Islanders blaze celebratory trail

BRITAIN’S most northerly Jubilee celebrations kicked off in the island of Unst last night, with the first of 1,800 beacons marking the Queen’s 50th year on the throne.

Today, the RAF base at Saxa Vord, on the northernmost tip of the Shetland Islands, will throw a street party despite there being no streets.

The celebrations will not only allow islanders to mark in their own way the Jubilee but also gives them a chance to let their hair down after about a decade of suffering major economic setbacks. The worst in recent years was at the RAF unit itself. At the height of the Cold War, more than 300 personnel were based at Saxa Vord, with hundreds of knock-on jobs for islanders.

However, with the end of the east-west confrontation, manpower at the base has fallen to about 80.

Gordon Thompson, chairman of the local community council, said: "There have been some bad times in recent years especially, but there is now light at the end of the tunnel.

"The Jubilee gives islanders the chance to get together and party."

The party on the island got under way on Saturday with a music bash in the Haroldswick Community Hall.

Virtually the whole community - population 900 - has got behind the Jubilee celebrations, with red, white and blue bunting flying throughout the island.

Locals have even decorated the northernmost bus shelter in the UK with a replica of the Crown Jewels .

Baltasound-based micro-brewery Valhalla, the UK’s most northerly brewery, provided a special Jubilee ale, which is being sold in local pubs and was served last night at a special ceilidh in Haroldswick, with Shetland fiddle group Fustra entertaining hundreds of locals and tourists.

Deborah Anderson, 26, visiting the isles from her home in Glasgow for the first time, said: "It is just fabulous. I didn’t think the celebrations would come to a remote island such as this lovely place.

"Everyone has really got into the spirit of things and I am really glad I came to join in the celebrations with the friendly locals."

The dance followed the lighting of Shetland Beacon, the first in the British Isles, the last lit in London by the Queen herself.