|UK Grid Reference:||HU187573|
|Distance from Lerwick by road:||32 miles|
|Community Council:||Sandness & Walls|
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Sandness, locally 'Sannis' or 'Saanis', is a village on the far Westside of the Mainland, adjacent to the island of Papa Stour, with which it has been historically connected. It is a strip of arable coastal land approximately three miles from Bousta in the east to Huxter in the west, and one mile from the coast to the hilldykes on Sandness Hill, which ends in steep cliffs at the 'Westness' of the mainland.. This massif and surrounding fells separate Sandness from other villages to the south. The view to the west from Huxter is of Foula , to the north, of the Holm of Melby ("Melby Hum"), Papa Stour and on the horizon, Eshaness. From Bousta in the east, the whole inner waters of St. Magnus Bay, the back of Vementry and Muckle Roe and the entrance to Swarbacks Minn are visible. The nearest habitation from here, eastwards, is Snarraness, at the end of the West Burrafirth road.
The central area of sandy-soiled meadows in Sandness is the best land, and the site of three 'streets', Melby East and West and Norby, originally crofts laid out on a regular pattern around the Melby and Norby Lochs in the 1870s under the guidance of an improving laird Dr. R.T.C Scott of Melby. There is a substantial beach at Melby and some fine sea cliffs at The Neap ("da Niep") of Norby, and another pleasant fresh water loch at Collaster. Near Huxter, fish and plant fossils are to be found in the Melby Fish Beds.
Sandness has been inhabited from early times and has a number of historical sites, many of which remain to be fully investigated. There is a fort at Garth, a sizable broch and loch complex at Huxter, a pre-Reformation chapel at Norby which was called St. Ninian's and prior to the building of the Haa house at Melby, there was an early landowner's house to the south of Norby Loch. The Huxter Clack Mills have been restored by the Shetland Amenity Trust.
Sandness also has an historic school at Cruisdale, thanks to its most remarkable 19th C. figure, Robert Jamieson (1827-1899), who provides a lengthy description of the place as part of his campaign to establish the school in the years around 1870. His partisan bias is perhaps evident when he describes it as "the prettiest parish in Shetland", but comparison aside, it is a beautiful 'end of the road' like Eshaness across the bay, but with Papa Stour for an outlook where Eshaness has only the western ocean, and a different geology. Cruisdale was the birthplace of Robert Jamieson's extraordinary family, among them the poet, folklorist and political activist Christina Jamieson. The author Annie Deyell was a teacher at Sandness School, with her husband Geordie, and Robert Alan Jamieson grew up at Melby. Today, Sandness is home to the authors James P. Peterson, Stella Shepherd, Davy Simmons and J. Laughton Johnston.
St. Margaret's Church at Melby, now disused, dates from 1645. Here a fascinating symbol stone embedded in its walls was recorded by George Low but its wherabouts is now unknown. In its churchyard are the War Memorial and the stone dedicated to the men who were lost at the Ve Skerries when the Ben Doran sank in 1930.
In recent years, Sandness has become notable for the industrial production of Shetland yarns at Jamieson's Spinning Shetland Ltd., which supplies large international markets in Japan and North America.
- "there was no place in Sandness where we could have had comfortable lodgings, for the people were very kind, but the habits and manners in some of the country places are so connected with an absence of cleanliness that I consider it a great privilege that we have in general been comfortably provided for."<ref name=Abrams>Quoted in Abrams, Lynn Myth And Materiality in a Woman's World: Shetland 1800-2000, p62</ref>
A SAANIS FOLKTELL
"Da Fiddler a'Goard" as told by George P. S. Peterson
" ... THIS IS A STORY fae the district o Sandness, which is near Papa Stour, aboot da croft a' Goard.. The croft was occupied by a man 'at güd away one night, away to the craigs to fish - fir fish. So he was comin horn one night, wi his büddie o sillocks an waand, and as he passed a certain knowe, he wis awaar 'at they were a light sheenin oot an he güd up tö examine this, an he saa 'at . . . the trows wis dancin inside. So he güd in, bein a fiddler, an the knowe closed up behint him, until they were noathing left to shaa any doorway.
An his fokk that night waetit fir him to come horn wi the fish, an he niver like to corn, and all night they waeted an i the moarnin they were a search party gud oot an they lookit, huntit the coast an they fand no sign o him. An time gud by and it was pitten doon 'at he wis geen ower the craig and the sea was teen him and the tide was taen his boady.
So time güd by an eventually his faimly grew up an moved awey, and his name wis forgoaten. And the time cam when they were a whoale century wis passed fae that thing happened: they were a new faimly livin i that croft. So one night i the haert o the winter the owld granfaither was settin at the fire, the son an his wife was settin i the shairs an their bairns wis playin them aroond the flöir, when the door oapened an they appeared a oald man i the door, cled in rags wi a long quite baerd, cairryin in his haand a fiddle. And of coorse the bairns dey laached at this, they t'oucht this wis a man 'at wis silly. He cam in ower the flöir an he says, 'What are you doin here? This' my house!' And dey t'oucht it a graet joke and they laached at him, and they made a fül o him - everyboady but the old granfaither settin at the fire, smoakin his pipe. He listened.
And he says, 'What are you doin here? Dis' my house: you've got to get oot o hit. Quhaar's wir fokk?'
And every time he would say his [piece] then the young eens laached at him; till at last the owld grandfaither spaekin fae the fireside says, 'Well, quat is your name?' An he telled him his name.
'Well, they wir,' he says, 'dey were a man o that name 'at used to bide here long, long afore my day, but,' he says, 'he . . . he disappeared one night, an never cam home.'
And be noo da laachin fell silent, an everyboady was awaar 'at they were something queer goin on here. So this figure i the door says, 'Well, quere is my fokk den?'
And the old grandfather fae the fireside says, 'Your fokk is aal däid.'
'Well then,' he says, 'if that's the case, then,' he says, 'A'll go an join them.' An he turned him an güd oot. Now they were one growin lad among the faimly 'at wisna laached at him, and he rase an güd furth efter this aald man, an he güd oot an he followed efter him, an he creepit up t'row the yaird among the keel to watch him. An this old fellow wi the fiddle goes owre an up aroond to the back o the yaird daek, quhar they were a wal, an he lifts the fiddle til his neck, an he looks up ower the knowe to quar the Merry Dancers was sheenin i the northern sky, he lifts the fiddle til his neck and he plays a tune aince or twice ower. And the boy inside the yaird daek watchin aal of a sudden saa him collapse.
An the boy oot ower the yaird daek an he ran, and he cam to the spot whar the man wis faan at the side o the wal, and there he fand the remains of a man that was been däid fir a hunder year, an a peerie fiddle. And he aalways minded that tune; and when that boy grew up he could play that tune, and that tune's been handed doon to this day ... "