Views from the Scord 14.08.09

Anniversary celebration

The Walter and Joan Gray Eventide Home celebrates its 40th year of providing care for the elderly and infirm in Scalloway this month, to be marked with kirk services and an exhibition and teas in the Scalloway hall.

The home provides a warm and friendly haven for its residents and those who frequent the day care unit, with many a village resident content to predict a comfortable stay there should the time come, and it is worth recalling at this time the remarkable man who created it.

The home is the wonderful legacy of Scalloway man Walter J Gray who excelled in his working life and chose to donate the funds to buy the building to allow care of the elderly to be provided in his home village. Born in the Muckle Haa in Scalloway in 1885, Walter grew up in fairly humble and hard surroundings and only attended school for a brief and unremarkable time by today’s standards, but his determination to better himself led to his description as “the centre of the stone in the arch” by his employers at Marconi by the time he chose to retire.

During his childhood, the injury of his father at sea caused the whole family to knuckle down to make ends meet and he worked hard at various roles to provide for his family, in the booming herring industry, casting peats for others and gathering whelks and all the while still attending school.

He started down his proper career path in becoming a telegraph operator in the local post office, among many other duties, at the tender age of 12.

He was to be promoted to becoming a postman, counter assistant, telegraph messenger and handyman by 14 and was then starting to earn a relatively decent wage and had amply displayed his aptitude for the telegraph system.

At 15 he was offered a telegraph operator’s post in Hamnavoe but a bout of appendicitis set him back and he had to leave the job after only nine months. He bounced back rapidly to take up a similar post in Hamar, then began training operators for there and then Skeld before returning to Scalloway and applying for a job with Marconi, for which he was accepted two years later once he was deemed to be old enough.

Walter’s career with Marconi was exemplary and his placement in Newfoundland in the early days of burgeoning wireless technology overlapped such events as the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, which he witnessed via the ether and personally lost a good friend in the telegraph operator aboard the great ship.

He was married to his childhood sweetheart Joan, or Joey, who had also crossed the pond, in 1914 and the coupled lived happily together for the rest of their lives. He became a manager with Marconi, once again excelling himself in providing wireless equipment to the Canadian Navy as war broke out in 1939. After the war he was promoted to assistant general manager of communications and retired as such in 1949. The couple sold then their home in Montreal and returned to Scalloway.

The requirement for an eventide home was first raised in 1954 but nothing was done until 1966 when further requests were made to the committee on social service. The pivotal moment came in 1967 with the offer of a donation from Walter toward the purchase and renovation of the distinctive Royal Hotel building on Main Street, to be named after him and his beloved late wife and run with Christian values. A committee formed of members from almost every parish in Shetland was involved in raising the remaining required funds for the extension and renovation of the existing building.

The home was opened amid much ceremony on 5th August 1969, and visited by the Queen the very next day.

It was fitting that Walter went on to become a resident at the eventide home and from there wrote his memoirs, The Life Story of an Old Shetlander.

The home was completely demolished and rebuilt in 1998/99, retaining its distinctive façade in the modern reconstruction. The former shop and cafe building next door was added as a day care centre at that time.

Today the building, now owned and run by Crossreach Scotland, is bright, warm and spacious with 15 residents and a respite care room. The day-care facility entertains up to 10 clients a day.

The home employs 30 people full time with further relief staff too. The day care centre is run under the supervision of senior day care worker Lillian Sinclair, who has been there for 18 years, and is a hive of activity producing craft items, cakes and jams for local shows and charities and the laughter of the industrious clients resonates throughout the building, as do the fine smells of their produce. Lillian observes that “no two days are ever the same” in the centre.

The home has changed greatly in many respects over the past 40 years but the overall core values of providing warm and friendly care are consistent throughout. Speaking for the eventide home, administrator Isobel Riley reflected on the first opening of the facility. She said: “Things have really changed from there and they are still changing here. Things are always changing for the better for the clients.”

The home is shortly to receive a new full time manager as Matthew Ross takes on the role in September.

The proceedings to celebrate the anniversary begin on Thursday with a special service in the Scalloway Church of Scotland at 3pm. On Sunday 23rd August there will be another special service in the Church of Scotland at 2pm followed by teas and an exhibition of photos relating to the eventide home in the Scalloway hall.

Also on sale will be a specially printed calendar to mark the anniversary, containing photos of key events in the homes history and with many well-known faces to be found within it.

Harbour activity

Scalloway Harbour saw no significant vessel movements other than fishing activity in the week to Monday in a period described as “as quiet as it’s ever been”. Most of the West Side’s oil vessel traffic is apparently working from Aberdeen at the current time.

Fishing activity was fairly plentiful with a total of 1,409 boxes through the Scalloway market in the week to Friday, the Comrades, Prospect, Alison Kay, Fertile, Radiant Star, Atlantia II, Opportune and Valhalla contributing to the total.

The SIC workboat Shearwater was taken down from Sella Ness on Sunday for maintenance and repair work to the harbour’s navigational buoys which began on Monday this week.

All eight of the harbour buoys and the north cardinal marker are taken to the pier-side for inspection, repair and painting in a rolling program, meaning that at no time are any of the markers absent as each set of buoys is replaced as those due for repair are lifted. Work was expected to be completed by today.

Burra seniors day out

The Burra senior citizens had one of their summer outings at the end of last month. The day trip took them to the scenic venue at the Braewick Cafe, where they enjoyed “an excellent meal”.

From there they went on to the Eshaness lighthouse and the Tangwick Haa museum. The whole trip was described as a “lovely” and “very enjoyable”, with fine weather to view the scenery. Their next day out is scheduled for 26th August and will take them to the Spiggie Hotel for lunch before a tour of the south mainland.

Angling news

Some recent competitions have held by the Scalloway Boating Club’s angling section.

On Sunday 2nd August there was a most species competition which was won by Mark Laurenson with 11. Second was Kenny Laurenson, also with 11, and third was Tommy Tyler with 10. There were six anglers in three boats for the event.

On Saturday there was a ling and tusk day which drew out a tremendous number of anglers with 22 competing in 10 boats.

The men’s event was was won by Barry Ward with 113lb, with Robert Duthie in second place with 106.4lb and Raymond Laurenson third with 89.3lb, claiming afterwards that he would have undoubtedly been victorious if his navigational equipment had not suffered a technical fault causing him to quite literally “lose the plot”.

Shereen Rennie took first place for the women’s competition with 16.1lb while in the junior section Scott Sandison took first place with 64.7lb, Jessica Johnson was second with 50.7lb and Scott young was third with 13.1lb.

Richard Young had the biggest ling at 10.2lb and the smallest weighing only 5oz. Raymond Laurenson had the biggest tusk at 6.2lb and Kenny Laurenson had the smallest at 6lb. The total fish caught on the day was 1,203lb.

On the Sunday there was a light lead competition with only three anglers taking part in two boats. Mark Laurenson was first with 60.8lb, Kenny Laurenson was second with 38lb and Alistair Fullerton was third with 15.6lb.

The forthcoming week sees the annual Viking Festival angling competition take place with the draw and allocation of anglers to boats and teams taking place on Sunday and Wednesday before angling starts on Thursday and continues through Friday and Saturday.

Black Isle Show

Seven-year-old Emma Eunson from Burra Isle triumphed in the five to 16-year-old junior section at the Black Isle Show, one of the premier events in the Scottish agricultural calendar.

Emma lifted the Best in Class, Best in Section and Best in Show awards for her robot made from recycled materials. She was presented with the inscribed Black Isle Farmers’ Society Silver Quaich by show president Isobel MacCallum.

Emma will retain the trophy, along with three beautiful rosettes, as a keepsake of a memorable day. The Black Isle Show takes place at the Muir of Ord in the Mannsfield showground and attracted around 25,000 people to the preview evening and show last week in glorious sunshine. Thanks are due to Neil Drummond of the Black Isle Farmers’ Society for passing this story on.

Mark Burgess


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