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shetland homecoming feature

Shetland's Hamefarin

Shetlanders have always had an independent streak, so it's only fitting their Hamefarin (homecoming) will happen a full year after the rest of Scotland's.


By now, the concept should be familiar to Scottish Life readers: a themed programme of activities designed to draw expatriate and diaspora Scots from every corner of the globe to celebrate their roots in the lands of their forebears. The Scottish Government's 2009 Year of Homecoming, of course? Well actually, no. The Shetland Hamefarin...2010.

Only in Shetland. It's not that they've exactly shunned the Scottish event, which has struggled against the recessionary tide to live up to the hyperbole with which it was launched by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. Islands tourism chief executive Andy Steven is at pains to stress that he has worked with the Homecoming material generated by his Scotland-wide parent body, VisitScotland. It's just that Shetland already had plans in place for its own festival -- "hamefarin" means homecoming in the islands' Norse-infused Norn dialect -- and could see no persuasive reason to be deflected by anything so remote and inconsequential as a bunch of politicians in far-off Edinburgh.

Therefore, in June 2010, as Scotland picks over the lessons of its Homecoming, Shetland will be gleefully en fete for the Hamefarin. And while nobody is quite rude enough to say so, not publicly anyway, they have high hopes of making more of an impact on visitor numbers to the islands than is yet evident from the Scottish programme.

The full text of this article is available in the Autumn 2009 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Edinburgh's New Town by Candace Leslie.

Lerwick, knitter and fiddler photos © P. Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint; Up-Helly-Aa photo © Doug Houghton/Scottish Viewpoint; Mousa broch photo © Roger McCann/Scottish Viewpoint