Isles Views 19.06.09

Rognvald’s journey

There is a unique opportunity later this month to hear the story in the spoken word, songs, music and verse of Earl Ronald’s journey to the Holy Land, Rome and Constantinople. Rognvald, or Ronald, was the Earl of Orkney and is best remembered for the of building St Magnus cathedral, begun in 1137, in Kirkwall. Ronald was the nephew of St Magnus who was murdered on the island of Egilsay in 1115.

In October 1149 Earl Ronald was shipwrecked in Gulberwick and so grateful was he that he had survived that he set off, in 1151, on a crusade to the Holy Land. The story of this swashbuckling, rollicking and romantic adventure is being told by three men who are all masters of their craft, Bob Pegg, Tom Muir and Bill Taylor.

The source of the story is the Orkneyinga Saga and it tells of the amorous delights experienced by Rognvald and his companions in the Courts of Narbonne and piracy off the North African coast. They fought, brawled, drank, some died and some fell in love and they even found time to write poetry.

A pilot version of Rogvald’s Journey featured on the CD Out of the Stones: Music Inspired by the Archaeology and History of Orkney which was devised by Bob Pegg and Bill Taylor and commissioned by Orkney Islands Council in 2005.

Bob is a professional storyteller and singer and an expert on ancient musical instruments who has, in his time, worked with well-known artists like Ben Elton, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Of the three he is the minstrel.

Tom Muir from Orkney has been in Shetland many times in the past. He is a master storyteller, expert on the sagas and a highly respected historian. He is the narrator. Bill Taylor is a harper. He plays the old, old Celtic harps and provides the kind of music that could be heard in the days of Earl Ronald.

This show has toured Orkney and finished with a performance in St Magnus Cathedral. It was also performed in the Netherbow Theatre in Edinburgh last November during the International Storytelling Festival where it was greeted with a rapturous reception from a sell out audience. Hats off to Shetland Arts and to Andy Ross for bringing this show to Shetland, it is undoubtedly an enhancement to the Johnmas Foy.

Tom Muir is always quick to point out the important part that Shetland played in the success of Earl Ronald. Shetland was his power base and without Shetland he would never have won the Earldom, St Magnus Cathedral would never been build and “who knows”, Tom asks, “would there have been any Kirkwall without the help of Shetlanders”?

The first performance in Shetland will be in the Shetland Museum on Wednesday. In the North Isles the place to be to see this great show is the Haroldswick Hall next Friday. The doors are open at 7pm with a 7.30pm start, and tickets can be obtained from Islesburgh Community Centre in Lerwick or you can pay at the door.

Mirrie Dancers

Mirrie Dancers is a new arts project sponsored by Shetland Arts. The idea is to choose 10 sites from all over Shetland to be lit up for two weeks next winter. The selection of suitable sites in the North Isles took a step forward when artists Roxane Permar and Nayan Kulkarni toured Unst and Yell last week.

With them on the bus were interested local folk and school children whose ideas were greatly valued. The lighting will be provided by wind generators so remoteness is not necessarily a big issue, although nearness to a road is clearly helpful.

In Unst sites as far apart as the top of Saxa Vord and Muness Castle were looked at and many places in between. However on the short list is the tin shed in the Setters of Haroldswick, an old croft house in Snarravoe, Greenwell’s booth in Uyeasound and the Saxa Vord buildings.

In Yell the tour started from the Mid Yell School and went as far north as Cullivoe before going to North Sandwick and around the south end taking in Windhouse and the Westsandwick beach. Here the places to be seriously considered are the sand dunes at Westsandwick beach, the “tin kirk” at the head of Bastavoe, East Yell chapel and Skibhoul in Burravoe.

On each day food was provided and afterwards a discussion period was held to decide on a short list. The final choices will be made at a later date and, of course, permission to light up the sites has to be obtained.

Tree planting in Heatherdale

Heatherdale is a beautiful, tranquil and secluded spot to be found in North Yell halfway between the head of Gloup voe and the head of Bastavoe. It is sheltered and well away from the sea and seems an ideal place to plant trees. Some of the senior pupils from the Cullivoe Primary School have been doing just that.

A small plantation was started in 1986 and, by Shetland standards, this proved successful. In 2005 financial help came from the Woodland Grant Scheme and a hectare was enclosed and a total of 3,000 trees of various species were set and are doing well.

It is the Nicholson family of Breckon who own Heatherdale and the plantation. They are keen to encourage community involvement and therefore the children who planted trees recently can call them their own.

Anyone wishing to plant a tree for any reason is free do so but perhaps they could consult Alex Nicholson. Likewise the sowing of seeds that will produce flowers, like bluebells, would be welcomed as Alex wants the area to be attractive to wildlife.

Heatherdale is a lovely place to visit on a summer Sunday for a walk or a picnic and it is transformed from the days when it was the home of the greedy, hardhearted Joseph Pole who was a merchant, landowner and owned haaf fishing boats lost in the Gloup Disaster in July 1881. Isolated as it is, Pole had a shop in Glippapund, the old name for Heatherdale, and the fishermen, their families and those who lived under Pole’s tyranny were obliged to do their shopping there.

Unst Angling Club

The first sea angling competition of the season had to be postponed for a week but was held on 8th June when 11 senior and three junior anglers took part. Bruce Thomson, Colin Laurenson and Leslie Stickle all tied for top spot with 50lbs of fish each. Cameron Ferguson was fourth with 48lbs.

The best basket of the competition was landed by a junior, Stewart Ferguson, with 52 lbs; his brother Mark was second with 44lbs and close behind was Robert Gray with 39lbs. This included the best “junior” fish, a 14lb 7oz olick.

In the seniors Bruce Thomson had the heaviest fish with an 18lb 14oz cod. However this might have been bettered by an olick caught by Paul Banks. So busy was he showing off his big fish that he failed to hold on properly, the fish sprickled and went overboard. Truly the one that got away!

The trout anglers were out last Friday night for the second of their points competitions but the cold north wind kept some at home. An evening of pulling sinking lines was to prove fruitful for Davie McMillan.

He won with a basket that weighed 9lb 13ozs and included a “Loch of Cliff special”, a superb trout weighing 6lb 10ozs. Cameron Ferguson came second with four trout weighing 4lb 2ozs and Lindsay Thomson came third with two fish for 1lb 4ozs.

Fetlar Foy

The 11th Annual Fetlar Foy will kick off at 3pm tomorrow at Tresta and it will follow a similar pattern to previous years. It will be jam packed with fun events such as a football tournament and in recognition of the Johnmas Foy Viking theme, there will be Viking games such as a version of bowls, and, hopefully a torch lit procession.

The two-day event will be spiced throughout with live music and every visiting musician is encouraged to play in impromptu sessions. There are facilities for caravans and campers as well as a barbecue and a licensed bar, but proof of age will be required at the bar.

SIC ferry services are providing extra ferries to cope with the anticipated demand. Tonight the Dagalien will sail at 6.30pm from Toft directly to Hamars Ness arriving around 7.50pm.

Tomorrow the Geira will sail from Gutcher to Hamars Ness at 12pm, 1pm and 2pm. On Sunday morning at 1am the Bigga will sail from Hamars Ness, via Belmont, to Gutcher to connect with the Daggri which will sail from Ulsta to Toft at 2am.

At midday the Dagalien will depart Hamars Ness going directly to Toft and arriving around 1.20pm. Booking can be made in the usual way, by phoning (01957) 722259.

Lawrence Tulloch


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