• 31 January 2022

Yell Sound's first Ferryman

This is the story of Peter Blance "Auld Blancie" by Billy Arthur

HibbertSamuel Hibbert (1792-1848) an English Geologist and Antiquarian in his description of Shetland, in the early 19th century, described the mode of transport and lack of roads. Prior to1847 the only roads in Shetland were 14-15 miles in the vicinity of `Lerwick Town' The mortar road through Wast Yell was built in 1895. The main mode of transport in those days wis by sea.

BlanciePeter Blance wis a strong character and a man of few words - It wis also said of Peter Blance that he was -``fearless, and geed wi all wadders'' There are twa or three good sea yarns about `Old Blancie'Peter Blance - but I think this particular yarn was the best one:

One brawly fierce winters day, and on a Sunday- wi da ebb tide makkin North and a strong tae gale force Norderly wind, Peter Blance wis asked tae tak twa Ministers- `a great muckle een and a peerie een’ - across Yellsound - fae Mossbank tae UlstaFrom Ulfs (Man's name) and Staðr (farm) i.e. Ulfs' Farm

Although hit wis a stoor o wind, and all da signs of da makins of a bad day - they were brawly insistent on the need tae administer Divine Instruction tae the Yell folks, (who it wis said by some folks were very much needful of Divine Instruction)

Unheedful of Auld Blancie’s advice that da crossing wid be ``brawly coorse eenoo'' - and his suggestion - ``Dat hit wid be better tae wait till da tide turned'' fell on deaf ears-their passion for the Ministry wis so strong to tend `The Flock’ in Yell - that Blancie sagely consented.

Now just South o the notorious tide string called- `Da Buttocks o Bigga’ - she shippet a green lump of water ower da port bow, which gluffed da Meenisters-then she shippet anidder een tae starboard, which slokkit oot Blancie‘s lighted pipe - which wis, tae Blancie, a more serious state of affairs.

The UppstandersAn old Shetland taboo name for Ministers now turned feart, and clutching their Bibles, expecting tae meet their Maker, they asked Peter Blance, if they should pray. Old Blancie, silent up to this point, pipe still in his mouth, but with his grip still firmly on the tiller and the other on the sheet, looked down, at the tilfersfloorboards floating around their feet, slowly looked up and said- oot o the corner o his mouth- “Weel…da peerie een yonder can pray... and da muckle een can tak yon owsekerry[Old Norse] aus(t)ker, boat scoop and owse[Old Norse] ausa, bail the water from a boat''. They owsed lik mad Clergymen fae Bigga tae da back o da ness at Ulsta- until he stayed her at Da Mitten stone yonder- then he had da wadder on his starboard quarter, and wis oot o da tide roost[Old Norse] rǫst, strong current

The Meenisters passion for Ministry wis slightly cooled by da time dey won tae Ulsta-but da poor souls seemed tae have lost the power of speech!! Ulsta folks had watched them sailing across - It wis said she wis ``frothing white at da forefit'' and they windered what way Blancie wis on da Sound wi a day lik dis ? - Like good neighbours, they geed doon tae da shoormal[Old Norse] sjóvar of the sea, and mál limit.. The shore tae meet him, and help haul da boat up.

Blancie seemed unimpressed by da Meenisters, as dey slowly crawled up da auld seaweed covered slip yonder at Ulsta, on all fours, one ahint da idder een, - but onlookers reckoned that there wis an ever so slight smile on Blancies, usually inscrutable features- and he took anidder sook oot o his salty pipe..

Footnote - The Blances of Delting and Yell were peerie folk, but noted for their strength. Jimmy Blance of Evrahoull in Wast Yell, a cousin tae Peter in this story, was a Haaf Deep-sea Fisherman, and he saw his 90th year.... In the later years o his life he "lost da power o me legs",-but his arms were still strong. He once told me Faidder, Wullie Arthur, who lived on the neighbouring croft, that . ``My boy, am lost me leegs, but if you were tae pit me doon tae da old noost yonder, at da Ness, tae my auld boat - Man I could row across Yell -Sound tae Ollaberry yet'' .



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