Times Past 07.11.08


Women from the Greenham Common peace camp have started a fund-raising campaign to buy the island of Vaila, which has been up for sale for the last three years.

Earlier this year, three women from the peace camp came to Shetland to give a series of talks about their life at the camp and while they were here they paid a visit to Vaila and expressed an interest in buying the island.

Mr Henry Anderton, who owns Vaila, said that he heard nothing more until two weeks ago, when he received a letter from a woman called Jean saying that they were starting a fund-raising campaign to see if they could buy the island which is on the market for £250,000.

Mr Anderton said on Wednesday he was waiting for a firm offer on Vaila and that two other parties have expressed an interest in it. One of these is Shetland Islands Council, but on Tuesday the general services committee agreed to take no action until the outcome of the peace women’s interest was known.

Mr Davy Johnston did not want a peace camp established here. He said he was “worried that these people could get a foothold on Shetland”. After Mr Johnston’s comment Mr Jim Irvine suggested asking Mr Heseltine to shoot them. He was later at pains to make sure that everyone knew that was a joke.

The discussion followed consideration of a joint report by the directors of planning and leisure and recreation which looked at ways in which public access to the island could be continued. Two options were included in the report. The first was for the Shetland Islands Council Charitable Trust to buy the island through its property company and then lease the farm and seek tenants for the house, possibly as a restaurant or guest house. It was thought unlikely that this would produce the commercial level of rental necessary and that a subsidy from the reserve fund would also be needed.

The second option was to interest the National Trust in taking it over, but in this case it would be necessary to find a source of capital to buy the island prior to the trust taking it over.

Mr Anderton would not say who the other interested party was but he added that no deadline had been fixed for receiving offers for the island.


“That Shetland is no sae ill-aff as we mak oot”, was the subject for discussion when the Althing Social Group launched out on another debating session in the Tingwall Hall last Saturday night. As usual there was a lot of indecision among the 190-strong audience, and voting narrowly favoured the motion. Leading the affirmative, Mr Donald G. Sutherland maintained that Shetlanders were always moaning how ill-aff they were, and continually “greetin”. In the last debate he had been defending Shetland against Norway, now he was having to defend Shetland against itself. There was a grave danger in grumbling. If they continued to say they were ill-aff when they weren’t really, then the time would come when they did need assistance and no one would believe them.

Mr Jim Tait pointed out that the population of Shetland was just over 18,000 and was steadily going down. The decrease would speed up as the standard of living rose. Only the south mainland was good agriculturally and the area of cultivation was also decreasing. Cattle were becoming rare, although there were over 300,000 sheep.

In some districts there weren’t enough young people left to make a couple for the Boston. It wasn’t that they wanted to leave the place – they had no alternative. As a place, Shetland was ill-aff and the people were only kept from desti­tution by having a handy cow to milk – the government.

In Mr Laurence Graham’s opinion Shetland was far more ill-aff than they dare make out. During the last 30 years 2,500 people had left Shetland. Mr Graham went on to describe a young man trying to make a living in a crofting area; he couldn’t because he didn’t have sufficient land; using a knitting machine wasn’t his idea of work; traditional fishing had been dead for fifty years in most of Shetland; so eventually he had to take a job on a Lerwick housing scheme, and take his family to live in the town. Schemes come to an end and he finds no other path open than the sooth mooth.

At the close of the debate a show of hands was taken and 52 voted for the affirmative, 41 for the negative, with over 100 undecided.


When the Gilbert Bain Hospital was opened at Lerwick, it was considered by some people of a pessimistic turn of mind that it would prove little more than a white elephant, and be of little or no use to the community. There was not a few who thought otherwise, and praised the generous thought that prompted the donors to do such a grand thing as present a hospital to Lerwick. That it has been taken advantage of, and proved a boon to many sufferers, is well-known.

And its popularity is increasing. Little more than a year ago, the Trustees found themselves in a rather awkward position, when the then Matron of the Hospital tendered her resignation, and left before a successor was found. For a short time, the Hospital was in charge of a probationer. However, the period of suspense was short. The Trustees from among a host of applicants were fortunate in electing Miss Ferguson as Matron of the Hospital.

Miss Ferguson had had a long training in nursing in the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, in all the various branches which such an extensive institution affords. In medical and surgical cases, she was alike expert; and for some time she had been the nurse superintendent in the operating theatre. With such a wide experience and great qualifications, the new Matron could not be other than a success.

But she has proved herself of greater value than was ever hoped. Patient and gentle with her patients, and kind and courteous to all she met, she speedily became a favourite with all. Her skillful treatment and kindly sympathy cheered on many a one to recovery; and when recovery was impossible it was her gentle demeanour and genial presence that made the Valley of the Shadow seem less fearful, and it was her presence that steadied and brightened the flickering flame of Hope that lights the way into “The Great Beyond”.


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