Times Past 13.02.09


A £15,000 experimental computer monitoring system is to be set up at Althing Seafood factory with the help of the Shetland Islands Council.

A recent council delegation to Faroe was impressed by the computer systems being operated at their fish factories and the research and development department got quotes from two computer firms, one in Faroe and one in Shetland, for installing a similar system.

At the development committee on Monday Mr Alvin Bashforth, depute director of research and development, said the new Althing Seafood factory was prepared to have the system installed and that Micro-Management in Lerwick had given a cheaper quote for installing the system than the Faroese firm.

Mr Willie Cumming thought that the experiment was an excellent idea and moved that it be adopted but Major Bill Anderson and Mr Chris Dowle had their reservations. Mr Dowle thought that the computer company was being allowed to monopolise the market; he thought that it could lead to abuse.

Councillors eventually agreed by 10 votes to five to recommend installing the system.


The annual festival of Up-Helly-A’ was celebrated in Uyeasound last Wednesday, when the favourable condition of the weather, large turnout of guizers, and good co-ordination of the procession, made the outdoor spectacle a magnificent one.

At 7pm at the assembly point at the Uyeasound School, over eighty guizers lined up behind the galley Sondra, whose beautiful executed stenciling was a tribute to the skill of Mr Harry Ritch and which bore as this year’s very popular Guizer Jarl, Mr Andrew Jamieson, of Belmont, who is well-known in farming circles throughout Shetland, and his musicians.

At 7.30pm the torch-bearing procession moved off, ably controlled and directed by lieutenants John Sutherland and John Spence, both of Uyeasound.

As they passed along the road between the East Loch and the sea, the flaring torchlight was reflected back by the still waters, intensifying it to an amazing degree. Added to this the sweeping arcs of light from ascending rockets and the vivid star bursts against the darkness of the night, made a wonderful sight.

To the not-so-distant Russian fishing vessels, from which some of this could conceivably have been witnessed, it must have been rather intriguing, and one wonders if they visual­ized a rather belated Red October revolution in progress.

The Sondra’s brief voyage terminated at the West Beach, where after the usual rites, the bonfire was ignited and the guizers dispersed to re-assemble again in the People’s Institute, where they paraded before the spectators, their combined numbers being the largest seen in any post-war assembly in Uyeasound.

Following the opening phase of the dance, tea was served, and thereafter the Guizer Jarl, attended by the Viking squad, thanked all those who had assisted in making the gathering a success, and read a number of telegrams received from well-wishers, after which dancing was resumed, continuing with breaks for tea until 5am.

The scene depicted in the bill heading was of two galleys – one running south under sail on the Unst side of Bluemull Sound and the other going in to land at Snarravoe, with the fine cliff scenery from Bluemull to Hamar in striking contrast to the bold seascape.

This was executed by local artist Mr William Cluness, of Uyeasound, whose absence was greatly regretted and to whom best wishes are extended for a speedy recovery.


If it be true that Shetlanders as a race are losing grip on their native customs and observances, particularly in the matter of festival celebration, it cannot surely be averred that a wedding ceremony meets with less than its due amount of respect and thoroughness of detail in the carrying out.

In saying this I speak of Fetlar especially, for I cannot answer for the parishes wherewith my acquaintance is of the meagrest, but I’m told some places omit many interesting features, such as the “Kirknin’ Sunday” procession, or the important “Calling”. A Fetlar wedding is conscientiously approached by everyone, from the “married man and woman” on to the remotest “Tail whisker”. The result necessarily spells satisfaction.

Such a wedding was witnessed on Friday between Mr Matthew Williamson, of Mid-Yell, and Miss Mary Sinclair, of Aithness, Fetlar, and will be long remembered for its jollity and comfort. A wise arrangement had been made – that should the weather prove inclement and therefore uncomfortable for the long walk from Aithness to the Established Church, the ceremony should be performed at the Free Church, nearby. But though unsettled and showery, the company went the whole distance, and enjoyed it to the full.

The Rev. James Campbell performed the ceremony, after which the company proceeded to the school, where the assiduous stewards had prepared a reception for the 162 guests; and well had they been catered for. Everything had been done lavishly for the entertainment of the company, and the evening passed off delightfully.

Nothing could exceed the jollity of the occasion. Taplyism was utterly at a discount. If anyone can tell me where I can see more (or even as much) honest enthusiasm and delighted enjoyment as at a Fetlar dance, I will make it my business to go and see. There was no cramping, but plenty of scope for the exuberant dancing of youthful, and (be it whispered) matured Fetlar.

“Kirknin’ Sunday” was not remarkable for its mildness, nevertheless a goodly procession followed the bride and bridegroom to church.


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