reference to Tom’s involvement in local amateur dramatics.

Last weekend a second event was staged by the Shetland canoe club in honour of Tom’s longstanding membership and input to the club, also in the outdoor centre.

Arriving in Shetland with Mary in 1976, Tom worked as a community worker initially, moving to their current home in Burra in 1979. Upon settling in Burra, Tom soon became actively involved in the community as attendance at a meeting about the Bridge-End Hall ended with him finding himself Treasurer for the hall, which he describes as “a great introduction to the community”.

Socially, he was an integral part of the Burra players amateur dramatic group, appearing throughout its long history until it disbanded three years ago, often as either “the baddy or pompous old fool parts” as he jovially describes them.

His involvement with them began way back in 1986 as he attended a meeting about the group, intending to offer his services to the technical aspects of a production, but leaving with the role of the giant in the very first panto they performed.

Perhaps his most enduring project and that which he is most happy and proud of is the outdoor centre, a long-standing and still growing success story.

In 1983 the vacant property had been suggested as possible accommodation in the form of flats by the SIC. But given the unique location and aspect of the building, Tom foresaw it as having more widespread benefits and proposed the idea of the outdoor centre through the community council. This idea was embraced by all concerned and has been successful ever since, now having a committee of organisers and taking into its business the marina located alongside the building.

Workwise, Tom has been involved with such notable businesses as Schlumberger, Island Electronics and Televiradio. His most recent business running sea kayak tours over the last five summers has been the commercialisation of one of Tom’s greatest loves of Shetland and one of the factors that drew him here originally.

He has also co-written a book on the subject with Chris Jex of Orkney entitled The Northern Isles – Orkney and Shetland Sea Kayaking which is critically acclaimed in its field.

Mary, meanwhile, is in no ways overshadowed by her spouse in her activities and profession. Prominent in the SWRI and as a teacher at Hamnavoe primary school for 13 years before gaining the headship of Lunnasting Primary School and lead it to gaining the status of eco-school, the first in Scotland with that title.

She travelled to South Africa with a pupil to represent the whole of Scotland for a related event and later also hosted the arrival of The Beechgrove Garden television programme to the school and its garden. She was active with the Girl Guides movement too.

Additionally, they were both involved in the local youth clubs for a time until their own children outgrew the participation of them.

They leave Shetland to be nearer their two daughters and four grandchildren, moving to the village of Kinnesswood, in Kinross, on the shores of Loch Leven, but already have plans to return here for two months next summer to continue the kayaking business.

Purchase of a camper van assists in their intention to “return here as tourists”, though it is unlikely that they would ever be regarded as anything but local.

Tom said: “We’ve always felt a part of the place, that’s why we’ve stayed here so long. We’ll miss the community and having such easy access to the sea and we’ll miss the weather, especially after this summer.”

Mary added that they will miss “the fact that wherever you go in Shetland you’ll always know somebody”.

They both emphasise how they will miss their home in Burra, their garden and in particular their good neighbours of such a long and happy time here.

FutureChef competition

Rachel Smith, a pupil at Scalloway Junior High School, was the winner of the school heat of FutureChef last Thursday.

She impressed the judges, Shetland College hospitality lecturer Glynn Wright and head teacher Joyce Gear, with her high standard of cooking and presentation skills. Rachel now goes on to compete in the Shetland local heat later on in the year.

Mr Wright complimented the runners-up, Vanessa Jamieson and Shannon Thomason, on the quality of their entries and noted how pleased he was to see young people taking an interest in cooking.

The competition was organised in school by home economics teacher Moira Dobson, who last year saw her school finalist come third in the Scottish heats held in Inverness.

Scalloway school fund-raising

Pupils in secondary two undertook to organise fund-raising as part of the council’s Purple Friday event, when departments were asked to encourage their staff and pupils to wear something purple to work or school and donate £1 to CLAN 1,2,3.

Not only did secondary two pupils persuade staff and fellow pupils to dress in purple, they extended their fund-raising to include face painting, raffles, lucky dip, beat the goalie, pool competition, tombola and a variety of guessing games. During the morning pupils and staff spent their money generously as they took part in these activities.

One of the stars of the fundraising was Sid, a large handsome white gorilla, donated by one of the teachers and who, after touring the school, was later won by a primary pupil who guessed his birthday correctly.

The magnificent sum of £605.52 was raised and will be presented to the CLAN 1,2,3 fundraising committee by the pupils later this month.

Sunday teas

The Sunday Teas held last week in the Bridge-End hall raised a total of over £330 In the afternoon it was so busy they had to provide extra tables to cope with demand. The funds will go toward the annual bairns’ Christmas party in the hall.

Passport advice

A cautionary tale for those who apply for new passports, drawing from the recent experience of a Scalloway woman.

As a new requirement, some applicants must face an interview at a designated centre when applying for a passport. Initial investigation of this matter reveals that the nearest centre to here is in Wick, with the more economical second option apparently being travel to Aberdeen instead, which can only be regarded as a totally unacceptable situation for all Shetlanders.

In the case that prompts this advice to be delivered, the applicant was unable to travel to Aberdeen within the allocated time period due to family commitments and stood to lose the £72 fee for a first-time adult passport application as a result.

This situation was exacerbated by a failing in the advice given by a passport call centre operative, who merely granted a seven day extension to the period, with no refund or further deference despite the unalterable circumstance that prevented the applicant from travelling.

However, the truth of the matter is that remote communities such as Shetland are allowed remote interviews which are currently held in Market House at Market Street in Lerwick. This information was not easily gleaned by the Scalloway applicant, despite explaining the nature of her case, and she received no humility or compromise from the passport office operative.

To ensure every chance of receiving correct information on this matter applicants are advised to contact the dedicated passport interview phone number (0300 222 1000) rather than any of the other passport information numbers.

On a plea for assistance by the Scalloway applicant, isles MP Alistair Carmichael was made aware of the unacceptable misinformation given out by the erroneous call centre and has taken it upon himself to ensure the matter is sorted out once and for all, drawing much gratitude from the woman whose plight brought this matter to light.

If you or anyone you know are advised that you must travel to Aberdeen for a passport application interview, seek further advice from the above number or contact Mr Carmichael to address the situation for you.

Thomas Fraser festival update

The Saturday night of the guitar festival sold out within 24 hours of tickets being released, but there are still tickets available for the Thursday and Friday concerts.

Mark Burgess


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