South Mainland Notebook 24.07.09

Local shop for sale

Dunese Fullerton took on the task of running Bigton Stores and Post Office because it was something she’d “always fancied doing”.

For the past five years she’s managed to keep the shop supplied, whatever the weather, and enjoyed her place at the hub of the community. “Folk often come in for a chat,” she says. “And with so many regular customers we know what they are going to buy every week.”

Nevertheless, she has witnessed certain changes: “New people have come to live in Bigton, many from outwith Shetland. England especially. And customers have definitely got more health-conscious.”

Catering for the community’s evolving needs has meant seven-day weeks, however, and Mrs Fullerton would like to be able to spend more time with her children. She’s put the shop on the market, but is adamant that the intention is to sell it as a going concern: “It’s busy and successful, and I’ve just received a letter confirming that the future of the Post Office is secure – at least for the moment.”

If you fancy the challenges and rewards of running a local shop, call Mrs Fullerton on (01950) 422307.

Cunningsburgh teas

For 26 years now, tea at Cunningsburgh hall has been one of the joys of the South Mainland summer. Every Sunday, from 2.30-5.30pm until the end of August, groups of volunteers from a wide variety of charities offer a sumptuous spread.

“And it all has to be homemade, nothing bought in,” says Andy Angus who is secretary of the Cunningsburgh hall committee, and oversees each and every one of them. “Sandwiches are made on the premises. Salad, cold meats and chicken are particularly popular fillings. Tray bakes, meringues, cakes and anything involving fresh cream also sell very quickly.”

Mrs Angus’s own specialities are coffee, chocolate and lemon cakes, but she freely admits to being no pancake-maker. Pride of place in that department belongs to Lorna Gilbertson, who makes six dozen light-as-air pancakes nearly every Sunday “which go like snow in a dyke”.

There is, though, more to these occasions than just a good feed, Mrs Angus maintains: “It’s a social event. People come to talk. A lot of locals are here every week, but tourists drop in too.” And she greatly values the spirit of volunteering that makes it all possible.

This extends to the bairns too. Every weekend, along with the teas, there’s a tuck shop manned by children from Cunningsburgh School, selling drinks and sweets and the Cunningsburgh hall teas recipe book. The youngsters are left to themselves to handle the money and relate to the visitors. The aim is to teach them responsibility and show them what is involved in running a hall. Often they enjoy themselves so much that, as adults, they go on to be on the hall committee.

All in all it demands a lot of work and dedication. “Sometimes I think we’re mad!” Mrs Angus admits. “I ask myself what I’m doing here again. But I just want to see it keep going!”

Otter man’s exhibition

Whether you’re jetting off to the sun or simply heading home after seeing the puffins, be sure not to miss Brydon Thomason’s photographic exhibition, Wild Shetland, which is at Sumburgh airport until August 4th.

Brydon, who was raised on Fetlar, is a passionate naturalist of over 20 years’ standing, and his love and knowledge of Shetland’s wildlife is evident in his photographs. The birds and animals show no sign of being aware of an observer. They are captured during their private moments, their brilliant eyes intent on what they are doing – be it a seal protecting her calf, or a bonxie scouring its territory.

The colours are quite simply sumptuous. A puffin raising its wings is silhouetted against a scarlet sunset. Another opens its beak to expose an orange mouth. A chestnut otter tears at the crimson flesh of a lumsucker it has caught. Even if you didn’t know that Brydon has an otter watching blog, it wouldn’t be hard to guess that otters are his favourite subject or, as he puts it, his “signature species”. And it’s this intimate familiarity with their habits that allows him to give such a privileged glimpse into their lives. Brydon sees his photography as a means of conveying the bond he feels with the natural world: “When a place timelessly inspires you and you truly are in love with it, you really do feel that you not only belong to it but that you are part of it.”

The exhibition is part of Bonhoga Gallery’s touring programme. Brydon’s prints are for sale in a variety of sizes. For details call (01595) 745750.

Calling past Girls Brigaders

If the smell of canvas or a crackling wood fire evokes a wave of nostalgia, it’s quite possible you were once a member of the Dunrossness Girls Brigade. In which case they are eager to hear from you.

This year the Dunrossness Girls Brigade is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a reunion of past members, officers and helpers on Saturday September 5th. This will include a buffet supper and entertainment and will be followed by a special dedication service on the Sunday. There will also be a celebration party for current members.

The Dunrossness Girls Brigade has around 50 girls registered at present, and is still going strong as it approaches its ruby anniversary. This year the girls have enjoyed a theatre trip, craft-making sessions, group singing and games. Other popular Girls Brigade activities are summer camps, sports, swimming and barbecues.

If you have had any involvement with the Dunrossness Brigade over the years, they would be delighted if you could join them for their celebratory weekend. They would also love to receive a note of any memories of your time spent with the brigade, and copies of photographs of camps, trips and outings. For further details and to register your interest, call Edna Mainland on (01950) 460466 or email her at

Light Lab at Cunningsburgh

Come along to Cunningsburgh Hall tomorrow to take part in one of the Light Labs that are taking place throughout Shetland, as part of Shetland Arts’ Mirrie Dancers project. The brainchild of artists Nayan Kulkarni and Roxane Permar, Mirrie Dancers is inviting people to come to the hall and create their own coloured “light scores”, which will illuminate a yet-to-be-disclosed location in the South Mainland this winter and after that, Mareel, the new arts centre.

The two artists have worked in a variety of media, and are especially interested in exploring the artistic potential of modern technology. They are experienced in large, community-based projects, both urban and rural. A graduate of the Slade, Nayan uses art to transform the architecture of public spaces by means of photography and video. Roxane has exhibited and staged works using sound and digital imagery.

Technophobes need not be intimidated, however. No experience is needed for the Light Labs, and you will be helped and guided through each stage of your creation. The Cunningsburgh sessions take place at 12-1.30pm, 2.30-4pm and 4.30-6pm. Participa­tion is free and you can attend as many as you like, but you do need to book on (01595) 859202 or at

Regatta success

“At 7.30am the weather looked horrendous,” says Magnie Mouat, ex-commodore and committee member of Bigton Rowing Club. “But the rain cleared up about an hour before the races began, and it didn’t start again until an hour after they finished.”

Thanks to the lull between downpours and the club’s newly-purchased marquee, around seven hundred people turned out for the event, which takes place every two years, although the club is now considering having an annual beach party. As well as enjoying the rowing, music and barbecue, folk were even able to stand around a bonfire. “It was a bit damp,” says Mr Mouat, “but we managed to get it going with some diesel.”

Basking shark

A basking shark was spotted off St Ninian’s Isle on Monday afternoon. For two hours onlookers were treated to an unusually good sighting of the creature, which is the second largest member of the shark family. It was a good 10 metres in length, and both of its fins were clearly visible.

The basking sharks’ numbers are declining, and there is evidence that they are moving north into Scottish waters due to the effect of rising sea temperatures on the distribution of the plankton on which they feed. There were other sightings off Mousa Sound and Hillswick in May and June.

Make your own pot

From Sunday to Thursday there will be pottery demonstrations at Old Scatness, and folk will be invited to have a go at making their own pots using traditional methods. Opening times are from 10am-5pm. Call (01950) 461869 for further details.

Cathy Feeny


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.