A number of Shetland residents are heading to the mainland this week to be present at some of the events during the Pope’s four-day UK visit.
Among them are all five members of the Davies family from Sandwick, part of a 10-strong group of parishioners from St Margaret’s Church, Lerwick, making the trip.
Joyce Davies, a chartered clinical psychologist, her husband David, a full-time cultural studies student at UHI, and their daughters Morven, 13, Vhairi, 12, and nine-year-old Erraid are to leave tonight to travel to Glasgow, where they will see Pope Benedict XVI at Bellahouston Park on Thursday.
A large crowd is expected at the park for the open air mass, with the day including other attractions such as singing from Scots entertainer Michelle McManus and Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle.
Mrs Davies said information about the papal visit had been circulated to all Catholic churches, and the family felt that since he was “coming all the way here … we should go and meet him”.
It would be a “great learning experience” for the children, she said, and the schools – the elder two girls are at Anderson High School and Erraid at Sandwick Junior High – had been “very interested and very supportive”.
And, she said: “It will be very exciting to be part of it and not just see it on TV.”
The family has actually been fortunate enough to have seen the Pope at close quarters once before, three years ago at mass at the Vatican during a trip to Rome. On that occasion Erraid, who suffers from Perthes disease and was then in a wheelchair, was lifted into the Popemobile, which her mother said was an “incredible experience”.
At Bellahouston the Pope, who is to meet the Queen and Prince Philip at the Palace of Holyrood House earlier in the day, would be hardly visible but they would see him on the big screen, she said.
Travelling down on Wednesday are Margaret Nugent, her children David, 15, Ruth, 14, both pupils at Scalloway Junior High, and family friend Morag Smith, 15, from AHS, all of whom are taking Shetland flags with them.
Mrs Nugent, who saw Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1980, said: “We are all looking forward to it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the Pope in our own country and something we couldn’t miss. It will be great for the children to experience all the enthusiasm and excitement and it will be something they will always remember.”
Also making the journey from Shetland, although this time to London, is Mary Rutherford, who will shortly be starting her second year at Aberdeen University where she is studying bio-medical sciences.
As an active member of the university chaplaincy, she was asked by the chaplain if she would be interested in representing the university in a youth gathering to welcome the Pope outside Westminster Cathedral – and duly accepted.
Miss Rutherford said she would be representing Aberdeen University, one of around 20 young people from Scottish universities. She would also be representing the diocese of Aberdeen and Shetland.
On Saturday morning she will be part of a several thousand-strong gathering of young people representing various Catholic youth organisations, and hopes to meet the Holy Father outside the cathedral.
Later that day she will be taking part in an open air mass in Hyde Park, one of the Pope’s last engagements in London before returning to Rome on Sunday.
She said: “It’s really exciting and a really big privilege to be chosen [to go]. It will be the first time I’ve seen him live, it’s not like he comes over a lot and it will be nice to meet other young people.”