Sandison bestseller recalls town’s past

Memoirs of a Lerwick Boy, Bruce Sandison, The Shetland Times Ltd., £20 hardback, £11.99 paperback.

BRUCE Sandison was captain of the Boys’ Brigade when I was a member in the early 1980s. I didn’t know then that he had been a newspaper man, working for the old Shetland News and then The Scotsman in Edinburgh before returning to Shetland. But I didn’t know then either that I would become one. We’ll have to get together again for a yarn one of these days. Judging by his splendid little book, I’ll learn a lot more from him than he will from me.

Bruce rather modestly describes Memoirs of a Lerwick Boy as “just a variety of musings and ramblings”. It is much, much more than that; it amounts to a social history of Lerwick. My only criticism is that I was often left wanting to read more about many of the people and events he describes.

Although born in Torry in Aberdeen, Bruce has always considered himself a Shetlander, and “certainly a Lerwegian”. His affection for the place and its people is palpable: not a page goes by without a fusillade of names of people Bruce knew/knows, often complete with perceptive observations.

It would be invidious to single out any particular part of this Lerwegian’s progress from “The Flags” of Freefield to Haldane Burgess Crescent, his schooling and National Service, on to his newspaper career and time at the North Ness oil depot. As a former (not entirely wholehearted) member of the BBs, I was interested in his accounts of the development of the organisation.

But the most striking chapter for me was that on the “Old Street” in the 1950s. So much has changed, and yet I can remember some of the shops like Hepworths from my time as a young boy in the late 1970s.

Bruce’s book has become a best-seller and may be re-printed. His story, told in a gentle yet no-nonsense style, is surprisingly captivating. One hopes he is already at work on a sequel.

Paul Riddell


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