Times Past 05.09.08


Work is under way putting temporary supports in 80 Shetland council houses in case there is “a hundred year gale” this winter which could seriously damage the houses.

The 80 “temporary” Cruden houses were built 35 years ago of steel frames covered with two inch concrete skin. Now the steel has corroded so badly that temporary supports are needed to protect the houses – and the tenant – until a £2.4 million permanent repair scheme can be done. The council hopes to have all the permanent work done within three years, but the hoses are in such a poor state that temporary shoring up is urgently needed.

Two houses in Scalloway are being permanently repaired as a pilot scheme and the tenants were moved out two three and a half months ago. These two houses were still being examined to establish the extent of the corrosion of the steel. The two families have no idea when they might be able to move back into their homes.

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Another plea for the SIC to improve harbour facilities at Symbister was made by Whalsay member Henry Stewart at Monday’s meeting of the council’s ports and harbours committee.

Mr Stewart presented a petition signed by the skippers of 18 boats calling for improvements at Symbister to be given top priority by the SIC. “We do not have adequate provision for our fleet and we need it as soon as anything of that nature is given permission to go ahead,” the petition stated.

But members agreed not to resume consideration of a report by officials on a revised priority list for pier works until a report had been received from Dr Alistair Goodlad, who had been employed as a consultant by the council.

Members had before them a letter from the Shetland Fishermen’s Association setting out their suggestion for fishery pier priorities, although not given in any order of priority: Scalloway, Symbister, Collafirth, Cullivoe and possible Ronas Voe.


Editorial – No excuse is needed for explaining to those unfamiliar with the circumstances the curiously archaic procedure which demands that 8,000 voters be asked to vote for the adoption of the Public Libraries Act – so that Shetland can have a museum.

The town clerk of Lerwick, Mr Thomas Johnston, gave details of this procedure some time ago. All that need be said now is that, if Shetlanders will turn out next Friday and vote in favour of the adoption of the Act, the County Council can approve its adoption, the Town Council can follow suit, and the two bodies can set up a committee to get on with the business.

This is surely a case where “The law’s an ass”: most people in Shetland are in favour of establishing a museum without delay, largely because so many valuable relics will vanish forever if action is delayed, and partly because a museum is necessary adjunct to our tourist industry, which has developed greatly through the interest shown in our history and our archaeological remains.

It is a thousand pities that the pick of the archaeological finds from Shetland are now in Edinburgh and that until recent years a sure way of achieving recognition was to engage in the wholesale exporting of prehistoric masonry. In these more enlightened days, however, the opportunity presents itself to preserve our heritage, and men like Professor O’Dell and Mr Budge, on whose land the St Ninian’s trea­sures were found, are most anxious to see that this is done.

The cost of achieving this through rating for it need not be great. Mr Johnston’s estimate is that a maximum of 2½d. rate from the landward area and a 1½d. rate from the town is required. Few will grudge this, but many will grudge the expenditure of something approaching £300 on the poll should the result be negative. These are in themselves good reasons why voters should turn out net Friday to adopt the Act.


Dear Sir, – I was at the Anti-Whaling Demonstration last Saturday evening. From an outsider’s point of view, it could scarcely be called a “Demonstration”, as there were only a handful of fishermen present, compared with the number in and about the town. Besides, the enthusiasm displayed was very faint, both by the speakers and the audience. The fact is, the audience were so occupied chatting among themselves, and striking matches, that one could scarcely hear or enjoy the speeches that were delivered.

The best speaker in many ways was a fisherman from Scalloway – a man with a fine physic, a good command of English, and thoroughly in earnest. Some remarks of his set me a-thinking. He spoke of having shot a drift of 60 or 70 nets on the West Side fishing rounds, in water which was said to be 100 fathoms deep. These nets were hauled perfectly blank as regards fish, but were filled with an undefinable, stinking “slush” which the speaker claimed to be whale blood.

Now, with this data, let us try a little arithmetic. The nets shot on this occasion would reach a distance of nearly two miles, and we shall suppose that owing to the set of the current they were carried three miles from the place where they were shot. It follows that the whole drift of nets passed over six square miles of sea area – a very moderate calculation.

There are 5280 feet in one mile, and this number multiplied by itself equals 27,878,400 – i.e., the number of square feet in one mile; and 27,878,400 x 6 equals 167,270,400, or the number of square feet in six square mile. Again, since the water in question is said to be 100 fathoms, or 600 feet deep, it follows that by multiplying the above surface area by 600, we find that the volume, or cubic content, of this patch of ocean equals 100,362,240,000 cubic feet of water.

We shall now suppose that a whale had been killed within this area, shortly before the nets were shot, and that in its death struggles ten barrels of blood had been emitted. If we reckon a barrel to be equal to five cubic feet, it is evident that the sea had been polluted to the extent of one part of whale matter to 2,007,244,800 parts of sea water.

How such a minute mixture could fill a draft of nets is a mystery to A. LANDSMAN Lerwick


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