The August Soulka weekend 

Food, Farming and Fishing

Sanday Agricultural Association’s annual Show – the highspot of the island’s calendar, was followed by the latest Soulka weekend. A brief summary of some of the main activities will explain the reason why Orkney Ferries, on Sunday, realised that an extra ferry would be required to take all of Sanday’s Soulka visitors back home in the evening. Apologies to all of the foot passengers who waited for an extra half hour while the Stronsay boat came to Sanday as well before returning to town. If the Soulka group had known, someone would doubtless have been on the pier with deck-chairs, offering to sell raffle tickets for the September Soulka.

To see photographs of some of the events, click wherever you see something in red.

On Saturday, thanks to the generous response of three Sanday men now fishing out of Kirkwall, Skippers Jimmy Sinclair, Tommy Drever and Sean Dennison came out with their boats and were able to accommodate the thirty or so sea-anglers keen to try their luck from 10 a.m. In the early afternoon, undeterred by a spell of rain-showers, eighty folk spent time on Bea Sand: at the old Cross Kirk end there were kite flyers, and at the Backaskaill end there was no end of youngsters making a beautiful set of sandcastles and sculptures. Have a look at them all on the Soulka website. Not far away Cath Parker, co-ordinator of Sanday Archaeology Group, along with ardent accomplice Tony Lee, explained the details of the Backaskaill Broch to visitors. When the Sandworkers and kite-flyers had finished, there was the splendid spectacle of a couple of Kite-buggies racing up and down the sand at the water’s edge.

Meanwhile through the day forty folk took their last chance to see the Garsdale model railway. Its creator, Evan Williams, will be dismantling the set-up over the winter, when he’ll be embarking on an entirely different railway set-up. The island’s Heritage Centre, Croft Museum and Photo-archive were all open, as were some of the Art and Craft studios, galleries and workshops. Those going for a drive was delighted with the colourful verge-side Planters promoted by Sanday Gardening Club. Twenty of the planters were selected to hold a little Soulka-flag which had the Orcadian name of an animal on the back, and at the end of the weekend Maurice and Elma Muir were awarded the prize for discovering all of them, while Sue McArthur was given the Club’s award for best Planter.

5 p.m. was the deadline for the Sea-Anglers, and an impressive and colourful throng was gathered at the Pierhead weighbridge to watch Bill McArthur and assistants find out the winners. Most of the haul was Mackerel – and the biggest catch was Andrew Link (126 lbs); biggest fish (13 lbs) was a  tie between Michael Rendall and Michael Alexander. Once the fish barbecue was underway, there wasn’t long before the Home-brew competition; judged by all-comers who were provided with ‘top-three’ voting slips. 21 different brews were entered, and the winners, after the votes of the 54 tasters were counted, were Robbie Hewison (real beer) Kaye Towrie (kit cider), and Jean MacEwan (Landlord's choice), who also won the home-brewed wine which had rather fewer entries. Then, at 8.30 and with splendid Soulka sound thanks to Huw and Tim, there were plenty of couples raring to go in the inaugural Doon-the-Street Strip-the-Willow (and there’s a youtube clip linked to the Soulka Facebook). Afterwards many folk stayed on at both Kettletoft Hotel and the Belsair (recently re-opened under new management), meeting and chatting to friends and to the many visitors, and listening to local musicians on accordion and fiddles.

On Sunday morning, the Mayfield Singers and visiting speaker arrived; local farmers featured strongly among those attending Dr Peter Martin’s talk – New markets for Orkney cereals - about the current research projects under way at Orkney College’s Agronomy Institute.

After that, the focus changed to music. The Kirk Silver was on display at the Cross Kirk, where the Mayfield Singers entertained a packed congregation to an eclectic variety of songs. Among them was a piece written by Max, and everyone was delighted that he was able to be among more than 80 listeners.

Last event of the day, and the weekend, was the Orkney Feast. This has been a sell-out every year, and 180 folk were catered for. Jacqueline Seatter has a magical touch for these big occasions – and her little army of sous-chefs and staff ensured that everything ran like clockwork, ensuring that everyone enjoyed the four (it seemed like five) course meal, and still had time – just – to hear the Raffle-prize draw before heading for the ferries.

The Soulka ‘Group of 10’ thanks everyone on the island, and all of the visitors – there was a 22-strong group from Orkney Disability Forum among them – for supporting the Soulka weekend. Many of you will find yourselves among the photographs on the Soulka website (www.sandaysoulka.org) and the Soulka Facebook, and on this page. Sanday folk look forward to welcoming you and your friends back for the final Soulka of the year – September 13th-15th, Change, Journeys and Migrations, including Shearwater – Tales of Seabirds and Humans, a Rising Tide drop-in workshop presentation from archaeologist Caroline Wickham-Jones and associates, a talk about Science and adventuring in Greenland, a Broken Strings concert, Bird-watching walks with visiting autumn enthusiasts, and wildlife films and images from Raymond Besant.  

Soulka group members (please contact one if you would like to donate a raffle-prize): Tina & Raymond Brown (600-393), Kristen Muir (600-440), Rod & Sylvia Thorne (600-341), Jacqueline Seatter (600-348), Sue McArthur (600- 381), Huw & Sheena Evans (600-441) Liz Brown (600-730)            www.sandaysoulka.org and follow us on Facebook


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