Isles Views

Burravoe Tar Barrel

The Tar Barrel burned in Burravoe each year is, depending on how you look at it, either the last fire of the year or the first fire festival of the season. In any event it was held on Monday 28th December.

The barrel itself was one of 10 obtained from the whisky industry in Dufftown and they were bartered for smoked salmon. In fact the barrels were valued at £15 each, which seems a very modest price. In terms of barrels availability Burravoe is in good shape – they still have seven left.

Starting time was at 7.30pm from the Brough shop and that represents a long march to the burning site at the Burravoe Hall. A rough sledge was made to make the pulling easier. One of the organisers said that he was pleased indeed to see so many young people involved.

He also said that they set a punishing pace and it seemed to give him a certain satisfaction that some of them were not as fit as they thought they were! Leaving fitness levels aside they have two stops on the way to have a breather and some refreshment.

A rocket launched skywards signalled the restarts and at the hall the barrel packed full of wood and peats was set on fire. The crowd gathered around to enjoy the blaze and watch a fireworks display before retiring to the hall.

There is always plentiful reestit mutton and tattie soup provided and folk sat back to enjoy a few drinks, good company and the country music of Big Robbie. Altogether a great night.

Traditional first footing

Burravoe is a place that seems to have retained traditional Christmas visiting and first-footing better than most. However, Christmas is a time when families want to be together and men with young children want to be at home with them.

New Year is rather different and in Burravoe some 55 men were on the go with their bottles visiting and offering a dram to the folk of each house. Ian Clark is now retired but he used to be a senior skipper on the ferries. He has set what must be some sort of a record as he has first-footed his friend Dodie Laurenson for 42 consecutive years.

Not only that but he does it in the traditional way. He brings a new bottle of whisky so that Dodie gets the first glass from it. As well as that Ian always brings a peat for the fire but he freely admits that he has been overtaken by events because Dodie has central heating nowadays!

Dodie, of course, gives Ian a dram in the house but had a separate dram for Ian to take on the road with him. And it is a good thing that Ian’s house is within easy walking distance of Upper Brunthill.

Ian’s year on year first-footing of the Laurensons is all the more remarkable because he has not always been in Burravoe – he has lived in Ulsta, North Sandwick and he was also at sea for a time. When he was at sea his brother Wippy would do the honours at Brunthill.


On New Year’s Day the sixth annual tug-o-war was held in Cullivoe. The contest is between Uptroo and Doontroo and the battleground is beside the Chapel Burn, which forms the boundary between the two halves of the village.

The conditions were none to good but a weather window between showers appeared and the teams lost no time in taking advantage of it.

The event is fiercely contested but in the most friendly manner. It is a strength of the tug-o-war that there are no rules and no committee to run it. It is the eagle eye of the referee, Alex Nicholson, that sees fair play.

One consequence of the lack of rules is that sometimes there are more on one side than the other. On the Uptroo side the boundary is clearly defined when you run out of island but on the Doontroo side, in theory, pullers can come from anywhere else in Yell.

This year there were 18 on the Doontroo side and 14 on the Uptroo side so it came as no great surprise that Doontroo were the winners. This evened up the stats, for the record there has been three wins apiece.

The junior pull went to the Doontroo side as well. After all the stunking and groaning everyone adjourned to the nearby galley shed for a dram and the post-mortem.

Whalsay news

The Symbister Hall was really busy during December and improvements are ongoing. New folding doors have been fitted and they can be used to create a peerie hall to cater for smaller parties of 30 or 40, making a small gathering more compact and cosy.

Off-peak heaters have recently been installed at either end of the main hall and this has made a huge difference to the temperature – there is no longer an icy feel to the place. The platform is to be made bigger – the work will take place this month and this might affect bookings for a short time.

The 500 at Whalsay Boating Club and Whalsay Golf Club will start again soon. At the golf club the season will finish in March just before the golfing season starts. The last night will be the usual doubles and the prize will be a new trophy donated by Winnie Polson in memory of her late husband Johnny of Anchor Cottage who seldom missed a 500 night.

Iris Anderson, who is the chairwoman of the Symbister Hall, wants to thank everyone for their support throughout the year and all those who gave donations for borrowing hall tables at Christmas.

Fetlar news

A recent meeting of Fetlar Community Council heard that the cafe, open during the summer and run by Fetlar Development Ltd, made a profit.

This means that they do not need the £200 grant awarded to them and the directors have asked if they can use the money to help produce the new Fetlar leaflet.

This would mean that, in total, they have received £650 during 2009/10 for the leaflet and members of the community council agreed the motion. The possibility of better signs for the cafe is being looked at and priced.

The issue of the proposed SIC adoption of the airstrip road and the community hall entrance roads are progressing.

The residents of St Ragnavalds are prepared to allow the road junction to cut through the corner of their park. This will ensure that the adopted road junction would be within the necessary specifications.

It is hoped that preliminary work will begin soon so that the road is ready for resurfacing in spring.

At Stakkafletts parking has become something of a problem. The SIC housing department is responsible for the provision of sufficient parking but it seems that parking was not considered necessary for the tenants of sheltered houses when they were built.

It was thought, it seems, that no-one in a sheltered house would be a driver. To provide parking now will cost a considerable amount of money and it is unlikely that the problem will be sorted any time soon.

However, in the meantime an agreement among the residents of Stakkafletts will be sought to try and ensure that there is one parking bay per household. There are two privately-owned houses in Stakkafletts and they do not have designated parking areas. Also at Stakkafletts there are sloping pavements that can become extremely dangerous with snow and ice.

Lawrence Tulloch


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