You know what makes me grumpy? All the Grumpy Old Men who appeared on the BBC TV series were younger than me, that's what makes me grumpy. Mutter, mutter....

The Grumpy Old Artist

The Grumpy Old Artist
Would YOU pose for this man???

Exhibition Poster

Exhibition Poster
Catterline Event, 2011

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Helford River, Cornwall

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Full-riggers "Georg Stage" and "Danmark"

Other Recent Works

Other Recent Works
Fordyce Castle and Village

Hay's Dock, Lerwick

Shetland-model Boats at Burravoe, Yell

Tall Ships Seascape

The Tour Boat "Dunter III", with Gannets, off Noss

The "Karen Ann II" entering Fraserburgh harbour

Summer Evening, Boyndie Bay

1930s Lerwick Harbour

Johnshaven Harbour

"Seabourn Legend"

Greeting Cards!

Greeting Cards!
Now Available in Packs of Five or in Assorted Sets of Four

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


The title of this piece refers to the name given by Shetlanders to the north Mainland of Shetland (Mainland being the name of the largest island of the archipelago).  Where exactly "nort trow" begins probably depends on whom you ask.  To someone from Voe, it probably starts at the Mavis Grind isthmus, whereas to folk, like me, from Lerwick and the central and south of the island, it most probably begins at Voe or Brae.  It is universally agreed that it ends at the Point of Fethaland, the most northerly point.

Wherever it begins, it was hither that my old school pal Robin Barclay and I hied on the morning of Tuesday 27th March.  We had arranged to go for a run in Robin's 4 x 4, accompanied by our cameras, and the weather turned out exceptionally fine for our excursion.  Robin is one of the old classmates who made up the hanging party for the ill-fated Catterline exhibition last November.  As it turned out, the hanging was the only good part of it, but I couldn't have reasonably foreseen that at the time.

Last Tuesday we called first at Weisdale's Bonhoga Gallery to see what was on display there.  We then continued on our way to Voe, where we gave our cameras their first exercise around the pier area.  Lower Voe is one of the most attractive locations in Shetland, strongly evocative of Norwegian west coast villages with the maroon-painted wooden buildings clinging to the steep hillsides around the voe-head.  We had an excellent bar lunch at the Pierhead Bar and Restaurant there.

At upper Voe, the main road splits into two, the right fork taking the traveller past Dales Lees to Firth, Mossbank and the north isles ferry terminal at Toft.  We took the left turning, from which the road skirts Olna Firth, and then Busta Voe on its way through Brae.  My intention had been to steer my old schoolmate in the direction of Muckle Roe, a place I had not visited since my last call there with the Bank of Scotland mobile unit around 1970.  It turned out that Robin had never been there before, so we duly crossed the bridge and took the left turning which led us along the Busta Voe side of what used to be an island, access to which was gained by stepping stones (use of which must have been a hazardous undertaking in inclement weather!) until a footbridge was built in 1904, upgraded to take vehicular traffic after WWII.  Judging by the fair number of new houses along the couple of miles of winding road between the bridge and the Little Ayre, Muckle Roe is now within easy daily commuting distance of the oil terminal and other mainland workplaces.

I have unfinished photographic business in Muckle Roe.  I'd known it was a mistake to have that coffee after my meal at Voe, and my bladder was at bursting point by the time we got back to the bridge.  Since no toilet facilities were evident, I had to employ the 4 x 4, on the mainland side, to shield myself from the eyes of the populace, as I pumped the bilges en plein air, so to speak.  Duly relieved, it didn't seem appropriate to cross over again, so I got a few photographs of the bridge area, before we continued our run northwards.  The weather was still beautiful, and it was only the grey colour of the ground which reminded us that March was not yet out.

We headed for Hillswick, and called at the craft shop, which was closed until May.  We carried on west as far as Braewick, and I can't recall when I was last in this part of Shetland - probably never in better weather.  Robin wanted to go to Ronas Voe, so it was back to Urafirth to get back on the road north.  We ended up down on a "taing", known as the Blade (I found that out from an OS map afterwards) at Heylor, looking across at the red granite mass of Shetland's highest natural feature, Ronas Hill.  A "skarf" was diving around the mussel ropes in the cobalt blue waters of the voe, and I found this place completely enchanting.  As far as I can remember, I've never been at this lovely spot in my life before.

We toyed with the idea of heading even farther up to North Roe, but Robin reckoned there wasn't enough time left, as he had to be back in Sandwick around 5pm.  We did call along Ollaberry on the way back south to Lerwick.  The breeze had been gentle, the sunshine warm, and the day perfect.  Sometimes I feel ashamed at how little I've seen of my native islands, and cross-country hiking will never be an option for me nowadays.  However, it's amazing how much beautiful scenery can be enjoyed from close to the road.  I'm looking forward to making more use of my camera, next time I'm "nort trow".

Now, as yesterday's snow is still clearing from the shady sides of the "hill-daeks", I recall the balmy conditions of a week ago, and ponder on the fickle nature of the Shetland weather. Fine days are not to be wasted here, and I'm glad I took full advantage of last Tuesday's sunshine.  I hope we get some decent weather this summer, but I'm not holding my breath!

1 comment:

Gem Junior said...

These are beautiful. I just happened on this site after looking at pictures of scenery from The Shetland Islands, especially Weisdale Voe, Olna Firth, and St. Ninian's Isle. Such beauty as took my breath away. I have never been there, but the next place I visit will be Shetland. I always thought that Ireland was the most beautiful place I had ever been but I've changed my mind after seeing your country. And, of course, your beautiful oil paintings. All the best, Dee