Fishing, shipwrecks and five families: the stories of Havera

A new book recounting the history of a small abandoned island was launched on Friday.

Havera: the story of an island, tells the story of the small island of South Havera, and the people who lived there before it was finally abandoned in 1923 after originally being settled in the 1770s.

Havera’s original inhabitants were fishing families and about 50 people from five families living there at its peak in 1850.

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The book tells the story of the inhabitants, and how the community of Havera was unique, with the people making a good living from the rich soil and their exceptional fishing abilities.

There are many tales of life on the island including the inevitable shipwreck, the women sailing to nearby Scalloway to sell knitwear and lace and collect supplies, and how children were tethered to a post to prevent them falling over the banks while at play.

The book is a collaboration between Laughton Johnston and Christine De Luca, with poetry by Christine. Photographer Mark Sinclair was also involved in the project, with his pictures complementing the historic images of life on the island.

It also includes original scores penned by Pauleen Wiseman, which will also be played on an accompanying DVD due to be launched later in the year.

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Most families who lived on Havera had two boats – a summer haaf boat and a winter boat for haddock. Only one of these, the Ann, built in 1871 and owned by the Williamson family, survived.

The Ann was used for all manner of tasks, such as flitting the cow to the bull. She ended her days near Bridge End, slowly falling apart but was saved in 1999 by Dr Ian Tait because of her age and rarity.

He hoped she might be restored and that vision is now reality thanks to expert boat builders Jack Duncan and Robbie Tait.

Everything original has been saved, while some parts have had new wood spliced in. The biggest challenge was the iron rudder fittings, which were made under Erik Erasmuson’s direction.

Every effort was made to ensure the details were correct, from the inclusion of rawhide grommets to her original colour.

The Ann is the second oldest Shetland boat in existence and her restoration coincided with the publication of the book telling the story of her original home.

As part of the book launch the boat is on display in the foyer at Shetland Museum and Archives until 29th April.

There will also be a display of items from Havera including a gold ring gifted to one of the island’s women from the captain of the shipwrecked Norwegian barque lovise in 1903; and a range of other items such as tea services, textiles, a resting chair and a pocket watch, kindly loaned by Havera families.

There will also be a display of Mark Sinclair’s photography in the upper foyer, accompanied by the sounds of Pauleen’s original music for the book.


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