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Voluntary Action Shetland

Issue 295 - Simmer 2021

Number 295 of the New Shetlander is now on sale, with a variety of content.

Archaeology enthusiasts will be keen to read about the Brunt Hill sandstone quarry in Walls. Torben Ballin’s article is accompanied by an array of photographs. The quarry is from Neolithic/early Bronze age times, and is the largest of its kind in Shetland. It is thought to include several hundred quarry pits. The main product appears to have been stone plough points. Excavations need to be done to discover the whole story.

Gordon Johnston has written ‘Da aamos’, a striking new short story set during the First World War, though the poignant events mainly take place at home.

There is a tribute to the late and much-missed Davy Cooper, so well-kent throughout Shetland due to his tireless involvement with community groups and activities, including, of course, the New Shetlander.

The respected linguist Gunnel Melchers also died recently. She had a great love for Shetland and wrote extensively about its dialect. Gunnel was a mentor and friend to Viveka Velupillai, who has written an obituary for the magazine.

It will come as a surprise to many readers that the date for the first known Shetland poet has moved back to the fifteenth century! He was known as ‘Poor Olaf, the Shetlander’, and some writings of his have come to light recently. What did he write in – Old Norse? No, he wrote in Latin – apparently very good Latin. Andrew and Alexis Jennings have been investigating him. His life was eventful and he faced difficulties of various kinds.

In an article entitled ‘Centenaries’, Morag MacInnes considers the difficulties of handling a deceased writer’s papers, and the pitfalls involved in celebrating them after their death. She uses a recent publication about the film-maker and writer Margaret Tait as an example, and wonders what might materialise during George Mackay Brown’s centenary year – 2021.

Osla Jamwal-Fraser, the new Wadder eye writer, reflects on dialect, on ‘code-switching’ when we speak, on attitudes to regional language, and ponders the importance of it all.

The poetry is perceptive, ironic, reflective, observant of nature; the unusually flowery editorial, considers ‘Green spaces’. The cover is by artist Roberta Fulford, whose work is currently on show at Shetland Museum and Archives.

There are book reviews as usual, including Mary Blance’s lively review article of a book about to be published: a biography of the late Tom Henderson by Laughton Johnston. Tom Henderson, first curator of the Shetland Museum, and a significant figure in Shetland’s story, led a varied and and fulfilling life, despite some dark times.

A note to local writers: the New Shetlander has extended the deadline for its short story competition, until 11 October.

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