Review of the decade: 2007
Shock at deaths of Mandy and Richard Horne in Burra
The year got off to a tragic start when the bodies of a couple from Burra were discovered at their home. Native of the isle Mandy Horne (nee Williamson) and her husband Richard Horne, better known as the nationally-acclaimed children’s author Harry Horse, were found in the bedroom of their house in Papil.
The Burra and wider communities were stunned at what had happened to the “well-liked and respected” couple and following their deaths the decision was taken not to open the halls at Hamnavoe and Bridge-End for the Scalloway Fire Festival.
It emerged later that Mr Horne had killed his wife, who suffered badly from multiple sclerosis, and then taken his own life.
The fixed link to Bressay debate reared its ugly head again after Lerwick Port Authority was given the go-ahead to resume dredging the north entrance to the town’s harbour, after winning a long-running legal battle with Shetland Islands Council.
The SIC obtained an interim interdict in August 2005, stopping the port authority carrying out the dredging work, claiming that it would compromise plans to build a bridge from Lerwick to Bressay.
The Court of Session ruled that it would be unfair if the port authority was forced to change its plans for development of the harbour “in order to accommodate a bridge which deliberately failed to meet their stated requirements”.
With the news that the North Star, Lerwick’s cinema for half a century and then a nightspot and live music venue for the past 25 years, was to close its doors in April many well-known entertainers and rock stars paid tribute to the place.
Some of the major names who appeared there were 1970s favourites Showaddywaddy, Mud, the Glitter Band and Del Shannon and more latterly Idlewild and Ocean Colour Scene, along with a host of DJs and local bands.
Remember the proposed open-air booze ban in the centre of Lerwick? Well the proposal was back on the table, and this time the council gave the plan the green light. The ban, which would come into force at the beginning of March, meant that those drinking alcohol out of doors in the town centre could be fined up to £500.
In a shock move, Blackwood Distillers pulled out of a deal to take over part of the former RAF base in Unst. The company said it would not be able to operate commercially from Saxa Vord “in the current circumstances”, and it was back to the drawing board with the original planned site for the distillery at Catfirth, Nesting.
There was more tragedy in April when a Norwegian anchor handling ship, the Bourbon Dolphin, capsized and sank in the North Sea with the loss of eight crew members, including the master and his 14- year-old son. An inquiry began in Norway to ascertain the cause of the accident, which happened as the ship was trying to move the oil rig Transocean Rather.
On a happy note, the much-anticipated new Shetland Museum and Archives was opened at Hay’s Dock in Lerwick. The big occasion was a right Royal Flush, with the impressive building being declared open by Prince Charles, his wife Camilla the Dutchess of Rothesay and Queen Sonja of Norway.
The new museum proved to be one of the very best things to happen to Shetland in the noughties, along with the island games two years earlier, and was to be much appreciated in the years to come.
On the subject of museums, a campaign was launched to bring the St Ninian’s Isle treasure back to Shetland. Since its discovery in 1958 by Lerwick schoolboy Douglas Coutts, assisting a team of archaeologists, the hoard of silver artefacts had been stored at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
The idea of returning the treasure was backed by local politicians, along with MP Alistair Carmichael and MSP Tavish Scott. But apart from a brief loan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its discovery, National Museum director Gordon Rintoul rejected the idea of it being housed permanently in Shetland.
Once again the Scottish Parliament and local government elections were held simultaneously, on Thursday 3rd May, and a night of drama in Lerwick Town Hall saw the results of both announced in the early hours of Friday morning.
Tavish Scott once again proved his popularity with Shetland voters when they returned him to Holyrood with a thumping majority of 4,909. The 6,531 votes for Mr Scott was a 20.6 per cent increase on 2003 when 3,989 people put their cross against his name.
Shortly after the Scottish result came the eagerly awaited series of announcements on who would make up the new Shetland Islands Council, now split up into seven wards with proportional representation used for the first time.
One of the main talking points was the success of former Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Allan Wishart, who swept to power in Lerwick North where he was joined by his Bressay Bridge adversary, former convener Sandy Cluness.
Four members of the previous council bit the dust, the biggest shocks being transport and housing specialist Gordon Mitchell in Shetland South and Brian Gregson in the North Isles, while Barbara Cheyne and Geoff Feather were ousted in Shetland North and Lerwick South respectively.
It was a bad night for the few candidates who stood on party tickets, perhaps reinforcing the message of the last council that party politics are not wanted in the SIC. The two Liberal Democrats, Capt Mitchell and Jim Friedlander, Scottish Socialists Kevin Learmonth and Robbie Leith, along with the sole Tory, Maurice Mullay, all failed to land a seat.
In all there were 13 new councillors, Mr Wishart joined by Caroline Miller in Lerwick North, Cecil Smith in Lerwick South, Allison Duncan, Jim Budge, Rick Nickerson in Shetland South, Betty Fullerton and Andrew Hughson in Shetland Central, Gary Robinson in Shetland West, Alastair Cooper and Addie Doull in Shetland North and Laura Baisley and Robert Henderson in the North Isles.
The nine re-elected along with Mr Cluness were Cecil Eunson, Gussie Angus and Jim Henry in Lerwick South, Iris Hawkins in Shetland Central, Florence Grains and Frank Robertson in Shetland West, Bill Manson in Shetland North and Josie Simpson in the North Isles.
A month later Mr Cluness got his wish for a second stint as SIC convener when he was re-elected to the top chair unopposed. Ironically the man who stood in the way to block the Bressay Bridge was suddenly in charge of the £22.4 million project when Allan Wishart became chairman of the powerful SIC infrastructure committee. Gussie Angus was chosen as services committee chairman.
Businessman Chris Hodge, who had opened a discount store in the knitwear factory he was renting from Judane, was in difficulties. Just eight weeks after the Scottish government over-ruled the SIC and granted planning permission for his store, the directors of Judane served him with an eviction order for non-payment of rent. Despite the threat Mr Hodge seemed determined to carry on and it appeared to be business as usual, but the writing was on the wall for the controversial premises.
Talking about controversy, members of Shetland Charitable Trust decided against providing £50 million for a new hospital at the Ness of Sound, incorporating a care home and new headquarters for NHS Shetland.
The idea of part-funding the hospital had come from veteran councillor Cecil Eunson, a man with a reputation for sticking up for the elderly and infirm. He argued that it was the most ethical investment the charitable trust could possibly make, and the best legacy that could be left for further generations. When it came to the vote, however, Mr Eunson’s proposal was defeated by 14 votes to four.
The ideal of buying a 90 per cent stake in Viking Energy, the company planning to build a windfarm in the Lang Kames, was much more to the trustees liking. They voted 8-7 for the proposal, likely to cost around £3 million to take the venture from scratch to either planning permission or refusal.
In the wake of a series of heroin seizures in Lerwick, addicts in the isles were seeking help in increasing numbers. Around £60,000 worth of the drug were seized in early October and two Liverpudlian dealers were each jailed for five years the following month.
The inaugural Shetland Sports Awards, sponsored by The Shetland Times and Shetland Recreational Trust, saw athlete Claire Wilson become sportsperson of the year while swimmer Andrea Strachan, was named young sportsperson of the year. Andrea’s coach Jim Robertson was chosen as coach of the year, the Shetland indoor bowls team became team of the year and the junior inter-county athletics team was young team of the year.