Isles Views 05.06.09

Care for Unst

Care for Unst held its annual general meeting recently.

The organisation wishes to thank Ian and Norma Reid for the use of Whitehall which has been the saleroom. A lot of money has been raised in Whitehall, most of it having been donated to Nordalea.

However, donations have also been made to Unst Boat Haven and Unst Heritage Centre to help them buy wheelchairs. Although the saleroom is no longer functioning Care for Unst is still in existence and still seeking to raise money when it is necessary to do so.

They are holding functions and they want to send a donation to CLAN House but they have not forgotten that Care For Unst was started to campaign for a new care centre for Unst.

At the meeting Jamie Laurenson was elected as chairman, taking over from Barbara Priest who has served from the start, while Joan Ritch remains the secretary.

Folklorist’s visit

A recent visitor to the North Isles was John Shaw from the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh.

In terms of collecting stories, traditional music and folklore in Shetland the school has been quiet in recent years.

However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s field workers like Alan Bruford, Peter Cooke and others were well known in Shetland. They collected from people like the Cullivoe Fiddlers, especially the late Willie Barclay Henderson and Bobby Jamieson who played, like their successors, with the G-string of the fiddle tuned to A.

They collected stories from, among others, Tom Tulloch of Gutcher and Jamsie Laurenson and Kitty Anderson of Fetlar.

Dr Shaw is American by birth, raised in Ohio, but he no longer has any ties with that area. He is, by profession, a linguist and he is very comfortable in the Gaelic language.

He has spent a lot of time in Nova Scotia, especially Cape Breton where the Gaelic tongue is still alive and well. After that he was in Inverness and worked for a time for Highland and Islands Enterprise but all the time has been interested in the music and songs of the Highland and Islands.

He has a fondness for the Western Isles and South Uist. This is his first visit to Shetland. He only had three days so it was a case of packing in as much as possible during that time.

Dr Shaw is a fiddle player and a night of music was arranged in the Wind Dog Cafe so that he could meet some local musicians.

The Cullivoe Fiddlers were there, Jim Leask and Bernadette Porter came from Weisdale and Liz Tulloch came from Lerwick. It was a great night of good food and good music and it was greatly enjoyed by Dr Shaw. He was able to play in a session that was enjoyed not only by the folk listening but by the fiddlers themselves.

Duke of Edinburgh Awards

Four Whalsay School pupils undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award recently completed their first expedition.

Greig Anderson, Angharad Rickard, Stewart Hutchison and Alice Pottinger met regularly to plan their route and prepare for the walk.

They started at Collafirth Hill and, accompanied by two teachers, headed to Roga Field, Mid Field and to the top of Ronas Hill where everyone signed the visitor’s book. It was a bright, clear, day with excellent views, but it was quite windy on top of the hill.

It was then down all the way to the Lang Ayre. The only way to the beach is down the Burn of Monius and the scramble down past waterfalls and various flowering plants was very scenic.

On the beach lunch was cooked with varying degrees of success: the blowing sand certainly added some interesting texture to the meal. The way back up the hill was more challenging with some of the group finding the going tougher than others, but everyone was glad when the Collafirth Hill masts came into view.

The group arrived back only five minutes later than the route plan predicted, which was very good going. The pupils had decided to get sponsored for doing the walk and raised £423 for Breast Cancer UK and they wish to thank all who made donations.

Steenbrae houses

Some of the council houses at Steenbrae in Aywick, Yell, are in urgent need of repair.

The problem was highlighted in June last year and the need for action was recognised then. However nothing has been done and the need gets more urgent by the month.

The reason why nothing has been done in the way of repairs is because the housing department has failed to find a contractor, or workmen with the necessary skills, to do the job. It seems that, Shetland-wide, there is so much building work available to firms that no-one is interested in doing the work at East Yell.

It was suggested that the direct labour wing of the council might be put to this but there are difficulties that seem to be hard to overcome. For health and safety reasons this work requires at least two workers on the job and the DLO only has two tradesmen on their books with the necessary skills. Those two workers are currently busy with other priority work and for them to work at Steenbrae, and do the job quickly, is out of the question.

In the meantime the housing department is on the lookout for any contractor who can do this needful job. One resident in the Steebrae houses is elderly and it could be that she has to be decanted while the work is being done. Everyone is keen to make this as stress free as possible.

Great Wall walk

Two Whalsay lasses, Denise Irvine and Marion Irvine, along with their friend Emily Garrick from Nesting, are planning to walk the Great Wall of China in October.

The walk, which will take seven or eight days, is being done to raise money for CLAN House, and already they have been fund-raising with coffee mornings and car boot sales.

Denise say she has had a total of £1,381 donated so far and she will be paying all the expenses herself so that every penny of money raised will go to CLAN.

Emily’s total raised so far is £2,383; we do not have a total for Marion at the moment but she has been active too.

The girls are looking for sponsors and they invite folk to visit the websites and They also have sponsor forms in local shops as well as being online. Denise, Marion and Emily want to thank everyone who has so generously supported them so far.

Lunches in West Yell

Sunday is the big day when the North Ness hall committee hold their annual lunch day.

There will be the usual wide, and mouth-watering, selection of main courses and desserts on offer. This takes place between 12.30pm until 6pm.

The lunch day was started to raise funds for the hall and committee member Ruby Poleson said she found it hard to believe that it was 12 years since they held the first one.


When visitors come to Yell or just drive through they always seem to notice Windhouse.

This ruin is perched on the hill in the middle of the isle and it does not take a great deal of imagination to see it as sinister place that is somewhat intimidating.

The last residents left Windhouse in 1936 and since then it has gradually fallen into the ruin it is now. It was owned for a time by the RSPB and when it came on the market in 2003 it was called by some “the most haunted house in Scotland”.

There was a huge amount of media interest and at least six radio stations from all over the country carried interviews by local people about the history of the house. A possible reason of the evil reputation is the fact that more than one violent death occurred there; this often sparks ghost “sightings”.

When it was bought in 2003 the new owners stated that they were going to restore it and make it into a family home. It is a source of disappointment, in Yell, that to date nothing has been done. A perimeter fence surrounds it but it is not a serious obstacle for anyone who wants to take a closer look and the state of the ruin is such that it is not a safe place to be, ghosts or no ghosts.

Farmers’ market

The next farmers’ market to be held in Yell will be in the Burravoe hall on 14th June 14th from 2.30pm to 5pm.

If anyone wants to book a table or if any group would like to provide the teas and home bakes they should phone Michelle Morris at the Initiative at the Edge office in Sellafirth (01957) 744394.

Lawrence Tulloch


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