The official naming ceremony of NorthLink’s new freight and livestock ship Hildasay has taken place, with the honours performed by schoolgirl Sophie Wishart who won the competition to name the vessel. There was only a slight hitch, when the obligatory bottle of champagne failed to break.
The ceremony, which was attended by over 60 people, including the Jarl’s Squad, began inside the ferry terminal with a speech by NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson, who thanked Sophie, 12, from Ocraquoy in Cunningsburgh, as well as the crew of previous ship the Hascosay for all their work over the years.
After some words from deputy chairman of the David MacBrayne Group David McGibbon, who is a non-executive director of NorthLink Ferries, and chairwoman of the local transport authority ZetTrans, councillor Iris Hawkins, the group made their way outside while Sophie, her dad John Wishart, Captain Victor Suhareus, the Rev Gordon Oliver and Mr Davidson made their way onboard the 10-year-old ship.
A blessing was made by Mr Oliver, of St Columba’s Church, Lerwick, a role he also performed over seven years ago when he gave the formal blessing on the passenger ferry Hjaltland.
Sophie was then asked to speak. She said: “I’m not used to public speaking so I’ll be very brief. I just wanted to say thank you to NorthLink for choosing me to name the new freight boat.
“My dad works as a maintenance joiner with the Lerwick Port Authority and he sees the NorthLink boats nearly every day. We saw that NorthLink had organised a competition to name the new boat and dad suggested that I should submit an entry. So I’d like to thank mum and dad and my peerie sister Kirsty for helping me put the entry in.
“I chose the name because of its local connections, because it began with an ‘H’, like the other NorthLink boats and because we liked it. When I was told that my choice had won and that I was to perform this ceremony I just couldn’t believe it. I think I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life. It sure beats being in school!”
Standing with the official party on the bow of the ship, Sophie then spoke the traditional words which hansel every vessel: “I don’t think I want to say any more, so here goes … I name this ship Hildasay. May God bless her and all who sail in her.”
Unfortunately after three attempts the bottle still hadn’t broken. However a second bottle of Moët Chandon champagne was on hand to spill over the ship’s side, to cheers from the Jarl’s Squad and the crowd on the pier below.
The party then made its way inside the Hildasay, where the Jarl’s Squad and their musicians performed the Up-Helly-A’ song before the Jarl Rae Simpson and Lerwick Port Authority chairman Brian Anderson each presented the captain with a special plaque.
Mr Davidson also awarded Jarl Simpson a bottle of Highland Park whisky before Sophie unveiled a plaque, which will be fixed to the Hildasay to commemorate the naming ceremony.
Sophie was also presented with a commemorative bracelet by NorthLink Commercial Director Cynthia Spencer.
Speaking after the ceremony, Sophie said of her experience: “It was really, really good, it was a shame [the bottle] didn’t completely smash but it was really good.”
Sophie said she’d been looking forward to the day and it had lived up to her expectations. She is also looking forward to using some of the free trips on NorthLink that are part of her prize.
She added: “It was really good to meet Cynthia Spencer and everybody from NorthLink. We’re going to go away at Easter to see the Sound of Music, that’ll be one of our trips.”
Mr Davidson said: “Hascosay is 39 years old and has done us sterling service … I would like to thank her crew for all of their hard work over the years. They have worked hard to keep Hascosay operational and as a result she has delivered a very reliable service to our many freight customers in Orkney and Shetland.
“But with Hascosay leaving our fleet the experience of her crew in serving the Northern Isles is not being lost as they are moving to the other NorthLink ships.”
He added that a deal to sell the Hascosay to a Saudi Arabian buyer was being concluded and that the ship would now be transporting livestock from Somalia in the horn of Africa to Saudi Arabia, although the cargo there was more likely to be camels and goats than sheep.