Papa Stour

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Papa Stour Panorama.JPG
Papa Stour as seen from Sandness. (click picture then select 'full resolution' and zoom for full image.)

Shetland Islands
OS Name: Papa Stour
Shetland Name: Papa Stour
UK Grid Reference: HU165608
Area (ha): 828ha
Population: 9 (2008) [1]
Community Council: Sandness & Walls
Ferry Services: From West Burra Firth
Information board near the ferry terminal
Photo 2010 by Kozetland1.
Ferry teminal at Housa Voe
Photo 2010 by Kozetland1.
The schoolhouse at Papa Stour with Forewick Holm in the background
Photo 2010 by Kozetland1.
Papa Stour and the Sound of Papa seen from Sandness.
The partly reconstructed "Stofa"
Photo 2010 by Kozetland1.
Engraving of Da Horn o Papa, 1860s
Nosts around Hamna Voe
Photo 2010 by Kozetland1.
Kirk Sand with Papa Stour Kirk in the background.
Photo 2010 by Kozetland1.

Papa Stour, (Old Norse : Papey Stora = The large Island of the priests), which has a population of around nine people, lies on the west side of Shetland, to the north of Sandness to which the ferry traditionally ran. Some of those who live there immigrated after a national appeal for new residents in the Sunday press, to offset depopulation in the 1970s. As the name would suggest, the island was an early Christian settlement. The main settlement on the island today is Biggings. Ferries now sail to West Burrafirth on the Shetland Mainland and there is an airstrip which caters for regular flights from Tingwall.
Papa Stour is the subject of a 1299 manuscript written in Old Norse, the oldest surviving document from Shetland. It deals with a dramatic incident in the house of Duke Hakon Magnusson, who was later to become King Hakon V of Norway. Until as late as the 17th century, Papa Stour belonged to the so-called Lords of Norway, aristocrats who collected rents via local agents.

By the 18th century, two Shetland Lairds, Thomas Gifford of Busta, and Arthur Nicolson of Lerwick, owned the island. They maintained a prosperous fishing industry known as the Haaf Fishing, carried out in the Summer season with six-oared boats known as Sixareens.

In the 19th century the Crabbaberry fishing station was opened , and the population rose to 360 people.
Throughout the 20th century the population declined, until in the 1970s, with the population below 20, an appeal for incomers attracted a number of people.
By 2005 there appeared to be hope for the island's future when the Shetland Islands Council spent £3.5m on ro-ro ferry links and harbour improvements, however serious discord between islanders led to several court cases and subsequently, a number of people leaving the island and the school closing when the only children were withdrawn from school.[2].
In early 2008, the population dropped to 9 when a family, with the only children on the island, decided to leave.[3]

Attractions on the island include the partly recostruction of Duke Hakon's thirteenth century house, (called "Stofa"), and the dramatic coastline, with sea stacks, arches, blowholes and superb sea caves such as Christie's Hole.

Papa Stour is the part-time home of the writer, folklorist and musician George P. S. Peterson, a native of the island.

It is also the 'Papa' of Vagaland's beautiful poem 'Da Sang o da Papa men', now adopted as part of the folksong tradition, as set to music by T.M.Y. Manson. Its insistent chorus chant, 'Rowin Foula Doon!', is memorable:

"Oot bewast da Horn o Papa,
Rowin Foula doon!
Owir a hidden piece o water,
Rowin Foula doon!
Roond da boat da tide-lumps makkin,
Sunlicht trowe da cloods is brakkin;
We maan geng whaar fish is takkin,
Rowin Foula doon!"

The resonant final image is of the fishermen being led back home to Papa by the 'scent o flooers' across the water. It is typical of Vagaland's great ability to create a vivid sensual impression of a situation, and an extra layer of meaning is added by the knowledge that Da Horn o Papa collapsed in a storm on the 31st of January 1953, around the time of this poem's composition, so that it is a tribute not just to a lost way of life, but a noted, indeed loved, geographical feature.

The St Pieter was wrecked on the isle in October 1675, as was the Sara on December 24th 1710, the Frau Rebecca Elizabeth on 9th September 1746, and the Catherine in 1850. The Walrus was also wrecked on the south coast of the isle on October 3rd 1891.

Numerous other vessels have wrecked at Forewick Holm, Hamna Voe, Housa Voe, Lyra Sound and West Voe on the isle, and are listed on the individual location pages.

During their research Venables & Venables recorded the following species of birds breeding on Papa Stour during 1951-53.

Regular and common: Storm Petrel; Fulmar (colonised 1892); Cormorant; Starling; Shag; Eider; Oyster Catcher; Lapwing (colonised 1937-39); Ringed Plover; Arctic Skua (colonised circa 1920); Greater Black-backed Gull; Herring Gull; Common Gull (a marked increase in numbers since 1890); Kittiwake; Common Tern; Arctic Tern; Razorbill; Common Guillemot; Black Guillemot; Rock Dove; Skylark; Raven; Hooded Crow; Wren; Wheatear; Rock Pipit; House Sparrow; Corn Bunting and Twite.

Irregular or rare: Red-throated Diver (colonised circa 1940); Red-breasted Merganser; Lesser Black-backed Gull (known to have been plentiful in 1890) and Puffin (colonised after 1890).

Suspected to be breeding, but unconfirmed: Mallard.

Known to have bred on Papa Stour previously but extinct by 1951-53: Cormorant (last known to have nested in 1887); Sea Eagle and Peregrine (last known to have nested in 1949).

External links


Papa Stour and 1299: Commemorating the 700th Anniversary of Shetland's First Document , Barbara E. Crawford ISBN 1898852839

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