The Swan takes a trip down memory lane to mark 25 years as a sail training vessel

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25 August 2021

The Swan travelled to Whalsay last week as part of the Trust’s activities to mark 25 years since the Swan was relaunched as a sail training vessel. The trip was a chance for local pupils to hear about the days when Swan was a fishing boat in Whalsay, and for the Swan to undertake a trip similar to her very first voyage following her relaunch in 1996.

Swan Trustee, John Goodlad, was aboard for the trip: “After her restoration, the Swans first journey under sail was to Whalsay in the first week of June 1996, where she was reunited with several men who had served as crew when she was a motor fishing vessel. 25 years later, many of those men are no longer with us but we wanted to recreate the trip and bring her back to Whalsay, where she fished from for many years.

To mark a quarter of a century as a sail training vessel, we were delighted to welcome the Whalsay secondary one pupils aboard to experience sailing the Swan, and to learn more about their fishing heritage through the Swan and those with connections to the days of the herring drifters. The Swan is as much about our past as it is our future and bringing both together in the community to which she is so closely linked was a very fitting way to start our next 25 years.”

The pupils were met at the vessel by John Goodlad and Josie Simpson, who spoke about the history of the vessel and the drift net fishing before setting out to sail – although with little wind the Swan was certainly living up to her name as a drifter! The pupils still had plenty of opportunity to raise and lower the sails, learn knots, see who was best at coiling rope and take turns at the helm. They also got to practise team work, see their own community from the sea, and some local wildlife.

Garry Spence, headteacher at Whalsay Junior High School, was on the trip: “This was the perfect way to round off our secondary one pupil’s first week back. We all had a fantastic day, and would like to thank The Swan Trust for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this historic vessel, with its strong links to Whalsay. Josie and John greatly added to the experience, enabling the pupils to understand the importance of the Swan and Whalsay’s fishing heritage.

It is incredible to think about the community effort which went into saving and restoring the Swan over 30 years ago, and that she has been sailing in her new role for over 25 years. Having this community resource for our schools is fantastic. The Swan has a lot to offer our community and I look forward to seeing her sailing around our shores, and further afield, for many more years to come.”

Due to Covid, this is the first school trip for the Swan since May 2019, with more planned in the coming weeks. George Anderson, Trustee with the Swan Trust said: “Providing annual school trips is a core part of our service, and it is great to finally be able to offer this again. Many organisations help cover our core costs to provide sailing opportunities, including The Shetland Charitable Trust, the local fishing fleet and other fisheries and aquaculture related businesses. This year, we have also secured some funding specifically for school trips, including £500 funding towards this trip from a Magic Little Grant through Localgiving and the Postcode Community Trust. We are grateful to all our funders, without whom we could not care for the Swan and provide these unique sailing and educational opportunities.”

Learn more about the history and restoration of the Swan

Find out more about our youth sail training experiences and those who support us.

If you would like to help support Swan follow these links to donate or volunteer with the Trust.


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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