South Mainland Notebook 18.09.09

Good dogs

Dog training classes in Boddam Hall had to be discontinued due to a lack of numbers, but the organisers are eager to start them up again.

“It’s about getting pups socialised, in the same way as you take children to a nursery,” says Sheila Fowlie, who used to attend with her Jack Russell cross, Ottie. “Ottie just loved the classes and now she is friendly with everybody and with other dogs.”

In fact, Sheila and Ottie continued to go along despite Ottie’s impeccable behaviour, simply because it was such fun.

Pups can start training from three months upwards, once they have had their second batch of vaccinations. But you can teach an old dog new tricks apparently, so canines of any age are welcome. A minimum of six participants is needed to get a class going. To register your interest call Helen Thomson on 07876 583825.

After teas “This summer’s teas have gone splendidly,” says Andy Angus, secretary of the Cunningsburgh Hall committee. The season ended on a particularly high note, when broadcaster Simon Parkes visited the hall and interviewed those involved for an edition of BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme devoted to the Shetland Sunday tea.

“He was everywhere,” says Mrs Angus. “He went to people’s kitchens and he came to the hall to see us preparing sandwiches. He couldn’t get over the phenomenon.”

The teas are now over for another year, but Cunningsburgh Hall has a lively programme of entertainments lined up for the autumn and winter, including a South Shetland Darts Association match on Thursday at 8pm. Vision meeting There is a chance to voice your opinion on education and learning at tomorrow’s Shetland South Vision meeting at Dunrossness Hall. The session is from 11am to 1pm and is followed by a light lunch.

Sale for seniors

The South Mainland Community Association Senior Citizens group is having a sales table and raffle at Bigton Hall on Wednesday, followed by games.

The event starts at 7.30pm and all are welcome. Door-to-door transport is laid on where possible; call Ann Black on (01950) 460297. Musical evening Tickets are now on sale for a musical evening in aid of Vaila’s Fund at Dunrossness School on Saturday 26th September.

Pearl Hunter will be singing show songs, accompanied by James Halcrow on piano, Douglas Johnstone on drums and Neil Morris on double bass.

Catherine Hammond will be playing the harp, and as a special treat Neil Morris is also going to accompany her for one or two numbers on the flute.

The three youngsters who make up The Callum Nicolson Trio will perform traditional Scottish and Shetland tunes, and The Sandyburn Singers are on the bill as well.

Tickets cost £8 and are available from Dunrossness School, at local shops and on the door, or people can phone (01950) 422204 to reserve a seat.

Voice for youngsters

The area’s youngsters will have a chance to make their feelings known on Tuesday when Nicole Mouat, Shetland’s 16-year-old member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, will be holding her first surgery in South Mainland, at Sandwick Community Centre from 7pm to 9pm.

The SYP, which began in 1999, is a forum for young people throughout Scotland. Its members, aged between 14 and 25, represent both geographical areas and voluntary organisations. They hold their office for two years. The SYP is not party political, but exists in order to discuss the issues that concern and affect young people, and to try and come up with solutions to their problems.

Nicole got involved when the organisation contacted her school looking for individuals who were interested in running for election. She stood against two other candidates on a manifesto which included general support for the proposed windfarm, but fears that it will be too big, and opposition to the closure of country schools. “They keep the community going,” she says.

A sense of community is important to Nicole and she lists it as one of the pluses of life in Shetland. She also cites as a positive the fact that Shetland is safer than elsewhere, and as a result young people are allowed more freedom. She complains, however, about the lack of things to do, which she is hopeful Mareel will help to remedy.

Nicole is looking forward to hearing what the young people of Sandwick have to say and to finding out what is important to them.

Fun night at Bigton

A beautiful evening, lots of bargains on offer and a good cause ensured an excellent turnout for the South Mainland Cancer Support Group’s sale and auction in Bigton Hall on Saturday.

Over 100 people were there, buying raffle tickets, guessing the date of the toy giraffe’s birthday and marking on a map where they thought treasure was buried. There were also boys’ and girls’ lucky dips and stalls selling a whole range of items from glass and china to plants, books and homebakes. The auction, which lasted two hours, began with a dozen duck eggs. Other lots knocked down to the highest bidder included neeps from Quendale, paintings of ships, a leather handbag, a fleece, sacks of tatties, a porcelain figure, a leg of lamb and a splendid sponge cake topped with strawberries.

To the delight of the organisers, the event raised a grand total of £1,556. The organisers would like to thank everyone who supported the cause and everyone who gave their time, especially auctioneer Allison Duncan.

Friends from afar

It’s an exciting time for the bairns of Cunningsburgh Primary School, who have just sent letters to a school in Africa and are waiting for a reply.

It all started when head teacher Jane Husbands posted details about Cunningsburgh School on the Global Gateways website, which helps schools throughout the world to find partner schools for the children to communicate with.

Ms Husbands didn’t give any specification as to where in the world she wanted to hear from, and one day an answer arrived from the head of a school in Ghana. The two corresponded throughout the summer, and at the beginning of this term the project began.

Although English is the official language of Ghana it is the country’s second spoken language. As a result, although the Cunningsburgh School children are communicating with pupils their own age, those children do not have the same level of language ability. This is the reason the Ghanaian head favoured an exchange of letters, rather than emails, the idea being that it would expose the pupils to more formal and structured English.

The Shetland bairns have responded to the needs of their new African friends by simplifying their language, and even came up with the idea that it might help to indicate how certain words, such as place names, should be pronounced.

The project involves the whole school, so each child contributes at their own educational level, with mainly pictures from the very young and more writing from the older pupils. The first batch of letters is full of details about the children’s lives.

Ten-year-old Nicole Coutts, who lives in Quarff, lists the various members of her household and includes a drawing of her three fish, Daisy, Lee and Rocky. Liam Brannan, aged 11, describes South Voxter where he lives as “a village with lots of fields”.

There is a recurring enthusiasm in the pupils’ descriptions of their school and of Shetland, and they frequently voice an eagerness to hear about life in Ghana.

Already, what can be gained from such a project is apparent. It fulfils one of the Eco-Schools requirements, which is that the children develop a wider awareness of the environment in other parts of the world.

Ms Husbands has been pointing out to them that a day they would call “hot” in Shetland would not be considered hot in Africa; this leads to an understanding of differences in climate. The need to take into account their counterparts’ level of understanding has enhanced the children’s language awareness. Writing letters instead of emails is increasing the pupils’ sense of distance; they have been warned that it might be some while before they receive a reply.

For the Ghanaian bairns the experience of writing to a real person, rather than just doing a language exercise, is expected to improve and bring immediacy to their use of English. As individual personalities, with interests and ambitions, they will present a positive face of Africa, as opposed to the usual, sad image of a place that is always in need.

It is hoped that Cunningburgh School’s contact with the school in Ghana will continue indefinitely. Ms Husbands is already planning an archive. But that is for the future. At the moment the bairns are just waiting to see what the postie will bring.

Cathy Feeny


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