Times Past 30.01.09


Shetland Islands Council’s bid for the Hayfield Hotel has been successful. As The Shetland Times went to press yesterday the receivers confirmed that the council’s £301,000 offer for the hotel had been conditionally accepted and the legal details were being finalised.

Earlier this week a petition was sent to the SIC from staff at the hotel protesting about the council’s decision to buy it. Thirty-five staff, the majority of them part-timers, urged the council to negotiate with the present Hayfield management “in an attempt to reach a conclusion that will be satisfactory to both parties and secure our employment for the future”. The petition was also signed by 925 customers of the hotel.

Hayfield Hotel is being sold to the council as a going concern, and despite public announcements it is clear from discussions between councillors and officials that the site will be used to provide council offices.

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Eirik Bloodaxe must not only have been a favourite son of Norway’s greatest king, Harald Harfagr, he appears to have had some influence on the Viking weather God too. For Jarl Peter Malcolmson’s Up-Helly-A’ on Tuesday was blessed with as near perfect weather as one could hope for.

From a dismal start at 6.15 in the morning when a band of hardy souls erected the Bill at the Market Cross the weather improved through the day allowing the huge crowd the rare opportunity of watching the fire festival come to its climax without getting soaked or too cold.


A week ago hardly anyone could have imagined Up-Helly-A’ being celebrated in the most perfect weather conditions. The wind was howling and the snow was falling thick and fast. But the weekend brought a tremendous change, and Tuesday was a glorious day. Blue skies, bright sunshine, little wind – and even when darkness fell it remained quite mild, dry, and windless.

In fact, the only possible grumble that could be voiced was that the lack of wind tended to dim the torches – just another five m.p.h. breeze would have made all the difference.

Was the festival as successful as its predecessors? Quite definitely. In fact, people who have witnessed many processions declared that this year’s could rank with many in the past. The squads were well mixed, many in bright garb, and the effect, particularly on those viewing it for the first time, was terrific.

One grouse here again – the singing was still very poor, with a seeming lack of enthusiasm. Perhaps this is something for the Up-Helly-A’ committee to consider before next year, for some guizers complain they cannot hear the band when they are a long way away, and there was an additional complication this year when the pipe band played at the same time as the brass band during part of the turning movement! Whether it is possible to have a loudspeaker system in operation during the turning movement is a matter for consideration.

It will be recalled that two years ago Maloy, in Norway, declared a friendship link with Lerwick, and last summer the district sent a model of a Viking longship in silver to the Town Council.

When he accepted the longship, Provost W. K. Conochie remarked that it would be a good thing if the Guizer Jarl and his squad would visit the Town Hall sometime during the festival to drink a toast to their Norwegian friends.

The result was that the Jarl’s squad marched straight from the burning site to the Town Hall to pay the first-ever courtesy visit on the town’s civic chief.

It was hoped that some Russians would be present to see the torchlight procession, because one of the Russian water tankers was due at the port at seven o’clock. Unfortunately, she was delayed and did not arrive until 10.30 on Tuesday night. None of the crew came ashore, but several guizers went on board.

A New Zealander of Shetland descent was having a grand night in the Masonic Hall. She was Miss Nan Anderson, whose parents were Thomas Anderson, Hillswick, and Charlotte Moncrieff, North Roe, who emigrated to New Zealand in 1922.

In the Queen’s Hotel a most interested spectator of the jollifications was an American, Miss Elizabeth Mitchell, who is living temporarily in Dublin while doing research for a Ph.D. degree. She is very interested in the Danish survivals and the Celtic mixtures, and she thinks Up-Helly-A’ is one of the most out outstanding festivals of its kind. She hopes to return next year – and would like to bring with her the mumming judge, Mr Michael Flynn, from Kilmore.


Sir. – You have referred recently to the manufacture of cloth and paper from the fibre of peat. Today, I have come across something still more wonderful in the columns of a scientific journal, namely the abstraction of alcohol from peat.

Mr Reynaud, a French chemist, has obtained from one ton of peat 43 gallons alcohol at a cost of 5d. per gallon, also 66 lb. of ammonium sulphate as a by-product.

He says, “any variety of sugar or starch will yield alcohol under the action of suitable ferments. It may even be made from cellulose, the basis of all vegetable fibre. This substance is allied in ultimate composition with the carbo-hydrates, starch and sugar.

“And when cellulose is treated with strong acids, or alkalis, it is converted into grape sugar. Hence it is obvious that the vegetable fibre of peat can be converted into sugar, and ultimately by fermentation into alcohol. The peat fibre is first hydrated, and then treated with sulphuric acid. By this means it is changed into a soluble carbo-hydrate, a sort of grape sugar. This is then fermented by a special kind of yeast, and yields alcohol.”



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