Community / Candlelight and community spirit: life in the lengthy power cut

OCCASIONAL power cuts are a fact of life for many in Shetland – but the scale of disruption this week has been described as “unprecedented”.

Seeing so many power lines downed is an extremely rare sight, and local electricity engineers say they have been faced with the worst conditions in decades.

It is a concerning time for vulnerable people as the temperatures remain low, but a network of public spaces are open for warmth, food and refreshments – while the Shetland at large community has rallied around those in need.

It is the more outlying communities who are affected most – with many in the West and North Mainland now entering their fourth day without power.

Out in the west Kevin Tulloch has been taking a small generator to neighbours around the community of Clousta.

The area – which has around 70 people living there – lost power on Monday.

Kevin Tulloch has experience of off-grid living, having spent four days on the uninhabited island of Vementry to raise money for charity.

Tulloch’s wife and children have gone to stay with family where there is power, but he is staying behind to look after the sheep and pets.

But Tulloch has been making the most of his free time by helping the community.

He said he has been going around neighbours with a generator to “basically save folk’s freezers”.

People have also been charging items like iPads and head torches at the same time thanks to a four-way power pack.

Tulloch has also been out to feed someone else’s sheep, and highlighting a forward-thinking attitude, he has also formed an ‘outside fridge’ in the snow to try to save perishable food.

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“For me it’s given me something to do,” he said. “I’m kind of a social person, so if I’m going around between folk’s houses helping them then I can speak to folk and have a yarn.”

Tulloch said people in Clousta are “getting on not too bad, especially if they have some sort of a fire”.

Some parts of Voe are expected to be ‘off-grid’ for a little while yet due to the power line damage in the area.

Catherine Jeromson, her husband Mags and children Evie (six) and Adele (one) have been spending time as a family in the power cut.

Evie (left) and Adele having fun in the candlelight in Voe.

She said their neighbours and community have “really looked after each other, and we really appreciate that”.


“When we moved into this house 11 years ago, my Mam and Dad gave us two gas rings and a gas heater to have in our garage for ‘power cut emergencies’,” Jeromson explained.

“I mind we used them at home in 1995 during the big snow when our power was off for five days.

“We’ve never had to use them until now – I didn’t even think they would still work. They’ve certainly been a saviour for us.”

Jeromson said their bairns have coped “marvellously well without access to tablets, devices and CBeebies”.

“I hope this will be a lasting positive memory for them – like the fond memories I had of winter power cuts.”

She quipped that if it had not been for her years of camping experience as a girl guide, “I might have been more phased by this!”

Paul James lives in Skerries, which has a population of around 30.


The island community lost power on Monday,  but the guest house owner said their supply was back on Wednesday evening.

James, who moved to the island from Norwich with his family nine months ago to run the Rocklea B&B, said on Wednesday afternoon that cabin fever had not yet kicked in.

The James family in Skerries, from left to right: Paul, Kia and Stanley.

He said his family had “no heating or lighting, so we were burning through all the tea lights and the candles, and all the batteries”.

James said they had finally managed to spark up an old barbecue on Wednesday to enjoy something warm to eat.

They had sporadic 4G mobile data and used the spare time to take photographs and enjoy the scenery.

He said in Skerries there were “so many offers of help – people have been offering us freezer space”.


“Talking to everybody on the island, this is quite unique, this series of events,” James added.

“It’s all part of the joy of living here. I’ve never walk around moping or anything.

“The point is to not only grin and bear it, but enjoy the fact that yeah, this is a little bit Armageddony, but who the hell cares? We could be down in Norwich twiddling our thumbs.”

Speaking before the power returned, he added: “I miss Netflix, but that’s really about it.”

In Northmavine Iain Davidson, who lives in Eshaness, says he and his wife Susan are managing to get by with a gas cooker and a peat stove.

“Light has probably been our main issue,” he said. “We have some solar lights and rechargeable headtorches but these get weaker as the days pass.


“We spend a lot of time peering at the top of Greenfield, trying to ascertain if it’s passable. We are certainly catching up on our reading but – Susan is pleased to report – I haven’t resorted to digging out the guitar yet.”

He added that Northmavine Community Development Company worker Charlotte has been cooking hot meals and taking them around the area to anyone who needs them.

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