South Mainland Notebook 16.10.09

Bowled over

If you were living in Scotland between 1860 and 1880 it’s likely you would have owned a set of piggies. These were ceramic bowls which were used to play the parlour game which is thought to have been the origin of carpet bowls, a pastime which, by the 1890s, the churches were encouraging young men to take up as an alternative to strong drink and related vices. Since then carpet bowls has remained popular, particularly in rural areas, and has made a vital contribution to the upkeep of many village halls, which might have had to close without the regular revenue the game brings.

The sport, in which competitors try to place their bowl closer to the jack than their opponents, lends itself particularly well to such settings. The same equipment is used by all the participants so it isn’t expensive to take up, and the mats it is played on are easy to roll up and store. It can be played by people with disabilities and is suitable for individuals of all ages and levels – aspects of the game which both Kathleen Slater of Sandwick Bowling Club and George Henderson of Ness Bowling Club are eager to stress. “We have members in their 80s who still play very well,” says Mr Henderson. “You don’t need a lot of effort to roll a ball along a short mat, and they are very competitive. They often beat those younger than themselves.” Mr Henderson and Mrs Slater are also of a mind when it comes to what a great community activity carpet bowls is. “It’s so much fun meeting up with folk,” says Mrs Slater, while Mr Henderson describes the sessions as “immensely social”.

The two clubs are eager to welcome new members. They provide the equipment, so all you need to do is go along and try your hand. Ness Bowling Club meets at Ness Boating Club on Wednesdays from 2-4pm and on Saturdays from 8-10pm. It runs all year round. The cost per session is £1.50. For further information call George Henderson on (01950) 460104. Sandwick Bowling Club’s season runs from September to April. They meet at Sandwick Social Club on Wednesdays from 7.30-10pm. The cost per session is £2. For further information call Kathleen Slater on (01950) 431356.

Vision meeting on but no creche

Housing and planning are the issues due to be discussed at tomorrow’s Shetland South Vision meeting, the aim being to gain understanding of the community’s needs and identify priorities. Based on this information, the local service delivery group will seek to inform and influence policy makers. The meeting is from 11am-1pm at Hoswick Visitors’ Centre and will be followed by a light lunch. All are invited to come along and make their feelings known, but do please note that creche facilities will unfortunately not be able to be provided as advertised.

Christmas appeal

Last Christmas 132,000 people in nine countries, including India, Serbia and Sri Lanka received shoeboxes full of gifts from people in the UK. That brings the number of boxes that Blythswood Care has distributed to people in need to over a million.

A Christian charity founded in 1966, Blythswood Care is dedicated to giving practical help throughout Europe, Africa and Asia as well as preaching its message. This takes the form of disaster relief, development aid and social projects such as long-term care for disadvantaged children and young people in Romania. Blythswood also works with other charities to support local care professionals who are best equipped to understand what their own particular communities require.

You can help Blythswood in various ways, including by giving donations of money. More personal, though, is to fill a shoebox and take it to Mainlands Store, Dunrossness, which is acting as a local delivery point, at any time up to October 30th. You can choose whether you want your box to go to a child, teenager, man or woman and fill it accordingly with suggested items such as clothes, kitchen utensils and colouring books. Due to customs regulations the boxes have to meet very precise specifications, so please visit for details.

Bigton on yellow alert

Half of Bigton Youth Club’s daffodil bulbs had been put into the ground at Bigton Play Park when drizzly rain set in and planting had to be called off. “What I am going to do now is wait for a nice day during the school hols and phone around on spec,” says organiser Janette Budge. “If we get 10 people along, we should be able to get the rest in quickly.”

Toddler group back on its feet

With eight of their peerie members leaving for nursery in August, Gulberwick Toddler Group was concerned that decreased numbers might threaten its ability to continue. Happily, however, these fears proved unfounded. Attendance has picked up and there are now 12 members, “a fine number” according to the group’s secretary, Fiona Loynd, who is delighted to be welcoming “fresh faces, new mums and new ideas”.The current intake is younger than the previous members, with a couple of two year olds and the rest a year or under. The activities on offer have therefore had to change accordingly, and the group is hoping for council grants for toys such as coloured building blocks, and equipment they can play on or crawl over. Crafts are still popular, but they too have been modified to suit younger bairns. Wee fingers have been engaged in hand painting and printing on paper.

“It’s important for children to make friends and to learn to share and interact,” says Fiona. And having herself got involved in the group as a way of meeting other mothers, as well as in order to provide fun for her children, she is aware of its importance for the adults too. “When you’ve got a new baby you can be a bit lonely. It’s good to be able to chat and compare notes.” Once a term there’s also a mums’ night, when the dads are left to baby-sit and the ladies enjoy a tipple or two together. It’s not just mothers who bring bairns along, though, and fathers, grandparents and carers are all invited to join the group too.

The group meets every Friday year round in Gulberwick Hall from 10-11.30am and costs £1.50 per family. For further information call Fiona on (01595) 696841.

History auction

Folk are currently rummaging around in their attics and emptying out that forgotten trunk in search of old bits and pieces to put into Cunningsburgh History Group’s auction, which takes place at Cunningsburgh Hall at 7pm tomorrow. The hall will be open this evening to receive donations, and throughout the day tomorrow.

It is particularly appropriate that the history group should get people rifling through odds and ends from the past. Since 1993 they themselves have been busy unearthing local information, and they encourage interest in all aspects of Cunningsburgh’s history, from place names to family stories. The group has a large photographic archive, which contains pictures of every individual from Cunningsburgh and Quarff who took part in the Second World War.

Perhaps this sense of history is why an auction always goes down so well in Cunningsburgh. “The occasion is a good laugh,” says Douglas Halcrow, who is chair of the group, and who praises the efforts of the enthusiastic bunch of supporters who help to run it. “It’s as much an entertainment as a fundraising event and a free supper is provided, with tea and sandwiches.” As well as possible antique bits and bobs, Mr Halcrow says to expect local produce and homebakes. “And you never know,” he adds. “You might get a bargain.”

Sandwick School celebrates 25 years

Sandwick School marked its 25th anniversary last week with five days of events. Sunshine on Monday allowed all the pupils and teachers to have their photo taken on the football pitch, then on Tuesday evening a performance of music and drama drew in a capacity crowd. After solos and group numbers played on various different instruments, there was a potted production of Twelfth Night.

“People were gobsmacked by the talent,” said head teacher Stuart Clubb, who opened proceedings by ringing the old school bell. An old school belt, left over from less enlightened times, is still to be found on the premises, but Stuart felt that including this in the celebrations would give the wrong impression. More theatrical talent was revealed in the Primary Drama Group’s performances of Celebrity Chicken on Thursday.

On Wednesday the school threw its doors open to the public, and everyone was invited to go along and look around. “It was a chance for people who aren’t parents and relatives to see what we do as well,” said Stuart, who firmly believes that the school should be part of the wider community. The turnout for the open evening was massive, and all ages were in attendance. The husband of one visitor was a pupil at the old school in 1932. Girls in their late teens, who left not long ago, clustered around a photograph in the entrance, taken in 1998 to mark 125 years since the opening of the first state school in Sandwick. Bairns from nursery and primary showed their parents the stunning decorations they had made for their classrooms, including cut-out teddy bears and paintings of giant flowers. Light and airy, and with what Stuart Clubb describes as “a very relaxed atmosphere”, the school, which cost £3,891,000 in 1984 and took two years to construct, is largely open-plan. Its rooms and corridors are a riot of cheerful colours.

As well seeing the classrooms, visitors particularly enjoyed looking at the large archive, which had been laid out on tables and pinned to display boards. Photographs going back as far as 1909 showed pupils from past to present, and school magazines and other written material gave a fascinating insight into how the school has changed over the years.

“Many other children had much further to walk, but for a five-year-old, to go from Hoswick to the school beyond Stove, in all weathers, was quite a distance and a feat,” writes Stella Sutherland, who was there from 1930 to 1934. “There were no school dinners,” she continues. “You carried a bottle of milk and a ‘piece’ for the midday break, unless you lived very near the school.”

The headmaster of the time was Mr R W Tait, who Ms Sutherland describes as “a tall dark man in plus-four tweeds”. She also talks about Miss Jean Johnson, who “loathed teaching, one of the few professions then open to women” but who was “capable, efficient and fair-minded”, and Miss Betty Bolt: “plump, and given to discreet cosmetics”.

Zap forwards 50 years, and in Da Skule News for December 1980 Hazel Bairnson writes that “the latest developments on the new school are that all the plans have been drawn out and the amount of wood, glass, steel etc needed has been worked out”. She concludes her article by saying that “when this huge building is finished, complete with sports field, car park and garden, Sandwick won’t know what’s hit it”.

Certainly, evidence of the range of activities the pupils have engaged in made an impact on folk at the open evening. These included snaps of trips abroad, acknowledgements from charities, posters for shows, and awards for achievements in a whole host of areas. “Schools have changed for the better,” said Stuart Clubb, referring to this diversity of interests. “We encourage education in the widest sense, including going out into the community. It creates an all-round good feeling.”

And the good feeling continued on Friday, when pupils enjoyed a 1980s themed fancy-dress disco and karaoke before breaking up for the holidays.

Cathy Feeny


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