Out Skerries - Population 65

Out Skerries - Population 65

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Salmon farmer David Mcmillan is winched out of the water after removing dead fish from cages on Out Skerries - a tiny, treeless island off the east coast of Scotland.

. Out Skerries, United Kingdom. Reuters/Olivia Harris

An aerial view of the island of Out Skerries. The isolation here is extreme: when the weather is bad there are no boats and no planes. In winter, days go by without post, visitors or any way to leave the island.

. Out Skerries, United Kingdom. Reuters/Olivia Harris

Glasses of milk sit on top of pictures of all the pupils at Out Skerries school. There are only seven children on the island making the school one of the smallest in the UK.

. Out Skerries, United Kingdom. Reuters/Olivia Harris

Laura Minty, 18 and Carla Anderson (right), 14, share a cigarette outside a friend's house. The island has a population of just 65 people.

. Out Skerries, United Kingdom. Reuters/Olivia Harris

Denise Anderson drives across the island. There is no pub on the island so in the evening some residents drive across the island for entertainment - listening to music on their car radios.

. Out Skerries, United Kingdom. Reuters/Olivia Harris

A mirror for traffic is seen on road.

. Out Skerries, United Kingdom. Reuters/Olivia Harris

Firewoman Alice Arthur watches a plane leave Out Skerries.

"Every house contains a watching pair of eyes as your movements are noted"
Olivia Harris, Reuters Photographer

Out Skerries is a low, treeless scrap of rock and turf to the east of the Shetland archipelago, closer to Bergen in Norway than Aberdeen in Scotland. The population is just 65.

The isolation here is extreme: when the weather is bad there are no boats and no planes. In winter, days go by without post, visitors or any way to leave the island. Everyone I meet tells me this is the worst thing about Skerries.

There is no pub on the island and at night, with nothing much else to do, people go out for a drive – even though there is one road, leading 3/4 of a mile from the port to the fish farm.

The islands attract very few tourists and fewer incomers to a population which is indigenous, working class and in many cases very poor.

You can’t walk from one end of the island to the other without knowing that every house contains a watching pair of eyes as your movements are noted.

Over the last century, the Out Skerries population halved as the traditional fishing industry fell into near-terminal decline and jobs servicing the oil industry drew inhabitants to Shetland's larger

islands.

The advent of fish farming in the 1990s stemmed the decline and the island's salmon farm now employs seven. Stuart Anderson, 18, moved to Skerries a year ago after his uncle offered him a job on salmon farm. He says he likes the island because "There are no police or anything like that. You can do what you like here. But if you go too far, the people will soon tell you.’

With no other communal buildings, the islands school is a focal point. There are only seven children on the island – four in the secondary and three in the primary school - from just two families. This makes

for one of the smallest schools in the UK.

Scott Arthur, 8, Ivan Anderson, 9, and Aron Anderson, 6, (you're either an Arthur or an Anderson at Out Skerries school) make up the primary school. Sharyiin Anderson, 15, Carla Anderson, 14, Owen Anderson , 12, and Scott Arthur, 12 form the secondary.

The secondary school pupils are taught by Sheilagh Smith, who is also head teacher. They are all in different years so most lessons are one-on-ones or hosted by tutors who are usually someone’s aunt, cousin or mums. There is no French teacher and so pupils use linguascope – a computer programme that repeats words in a French accent.

The music teacher Robert Bennet flies from Shetland once a week and his lessons are a highlight for the kids. Music is really important on Skerries where there is no other entertainment. Running and staffing the school costs in 2010 were £38,000 a year per pupil, eight times the national average.

Carla Anderson ,14, spends lunch hours on her own or talking to adults at the school. If she can, she leaves the island every weekend and stays with her sister on the mainland. She has friends on Shetland

mainland and although mobile phone reception is very poor she is never without her phone.

Sharyn Anderson, 15, is the oldest pupil. She studies one day a week on Shetland. She says she’ll leave Skerries as soon as she can and won’t come back.

In contrast, dinner lady Ann Anderson, 38, was born on Skerries. As well as making the school meals, she is a part-time firewoman and maintains the island’s water. In total she has eight different jobs on the island – not unusual in such under-populated communities.

Ann did leave Skerries when she was 19 but bounced home again after just a year. Surprisingly, she says it was loneliness which brought her back to a place where "everyone knows everyone else's business…but it's better than being homesick".