Isles Views 14.11.08

Unst Youth Centre re-opens

“IT STARTED with a fire and ended with a bang.” So says youth development worker Lesley Gray when speaking about the newly-refurbished Unst Youth Centre, the grand opening of which took place on Friday night. The centre has been closed since 1st February this year when a fire caused severe damage to the building.

Around 100 people, young and old, joined in the celebration. Baltasound Junior High School head teacher Andy Spence said a few words of thanks to the direct labour workers who have done a wonderful job putting the building back into working order, to the anti-social behavioural team and to the local community council for funding received to purchase new equipment.

Michael Thomson and Bryden Priest cut the ribbon sparking off a stampede into the main room.

This was followed by a fireworks display, thanks to the Unst Fire Brigade. Hot dogs and soup were served before the presentation of certificates by Minnie Mouatt and Robert Jamieson, directors of Initiative at the Edge which had received funding to allow youngsters to take part in life skill courses.

Young folk from Yell youth cafe and Unst senior clubs were awarded certificates in babysitting, first gear momentum and first aid.

Lesley said she would like to thank everyone who has helped out over the past months.

Success in Orkney

Last weekend Shetland badminton players joined competitors from Edinburgh, Caithness and Orkney in the Orkney Open Championships.

Yell players Graham Keith, Jason Jamieson and Graham’s daughter Stephanie enjoyed considerable success.

Stephanie, playing with a partner from Orkney, lost the first match but went on to win the plate for those who were knocked out in the first round.

Jason battled his way to the final of the men’s singles to come up against Caithness ace Mark MacKay. The match was very tight but MacKay edged it 21-19 in the final set.

In the men’s doubles Graham and Jason had to play four rounds to get to the final, which they won with something to spare. Graham said the semi-final was the really tough one to get through but he dismissed any suggestion that Jason pulled his “old uncle” out of the mire.

The Keith twins, Graham and Gordon, are now 47 years old and have a truly remarkable record in this and other tournaments. They first won the men’s doubles in the Orkney Open in 1996 and have more successes than they can recall.

Graham has been an inter-county player for 26 years and the weekend before last Gordon, in a senior competition (over-45s), won the Scottish Masters title in Glasgow. In the same event the twins were runners-up in the doubles.

Of the Orkney event Graham said he wanted to applaud the many juniors, especially from Orkney, who showed so much promise, and to the organisers and the Ayre Hotel for the fantastic reception in the evening.

Pilot Us trip for Robbie

Earlier this year Robbie Jamieson from Whalsay became the 100,000th visitor to the new Shetland Museum and Archives.

His prize was a day out, a fishing trip on the boat Pilot Us. Robbie greatly enjoyed the occasion on this fine old boat.

Julie returns to work

For the last year Julie Thomson (née Christie) has been absent from the North Isles Community Work Office. She has been away for the best of reasons – maternity leave. From now until the end of February she will work two days only each week.

While Julie was at home the post has been in the capable hands of Robert Thomson from Sellafirth. To ensure continuity he will work along with Julie until she takes over full time again. Robert’s contract expires then and he says that he has enjoyed, very much, his time in the job.

Robert modestly expressed the hope that he had made a positive contribution to communities in the North Isles and he thanks his colleagues, Colleen Thomson and Lesley Gray for “putting up” with him in the office.

Community workers in the North Isles have special responsibilities for Fetlar. It has been well publicised that Fetlar is suffering an acute depopulation problem so Robert has spent a great deal of his time in Fetlar.

Last summer a cafe was set up in the hall, a development group was formed and the Hnefatafl World Championships were held under the guidance of grand master Peter Kelly.

Musical theatre

Some considerable time ago Brian Gregson had the idea that it would be good to stage a musical theatre piece. In time he shared his thoughts with Andy Ross and together they have decided that they would like to take the idea forward.

The eventual aim is to create a piece, in the North Isles, for mid-2010 and they invite input from the community. So, do you have an idea about life in Shetland that you think could be made into a musical theatre piece?

Please send in your ideas in a poem, story, cartoon, drawing or any other format by 30th November. Submissions will be looked at before Christmas and the chosen idea will be used.

Entries should be sent to or by post to 4 Sellafirth Business Park, Sellafirth, Yell, ZE2 9DG.

November birthdays

Some of the most senior citizens of the North Isles have milestone birthdays this month.

Captain Andrew Anderson of Cullivoe celebrated his 91st birthday on Tuesday and Helen Jamieson of Gossabrough was 101 yesterday. Helen is spending the winter in Isleshaven Care Centre in Mid Yell.

Vivienne Rendall has brought it to my attention that Barbara Garrock of Burravoe will reach the grand old age of 90 on the 26th of this month. Mrs Rendall was aware that her husband, Colin, had relatives in Shetland and they homed in on Barbara who is a third cousin.

For the next 17 years the Rendalls visited Shetland every summer and stayed with Barbara and her husband Andrew. Sadly Andrew passed away in 1983 but the strong connection remains.

The Rendalls’ daughter is Robina Barton who works for Shetland Amenity Trust as an archaeologist and she is well known in the North Isles for her work with the Viking Unst Project.

Nowadays Barbara is quite frail and her eyesight is failing, but she has a long and eventful life to look back on.

She studied French at Edinburgh University and spent most of her working life as a teacher, mostly in Burravoe, but occasionally in Mid Yell. She is still great company with a huge sense of humour and hundreds of stories and anecdotes.

We send our very best wishes to Andrew, Helen, Barbara and all the folk who have lived into old age and have birthdays at this time.

Shetland night at The Wind Dog

Last month the Wind Dog Cafe held a highly successful segment of the Shetland Food Festival.

So much so that they have decided to build on this and hold a Shetland Night on Wednesday 19th November.

The menu includes quality local fare such as tattie soup and bannocks, fried haddock, mussels and much, much more. The entertainment will be by the Cullivoe Fiddlers and some storytelling by Lawrence Tulloch.

Art exhibition

A large and varied art exhibition by Yell artist Mike McDonnell is to be seen in Da Gadderie at Shetland Museum and Archives.

Dr McDonnell uses a wide variety of materials but driftwood is well to the fore. Also used are old saw blades, other tools and other bits and pieces.

The exhibition, as a whole, is something of a comment on contemporary life in Shetland. Some pieces make clear political statements, others are satirical and witty but a strong thread of humour runs all the way through.

It is colourful and eye catching and one circuit of the exhibition space is not enough to appreciate and take in all that is on show. Since he retired as Yell’s GP after 25 years service Mike has devoted a great deal of his time to his beloved artwork.

The late James Byrne

With the death of James Byrne the world of traditional fiddling has lost a giant.

James was born in Glencollumcille and seldom ventured outside the boundaries of County Donegal, Ireland.

Nonetheless he was well known to Shetland fiddlers like Aly Bain, Steven Spence, John Robert Deyell, Bryan Gear and others who have taken part in musical gatherings in Donegal, especially the Glentes weekend each year in October.

More often than not James played without any backing, solo in the true traditional style of the area. He had a wealth of stories to tell about the fiddlers of yesteryear that he learned tunes from, men like the great John Doherty and the Cassidys – Johnny, Frank and Con.

A strict teetotaller, James was always a gentleman, always friendly, always modest and he was once described as “the best fiddler in Ireland”. He was 62.

Lawrence Tulloch


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