Adviser on the Edge

careers in island communities: research, theory and practice

Changing times in Sanday

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I loved this recording from BBC Radio Orkney! Not only is it great to hear the Sanday (Orkney) accent next to the Yell (Shetland) accent, but the interview with 75 year old Angy acts as a form of oral history, with Angy making some interesting comments about how island life has changed, and his own career journey within Sanday.

In 1943 when Angy left school (at 14) his ambitions were to go away, to get some kind of work and to see what was out there. However, his father had other ideas and bought more land meaning that Angy actually started work on the farm. Initially he was ‘not awful struck on it’ as a kind of career, but by the time he was in his 20s he was “underway wi’ it” and no longer minded to leave. This interested me because of his desire to go away and see new places, which is something that lots of young islanders also report today. What is also interesting is how after his initial decision to stay, life just kind of developed from that point and he became settled in his work even though it wasn’t what he’d really have chosen. I wonder how much that is true of people now too? That life sort of carries us along sometimes meaning that we become settled in jobs even if they weren’t really what we would have chosen in the first place?

Other comments from Angy that I found interesting were about the changes in island schooling – when he was at school there were a number of different schools on the island, and the island community itself was relatively divided between the ‘north’ and the ‘south’, who didn’t really mix very much together. Now all the children are based in the same school, and the island is less divided. Angy also talks a little bit about changing island demographics, including the fact that now there are more incomers on the island than ‘Sanday wans’ – but at how he thinks this is a good thing because without the incomers the island would have been ‘dead’. Indeed being open to change and development is apparent in his comments about the island economy too – when asked about priorities for the future Angy talks about the island needing more tourist facilities particularly in the North. However, he still sees farming as important in the future of the island because of the central place it has in the economy.

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