Peat-cutting tools … and beer — Shetland memories

Fair Isle, Shetland—featuring some friendly, inquisitive sheep who were keen to join us for lunch, and no peat-cutting was involved. Photo © Jerry Fishenden.

One of my random memories of childhood visits to Shetland is the peat-cutting tools displayed on the wall of a relative’s house in Lerwick.

Bob, my relative, appeared ancient to me at the time. However, I guess looking back now, he was probably only in his mid-sixties. He always appeared to be dressed in the same suit and flat cap, albeit invariably pimped-up by a Shetland wool jumper (even in the middle of summer). Despite him patiently taking each peat-cutting implement in turn down from the wall and explaining and demonstrating what it was for, I’ve long since shamefully forgotten everything he said, although I remember his enthusiasm, knowledge, and pride.

The peat that he and most other locals cut was used to heat their homes. If you’ve not experienced peat being burnt, it has a very distinctive smoked-earth smell that never fails to evoke those long-lost childhood days for me. Visiting the working old Crofthouse Museum is always particularly evocative since they usually have a peat fire smoking in the fireplace.

In the springtime, peat can often still be seen drying in the fields beside the roads, but peat-cutting is done on a small-scale, sustainable way to meet locals’ needs.

I was reminded of all this when I recently came across a Shetland with Laurie blog post: it provides a good insight into the role of peat and peat-cutting. The Lerwick Brewery has named a beer after one of the peat-cutting tools, the tushkar. And very nice it is too. I always appreciate a well-made dark beer (he hints). You can read more about it here.

My relative Bob pictured outside his house in Lerwick. Photo © Jerry Fishenden.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.