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Story of Long-Deserted Island


A new book recalls life on Havera, an island lying west of Shetland's south mainland. Meanwhile, one of the boats used by the islanders has been beautifully restored.

The original inhabitants of Havera, which was first settled in the 1770s, formed a fishing community. When the population was at its peak in 1850, there were around 50 people from five families. The book tells the story of these people and their community and explains how they made a good living from the rich soil and used their exceptional fishing abilities. The stories of life on the island feature a shipwreck and tell of the women's trips to nearby Scalloway to sell their knitwear and lace and collect supplies. Uniquely, the children of the township were tethered to a post to prevent them falling over the banks while at play.

The text for the book has been written by Laughton Johnston, with poetry by Christine De Luca. The photographs by Mark Sinclair complement the historic images of life on the island. Pauleen Wiseman has penned some original musical scores, which are included in the book. They'll also be played on an accompanying DVD that will be launched later in the year.

Boats were, of course, essential to life on Havera, but only one of these boats, the Ann, built in 1871 and owned by the Williamson family, survived. By 1999, when it was secured for the Shetland Museum and Archives by the present Curator, Dr Ian Tait, it was in a poor state of repair. It has now been immaculately restored by expert boat builders Jack Duncan and Robbie Tait. Everything original has been saved, and some parts have had new wood spliced in. The biggest challenge was the iron rudder fittings, which were made under Erik Erasmuson's direction. Every detail is right, from the rawhide grommets to her original colour, and the Ann is the second oldest Shetland boat now in existence.

A second launch event is planned for the book, in Edinburgh, on Thursday 16 May at 6.30pm in the the Scottish Poetry Library in Crichton's Close. Mark's photos will be on display, and Christine will be in attendance to read some of her poetry.

The hardback book is available to purchase now from Shetland Museum and Archives, and online at, priced at £25.00.

You can also win a copy of the book in the May Competition on our companion website

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