Times Past 19.09.08


Parts of the proposed new £4½ million Gilbert Bain Hospital could be left empty and unused when the hospital is completed.

Government spending restrictions could mean that there is not enough money to run the whole hospital, the local branch of the health workers union, COHSE, has warned Shetland Health Board.

The union feel that the proposed major extensions to the hospital “are over ambitious” and, if built “could result in some areas being unused and therefore a drain on resources”.

Members of the board heard about COHSE’s concern at their meeting on Tuesday, when they received the minutes of a recent meeting of the board’s chairman’s committee. This committee had had a special meeting to discuss a letter from COHSE which outlined the union’s worries about the proposed extension. The letter “urged members of the board to reconsider and reduce” plans for the extension.

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One of the rare birds of the Northern Hemisphere has made its first recorded visit to Shetland for 123 years.

In the past fortnight a hawk owl has been seen locally for the first time since 1860. The bird was first spotted last Monday morning at Frakkafield in Dale. Mr Angus Nicol was sitting eating his breakfast when he spotted the bird in the trees outside his house. He said that it stayed around Dales Voe for two days, then disappeared.

The bird was though to have gone for good but this week on Tuesday and Wednesday it was spotted on Bressay.

Mr Martin Heubeck, of the Shetland Bird Club, said that the bird’s usual habitat is in the northern forests in Europe – in Lapland for example. But recently quite a few hawk owls had been spotted in Southern Norway which was a possible explanation for the bird ending up in Shetland.

The last time a hawk owl was spotted anywhere in Britain was in Cornwall in 1968.


Is Papa Stour destined to become the next Shetland island where the “Save Fair Isle” type of plan will be put into effect?

According to a recent minute from the County Council it would appear to be likely. It will be recalled that when there was an evacuation threat from Fair Isle, the National Trust stepped in to co-operate with the Council in taking measures to stop the rot. Now the Crofters Commission seem to be playing the same role in Papa Stour.

Recently there was a joint meeting of representatives of the Council, the Commission, and the people of Papa Stour in Sandness Public Hall.

Mr John McNaughton, of the Crofters Commission, presided, and explained that the purpose of the meeting was to look into a few of the problems affecting living conditions on the island. When he visited it he found that most of the difficulties centred round communications, and as the Commission were not the authority responsible he thought the best step would be to contact the County Council; this meeting was the result.

Mr McNaughton stated that he had noted that a new road was being constructed on the island, and while this was a necessity it seemed to him to emphasise all the more the need for improved means of access to the island. The houses appeared to be in fairly good condition – there were 16 in number, housing 57 people.

Mr A. Johnston, on behalf of the Papa Stour representatives, stated they required an extension to the jetty at Papa Stour to facilitate the landing of coal supplies and the handling of cattle. Arrangements made for the m.b. Margaret Shearer to call on occasions had worked satisfactorily during the past few years, but the meeting appreciated that this arrangement could not be regarded as permanent.

The present arrangement for transport is that a small boat calls three times a week for mails and passengers, weather permitting; the contract is held by one person.


Information was received at Lerwick about three o’clock this (Friday) morning that the coal-hulk Malmo, belonging to the Lowestoft Steam Drifters Company, had gone ashore at 7 o’clock the previous night in Quendale Bay. The information was brought by the steamer Marien, which on Thursday afternoon left with the Malmo in tow for Stornoway.

It appears that when the two vessels reached Sumburgh Head they encountered a very heavy sea. They, however, managed to go along safely until about 7 miles south-west of Sumburgh Head, when the cable between the hulk and the Marien parted. It was then between 7 and 8 o’clock, and in the darkness the men on the Marien could hardly make out the hulk. The Captain of the Marien, however, blew his whistle to the crew of the Malmo, who in turn showed flares. The Marien then went around the hulk two or three times, throwing lines with life-buoys attached, in the hope that the Malmo’s crew would be able to again get a hawser between the vessels. Unfortunately, in the darkness the life-buoys were not seen; for with the fearful sea running it was impossible with safety to bring the ships close together.

The hulk gradually drifted near the shore, and fortunately for the crew she went in the direction of the sand in Quendale Bay. Neither the crew of the Marien nor the men on the Malmo could do anything to save the drifting vessel. The crew of the Marien shouted to the men on the Malmo to let go the anchors, and this was done. In the sandy bottom these would not hold, and the Malmo drifted further inshore. The Marien stood by until midnight, when the captain decided to put back to Lerwick, in order to get the life-saving apparatus dispatched to Quendale, and have the crew on board the Malmo brought safely ashore.

The crew of the Marien reached Lerwick at 3 o’clock this morning, and the mate proceeded immediately to the signal station, where he reported that the Malmo with her crew were drifting ashore. Communication was established with Quendale, but the news from there stated that in the darkness and mist the hulk was not visible. Later in the morning word was received that the Malmo was in one and a half fathoms of water.

At one o’clock to-day it was learned that the men on board the Malmo had put out three anchors, which held her and kept the hulk from going ashore. When the sea went down they managed to lower a boat and pull ashore at Quendale.


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