Views from the Scord 03.04.09

Lost at sea

This Sunday there will be a centenary graveside service to mark the tragic drowning of Burra man William Laurence Leask on April 5th 1909. William was sailing home with supplies from Scalloway to Hamnavoe when his boat was lost, one of three such maritime losses in a short period for the local community around that time.

William was by all accounts a skilled boatman and fisherman and by the testimony of a neighbour of the time, “A man of integrity and temperate habits”. On the fateful evening upon which he was lost, his and another vessel had parted company at Port Arthur, as the other boat turned for Burwick, with a cheerful “Good night”. He was later passed near Brunnaness by another vessel bound for Oxna. The Oxna men waved in passing and that was the last time William was seen alive, for shortly later they looked astern and could see no sign of the small, heavily-laden boat and back-tracked to find only an oar and a scoop afloat on the surface where William was lost. His body was recovered by local men searching for him the following day.

The service has been organised by William’s only surviving grandson, Winston Leask, who has travelled home from the mainland where he and his family now live. The brief service will also be attended by the superintendent of the RNMDSF and the hymns will be accompanied by William’s great great granddaughter on the fiddle. Attendees are then invited back to the Burra History Group’s centre at Easthouse, where tea will be served.

The service carries an open invitation to all descendant family and associated friends of the late William, of which there are many.

The greater context into which this service falls is one of remembrance of an era in which many lives were tragically lost at sea and the close-knit community from whence they came was devastated again and again. In only four years a dreadful total of seven able-bodied fishermen were lost from the Burra community in three separate accidents at sea. In September 1907 four men were lost off Setter, then in 1909 came the loss of William, followed in December 1911 by the loss of a further two men when the Matchless sank off Easter Dale.

The effect of such losses from a small community would be devastating today, but in the era in which they died the level of impact upon their many family and friends is near inconceivable. William alone left a wife and five children, one of them unborn, to struggle to fend for themselves in an age where life was already hard.

There were no state benefits or social housing at the turn of the last century and the loss of family breadwinners was a sentence to hardship for years to come for their families. It is also a glimpse back in time to the age where people were undoubtedly hardy but life was itself fragile and where the Scalloway isles were permanently occupied and the main means of goods transport for all Shetlanders was by sea, all year round. A far cry from the luxurious roads, housing and state support we enjoy in this age, only a couple of generations later.

The service on Sunday to commemorate those lost at sea will take place at the Papil Kirkyard, Burra, commencing at 2.30pm.

Harbour news

A busy week for Scalloway Harbour with prosperous fish landings accompanied by some welcome larger vessel movements through the port.

The salmon carrying well-boat Ronja Settler continues to be busy, perhaps busier of late, as she harvests fish for the factory at Blacksness from sites further afield as most of the salmon sites off Scalloway have been cleared and production activity moved elsewhere while the restrictions relating to the recent ISA outbreak continue to be upheld.

The standby vessel VOS Protector was in Scalloway on Wednesday. The 673 gross tonne, Montrose-registered vessel was in port for a crew change and supplies. Also on Wednesday the feed barge FB26 was towed into port to be overhauled at the Malakoff-owned Moore’s slipway.

The regular visitor and standby vessel Grampian Frontier came alongside on Thursday for crew change and supplies, as did the 680 gross tonne, Montrose-registered standby vessel Viking Defender on Friday.

Fish landings in the week to Friday came from the vessels Comrades, Defiant, Devotion, Discovery, Alison Kay, Radiant Star, Fertile, Mizpah, Prevail, Valhalla, Venture and Quiet Waters. The total for the week was a healthy 1,923 boxes with the highest single landing coming from the Alison Kay with 301 boxes.

Hamnavoe School

Primary seven pupils at the Hamnavoe school have been using the internet to further their mathematical studies in recent weeks. The focus of their studies has been a highly reviewed website said to be used by over 40,000 students every day from around the world; it is even said to be used by over 2,000 teachers to benefit their own children at home. This technology provides motivational study of maths for all learners with tailor-made activities also producing results that allow teachers to monitor the children’s progress and modify and personalise work to suit a child’s individual needs.

The success of this internet utility as an aid to learning has been such that headmistress Tina Johnson intends to extend the use of it throughout the school.

To celebrate World Book Day earlier this month the children of Primary 1, 2 and 3 had written and illustrated their own animal adventure books. They also combined forces to write and illustrate a class book, towards which they have all contributed. The activity of creating these books was enough to inspire pupils to even write their own books at home, to great result.

Comic Relief fund raising efforts at the school were marked with many of the school pupils attending in fancy dress, including Primaries 6 and 7 all coming to school in their pyjamas with suitable “messed up” hair. The participating children contributed towards the charity and a total of £47.20 was raised.

Other recent activities include hosting a health day, in partnership with Bressay Primary School, during which pupils of all classes learned about and made healthy food, held workshops including a laughter workshop, co-operative games, emotional health, fitness education and more, ensuring that all aspects of health and wellbeing were catered for in a fun and memorable way. The school also invited Sandra Bruce of the Shearing Shed to give a talk on hair care and general healthy living, especially how to avoid sunburn, in preparation for an eagerly anticipated hot summer.

Up and coming events include a participation in the Voar Redd Up on April the 17th and an open music concert on the 20th of April, starting at 2pm.

Hamnavoe Marina

The long-awaited Hamnavoe Marina will be officially opened this weekend in a ceremony to be held at the marina. For the opening the marinas users’ boats will ceremoniously sail into their berths and the evening will continue at the public hall with the prospect of “open-mike” music and soup and sandwiches laid on. The celebrations begin at 7pm at the marina.

Bridge-End outdoor centre

The Bridge-End outdoor centre is to be re-launched later this month after an extensive spruce-up and overhaul. The centre, which has been operating for almost 25 years, has been re-decorated throughout, with new furniture, bedding and facilities provided. Continuing this impetus the centre’s committee are seeking and pursuing a whole range of new ideas for the centre, some of which are aimed toward developing the location as a more formalised camping centre, to complement the existing facility.

The centre is used by many local and visiting groups, aimed toward educational activities with a broad ranging scope within that title.

It is currently the summer home of the Shetland Canoe Club for their outdoor training sessions; it is also used by school, youth and church groups among others at different times.

The re-launch event will be held on the 18th of this month and is open to all-comers, with soup, sandwiches, teas, coffees and music laid on. The committee are keen to further promote the centre and to hear from any and all with ideas for its future use and diversification.

Water works

Residents in the Kirkpark cul-de-sac in Scalloway can expect a greatly improved water supply as of this week. The road works that have obstructed the area for a short period recently were to replace the water main for the area, one of only a few remaining old mains supplies in Scalloway that have, until now, still generated complaints about water colour and pressure. The replacement of this main is said to be a part of Scottish Water’s ongoing programme of refurbishment and replacement in the village.

Gala Princess announced

The results of the vote to find a Gala Princess and attendants for the Scalloway Gala 2009 were finalised this week. This year’s Gala Princess will be 11-year-old Aleisha Devine, with attendants Holly Smith and Leigh Nicolson, who are both aged eight. All three attend Scalloway Junior High School. The voting was held at a special disco in the Scalloway Legion last weekend, which was well attended and the first event of its type for Scalloway. All three agree that they “can’t wait” for the Gala, Aleisha stating she was “really excited”, at being chosen. Leigh declaring it to be a “dream come true” and Holly identifying the practicalities in saying they had “no idea about what they are going to wear”.

With three months until the Gala they now have plenty of time to co-ordinate dresses, hair and make-up before the big day.

Mark Burgess


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