TO TINGWALL LOCH VIA EAST AND WEST BURRA
Old Scalloway was the original capital of Shetland and there are quite a few houses both in the town and the surrounding areas. I would guess that in Shetland where the fishing is good and there is easy access to the sea with safe harbours, it has lead to quite a thriving population, but those areas furthest from the sea are often seem bare and empty. Also I know from my gardening experience that peat has little or no nutriments for growing plants, whereas seaweed is rich in everything needed, in fact if any of my plants, or animals come to that, needed a boost I generally used seaweed meal. Many years ago I read somewhere that kelp contains all the trace minerals which can be absorbed happily by plants and animals. Soluble chemicals must be taken in, as as bulb forced in water coloured with ink will bloom with a blue flower. Whereas the minerals in the kelp are just taken in by the plant as and when required.
Shetland waters grow vast quantities of kelp - that huge, flat, brownish seaweed, - and put onto the land nearest the sea, together with some sand to improve the drainage you could grow wonderful crops, potatoes in particular relishing seaweed as a fertilizer. So with the fish from the sea, potatoes and garden veg from the area round the croft house, plus some mutton from the sheep on the hills, and eggs from the seabirds in season it could have been a good life here, though hard work, and little in the way of luxuries I would guess.
I think the coming of the oil companies in the 1970's made huge differences to everyday life in Sheltand. The excellent ferry system was set up, bridges built, roads sorted, and some wonderful schools and facilities such as health and sports centres built. Those Shetlanders old enough to remember the before and after say oil was the making of Sheltand, and now there is another boom with gas. Even at Scalloway there was a huge floating accommodation barge for the workers needed to build the new installations at Sullom Voe some thirty odd miles away.
From Scalloway I travelled down to the three islands of Tondra, East Burro and West Burro. Until the oil wealth of the mid 70's these were islands only reachable by small ferry boats, though now there are several bridges linking them to each other and to the mainland.
This part of Shetland seems far more populous than further north, and I think fishing still plays an large part in the life of the islands here. Scalloway is still an important fishing port, and in fact they have a Fishermen’s College there. Silly I know, but for some reason coming from the landlocked Midlands it never occurred to me that there were colleges to teach the skill of fishing. Though its obvious that there would be when you think about it
Burra was one of the places where complete new fishing villages were constructed in the herring boom of the 19th C.
Well modernised its difficult to see what they must have once looked like, though in essence they remain almost unchanged
A delightful little building attached to one of the fisherman's houses.
There are lots of fishing related items around the islands
Original Old Burra Fishing Croft - now restored by the local history group and open during the season,
though not when I was there
Its interesting to see that the thatched roof is covered with ropes weighted down with stone,
presumably to stop if from blowing away in the Sheltand winds
A flock of Shetland Geese down towards the bottom of the islands
And just for old times sake a group of free-range hens
with a bit of a look of Copper Marans about them
If I could have seen anyone around I would have asked to buy some eggs
Most of the roads on this group of islands are pretty narrow, and as usual so early in the year non of the 'tourist' attractions were open anyway, but I got to quite few places, though any photos had to be taken from Thebus as there were so few places I could have parked up at - if, in fact any.
I hadn't realised there was a campsite on the islands, and had I known about it I would have stayed, in fact I actually turned Thebus round right opposite it! But as it was I headed off to visit Tingwall Loch and Kirk which was not too far.
Tingwall is the site of the original “Parliament” of Shetland – the Thing, which was held on an island in Tingwall Loch, though there was at some time in the past causeway to reach it, when the land around was drained for agriculture, the water level in the loch fell and the island became simply a promontory.
Its a lovely old kirk at Tingwall, built around the later part of the 18th C, and very similar in design and feel to the Kirk at Lunna. And part of the original building which pre-dated it by some seven hundred years is still in existence in the churchyard. Delighted to find the kirk open I had a good look round, and as there was a huge car park and the evening was drawing on I wondered if I would be in anyone’s way if I spent the night parked there. I walked over to the house opposite, which I thought was The Manse, though no-one was in. But within a few moments of getting back to Thebus a young couple turned up, and managing to catch up with them I checked that I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way if I parked there for the night.
Tingwall Kirk and all that remains of Old Tingwall Kirk
I was fascinated to learn that the young man had come to choose his “plot” in the recently extended graveyard. That solved the mystery at St Olaf's where the old kirkyard had been newly extended, and along the neat path leading through the newer section were numbered kerb stones - they were plot numbers!
The yound man's family had farmed here for generations at a large farm on the slopes overlooking Tingwall Loch. His grandparents were buried at the end of one of the new rows and his parents had booked their spaces alongside them, and he had now come to select his final resting place for eternity. I suggested he chose one with a good view of both the church and his home.
The Shetland folk have such a sensible attitude to life and death. We “South-Mouthers” have lost the ability to come to terms with the facts of life, and following where the Americans have led refuse to countenance the merest hint of human life ending, and push it from our lives by an endless quest for youthfulness.
As he was leaving he looked at Thebus, and said – I know all about you – You were stuck in a ditch at Lunna.
He was a contractor and had gone over to do some work for the helpful farmer who had pulled us out, and his lad who had driven the JCB told him all about our mis-adventure!
Tingwall Kirk with the farmstead in background
overlooking Tingwall Loch which is behind the Tingwall Kirk from this angle
Tingwall Kirk Plot Numbers