Shetland Boat Week 2019

29 August 2019

While Swan may have been away in Norway on a youth charter for Shetland Boat Week 2019, The Swan Trust was still involved, with two events as part of the festival. The first was a fascinating evening talk on the history, restoration and future of the vessel and the other was an open afternoon in the Swan Pier Store.

After an introduction by Museum Curator Ian Tait, the Talk was presented by three of the Swan Trust Trustees. John Goodlad gave a fascinating insight into the Swan’s history, as well as Shetland’s fishing heritage and many traditional boat designs. Brian Wishart then spoke about the rescue/purchase of the vessel in 1990, her return to Shetland, the extensive restoration and the formation of the Swan Trust to look after and operate her. Brian was followed by Melanie Henderson, who described Swans new life as a sail training and charter vessel, her involvement with Sail Training Shetland and Tall Ships Races, and the future possibilities for this unique community asset. The evening was finished off with a question and answer session and attendees providing feedback on what they would like to see Swan doing in the future.

Opening the Swan Store to the public for the first time involved a lot of hard work before the actual event. Being in itself a fully restored, formerly derelict building dating from the earliest recorded maritime activity in this part of Lerwick, it is a very appropriate store and workshop space for Swan; full of her sails, spars, rigging and other items over the winter, as well as an array of other accoutrements gathered over the years. The space was not very geared up for visitors, but a small group of dedicated trustees and volunteers cleared away years of clutter, cobwebs and dust to dress the space with lights, sails, banners and other materials Swan had gathered on its trips over the years. In fact, the items found and put on display really told the story of many of the places Swan had visited. The result was a cheery and interesting space for visitors to learn more about Swan and enjoy an afternoon of live music provided by a range of local and visiting musicians.

Brian Wishart, one of the main organisers of the event, explained more: “Although the boat wasn’t going to be here, trustees really wanted to do something for Boat Week. While we had never opened the store to the public before we thought it could make a good space for visitors to learn more. At the beginning of the clear out we did wonder if we had made a mistake but, as the week went on, the space started to open up and with the use of things we found, such as the pennants and banners from over the years, the space ended up looking better than we could ever have imagined.”

The store was incredibly well received by visitors, with many saying they could not believe how interesting it was. On the day, there were displays of Swan artefacts, information on sailing on Swan and market research questionnaires. There was also a stall for Swan merchandise, including fantastic products created by Swan volunteers to sell to raise funds for the vessel. This included intricate rope mats made by Peter Robertson, Swan cards by local artist Jim Tait and fantastic Swan design lampshades by local Artist Gilly B. Gilly B also created some limited edition bags for the day, made from old Swan sails, which quickly sold out.

A full programme of live music was thoroughly enjoyed and the Swan Trust is very grateful to all the musicians, who gave up their time for free. The day started with a packed out store for the Shanty Yell Men, followed by lively local young fiddlers Ewan and Magnus. The Shetland Fiddle Society then dropped by for a few traditional tunes. This was followed by the warm harmonies of father and daughter duo Trevor and Eva Jamieson, after which the final act was an international trio of well-established Dutch and German musicians – Peter, Dorte and Reiner. All acts showcased the musical talent we have both within and out with the isles.

Brian Wishart added: “We are so grateful to everyone who helped to make the day a success and donated their time, talents and produce to help promote and raise funds for Swan. Both events really were a great success and we are certainly thinking that we may open the store next year as well, when we also hope to have Swan in Shetland for Boat Week 2020.”


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.

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