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Environment / ‘Lament for the Lang Kames’ sees coffin burned at Voe

Ceremony intended to heal community division

A SMALL but heartfelt procession made its way through the Lang Kames on Saturday afternoon as a coffin was borne alongside the A970 under the Extinction Rebellion Shetland banner.

The procession began at the Sandwater junction and terminated at the Voe pier where the coffin, donated by undertaker Anne Goudie, was ceremonially burned on the beach to the accompaniment of songs and fiddle tunes.

The Lament For The Lang Kames was supposed to be part of a healing process for the social rift that has been caused by the proposed Viking wind farm, whose future is uncertain after the project failed to win a government auction to supply renewable energy to the UK grid, said one of the organisers, Pete Bevington.

Bevington, who gave a speech on the objectives of the event before the burning said that the protest was not essentially in opposition to the Viking project, which could see the building of 103 wind turbines throughout central Shetland, but was intended to bring folk together and start healing division in the community.

The marchers take a break in their near eight-mile walk. Photo: P.Johnson/Shetland News

Bevington added: “We felt there was a need to give people the opportunity to express their grief if they so chose and we thought a burning ceremony would be good. We thought we would pay our respects to the Lang Kames which looked like they were about to be desecrated.

“It hasn’t been fully understood by many people, but we felt it was appropriate and there was an awful lot of support and Anne Goudie, bless her, thought it was a wonderful idea.”

Goudie and her father in law Sonny Goudie, who once ran the family business donated the old “carrying coffin” and thought it a fitting end for 70-year-old casket that had taken many people to the undertakers.

Bevington said that they had struck upon the idea about a month ago and it was “amazing how everything just fell into place, bumping into people accidentally who wanted to help as well. So it just developed a life of its own.”

One such was Maryland native Kate Robinson who had helped out at the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary (run by Pete and Jan Bevington) 10 years ago and is now resident in England.

She came north for the event and sang two songs, one in Welsh and the other the Unst Boat Song and read a poem by Ted Hughes as the coffin burned. Amy Morgan also played a number of slow airs on the fiddle.

Only around 12 to 15 people took part in the march but Bevington said that he was not disappointed by the turnout or dismayed by a small number of “thumbs down” they received from motorists driving past the procession.

Bevington added: “There’s been a fair bit of controversy about the whole thing because of what it involves, for different reasons. Some people were offended by the idea of carrying a coffin; some people feel that Extinction Rebellion should not be saying anything negative about Viking Energy, which they regard as being good for the planet.

“A lot of people think it was developed in a pretty underhand way, they weren’t given much choice, it was a done deal and it has caused such division.

“We need to move together as a community because tough times lie ahead, no matter where you are, including Shetland, because Shetland is in a very vulnerable place because of its position.

He said that Shetland urgently needed to develop renewable power initiatives and there was no leadership on this matter from the SIC or anywhere else.