Shetland Fiddlers' Society

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The first big post-war social event organised in Shetland took place in May 1960. Known as The Hamefarin, it was an organised return trip to their native isles made by some 150 Shetlanders who had emigrated and settled world-wide in such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. A week of social events of all kinds was laid on for the visitors at venues throughout the islands, and among the main attractions were a Grand Variety Concert and a Shetland Concert, each staged on two evenings in the Garrison Theatre, Lerwick.

The opening act of each concert was a performance by forty ‘massed fiddlers’, players from all over the Shetland mainland gathered together by Tom Anderson and trained by him over the preceding winter months. The group’s performances of traditional Shetland fiddle tunes were so well received that it was inundated by requests to perform all over Shetland and invited to play for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during a royal visit planned for August. As a consequence, the fiddlers formed themselves into Shetland Fiddlers’ Society on 29th June 1960, with Tom Anderson as its Leader. Magnus Magnusson, then a reporter on the ‘Scotsman’ newspaper sent to cover the Royal visit, gave the Society its affectionate nickname ‘Da Forty Fiddlers’ which stuck for many years until player numbers dwindled somewhat.

The objectives of the Society include:

  • the preservation, development and presentation for the benefit,education and enjoyment of the public of the traditional art of Shetland fiddle playing
  • to give concerts recitals and other public appearance of Shetland fiddle music for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the public
  • to educate musicians in the traditional art of Shetland Fiddle playing’.

Tom, by then Dr. Tom Anderson MBE, left the Society in 1980 but Shetland Fiddlers’ Society still thrives, meeting weekly for practice, playing regularly for Shetland Folk Dance, and performing at events such as Shetland’s Folk Festival and Accordion and Fiddle Festival. Since its establishment the Society has produced eight albums of recordings including a 50th anniversary compilation CD, with a ninth album recorded and expected on the market in spring 2014.