Wednesday, August 10, 2005
A cleared croft
Sannions is one of two crofts north of Boatsgeo, Heylor, Shetland, cleared in the 19th century. The other is called Sumra, and both roofless houses were evidently carefully and strongly built.
I walked out from the road end on Saturday morning, the first time I'd ever been there. And it's amazing. Further north on what I suppose is the Tingon peninsula, there is the landmark headland called The Faither, large lochs, and I already know the volcanic outcrops and huge waterfalls. But the two crofts are incredibly atmospheric. You stand inside the walls, the wind dies away, and you can imagine everything that happened there in the past.
Below Sannions is a small beach, obviously used as a landing and reached by a precipitous path down the geo. On Sunday I was at a party with some local folk who knew the crofts well, and one man whose great grandfather used to dry fish on the same beach, every day during the season of 'Da Haaf' - the great herring fishery, conducted in open boats far out to sea. The crofts were cleared, apparently, after two Shetlanders came back from a profitable gold mining expedition and bought up the land. The Sannions and Sumra families loaded everything they owned - animals, furniture, goods and chattels, even the newly-cut corn, and sailed up Ronas Voe, landing at the head.
I had to leave, alas, before exploring Sumra, but I'll be back. It's one of the strangest, most melancholy, yet seductive areas I've ever been in Shetland.