Obituary: Firm minded, fair and honest – a good epitaph and richly deserved

Bertie Nicolson

I FIRST got to know Bertie Nicolson of Brindister quite a few years ago, when we used to buy the occasional dairy calf to raise for suckler cows. The impression I gained, and never changed, was of a man of great intelligence, firmness and integrity, and also of great com­mitment to Shetland’s agricultural community.

Bertie was born on 23rd February 1920, second son in a family of four, and attended the Gulberwick school. He left at 14, and from then on was pretty much dedicated to the life of the land, in private and in public life. The Brindister dairy enterprise spanned from the early household deliveries to the modern dairy-based business.

He would almost certainly have been the last surviving serious horse ploughman. This was a skill he took up very young, and one where he won trophies while still in his teens.

He was exempted from service during the Second World War, for essential land work. His brother Cecil was called up and served.

A devoted family man, he married Alice Sutherland in 1963. Their family consist of Eileen and Alan, and there are four grand­children. All his life, Bertie was a strong supporter of community and agri­cultural organisations. He supported the Gulberwick hall, on the com­mittee for over 30 years and as chairman for 20.

On the wider stage, Shetland ponies were an abiding interest, and he was on the committee of the Shetland Pony Breeders, also serving on the Shetland Pony Stud Book, Edinburgh based, where he was president for a term. He was on the committee of the Shetland Milk Producers Association, and a director and manager of Shetland Marts. This is just a selection of the things he was involved in.

Bertie was a humorous man, liking a fun, and thoroughly enjoyed Scottish dance music. The family are, of course, well known expo­nents of that same music.

In later years, he became famous for his tractor collection. That started with the Golden Jubilee of the Cunningsburgh show in 1985, and grew from then on.

The three siblings, Cecil, Bertie and Nellie had all been keen sup­porters of the show. For many years their stock had been prominent in the lines at Cunningsburgh.

Arthritis set in early for Bertie, and he had his hips replaced in the 1970s. After much wear and tear, these early artificial joints wore out, and further replacement was not an option. For many, that would have meant a completely sedentary exis­tence, but this was a man of great determination, and he made con­siderable progress on his sticks.

Regrettably, Alzheimer’s disease set in towards the end and Bertie spent his last two years in care.

A well kent figure, and much missed, by family, friends and the wider agricultural community of Shetland. Bertie has been described as firm minded, fair and honest. A good epitaph, and one he richly deserves.

Condolences go to Alice his widow, to Eileen and Alan and to the rest of the family.

Drew Ratter


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