Nick Cole has been around a bit. Originally from Australia, and having spent part of his childhood in Singapore, he has worked as a dentist in London, Plymouth, Portugal, the Scilly Isles, St Helena and the Falkland Islands, to name just a few. He’s also restored and built traditional sailing boats over the years. He once sailed from Java, Indonesia, to Christmas Island, and built a boat called Dumpling for a jaunt from the Algarve to Madeira. On the way home, he took a badly-timed tea break on a misty day and sailed into a much bigger ship, having to be rescued from the Atlantic by a Russian oil tanker.
For all his globe-trotting adventures, and occasional misadventure, Shetland is one of Nick’s favourite places on the planet. “A lot earlier in my career, I moved from London to Portugal to give my children a better life,” he says. “But had I known then what Shetland’s like, I think I’d have come here. I’ve always loved island communities, but I think the community here is stronger than anywhere I’ve ever seen. People are just astonishingly decent, and I’ve not found the slightest hint of resentment towards incomers.”
People are just astonishingly decent, and I’ve not found the slightest hint of resentment towards incomers.
While Nick lives with his family in Newton Abbot, in South Devon, he comes to work in Shetland as a locum dentist whenever he can – typically for three or four months a year. “It’s just a really nice place to work,” he says. “My colleagues up here are exceptional, and really feel like a family group, and I think people up here are allowed to be themselves. There’s no sense that you have to conform to some sort of bland corporate identity.”