Views from the Scord 12.12.08

Harbour news

FISHING once again dominated port activity in Scalloway in the week up to last Friday.

The Scalloway market was filled to capacity last Monday and landings remained good throughout the week from the Comrades, Fertile, Guardian Angell, Mizpah, Ocean Way, Radiant Star, Scotia, Venture, Alison Kaye, Sharyn Louise and Athena, amounting to 2,593 boxes by the weekend. Not all of the fish was landed directly to Scalloway with some of it being trucked down from Cullivoe.

The fishing boats Jenna Maree and Ocean Sovereign were once again in the harbour, returning from oil standby work west of Shetland midweek and to resume fishing after a break ashore. The Accord also landed on Sunday, returning to sea immediately after.

Conservation measures and their management were brought into focus again this week with the fishing boat Genesis calling in on Monday this week to make alterations to experimental nets being tested under scientific supervision.

Throughout this year a range of measures have been trialled through Scottish government funded Scottish Industry/Science partnerships, engaging vessels to trial fishing gear that allows greater selectivity of fish species to comply with European quota allocations.

The Fisheries Research Services of the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen have been at the forefront of this research, though the marked change in attitude to fishing is evident from the fact that vessel crews are now taking it upon themselves to develop nets that maximise their return from the fish they catch.

Net configuration that allows cod to escape is the “holy grail” of trawling under current restrictions. Experimental nets are tested with large-mesh panels placed in specific areas to use fish behaviour within the net and increase the possibility that small cod in particular can escape.

Pierhead discussions also reveal that vessels are making efforts to further improve the quality of the fish that they land to squeeze the highest financial return they can from their catch and as a result provide a higher quality product for the end consumer.

The combination of more effective, more responsible fishing and the yield of a better quality product present an optimistic and forward-thinking vision of the fishing industry at this time.

Other vessels in the harbour were mainly aquaculture related. Two feed barges were towed to sites in Vidlin and Mangaster at the beginning of the week while the coastal freighter Fame called with 110 tonnes of fish feed for the Scalloway store and the well boat Martin Saele put in her first appearance to the harbour after her recent change to local ownership, remaining alongside over the weekend.

The Anglian Sovereign came alongside for a crew change and supplies, as did the Grampian Frontier, and the regular well boat Ronja Settler continues to operate from Scalloway.

Despicable vandalism

Between late Thursday night and the small hours of Friday morning one or more individuals perpetrated a trail of seemingly random and meaningless vandalism along Westshore in Scalloway.

The main damage, described locally as “despicable”, was the destruction of the popular public bench overlooking the marina, often used by locals and visitors alike.

Even more unfathomable was the uprooting and disassembly of the nearby dog-waste bin, a peculiar focus for anti-social activity of this type.

In several areas between Port Arthur and Westshore there were also found to be areas of broken glass on the pavements, from bottles, and at the foot of Ladysmith Road the recently installed road safety mirror had been interfered with, though it is thought to be undamaged.

Elsewhere in the village, one of the lights illuminating Scalloway Castle was stolen in what may be have been an unrelated incident.

The future of the castle illumination has been subject of much debate for Scalloway Community Council in recent times after previous thefts, and this incident can only discourage future lighting installation unless it can be rendered more secure from theft.

A police spokesman said that, though the perpetrator(s) had not yet been identified, their enquiries were ongoing for both incidents. Anyone with any information at all should contact the Lerwick police station on (01595) 692110.

Thomas Fraser TV debut

The Thomas Fraser legacy is set to grow once more as the documentary on his life and work debuts in the Shetland Museum this weekend and on national television later next week.

As the legend of the man grows locally and further afield it is perhaps worthwhile reflecting on the influence he had on those around him and the context of the time in which he achieved widespread familiarity.

According to prominent local musician Robbie Cumming, in the era in which Thomas listened to, learned, played and distributed country music he was an innovator in no uncertain terms.

“At that time you could hear country music in Burra, but you wouldn’t have heard it in Scotland, or England,” Robbie says.

You might have heard it in parts of Ireland, as the American radio broadcasts that Thomas listened intently to were unknown or disregarded by most UK musicians.

While Thomas was a proponent of country music, his eclectic love of music also extended to bluegrass and jazz. The tapes for which he has become famous were largely made to order and as such were tailor-made to suit the tastes of the recipient, making him not only an evangelist of music but a producer and distributor, in modern terminology.

His wide ranging influence is such that it is hard to quantify but, once again to draw from Robbie’s recollections, a whole career of country music grew from his own contact with Thomas.

Thomas was instrumental in teaching Robbie, among others, Spanish-style guitar and country tunes as a departure from the steel guitar vamping he had previously learned to suit the more traditional music scene in Shetland at the time.

After leaving Shetland to gain a trade in Glasgow, Robbie’s knowledge and liking for country music grew beyond a hobby, forming bands with fellow Shetlanders and playing throughout central Scotland before returning home and continuing his musical calling to the present day.

So much was Thomas a part in this that Robbie was keen to obtain a replica of the Levin Goliath guitar that was associated with Thomas. When Jimmy Moon of Moon Guitars completed a distinctive commemorative piece Robbie was first in line to purchase a copy, which he now possesses with pride.

Jimmy Moon himself should not go unnoticed in this reflection either, in that his company makes guitars to order for major international artists all over the world, and yet he took the time to develop a replica of Thomas’ distinctive guitar to bring to this year’s festival.

Consensus of opinion clearly indicates that Thomas was both “ahead of his time” and changed the lives of those around him.

The television documentary premieres in the Shetland Museum tomorrow and Sunday afternoons with prior booking essential from (01595) 695057. The television screening is Friday 19th December at 10pm on BBC2.

Fishermen’s tales

It is without doubt that spending long hours on the high seas provides fishermen with many an unusual sight that eludes the landlubber or even the inshore boat user. But this week Kevin Inkster of the local fishing boat Fertile witnessed a sight the like of which he had never seen before.

While at the wheel, fishing the seine-net in the Burra Haaf, he couldn’t believe his eyes as a fully-grown cow, sitting high in the water, passed by the side of the boat, briefly getting caught under their rope before disappearing once again. The cow was fairly well inflated with internal gasses and obviously dead.

This incongruous sight prompted recollections of similarly bizarre sights at sea, one from Kevin being the appearance of a turtle while fishing aboard the Dauntless. It was a sight so rare and unexpected in these waters that he didn’t tell his crew-mates for fear of the likely disbelief and ribbing he would receive, but was later discovered to be a genuine sighting, confirmed by others.

The counter-story of skipper Jimmy Fullerton takes the (ship’s) biscuit as he recalls fishing off Gloup some years ago. On hauling their net they found a sheep among the catch, which alone may not be entirely surprising, but the subsequent tow and haul produced a sheepdog to follow the ewe. The crew at the time speculated in some apprehension that the next haul would perhaps reveal the crofter following the dog.

The origin of the cow remains unknown and it remains at sea, where it may pose a hazard to smaller vessels in the area.

Mark Burgess


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.