Times Past 31.10.08


British Airways Helicopters have lost the search and rescue contract run from Sumburgh since 1980. The new contract has been awarded to Bristows Helicopters.

After the new contract was announced on Wednesday neither Bristows headquarters in Redhill, their press agents in Aberdeen nor the company’s Shetland staff were willing to comment on the contract and were unable to provide any further information.

Bristows’ only base in Shetland is in Unst where they fly to and from the Ninian oilfield.

The new contract awarded by the Department of Transport comes into effect on 1st December. The S61N helicopter will be well equipped, including an automatic flight control system capable of providing both basic aircraft stabilisation in altitude and also automatic guidance for flight essential for search and rescue work at night or in poor visibility. When certified this will be the first civil helicopter to have this capability.

Capt. Alan Veale of British Airways Helicopters said that he was disappointed to have lost the contract, but he was nevertheless proud of the service his company had provided. Losing the contract would make very little difference in the day to day work of BAH, but five men who had crewed the search and rescue helicopter would be found other jobs with the company.

The search and rescue contract had been operated by BAH since 1971, said Capt. Veale. Originally it had been based at Aberdeen, but in 1980 it was moved to Shetland. BAH had a three year contract at Sumburgh and then got an extension until the end of this month. The company tendered for the new contract, but heard this week it had been unsuccessful.

The BAH search and rescue helicopter has been out on 49 missions since it came to Sumburgh. Capt. Veale said that the most memorable of these was the Elinor Viking rescue for which the helicopter crew received awards.


Provost W.K. Conochie, of Lerwick, who asked a Polish fishing company not to deprive a man of his livelihood has been told that nothing like that can happen in the Polish People’s Republic – the constitution guarantees everybody the right to labour.

Some months ago a drunk Polish fisherman threw a small dog into Lerwick harbour, and angered the locals. Later the man’s employing company wrote to the Provost expressing sincere regret, and stating the man had been sacked and that he had been banned from getting another job in the fishing industry. Most Shetlanders felt that was harsh treatment, and Provost Conochie replied saying so, and asking that he should not be deprived of his livelihood.

This week he received a reply from the company. Said the writer: “We are very pleased to read your letter, and we are willing to maintain further the good relation between our people. But to avoid any misunderstanding we should like to explain that Rucinski (the fisherman involved) was not altogether deprived of his livelihood.

“The man proved himself not worthy to represent the Polish fishing community and lost his job with us, this decision being fully approved by the Polish Seamen’s and Fishermen’s Union. But he is by no means hindered from earning his living elsewhere – the constitution of the Polish People’s Republic guarantees everybody the right to labour.

“Rucinski has got a new situation at a building enterprise, and this is the best evidence for the above saying. There is a possibility also to reinstate this man in his previous profession, provided that his future behaviour will show he deserves rehabilitation.”

Provost Conochie had no further comment to make, and will not be replying to the letter.


Walls correspondent. – The U.S.A. claimed another of our young men, and we have to bid God-speed to a bright and well-loved lad who has just left us. We refer to Mr Geo. Georgeson, oldest son of our esteemed townsman, Mr Peter Georgeson. What between these frequent departures and the failure of the local fishing, the outlook is not a bright one for our parish in the years to come.

This year, we joyfully announce a good harvest, and it is well secured. Potatoes are especially good. The harvest thanksgiving services are to be held on Monday, 2nd November, in the Congregational Church, at 12 noon, when the preacher is Mr H. Andrew; also in the Wesleyan Church, at 7 p.m., when there will be several addressees.

The s.s. Queen was not clear of this port till Thursday, owing to the gales, though she arrived on Tuesday forenoon. The flit-boat could not possibly reach her sooner than Thursday afternoon.

The site of the new pier has been carefully sounded, so we should shortly see the work under way.

Thanks to our energetic County Councillor, Stennistwatt road is at last to be put in a state of good repair. What about the “Close” of Voe? It is bad. Each week sees the return of our sailor lads for the winter, and we have at present on a visit a gentleman from New Zealand, who has been away from his native parish over 30 years. May they all have a real good time in the old home-land.


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