Isles Views 24.04.09

Green Island outing

Last Thursday proved to be a most enjoyable day as David Leask, from the company Green Island, invited me to go on a trip with their well boat Island Senior to harvest salmon.

Green Island works out of Cullivoe and most weeks they harvest and kill around 20,000 fish, 120 tonnes.

We left Cullivoe at 11.15am in fine weather and it was a relatively short steam to the site on the west side of Uyeasound Isle. Skipper of the Island Senior Grant Johnson took her alongside the cage with smooth and practised expertise. What followed was a series of surprises for me.

After the ship was secured to the salmon cage a large flexible hose was lifted by a crane and the end of it submerged among the fish. In the meantime the salmon farmers had activated a draw net that herded the fish into one side of the cage.

In no time at all fish began to appear in the two wells in the hull of the ship. Angus Johnson, Grant’s father, was my guide for the day and he explained that the fish, and water, was not pumped but siphoned into the ship ensuring a stress free transfer for the fish.

The fish are grown by the fish farmers Lakeland and Angus says that it would be hard indeed to find better quality. They are remarkably uniform in size, around 5.5 kilos, and entirely free of any disease or parasites.

Angus explained that this was down to the fact that Lakeland has superb sites that have the ideal balance between tidal movement and shelter. In fact very few days occur when harvesting cannot take place and this has clear advantages.

It only took 45 minutes to take the 5,000 fish on board, and they know that they have the right number because there is an accurate counter that gives a constant read out. When the hose was taken back on board and the ropes cast off we were on our way back to Cullivoe with the fish swimming happily around the wells.

When the ship is on the move seawater is taken in at the bows, passing through the wells and out the stern. If the ship is stationary then the water is pumped through. Green Island’s operation in Cullivoe is almost exclusively for Lakeland and the Island Senior stays in the area all the time. This is for reasons of bio-security, as it avoids any danger of bringing disease into what is a disease free zone.

As we made our way back I had the opportunity to speak to the crew and I found a number of pleasant surprises. Angus is in fact a grandson of Peerie Johnny from Skerries, someone I knew well. Another crewman is Neil Garriock, Angus’s son-in-law.

Looking after things on the shore was Robert Smith, a Yell man from Burravoe. At Cullivoe two R S Henderson trucks were waiting to take the fish to market but first they had to be killed.

This too is an impressive operation. The salmon are raised on a conveyor and through a machine with four sections that the fish pass through; they are killed instantly and humanely and go onward into the iced trucks.

Lakeland are justly proud of the quality fish they produce and Green Island are rightly proud of their operation. They are pleased when folk, unconnected to the industry, take an interest in what they are doing. Shortly they will take delivery of a new, bigger, well boat that will replace the Island Senior.

I can only thank Angus and his men for their hospitality and for giving me a great day out.

Old Haa opens again

The Old Haa in Burravoe will open its doors for the season on Sunday with the first exhibition on display in the gallery being the artwork of Mike McDonnell.

It is 25 years since the Old Haa, one of the oldest buildings in Yell, became a museum. To mark the anniversary an exhibition has been put together, called simply 1984-2009. It is highlights from the past quarter century and is sure to jog the memories of regular visitors especially. This year is quite a big one for the Old Haa and we will follow the flow of events in the weeks to come.

Summer season

The Unst Heritage Centre and Boat Haven are getting ready for business on 1st May, when both will be open daily from 11am until 5pm. Thanks to Robert Hughson, the boat haven now has a sturdy play boat for the bairns to enjoy.

The heritage centres, as part of the Show Scotland Event Weekend, are opening with a “Shelties at Home” weekend from 1st to 4th May. A grant from Museums Galleries Scotland has made it possible to produce new information panels about Shetland ponies and to buy a small resin pony for bairns to sit on.

The Baltasound and Uyeasound primary bairns will be visiting the heritage centre and they will have the chance to name the boat and the pony. The best five names for each will be put in a hat and drawn out. The Uyeasound children have made a power point presentation using Jack Renwick’s poem Stallion.

On Sunday 3rd May there will be a showing of two of Jenny Gilbertson’s films at the Haroldswick Hall, A Crofter’s Life in Shetland and Shetland Pony. This will be from 7pm until 9pm with a break for tea. There is no admission charge but there will be a raffle to defray expenses.

It’s a knockout

Tomorrow is a fund-raising day for the CLAN 1,2,3 appeal in Mid Yell, starting at 2pm with an “It’s a Knockout” competition in the leisure centre.

There will be four teams with four men and four girls in each team playing fun games. Teams entered are from the badminton club, the health centre, teachers and the football team.

Tea, sandwiches and home bakes will be available all afternoon as well as a sales table with home bakes and the CLAN souvenirs for sale plus a raffle with quality prizes.

In the evening there will be a variety concert at 7pm followed by a dance. Taking part are a whole galaxy of local talent including the Cullivoe Fiddlers, Marie Coutts, Fancy Tunes, Peter Blanker, Barry Nisbet and friends, Norma Farmer, school items and many more.

All the artists are performing free of charge including the band, Johnny Clark, Eric Williamson and Robert Goodlad.

Creative event

The Centre for Creative Industries based in Sellafirth is holding an event on 2nd and 3rd May for which there are a few places left.

The event starts on the Saturday with a walk around places of local interest. The walk will be led by Brydon Thomason, the naturalist from Fetlar, who will explain to everyone what they are seeing. The purpose is to take digital photographs that can be used to create designs on the Sunday with local designers/makers.

Anyone who wants more information can contact Andy Ross by email at or call (01957) 744 355. The two days are scheduled to start and finish so that people can get to the Shetland Folk Festival events in the evenings.

North Isles Ashes at stake

The cricket match for the North Isles Ashes took place last Wednesday at Mid Yell.

Baltasound won the toss and elected to bowl, first putting Mid Yell in to bat. The home side made 32 for six off their eight overs with boundaries scored by Ciaran Thomson, Dean Guthrie and Nichole Hughson.

After the tea break it was Baltasond’s turn to bat but they only managed 16 for four off their eight overs, giving Mid Yell a winning margin of 16 runs. This was due to some fine line and length bowling by Dean Guthrie, Jonathan Thomson, James Smith and Carlos Thomson that stifled the Baltasound run rate.

The match was played in good spirits and both teams showed the correct etiquette. Mid Yell had, therefore, retained the Ashes and teacher Alexa Coutts presented the trophy to winning captain Dean Guthrie.

PE teacher Alister Williamson said they were looking into arranging a multi-school cricket tournament in the near future. Watch this space.

Farmers’ market

The next farmers’ market in the North Isles will be in the Baltasound Hall on Sunday afternoon from 2pm to 4pm. There will be the usual wide variety of local produce and crafts, produce in the main hall and crafts in the library.

This month the soup, teas and home bakes will be in aid of the school trip to Edinburgh. To book a table for produce phone Anna Niven on (01957) 755245 and for crafts phone Sarah McBurney on (01957) 711367.

Lawrence Tulloch


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