South Mainland Notebook

Fascinating events for rurals

Boddam SWRI can expect a fascinating evening on Monday, when Tim Noble will be showing two DVDs.

Tim now divides his time between his house in Spiggie and his home in Orkney, where he is a research fellow at Heriot-Watt University. He arrived in Shetland in 1974, as project manager for the first runway improvement at Sumburgh Airport.

“I fell in love with the place,” says Tim. “Since that time I have always kept a house here, and I spend as much time in Shetland as I can. I came to Shetland from Dubai, but I didn’t find the transition strange, as I have always travelled.”

Having originally trained as a civil engineer, around 10 years ago Tim did a PhD on islands and island development, which he researched in both Scotland and the Galapagos Islands. His most recent travels took him to an archipelago called Vanuatu in the South Pacific, where he spent three years working for VSO.

“I was based on Malekula Island, which is about the size of Mainland,” says Tim. “It has a population of 40,000 and I was one of only 12 foreigners living there. I was working on an EU aid project to improve relations between village communities and central government. I would drive out to remote villages and hike through the bush to even remoter ones.”

One of the two DVDs Tim will be showing to Boddam SWRI is about the women in Vanuatu, and how they collect crabs.

“There is an obvious parallel between the issue of crab conservation there, and the Shetland discussion of marine resources,” says Tim, whose doctoral dissertation looked at the conflicts that arise when traditional fishing communities are confronted with modern considerations, such as conservation and the desire for renewable energy.

“I think Shetland is managing the politics of fishing better than most,” says Tim. “It’s a strong community, and it is good at getting people working together.”

Tim is very keen to stress, however, that the focus of the film is not issues but people. “I think it is important that one gets a sense of how others live their lives, and I hope that the members of Boddam SWRI will enjoy finding out about the lives of the women there in particular.”

After the DVD on Vanuatu, Tim will show another about Shetland in the 1970s, made at that time by the Costain engineering and construction group’s film department.

“Again,” says Tim, “it is very much about people. It shows the impact of the oil on Shetlanders, and there are interviews with folk from South Mainland, some of whom have since died. It also looks at herring fishing.

“Original music for the film was commissioned by Tom Anderson’s group The Forty Fiddlers, and Magnus Magnusson did the commentary.

“When it was finished, in 1978, it premiered in Lerwick, and lots of South Mainland folk came to see it. There is now a copy in the museum, but it hasn’t been widely seen since the 1970s.”

Tim is coming up to Shetland especially to show the films. “It is quite a privilege to be asked to do something for the rural,” he says. “It is such an institution, especially in Shetland.”

Boddam SWRI’s meeting takes place at 7.30pm at Dunrossness Hall. You do not need to be a member to attend, but should you decide you wish to join afterwards they would be only too delighted to welcome you. For further information phone Mina Flaws on (01950) 460786.

On Tuesday Sandwick SWRI will be having its monthly meeting, when members can look forward to a talk on plants given by local resident Cheryl MacLennan.

Cheryl used to work as a gardener but now concentrates all her horticultural energies on her own patch of land.

“I originally learnt about gardening from my mum when I was a bairn,” she says. “Then I went on to try things out for myself.

“I’ll be speaking about propagation and collecting seeds, and I’ll only cover things you can grow in Shetland as there’s no point in discussing anything else.”

Not that this will be any kind of limitation: “There is a huge amount of things you can grow here,” Cheryl says. “And since all gardens are different I’d recommend giving anything a go that has ‘hardy’ written previous to it.

“The real killer when trying to establish a garden in Shetland is the wind. My garden is made up of solid clay on the side of a hill, and it’s taken me five years to get enough shelter established.”

Nevertheless, Cheryl already grows an impressive range of fruit in her polytunnel, including plums, apples, pears and peaches, and her vegetable garden produces, among other things, tatties, carrots, asparagus and lettuces.

“I only grow what we want to eat,” says Cheryl. “The plan is to be self-sufficient.”

The Sandwick SWRI meeting takes place at 7.30pm in the meeting room of Sandwick Parish Church. All are welcome. For further details call Cynthia Jamieson on (01950) 431367.

Local author

“I like being slightly different in the way I write, and this is very, very unusual,” says Quarff resident Donald Murray, of his novel Small Expectations, which was published on Monday by Two Ravens Press. “It consists of linked, short prose pieces and poetry, and is what I would describe as a Hebridean form of Great Expectations.”

The book falls into a genre known as flash fiction, which is thought to date from the 1990s and is characterised by its extreme brevity.

In a sense Donald has been working on it for a long time, as it is made up of disparate parts, some of which he wrote a while ago. It was only when he came upon the Great Expectations theme that Donald realised, with a sudden flash of inspiration that they could all fit together.

“It offered me a route in,” he says. “It let me see that they could function as a structure.

Small Expectations may look as if it can be read in random order, but it does actually form a sequence, so it should be read from beginning to end. Some of the stories are dark and some are light.”

The work’s mythical qualities have also been remarked on, and Donald says that he enjoys taking the truth and turning it into myth, while keeping the facts intact.

Like many writers, not all of Donald’s creative process takes place at a conscious level. He was amazed to discover, when he had finished the book, that he had also been using the theme of “Should I stay or should I go?” from the song by The Clash.

This is a question that Donald believes many island people ask themselves. “You can experience the limitations of an island acutely, especially when you are young,” he says. “I think that is why so many wandering people come from islands: they feel confined. On the other hand there are benefits to island life, such as stability and knowing one’s place in the society – though that has its negative side too.

“The stay or go question is one I also apply to my literary identity. As a Gaelic speaker, should I be writing in that language, or should I be writing in English?”

Writing prose at all is not something Donald finds easy. “It needs time and hard work,” he says. “Poetry, though, is different. I sometimes get up in the morning and discover I have a poem written in my head. You can snatch at poetry, and write it here and there.”

Currently Donald is working on two projects. One is a sequence of poems, and the other is a factual book on the Italian chapel in Orkney. He also teaches English at Sandwick School.

“I enjoy teaching,” he says. “It’s wonderfully rewarding, and being around young people delays the ageing process, though it doesn’t stop it.”

Charity walk

This is the fifth year that mothers throughout the UK will be taking part in Yummy Mummy Week. This is part of a fund-raising campaign run by CLIC Sargent, a children’s cancer charity.

CLIC Sargent gives help to children suffering from cancer, and to their families, by providing specialist nurses, social care, holidays, grants, a helpline and other services.

All the family can join in Yummy Mummy Week by doing the sponsored walk which starts at Cunningsburgh Hall tomorrow at 11am.

Depending on the weather it will last around half an hour, and will be followed by playtime in the hall, cakes, tea and coffee. There will also be a sale of beauty products, with all the profits going to the charity. The event will finish at 1pm.

Anybody and everybody is welcome, so just go along and join in. It is hard to think of a charity more worthy of support.

For further information call Cheryl Kumar on (01950) 477440. To find out more about the Yummy Mummy campaign visit

Family fun day

Clever Parenting is running a fun day at Cunningsburgh Hall on Sunday from 11am-3.30pm, and is eager to invite every member of the family, whatever their age, to come along.

Up and running for almost a year now, Clever Parenting puts mother and fathers in touch with whatever agency can best address their needs, with a view to helping them to function better and more happily as a family.

Advice given is on a whole range of topics from finance and mediation to how to approach the teenage years.

On Sunday there will be craft making for the bairns, and baby massage, as well as lots of advice about all aspects of parenting. Various groups will be represented, and there will be information tables on topics such as health and alternative therapies. Tea and coffee will be available and folk will be taught how to conceal at least one of the dreaded five-a-day in delicious pizzas, which will then be eaten for lunch.

The event is free, and all kids who take part will get a voucher for a free swim at Sandwick Leisure Centre. A lot of fun is guaranteed, and it will also be a good chance for folk to get together and compare experiences.

Clever Parenting wants families to know that help and support are on offer, and that they can provide a means to access it. In the future there are plans to run parenting workshops. For further information call (01595) 743893.

Up-Helly-A’ meeting

There’s only a week to go until the first South Mainland Up-Helly-A’, and all squads are required to be represented at the meeting which will take place in Cunningsburgh Hall this evening. There will be a marshals’ meeting at 7pm and the mass meeting is at 8pm.

Sandwick sessions

The new, regular music sessions at Sandwick Social Club have attracted a large number of people and are proving immensely popular. Tonight’s session starts at 8pm.

“The last two have been really good,” says organiser Richard Wemyss. “All are welcome to come along, either to play or to listen.”

Cathy Feeny


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