Times Past 24.04.09

25 Years Ago

A feared coal shortage in the islands was averted when a load of domestic coal arrived in Lerwick from Poland on Tuesday morning. At first dockers, belonging to the Transport and General Workers Union, refused to unload the vessel but, following negotiations between coal merchants, Hay & Company, and national union officials the all clear was given to unload the coal on Wednesday morning.

The West German Boat, Marika, arrived at Hays in the early hours of Tuesday morning with 680 tonnes of coal from Stettin. Dockers started to unload the vessel but were told to put the coal back by local union shop stewards. However, following a meeting between the company and the union, and assurances given to the central committee of National Union of Mineworkers that the coal was for domestic use only, the cargo was unloaded.

Dr David Shoat, TGWU Grampian and Northern Isles secretary, said on Tuesday that the union was not opposed to the handling of coal for domestic use as the ban is on handling coal for industrial use and power stations. Mr Shoat said the dockers’ initial refusal to unload the boat was in accordance with advice sent out from his office. He added that the union had an agreement with Polish mineworkers that they would not allow coal to be exported unless it was for domestic use.

With only two weeks supply of coal left Hays has been rationing coal to two bags per household per week. Company director, Mr Lindsay Aitken, said on Tuesday that it was possible the controls could now be lifted.

Alex Sandison Ltd in Unst said, on Thursday, that they only had five tons of coal left in their store. They are the only merchants who buy in bulk from Hays and the company said that if Hays could not supply them with more they “would be in trouble”. But Mr Aitken said Sandisons would be able to get almost as much as they wanted now the Polish coal had arrived.

50 Years Ago

The foundation stone of the new Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick was laid, on Tuesday forenoon, by Mr Robert Olla­son, chairman of the local hospitals’ board of management, and until now a member of the Regional Hospital Board.

There was a large crowd of spectators, including invited guests and members of the public, to witness the ceremony, presided over by Dr May Baird, chairman of the Regional Hospital Board.

Dr Baird said this was a great day for the people of Shetland, when at last the new hospital could be seen rising from its foundations, and they could imagine how splendidly it would look on this magnificent site.

They recognised gratefully the devoted work doctors and nurses had done for so many years in the old Gilbert Bain Hospital, and they were glad they would have the advantages of working in first-class surroundings in a modern hospital.

It was also a great day for the Regional Hospital Board, because this was the very first complete new hospital they had built since their inception in 1948. The Board were happy to be the instrument which would carry out this long-cherished dream for Shetland.

Dr Baird thought the man to whom this day meant most was Mr Robert Ollason, who, for over thirty years, had been the “hammer” of the Department of Health, and since 1948 the hammer of the Regional Hospital Board!

Mr Ollason had always been hopeful about the project. He was not a person who let hope deferred make his heart sick. A little thing like a major war had not deviated him from his path, and Shetland owed him a very great debt.

It was only fitting that the honour of laying the foundation stone should fall on him. To enable him to lay the stone well and truly, Mr Fraser, contractor, was going to present him with a gavel, specially made, and generously donated by the contractors. On behalf of his company, Mr Fraser had much pleasure in presenting Mr Ollason with the gavel. He prayed that God might give him many years to wield it in the right places.

The county convener, Mr Prophet Smith, conveyed county greetings, and hoped that when they attended the opening ceremony Mr Ollason would be just as spry as he was today, and that he would be the last person who would require to use the hospital. Great tributes, well founded, had been paid to Mr Ollason.

Shetlanders were going to enjoy the new building because since the end of the second war a revolutionary change had come over the kind of thinking about welfare, and how they should look after the old, the young, and the sick.

In laying the foundation stone and almost taking leave of the old hospital, it was only fitting that Mr Smith should say something about “that other magnificent little building”. A great many country people who hardly knew of a street name in Lerwick apart from Commercial Street and the Esplanade, knew of the G.B. If by reason of misfortune they had to be conveyed to Lerwick for hospital treatment, they knew that they would get the very best treatment.

100 Years Ago

Sullom correspondent – The mothers and children of this district are deploring the resignation and approaching departure of the schoolmistress, Miss Lyall. She will go from Sullom bearing with her the good wishes, esteem, and affection of parents and scholars alike. No school teacher has sought more sedulously the comfort and progress of the children, or rendered them more efficient help. During her period of office the attendance has been higher than for a long time before, and the improvement has been in spite of the fact that attendance at the school for the children must be difficult, and often inadvisable, for no road or footpath touches the school, and access can only be gained in damp weather after the usual adventures through peat-pool, moss, and mire.

But parents and scholars are hoping for better times. It is confidently believed that the last petitions of the people for a road through their most thickly populated district will not be disregarded. Such a highway would supply and benefit districts comprising thirty-three crofts and upwards of 160 inhabitants, about 40 of whom are children of or nearly school age. And that, besides this, this road must greatly benefit the district postman on his rounds, the minister in his routine of calls, and everyone with business at Kirk or shop or post office, is sufficiently obvious. The need is an old-standing one, and should not and cannot be evaded.


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