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Musings Around Eddie's Noost

Written by Professor Viveka Velupillai.


If you go down Sundibanks and look right, you see a little böd right at the beach. That’s Eddie’s böd. Walk down to it and there’s Eddie’s Noost to the right of the böd as you stand with your back to the water. You can tell that it’s a winter noost, because it’s been cut deep into the broo and it’s a piece away from the tide line.

Smaller noost on the left and the large winter noost on the right. Photograph ©V. Velupillai, 2020.
Actually two noosts: the smaller one on the left and the large winter noost on the right. Photograph ©V. Velupillai, 2020.

A noost is a shelter for a boat. The word derives from Old Norse naust meaning ‘boat shed’. It is a very old Indo-European compound, composed of the words for boat/ship (*neh2u-) + to stand (*sth2om) which evolved into the Proto-Germanic *naustą ‘ship shed/boat house’ and which still survives today in Western Norwegian dialects as naust(r) or nøst, and in Shetland dialect as noost.


A noost is typically an open, oblong, boat shaped hollow, either natural cut into the broo (‘hill slope/crest’), or sometimes even walled, located at the beachhead. It is the place into which the boat would be drawn and secured when not in use. It would have been either a fourareen or a sixareen that nestled in Eddie’s noost – most likely a fourareen – because those were the most common kinds of boats. A fourareen had four oars with two men rowing, each man on two oars; the term derives from Old Norse *feræringr, a derivation of fer- < fjórir ‘four’ + æringr < ár ‘oar’, that is, a four-oarer. In Swedish that would be en fyråra. A sixareen, a six-oarer, was a lot larger and had six oars with one man per oar. Both types had a square sail.

Tommy Isbister's fourareen Stavalu on display at Burra History Group's Maritime exhibition summer 2019. Photograph © M. Chivers