2010 Shetland Hamefarin

Laldy, who performed at the Welcome Reception, photo by Billy Fox Photography Laldy, who performed at the Welcome Reception, photo by Billy Fox Photography Magnifying Glass After several years of planning, and a summer of reminiscences, reacquaintances, music and activities, Shetland Hamefarin 2010 has been hailed a resounding success by the organisers, visiting hamefarers and the local community.

With almost 700 Hamefarers registered to take part there were also many more Hamefarers who came to Shetland but didn't register, simply because they didn't have time!

Pupils from the Nesting Primary School, photo by Billy Fox Photography Pupils from the Nesting Primary School, photo by Billy Fox Photography Magnifying Glass To mark the start of the Hamefarin celebrations the Welcome Reception saw the specially formed 50-piece band 'Laldy' perform a range of traditional tunes. Lead by local music instructor Margaret Scollay, the group played tunes from Shetland's best-known fiddlers such as the late Tom Anderson and Willie Hunter. Also performing were pupils from Cunningsburgh and Nesting Primary Schools who sang in dialect to entertain the audience. Many Hamefarers commented that they had a "tear in their eye" as the young school children sang songs such as What Shetland Means to Me under the direction of singing instructor Maria Barclay Millar.

Sandy Cluness, Convenor of Shetland Islands Council said Shetland was honoured that so many people had travelled to Shetland to celebrate the Hamefarin and added, "This Hamefarin celebrates the golden anniversary of the original 1960 event. At that time Shetland was experiencing a loss in population through emigration and there was a strong feeling that reconnecting with our kinfolk all over the world would strengthen our own identity. It was a good idea and it worked well then just as it does now. We have built on these bonds over the years to make sure that anyone with a family interest or anyone who has lived here is made welcome when they come back."

Ross Mainland making the presentation to Sandy Cluness, photo by Billy Fox Photography Ross Mainland making the presentation to Sandy Cluness, photo by Billy Fox Photography Magnifying Glass Ross Mainland, Vice President of Shetland Society of Wellington presented a miniature greenstone adze (arched-bladed cutting tool) to the Convenor. Mr Mainland said that he presented the gift "made from our old rock" as a thank you on behalf of all the returning Hamefarers from around the world.

Sandy Cluness was also proud to receive two magnificent quilted wall hangings presented by Ann Hill. Ann, a keen quilter who was born in Shetland and now lives in Dumfries was looking forward to coming home for the Hamefarin and came up with the idea of hamefarers bringing something home to Shetland as a gift to the people of Shetland. The wall hangings are made up of 48 individual blocks from Hamefarers representing what Shetland means to them. A collection of stories from contributors to the quilts has been published and is available from the Shetland Museum and Archives where the wall hangings remain.

With Shetland Hamefarin 2010 underway, the fortnight of celebrations began the length and breadth of Shetland. The programme of coach trips saw many Hamefarers tour Shetland with expert guides, taking in the scenery and popular visitor attractions, while many took the opportunity to visit old homesteads, as well as catching up with friends and relatives. The local history groups were on hand to speak about the area and people of times past to modern day. During the trips, Hamefarers were treated to peat casting at Bigton, knitting and spinning demonstrations at Walls, photo exhibitions at Nesting and Vidlin, birdwatching in Fetlar and golfing in Whalsay.

Shetland Folk Festival Society proudly organised a tribute concert to celebrate the music of the late Dr Tom Anderson MBE and to commemorate the 100 th year since his birth. Tammy Anderson was one of the original founders of the Shetland Folk Festival and one of the most prominent and important personalities in the history of Shetland fiddle playing, and the Hamefarin presented the perfect opportunity to honour his legacy. The world-class line up included Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, Catriona Macdonald, Annbjørg, Per Anders Buen Garnås, Shetland's Heritage Fiddlers and the Shetland Fiddlers' Society.

The Shetland Museum and Archives played a huge part in the success of the Shetland Hamefarin 2010 event. To mark the event they hosted a special exhibition From Old Rock to New Life which looked at the story of emigration through individual stories, biographies of selected settlers and featured items that emigrants once owned. The exhibition proved extremely popular with both Hamefarers and locals. The Museum and Archives was extremely busy during the Hamefarin and reported record numbers of visitors through the door, with almost 11,000 people from the far corners of the world visiting in June. Visitor services assistant Cathy Hallet said, "The Hamefarin period was the busiest I have ever seen in the museum. Folk had come from all over the world and were just so keen to look at everything and learn as much as we could tell them about Shetland's heritage and culture." Assistant archivist Joanne Wishart added, "We were inundated at the archives during the Hamefarin, and were the busiest we have ever been. Lots of visitors came regularly and were able to find out vast amounts about their ancestors, that they couldn't have found elsewhere."

Central to the event was the creation of the Hamefarin Club at Islesburgh Community Centre. The Club proved to be the hub of the event and visitors were able to chat to the organisers and find out information about Shetland and the Hamefarin events. Hamefarers were also invited to attend a number of talks on many aspects of Shetland life and culture including a history of the rise of the oil industry, fishing, aquaculture, Fair Isle knitting, Shetland's economy, birds and archaeology and were also able to take part in dance practice, quilting workshops, Hnefatafl (the Viking chess board game) and kishie makkin' to name but a few specially organized events. As well as having their permanent offices at the Hillhead, Shetland Family History Society set up camp at the Club too and were kept busy researching and recording family history for Hamefarers. Elizabeth Angus, SFHS Secretary and Hamefarin organisation committee member said, "We had a hectic but very happy fortnight renewing old acquaintances and forming new friendships with the excitement of connecting first-time visitors to roots and relations - making all the preparatory work very worthwhile". Shetland ForWirds were also based at the Club where Hamefarers were invited to explore place names and dialect.

Some of the New Zealanders who sang at the Final Fling, photo courtesy of Davie Gardner Some of the New Zealanders who sang at the Final Fling, photo courtesy of Davie Gardner Magnifying Glass Shetland Hamefarin 2010 saw the launch of two books specially commissioned for the event. J Laughton Johnston was commissioned by the Hamefarin organising committee to write a book on 'Shetland emigrants'. Laughton spent two years corresponding with many Shetlanders and descendants of Shetlanders from all over the world and collected extraordinary stories of those who left their home for distant (and in some cases, not so distant) lands. Published by The Shetland Times Ltd, A Kist of Emigrants is a fascinating collection of stories and is illustrated with many photos, poems and letters and contains over 100 unique stories of 1000 Shetland emigrants.

Also launched during the Hamefarin event was Bright Pebbles, published by Shetland Islands Council in partnership with Shetland ForWirds. Bright Pebbles brings together the words, experiences and insights of fifty writers, in poetry and prose, dialect and English. The accompanying CD features a selection of the best poems, in a rich mixture of contrasting Shetland voices, together with songs and music.

Key to the success of Shetland Hamefarin 2010 was the huge voluntary effort by community groups around Shetland. The network of local area history groups played a huge part organising the local area coach trips along with the community museums and various visitor attractions. Scalloway, Cunningsburgh and Sandwick all hosted evening events with local entertainment and a traditional Shetland supper. The evening events were a great way for Hamefarers to meet family and friends in an informal setting and enjoyed an evening of entertainment. Visitors to the North Mainland were also able to enjoy the Nort Trow exhibition celebrating the area's natural and cultural heritage featuring geology, flora, fauna, Fethaland, fish and of course the legendary trows!

The crowd enjoy the last set by Fiddlers' Bid, photo courtesty of David Gardner The crowd enjoy the last set by Fiddlers' Bid, photo courtesty of David Gardner Magnifying Glass The event was packed with other events such as St Columa's Church open door; tours of the Shetland Library and NAFC Marine Centre; guided walks around Mousa RSPB Reserve, Noss National Nature Reserve, Hermaness Nature Reserve, Keen of Hamar National Nature Reserve, Sandness and Dale of Walls; fishing and sightseeing trips; Date with Nature at RSPB Sumburgh Head; exhibition of 190 years of Methodism in Shetland; sailing on the Swan LK 243; guided walks around Aith and Bressay with Shetland Field Studies Group; Armed Forces Day; Serpentine Drama's double bill of new plays; Shetland dance night with Shetland Fiddlers' Society, Shetland Folk Dance and the Papa Stour Sword Dance Group; Lerwick Boating Club open evening; and Flavour of Shetland event showcasing Shetland's music, food, craft and culture.

As the Hamefarin celebrations were drawing to a close the organisers still had a few treats in store,one of which was the Hamefarin Dance organised by the Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Club. The Alan Nicolson Dance Band and Cullivoe Dance Band treated dancers to top quality tunes for a night of traditional Shetland and Scottish dancing, a truly memorable occasion for all who attended.

Tom Ward with Guizer Jarl Rae Simpson, photo by Millgaet Media Tom Ward with Guizer Jarl Rae Simpson, photo by Millgaet Media Magnifying Glass The final day of the Hamefarin was filled with mixed emotions - many Hamefarers sad that the event was drawing to a close but excited about that evening's finale - the Final Fling, organised by Shetland Folk Festival Society. Sheila Henderson started the evening with her terrific voice warming the audience followed by fiddler Bryan Gear who, as always, played to perfection accompanied on piano by Violet Tulloch. At the break the audience had a surprise singing performance by the New Zealand contingent. It has now become a tradition for the New Zealanders to sing at the event, having done so at the previous Hamefarins in 1960 and 1985. Hom Bru took to the stage after the interval and played their infectious blend of Shetland music with fiery instrumentals and blistering use of mandolin and banjo. Headlining the Final Fling was Fiddlers' Bid whose energetic performance saw everybody on their feet, ending the concert on a high.

Part of the spectacular Viking Parade, photo by Millgaet Media Part of the spectacular Viking Parade, photo by Millgaet Media Magnifying Glass The evening and fortnight of Hamefarin celebrations came to a fiery end with a spectacular Viking Parade and fireworks display. Some 400 Vikings marched around Clickimin Loch culminating in the burning of the specially built Hamefarin galley, named Siglaheim. A competition to name the galley was won by young Hamefarer Tom Ward from Aberdeenshire, who was presented with the nameplate from the galley and had the honour of throwing the first burning torch into the galley.

As Siglaheim burned on the waters of Clickimin loch, organisers and Hamefarers alike had the opportunity to reflect on the fortnight past, a once-in-a-generation event which would not soon be forgotten by anyone involved.

Galley sailing from Clickimin Broch. Photo by David Gifford. Galley sailing from Clickimin Broch. Photo by David Gifford. Magnifying Glass