Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shetland Life snippet: the IRA attack at Sullom Voe

The March edition of Shetland Life Magazine can be downloaded in full here for the cover price.

Here's a wee snippet from John Peterson's excellent piece about the only IRA bombing ever to take place on Scottish soil - the attack on the Sullom Voe oil terminal during the opening ceremony by Her Majesty the Queen.

At noon on Saturday 9 May 1981 Queen Elizabeth II, along with her husband Prince Philip, was in Shetland to attend the inauguration ceremony of the new oil terminal at Sullom Voe. The royal couple had recently arrived aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia and were joined at the ceremony by King Olav V of Norway who had sailed in aboard the Royal Yacht Norge.  Various other dignitaries had come to Shetland by a specially chartered P&O ship. 

As the royal triumvirate stood listening to their respective national anthems and the Queen waited to deliver her inauguration speech to the assembled crowd, barely anyone noticed the distant sound of an explosion, just 500 yards away in the new terminal’s main power station. Those that did hear the noise suspected some kind of electrical fault, but it was only in the hours and days that followed that it became clear the blast had been caused by a concealed explosive device, planted with the apparent intention of assassinating the British Head of State.

The explosive device, which contained seven pounds of gelignite connected to a timed detonator, had been hidden high up in the power station building. When it exploded at around 12.05, a nearby boiler was damaged and a large amount of debris was scattered around the vicinity, but fortunately there were no casualties. Around the same time as the explosion the British press began receiving messages from the Provisional IRA, claiming responsibility for a bomb blast at Sullom Voe. Because details of the incident were contained to begin with, the IRA claims were initially dismissed by the media as a hoax. But then news gradually began to trickle through that there had been reports of some kind of unidentified explosion during the inauguration ceremony...

For the full article buy the print edition or download the pdf (for the cover price) here

Friday, February 22, 2013

Why songs matter

Today I clumsily interviewed a band called Of Monsters and Men, from Iceland, who were the soul of politeness and co-operation. They payed two songs live, full band performances, no messing about with  'acoustic' sessions.

They were in Glasgow, I was in Shetland, they were at the start of a sold-out British tour, massive across the world. Yet they came into the BBC's Glasgow studios and performed impeccably, spoke as well as anyone could have expected. Yes, I did ask them if they'd been picketed by fishermen, and it seems they haven't. But are looking forward to it.

I managed to interrupt one of their songs during an seemingly endless pause, but they were great.

There was just one moment. I asked about their first, breakthrough single, Little Talks, which I know is about mental illness and deeply personal to the band. What was it about, I asked. "Anything you want it to be" answered Ragi.

I laughed. But good grief, I despaired at that moment. How often have I heard tosspot musicians say that? Then I thought, they're just youngsters. Let it go.

Because songs, I believe, are not about 'anything you want'. They're specific. They may be enigmatic, obscure, elusive and eccentric. But they're about something. And the writer knows what that is.

An example. This reduces me to a juddering wreck when I hear it. But it's not just honest and very clear, there's a fearlessness about it which may, yes, come from the fact that the writer and performer  is an elderly man who has seen and done almost everything, an intellectual and massively successful formal musician. And if you ask him what it's about, he tells you. It's deeply, deeply personal. But it's a song that matters.

 It's about something.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hoarsemeat...a song inspired by Shetland ponies


(I understand that in parts of Holland and Belgium, you used to see little rural houses, each with a tethered Shetland pony on the lawn. Just as some people keep a pig or chickens, fattening them up for the oven or pot, so it was the habit to fatten up your Sheltie for - what must have been a very large - Christmas dinner). And they must have had enormous ovens...

A link to a rough recording is at the end of the lyrics...

I feel like a shetland Pony in the rain and snow
I feel like a Shetland pony with no place to go
We love Shetland ponies they are always in demand
In petting zoos and parks and pies, in burgers and in cans

I'm a horse
I'm a horse
I'm a hoarse horse, a very hoarse horse indeed
I'm a horse
I'm a horse of course
I'm a hoarse horse a very hoarse horse indeed

What use is a shetland Pony if it cannot neigh?
If I was a Shetland Pony I'd have lots to say
In Belgium or Romania they'd kill me for my meat
If I could speak I'd ask them if they found it nice and sweet


If I was a Shetland Pony I'd be short and fat
I would not let anybody bother me for that
In a beef lasagne you might find a piece of me
At least I can assure you that you won't get BSE