New York Family Finds Home on Scotland's Fair Isle An upstate New York couple was chosen from 800 applicants to move to one of Scotland's remotest islands, Fair Isle. After six months on the island, they and their 6-year-old son love their new life among the sheep and seabirds.
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New York Family Finds Home on Scotland's Fair Isle

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New York Family Finds Home on Scotland's Fair Isle

New York Family Finds Home on Scotland's Fair Isle

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In September 2005, Liz Musser was stuck in traffic in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. She was listening to this program on her local public radio station, WANC. Liz heard our story about an advertisement in a Scottish newspaper looking for someone to take over a vacant house on Fair Isle, a remote island in Scotland. Liz and her husband Tommy Hyndman were chosen from 800 applicants, and they moved to Fair Isle last fall.

NPR's Rob Gifford gave them a visit.

ROB GIFFORD: Standing on a blustery cliff top with binoculars in their hands 25 miles from the nearest other spec of land, you can see why Tommy and Liz might be enjoying their new home.

Mr. TOMMY HYNDMAN: That's the Atlantic and that's the North Sea. We're right between them right now.

GIFFORD: And which way is New York?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HYNDMAN: West. I just - while we're here, I just want to take a quick scan for killer whales, because they been seeing a lot of killer whales from here lately.

GIFFORD: Have you seen some?

Ms. LIZ MUSSER: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Mr. HYNDMAN: Right from our front yard, we've seen killer whales.

GIFFORD: You've seen killer whales from your front yard?

Mr. HYNDMAN: Yeah and Minkey(ph).


Tommy, an artist and hat designer, and Liz, a former producer of educational videos, are in their 40s. They've been on Fair Isle with their 6-year-old son Henry for nearly six months now. And they love their new life among the sheep, and the seals and the seabirds.

Mr. HYNDMAN: I thought it was going to be a lot colder, a lot bleaker. As matter of fact, when we lived in Saratoga, I'd take Henry out on every rainy day, in the storm and I say, this is a nice day in Fair Isle and we'd jump in all the potholes until we're soaking wet to get him to used to what we're going to experience. And we got here and the weather is beautiful. You know, I think they tell that to people so they don't move here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GIFFORD: They run bed-and-breakfast for the many bird watchers who come to the island. Tommy continues to run his business, making hats and selling them on the Internet. And as she drives the across the island, Liz says she is very busy in her new job - caring for some of Fair Isle's older residents.

Ms. MUSSER: It's non-stop. You know, I thought I would be leaving that pace. And, but I think, you know what, you don't leave behind who you are, and I have always been a person who's, like, constantly busy running around. And now, I just transferred that to here.

So here is Stock Host Store(ph).

GIFFORD: Is this the only store?

Ms. MUSSER: This is the only store.

GIFFORD: On the island.

Ms. MUSSER: And we do all of our shopping here. They bring in fresh fruit and veg. So it's got a great selection too. I mean, if you'll come, you'll see…

GIFFORD: Twinkies?

Ms. MUSSER: No Twinkies. I didn't eat Twinkies even in the States, maybe, when I was a little kid.

Ms. FIONA MITCHELL(ph): Hello.

Mr. HYNDMAN: Hello there.

Ms. MUSSER: Hi there, Fiona.

Mr. HYNDMAN: Rob, this is Fiona Mitchell.

GIFFORD: Hi, Fiona. Nice to meet you.

Ms. MITCHELL: Hi. Nice to meet you.


Ms. MITCHELL: How are you doing?

GIFFORD: Yes. Very well, thank you.


GIFFORD: I'm enjoying your island. How is it going with these two? Are they fitting in all right?

Ms. MITCHELL: I think they're fitting in splendidly. The fact that they made such a kind of a leap to think that they might come to Fair Isle, I think is pretty good in the first place. And then, to pull it off, they've actually managed to get here. It's brilliant.

HENRY: (Unintelligible).

GIFFORD: Next, Liz stops to pick up their 6-year-old son Henry. He is one of only nine pupils at the Fair Isle School.

Ms. MUSSER: Upstairs, Henry.

GIFFORD: How's school, Henry?

HENRY: Good.

GIFFORD: Is it better than America?

HENRY: I'm not sure about that.

GIFFORD: Liz says she loves the sense of community on the island, where no one locks their doors and every one helps everyone else.

Ms. MUSSER: You would think being on a remote island that people would come to get away and get away from other people and be isolated. And it's far from the truth. As you can see, everyone is very interdependent. I mean, we are interdependent on each other.

GIFFORD: Are you going to stay forever? Is this it?

Ms. MUSSER: Well, it's definitely it, but I don't know about forever. I mean, I see us being here for a good part of Henry's childhood. He's 6 years old now, you know. So I could see us being here until he is 12, or…

Mr. HYNDMAN: I can't see leaving now. I can never imagine leaving now, but you'll never know. I mean, I never thought I'd be here a year ago.

Ms. LISA SINCLAIR (Fair Isle Resident): (Singing in foreign language)

GIFFORD: Sheltered behind the thick stonewalls of their new home, Tommy, Liz and Henry often welcome neighbors to musical evenings. Fair Isle resident Lisa Sinclair(ph) writes and sings in the local Shetland dialect.

Ms. SINCLAIR: (Singing) Pretty lady come to me.

GIFFORD: Sometimes, cruise ships moor up shore and tourists come ashore to buy local knitwear and Tommy's hats. It's a long way from Saratoga Springs, but for them, for now, it's home.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, Fair Isle, Scotland.

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