Ollies Visit to Papa


Oliver recently spent the day clipping sheep on Papa, an island off the west side of Scalloway. Papa Isle is owned by the Smith family, the founders of Jamieson & Smith, he headed there with my (Ella’s) Uncle James who runs Berry Farm and a group of willing clippers and packers!

arriving on Papa

Papa Isle is one of the now many uninhabited islands in Shetland. Shetland is made up of over 100 small islands but only 16 are now lived on. Nearby to Papa there are a number of similar isles – Hildasay, Oxna, Linga, Havra and Langa were all at one time inhabited like Papa but as times changed and Island life became harder people gradually moved to the more easily assessable islands, part of Oliver’s family came from Hildasay.

Preparing the cro
Gathering the Sheep


James looks on while the sheep are rounded up
Brian watches as the Sheep enter the pen
Oliver hand shearing the old way!


Shearing by power – the modern way!


Papa is now the home of approximately 90 sheep who are quite happy living on the natural grazing and feeding on seaweed. They are handled only twice a year for shearing and later in the year for taking home the lambs so with the exception of necessary drenching are virtually organic and quite self-sufficient! They are able to survive and reserve energy and fat for the harsher winters, Hill Sheep have very good wool, the environment and grazing usually leads to a very fine quality of wool.

All clipped and back to the hills!
Lots of Oo ready to head to the J&S Woolstore

There are still many examples of Papa being inhabited, the two below pictures show the plaque erected by the Slater Family and the remains of the Slater family Croft house which was attached to the school.

slater plaque

slater hoose

The next two pictures show the Papa Kirk, you can see Oxna Isle in the background with the house used for Lambing. Papa in Old Norse means the Island of the Priests and people came from all the surrounding Islands for the Sunday service. It was still active in the early 1930s and an elderly neighbour of Oliver’s said he would row over from Burra for the service. The image with the stone before it shows the rock on which the late Robert Fullerton told Oliver a Bible would be laid onto, the people in Oxna would look for this through a spyglass and if it was there they would climb the hill behind their house and wave a bed sheet which would have been seen on the Islands of Hildasay, Linga and Langa. The congregation would then row or sail over for the service. If the Bible wasn’t there it meant the weather was too poor for the minister to make it to the kirk from Scalloway.



The ‘Crying Knowe’ can be seen in the picture below, this was a small hill used by the residents of Papa to shout across the sound to the people on Oxna

crying knowe

You can still see remnants of the Papa Peat banks like in the picture below, many people still use Peat to heat and warm their houses in Shetland today but it was a complete necessity for people in isolated Islands like Papa. You can see a bit more information about Peats in Shetland here.



I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick look into a bit of Shetland History, you can see on the Map I’ve included above from 1806 nearly all the Islands in Shetland are named, probably because people lived on most of them! Papa is located directly across from Foula on the mid/bottom left hand side.

Happy Knitting!




19 thoughts on “Ollies Visit to Papa

  1. sophy0075 August 23, 2016 / 4:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this bit of history and the 2016 shearing. Does that ewe know how wise are the hands (Oliver’s) who sheared her? Probably not – but I bet he was grading her fleece as he was trimming. J&S doesn’t just create yarn – it creates historic Art.

  2. mrsgrimsdale August 23, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    Lovely, thanks. I am really enjoying your blog posts Ella. They’re a glimpse into a different world xx

  3. jemtext August 23, 2016 / 4:34 pm

    Thanks Ella, this is a great red. Looks like it was a nice day too.

  4. Deborah Barr August 23, 2016 / 5:01 pm

    This is fascinating….what a wonderful history you are sharing and preserving!

  5. Katherine Paterson August 23, 2016 / 9:02 pm

    A wonderful post! Thank you for this story, and the great photos. See you at Wool Week …

  6. Hivetender August 23, 2016 / 11:52 pm

    Love this post….history…sheep…Oliver! Thank you.

  7. catdownunder August 23, 2016 / 11:57 pm

    Your sheep always look so much cleaner than ours but they share that same sort of hardiness. Yours will eat seaweed and ours will eat “saltbush”.
    And shearing is very hard work!

  8. Susan' August 24, 2016 / 12:47 am

    What fun…yes it is WORK !! Love the history, thank you.

  9. erickaeckles August 24, 2016 / 10:06 am

    I love these posts about the history of Shetland and some of what goes into Jamieson and Smith’s beautiful yarn….I guess if the sheep live there all year round then it just goes to show how warm and insulating Shetland wool is.
    The picture of Brian really made me smile, my dad was a Brian and he would stand in that exact same pose (though his hand would be on a shovel rather than a fence post) while he stood having a jaw with the chap next door.

  10. Linda S. Warren August 24, 2016 / 11:08 am

    Thank you very much – that was fascinating!

  11. la vie de Praerie August 24, 2016 / 11:49 am

    Loved this. The sheep look so beautiful in their woollen coats and the story of Papa Island and the old kirk….romantic history for me!

  12. heathermmoncrieff August 24, 2016 / 1:00 pm

    Really interesting blog Ella. Keep dem coming.
    HMM x

  13. Marilyn F. August 24, 2016 / 2:02 pm

    What a nice post. Loved hearing about the history of the islands and people. And anything to do with sheep is always welcome – great photos. Glad the traditions are being carried on. .Thanks so much.

  14. Natascha Davis August 24, 2016 / 2:54 pm

    Your blog posts comprise an enchanting history! I’m thinking you’re writing a book and I’ll pre-order! I eagerly look forward to each new piece of history.
    And the picture of Oliver, Master of all things Wool, is wonderful!

  15. thecrazysheeplady August 24, 2016 / 6:07 pm

    Fascinating! And lovely shots!

  16. MoniqueB August 26, 2016 / 11:41 am

    It is amazing how the island immediately influences daily live. The shouting bit is brilliantly effective. I am very happy you (all) are showing us a mere glimpse of island living and it’s history. Thanks.

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