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Fetlar nuns flit to Unst for social care

The accommodation and chapel in Fetlar.

A COMMUNITY of nuns which has been based in Fetlar for nearly 30 years has moved to nearby Unst because of the “level of social care” available.

The Society of Our Lady of the Isles has been in Fetlar since being formed by the Reverend Mother Mary Agnes and others in 1988.

However, the Scottish Episcopal Church community decided to move to the nearby island of Unst because two of its five members are in need of a greater level of social care.

One sister has been living in care at Haroldswick in Unst for around a year, while another is expected to need assistance soon. This prompted the society to move in full to Unst instead of being spread across the two islands.

Only one member of the community, who lives in her own house, remains in Fetlar – but she is expected to join the others soon.

The buildings currently owned by the society, including a wooden chapel built in Aithness in the mid 1990s, are up for sale with a guide price of £255,000.

A new base for the nuns, who are currently guests of the Haroldswick Methodist church, is expected to be built in Unst next year.

The community is guided by warden Very Reverend Gerald Stranraer-Mull from Ross-shire, who has offered support to the convent for the last decade.

“Fetlar is a wonderful island, but it doesn’t have the level of social service care that is available in Unst, so a move was essential,” he said.

“It meant that either the community would be split across the two islands, or everybody move to Unst. The life of the community will continue, but with the aid of what’s needed when people get older.”

The Fetlar retreat had been open to visitors and is acknowledged to have attracted a number of people to the island, which two years ago had a population of around 80.

Visitor centre facilities will not be available in Unst, but Stranraer-Mull said the society has already welcomed guests on a more informal basis since the move.

Two sisters in the community are in life vows, meaning they live in isolation only to join the rest of the group for activities such as daily prayers and mass. The three other members of the society are companion oblates.

The sale of the Fetlar complex meanwhile also includes two self-contained semi-detached bungalows and a garage. A stone-built cottage formerly used as the society’s first chapel also forms part of the listing.

Stranraer-Mull added that he expected the Fetlar buildings to sell, with a number of future uses – such as business or residential purposes – suggested for the complex.

General Election - 12 December 2019