It’s been four years in the planning and expects to attract more than 500 people. This summer’s Shetland Hamefarin is set to become the event of the decade for the hundreds of visitors who are eagerly awaiting a chance to visit the land they or their forebears left.
This is the third such event since the inception of the Hamefarin (or homecoming) in 1960 – the second was held in 1985 and there was an “unofficial” one at the start of the millennium – and its supporters hope in future to hold it every 10 years.
The Hamefarin is an opportunity for those who left Shetland to make their home elsewhere to return for a fortnight of celebrations and reunions, and those descended from emigrants to visit the land of their forebears, perhaps for the first time. Around 320 have registered for the event so far.
Although most of the hamefarers will be from the UK (133 have already registered, more than half from Scotland) sizeable contingents will come from the Antipodes and North America. Australia and New Zealand in particular will be well-represented with 115 people already signed up – there are around 80,000 people with Shetland origins in New Zealand alone following a wave of emigration in the late 19th century, and surnames such as Isbister, Sinclair, Mainland, Manson and Bruce abound.
Of those who have already signed up 49 hamefarers will come from USA, 17 from Canada, two from France and three from Germany, two each from Guernsey and South Africa and one each from Norway and Iceland.
But you don’t have to be visiting to join in the Hamefarin – locals are very much encouraged to take part, whether they have family visiting or not.
The fortnight from 14th to 26th June promises to be a packed and stimulating time. There will be an array of events to welcome the visitors, including trips and exhibitions, with the Hamefarin Club, to be based at Islesburgh Community Centre, at the centre of operations. The club will be a meeting point and provide information on all the events laid on for the visitors, which will showcase Shetland’s heritage and culture in all its forms, from literary to nautical.
The Shetland Family History Society will be on hand to help with family history research and Shetland ForWirds will be promoting the dialect through displays and activities. Local history groups will be passing on their knowledge too.
Shetland Museum and Archives will play a crucial role in the Hamefarin experience, hosting a programme of lectures on topics such as crofting, Shetland literature and, most pertinently, emigration. It is currently preparing an exhibition From Old Rock to New Life, telling the story of islanders who left Shetland from 1500 to the present.
One of the most exciting events will be the launch of Laughton Johnston’s book, A Kist of Emigrants, relating the histories of those who went away to start a new life.
And, of course, music will never be far away.
Shetland Folk Festival Society is to organise a Tammy Anderson tribute concert to celebrate the work of the legendary musician and to commemorate the 100th year since his birth.
This world class line-up will unite musicians from Shetland and Norway, and will feature Dr Anderson’s former student Aly Bain, often regarded as Scotland’s top fiddler, along with his side-kick Phil Cunningham on accordion. One of “Tammy’s Peerie Angels” and founding member of Shetland’s Young Heritage in 1981, Catriona Macdonald, will also return home.
Additionally there will be performances from the two fiddle groups founded by Dr Anderson and still going strong – Shetland’s Heritage Fiddlers and the Shetland Fiddlers Society.
The Folk Festival will also organise a Final Fling, which will include Fiddlers’ Bid, Hom Bru and Sheila Henderson (now Duncan). At the end of this 400 guizers from all 10 Jarl’s Squads, plus Lerwick Junior Jarl’s Squad, will take part in a mass parade around Clickimin Loch prior to burning a specially adapted galley.
Dancing, too, will be strongly featured in the fortnight, with a Hamefarin Dance being organised by the Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Club, with music from the Alan Nicolson Band and the Cullivoe Dance Band.
There will be culture of various different sorts with readings of poetry and prose at Shetland Library, coach trips, sailing trips on the <i>Swan</i> and an exhibition and songs of praise from Lerwick’s Methodist Church. And much, much more is planned to delight the hamefarers.
Leading the organisation of Shetland Hamefarin 2010 is SIC head of business development Douglas Irvine. He said: “With so many enjoyable events in the programme it’s difficult to say what the highlight event is. Hamefarers will certainly be treated to the wealth of local talent. Many hamefarers will be coming to Shetland for the first time, some will be regular visitors and we are confident we have a range of activities to suit all tastes.
“We are keen for local folk to get involved and be part of this very special event.”