Clunes gives Shetlands [sic] 20 minutes of dubious fame

It’s always interesting to see how others see us, and compare it with how we see ourselves.

The ITV series Islands of Britain hosted by Dorset-based Martin Clunes – ah, if he had one more s in his surname we could have begun assimilation or claimed he was a distant cousin to our esteemed leader, or does the comedic and serious actor come across as clueless?

The series deals with quick sketches of various islands around Britain with Clunes parachuted into various locations around Britain.

Clunes starts the whole thing with statements that would appear self-evident: “Britain is an island nation, a nation of islands.” And after mainland Scotland, heading north, everything is an island!

We are paid a compliment by being on at the beginning of the show; then he ruins it by calling us a chain of islands and using that old chestnut “the Shetlands”.

First stop is, as he calls it, the northernmost full stop of Muckle Flugga. There’s a brief but spectacular scene of white sided dolphins on his way there.

The top of the Flugga is reached by an astounding 356 steps scaled by a nervous Clunes who confesses to suffering from vertigo! This is a self-deprecating moment; later he compares his ears to the Unst Jarl’s helmet wings.

Next to a “nearby” island, not Unst quite yet, as you would think, but a certain place the size of a football pitch in the far west. Unless you’ve been living under a stone I’m sure you’ll guess where he goes. It is “home” to our resident professional self-publicist – a controversial choice to represent our islands as a whole? It is a boannie night and Shetland is shown in a good light literally; thankfully a fleeting visit is over.

Clunes leaves our friend in the far west waiting for his official visit from the Queen to confusingly return to Unst. At times he calls Unst strange, empty, isolated and even alien, but somehow I think this could be the Unst people’s view of him!

Clunes did seem to genuinely appreciate the community concert but did make one big faux-pas saying that one Jarl was elected every year to lead all the Viking festivals in Shetland – if that was true he’d have to be some guy to survive me thinks!

But hey! It was only 20 minutes in the scheme of things, a blink in time etc. These programmes’ publicity value is unquantifiable, but no publicity is bad publicity and surely brings some visitors.

Like all travel television the real thing has to be better than the box in the corner of the room or a screen on the wall – this, of course, is just my humble opinion!

Stephen Gordon

  • Winners of the recent Shetland Times competition for five copies of the DVD set Islands of Britain were picked out of the hat. Copies of the DVD will be winging their way to: Mrs Georgie Duthie, Scalloway; Ms Caron J Reeves, Haroldswick; Miss Amy Harper, Gulberwick; Carol Smith, Baltasound and R Johnston, Lerwick.

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