Isles Views 02.10.09

Busman’s holiday

Last Saturday was a day when Shetland’s tourist guides had a day out – a coach tour.

The trip was partly social, as guides usually work apart from each other and there is seldom more than one guide on a coach. It was also a learning day for some guides who are unfamiliar with Yell and Unst.

When new guides are trained there is an emphasis on what is known as “the milk run” to Sumburgh, taking in the many attractions there and on the way. Training runs are also done to Scalloway, the Tingwall valley and Weisdale.

However, there is more and more demand by tour companies for wider tours and to go to the North Isles and Eshaness has become commonplace in recent seasons. Guides, therefore, have to be up to speed on those routes.

This particular outing was organised by Catriona Anderson of local company Island Vista. An early start to guides is nothing new so to gather at 7.45am was nothing very out of the ordinary. In all around 20 guides with some relatives, friends and partners boarded the coach driven by Alistair Mullay.

They went to the ferry terminal at Toft by way of Sullom Voe and stopped by the memorial to the airmen from the wartime flying boat base who lost their lives in the fighting.

Due to the necessary tight security at Sullon Voe it is not possible for tourists or any unauthorised people to get in to the terminal but Robin Hunter, a director of Island Vista and a crewman on a tug at Sellaness, gave the passengers the benefit of his extensive knowledge and experience of the terminal, its history and its operation.

I had the honour of being the guide through Yell. We called in at the Old Haa in Burravoe for morning coffee and one (or two) of Nita Odie’s delicious cakes. The next stop was the Aywick shop, that Aladdin’s Cave where it is extremely hard to think of any object or article that Mary does not have for sale.

In Unst Tony Mouat took over the guiding and the first goal was to see Muckle Flugga. Going to the top of Saxa Vord was simple enough but the visibility was poor and while the lighthouse could be seen it was something of a disappointment for anyone hoping to get a good photograph.

By the time that the Saxa Vord resort was reached there were declarations of “A’m fantin” coming from various parts of the coach and certainly everyone was ready for the lunch of soup, sandwiches, tea, coffee and refreshments.

The next stop was almost next door at Foord’s Chocolate Factory.

No visit to Unst is complete without a visit to the Unst Boat Haven. It is so much more than just a place to see old boats. It contains a record of the fishing industry and the amazing story of the herring fishing in Baltasound early in the last century.

There was some storytelling on the coach back through Yell and everyone agreed that it had been a really enjoyable day even if the weather had been less than kind.

Cullivoe teacher

Katie Lewis from Burravoe has been appointed as a teacher at the Cullivoe Primary School.

Her appointment is very popular as she is from the isle and so well suited to the job.

Before her application for the job in Cullivoe she was living in Crieff and working in Perth, which meant that she had to commute each day.

Katie is currently living with her mother Alma at the Parsonage in Burravoe until she gets a place of her own.

The daily trip from Burravoe to Cullivoe does not daunt her and she describes the school as “just lovely”. Katie has nothing bad to say about Crieff or her work in Perth but she says: “I just wanted ta gyit hom.”

The period since the summer break has been a time change for the Cullivoe school. Claire Lawson is the new head teacher and Katie’s appointment has come about because of the departure of Katherine Jamieson.

Mrs Jamieson lives in Sandness and many marvelled that she was able to commute each day and especially in winter; she most had had many a weary journey. The school, and the community, was sorry to lose Katherine but equally pleased to get such an able and suitable replacement.

Dagalien problems

Ferry users crossing Yell Sound in the recent past can hardly fail to notice that if the ferry is the Dagalien then vehicles have to reverse off.

With the help and guidance of the ferrymen most motorists do this quite easily but some, in small cars, do a three-point turn on the deck of the ferry to avoid reversing.

All this is because of a failure in the visor locking system. When the visor is raised by the hydraulics there is a locking pin that prevents any possibility of the visor shutting again before it should.

The spare parts required are not available off the shelf and they have been ordered from Poland where the Dagalein was built. This of course takes time. Engineer Winston Brown said that they had looked at a number of solutions that might have been employed in the meantime but they had all been rejected on safety grounds.

Mr Brown is well aware of the inconvenience caused to motorists and he has done everything possible to solve the problem. However, in the end it is a question of waiting until the spare parts arrive and that should be within the next week.

Gutcher geese

Over the years many travellers have seen and fed the geese that live around Gutcher and especially the ferry area. They are farmyard type geese but they do not belong to anyone; they are feral.

The geese are, in fact, the descendants of a flock that belonged to the Inkster family of Southerhouse. When they left in 1968 they took off the geese but one escaped and was by herself until a gander blew in from somewhere in a winter storm. Together they started a family and there has been geese around Gutcher ever since.

The following winter the gander flew into the overhead electric wires and was killed and the old goose died too. But she lived to an old age for a goose as she was around 30 years old.

At peak times there were about 15 in the flock but now there are only three left. There have been no goslings for many years because there is no gander and during most winters there is a fatality for one reason or another. It all adds up to the likelihood that the flock will die out in the next few years.

The Gutcher geese might not rank with the ravens in the Tower of London or the Barbary apes in Gibraltar but Gutcher would be the poorer without the birds which have become such a familiar sight.

Move to North Roe

As some of my readers will know by this time Margaret and I are leaving Gutcher and going to live in North Roe. We are going from being “sheep thieves” to become “oily muggies” in easy stages.

Many folk have kindly asked me whither I was going to continue to write Isles Views. This week I have had next to no news come in and maybe that is because of uncertainty, maybe some folk assume that I will abandon the column.

After consulting the editor I have decided to continue. Most of the news that I write comes to me either by e-mail or phone so locality is not that important and, besides, coming back to the North Isles for special events is not going to be difficult.

We do not, as yet, have a definite date for flitting but it will be towards the end of the month. In the meantime please keep the news coming and when there is a change of phone number The Shetland Times will carry it.

Lawrence Tulloch


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