Past Life: Shetland in Bergen

From Shetland Life, November 1983, No. 37

Shetland in Bergen
by Roy Grønneberg

The St Clair’s recent visit to Bergen and the exhibition of Shetland goods which took place in the city’s Trade and Shipping Centre, seems to have made a good impression according to reports in the Bergen press.

In a city which is no bigger than Aberdeen, there are no less than four daily papers. Unfortunately Bergens Tidente, the largest one, had only a brief passing reference to the exhibition itself, and only wrote about a group of twenty Shetland ponies which the St Clair had taken across to Norway. These animals were on their way to a Mr Per Helgen of Ulefoss in Telemark. There are four photos of these ponies resisting all attempts to be manoeuvred into the waiting transport and running boisterously around the quayside.

The other Bergen newspapers explain that the intention of the display is to foster closer links between Bergen and Shetland, to open the way for Shetland exports by making the Norwegian business community aware that we produce a very wide range of goods – and not just knitwear – and, not least, to explain the delights of Shetland as a destination for the Norwegian holidaymaker. As SIC councillor Gordon Walterson explained to the reporter from Bergens Arbeiderbladet, the main reason for the present very modest level of trade is due to the transport difficulties: all communications between Shetland and Norway must go via Newcastle, Faroe or some other place. Despite the fact that it’s only a very short journey by air between the two there is still no direct communication.

“B.A.” and Morgenavisen were impressed by the variety of Shetland goods and printed material which was on display. There were lots of romantic references to Shetland as the “Viking Isles”, the “Saga Isles”, while Shetlanders were described as being their “Kith and kin”. This is Morgenavisen’s opinion of the display: “All in all impressive evidence of what a small English-speaking island in the Scandinavian family is capable of producing. For Shetland belongs to Scandinavia even if the islands are part of Britain.”

The display of material by The Shetland Times made a considerable impact on Dagen and Morgenavisen, both of which commented favourably on the leading role of The Shetland Times in cultural terms as our only local newspaper and leading publisher of Shetland books and magazines. Morgenavisen has a picture of Robert Wishart holding up a copy of the “Times”. Dagen said that printing and publishing is an activity with a long tradition in Shetland.

Bergens Arbeiderblader reported also on the development of tourism in Shetland and the success gained in enticing foreign tourists to the islands. The Shetland Tourist Organisation had a leading part in the display. Shetland can offer the Norwegian tourist fishing, birdwatching, hitchhiking, archaeology and much more. Mention of the Shetland-Norway Friendship Society was made and its aim of fostering closer contact between the two places. Dagen had a picture of Elaine Young from the tourist office.

As a footnote to the above, and this is something which was not mentioned in the above papers, word has come in the last few days that with effect from next summer the Faroese car ferry Norrona is going to cease calling in at Scrabster in Caithness and make Lerwick its UK port of call instead. This will be of great benefit to the Shetland business community and to the development of trade and tourism generally between the two communities for Shetlanders will then be able to go direct to either Bergen or Faroe without the time-consuming detour to Caithness. This new development will also make it easier for the many Faroese visitors to this country who would like to shop in Aberdeen but who were in the past put off by the thought of the 400 kilometre drive from Thurso to Aberdeen, via Inverness.


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