“There’ll be a dog in the well”

This is a Shetland phrase that I really love and plan to use ‘mysteriously’ at any appropriate occasion!

I was having a chat with an elderly gentleman who had spent his crofting lifetime on the island of Fetlar. We can see this from our house, looking down the Voe (inlet of the sea) to the island of Hascosay, inhabited by sheep and behind it Fetlar. We visited Fetlar by ferry last year with my brother Craig and friend Sue from Norfolk and at that time were told it had a population of 61. We visited the shop/post office/cafe and met 3 people there whilst having our soup and bannocks. Later we went to the Heritage centre and met 3 more people. By the time we left therefore we had met 10% of the population.

John, Craig, Sue and Lindsay at the Fetlar cafe

During my chat with the gentleman (I call him that advisedly because he is exactly that) I asked him (like you do) why the sheep prices at market this year were so good in this difficult time. He said it was hard to know why but they certainly were higher than other times which of course is a good thing in the island economy. He then smiled, tapped the side of his nose and said ” Ah, there’ll be a dog in the well!”

This made me laugh and I had to ask him, “what do you mean? Why a dog in a well?

He said it was not easy to explain but basically, if something seemed odd but you couldn’t put a finger on it, it often meant that something was involved that was not apparent to all.

After all, if there was a dog in your well back in the day, your water would be tainted, perhaps your own sheepdog would be missing which would make your work more difficult and you would have absolutely no idea why.

I have found no Yell person yet who knows this expression but I guess it is a Fetlar term.

I look forward to being asked “Why do you think such and such is happening? It’s a puzzle”. I will tap the side of my nose in a knowing manner and confound all further discussion with my Fetlar phrase.

One thought on ““There’ll be a dog in the well”

  1. The dog in the well will be in Attleborough the first opportunity I get to use it. Hope you are both well xx Faith


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