Stuart Hill (b. 1942/43) is a controversial local personality in Shetland, having arrived in the Island in 2001.
Hill, grew up in Reading, Berkshire, England, the son of an engineer who pressed the button for some of the U.K's early nuclear experiments, including at Christmas Island, and Woomera, and who was reportedly unimpressed with Hill junior's early career as a van driver and as a construction worker in Bromley, Kent, England. Designing double glazing, and establishing himself as a self-employed shop-fitter, until his company encountered difficulties, were also to feature on Hill juniors early CV. Later the acquistion of a house with an attached blacksmith's forge at Claydon, East Anglia, England was to lead him in another career direction, that of a self-taught blacksmith, and a period of producing unothordox and unusual, but innovative metalwork products. A few of which are understood to have been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England, and a German architect who was planning a book about blacksmiths, ended up producing an entire volume on Hill instead, which Hill still sells on his blurringlines.com website. A pioneering metal fencing company which continues successfully to this day, which he subsequently sold, was also to be born from his blacksmith work. He also started an Internet Directory business, but this did not survive the first .com recession.
It was at the age of 58 that Hill achieved national recognition in the media, when he set sail from Manningtree, Essex, England in the first half of 2001, planning to sail his small yacht single-handedly anti-clockwise around the British Isles to raise money for charity, and became involved in a number of incidents resulting in call outs of the emergency services. These incidents led to him being dubbed "Captain Calamity" by sections of the media, a nickname he brought with him when he arrived in Shetland, and one which he has found difficult to lose in certain circles locally ever since.
In media reports of the time it was stated that his vessel had been leaking from the start, and the ingress of water eventually caused his radio to fail severing all communications with him. It was during a period of some weeks while drifting off the coast of East Anglia, England that he was the cause of five calls outs of lifeboats and two call outs of air/sea rescue helicopters. Mr Hill was later to defend himself, after abandoning his attempt and coming ashore at Cromer, Suffolk, England, by stating that none of the call outs had been necessary or had been initiated by him, they were as a result of well-meaning, but mistaken members of the public mistaking his vessel for a windsurfer in trouble.
Despite having established such an unenviable track record in his initial attempt, it was made public during July 2001, that despite being advised by experts in the field of his vessel's unsuitability for the journey, he intended to make a second attempt at the anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the British Isles, using the same vessel as previously, but this time launching from Southwold, Suffolk, England. It was reported at the time, that his vessel, named "Maximum Exposure" was in fact a converted 15 foot (approx 5 metres) long rowing boat, propelled by a windsurfing sail, and had been deemed unsuitable for his planned journey by both Coastguard and Lifeboat personnel and a Harbourmaster, It was also highlighted at the time that the costs incurred by the rescue services on Mr Hill's behalf, were counterproductive to his fund raising for charity efforts. Mr Hill's response to the advice given was that his vessel was "unsinkable", and had received a gold safety award from the RNLI, the UK's lifeboat service operators.
His journey northwards was apparently uneventful until he was off the NE coast of the Scottish Mainland, when around the end of the first week of August 2001 Scottish Coastguards were reported in the press to have said that despite an undertaking from Mr Hill to maintain daily contact with them advising his position, his communications had ceased. The press reported later that the reason for this was that Hill's radio had again failed, however, for his part Hill maintains that he informed the Coastguard that due to favourable winds he was intending to go offshore and would be out of VHF radio range. He next made news headlines at the end of the third week of August, when he had to be rescued from the hull of his by then capsized craft at a position approx 50 miles to the west of Shetland by the Coastguard Search & Rescue Helicopter based at Sumburgh Airport. After being landed in Shetland he was admitted to the Gilbert Bain Hospital overnight, suffering from hypothermia.
In interviews given shortly after the rescue it emerged that his vessel had capsized after encountering 20 foot (approx 6 metre) seas, and that he had summoned assistance himself using a satellite phone. He had clung to the upturned hull for at least one hour before he was located, aided by his launching a flare, and rescued. Helicopter Winchman on the rescue mission, Kieran Murray was quoted as describing Mr Hill as "extremely lucky", but was critical of the fact that Mr Hill had not been wearing a Survival Suit. For his part Mr Hill insisted he had been properly equipped, that he believed wearing a survival suit for long periods to be impractical for him in his situation, and that he was pleased with his achievement of getting "as far as he did". He was further quoted as saying that as all of his possessions had been aboard his vessel, which was now at an unknown location in the Atlantic ocean, and almost certainly unrecoverable, he was in the "interesting" position of only possessing the clothes he stood up in. Then went on to say that he'd had a wife when he set out on his venture, but he wasn't even sure he had that to go home to any more. It would appear that Mr Hill's suspicions concerning his probable maritial status were not entirely unfounded, as relatively shortly afterwards he secured employment and accommodation with a construction firm in Cunningsburgh and settled in Shetland.
Hill is believed to be of the opinion, that his claim his vessel was unsinkable was vindicated, as it is understood it was later retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean by a Norwegian oil supply vessel, who landed it at, Bergen, Norway, from where it was later returned to Shetland. In, it is believed, according to Hill's assessment "virtually intact" condition, and with a computer left on-board still working.
Udal Law & Shetland
A short time after settling in Shetland Hill became interested in Shetland's constitutional and legal position, and undertook research in to the subject. From what initially started as a project focusing solely on Udal Law, it quickly widened in to a review of the entire constitutional and legal basis of the isles, and from which 'S.O.U.L.' (Shetland & Orkney Udal Law group) was born during 2003. Hill was instrumental in setting up the group, which contends that the legal and constitutional basis of both Shetland and Orkney remains to this day exactly what it was when both island groups were pawned to the Scottish Crown by the Danish Crown in 1468/69. His argument is that due to the lack of any formal or legal adoption into initially the Scottish nation, and from 1603, the U.K, due to the union of the crowns, the laws of the islands at the time of pawning can only be amended with the agreement of their populations, therefore any and all U.K. laws imposed upon Shetland and Orkney since 1469 (including the Crofters Act, legislation enabling the National Health Service, minimum wage, etc.) are invalid and illegal. Furthermore, as the initial pawning was made to the Crown, and this has never been formally or legally changed, Hill states that Shetland's position remains as answerable only to the Crown, what today is more commonly known as a 'Crown Dependency'.
The formation of the group and its subsequent activities stimulated some interest in the subject, but has yet to lead to any significant progress on the subject or actual changes in Shetland's status. Although the group has largely faded from the public eye since its initial impact, it is believed to still be in existence, and their website can be viewed here
The Shetland Independent Newsletter
Since the early part of 2007 Hill has rarely been far from the headlines, and for a time wrote them himself. Most of his ventures have only received limited support locally, but at times not inconsiderable criticism, with a suggestion being made the he was an "eccentric Englishman who did not understand the local mentality", an allegation Hill has reportedly denied. Firstly in May 2007 the first edition of The Shetland Independent Newsletter, a paid for by advertising freesheet with Hill as Editor, was published by Real Aerofoil Wing Sails Ltd., a company with which Hill is also allegedly connected. Its purpose was to provide a medium for articles of any sort with a relevance to Shetland, but which might not ordinarily find an avenue to do through the mainstream press. It was intended for delivery to every address in Shetland.
The publication was met with a very mixed reception concerning both content and physical characteristics, and was to prove relatively short lived. An announcement was made in December 2007 that publication had ceased, financial unviability being cited as the reason at the time.
Legal & other challenges
On November 14th 2007 Hill gave a talk in the Shetland Museum entitled "Why Shetland never became part of Scotland". This was in direct response to an earlier lecture given by county archivist Brian Smith, who had proposed that 20 February 1472 was the date when Shetland became a part of Scotland. Hill was quoted before the talk as stating that he would prove such an event did not occur in 1472, and had in fact never ever occurred.
Between February 14th and March 11th 2008 Hill advertised a talk entitled "Who Owns Shetland" on a tour of at least twenty venues covering the length and breadth of Shetland. He claimed he would show that the UK Crown never obtained ownership of Shetland, and that he would explore the implications of this, and of the possible way forward. However, the tour was canceled by Hill when only partially complete, due to very low audience numbers
Also in March 2008 Hill was back in the local media spotlight, as a result of having received a small claims Court Summons relating to a bill owed by him to The A9 Partnership Ltd. a local accountancy firm, which stated that he could mount a defence based on challenging the jurisdiction of the Court. He was inspired to do exactly that. Hill's contention at the time was that, since he believed that Shetland was not legally part of the U.K. the Scottish Court system had no right of jurisdiction in Shetland, and he was thus using the opportunity the Summons presented to make a test case. Unfortunately, mother nature was to thwart Hill's plans once again. The Sheriff who was scheduled to hear the case on March 25th 2008 became snowbound in Aberdeen, Scotland, and was unable to reach Shetland in time. As a result the case was postponed until April 22nd 2008.
However, on April 10th 2008 Hill announced that upon further consideration he had concluded that challenging the Court in this way was unlikely to achieve the desired objectives concerning the testing of Shetland's constitutional and legal base, and that he had settled the original bill which had led to the issuing of the Summons out of Court.
On June 18th 2008 Hill was again in the news, this time with the announcement that he had become the owner of Forewick Holm, a tiny islet off the SE coast of Papa Stour, itself a small island off the west mainland of Shetland, and intended, as claimed owner, to revert the property back, to what in his opinion, was its rightful legal and constitutional status.
This was done on June 21st 2008 by way of making a Declaration of Dependence, in which Hill stated that he had renamed the property Forvik Island, and that it no longer formed part of Scotland, the U.K. or the E.U. but was a Crown Dependency answerable only to the U.K. Crown. Since then Hill has engaged in numerous related activities which he contends are designed to force the U.K. authorities to test his theories in a U.K. court, but these have so far proven to be virtually fruitless. Fuller details can be found on the Forvik Island page.
Having advertised his intent during the preceding week, in the early afternoon of Monday June 21st 2010 Hill convened a meeting at the Market Cross, Lerwick, declared himself a Sovereign Citizen of Shetland, and as part of doing so announced the formation of the The Sovereign Nation of Shetland. Anyone who shared his views had been invited to attend and make their own declaration of Sovereignty, and Hill had claimed before the meeting that six others had informed him they intended to do so. By the end of the day it was reported in that local media that some twenty individuals had made and signed a Declaration of Redemption of Sovereignty making them sovereign citizens of Shetland.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I, Stuart of the family Hill, member of the Sovereign Nation of Shetland, do hereby declare my individual sovereignty. I do not consent to being bound by any Act, Statute or Directive of the United Kingdom, Scotland or the European Union and claim permanent estoppel barring any ‘police officer’ or ‘prosecutor’ from bringingcharges against me under any such Act, Statute or Directive. Any previous consent was obtained by fraud and deception, was a mistake and is hereby withdrawn.
Specifically, but not exclusively, I claim the right to travel on the public highway by whatever means I choose, without let or hindrance and without payment or licence of any kind.
I do not consent to intercourse or interaction with 'police officers' who have not observed me breach the peace.
It is not my intention to live otherwise than peacefully and lawfully.
My Claim of Right can be found at: www.SovereignShetland.com/Law
You are notified.
Stuart Hill, Forvik, Shetland.
Hill's site dedicated to this project can be viewed here
Stuart Hill's claim that Shetland is not part of the UK is thrown out by Lord Pentland in the Summer of 2012.<ref></ref> He had claimed that the Royal Bank of Scotland owed him £23,583,434.55 of damages.
In addition to Real Aerofoil Wind Sails Ltd, who have a one page website which can be found here. Hill is also connected with, or alleged to be connected with other ventures/websites, not all of which may be live:
- http://www.sovereignterritory.co.uk/ (Previously a site offering gold Sovereign coins for sale, now contains details of Hill's "Sovereign Nation of Shetland" concept).