Review of the Year – April: Lowrie the pig a Facebook sensation

A cloud hung over Shetland in April. But this was no metaphorical cloud conjured up to convey the usual dark moods emanating from the Town Hall. This was the cloud of ash erupting from the Eyjaf­jallajokull volcano in Iceland – or, to get round the tongue-twisting search for accu­rate pronunciation, the “Icelandic ash-cloud”.

Well over 100 flights from Sumburgh Airport were cancelled as a result, causing disruption to more than 2,000 passengers. The airport was closed for six successive days, with planes parked away in a hangar to prevent any ash from landing on them.

Most people needing to get in and out of Shetland opted to travel by boat. NorthLink put on extra sailings to cope with soaring de­mand.

At least things were beginning to move in the North Mainland. The first consignment of excavators and dumpers for the construction of Total’s £500 million gas terminal arrived as Irish civil engineers Road­bridge prepared to start work on laying an access road and readying the site itself.

The council, still the subject of an Audit Scotland inquiry, was getting into more bother, this time by re­fusing to divulge details of its settle­ment with former chief executive David Clark. It was believed the total cost to the taxpayer could reach £500,000.

Escaped sheepdog Tess, who survived the winter in the wild by hunting rabbits and one unlucky chicken, was given a new home in Yorkshire.

Plans were unveiled for a new £1.3 million museum showcasing the isles’ rich agricultural heritage which could be built near Walster in Tingwall. Crowds flocked to a public meeting to add their support to the proposal.

There was a race against time to find three people eager to represent Shetland in the handover ceremony at the Commonwealth Games, follow­ing a u-turn on a decision not to send anyone from the isles to the event. A change of heart was prompted when the agency behind the Scottish games, Glasgow 2014, offered to fund the trip.

As the general election drew near, the candidates in the running for the Orkney and Shetland seat were revealed – some of which were rather familiar faces, having thrown their hats into the ring during previous election cam­paigns.

The SNP candidate was John Mowat. Others standing were Frank Nairn for the Scottish Conservatives, Mark Cooper for Labour, Robert Smith for UKIP and, of course, incumbent Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael.

Asked to show their hand, four out of the five candidates said they, on the whole, supported the windfarm proposal by Viking Energy – the one exception being Mr Smith, who described the turbines as “rubbish” and “absolute nonsense”.

Eagle-eyed nature lovers were given a rare treat when a pod of killer whales were spotted swim­ming towards Scalloway Harbour.

The Clickimin Leisure Centre celebrated its 25th anniversary. But something was missing. Seventies stars Showaddywaddy, who had been due to make a comeback, were stuck on the mainland because of the ash cloud. What a pity!

As Tesco began work on its expansion there were fears the work would lead to unfair competition for others selling non-food items.

There were concerns for missing kayaker Kester Wigram, originally from New Zealand, who was last seen heading towards St Ninian’s Isle. Police treated his disap­pearance as a missing persons case. His life was later celebrated when family and friends held a service of remembrance.

Jamieson & Smith, the wool-brokers responsible for handling most of Shetland’s wool, decided to offer crofters and farmers the biggest price increase in 40 years to boost production.

The Northern Constabulary was praised for its efficiency and ability to make savings without closing rural stations, although it was also criticised for failing to send a specialist drugs team to Shetland. But the question of closing small stations would rear its head once again before the year was out.

Meanwhile police said an official launch for its new CCTV system, now quietly up and running, was just two weeks away.

Businesses across the isles were left thousands of pounds out of pocket following the collapse of troubled construction firm JHB. The company also owed almost a quarter of a million pounds to the taxman.

Council reports found the basic capital cost of a fixed link to Whalsay would cost between £76 million and £83 million – £23-£28 million more than for an improved ferry service. Head of finance Graham Johnston said the massive infrastructure would be “impossible to accommodate”.

Away from fixed links, all eyes turned to Lowrie the Piglet, who became a Facebook sensation after reaching full health despite being expected to die after he was born the runt of the litter.

Seven-year-old Calvin Hunter, from Lerwick, realised his dream of becoming a club mascot for his favourite football team. Calvin was on hand to watch Ross County beat Premier League side Celtic in a David and Goliath-style 2-0 victory.

There was concern as Hjaltland Housing Association lost its appeal to build a major development at Veensgarth in Tingwall.

Former Shetland police chief Malcolm Bell was appointed interim manager of social enterprise com­pany Cope Ltd.

Already a European Geopark, Shetland was elevated to Global Geopark status.

Lerwick sailing enthusiast Ewen Stirling put his experience to the test when he launched a bid to take place in a gruelling trans-Atlantic race. However he was forced into early retirement during a qualifying race in France.

It emerged the council had in­vested £93 million in local industry during the decade up until March 2009.

Councillors agreed to defer a decision on siting Viking’s wind­farm converter station at Upper Kergord, pending further infor­mation on carbon emissions be­coming avail­able. This was not the last time they would fail to reach a decision on the proposed station.

Work was able to begin, how­ever, on the council’s new £6 million offices which are currently rising above North Ness in Lerwick.

The failure of a ramp at Toft caused transport chaos for those travelling to and from the North Isles.

The economy received a boost when private IT firm Alchemy Plus announced plans for a £12 million data centre in Lerwick.

A rock star with one of the world’s biggest bands, drummer Daniel Adair of Nickelback, said he was being scammed for over £2,000 by someone claiming to be from Cunningsburgh. The internet con concerned a rare and expensive microphone.

Staying with music, Liza Fullerton was named Young Fiddler of the Year.

Whalsay won the Highland Fuels Cup, the traditional prelude to the official outdoor senior football season, by beating Celtic 2-1 in a final at Symbister.

The Shetland women’s football team defeated Murieston United at Livingston in a preliminary round of the Unite Scottish Cup. The match was a personal triumph for captain Lynda Flaws who scored all three goals.

Delting’s bright start in the hockey league ended in defeat by Spurs.

And Shetland swimmers enjoyed a successful Scottish Age Group championships, picking up four golds on the way.


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