Isles Views 12.12.08

Muckle Flugga project

FOR anyone with an interest in lighthouses, and especially anyone with an interest in Muckle Flugga, last Tuesday was a wonderful occasion when Unst Heritage Trust hosted an evening in the Haroldswick Hall. Thousands of tourists visit Unst each year and every one of them wants to see Muckle Flugga. Save for the nearby Out Stack it is the most northerly scrap of land in the British Isles.

Although it is only a short distance off shore it is surprisingly difficult to see from anywhere near a road. This elusive quality adds to its appeal. It was made automatic almost 14 years ago and already there are many who do not know how the lighthouse worked or what the three lightkeepers did when they were on the rock.

Thanks to the work done by Unst Heritage Trust, folk who are interested in Muckle Flugga can now read about it and look at the scores of photos gathered by people like Alison Priest and Rhoda Hughson.

The two women and others have done a huge amount of work and given many hours of their own time to researching the history and the story of this most charismatic of lighthouses. They have obtained records that give the names of every lightkeeper who ever served at Muckle Flugga since building started in 1854.

After a welcome from trust chairwoman Irene Mouat, and a few tunes from the musicians who had gathered, Rhoda gave a PowerPoint presentation that very concisely told the story and what the lighthouse meant to Unst folk. At one point she broke off and invited an ex-lightkeeper to tell of the routine on the rock and how it was from the point of view of the men serving there.

The large audience was given the opportunity to examine the records, look at the photos and buy the calendar and book compiled for the occasion. After tea and biscuits there was more music. The trust had sponsored a tune competition – they had to be inspired by Muckle Flugga.

The winning entry, a three-part waltz, was composed by Jacqui Chiplin. It gives not only a sense of solidarity but a sense of movement and is called Safely By Your Light. Jacqui played it beautifully on her two row press and draw accordion, one of the highlights of a truly memorable evening.

For Unst Heritage Trust the job is not yet done, despite the incredible achievement to date. Alison modestly said: “I feel that I have just scratched the surface.”

Slideshow in Skerries

It is getting on for half a century since the Antarctic whaling ended for the many Shetlanders who went to the Southern Ocean to earn a living. Nonetheless the interest in this industry is still very much alive.

Tomorrow in the Skerries Hall there will be a slide show and an evening of remembering the whaling times. Ex-whalers Mitchell Arthur and Gibby Fraser will show the slides. Peter Sinclair from Urafirth is the main organiser and he will be one of the chefs as well.

He plans to make the Norwegian dish bacalao. Peter says that it is a kind of soup made with salt fish and a favourite meal on board whaling ships. This will be dished up at six o’clock, the slide show will start at seven and there will be a half time break for tea and cake and the selling of raffle tickets. The bar will be open for alternative refreshments.

Farmers’ market

The last farmers’ market of the year will be held in the Baltasound Hall this Sunday afternoon from 2.30 until 5pm. There is a winter break and the next market will be in March 2009.

This year the monthly markets have been under new management and craftwork has become a regular feature.

On this last market day the usual wide variety of local produce and crafts will be on sale, produce in the main hall and crafts in the library. This month, members of the local yoal club will provide the soup, sandwiches, teas and home bakes.

To book a table for this final market of the year phone Sarah McBurney on (01957) 711367 if you want to sell crafts and phone Anna Niven on (01957) 755245 for the produce sector. Anna would like to thank all who have supported the markets during the year, producers and tea makers, but especially the customers.

The plan of 1983

With Christmas fast approaching I got to wondering what was uppermost in the minds of North Isles folk at yule time 25 years ago.

Delving into the collection of Bluemull Triangles, the local magazine current at the time, a number of interesting issues emerged.

A series of public meetings had been held all through the North Isles to discuss the SIC’s North Isles Plan. Highlighted were concerns over the lack of employment opportunities, lack of housing, transport issues and the need for recreational facilities.

According to the Triangles it was the meeting in Fetlar that brought matters to a head. It was feared that, under the plan, as much as 70 per cent of Fetlar could become Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and the reaction to this was clear and concise.

A joint statement from the grazings committee and Fetlar Community Council declared the proposals to be totally unacceptable.

“Economic activity on the island is almost entirely agriculturally based,” the statement read. “This means that any proposal to restrain agriculture is a threat to the island’s viability – which might lead to depopulation.

“On the other hand, Fetlar provides an internationally recognised habitat for rare birds and plants. In the past crofting activity and birdlife have co-existed more or less in harmony. It must be possible for this situation to continue and it is essential that proposals to protect wildlife do not threaten the only economic activity on the island.”

I wonder, what happened to the plan?

More fancy tunes

The Fancy Tunes Essemble has got together again, this time to put on a show in St Colman’s Church in Burravoe. The show, tonight at 7pm, is entitled Baroque Christmas and they will play music by Bach, Scarlatti, Telemann, Pachelbel and Corelli.

The musicians are: Tara Payne (violin), Clare Stiles (clarinet), Meilo So (piano), Michelle Grant (clarinet), Brian Gregson (flute) Peter Blanker (guitar) and Peter Coates (cello). After the show everyone is invited next door to the school for tea/coffee and mince pies.

There is no admission charge but donations will be welcomed and any money collected on the night will go to the primary six and seven children from Burravoe, Mid Yell, Cullivoe, Baltasound and Fetlar who are going on a trip to Edinburgh next May.

This sight-seeing trip takes place every second year and the children themselves are active in fund-raising.

They do things like bag packing in the supermarkets in Lerwick.

Back to Springers

The back bar of the Baltasound Hotel has been given a brand new look and an old name. Since Sharn Swan and her brother Steven bought the hotel in spring they have been focused on making improvements.

Many a good time was enjoyed and many a joke was told in the “Back Bar” but it had become somewhat tired and careworn and greatly in need of a facelift. And this it has got. In fact you would hardly know the place.

A firm of builders from Wolverhampton, where the Swans used to live, was brought in and they have worked with great effect for the last four weeks. Sharn’s better half Vaun, a toolmaker by trade, worked with them. New bench seating has been fitted along the walls and tables with places for four or perhaps six folk at each.

On the floor in the bar area there are bright new tiles and the rest of the floor is carpeted. New, too, is the bar itself. The toilets have been stripped back and everything in them renewed. Regulars will still find the pool table in place and the dartboard will have its space on the wall.

Around 100 folk attended the opening night last Thursday and Sidney Scott was given the honour of cutting the ribbon. His father, Andrew, had opened the first bar, The Pony Inn, well over 40 years ago. There was a fireworks display and a raffle with prizes donated by Valhalla Brewery, Foord’s Chocolates and the hotel management.

Sharn says that she wants the new bar to be more family friendly, and, with a smile, “more female friendly”. They are to serve bar meals and they have given it the name Springers Bar, the name that many folk have always called the building.

The next project is to refurbish the lounge. Sharn said: “There is a lot that I would like to do but we can’t do it all at once, it is a case of doing what we can whenever funds are available.

Lawrence Tulloch


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