Ewan Hutcheson and Liam Slater - What Swan Means to Us

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30 October 2020

Continuing our What Swan Means to Me features, we hear from Ewan Hutcheson and Liam Slater, two teenagers with a passion for boats, music and The Swan, and some of the Swan Trust’s youngest volunteers. As accomplished musicians, their volunteering has included playing aboard the Swan for visitors to the boat.

Some people may think that The Swan may not have much meaning to our generation. However, in our opinion, we think we are so lucky to have the Swan here in Shetland, especially given our maritime past going back generations. The Swan Trust keeps these traditions and memories alive. It offers young folk like us a chance to get involved whether it be volunteering shoreside, on things such as boat maintenance, or sailing aboard Swan as part of the crew. There are fewer and fewer traditional sailing boats and therefore less opportunity to learn traditional skills. Having the Swan means these skills won’t be allowed to die out and we can pass them on to future generations.

Volunteering is not just about working directly with the boat. In 2019 we were both lucky enough to volunteer onboard the Swan as musicians as part of a music session during the Shetland Folk Festival. It was a brilliant afternoon, mixing our passions of music and boats, and the boat was packed with musicians and visitors. Ewan also played with our good friend and bandmate, Magnus, in the Swan Sail loft that summer during Boat Week. These events were really good and a great way to meet folk and learn new tunes in two very special venues. Volunteering with the Trust has also earned us hours towards our Saltire Awards.

As Liam is thinking of a career at sea, he can’t wait to be 15, so he can apply to Sail Training Shetland for a trainee place aboard Swan – something which would be a really fantastic experience. These opportunities are a great way to have a taster of being at sea for a decent length of time as part of a crew on a real working ship. It would also be a great way to learn about sailing, navigation and maintenance as well as meeting new folk and travelling to new places.

The Swan is a real asset to the community. Sadly, they no longer offer Nautical Studies at school for folk like us who have an interest in boats and sailing. The Swan Trust gives us a chance to volunteer and learn about these skills, and keep them alive. It also gives a fantastic opportunity to develop life skills through the sail training programme. To be part of a crew on one of the longer trips would be an amazing experience - it would certainly build confidence and independence, all skills which help in everyday life. It would also allow travel to new places and a chance to meet folk from all over the world.

What does the Swan mean to us? We are really proud of the Swan, especially when you see her under sail heading out the harbour. She represents our maritime past, most of our ancestors went to sea, it was how folk lived in Shetland. But the Swan also represents our future, by keeping these sailing and navigational skills alive and giving us young folk a chance to take part in trips where we can put them into practise as part of a real crew onboard a traditional sailing boat. To think The Swan Trust has been offering these opportunities for nearly 25 years is amazing and we certainly hope to see the Swan sailing around the isles, and further afield, with young folk like us for many more years to come.

Follow these links to donate or volunteer with the Trust.

Anyone can sail on Swan, for details of trips available to book check out our upcoming trips

Links to other personal stories of Swan:

Andrew Manson

Heather Gray

Maggie Adamson

Gilly B

Andrew Halcrow

Joseph Kay

Laurie Goodlad


Want to get involved in maintaining and operating a traditional wooden sailing vessel? There are a number of different ways you can volunteer to safeguard, care for and sail this unique heritage asset.

Learn more

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