Times Past 17.04.09

25 Years Ago

Money that might be spent on a part-time ambulance in the north Mainland would be better spend on improving the present full-time ambulance service. This is the view of the Shetland Health Board which decided at its meeting on Tuesday night not to provide part-time service in Delting.

Delting Community Council asked the health board to support the request to the government agency which provides ambulances, the Common Services Agency. They planned to use the ambulance mainly for taking emergency cases to the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick with a pool of voluntary drivers on a call-out basis to run the service.

At Tuesday’s meeting members felt that the amount of work the ambulance would do would not justify the cost. Mr Robert Leask said he could understand the community council’s concern, but he knew of doctors who had experience with “voluntary” ambulances and they did not think the service satisfactory. Besides, providing an ambulance in Delting might create a precedent, where other areas would want them. The £15,000 needed to provide an ambulance would be better spent on improving the full-time service, he said, adding that there was a need for double cover at weekends and evenings – presently only one ambulance and one driver was on call, and shortly Montfield Day Hospital would need an ambulance. If Delting felt the service was not adequate this was surely an argument for improving the existing service.

Mr Leask’s views underlined those if the committee, the local health council and the Area Executive Group and the board members decided not to support the request.

50 Years Ago

Lerwick is to become a base for the Polish fishing fleet. Starting next week, the Poles will land their herring at Lerwick for trans-shipment. A ship is due to leave Gydnia on Sunday with the first cargo of salt and empty barrels for the Lerwick base.

It is now some months since the Polish authorities first made enquiries about harbour and shore facilities at Lerwick, but only yesterday was their agent at Lerwick, Mr Lindsay Robertson, in a position to confirm that the project would definitely go ahead.

“The Poles are opening a base here for trans-shipment of Polish-caught herring,” said Mr Robertson.

They will operate at North Ness (formerly Mitchell’s yard) where empty barrels and salt will be stored and the full barrels unloaded from the fishing boats for later shipment to Poland.

For all work on shore, local labour will be used. The first call for this should be in the course of the next week, when the shipment of salt and empties arrives.

Mr Robertson has no idea of the number of vessels involved, but estimates that at least two or three fishing craft will arrive daily. At present the fishing boats trans-ship to a parent vessel at sea.

Apart from providing some very welcome employment, the Poles’ needs may not be many. There should be the possibility of repair work, but Mr Robertson thinks it unlikely that they will purchase ships’ stores locally to any great extent.

Three Polish vessels have called at Lerwick this week. The large trawler Plona was in Lerwick for water, and her crew went for a tour of the mainland in a privately-hired motor coach. Meanwhile two smaller “pocket trawlers” of the type which will be using the North Ness base have been sheltering at Lerwick. Their crews indicate that they are the first arrivals in Shetland waters this year but that more are on the way. They have been trawling for herring on the Viking Bank but have had little success.

100 Years Ago

Quite a gloom was cast over the Wangaloa district, New Zealand, on Monday, when it became known that Mr Thomas Johnson, an old and well-known settler of the district, had passed away rather suddenly that afternoon. He had been ailing for the past three months and had been under Dr Fitzgerald’s care, and although he had had an attack of congestion of the lungs at the New Year, he latterly improved considerably and was able to be out and about, and visited Balclutha that sale day. On the Saturday before his death he went for a long walk over the hills. On the Monday afternoon he was out doing something and coming in he told his son he felt rather faint. His son assisted him inside, and he went to his bedroom. His son left him for a minute or two, and on going back to the room he found his father lying back on the bed partially undressed, and life just expiring. He died without a sound or a struggle.

The late Mr Johnson was born in the Shetland Islands in 1831. He spent his early life at sea, partly at Greenland on whaling expeditions, and visiting Canada, West Indies, Calcutta, and Australia, as well as the European seaboard. He came to New Zealand in the ship Strathfieldsaye in April, 1858, landing at Port Chalmers. He worked with Messrs Smith Bros., at Stirling, till about the end of the year. He then worked for Mr Wm. Dawson, now of Tapanui, who was one of the first to take up land in the Gangaola district, and in this service was the first man to break land for cultivation in the Wangaloa district.

Mr Johnson afterwards – about 1860 – took up a couple of sections next to Mr Dawson’s, which was the nucleus of the present homestead, Mr Johnson adding to his freehold from time to time, which now includes Dawson’s original selection, and about 15 years ago he acquired some 500 acres from the late Mr Wm. Smaill, of Summerhill, adjoining his property.

In 1865 he married Elizabeth Johnston, sister of the late Robert Waugh Johnston, who was at that time farming in Wangaloa. She died some years ago. She is survived by two sons – Thomas and James.

Mr Johnson was a man held in high esteem by all who knew him. He was a thoroughly straight-going man, a good neighbour, and a worthy settler. During a residence on the coast of over 40 years he saw the district reclaimed from its natural state to its present highly improved and thriving condition, and took his full share of pioneer work.

Mr Johnson was a native of Quarff, and he paid a visit to his friends there in 1888.


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