This year’s “under water” theme at the Big Bannock was most appropriate, with a couple of deluges during the day adding to the overall watery feel. Downpours did nothing to deter folk from heading to North Roe. Around 1,500 people of all ages enjoyed food, music, activities and entertainment. A packed hall at night welcomed back the Big Bannock band, those infamous Vatersay Boys.
The day began with the customary baking of the Big Bannock, which took on a pink hue this year with the addition of sweetie shrimps – tasty! The Northmavine Jarl’s squad and the Delting Jarl’s squad went head to head in the Kirnathon to kirn the butter for the bannock, spurred on by cheers from an appreciative audience. In the most closely fought competition yet, the final winner had to be decided in a blind taste test by Peter Williams. He declared Delting’s butter to be the tastiest and the crown went back to the Sparls for the second year running.
The Merry Tiller Grand Sprix was a braw drookled affair for spectators as well as the racers as the heavens opened during the warm up. The audience was treated to an amazing show of quad-bike stunt driving by the “Stunk” in a pre-race display and the safety car took on a semi-submersible flavour this year when a large yellow submarine trundled into the car park. A spot of rain did nothing to detract from the enjoyment of the race, although there was general disappointment when reigning world champion Andy Stephen suffered technical problems with his starting handle and had to withdraw. The overall winner this year was newcomer Wild Willie fae Westray. Willie was delighted with his win and the spot of last minute training on Friday night in Ross and Julie’s back green at Gluss proved to give him the edge over the other competitors. Special mention should also be made to the streaker who “monkey-ed” round the track in a post-race spectacular. Some folk will do onything for charity!
DJ Duncan and his West Side crew had the Skate Inn customers whipped up to a dancing frenzy in a 12-hour music marathon, while the Skate Inn VIP area proved very popular with the more discerning customer. “Geeves O’ Stenness” provided table service and hors d’oevres to a never-ending queue of folk willing to pay £5 for 30 minutes of butlered luxury. Geeves would also like to say a particular thank you to bouncer Robertson O’ Fiblister who helped make sure that those on the list were not coming in.
Despite the rain, the stalls and sideshows saw brisk business. The sales lasses did a sterling job of selling the much-loved Bannock T-shirt and the Strictly Boston DVD sold like hotcakes. Visitors could not have claimed to go hungry. The lasses did a marathon stint in the kitchen and made sure that there was a varied menu for everyone. Outside, the queue for the barbecue never abated as folk filled up on steak, burgers, fish and scallops. The volunteers have been working as a team for so many years now that they make it look easy, but the amount of work they put in should never be underestimated.
After a three-year absence, and a few frantic phone calls to find Paul the missing Piper, who was AWOL in Lerwick, the Vatersay Boys made a welcome return to the evening dance in the hall. The drum on the stage said it all: “Beware the Vatersay Boys”. The boys have lost none of their stage-appeal or talent during their Bannock gap years and the entire hall was jumping from the first note to the last. Great to see you back boys, don’t leave it so long next time. There’s a rumour that they’ve said they won’t be back until the Bannock Boys have visited Vatersay, so if that’s the case perhaps we should have a whip-roond to send the committee for a visit noo?
For those with an ounce of energy left on Sunday, the proceedings started once again. Sunday was always traditionally a quieter day, but this year the hall was packed from breakfast time. Valladale Ink went into business during the afternoon when the boys treated customers to a bespoke tattooing service using only the bru from a jar of cockles and a selection of marker pens. Piercings were also available with the aid of some one-inch nails and a roll of sellotape.
Next on Sunday was the eating competition that featured a fishy jelly consisting of the bru from boiled piltocks, fish livers, green chillies and a very liberal dose of gelatine. The fishy jellies were all served to the contestants in a bairns’ potty and the winner was the first person to eat the contents and put the potty on their head. Contestants were mainly of the male variety with only one brave female sitting down to a jelly potty. The men were unable to stomach the mixture and quickly gave up, leaving the clear lady winner, who Colin announced as being “John Philip Hughes’ hot girlfriend”. Well done to her!
The dancing competition was next and the theme was Riverdance. Contestants were of a very good calibre this year and John Priest was narrowly beaten into second place by Janice Tetley who was the lucky winner of the “Maree Hay’s Golden Ganzie”.
Before the Vatersay Boys got the audience on the floor for the second night, the Hellery Auction, ably “unctioneered” by Ivor “Toad” Duncan, raised a huge amount of money and a good few laughs. Highlights of the sale were King Coconut Keith’s rhubarb wine which sold for over £100 per bottle, Robbie Anderson’s creel which made £175, three onions that sold for £40 and the sole of a rubber boot dredged up by the Williamson brothers which raised a further £25. The raffle also raised in the region of £1,000 with first prize of an LCD TV going to Willie Doull of Muckle Roe.
The Big Bannock began all those years ago as a fun way of raising money for local charities and continues with a huge amount of work by the committee and a very generous Shetland public. Funds raised this year will be split between Cancer Research UK and local charities and the committee is always keen to hear from any local charity or cause that feels they would benefit from a Big Bannock donation. Each year there are rumours that the boys have baked their last bannock, but this hopefully won’t be the case – otherwise, what incentive would there be for folk to get the silage in and the sheep clippit afore mid August!