Simmer Dim Rally

15th-19th June 1983 - Islesburgh MCC

I have to admit I have absolutely no idea how I got to Aberdeen this year. It's not that I am unable to believe it happened, I just have no recollection of the route taken or the overnight stops made, if there were any. (No photographic evidence either!) There must have been stops, as I am sure I was not yet able to do over 550 miles and still arrive at noon, as we are expected to do.

The first memory I have of the trip is in the Quarter Deck pub, just outside the harbour gate in Aberdeen. My club again had four members present, myself, Neil, Pete and his girlfriend, Chris. Danny had decided better of it until he had a bike more capable of the distance involved. Pete, however, cheated and trailered his bike to Aberdeen and left the car there, only using his bike on the island itself. He also had with him one of the very early home video cameras, which had a full-sized tape in a recorder, connected by cable to the camera. I often wonder if he still has the video somewhere.

We saw the crew on the ferry removing the P&O flag and Red Ensign before we were allowed on board. Apparently they 'went missing' last year. We made note of this and made plans. The band on the boat were a lot more accommodating this year and we, in turn, were a lot less demanding. They played music more to our taste than that of the coach loads of usual tourists that filled the boat for the rest of the year. We helped them by singing along with almost all the right words. We also kept up the tradition of making a continuous chain of ring pulls around the ceiling throughout the bar area.

Roll your mousewheel to see if you are on this photo: People identified include
Alistair Lancaster, Andy Dean, Barbara McGrath, Billy Lancaster, Bob Paris, Brighton Bob Davis, Colin Buckley, Dave Biggs, Des Fisher, Dr Margaret OReagan, Eddie Hall, Gillian ODonavan, Jack Wallis, Jim Grieves, Joan Mason, Joe Marks, Neil Kendrick, Richard Green, Teresa Langford, Tony OMahony, Trevor Mason and Vincent McNally.

We all piled out of the boat as soon as the crew opened the bow doors at Lerwick and sped our way 30 miles up the Shetland Mainland to Vidlin.

This year's badge depicted a can of McEwan's Export beer - possibly one of the sponsors. The cans are also known as 'Shetland Roses' as they may be found 'growing' along the roadside all over the island.

There was a marquee, which was again the venue for the Thursday barbeque and party. It was a LOT closer than last year, and no peat bogs needed to be traversed to get to it. It was still up a little hill, but not so far as to be too much of a bother for the limited amount of time we spent in it.

We noticed that the musicians in the first band were pretty much the same as the players last year. In fact, pretty much all the bands had roughly the same people in them, just playing different instruments or arranged differently on the platform/stage.

The Friday run out to a place of local interest took us up to the most northerly part of the British Isles, after two short ferry hops, where we took the chance of posting cards home from Haroldswick Post Office, the most northerly in Britain, and Pete decided to have a paddle on the most northerly beach.

ferry and paddling

We then drove over to a hotel/restaurant, (presumably the most northern), for soup and sandwiches. Then a couple of short ferry hops down again and a quick blast back to the site for a rest before the party continued in the hall, with beer and partial nudity, (probably something to do with the Summer Solstice).


As part of the Islanders' Midsummer celebrations, there are a group of Vikings, known as the Jarl Squad, who lead the carnival procession on the Saturday afternoon. They visited the site, presumably because of the cheap/free beer, before going about their duties.

Later on, we boarded the coaches into town to celebrate with the natives. Most of the pubs were full of drunken locals, so we fitted in quite well. For those that wished it, there was a disco in the open-air Fort Charlotte in the middle of town. Sometimes you could get in for free if you said you were with the rally, sometimes you had to pay a couple of quid. Whichever option you chose, a few hours later the coaches would start running us back to Vidlin for our own party. The sing-song on the bus was always a good laugh. The party went on until it was quite light, mainly because it doesn't get dark up here in midsummer.

After what seemed like very few hours sleep, because it was very few hours sleep, we arose, packed our gear, gratefully ate the lunch the organisers provided, and set off for a last blast down to Lerwick, to catch the ferry in the afternoon.

There are a few hours to fill, so last-minute sightseeing is possible, the ferry terminal is comfortable, but not that big, and the café is - shall we say - limited. (By this time, the Shetland Hotel across the road from the terminal had not been built.)

At the Aberdeen end, we load the bikes and then leave the boat, to return to the pub for a couple of hours. At Lerwick, once you load the bike, you stay on the boat. Having made sure the bike would be well secured, we dump all our needed-on-crossing luggage in the bar or seating area, and assemble on the deck to 'wave goodbye' as we leave. This 'waving' usually involves eggs, flour, water and even yoghurt. Having vastly out-performed the shore-based party at 'waving' last year, they came prepared and fought back valiantly, but I think we still had the edge, as we were throwing down and they were throwing -erm- up, if you see what I mean.

After leaving the harbour, we raised the 'Simmer Dim' flag, which was a pillowcase decorated with a marker pen, locked one of the girls in the dog cages and Pete did a Midnight Moon from part of the superstructure. Pretty normal stuff, really.

In the bar there was music, beer and comfy seats, so that seemed to be the place to stay, with a short break for the café or restaurant, as you saw fit/could afford. There didn't seem to be as many ring-pulls on the return trip, but we did what we could with them. The party didn't carry on too long, due to many people having a long trip in the morning.

- Phil (the Spill) Drackley