Group calls for community backing to save maritime heritage

A not-for-profit company is appealing for support to launch its first community project – to help preserve maritime heritage “before it is too late”.

Moder Dy was established as a community interest company in 2018 by directors Marc Chivers, Esther Renwick and non-executive director Lauren Doughton.

Moder Dy’s Esther Renwick and Aberdeenshire artist Norma D Hunter alongside an unusually large boat noost and boat draw at Bridge End, Burra. Photo: Moder Dy CIC

The recent PhD graduates joined forces in their shared passion for saving Shetland’s “rapidly vanishing” maritime heritage. So far they have footed the bill for the company and its projects.

Dr Chivers’ expertise on Shetland boats and boat use has been combined with Dr Renwick’s work on community monitoring of eroding coastal archaeology to create a pilot project recording the boat noosts of Burra, and their stories, with a view to expanding this to a Shetland-wide project.

Moder Dy archaeologist Dr Renwick said: “Folk are getting older, those who remember the days where everyone had a small boat are sadly getting fewer. Climate change is speeding up sea level rise and the increasing regularity of violent storm events means the coastal archaeology is also rapidly vanishing.

“Please help us record the sites and the stories of everyday maritime Shetland before it is too late.”

Moder Dy is run entirely voluntarily with the non-financial support of Shetland Amenity Trust, Archaeology Shetland and Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk (Scape). It also has the support of Burra History Group for the Burra Noost Project and is partnering with Bressay History Group to support their recording of Bressay noosts this summer.

Costs such as the website, room hire, resources for free school visits and insurance have so far been financed by the directors. Money is slowly trickling in via donations, sponsorship, and profits from workshop ticket sales. The next workshop is being held in Unst on Saturday 1st June.

The first step of applying to the National Lottery Heritage Fund has been successful, allowing Moder Dy – named after the dialect phrase for the mother wave – to apply for a pot of £20,000 to run the Burra Noost Project.

However, at least £6,000 needs to be raised to match this grant funding. Donations and business sponsorship (either financial, or in kind) would help make the Burra Noost Project a reality and enable Moder Dy to record the ordinary lives of Shetland folk from the days when the four-oared boat was the equivalent to the family car today.


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