Ann Cleeves says “I sometimes use real people's names in the Shetland books - a bit of fun and occasionally a way of thanking friends and people who've helped. In Raven Black I mention the Harvey girls; one of the lead characters goes to their party. Appropriate I thought, because whenever we visited Liz and Paul and their daughters were home the house was full of people and laughter.
“In 2007 the youngest Harvey girl, Vaila, was diagnosed with cancer. It seemed that the illness had been treated and when I visited Shetland for Up Helly Aa, she was there watching the parade, cheerful and energetic. But on my next trip in May she was desperately ill in hospital in Aberdeen. It seemed that the whole of Shetland was holding its breath, willing her to get well. Unfortunately she died soon after. She was sixteen years old.
“Her parents decided to set up a fund in her memory, to allow Shetland young people to have the adventures Vaila would have enjoyed. Travel from Shetland can be complicated and expensive. Vaila's Fund would make it possible for a student of Vaila's age to explore the world away from the islands. The fund, administered by teachers from the Shetland High Schools will be the best possible memorial for the young woman we, who knew her, already remember so fondly.”
To support the fund, Ann auctioned the chance to have your name (or that of your friend or relative) in the fourth book in the Shetland quartet, Blue Lightning. The winning bidder, announced at the Shetland launch of Red Bones was Douglas Barr.
Douglas Barr bid £2500 to have his name appear in the fourth book of the Shetland Quartet. He said: "Over the years I have been lucky enough to go birding on Fair Isle and experienced many wonderful times there... Through birding on Fair Isle and Shetland I obviously met Paul and was aware of the tragic circumstances relating to Vaila. I felt that given the aforegoing that I could think of nothing more appropriate to make a donation to as a token of my appreciation for what I have been fortunate enough to enjoy."
A message from Vaila's parents
Vaila Mae Harvey was born at the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, Shetland on 21st September 1991. By the time Vaila reached her mid-teens she had developed a strong passion for art, fashion and social subjects, most notably Geography, which she was expecting to study at university. Vaila was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in October 2007 and underwent a course of chemotherapy. Treatment progressed well and she was expected to be in remission in April 2008. Later in April, however, she contracted pneumonia from which she never recovered. Vaila died on 22nd May 2008.
Vaila was very excited at winning a prize through the Anderson High School to visit New York as part of the Global Classroom project in November 2007, but unfortunately she was unable to take up the offer through illness. As her treatment progressed well, however, she was set to become a co-ordinator for the Global Classroom initiative in the Czech Republic in May-June 2008 but unfortunately events overtook her.
Vaila's fund was set up to enable young, financially disadvantaged fifth and sixth year pupils (16 to 18-year olds) in Shetland to travel abroad for international study such as those opportunities presented by the Global Classroom initiative; it has already made its first awards. You can learn more from the Vaila's Fund website.