Scalloway

Scalloway (ON Skalavagr) -- bay of booths or houses was the original capital of Shetland lying on the west side of Shetland, it is perhaps best viewed initially when travelling by road from Lerwick from the viewpoint at the sharp bend of approaching road high above the East Voe, with the village and the vista of islands extending out to the west in the full sun.

Whilst the village perhaps does not get the attention given to Lerwick by visitors, it has many attractions for the ship lover, in addition can boast a proper castle, although its history is not looked on with any great affection. Built by the particularly odious Earl Patrick Stewart in 1600 largely with pressed labour, however, and notwithstanding being a cousin of Mary Queen of Scots, he met his comeuppance when he was hanged at Edinburgh with his son in 1615.

Scalloway owed much of its early development to the location of fishing grounds, the richness of the grounds immediately off the west coast of central Shetland during the early phase between 1815 and 1830, especially in the near offshore Burra Haaf, (haaf, open sea, cognate of Norwegian hav, sea or ocean) and the later period between 1855 and 1870 when larger cod smacks ranged as far as Faroe, Rockall and Iceland which stimulated investment and ownership by merchants and landowners as well as fishermen. The original Blacksness pier was built in 1830 to serve the fishing needs, and was extended again to accommodate the grandly named North of Scotland Orkney & Shetland Steam Navigation Company, usually known as the North Co, who inaugurated a west coast service from Aberdeen to Stromness and Scalloway in 1881 using the Queen (II). Calls at Scalloway were terminated with the departure from Leith of the St Fergus on 5 May 1940.

It still has an important fish market which is used extensively by Shetland and visiting boats, as evidenced by the fact that in the year 2015 a total of 4,535 tonnes of fish were landed realising a gross sum of £7,693,000. The Blacksness pier was again enlarged in 1980 and enclosed temperature controlled fish market built to cater for the fishing fleets, and substantial salmon and shellfish processing and associated functions now tending to dwarf the nearby castle.

During WWII, Scalloway, from 1942, became the home to what was termed the “Shetland Bus”, the name given to the clandestine operations where undercover agents and supplies to the Norwegian resistance movement were landed, and equally importantly provided an escape route for refugees and others suspected of anti-Nazi activities.

All this was not without a cost however, between Sept 1942 and March 1943 seven boats were lost, with consequent loss of life, either due to weather or enemy actions, however the donation from USA of three large fast submarine chasers then carried out a further 115 crossings without loss. A commemorative cairn from local Norwegian stone was unveiled in 2003 with plaques listing the names of the personnel lost en-route to Shetland, topped by a sculpted model of the typical Norwegian fishing boat of that era, the Andholmen, has been erected on the sea front close to the slipway and local engineering works which did much to keep the operation going.

The Port Arthur promontory once housed guns and lookout positions during WWII, but is now the site of the NAFC Marine Centre, part of the University of Highlands and Islands, which is an acknowledged centre for training and supporting a wide range of nautical, fishery, engineering and aquaculture studies. A well patronised boating marina is adjacent to the Scalloway Boating Club premises.

The overlooking Gallows Hill saw the last witch burnings in 1712 of Barbara Tulloch and her daughter.

The accommodation barge Bibby Challenge was moored alongside Blacksness pier on 13 May 2003 when chartered by Petrofac to accommodate up to 400 workers engaged in the construction of Total’s gas plant at Sullom.

The port was then host to the largest ship berthing there to date when the cruise liner Gemini augmented further the accommodation requirements when the liner entered the port on October 4th 2014 and moored beside the barge.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - December 2016 Issue
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