By LAWRENCE TULLOCH
Saturday was a never to be forgotten day in Uyeasound. It was a gala day, a festive day and a day of unashamed, out and out celebration, reflected in well over 200 smiling faces when the new pier and harbour works were officially opened.
The SIC’s head of education had decreed that the Uyeasound School be open, unheard of on a Saturday, but the children played a full part – the school is next door to the pier and the fathoms of bunting were evidence of their contribution.
It was a day of utmost satisfaction and joy for George Jamieson, who has campaigned for more years than he cares to remember for the pier.
Councillor Alastair Cooper, chairman of the SIC harbour board, kicked off proceedings by saying it was his hope that the development would be a catalyst for economic expansion.
Mr Cooper said the council had shown faith and commitment enough to invest in the project and he expected the local community to show their commitment by also investing and taking advantage of the opportunities that the new pier provided.
SIC convener Sandy Cluness, who has strong Unst connections, followed with an opening address. He said it was more than just a special day – it was an “historic day”.
Mr Cluness said the development was long overdue but had been delayed because, in the 1970s, the emphasis had been on building up the inter-island ferry services and Unst, as an island, had been able to rely on the quality jobs provided by the RAF base in Haroldswick.
In times past the steamer Earl of Zetland had called at Uyeasound, albeit that goods and passengers had to be boarded on and off by flit boat. With the coming of the modern ferries the Uyeasound community felt that they had been largely bypassed. However, when the RAF pulled out the economic downturn in Unst had focused minds on the serious situation faced by the islanders and the Uyeasound pier assumed its proper place on the list of priorities.
Mr Cluness paid tribute to the Uyeasound Waterfront Trust, ably led by retired Anderson High School head teacher Mr Jamieson who would settle for nothing less than what had now been provided. In conclusion, he said there was just the one man who should perform the opening ceremony and he called on Mr Jamieson to do the honours.
Mr Jamieson was clearly delighted and quoted President Barack Obama in saying that “all things are possible”. He said the waterfront trust had worked for this day for nine years and 13 days but the community had worked on this since 1947.
He quoted MSP Tavish Scott, who could not be there on the day, who said in the Scottish Parliament: “Harbours are the cornerstones of this country. They play an essential role in Scottish life. The sea provides transport, fishing and in these modern days a source of energy.”
Mr Jamieson outlined some of Uyeasound’s history through the Vikings, the Hanseatic League, the herring fishermen, the crews of the steamers, the flitmen and now the salmon and mussel farmers.
He praised the efforts of South Unst folk who had raised the awareness of the Zetland County Council and raised money in pursuit of a pier that had sufficient water at low tide. The dream, he said, had become a reality and he welcomed the nearby industrial site where Humphray’s shop once stood.
It clearly gave Mr Jamieson great pleasure to see the many boats tied up at the new pier. He voiced a special welcome to the Cullivoe fishing boat Guardian Angell which had come to be part of the celebrations and he made a token presentation to the skipper Michael Henderson.
Mr Jamieson thanked the council for placing their faith in the project, especially capital projects manager Robert Sinclair and design manager John Williamson. He said Unst Community Council had supported them throughout as well as many others. He described the contractors, Tulloch Development Limited, as being “superb, totally dedicated and focused”.
At the head of that was Alistair Tulloch who led from the front, Mr Jamieson said. He was more likely to be on the point of the pier than in an office. They had done the whole job in just over a year. The waterfront trust had worked together in harmony towards this great day and Mr Jamieson gave them his sincere thanks.
It was with a considerable sense of pride, humility, satisfaction and achievement that Mr Jamieson drew open the curtains and declared the new pier officially open.
Kate Coutts, head teacher at the Uyeasound School, presented Mr Cluness with a cartoon that his uncle Willie had drawn for a sale of work to raise money for a pier almost 60 years ago.
Laura Baisley, one of the councillors for the area, said she was delighted to see the new pier and that all the islands deserved similar investment. She expressed the wish that we could all be in Fetlar in a year’s time for the opening of a new breakwater there.
Many councillors and officials had travelled to Unst by coach for the occasion. Councillor Gussie Angus said if Shetland did not invest in its own islands then we could scarcely expect central government to invest in Shetland.
The cost of the development is around the £3 million mark and this included the industrial site. The money had come from the SIC capital programme but a feasibility study had already been done.
Lakeland, the salmon farmers, is the first firm to be large-scale users of the new pier. Manager Dennis Johnson said that it was making a huge difference. The company now had a safe place to work and he was grateful that it had managed to avoid any serious accidents in the past, especially in winter, when men had had to clamber from boat to boat with no proper pier to land at. Mr Johnson added that to have an office in the industrial estate was very high on his wish list.
Steven Spence, who now works on the ferries, used to be in salmon farming. He said that the old dock was no use – coming in there with an ebb was like coming into a kailyard!
Mr Tulloch praised Uyeasound as being a great place to work and with great folk. He and his workers had greatly appreciated the cakes and fancies given to them by local women for their tea breaks. One memorable cake had the inscription: Egypt has the pyramids China has a great wall In Uyeasound we have Tullochs Who build the best pier of all! With all the formalities and presentations completed everyone repaired to the hall for the social part of the grand occasion. A sumptuous buffet was on offer with soup, sandwiches and plenty to tempt those with a sweet tooth. It was prepared by Desley Stickle who works for the SIC ports and harbours and has plenty of catering experience, gained working with her mother when they owned the Baltasound Hotel. The hall was a riot of colour with dozens posters and photos on show.
Brian Hunter, a stalwart of the Uyeasound community, described the determination of Unst folk to have a workable pier in Uyeasound. He spoke of a sale of work in 1950 that raised over a £1,000, a truly staggering sum of money in shadow of World War Two when food and clothing were still rationed.
“It’s good,” Mr Hunter said, “to see all the old mooring buoys redundant.”