Times Past

25 Years Ago

The Old Rock The death throes of a redundant white elephant can be no more painful to watch than the hara-kiri Aberdeen dockers resolved upon yesterday morning when they decided they would not handle Orkney and Shetland livestock.

The truth is that, in the dying years of the 20th century, the docker like many more of his kind is not needed. There is little if any skill in shooing sheep onto a ship. But that is not to say we do not understand his desire to protect himself from the inevitable. What we cannot understand is why he should seek to avenge himself upon the very people he depends on for his living.

There is, of course, far more to the current “industrial dispute” than that. The dockers are themselves the victim of a campaign to bring down the elected government of the country – a campaign which even local trade unions, as represented by Shetland Trades Council, seem to regard as legitimate though to us they seem only to encourage “the lunatic left” who do not only want to bring down the Government but to bring the country down if their aspirations cannot be achieved otherwise.

The Government must be forced to make arrangements to protect Shetland’s right to a trunk route to the mainland. The Scottish Office should not be allowed to neglect its responsibilities and talk of “monitoring” the situation. And if the Government will not act, Shetland Islands Council should. It has the resources, and it should have – and not just for the present dispute – emergency plans to charter aircraft and ships to maintain an acceptable service. What other use is there for the emergency committee!

When the strike is over it will not be forgotten that the Shetland community pay dockers’ wages in Aberdeen. But it should not be forgotten either that local dockers have adopted a more realistic attitude and are apparently willing to work normally. Local unionists should be telling their comrades in Aberdeen that the union movement is not well served by threatening disruption to Shetland services.

It will not be light years from now, of course, that the root cause of all these problems becomes apparent. Automation, the working robot and the end of the work ethic, and the realisation that the “right to work” has become a slogan as redundant as a docker, will force us to think in totally different terms from today.

50 Years Ago

A proposal by Mr Jo Grimond MP that Shetland should apply for its own broadcasting license has been turned down by Mr Kenneth Thompson, assistant postmaster-general.

Mr Grimond had written to Mr Ernest Marples, the PMG, about Shetlanders’ feelings about poor radio reception.

Mr Thompson again assures Mr Grimond that the GPO and the BBC appreciate the islanders’ feelings, but he is afraid that the corporation cannot do anything to help at the present time. The corporation has had to give the same information to different parts of the country which had confidently been expecting early improvements in reception.

Adds Mr Thompson: “This, I appreciate, is cold comfort, but the plain fact of the matter is that the BBC cannot possibly meet all the needs at once. Having said that, I am glad to be able to say that the corporation as every intention of extending their service to Shetland, and they hope to do so in the next stage of their scheme.”

Then Mr Thompson tells Mr Grimond that the proposal for local license is not practicable. “There are only a limited number of frequencies available,” he says, “and this means that there use has to be carefully planned in the best general interest. In any case it is only the BBC and the ITA who are permitted to operate broadcasting stations.”

Mr Thompson is sorry he cannot be more encouraging in the short term, but hopes he has said enough to reassure Mr Grimond that something would be done for Shetland in the next satellite scheme.

100 years ago

A peculiar accident – Early last week a message boy was carrying some bottles of aerated waters along the Esplanade in a basket, and when he approached the Albert Wharf, just opposite the shop occupied by Mr Wm. Laurenson, grocer, one of the bottles burst with a very loud report. Part of the bottle flew across the roadway and struck the plate glass in Mr Laurenson’s window with such force as to break it. Fortunately no-one was in the vicinity at the time, so that no damage was done beyond the breaking of the window.

: : : :

Dr Jakobsen has arrived at Kirkwall from Copenhagen. The doctor, who is a native of the Faroe Islands, is to remain in Orkney till the end of September, and hopes next year to spend a longer period in the islands. Dr Jakobsen is to devote his attention to research work, chiefly philological. His object is to investigate the remains of the old Norse in the present Orkney dialect; to examine the place names and the pronunciation of these words by the old people, and try to find out their original forms and meanings.

Dr Jakobsen is also interested in folk-lore, and is anxious to elucidate interesting points touching superstitions, customs, and the relations of these superstitions to Norway and Iceland on the one hand and Scotland on the other. The doctor is also desirous of obtaining the Orkney version of the Icelandic lay known as the Grutti-finnie, Grutti-minnie, which has reference to a quern, used for grinding various things and ultimately was thrown into the Pentland Firth in a whirlpool, where it grinds the salt for the sea. Dr Jakobsen has already made arrangements for visiting Rousay and North Ronaldshay. He also hopes to visit several other parishes in the Mainland, and may also this season spend some time in Westray and South Ronaldshay.


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.