When thinking about where to begin with this three year research project I decided to put together a timeline in order to put the Shetland boat into an historical context. This contextualisation is important, as it will provide a structure in which to place the development of the Shetland boat in terms of its use as a mode of transport, fishing and recreation.
Click on this link to download the Shetland Timeline
Shetlands location straddling both the North Atlantic and the North Sea has played an important part in the shaping of its history (Fenton, 1978, Osler 1983).
Osler (1983) asserts that the hull form of boats can change even within a district or a parish because the sea conditions the boats operate in often varies as does the topographic access these boats have to the sea. This contextualising of the Shetland Islands is discussed by Fenton (1978) who believes that most people, particularly those in the South of the United Kingdom, regard the Shetland Islands as being remote.
This remoteness is geographically true, but because of where Shetland is located also means that these Islands have been a trading hub for many centuries (Fenton 1978).
Culturally, Shetlands allegiance is probably closer to Norway than it is to the United Kingdom and this can be demonstrated by the fact that 99 percent of its place names are Scandinavian in origin (Fenton 1978). This Norse cultural allegiance is identified by Watt (2012) who defines this as a ‘Norseman’s bias.’ Through her research, Watt identifies close cultural ties to Norway which is in opposition to the fact that Shetland has been under Scottish rule since 1472 and then under British rule since 1707.
This timeline currently ends with the Crofters Act (1886). This date is significant as it changed the relationship between the Laird and the crofter who until then was in effect in servitude (Simpson 2011).
This timeline will continue to be amended throughout the research project. At the moment I am not sure at what date the timeline will end as boats are still being built (although in very small numbers) and yesterday I read in the Shetland Times that Shetland Amenity Trust have just received a £121,880 grant from the European Regional Development Fund. This money will support the Trust’s efforts in creating a boat building apprenticeship scheme. The purpose of this scheme is to ensure the Shetland Isles’ seafaring heritage is passed down to future generations.
Fenton, A. (1978) The Northern Isles: Orkney and Shetland. John Donalson Publishing, Edinburgh.
Osler, A, G. (1983) The Shetland Boat South Mainland and Fair Isle. Maritime Monographs and Reports No 58. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Simpson, S. (2011) Shetland’s Heritage of Sail. Shetland Times Ltd. Lerwick, Shetland.
Watt, A. (2012) The Implications of Cultural Interchange in Scalloway, Shetland, with reference to a perceived Nordic-based Heritage. Unpublished thesis. University of Aberdeen.