Team Shetland’s excellent medal successes and wider achievements at the NatWest Island Games in Bermuda were recognised during a civic reception in Lerwick Town Hall last night.
SIC convener Malcolm Bell hosted the event, paying warm tribute to all who contributed in any way as Shetland finished ninth out of 24 islands in the overall medal table this summer.
Mr Bell vowed, even in this time of public spending constraints, that he personally would always advocate that the local authority should continue to provide funding to ensure Shetland can participate in future games
Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell presents Emma Leask with her International Games Association record certificate during the civic reception. Emma broke her own record in the women’s 800m final when she took the gold medal in 2:11.37.Photo: Kevin Jones
Gold medal-winning runner Emma Leask was presented with a certificate after breaking a games record, while Andrea Strachan’s record-breaking swimming performances were likewise given recognition in her absence.
Representatives of main team sponsor Malakoff Ltd were presented with a team photo to thank them for their assistance.
Mr Bell recalled how news that triathletes Lynsey Henderson and Peter Fenwick had won medals during the first day’s competition on 14th July had been “greeted throughout the islands with overwhelming admiration”.
“Being able to compete at island games level is no mean feat,” Mr Bell continued.
“We often see photos of the team in the sunshine at the closing ceremony in Bermuda [but people] don’t think about the dark mornings heading to the Clickimin… trips away to the mainland to take part in events, cycle runs up the Lang Kames in the teeth of a gale.”
He told competitors: “Your dedication to your events is an inspiration to everybody, and there’s no doubt you’re role models for our younger generations and true ambassadors for Shetland.”
It is fair to say that Team Shetland manager Andrew Inkster undertook something of a Herculean effort in Bermuda. In Bob Kerr’s absence, Andrew stepped into the breach and took on organisational duties while making it around nearly all the different sports – and still found time to supply this newspaper with updates and photographs.
Fittingly, he received the biggest round of applause of the night when triathlete Peter Fenwick, speaking on behalf of teammates, paid special tribute to the manager’s efforts.
Shetland Islands Games Association chairman Andrew Inkster (left), council convener Malcolm Bell and games association secretary Bob Kerr (right) at the civic reception. Photo: Kevin Jones
Reflecting on the Bermuda games almost six weeks after its conclusion, Andrew said: “I still find it incredible that our competitors competed as well as they did given the conditions.
“We knew Bermuda was going to be a challenge both logistically and financially. We rose to the challenge, everybody contributed massively. To end up ninth out of 22 competing islands reinforces that we’re punching above our weight in the games, we’re well regarded in that and long may it continue.”
Andrew offered the team’s thanks to everyone who had helped, including the SIC for its financial support and the efforts of its staff.
He also thanked Malakoff for its sponsorship, saying Team Shetland “greatly appreciated the support of a well-respected local business, and we hope to continue that positive relationship in future games”.
Successful medal winners are likely to feature heavily among the nominations for this year’s Shetland Sports Awards, co-sponsored by The Shetland Times and Shetland Recreational Trust.
Editor Adam Civico said he wanted to add congratulations from all at the newspaper: “Everyone involved in the team deserves great credit for representing Shetland so well and making the whole community proud,” he said.
“Not only did the team compete so successfully but, despite the difficulties of communicating between Shetland and Bermuda, they were always prepared to answer questions from this newspaper, allowing us to keep our readers up to date.
“Andrew Inkster deserves a special mention for the way he became team photographer and helped keep the Shetland public in the picture.”
Remote Britain: The One Minute Guide to... the Shetland Islands
By Chris Leadbeater
Updated: 14:11 GMT, 14 January 2010
Hidden in the North Sea as Britain’s uppermost extremity, the Shetland Islands are a little removed from the beaten track. Chris Leadbeater explains why you should seek them out - not least at this time of the year, when the streets are on fire...
Warriors' dance: Up Helly Aa, held on the last Tuesday of January, is the biggest and fieriest festival in Shetland
What: Britain’s most northerly outposts, a collection of 100 or so islands festooned across a (relatively) remote expanse of the North Sea. Of that approximate century, only 15 are inhabited, including the aptly-titled Mainland – by far the largest chunk of rock in the archipelago, home to the capital Lerwick and the main airport at Sumburgh.
Of the other islands, Yell is the second largest but only the third most populous, thanks in part to the wind-lashed weather conditions on its west shore, where vertigo-inducing cliffs are a gift to photographers (but less fun for residents). Unst, the third largest, is also the northernmost inhabited slice of the British Isles, and plays up to its edge-of-the-world atmosphere through the outline of Muness Castle, a semi-ruined 16th century fortress at its south-eastern corner. Further south, Bressay is little more than a pinprick on the map, huddled just to the east of Mainland and separated from Lerwick by a narrow channel where a ferry service prowls. Tempted by Bressay’s wild tranquility, migratory birds such as Arctic Skuas and Whooper Swans call in at various times of year. British tourists in search of peace would do well to heed their example.
In the dock: Lerwick, the capital of the archipelago, has a definite pretty charm, not least at Hay's Dock
Where: Further north than you think – some 100 miles above John O’Groats and almost 200 from the nearest big city, Aberdeen. In fact, so far north is this archipelago that it acts as a divider between forces of nature, lapped on the right by the North Sea, and hammered on the left by the Atlantic Ocean. Its out-on-a-limb location is also underscored by the fact that the port of Bergen, on the west coast of Norway, is as near to Lerwick as Aberdeen. The Faroe Islands are only a further 170 miles north-west.
Why go? Because, as well as being Britain’s most distant clutch of islands, the Shetland archipelago is also arguably its most starkly beautiful, a rugged enclave of hillocks, heather, peat and ponies (the Shetland Pony, a squat, bad-tempered but ever-photogenic beast is a common sight in the fields) where the sunlight plays across the chilly seascape (especially in winter, when it hangs low and pale).
Beauty spots are not hard to find. Jarlshof (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk) is an archeological site at the south tip of Mainland that dates to 2500BC. The architectural remains here – the foundations and walls of sturdy dwellings designed to withstand winter’s tricks – hark back to the Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as to the time of the Picts and the Vikings, and retain a raw majesty long after they were abandoned.
St Ninian’s Isle is a nugget of land, just off the south-west corner of Mainland, that maintains a tenuous connection with its bigger brother thanks to a low-lying sandbar that shrinks at high tide (although it never entirely disappears). Lerwick, meanwhile, is a pocket-sized town of sloping streets and undoubted charm. The Shetland Museum (www.shetland-museum.org.uk), which sits at Hay’s Dock (the onetime focal point of the town’s waterfront), relates the story of the archipelago in winning detail.
Saints alive: St Ninian's Isle (background) is separated from Mainland by a narrow spit of land that shrinks according to the tide
Random fact: At 33 metres wide, it might look too flimsy for the task, but Mavis Grind – an isthmus that ties the Northmavine peninsula to the rest of Mainland – is a buffer that splits the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. You can see both bodies of water from the road (which barely fits into the space) that runs along this tiny barrier. Indeed, if your arm is strong enough, you can pick up a pebble in the shallows of one and hurl it into the dying waves of the other. (Not that you should necessarily try this, as it’s a danger both to oncoming traffic and the otters that cross from sea to ocean here.)
Best bit: It is difficult to argue with the spume-splattered drama of Eshaness, where steep cliffs plunge to oblivion. There is little more than a lighthouse here, at the western end of Northmavine, but the view, as the Atlantic pounds out its frustration at finding an obstacle in its path, is more than adequate compensation for the isolation.
Hardy souls can hire Eshaness Lighthouse as holiday accommodation (three-night stays begin at £149 through Lighthouse Holidays – 08701 999440, www.lighthouse-holidays.com), while those who want more perspective on the geology of the islands can take a tour with Shetland Geotours (01595 859218, www.shetlandgeology.com).
Out on a limb: The lighthouse at Eshaness is now used as holiday accommodation, despite the ferocity of the Atlantic
Downside: The isles are cloaked in darkness at this time of year. January is granted barely more than six hours of daylight (roughly 9am-3pm). That said, the flipside is an (outside) chance of seeing the Northern Lights – and the long evenings of summer.
When to go: If you want to see the islands in all their finery, then you should go before the month is out. The tail-end of January – specifically the last Tuesday – is a revered slot in the Shetland calendar, as the staging point for Up Helly Aa. This is the event that sees the islands turn to flame – and return to the be-horned and helmeted days of Norse warriors and pagan gods. In short, it is a festival of fire, where the men of the islands don full Viking garb and set off on a torch-lit parade through their town or village that ends in the burning of a wooden longboat – followed by an all-night party.
Although a relatively modern tradition (dating back to the 1880s rather than the 9th century), the celebrations take place all over the archipelago. However, Lerwick, as the capital, is the centreground. The procession here is 1000-strong, the party the loudest.
This year’s big day is Tuesday January 26th (see www.uphellyaa.com).
Light and shade: A rare burst of sunlight breaks through the winter gloom above Mainland (with the isle of Bressay in the foreground)
How to get there: How’s your stomach? If you consider yourself a sturdy sailor, there is always the up-and-down prospect of a sea crossing from Aberdeen to Lerwick. NorthLink Ferries (0845 6000449, www.northlinkferries.co.uk) patrol this route, with the voyage departing once a day and taking at least 12 hours (longer if the boat calls at the Orkney Islands on the way). One-way adult fares from £22.60, cars from £92.
For those who prefer to keep their lunch with them on their travels, flights are also available. British Airways (0844 4930787, www.ba.com) offers services from London (Heathrow, Gatwick or City) to Sumburgh (with one change, usually Aberdeen or Glasgow) – return fares from about £243. Regular flights also take off from Edinburgh.
Stay: If you want to want to continue the edge-of-the-world theme (the archipelago is certainly the edge of Britain), the Northern Lights Holistic Spa is an option. A family-run retreat on Bressay (a short hop from the Lerwick ferry), it’s a place to enjoy a massage or spa treatment, as well as dinner prepared by the in-house chef. Double rooms from £45 per person, including use of the spa (01595 820257, www.shetlandspa.com).
Times past: The Bronze Age settlement of Jarlshof is the islands' key archaeological site
Further information: The official Shetland tourism website (www.visitshetland.com), and the official Scotland tourism website (www.visitscotland.com).
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