Views from the Scord 27.02.09

Harbour news

It was a relatively quiet period for shipping movements in Scalloway Harbour in the week to Friday. The sharp of eye may have noticed the switch of the long-present Ronja Settler for her virtually identical sister ship the Ronja Skye on Friday as the former travels to Norway to dry dock. The Ronja Skye and the smaller well-boat Reflex continue to harvest salmon for the factories in Scalloway and Lerwick.

The 2,311gt coastguard rescue tug  Anglian Earl remained in harbour at the start of the week, venturing out for a number of hours on Wednesday, before leaving the harbour completely on Friday destined for Orkney.

The Fisheries Research Services vessel Alba na Mara spent the evening in port on Wednesday. The 27m ship was launched in 2008 as the replacement to the FRV Clupea, which gathered fisheries data for the FRS for 40 years and was well-known throughout Scottish waters. Her replacement has an astonishing array of capabilities and technical specifications, also being ranked as the biggest and most sophisticated ship built at the Macduff shipyards. The Alba na Mara  has the capability to fish single or twin rig trawls, pelagic or demersal trawls or even scallop dredges, as well as doing sampling and seabed survey work. She has both dry and wet laboratories aboard and has cabin space for five scientists aside from a crew of eight.

Salmon cage construction continues on the West Quay for Hjaltland Seafarms, while some other dramatic pier activity came from the re-stowing of the massive offshore anchor chains by heavy plant during the week. The chains, brought in from the Foinaven field after replacement, have been surveyed and some are destined for re-use on oilfields west or east of Shetland while others have been condemned.

The purpose of the re-stowing was to distinguish those for re-use and heap both sets up to reduce the pier area they occupy as the financial climate has apparently led to the longer term storage of the chains in Scalloway, rather than immediate re-use. Previously scrapped chains of this type have been cut up and found use locally as sinker weights for salmon cages and, weighing in at 118kg per link, they certainly fulfil that task.

Fishing vessel activity was fairly low during the week, with no landings last Monday and only the small vessel Meridian landing seven boxes on Tuesday. The rest of the week things picked up slightly with a further total of 876 boxes through the market from vessels the Athena, Fertile, Tranquility, Valhalla, Quiet Waters and Radiant Star with the highest single landing coming from the Quiet Waters with 194 boxes.

Farewell to Nell

Wednesday last week saw the funeral of Nell Duncan, aged 89 years, who was throughout her life a prominent participant in Scalloway village activities and one of the ever-decreasing group of Shetland people with firsthand experience of the legendary Shetland Bus operations from Scalloway.

Helen Sutherland Duncan, known to all as Nell, was born and grew up in Findochty in Banffshire as the fourth child of a family of seven.

At the outbreak of World War II she tried for a placement in the Wrens but worked in a munitions factory in England before Jack Moore, who was married to her sister Meg, put in a request to the Admiralty that she be transferred to work at the William Moore & Sons shipyard in Scalloway.

The success of this request placed her in an administrative role in the office of the shipyard, right at the hub of Shetland Bus operations. It was while working here that she met Cecil Duncan of Hamnavoe, whom she married after the war. The couple made their home in the area of Scalloway known to some as Wester Houl, living in the house entirely built by Cecil to the same high quality and exacting standards for which he was renowned as a marine engineer at the shipyard. Their garden, which was Nell’s pride and joy, was always maintained to a similarly pristine standard and drew many an admiring glance from passers-by throughout subsequent decades. Nell and Cecil raised their family there, while both still working at Moores’, with Nell also finishing knitwear garments for the Scalloway wool shop.

While not known to be particularly extrovert, Nell was a key social figure in the village throughout her life, helping out with Sunday school, being Tawny Owl with the Brownies and later in life serving as secretary for the Scalloway 50+ club and volunteering at the Scalloway Museum. She had an enduring enthusiasm for visitors to Scalloway and her knowledge of the history of Shetland Bus activities and the village in wartime and thereafter made her contribution to the museum highly valued. Over the years the return of Shetland Bus veterans to the village was always appreciated by Nell and she was a member of Shetland Bus Friendship Society.

A fit person throughout her life, Nell’s health began to decline in 2005 and she spent the last 18 months in the Walter & Joan Gray Eventide Home, sadly passing away last week.

The substantial turnout for her funeral was outstanding and reflected the standing of her and her family in village life over the past 60 years. She is survived by two brothers and a sister on the mainland, and by her sister Meg here in Scalloway. Both her daughters are currently living in Shetland.

The Shetland Bus operation that drew Nell to Shetland operated from Scalloway from 1942-45, originally a clandestine resistance and supply operation to and from occupied Norway, through which many souls were saved and some lost in the treacherous North Sea, escaping the German occupation force.

The vessels used initially were small fishing boats, barely suitable for winter night crossings, often in storm conditions, but considered the best camouflage for the operation. The vessels were repaired at the purpose built Prince Olaf Slipway at Wm Moore & Sons yard, with associated personnel billeted at the nearby Norway House and a number of Scalloway folk employed in these essential and crucial repairs.

Heavy losses during the early years nearly saw an end to Bus operations, but the donation of suitable sub-chaser vessels from the American Navy facilitated the continued operation from Scalloway. The slipway at Moore’s was extended to accommodate the larger vessels and the heroic cause persisted from there until the end of the war in 1945. All those involved in activities of the era have attracted commendation and respect for their efforts, not least through the visit to Scalloway of the Queen of Norway in 2007.

The work of Nell and Cecil Duncan and the many others who had parts to play in the shipyard operation were all an integral part of its continued success and the stories of them and others like them deserve preservation for future generations, as various local groups aspire to do.

Burra makkin night

The Burra History Group are having another of their popular makkin nights tonight in the Easthouse Centre, a chance to share an evening socialising with a cup of tea and a knitting project in the traditional manner. Anyone requiring transport should contact Adalene Fullerton on (01595) 859623 Another upcoming event for the group is an evening talk and slideshow of life at the whaling by Gibbie Fraser and Mitchell Arthur. This event will be held in the Bridge-End Hall on Friday 6th of March. Messrs Fraser and Arthur have done a series of these talks throughout Shetland and tailor each talk, and photographs used, to suit the region they are in at the time. This also means that no two talks will be the same and even those who have visited a previous event may find interest in one staged in a different locality.

Mark Burgess


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