Two ferry crossings, a couple of car trips and a short hop on a plane to the mainland. All in a day’ s work for crofter cum electrician Ninian Johnson, who set off from his remote island home of Unst to join SELECT.
When he woke up, Ninian Johnson knew exactly where he wanted to be, and that was at SELECT’ s Walled Garden in Edinburgh. The drawback? He lives on the remote Shetland island of Unst, which is the most northerly inhabited place in Britain, has a population of 500, and no easy means of getting off.
The 55-year-old is also “more or less”, in his own words, the only electrician on the island and possibly for the neighbouring islands of Yell, population 966, and Fetlar, with just 60-odd people. So why, with a captive audience, needs he to become a SELECT Member, especially as he’ s been an Approved Electrician for more than 30 years. “There was a chap up here who was also doing contracting work; he was actually a SELECT Member but he retired a couple of years ago. For the last maybe 10-15 years I’ ve been doing a bit less electrical contracting work, as I have other business interests.”Note: he’ s also a crofter, mainly with sheep and a few Shetland ponies. However, he continues: “When he retired the contracting work picked up a bit and customers now are looking for membership of a trade body. But it was also to get through the Building Standards side of it, for the Certifier of Construction [work]. It might be a slightly simpler path to get work signed off.”
So with the decision made that obtaining SELECT membership would not only satisfy his customers, but it would also enable him to fulfil industry standards, the next calculation was how to physically get off the island and make that 500 mile trip*. “I was originally going to come away by ferry but due to weather conditions that got knocked on the head, so I ended up flying away on the Sunday.” But with no airport on Unst, Ninian had an 18-mile drive and a 10 minute ferry crossing to get off, before a further 20 mile drive across Yell and the another ferry trip, this one taking 20 minutes. He then had a 60-mile drive from the north mainland of Shetland to Sumburgh Airport where finally he encountered transport with wings, where he could depart for the Granite City.
"I left home about half eleven on the Sunday and got to Aberdeen about eight o’ clock that night. It wasn’ t too bad, all considered.”And it was a packed schedule. On the Monday Ninian met up with John Allen the membership representative for the North of Scotland in Aberdeen before travelling down to Edinburgh on the Tuesday to complete the Initial Verification of Installationsto BS 7671 course (209) and then back up to Aberdeen for building standards, before travelling home again on the Friday. Not the easiest decision to take almost a week off but Ninian adds: “Hopefully it will pay off in the long run. It was certainly a worthwhile exercise, especially just to get up to speed with the current requirements, and all the rest of it.”And it seems like it will be. With a mixed base of work including light commercial, domestic, the occasional new build and extension, being practically the sole spark on the island means the demands look set to only get greater. He adds: “It’ s been very busy so the membership of SELECT will be a real benefit.”
Area: 46 square miles
Literally: ‘ The island above all others’
Has a lot of: Puffins
* According to Google maps the distance between Unst and Edinburgh is just over 400 miles but the opportunity to use the Proclaimers as a travel metaphor was too strong. And that is ‘ as the crow flies’ , so we’ re confident the margin of error will not be too great