Fetlar Museum Digitisation Project

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Fetlar and the Sea
Shetland as a whole differs from Orkney in that there was always much more emphasis on fishing than farming. Fish were caught, cured, and even exported from Fetlar during the days of the haaf fishing in the 18th and 19th centuries, when Fetlar was close to the main fishing grounds and had a number of important fishing stations at Urie, Funzie and Aithbank.

Fishing to the laird, however, was a system which tied households economically and bound them to the lairds and merchants. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Greenland whaling out of Leith and other ports had begun to provide cash wages for Fetlar men, and the laird threatened to evict their families if they went, as it loosened his economic grip on them. They went nevertheless, and the laird was forced to admit defeat on that occasion. Many, however, were subsequently forced to emigrate as a result of the laird's clearances of land, and some of the letters home can be seen in this exhibition.

Tales and folklore about the sea abound in the island, especially about the great boat-builders and sixereen (six-oared fishing boat) skippers such as Thomas Tait, and their many escapes from storms and danger at sea.

Throughout much of the 20th century, local volunteers have formed a coastguard team which has been involved in saving a large number of lives in some of the serious storms which regularly plague the island. In 1962 Fetlar Auxiliary Coastguard won the national shield for their rescue of the crew of the Russian trawler Maia.

Click on a thumbnail picture below to view a larger image and a full detailed description.
Seaman's box Long-service medal "Palm" Løder horn
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Click on a thumbnail picture below to view a larger image and a full detailed description.
Fids Sailmaking tool Breeches buoy
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Funded by:
Heritage Lottery Fund
Heritage Lottery Fund

© Fetlar Interpretive Centre
Beach of Houbie, Fetlar, Shetland, ZE2 9DJ
Tel: 01957 733206 email: info@fetlar.com