Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Nigel's Week in late August

 We started with a visit to Mum who was in good spirits.
 The week went very quickly and I just cannot remember on which days things happened. I do know that Nigel took most of the photos. I think, the second day, the weather was good and we took the boat out fishing for the first time. Nigel caught five, or was it eight, mackerel ... honestly, they're in the bucket.
 It was hard work so we allowed ourselves a little reward before we cleaned and filleted them for the next day's breakfast .... delicious.
 On Friday we went to Skerries on a silky smooth sea. Saw about six neesicks (porpoise).
 This is James Laughton Johnston and behind him is the lighthouse manned by an Orcadian, James Laughton in 1863 and after whom our grandfather was named.
 This is the harbour and the ferry on Skerries. Sadly there are only about 60 people on the islands (two inhabited and joined by a bridge) half of whom are 60 and over. There are four Secondary and three Primary children and only one pre school child. The main income is from the salmon farm and a couple of white fish boats.
 At the Long Ayre we searched for Kirsie Cottie's Lodge (Christina Sutherland, a Cottar [no croft]). We did not find it because it is now under the runway (on which I am almost standing taking this photo). This is the spot that she brought up our grandfather, his sisters and brothers in a hovel on a diet of limpets.
 We met two third cousins and chatted until about ten with a lovely sunset.
 We were due to leave at 11.30 am the following morning but had a call at 9.30am and told to be ready for the back of ten when the ferry would have a look and see if they could pick us up. They would not have come if we had not been booked for the entrance in bad weather is challenging!
 The car was lashed down on the deck and off we set. We were not supposed to be on deck but couldn't resist it. In the end it was not half as rough as we expected, but we still enjoyed it!
 Since the ferry dropped us at Vidlin (where we stayed the last year in Shetland in 1979) we went on up to Lunna to the old kirk where Christina (Sutherland) married Thomas Johnson (our great grandparents).
 On Sunday we went to Unst for the day to visit George (Geordie) and Lorraine Jamieson. Geordie, now retired, was latterly headmaster of the Lerwick (Shetland) secondary school and Lorraine has been Shetland's premier actress for many years. On their kitchen table we pored over genealogical connections. Lorraine is our second cousin. Her grandfather, Thomas Johnson was our grandfather's brother. Nigel thinks there is a touch of sister Elizabeth in Lorraine. They have a daughter Morag who is the next generation's third cousin and nearest Shetland relative (not counting me!).
Thomas Johnson was Lerwick's lamplighter and here he is in the 1880s (foot on ladder) lighting up the lamp above the public toilet in Lerwick.
 The last thing Nigel did for me on the morning of his departure was to help me pull the boat ashore onto the trailer and take it back up to the house.
We had a great week and will hopefully repeat it next year.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Polly writes

After photographing the otter, and leaving the writing on the screen that I was working on, I went to make a coffee. When I returned, Polly was sitting on the keyboard. She had moved the cursor to between 'o' and 'ld friends.' and inserted this message -

o[]====================================================================================================================================================================================de88888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888t1290000000000000000000000000045Rld friends.

I think she was trying to tell me something ... any ideas?

A visitor

 I was sitting at my desk and just happened to look over my shoulder and there, less than four metres away, through the large glass windows, was a large dog otter loping across the terrace! I won't tell you what I said!
He explored the garden giving me time to grab the camera and then slipped over the wall again behind the tree. I had caught a glimpse of him this morning by the shore and saw him last week too. Must be the same otter who visits Little Bousta. Polly slept through it all on the couch!

Sunday, 12 June 2011


 I fulfilled an ambition this past week ... to get to the island of Havera. It's on the west side of Shetland, just north of Maywick (which is just north of Bigton). I went with Bobby Hunter (1/4 owner) from Burra (which is a couple of kilometres north of Havera ... all very confusing, you'll need a map!). It took 20-30 minutes on his boat. The island is almost cliff-bound and about a kilometre square and on the top is a windmill (unique in Shetland). There is no jetty.
 From the top of the island there is a great view (telephoto above) south to the Holm - just west of St Ninian's Isle - and Fitful Head in the distance.
 The island is of a hard limestone rock, the grass very green and the buildings neatly built. Fishing was very important to the community. There is a wee description of going off to the haaf (deep sea) in Andrew Jamieson's story ... page 74 of A Kist of Emigrants.
 There were 4-5 families living on the island up to about 1920. A schoolteacher recorded staying in the house above the cave and listening to, and feeling, the crash of the sea under the floor. There is still one lady (96) living (on Burra) who was born on the island.
 The houses hug each other intimately between the steep banks of The Harbour and Hame Ham. Apparently, they were sheltered from the wind as it blew up the cliffs and over their heads. And, according to the schoolteacher, wee children were sometimes tethered like sheep so that they would not fall over the banks. That's Maywick in the background. The newly roofed house is used during the lambing when one or two people return for a couple of weeks in the spring.
 On top of the island is the mill. There is very little water on the island ... no burns for a water mill and the people always brought water back if they went to Mainland. Somebody built the mill a long time ago. It was driven by the wind and the sails could be put out of which ever hole was the best for the wind direction. In the end it was not that successful.
 There was also a tiny school in the centre of the island. No windows ... no distractions ... but probably a skylight on the thatched roof. There are lots of stories from the island of course ... one wee ten year old only attended school when the weather was not suitable for going off fishing. And of course there were wrecks and dramas.
There is no peat on the island which had to be cut across on Mainland at Deepdale (beyond the Holm of Maywick in the middle distance above) and brought back by boat. Not visible just south of the Holm is Bruce's Baa. Bruce was the laird whom the islanders drowned (or attempted to drown) by deliberately wrecking their old boat (with him in it) on the Baa (submerged rock). Pre-planned, they had with them another 'good' boat from Maywick which picked them up and left the laird behind!

I'm planning to do a book on the island and have the 'go-ahead' from two (so far) of the four part-owners (and descendants of the Havera folk). I would like it to be an attractive book with a broad appeal ... with poetry (not mine!) and art as well as a history of the island and its people.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Spring is Sprung

Mum was, as usual, in great form when Sorley and I saw her.
One of her characteristic poses.
It's been such a good last ten days that I got my peats cut and, yesterday, raised.
Besides getting the new boat I also managed to get all the bruck cleared from around the new window and paint it. Next thing is to finish painting the whole house.
Sorley took some photos to prove that the boat actually works! We had an action packed four days.
We had, as per Sorley's photos, a great walk to the Hams at Muckle Roe. A12km round trip for me by the track and a bit longer for Sorley round the coast. This is the North Ham.
And I got a new shirt for my birthday from Gudrun, just in time for summer.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Spring ... maybe?

Mum today at Wastview. It's almost impossible to catch her smiling or laughing as she switches so quickly to 'not being amused'!But she is in very good form. Apart from a cold and for the first time in all our years I caught it from her! She's remarkable really and seemingly content in her world.
It was almost a spring morning today ... but I'm not fooled! Sat in the porch for lunch and went for a walk to Breiwick for floats. Two families of swans were on Tara Water (nearest wee loch to Bousta) by the road. Unusually, both species were present ... the one mute at the back and three whoopers in front.

The whoopers are mum and dad and three young of last year.
Being around Ben's birthday, the oystercatchers are back and I've seen the otters and a gannet out to sea ... so it's coming ... feeling balmy at around 10 degrees!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

South Island Journey

On Thursday 20th Beth and I drove down from Dunedin to Bluff via Invercargill. Bluff is the southernmost port in NZ and the ferry point to Stewart Island where Sorley went last year. After 22 degree temps in Wellington it was relatively cool in Bluff. We stayed the night in Invercargill with a Shetland couple (relatives of the man whose biography I am to write).We then drove along the south east coast through the Catlins with some wonderful views.
Following the tourist trail on a dirt road we drove 7km (seemed like 20!) to this waterfall at Purakaunui.
We stopped the night at an upmarket eco-lodge at Mohua Park with a wonderful view, of what someone described as 'Tellytubby' country. That evening we had food at the Lumberjack cafe at Owaka. We ate out every night and this was the only place where I did not have fish but venison in a blueberry sauce.
En route north Beth spotted a big bull sea lion on a beach. By the time we parked the car and got to him he was more interested in sleeping on the warm sand, watching us with one eye.
At Nugget Point in a strong wind we walked out to the lighthouse along this path.

It's called Nugget Point as the rocks are supposed to resemble gold nuggets ... and visitors look like old gold prospectors.
The final ascent to the lighthouse was spectacular.
Next day we were on to Dunedin and to Mueraki (one hour or 40 minutes north, depending if one is driving at European or NZ macho speeds). There we had a look at the famous boulders ... don't ask me to explain.
Just proving a point ...
We stayed the night there and went to Fleur's place ... the large building just before the pier.
This was something I had been looking forward to since leaving home ... a Rick Stein recommended restaurant.
The meal was fantastic, one of the best I have had. I ate Orange Roughy and Beth had sole; the lemon sauce was delicious. Then we shared a dessert of rhubarb compote (?) and liquorice (mild) ice cream. Plus we had a great Pinot Gris (which we finished) and I had a Scottish whisky that I had never heard of (!) that was not very great.
The atmosphere was fun and Fleur herself came and chatted with us ... Beth bought her recipe book for Nick. When Beth told her that I was from Shetland she tried to phone her friend Vaila (whose father, Magnus Williamson was from Shetland) ... luckily she was not at home.
In the morning, before returning to Dunedin airport and Wellington, we nipped back down the road from our cottage and had an early coffee at her door. Oh, and I forgot, the night before Fleur's we went 1km up the road to Hampden to get fish and chips, blue cod, bit like haddock and superb! I think I managed to pack in about six (new to me) fish meals in four days. One day we must all gather at Fleur's ... you'll be bowled over. It was a great holiday with Beth ... thank you Nick!