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Published: 21 August 2013

By Andy Ross

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A melancholy beauty

On a breezy (read "windy", dear readers not in Shetland) afternoon, a group of shanty singers set out from our home island of Yell on a trip to the furthest North part of Shetland's Mainland.

A day of light and showers, black clouds and blue sky, pounding ocean and still lochs with purple blooming heather and the last of the summer bog cotton spotting the ground. A perfect day to go out to Faedaland and sing a song especially composed for the ShantyYell Men by Neil from the Fair Isle.

Faedaland is a way up the road to the North and then through umpteen gates and along a track or two. Two beaches sit opposite each other, one stone and the other sand, and it is here, on this narrow strip of land that joins the headland to Mainland that the fishers of yesteryear spread their nets to dry and worked at the fishing that brought this land to life. This was the biggest of the far haaf fishing areas in Shetland and here there are empty houses where people worked and toiled until the middle of the last century. Roofless, the dwellings and buildings were always like this in the winter when the roofs were removed to protect the walls from the weather before the summer brought better winds and the fish returned to this area of the deep ocean.

Faedaland is worth a visit. Melancholy and utterly beautiful, it is home to a colony of seals, of numerous birds, and, of course, memories of the lives that used to be and the voices of the ShantyMen who remembered it through song.