Views from the Scord 11.09.09

Harbour activity

The “sinking” vessel accidental transmission drama in the Scalloway area that sparked the maximum response from local emergency services last Thursday drew first response from Scalloway Harbour staff and the pilot boat Lyrie was at sea within five minutes of receiving the Mayday transmission to search for the potentially stricken vessel.

The high-speed launch made a search of the entire area of the Scalloway isles, extending from Maywick to Reawick before returning to port some two and a half hours later. Though it became apparent that in this case their efforts were all for nothing, it may reassure local mariners and boat owners to know that, in addition to the coastguard and lifeboats, this level of response can be expected from the SIC harbour staff as well as the emergency services.

The coastal cargo vessel Island Senior called in to Scalloway harbour for fuel on Tuesday last week. Though regularly seen on the east coast of Shetland she is an infrequent visitor to Scalloway. The feed barge FB-9 was towed into Scalloway and tied alongside the pier at Moore’s yard for service, where it remains at time of writing.

The pilot boat Lyrie was lifted out for hull painting and inspection on Wednesday morning last week. Her anti-fouling and inspection were completed by mid-afternoon and she was returned to service immediately.

On Thursday, another, smaller scale, drama played out as a Fleetwood-registered fishing vessel made a very brief stop alongside to deposit an injured crewman for treatment and returned to sea within minutes.

The salmon workboat Galti was lifted into the sea after undergoing work on the pier and the Ronja Settler continues to serve the factory at Blacksness in delivering salmon for processing.

Meanwhile, on the West Quay, the dismantling of the large steel salmon cage continues with much of the steel work already removed for scrap.

Fish landings were a fair average and consistent with recent statistics with a total of 1,146 boxes landed through the Scalloway fish market in the week to Friday. Local vessels the Alison Kay, Comrades, Radiant Star, Devotion, Fertile and Venturous all landed, as did the Buckie-registered Eschol. The Radiant Star made three landings during the week, the biggest of which was the largest single landing through the port at 233 boxes.

Culture studied

The first study course solely focused on Shetland and Orkney was launched at the Centre for Nordic Studies at the NAFC Marine Centre this week. The course, titled an MLitt on Orkney and Shetland Studies, has been developed through the University of the Highlands and Islands and will provide students the opportunity to study a wide variety of aspects of the culture and heritage of the isles.

This interdisciplinary course will take in subjects like history, archaeology, language, culture, folklore, myth and legend to gain a greater understanding of what made Shetland, Orkney and their residents and cultures what they are today.

Representatives of the course here in Shetland are Andrew Jennings, a post-doctoral research associate, and Silke Reeploeg, assisting part-time as a staff researcher, and the nature of the UHI allows students to study at home, with the assistance of video conferencing available at the NAFC Marine Centre, though these can even be recorded and viewed at home by students unable to attend scheduled events.

The course has already attracted around 15 students from all over the UK and internationally, even one from as far away as Texas, with four people in Shetland so far taking part.

Andrew Jennings said: “Shetland’s link to its history is a wonderful asset and it deserves to be studied and promoted. This course can help Shetlanders and others appreciate the cultural heritage of Shetland.”

The course is also modular and the flexibility of the study material means that some of the modules can serve as personal interest courses for participants not wishing to do the whole formalised course, and with the core modules of the course leading to a strata of qualifications starting at PGCert for two core modules, PGDip for four, ultimately leading to the MLitt for six core modules with up to six optional modules available throughout the course. There is also an overlap into other existing courses offered through the UHI.

The Centre for Nordic Studies (CNS), through which the course has been developed, is headed by Donna Heddle who is based at the Orkney College UHI, with the Shetland branch of the organisation based at the Marine Centre in Scalloway.

The CNS has developed academic links to much of the North Atlantic rim, throughout Scandinavian countries and particularly Faroe and a key aspect of the course now on offer is the placement of Orkney and Shetland within the historical North Atlantic rim area, with so many aspects of shared culture, history and language.

Locally, the centre has strong links to the Shetland Archives and to the Shetland Amenity Trust for such resources as the place names project and archaeological data and also to local historians for folk tales and myths. Similarly, the shared history with the north and west coast of Scotland are also reflected in study material and links are also present with Sabhal Mor Ostaig, a similar organisation for Gaelic studies in Skye.

Described by Andrew Jennings, the language, myths, legends and folk tales of somewhere like Shetland are “surprisingly important” and through these, their shared aspects with other regions, and an examination of the history and archaeology of these islands students may both gain an understanding of, and help to preserve and reinforce, the distinct identities of Shetland and Orkney in modern, homogenous times.

Part of the basis for the CNS to be established was the idea that “for almost a thousand years the language of the Orkney and Shetland Islands was a variant of Norse known as Norroena or Norn” and the centre seeks to re-establish cultural links within the North Atlantic region and reduce the erosion of our ancient culture.

For more information on the course, or the modules available contact Andrew Jennings at the centre on (01595) 772494.

Bridge End meeting

The Bridge End Outdoor Centre committee held their annual general meeting last week, at the end of a successful year that has seen the re-launch of the centre and the first steps towards the expansion of the centre’s facilities. The most prominent advancement at the current time is the soon-to-be-installed wind turbine to provide heating for the centre. The turbine has been made possible through external funding toward most of the installation cost. The turbine shaft, or pedestal, is currently on site and ready to be erected once a concrete pad is laid to support it and the turbine head and other equipment are in storage in Lerwick. The turbine will sit on the peninsula to the south of the centre, away from the building and car park. Orkney firm Brian J Rendall (Electrical) Ltd are to perform the installation, with civil engineering support from a local contractor. The installation is currently scheduled to take place in October, though weather and other factors may set this date back slightly.

The turbine itself, manufactured by a French firm named Eoltec, will generate 6kw of power and is the first of its type for Shetland, though the firm supplying it have successfully completed similar projects in Shetland previously.

The completion of this project will provide the centre with its own supply of heat and greatly reduce winter running costs, increasing viability and potentially releasing further funding to enable additional improvements, with the added benefit that a good supply of economical heat will preserve the fabric of the building and further minimise costs.

The past year for the centre has seen improvements within, and to the area surrounding, the building and the centre has drawn a 95 per cent increase in numbers of guests staying overnight in the building. Another success of the year was the first summer gala and eela competition which attracted large numbers of people to the centre and the eela competition itself drew 18 boats and over 50 anglers. The event raised over £1,000 for centre funds. This event and the fish and chip nights held have kick-started the fund raising process and subsequent improvements.

The centre now has a large and dedicated committee comprising members with a variety of skills and even members who attended the building when it was still the local school. Speaking for them, member Robbie Tulloch said: “We have been trying to revitalise the place and raise its profile. We are really pleased with what we have achieved so far. Hopefully we can continue to do that.”

Future plans for the centre include the further improvement of facilities and the hope to create a camping and camper van site, greater provision for visiting boats and improvements to disabled access to boating activities. They also hope to promote use of the centre for short time letting and daytime use for events such as training courses to be delivered, as well as the overnight lets that the centre offers to groups and clubs from within Shetland and further afield.

Toddlers fundraiser

Last weekend’s fundraising car boot sale at the Hamnavoe hall was a great success for the Burra mother and toddlers group. The sell-out event filled the hall with 22 tables in the main hall and teas and refreshements made available in the foyer. Outside the hall they also had pony rides available for kids, led by Elaine Tait with ponies from George Tait’s award winning Burra-based stud. The afternoon’s events raised a total of around £500 for the toddlers group.

The toddlers group have moved premises from their former location at the old school building to the public hall and the funds raised will allow them to buy new child-sized tables and chairs, safety mats and play equipment for the hall. The reason for the move is to allow both toddlers group and playgroup to run concurrently as they formerly shared the same building and this was thought to create difficulties for some parents. Now parents can deliver children to the playgroup and carry on to attend the mothers and toddlers groups. The group would welcome any new members who can take advantage of this new arrangement.

Mark Burgess


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