By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
A DISABLED ex-serviceman whose rosy view of Shetland was shattered when the mascot was stolen from his car will be presented with a replacement by council convener Sandy Cluness.
Kevin Bryant, 49, wrote to The Shetland Times last week expressing dismay that the leaping cat mascot from his Jaguar XJS had been stolen while parked under Lerwick’s Fort.
Mr Bryant, from Gravesend, Kent, had put the mascot on his beloved car to drive to the isles on holiday, being under the impression Shetland was a crime-free haven.
But after being in place on the car for a month in England, the distinctive mascot was stolen in Lerwick.
The letter from Mr Bryant, who lost a leg clearing landmines in his work as a bomb disposal officer five years ago, was read by Mr Cluness who immediately contacted The Shetland Times to say that he had a leaping cat mascot in a drawer, a momento of the time he had owned Jaguar cars.
He would like to present the mascot to Mr Bryant, he said. The presentation will take place next month when Mr Bryant and his partner Cheryl return to the isles on a pre-arranged visit.
Mr Cluness said: “Shetland is renowned for its hospitality and it is very disappointing when someone comes on holiday and this happens, especially for it to happen to a disabled hero, but we have our share of vandals like everywhere else.
“I read his letter with interest and it reminded me I once had such a mascot and hunted for it. I also found a Jaguar club mascot from bygone days and I would like him to have that as well. I was very keen on Jaguar cars then – the old ones were lovely.
“He’s very welcome to them and I’m glad he’s coming back – it’s not the kind of thing we want to happen to our visitors, or anyone.”
Mr Bryant and his partner, who had been on holiday staying in the cottage they own at Twatt, left Shetland last weekend but are looking forward to coming back for the presentation. Mr Bryant said this week he was “over the moon” and very touched by the convener’s generous offer.
After his letter appeared in the paper other expressions of sympathy had been made to him, he said. A man drove over from Sandwick to Twatt to hand-deliver a letter apologising for the incident, and another had stopped him in Tesco to apologise. “This kindness and the attempt to put things right seems much more typical of Shetland than the person who damaged my car,” he said.
Mr Bryant bought the £12,000 Jaguar with money paid to him in compensation after he lost his leg.
He said that what upset him about the vandalism to his car was the assumptions people make. “People assume when they see the car you’re someone wealthy. They don’t realise they’re owned by enthusiasts.
“I bought the car with compensation money from my accident to cheer myself up. I thought I would get the car I always wanted.” It is not a classic car, he said, although it is a “particularly good model”.
Mr Bryant and Cheryl “discovered” Shetland when she came to the Gilbert Bain Hospital to work on a temporary basis in the ultrasound unit. He said they both fell in love with Shetland as the “friendliness and beauty” reminded them of the Falklands where they had met when they were both in the forces.
Four years ago the couple bought their holiday home here and come up regularly. Before their next visit Mr Bryant has a week’s “assessment of need” work in Georgia, looking at future clearance of mines and cluster munitions. His work as a bomb disposal officer has previously taken him to other war zones, including Kosovo and Lebanon.
The vandalism to his car has not put Mr Bryant off Shetland, although he said: “I lost a bit of faith in Lerwick, but on reflection I realised every town has that element.”
However the couple still intend to visit two or three times a year and hope eventually to move here permanently. Mr Bryant said they have made many friends and he has even been invited to take part in Nesting Up-Helly-A’ next year.