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Tributes flood in for storyteller Lawrence

Photographer Katarina Juvančič's image of Lawrence in his living room a few years ago. She said he had graced her life with "unforgettable memories, words of comfort and solace, great laughs, many drams and fabulous stories".

WARM tributes have been paid to well-known Shetland storyteller and author Lawrence Tulloch, who has died at the age of 74.

Lawrence was a storyteller of international repute and appeared at many festivals throughout the world. He was also a familiar voice to islanders tuning into BBC Radio Shetland from the earliest days of the station.

He passed away at the Gilbert Bain Hospital on Monday night and is survived by his wife Margaret and daughter Liz. Lawrence had lived in Yell for most of his life before moving to North Roe in his later years.

Lawrence regaling the audience at Mareel during Fiddle Frenzy last August. Photo: Dale Smith.

Born and brought up in North Yell, the greatest influence on his love of storytelling was his father and bearer of the tradition, Tom Tulloch, whose folklore was collected by the School of Scottish Studies.

In his younger days Lawrence worked as a tour guide and was a weaver, lighthouse keeper and postmaster, while he also ran a bed and breakfast. He was chairman of Shetland Islands Tourism for a spell.

Many of the traditional tales he gathered over the years were captured in print and on CD, with The History Press in 2014 publishing Shetland Folk Tales, a compendium including tales of the isles including The Boy Who Came from the Ground and Norway’s First Troll.

BBC Radio Shetland manager John Johnston said: “Lawrence was a stalwart of Radio Shetland. He was involved in the station right from the start, presenting many programmes including Give us a Tune.

“He was a regular contributor, and our main contact for stories in Yell. As a tribute, we plan to repeat the In About the Night programme that he recorded with Mary Blance some years ago.

“We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family. It was with great sadness that we heard the news – he will be sorely missed.”

Former BBC Radio Shetland senior producer Jonathan Wills was a boatman when Lawrence was the lightkeeper at Muckle Flugga in the 1970s and said he was “very sorry to hear the sad and shocking news”.

“He and Margaret were my neighbours when he was a lightkeeper on Muckle Flugga and I was the lighthouse boatman, and very good neighbours they were,” he said.

Lawrence, pictured at the Shetland Hotel in 2015, was a regular contributor to BBC Radio Shetland from its earliest days. Photo: Katarina Juvančič.

“We kept in touch after our paths diverged and when Radio Shetland started up Lawrence was a great help to us with his fund of stories, many of them from his father, Tom, who was another of our early stars.

“Lawrence had a great curiosity about Shetland history and folklore, and an amazing fund of knowledge. His was an unpretentious writing style – he wrote just as he spoke – and I much enjoyed his book On the Rocks in particular.

“Our political views were completely opposed but we always enjoyed good-humoured banter about current affairs whenever we met up, as well as reminiscing about our very happy shared time in North Unst all those years ago.

“Lawrence will be a sad miss to all who had the pleasure to know him as a friend and colleague.”

Kevin Henderson of Fiddlers’ Bid described Lawrence as a “true gentleman” and said it was “terribly sad news”.

“A tremendous storytellers and a huge music enthusiast who was so encouraging to so many young folk when they were learning to play,” he said. “He will be a huge miss.”