Shetland's Heritage of Sail
In Shetland’s Heritage of Sail Charlie Simpson tells the story of the technology that shaped Shetland’s history. It begins with the first settlers of the islands and proceeds through the Viking era, the Hanseatic traders, the Dutch fisheries, the press-gang, through the haaf fishery in Shetland’s open Norwegian model ‘sixerns’, the rise and fall of the cod smacks and the final years of the sail herring drifters. Seafaring under sail was often a harsh life and demanded strengths, endurance and skills at which Shetlanders excelled – explaining why they were in such demand for whaling voyages and the notorious naval press-gangs. First published as a series of articles in The Shetland Times during the run-up to the visit of the Tall Ships Races to Shetland in 2011 Charlie’s tale is an eminently readable and fascinating one which will appeal to local readers and visitors alike. While working sail has long gone maritime traditions linger on with recreational sailing and with Shetland’s own sail training vessel. Built in Lerwick in 1900 the restored herring drifter Swan is dedicated to providing sail training opportunities for young people and maintaining the maritime heritage which Charlie’s work reminds us is the key to understanding our islands’ history. Charlie Simpson was born in 1947 and has had a fascination with the sea from early childhood. His father was a master mariner and his forebears were crofter-fishermen while Charlie was himself a fisheries development officer with Shetland Islands Council for 25 years. In addition to a healthy serving of articles for local newspapers and magazines Charlie cooked up his first book In da Galley in 2000 and in 2010 produced Water in Burgidale; Shetland fisheries in a pre-electronic age for Shetland Amenity Trust. This was an original piece of research and a unique ‘living history’ of the Shetland fishing industry.