|OS Name:||Papa Stour|
|Shetland Name:||Papa Stour|
|UK Grid Reference:||HU165608|
|Population:||9 (2008) |
|Community Council:||Sandness & Walls|
|Ferry Services:||From West Burra Firth|
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court cases and subsequently, a number of people leaving the island and the school closing when the only children were withdrawn from school..
In early 2008, the population dropped to 9 when a family, with the only children on the island, decided to leave.
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.
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.
Suspected to be breeding, but unconfirmed: Mallard.
- Papa Stour - History
- Papa Stour - Area Guide
- Review of book on the 1299 manuscript
- Personal pages with photographs from Papa
- Papa Stour, The Papar Project
Papa Stour and 1299: Commemorating the 700th Anniversary of Shetland's First Document , Barbara E. Crawford ISBN 1898852839