When I entered the dining room the following morning, Cousin Robert was already having his breakfast. “Good morning, sorry I am so late,” I said as I sat down.
“That is fine Edwin, I thought we might have a change of scenery today, and make a trip up to your Fair Island,” Robert replied, “That sounds fine, is it a long distance to the island, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of how far away it is,” I asked.
“Yes it is quite a journey to get there from the preparations I have had to make to get there. The island is a good 260 kilometres north of Aberdeen,” Robert said to me.
“So how exactly are we going to get there?” I asked, “Well, I have arranged to charter a plane that will fly us from Aberdeen directly to the island, and it has a population of 55, who live and work on the island, managing the farms on behalf of the owners.
They have flights twice weekly from the Shetland Islands, and a ferry brings supplies and mail, three times a week. Soay Sheep are the main breed of sheep, as they naturally shed their wool, and the farmers collect the wool and sell it on the mainland, which pays for their work on the island,” Robert informed me. “Wow, I look forward to seeing the place,” I commented.
“Firstly we have to get there, and to do that we need to catch a train from Kirkcaldy to Aberdeen, which will take us nearly three hours, and from there it is a 80 minute flight to the island,” Robert informed me. “Good I like train rides, especially here, where I can see a lot more. Will we be staying on the island for very long?” I commented.
“We have no time limit, as we are staying overnight at the guest house on the island, so you need to pack a small bag for up to two nights. Once we return to Aberdeen, we will lease a car and take a short drive to visit nearby Dunecht House, before returning to Aberdeen, to catch the train home,” Robert announced.
The train journey to Aberdeen was uneventful, but there was plenty of countryside to see, and once in the air and over the North Sea, I was very nervous for most of the trip, as there were just lots of water below us. As we approached the island, the plane circle the island twice to allow us to get a good aerial view of the island, before preparing to land on the grass airfield, which was a bit bumpy.
“Welcome to Fair Isle, I am your guide and host for your visit Mr Lindsay, and is this your son?” a stout looking man said as we exited the plane. “Thankyou, and it is Lord Lindsay, the Earl of Crawford, and this is my second cousin from Australia, Sir Edwin Crawford, Baronet ofWigan,” Robert replied.
“My apologies My Lord, I had no idea that we were receiving dignitaries, please allow me to gather your luggage, while you get settled into the vehicle, and my name is Hector Willington,” the man said, before he headed to the plane to get our luggage.
“Are you familiar with our tiny island?” Mr Willington asked, once he had loaded the luggage and taken a seat behind the wheel of his vehicle. “Yes, we are, but this is my cousins first visit, while this is my third visit,” Robert replied.
“Oh, it must have been before my time, as I don’t recall you visiting before,” Mr Willington responded, “No, it was quite some years back. Edwin here is the direct descendent of the original owner of the island, Edwin Lindsay, the brother of the 25th Earl of Crawford,” Robert replied.
“So if you are related, why do you not own the land My Lord?” Mr Willington asked, “That is because I am the Earl of Crawford, so I am not entitled to it, where young Edwin here is,” Robert replied.
“Oh, ok. So does that mean that Sir Edwin here is the current owner of this island?” Mr Willington asked, and Robert chuckled while I just smiled.
“That is correct Mr Willington, and I have only just recently learnt that I have aristocracy relatives, so apart from a short holiday to New Zealand two years ago, this is my first time well away from home, which is Tasmania, in south-eastern Australia,” I replied.
“In the morning, we would like to have a detailed tour of the island please, and see if their any issues that may need to be dealt with,” Robert asked, “Yes, My Lord, that can be easily arranged,” Mr Willington replied.
“I think the first thing we need to do is to improve the airfield, I will arrange for it to be extended from 550 metres to 900 metres and to be sealed, plus have a proper air terminal and some aircraft hangers built, to protect them from the strong winds,” Robert announced.
“That is wonderful news My Lord, can I maybe suggest having a community meeting at the local primary school, and so you can get ideas from the locals, and meet them?” Mr Willington suggested. “Yes, that would be good; can you arrange it for 11 am tomorrow?” Robert responded, “Yes My Lord, that will be perfect,” Mr Willington answered.
With it getting very cold outside, we decided to remain indoors for the remainder of the afternoon, and during that time, I worked on my assignment, while Robert read a book and relaxed. “How is your assignment going?’ Robert asked me, after about an hour of reading.
“Very good, I have so much information, it is hard to be able to condense it down to 3500 words, and I might do a visual presentation with all the photos that I have taken too,” I replied.
“I have a photo that I took of you as you were receiving your award at Holyrood Palace, that I can add to that,” Robert said to me, “I think I will keep that as a memento photo only thanks cousin,” I replied. After dinner, with it still daylight, Robert continued to read, and I found a good book to read on Kindle, and when it was starting to get dark, I was shocked when I looked at my watch and it read 10 pm.
“Holy cow, the days must be very long here, it is 10 pm and still not dark,” I commented, “Yes, I forgot to mention to you that during the middle of the year, they have up to 18 hours of daylight here,” Robert replied.
The next morning when I woke, the sun was well up, and after a wash and change of clothes, I headed out of my room for some breakfast. “Hey Robert, what time does it get daylight here, if it is not even dark at 10 pm?” I asked.
“Just before 4 am I believe,” my cousin replied, which was a real surprise, “Wow, only six hours of darkness, that is strange,” I responded. “Yes it maybe, but remember at the end of the year it is the opposite too that, on Christmas Day the sun rises at around 9 am and sets at about 3 pm,” Robert said.
“Wow that is a very short day. Back at home, the sun rises at about 7 am and sets at about 5 pm in winter, and rises at about 5 am and sets at about 8 pm in summer,” I replied. After breakfast, we spent the next three hours having a detailed tour of the island, which was very interesting.
The community meeting went well, and although there was not many requests for changes, Robert did have a long list of things he wanted done, which he asked the community to consider. They include extending the runway to 1.1 kilometres and sealing it, and building a small air terminal, plus two aircraft hangers to protect the planes from rough weather.
Robert also suggested building a bigger boat repair shed, and improving the boat lifting facilities, plus building an additional jetty to accommodate more visiting sailing yachts.
Extensions to the school to include a bigger library and a large undercover recreation space, plus new reverse-cycle conditioning in each room. He also suggested doubling the number of wind turbines to accommodate more power demands in the future.
Reroofing any buildings including houses that need it done, and finally, building a few additional buildings near the general store, to provide additional income for the community, with selling woollen products as well as souvenirs.
The only suggestion that the community put forward, was to provide additional buildings to accommodate the increasing number of tourists to the island, and Robert suggested that he arrange to have a tavern built beside the post office and a guest lodge built on the other side of the road from it.
The residents were pleased to hear, as they would have a place to socialise apart from community events, and Robert informed them that the Crawford Earldom would pay for, all of the improvements that he had suggested, as the residents had paid a fair amount in tenancy fees over the years.
Robert also stated that once the improvements have been made to the airport, that there would be four times weekly flights from Sumburgh Airport, Shetlands, plus three times weekly flights from Aberdeen, Scotland, to allow for an increase in tourists coming to the island.
After the meeting, Robert and I met nearly the whole island population, during a community luncheon at the school and at 2 pm, we headed back to the accommodation, to pack ready for the trip back to Aberdeen, where Robert booked us into a four-star hotel for the night.
The following day, in a rented vehicle we headed west to visit Dunecht Estate, we arrived shortly before 10 am, after passing through the village of Dunecht, and I was amazed once again, at how big the house was.
Robert informed me during the road trip, that the fifth Viscount Cowdray and his family own the property, and that we have been invited for morning tea, before taking a tour of some of the main areas of the main house, and a look around the gardens, which are spectacular.
“Where does the name Wigan come from?” I asked Robert as we climbed back into the vehicle after an enjoyable visit to Dunecht. “It is one of my minor titles, the Baron Wigan, of Haig Hall, which I gave up, so that you could have the title of Baronet of Wigan,” Robert replied.
“Ah, so that is how Haig Hall near Manchester is connected,” I asked, “That is correct, and we will go and visit it, the day after tomorrow, as we both deserve the rest of today and all of tomorrow off,” Robert replied.
Robert spent the rest of the afternoon in his study doing work, while I just relaxed in one of the many huge rooms in the house. The following day after breakfast, I continued exploring the house, which I estimated would take about a month to explore the house properly.
“Edwin, where are you?” I heard a shout come from somewhere in the house, and I ran to the main staircase, “Third floor, exploring,” I called back, “Ok, can you come down to the main drawing room please,” Robert asked, as I began making my way down the many stairs in the house.
“Have you ever played golf?” Robert asked when I arrived, “I did a term of learning to play, as part of extra activities at school, why is that?” I replied. “Well we are only half an hour drive away from the famous St Andrews Golf Club, and I thought you might like to have a go,” Robert suggested.
“Would I ever. That would be great thanks Cousin Robert,” I replied and twenty minutes later, we were on out way to St Andrews on the coast. With it being late morning, Robert suggested that we have an early light lunch first, so we headed to the restaurant.
Copyright Preston Wigglesworth All Rights Reserved July 2020