One quiet evening in a tiny Edinburgh flat a mousy brown hare with a bright determined expression came into the world. He was definitely a boy with his masculine shape. The glint in his eye said he wanted a purposeful life with a name to reflect it. I’m Annette, a Scottish textile artist and I make soft-sculpture hares in the still of the night. Each one gets a name and an individual story.
We searched the stars and ancient mythology before we came upon a map of Scotland, with its many islands along the jagged coastline. "How fascinating. Just imagine the names!" the hare exclaimed. So we chose a few and began to explore their significance..
Inchtavannach is a tiny island filled with oaks. Long ago there were roe deer here. Well, hare wasn’t keen about huge trees and wanted company so we moved on. But he did love the soft ending. "Say it again," he cried. So I put my tongue near the roof of my mouth and produced a very soft sawing noise. "Hikh," I whispered , explaining that the ‘ch’ at the end of a word is, in Scotland, nearly always pronounced ‘hikh’.
Perhaps Mousa? It's from the Norse meaning ‘moss’. So hare would have a comfy bed every night, plus the world’s smallest sea-birds, the weak-limbed storm petrels which come to land to breed, nest there in a colony that get special protection. Well, hare thought, these tiny birds could cause him worry all day long struggling about on their feeble legs. So, no thanks.
Maybe the unpronounceable Sgeotasaigh? It had some rather fetching rocks and small trees and in Gaelic you say ‘scotsay’ instead of my ‘ss-gee-oh-ta-say-gi-hikh’. However, hare wasn’t keen on the Gaelic pronunciation, he much preferred my convoluted version instead.
Oxna comes from the Norse for ox island. Hare was terrified of being trodden upon, so no. How about rhythmic Trondra with Shetland ponies, seals and porpoises and an annual event called Da Peerie Neep -‘The Wee Turnip’ - with activities like ‘Toss the Neep’? Hare felt it could be dangerous and so he took a rain-check on this one.
Hare liked Papa Little - a peat covered place meaning ‘little island of the priests’ in Old Norse. On hearing that hare threw a small pout and said he would much prefer to live with papas instead. "Oh, and don’t forget the mamas too!"
The Shiant Isles are three privately owned islets, with sheep and sea birds. There is apparently a sizeable colony of black rats. Hare gulped and pressed his little body against me and gave a shiver. It was a no go!
Hare liked the sound of Fetlar, it had purpose. I thought so too. It’s known as ‘the Garden of Shetland’ and hare licked his furred lips, thinking of all those carrots and kale. It happens to be the most important breeding site in the UK for the red-necked phalarope, with over 50% of its population. That is from only about 30 - 50 breeding pairs. Hare’s face lit up.
"I have red too," he cried, opening his amber eyes wide. The plain-coloured papa phalarope does the nest-sitting and the mama is the pretty one. " Well, that's decided said hare. I shall be called Fetlar and it will be my job to help the papas on the nests safeguard the eggs and make sure all the babies grow up well. The mamas will then have time to preen and look beautiful, as mamas do!"
and this is Baby Hare Fetlar, who already has his forever home with a mama who loves the Scottish Islands and mountain climbing, so Fetlar has a very happy life! and this is his story -
Fetlar is looking forward to a comfy spot on your shelf, he doesn’t mind if it isn’t too comfy though as he is used to the spiky sharp grasses prodding him every day. Plus he will need the window open so he can go about his daily duties of watching the nests. He rather likes doing it and now that things are back to right he still wants to keep watch. Plus he’s looking forward to meeting all the babies that he’s been watching over. He rather sees himself as a phalarope-uncle-hare.
well, well, Seramr was very impressed! and after the fray abated she took the magazine aside to read it again in peace.
Seramr borrowed my new spectacles that came in the mail the other day, as my eyesight is getting a little fuzzy. Infact until I started wearing my glasses I had no idea how unfocused my world had actually become!
so I can raise my glass(es) to my canny purchasing and the lovely people at Glasses Direct and Groupon and to John the editor of Scottish Islands Explorer for very kindly publishing my article in his magazine!!
I have some new mamas and babies going into my shop very soon,