Stuart Hill is something of an American pioneer. Just like the Mayflower pilgrims immediately fell in love with their new home, Mr. Hill also cannot imagine his life away from what he proudly calls his country but what in fact is nothing more than a piece of rock and sand in the middle of the ocean. And like the early Americans, he fights for independence from the British Empire.
Only seven years ago Stuart Hill was an ordinary pensioner. Living in the provincial town of Manningtree in East Anglia, he left his grandchildren with nannies and drank beer with his friends in a local pub. Although he liked traveling and fervently watched the National Geographic Channel, he heard nothing of Forewick Holm, an island for which he is now ready to die.
In 2001, Stuart Hill took off on a cruise in his home-made boat. As a patriot and an ambitious sailor, his goal was to circumnavigate the British Isles, a daunting task concerning how rough the surrounding waters can be. The strong wind threw his boat to the rocky shores of the Shetland Islands where he was rescued by the locals and nicknamed Captain Calamity.
The Shetlands are a group of some 100 islands inhabited by around 20,000 people, loyal subjects of Queen Elizabeth II. Located north of Scotland, the archipelago was first colonized by the Vikings whose culture and tradition are still cultivated here. The British rule came to the Shetlands in the 15th century, when a Danish king pawned the islands, desperately needing money for his daughter’s dowry.
For his new home, Mr. Hill chose Forewick Holm, an uninhabited and minuscule rocky island. Surprisingly for everyone, the newcomer quickly adapted to the difficult conditions that until then he had known only from reading Robinson Crusoe in his youth. But Captain Calamity lived up to his nickname and instead of retreating to the mainland; he decided to settle there for good.
Within seven years, Stuart Hill has become the islands’ most vocal freedom fighter. “Shetland’s relationship with the UK is based on the assumption that it is part of Scotland. That assumption is based on deception at the highest level and has been achieved by subterfuge and nobody can give a date on which it happened,” he told the Shetland News.
Mr. Hill claims that since the Danish king never paid the loan back, the Shetlands are not bound by any deal with Great Britain. “Soon after I arrived in Shetland I started researching the isles’ constitutional position,” he said. So far he fights for the secession of Forewick Holm, but he already plans to urge the other islands to follow his example.
To show that he means business, Mr. Hill has begun to build the country’s official residence. As he is the only citizen of Forewick Holm, the building – a medium-size shanty – will also serve as his new home. His opponents remind, however, that before moving into his new office Mr. Hill has to obtain residency permission. But for Captain Calamity bureaucracy is the least of his problems.
A bigger problem is presented by the powerful Great Britain. For ages the Shetlands had been considered a mere decorative addition to the empire until vast resources of oil and gas were discovered around the islands. “If the oil revenues would go straight into a Shetland bank, the isles would be in a totally different position,” said Mr. Hill, envisioning how fishermen and farmers become petro-dollar sheiks.
Despite the opposition from London, Mr. Hill declared his island independent on June 20, 2008. Neither Great Britain nor any other country has recognized the move, but according to its sole inhabitant, Forewick Holm – renamed Forvik – is a crown dependency, much like the Isle of Man, which enjoys its own parliament and tax policies.
As most fledging states, Forvik also faces a number of problems. With only one citizen, even simple tasks such as designing the national flag and stamps seem awfully unenviable. But according to the Daily Telegraph, Mr. Hill – who has yet to come up with his official title – intends to print his own stamps, raise his own flag and even mint his own currency, solid gold coins to be called ‘gulde.'”
Most available pictures of Mr. Hill show him grinning broadly. In other words, Stuart Hill the freedom fighter often gives way to Captain Calamity, a 65-year-old traveler with the soul of a child. It was the latter who decided to turn the Robinson Crusoe fantasy into reality. “It is a jolly good fun,” said Captain Calamity. “Every pensioner should do something like this.”
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