19th October 2018
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After four decades on the Mousa ferry run, Tom calls it a day

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Tom Jamieson could hardly have taken in just how big a part his pleasure-boat service to Mousa would play when he first started ferrying tourists to the isle in 1971.

Back then his little Shetland boat could carry a maximum of 10 passengers depending on the weather conditions. Nowadays his specially-built vessel, MV Solan IV, is capable of carrying 60 people on a busy day.

All of which could make the business a potentially attractive proposition for anyone looking to take over the service. That is exactly what Mr Jamieson hopes someone will do. After almost 40 years in the business, he is looking to sell up and retire.

Mr Jamieson, of Sandwick, took over the service from the late Peter Smith who died in early 1971. Since then he has taken up to 3,000 visitors a year to the island, many of who are drawn to see Mousa’s famous landmark – the broch – and spectacular wildlife.

The 69-year-old said the business has been doing particularly well over the last 10 years.

The former baker and fireman at Sumburgh Airport retired from full time work in 2000 and, since then, has devoted more time to his boat service.

He said many Shetlanders, as well as visitors, enjoyed the trips. “There are quite a lot of Shetland folk that come across, as well as the tourists,” he said.

“We’ve been quite busy. I would say the broch is the main attraction, but there are also seals on the island and a lot of bird life.

“It started when I came to live at Liberton in Sandwick. The man before me [Mr Smith] was operating the boat then, and when he died I bought the boat from his widow.”

He said people were always “delighted” with the trip and always enjoyed the peace and quiet Mousa has to offer.

“There is the boat trip, plus a walk around the island. We give people a map. There’s a path marked on the island and they follow that around.”

An integral part of the operation has been Mr Jamieson’s wife, Cynthia, who has busily carried out all the bookwork for the business. “She has had a big part to play,” he said.

An average trip to Mousa, he said, should take around 10 minutes to complete.

However the trips have taken longer recently since the boat had to leave from Cunningsburgh instead of the Sandsayre pier, which is currently being restored to its original condition. Sandsayre is traditionally the starting point for trips to Mousa.

He admitted he would miss doing it, but was also looking forward to a bit of free time.

“We’ve worked every summer for a long, long time. We’ve always got our holidays later.

“It would be a splendid business for someone to take over. It’s only half a year’s work, and then you have another half a year to go and do some other job.”

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About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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