Times Past 03.04.09


Today the Shetland Hotel will be officially opened by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr George Younger MP. He will unveil a plaque at a buffet lunch in St Catherine’s Suite. The lunch will be attended by about 200 guests. The plaque is to go in the reception, but the unveiling is to take place in the function suite because there would not be room for all the guests in reception. Mr Younger is staying overnight in the hotel.

A local artist has weaved a tapestry for the occasion of the opening. The Harbour Trust commissioned Ms Ingrid Arthur, a Shetlander working in Edinburgh, to weave the tapestry to be hung in the reception. The tapestry is on the theme of the harbour and measures five feet by three. It incorporates four scenes of the old harbour.

It cost Lerwick Harbour Trust just over £4m to build and furnish the hotel. The Trust will retain ownership of the hotel although it will be run by Grandmet.

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I was interested to read the report regarding seals on the front page of The Shetland Times (16th March). As usual the seal is being made the scapegoat for man’s greed. Illegal netting on a large scale has gone on for many years, so too has the wholesale destruction of the sea bed which started years ago with purse net boats scooping up everything including spawn and immature fish. It was quite clear then that legislation was required to stop the fishing grounds being emptied, but it’s much easier after the event just to blame the seals.

Let’s have a little humility and realise that the seal’s world too and man, through greed, mis-management and lack of foresight has spoilt it, not the seals or the otters so for goodness sake, leave them alone.

JR, King Harald Street, Lerwick : : : : The Miners Strike could mean hardship for Shetland, local ministers have warned, but a local coal merchant has said that there is no need to panic.

Shetland Presbytery, at a meeting in Lerwick on Tuesday night, agreed to write to the National Union of Seamen stating that any attempt to stop the transporting of coal would cause hardship in Shetland, especially among elderly and handicapped.

However, Mr Andy Beattie of Hay & Company said that Hay’s stock of coal was “ample” providing there was no sudden rush to stock up.


On Tuesday afternoon, the licensing court of appeal refused to confirm the granting of a licence for Hayfield Hotel, but did confirm the licence for the Westsandwick Hotel. Both licences had been granted by the licensing court a fortnight ago.

This week the objections to the Hayfield licence were continued, but those against the Westsandwick licence were not. The court, consisting of ten members, retired to consider their verdicts in both cases. It took them 23 minutes to decide against the Hayfield application; only a minute or two to approve the Yell one.

Mr A. B. Mallace represented Mr Frank Chadwick, proprietor of Hayfield Hotel, and he went over the ground covered a fortnight ago. He pointed out Mr Chadwick wanted to offer guests the same facilities as were available elsewhere, and make the hotel an economic proposition.

The hotel had eight bedrooms to accommodate twenty guests, and there was further provision to accommodate 26, plus sleepers-out, which made the total to be catered for considerably more.

At the earlier court, the point was brought out that no objection was taken to the accommodation or Mr Chadwick’s character.

The licence would lead to extra employment, directly in the hotel, indirectly by encouraging the tourist industry.

As before, Mr L. MacMaster represented the 126 people who objected – householders in the vicinity and around the area.

Chief Constable Robert Bruce said that if a licence was granted to the hotel it would be very hard to police, and in the Chief’s opinion there were plenty licensed premises in Lerwick already.

“Don’t let’s be deceived by all these beautiful phrases from the other side about this first-class hotel. We know it is going to be another public-house, with a seven-day licence,” Mr MacMaster said.

Again he introduced the subject of the very young. He had travelled a good deal through Scotland and England. He stood to be corrected, but he had never yet seen licensed premises outside an infant school. It would be wrong to introduce one here.


The Rev. John Spence, F.R.A.S., Edinburgh, has accepted an invitation to become the minister of Eccleston Square Congregational Church, Belgravia, London. This Church was the scene of the ministry for many years of the late Dr Hiles Hitchens.

A correspondent writing in the Westminster and Pimlico News of 26th March, has the following comment on Mr Spence’s appointment: The appointment of the Rev. John Spence as minister of Eccleston Congregational Church, Belgrave Road, impresses us with a sense of novelty. Mr Spence offers a contrast to Dr Hiles Hitchens and other gentlemen who have preceded him at Eccleston Church, inasmuch as he is a plain man sprung from the people with a predilection for homely talk rather than oratory with a literary flavour.

Belonging to the Shetland Isles, Mr Spence has been a sailor, and has known the hard toils and dangers of whale fishing. Subsequently he had an appointment in the Royal Navy. But let nobody imagine that this apparently home-spun man knows no science, and enjoys no literary lore. He is profoundly interested in one of the most enthralling of sciences – astronomy – and very delightful it is to be with Mr Spence for a quiet half hour in the study which includes his books and instruments. There the original idea that we have been talking with an ordinary man vanishes, and the Rev. John Spence becomes the most interesting and valuable of teachers. So profound is his knowledge of the heavenly bodies that the Royal Astronomical Society has elected him a fellow. Mr Spence has written many books upon his favourite science.


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