South Mainland Notebook

South Mainland team on TV quiz

Back in March of last year the production company that makes the TV quiz show Eggheads put up posters and sent emails trying to recruit a team from Shetland. Among those who responded was a group of folk from South Mainland, made up of Ross Smith and his brother David, Ross Bray, Neville Martin and George Smith.

Testing their general knowledge was nothing new to them. They had taken part in quizzes on Radio Shetland, at The Lounge Bar in Lerwick and at Sandwick Social Club, where Ross Smith was on the team that won the competition held there just before Christmas, and George on the team that came second.

“Quizzes are a great way of winding down after work, and a good opportunity for meeting folk,” said George. “We thought it would be fun to have a go at Eggheads.”

This involved sending the production company a film the team were asked to make of themselves, answering various set questions such as Who would you most like to have dinner with?

Following the submission of the film, each member of the team received an unexpected phone call.

“I was driving the car when my mobile rang,” said Ross Smith. “I pulled over and answered it, and it was somebody from the production company. I was asked a bit about myself, and then some multiple choice questions.”

“The same thing happened to all of us,” said George, “and we were all asked the same questions, though we weren’t told whether we had got the answers right or not. I was at Belfast Airport when I got my call.”

The team was then accepted for the programme and given only short notice to fly to London, where they were put up at a hotel near to Television Centre.

“We had to be at the studio by 7.30am the next morning,” said Ross. “We were told to bring along a selection of three tops to wear, and were given very specific instructions as to what was and wasn’t suitable. We weren’t allowed to choose anything blue, because that is the colour of the background, or with stripes, which can distort on camera, or with any kind of logo. We were told to ‘think Smarties’ and go for something colourful.”

All the tops were looked at by the company, who selected which one each team member should wear.

“Everybody was very professional,” said Ross, though he and George were both surprised by the seeming chaos of the studio, with its mess of wires and cables, and people everywhere.

There was no rehearsal, and the filming was finished by 11am. It took place in segments, with the team first introducing themselves, then Jeremy Vine doing his introduction. After that they were straight into the competition.

Were they nervous?

“Not once we had started,” said George. “The film crew worked hard to keep us relaxed and I was too busy trying to concentrate. We didn’t know what categories would come up, but we had discussed who would answer questions on which topics.”

“You can’t really practice for quizzes,” said Ross. “It’s just about what you know.”

All the team enjoyed the experience. “It was excellent,” said George. “It was great to test our knowledge, and to see how the BBC works.”

“We wanted to see how we’d do,” said Ross. “It’s easy to answer questions when you’re sitting at home, but it’s different when you are in a studio.”

The team didn’t meet up with the Eggheads themselves until after the competition, when they found them very friendly, though not necessarily terribly knowledgeable about Shetland: “One of them seemed to think that the five of us made up the entire population of the islands,” said Ross.

It also came as a surprise to the production company to discover how far Shetland is from London. “My brother was the first of us to submit his travelling expenses,” said Ross, “and they assumed they were for all of us.”

The episode of Eggheads featuring the Shetland team is scheduled to be broadcast on Monday evening on BBC2.

Party for Ness Mirrie Dancers

A party to celebrate the Mirrie Dancers illuminations at Garths Ness will take place from 7-9pm this evening at Betty Mouat’s Bod.

Soup and sandwiches will be served, and all are welcome to attend this free event, which promises to be a particular treat for the bairns.

“In keeping with Mirrie Dancers, the theme is light,” says Roxane Permar. “The children will get glow bracelets and necklaces, and they will be issued with secret message pens, and invited to write three invisible words about the illuminations, which can only be read with a UV torch.

“There will be other ways they can have fun playing with light as well, and the venue is going to be lit with candles.”

Roxane will also be interested to hear the reaction of older folk to the project, and expects them to enjoy looking at a film recording the various stages it has gone through.

Letters from Ghana

The staff and pupils of Cunningsburgh School expected that it would take up to three months for the replies from their new, sister school in Ghana to reach Shetland. They were therefore pleased and surprised when, in spite of disruption to the postal service, they arrived in only one. That means a package of letters can be sent in each direction every term, which head teacher Jane Husbands says is ideal, as it sustains the children’s interest without being too much for them.

Looking at the letters sent by both schools, it is interesting to note the similarities and the differences between the Shetland bairns and their counterparts in Ghana.

Mrs Husbands says she was struck by the elegance of the Ghanaian children’s way of expressing themselves, which could be due to English not being their first language, or might reflect a more formal usage there. One child, for instance, describes himself as “the first child of my mother”.

Something that made an impression on the Cunningsburgh school pupils was the Ghanaians’ high ambitions and definite ideas as to how to achieve them. One young girl says she wants to be a doctor, and one of the boys cites going to the library as among his favourite things to do. “They know they have to work hard,” says Mrs Husbands.

This assiduousness appears to extend to home life too, and it is somewhat startling to read one of the Ghanaian pupils saying that he dislikes going out after school as he prefers to stay at home and help his parents.

The Cunningsburgh School pupils’ replies, which have now been sent off to Ghana, exhibit a mature and touching sensitivity to the differences between their lives and those of the Ghanaians, and they are keen to explain about things the African children might not have encountered.

“Do you know what snow is?” one boy writes. “Well snow is very, very cold, and it spreads around Shetland and other places.” Descriptions of the Shetland wildlife recur, in particular the puffins. One child explains what a bannock is, and many go into detail about Up-Helly-A’.

Given the vast literal and cultural distance between Shetland and Ghana, what is most striking, however, is how much the children from both places have in common.

Like their northern counterparts, the Ghanaian bairns are interested in their appearance. One lass describes herself as “fat”, while a lad confidently asserts he has “charming eyes”.

Food is much on all their minds. Fish and chips are cited as a Shetland favourite, while chicken stew and rice are evidently popular in Ghana, along with a dish called “fuafua”, which the Shetland bairns have asked about in their letters.

Shared pastimes include music, swimming and, especially, football. The Ghanaians also play a game called “ampe”, which the Shetlanders are interested to know more about.

As well as sending their letters, the Cunningsburgh School pupils have collected things which they think will give the Ghanaians a picture of life in Shetland. Photographs, maps, postcards and a copy of The Shetland Times are also in the package.

Correspondence between the staff of the two schools has so far been limited to Mrs Husbands and Thomas Afrane, the environmental studies and science teacher who is in charge of the exchange of letters for the Ghanaian school. This, however, looks set to change.

“All our staff are now keen to take part in the project,” says Mrs Husbands, so it could well be that the Cunningsburgh School teachers will soon have friends in Africa too.

Up-Helly-A’ tickets

Tickets for the South Mainland Up-Helly-A’ are now available and are selling fast. To book yours, phone George Hunter on (01595) 696589 to reserve tickets for Gulberwick Hall, or Mary Andreas on (01950) 422206 to reserve tickets for Bigton Hall. Tickets for Ness Boating Club are available from Sonny Flaws on (01950) 460622 or at the club on Saturday evenings. Tickets for Sandwick Social Club have now sold out and there is a waiting list. Prices for all the venues are £10, £8 concessions.

Please note that under-16s must be accompanied by a responsible adult. All halls will be issuing proof-of-age wristbands.

Singers wanted

The Sandyburn Singers are eager to welcome new members, so if you like to sing they would love you to join them. There are no auditions, the group just meets to sing and to put on the occasional performance.

At present there are around 25 members, and their sessions take place once a fortnight on Friday at 7pm at Levenwick Hall. For further information phone (01950) 422272 or email

Bridge comes off moorings

The recent violent weather caused the bridge over the burn at Hoswick beach to come off its moorings.

“It shifted with the heavy sea, and nearly fell off the concrete pad at either side,” said local resident Don Farquhar. “John Flaws had to go down with a big powerful tractor and push it back into place.

“It’s not often you sea a sea that high. We haven’t had one like it for a few years. A skip was floating around too, and it was half full at the time. The bridge should stay put for a while, but nowadays you get such extreme conditions.”

Cathy Feeny


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