Past Life: Foula Diary

From Shetland Life, March 1984, No.41

by Sheila Gear


This is one of my favourite times of the year. I feel like a jack-in-the-box whose lid has suddenly been lifted up and I jump right up into the unexpected light. My big wheel has turned and is on the way up again. The island is beautiful at this time of year. Suddenly the sky is limitless and the isle a mere speck floating away out in the middle of the ocean. The hard sombre colours of mid winter are softened with haze, tinting the land with palest amethyst and gold – an exclusive colour which cannot be captured with camera or paints.

The 2nd, Candlemas day by the new calendar, was quite fine. “If Candlemas day be bright and fair, half the winter’s to come and mair”, goes the old saying so I think we will go by the old calendar and see what the 14th offers. Having two calendars has its advantages!

The 6th brought a sudden day of snow – big white flakes which quickly covered the isle in white. We had an unexpected visitor in the garden that day. Fluttering amongst the snow-covered bushes was a male bullfinch, a vivid shocking pink, as if my late rose had suddenly returned in spirit. The snow prevented the school bairns from returning to Lerwick after the weekend and they did not get back until Wednesday evening, but the weather soon improved again.

On the 9th the first flower of spring came out in my garden, a single fragile snowdrop, and Francie spotted two Canada geese on the South Ness. After this the weather continued mild, tempting the first blackbird to sing on the 10th and by the 13th a small flock of larks had returned and a number of purple and white crocuses brightened up the more sheltered parts of the garden. We were able to start building on the new house again and managed to get it all up to lintel height. There is not much more we will be able to do to it until May as the winds are too bad here to build up the gables until then.

On the 16th the plane came in with SIC officials and our Councillor, Captain Gordon Walterson, for a public meeting about pier improvements, which had been postponed several times already this winter because of the weather. All that remains is to convince the Scottish Home Office, which will not be so easy as no doubt they know little of Foula and care less. What a pity they couldn’t be persuaded to take a trip across on the mailboat in winter. After an hour or so, I am sure they would have different thoughts on the matter.


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