|Shetland Name:|| Whalsay |
Bleau (1654): Whals Øy
Hanseatic 16th century: Quhailsay
|UK Grid Reference:||HU563642|
|Population:||1034 (2001 census)|
|Ferry Services:||RoRo Symbister/Whalsay to Laxo and Vidlin on Shetland Mainland.|
Whalsay, (Old Norse Hvalsey, meaning "Whale Island"), often referred to as the "Bonnie Isle", lies off the east coast of the north east Shetland Mainland. It is served by ro-ro ferries which operate from Laxo, in Dury Voe, or Vidlin, depending on the weather conditions, to Symbister, which is the main settlement on Whalsay. There is also an airstrip at the north end of the island.
The island is about 5 miles long and 2 miles wide, and the highest point is the Ward of Clett, at 119m.
The main industry of the island has always been fishing. The harbour facilities at Symbister have been greatly improved over recent years to accommodate the large pelagic trawlers which are based in the island. A museum has been created in the restored Symbister Pierhouse, also called the Hanseatic Booth, to exhibit details of fishing from centuries past, when German merchants from the Hanseatic League traded for the cured fish which were caught from open boats, called Sixareens, in the days of the Haaf Fishing.
As well as the Hanseatic Booth there are several other notable buildings on Whalsay. Benie House and Yorie Biggins, dating from the Bronze Age, and Sodom, where Hugh MacDiarmid and Valda Trevlyn lived in the 1930s and early 1940s, which has been restored by The Shetland Amenity Trust after years of neglect. Visitors to the house during that time included, as young men still to make their mark on the world, the influential Edinburgh philosopher George Davie and the great Gaelic poet Sorley Maclean.
Also of note is the impressive Georgian Mansion, Symbister House, now the home of Whalsay School. Overlooking Symbister harbour it was the built by the Bruce family in the early 1800s. The cost of the building, over £30,000, virtually bankrupted the family.
The De Hoop van Sayn wrecked on the isle in March 1730, as did the Christian den Svende on Symbister Ness on November 1776, the Sally at Longi Geo, Skaw in November 1776, the Emanuel at Falsa Geo, Traewick on February 27th 1825, the Oscar at Ha Clett, Skaw Taing on December 19th 1847, and the Kryno Albrecht on either Millya Skerry or the North Heoga Baa on March 20th 1909. The Liupaard wrecked on Grif Skerry, to the east of the isle on November 7th/8th 1711, as did the Evstaffi on September 17th 1780 and the Brenda before or during 1855. A number of vessels have wrecked on the Flaeshens of Rumble, including the Elizabeth on December 19th 1800, the Pesmute on October 8th 1845 and the Jupiter on January 7th/8th 1902. It was also the last known location of the wreck of the Earl Of Zetland on September 24th 1878, which had gone adrift from Grutness on September 18th and grounded elsewhere en route. Other vessels have also wrecked on East Linga and its nearby holms and skerries, to the east of the isle, on the Holm of Sandwick to the SW, and Isbister Holm to the NE. These are listed on the respective location pages.
- H & H Plant
- JS Building Contractors
- JWJ (Whalsay) Ltd.
- Leask's Electrics
- Oot Ower Lounge
- Tetley & Anderson
- Whalsay Boating Club
- Whalsay Fish Processors Ltd.
- Whalsay Haulage