Isles Views 20.03.09

Harbour nears completion

Work on the Uyeasound harbour development started one year ago. Tulloch Developments was awarded the contract and the job has progressed smoothly ever since. The well-known piers and dock at the Westside are still there; they have character and charm but are entirely unsuited to the requirements of modern day fish farmers.

It has, therefore, long been the ambition of the south Unst folk to have a proper harbour that is adequate for present day needs. Many years ago the Uyeasound Waterfront Trust was set up to campaign. The long serving and current chairman of the Trust is George Jamieson. He has been a driving force throughout.

The new development is nowhere near the old piers and dock. It is on the east side and has gradually taken shape in the last 12 months. Mr Jamieson is delighted to report that the completion date is near and the opening ceremony is to be held on Saturday 25th April. With a very broad smile he said: “Der’s goin tae be a foy as weel.”

Whalsay spinning group

Last winter in Whalsay a few women attended a class to learn how to spin. The class tutor was Ina Irvine, who has been a spinner for about 25 years. They gathered once a week in the Whalsay History Group building. The class was very successful and Ina managed to get them all spinning, even though some of the yarn was “a bit textured”.

This winter they decided that they would all like to gather again and carry on, as a group, with the spinning, so, once more they hired the History Group building for eight weeks. Most members of the group have managed to produce very respectable hanks of yarn and also produce some interesting hand-knits from the end result.

There are only two nights left of this winter’s session but they hope to resume again next winter. They would like to encourage anyone who has an interest in hand spinning to come along and join the group. It is not necessary to own a spinning wheel because the group has access to some spare ones. As well as learning to spin, Linda Shearer says that it is a very enjoyable and sociable night out.

Alexa is back

French student Alexa Fitzgibbon has made a welcome return visit to Shetland. Her subject is social anthropology. When she was here two years ago she was working towards her Masters degree, studying the relationship between the living and the dead. This time she is looking closely at the Shetland identity and the part that religion plays in the life and times of Shetlanders.

Alexa is from the south of France, near Nice, and her place of learning is the University of Aix en Provence. She is one of a team of nine researchers on religion. She is now in her seventh year at university and hopes, if all goes well, to finish in two more years.

When asked why Shetland, a dazzling smile came to her face. Her tutor has studied In Iceland and Faroe so Alexa wanted to do a Nordic place as well. It came down to a choice between Shetland, Orkney or the Western Isles. She chose us, partly because of advice given by Dr Terry Gunnell in Iceland, and she spent a month in London reading all the books she could find there about Shetland.

She has found that here, in terms of identity, Shetlanders know who they are more than most other people. Even the old deserted houses form a bridge between generations and, from an early age, folk learn something about their genealogy. She also wants to find out about the relationship between Viking and British cultures.

Miss Fitzgibbon’s own genealogy is interesting to say the least. Fitzgibbon is hardly a French name. Her father, Joseph, was born in Liverpool but his forebears left Ireland during the potato famine in the middle of the 19th century. He has lived in France for 30 years.

On her mother’s side Alexa’s grandfather was French but her grandmother was Polish. They met in Germany during World War II when they were captive and forced to work in a labour camp. However the Irish connection is strong and her father is mighty pleased that Alexa was born on St Patrick’s Day.

So on the 17th she celebrated her 25th birthday. Alexa spent the last three months of 2006 in Yell and she will spend a big slice of this year here as well. This quiet and unassuming girl is perfectly bi-lingual. She and her father speak what they call “Frenglish”.

When she has time off, at home, she likes nothing better than walking and skiing in the Alps and has, more recently, taken up scuba diving. Alexa has made a multitude of friends in the North Isles. To know her is to like her, we all wish her well in her studies and with her indifferent health.

Sports certificates

At the Whalsay School recently S4 pupils were presented with certificates and medals recognising that they have achieved Sports Leader UK Level 1 Awards. Active Schools Tutor James Johnston made the presentations.

In order to qualify for the award S4 spent Friday mornings meeting with Mr Johnston, practising various skills, culminating in them taking the lead in running a sports event for Primary 3, 4 and 5. As Mr Johnston explained at the presentation assembly, this is a great achievement for S4 and it will provide them with “many lifetime skills that will be valuable in the future”.

Aywick Cancer Research shop

All existing volunteers of the Aywick Cancer Research UK Shop are invited to a meeting on Tuesday 26th March at 7pm in the shop. Manageress Penny Williams says that they are always looking for new volunteers and she can be contacted any Monday or Wednesday afternoon at the shop on (01957) 702410 or at home on (01957) 702165.

At the moment they have a good selection of knitting and cross-stitch hardback books for sale in the shop. They should be of great interest to fans of those crafts. “Please come along and have a browse”, says Penny. The shop is open on Thursday and Saturday afternoons between 1 and 5pm.

YUF theatre

The Yell, Unst and Fetlar theatre part of the Yell Youth Cafe will be performing in the Mid Yell Hall tonight and tomorrow night. The play to be performed is Blackout by Davey Anderson and it is directed by John Haswell.

This is described as a major theatre event. It is part of the New Connections, the celebration of youth theatre organised by the National Theatre. Every year the National commissions leading contemporary playwrights to create a piece specifically for youth groups. Participating groups perform those in their home communities and in regional showcases.

Blackout has been created from interviews between the playwright and a young offender in Glasgow. Using many different techniques it tells the young man’s view of his own journey that leads him to being charged with attempted murder. It is a short, hard-hitting play that raises deep questions about society.

This is a joint venture with the Shetland Youth Theatre from Lerwick who will make up the 37 strong cast. Youth worker Lesley Gray says that the show is only suitable for a teenage/adult audience. She praises the play.

“Although the show is based around the experiences of one young man, there are many resonances with the lives of all young people. It is just right piece to stimulate discussion between young people and it is wonderful that the groups could combine for this production. The play demands that before we rush in with condemnation, the rest of us question the world that is our legacy to the young.”

The show lasts just over 20 minutes and there are two performances each night at 7.30pm and 8.15pm. Admission is free but there will be a collection box, which, it is hoped, will help with the cost of the trip to Edinburgh when YUF will perform in the Lyceum theatre in June. On Friday there will be fish and chips on offer in the hall from 4.30pm until 6pm. This will be a fundraiser for the Yell Youth Cafe and everyone is welcome.

Lawrence Tulloch


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