New Fair Isle Bird Observatory Official Launch

by Deborah Leggate -

Virtually the entire population of Fair Isle attended the official launch of the island's new £4 million bird observatory on Saturday.

The 70-strong community were among the crowd of around 120 people who turned out to mark a new beginning for the island, widely recognised as a “mecca” for birding enthusiasts with one of the UK's largest seabird colonies.

The launch comes at the end of a roller-coaster construction period, which saw original contractor AH Wilson of Orkney go into receivership before the building was completed by local workers at Fair Isle-based Northmen last year.

Long-standing resident Jimmy Stout played his part in building the last observatory in 1969, which occupied the same site. He raised a laugh during a light-hearted ceremony when he told of an unofficial walkout during the construction period, which brought about Fair Isle's “first ever strike”.

“Now we're into 2011, with the opening of a new building,” he said. “There's been a high level of stress again. But the observatory has always been a part of Fair Isle. I would wish success to the observatory and, with it, success to Fair Isle – we can't have one without the other.

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