Times Past 17.07.09

25 Years Ago

Off the Spike: Our phones have been busy since the dockers strike started with journalists from the south asking “How are things up there? How are you coping for food?!” The impression seems to be that we’re all at starvation level, fighting in the streets for crumbs of food. The callers express surprise and disappointment when told that life is that bad. Of course, for the public the strike and shortage are an inconvenience, for some a great inconvenience. However, there are as yet few people dropping down with hunger.

For business and industry the strike will have a greater effect and that, as far as I understand the union’s policy, is the intention, to apply pressure on the government and port employers. In this dispute the union has gone out of its way to try and ensure the public are not directly affected – by allowing passengers on ferries, for example.

As a trades unionist I support the right of workers to take action to protect their job and accept that at times this might mean inconveniences or hardship for the public.

But no imported food or other goods for shoppers in the south can have little or no effect on life. British butter, rather than Dutch or wherever, for example is hardly a matter of life and death. Given the dockers’ policy, why then impose greater inconvenience on island communities which almost totally rely on shipping services?

Having said that, in this dispute I see no reason why the dockers should not allow adequate supplies for the public, let us not exaggerate how bad the problem is in Shetland. Sensible and rational argument will get us further than encouraging the idea we are all starving. And I hope we do not see a repeat of the behaviour of the council during the last dispute when “sold out” signs were hastily put up and warehouses half-emptied to create the right impression for the television cameras. CBB

50 Years Ago

In the Garrison Theatre last night an audience applauded a programme of country dance music and dance, while a BBC recording was being made. The band was Islesburgh House, and the dancers Miss Bella Hunter’s team.

Two separate programmes were recorded, and one will be broadcast from 6.35-7pm on 10th August, the day of the Royal visit to Shetland.

The BBC is preparing a special Shetland half-hour broadcast for its General Overseas Service transmissions. The date – Wednesday 29th July; the place, Garrison Theatre. To help put across a warm atmosphere, the producer, Archie P Lee, invites interested members of the public to attend.

Those who accept the invitation will see and hear Walter Mowat, the narrator of the programme, introducing both live and recorded contributions of speech and music. These will consist of dance music by Islesburgh House Band, stories in Shetland dialect by George M Nelson, and news and greetings from Shetland by the county convener Prophet Smith. Brief personal messages to relatives in distant parts of the world will be spoken by other Shetland folk.

This broadcast will fill the place, for one week, of the BBC’s regular “Scottish Magazine”, presented by Bill Meikle. It is one of the rare occasions on which the programme deals exclusively will one small area of Scotland although it has frequently contained items from Shetland.

100 Years Ago

The pier at Foula – In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Cathcart Watson asked the Lord Advocate if he would state in what particulars the circumstances laid before him with reference to the pier at Foula are in any way incorrect, if he was aware that the landlord himself contributed £10 towards the quota required before the grant intimated by the Congested Districts Board could be secured, and that when the County Council required a site for the said pier the said landlord, whose property would have been benefited by the expenditure, and whose consent to grant a site had been assumed by the County Council, by the islanders and their friends, declined to grant a site except on impossible conditions. Mr Ure – What I said in reply to my hon. friend’s previous question on the 8th June was not that the facts laid before me were incorrect, but that the parties were not in agreement as to the facts, and that inquiry will be made. I cannot make any further statement until the facts have been further elucidated.

: : : :

A correspondent writes: “What about that basking shark, whose tail was brought ashore at Sandwick? I am neither a seaman nor a fisherman, yet there are one or two points I should like to get cleared up. For example, if the monster was buckled up in the nets and entangled in the bush rope, how did the cutting-off of its tail dispose of it? I have seen sharks and also porpoises, and, if I am not mistaken, on one occasion a small whale brought ashore entangled in nets, and I would defy anyone to have disposed of the matter by merely cutting off the tail – a herring-net does its work in a far more thorough manner than to allow of its victim escaping by merely having its tail cut off. But I am prepared to admit that the basking shark in question was considerate, and merely put a clove-hitch of the bush rope on its tail, for the sake of accommodating the crew of the Challenger. Admitting this, however did the crew of the boat manage to cut the tail off? The boat was at sea, and constantly in motion. The crew were unable to get the monster on board, in fact, they could not tow it; yet they managed to cut off the tail, which “was as thick as a herring barrel, and the bone as thick as a boat’s bowsprit!” And how in thunder did they cut it? Nothing short of a pretty big saw could have severed such an organ, and where was it rested while the operation was performed? Until I get some information on this subject, I am inclined to think that the ‘big fish’ has been – a cod.”


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.