Happy Memories of Island Life from My Childhood

When I was around about 10 /12 years old I would often go off to the fishing with my Grandfather in his boat the Betsie. Most often we would fish off- shore to the North West of our Island home Burra. An event that remains with me to this day is that instead of heading north we ventured to the south and after some time came into the lea of an Island which he said was called Havera. Our fishing ground was known as the Trink and in no time we caught more than enough fairly large haddock.

Havera from Top of Royal Field West Cliffs, Cunningsburgh

Seeing we had a bit of time to spare he guided the boat into an enclosed inlet or as we knew it a “geo” and we embarked on a rocky point. We toured the Isle and he told me stories of crofter/ fishermen who had lived here when he was young and stories of ship wrecks.

Havera Houses from the Ness of Ireland

If my memory is correct one of the last families left the Island and settled on the south east of Burra at Symbister. The soil on Havera was very fertile and at one time supported several families. Grandad told me of a rich vibrant Island surrounded by bountiful fishing grounds, incomers would come in to the isle and work in the fish drying and salting.

When we reached the ruined settlement I was astonished to see the houses set out on a promontory and flanked by deep cliffs very dangerous indeed. He went on to say a story went around that the smaller children were fastened to “tethers” rope, to keep them from falling over the edge.

Havera Houses at Cliff Edge
Ruins on Havera

That particular day one question was answered the broch type building at the top of the Island which I always believed it had to do with Picts, it was in fact a windmill which seemingly did not have a lot of success. Not only was this day a successful fishing trip it was a journey back in time tales from someone of that era, and a day I will never forget.

Havera Windmill
Gathering Sheep at Havera
Loading Sheep
Securing the Sheep Aboard the Boat Before Leaving

Many years later an elderly crofter from Hoswick on the east coast of Shetland told me his mother had gone into Havera to work in the fish and she spoke about dancing Shetland Reels in Havera. Yet another crofter from Sandwick told me of a laird’s man going into Havera to gather taxes, on his way back to the shore he was left on a rock and succumbed to his fate and drowned.

I was most fortunate to visit Havera again and the surrounding district this time with my camera.

4 thoughts on “Happy Memories of Island Life from My Childhood

  1. Was the only fresh water available rain water? Was it caught in and held in catchment tanks? It is so beautiful in your photos, but I am guessing is quite intimidating in stormy weather!


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