Times Past 11.09.09

25 Years Ago

A new knitwear report calls on Shetland Islands Council to pump £1.25 million into the local industry. The report, prepared by Mr John Wilcox of the Shetland Knitwear Trades Association, asks the council to invest over the next five years.

The SKTA and the council’s knitwear working group have already discussed the report and next month it will be presented to the development committee.

The knitwear working group is recommending that the report be accepted with the exception of its first recommendation – that a knitting centre should be set up for home workers to go out to work there for a full working day. That suggestion is not being dismissed out of hand, but the working group recommends deferring it meantime.

The SIC Charitable Trust could become joint owner of two shops in London selling Shetland knitwear. The report recommends that two existing retailers should go into partnership with the trust to open these two shops on the tourist beat.

Improved education on knitting-related topics is advised. This includes more hand knitting classes in primary schools, teaching machine knitting design and colour skills in secondary schools and providing courses for adults involved in the industry.

A small study group should be set up by STKA to investigate technical development in knitting machines and report back to the association, the report recommends.

At present the SIC is meeting the full cost of the associ­ations’ marketing, but the report recommends that these costs should be taken over by the association gradually.

The association is asked to start charging a levy from its members towards these costs.

50 Years Ago

A Lerwegian who ran away from home in 1898 when he was 17 years old returned to Shetland last week, aged 78 years.

He is Mr Robert Hughson, who was born at 9 Union Street, and the only relative he has been able to trace is Mr James Sutherland of Union Street, a distant cousin with whom he went to school.

Leaving school at the age of 12½, Mr Hughson went to sea with his uncle Capt Johnson who was master of several of the North boats. This life didn’t suit him however, and in 1898 he ran away and joined the British Army. He served in the South African War before being posted to India.

After eight years he decided he needed a change and joined a ship doing an Australian/New Zealand run. “New Zealand is the finest country in the world,” says Mr Hughson, “and if the skipper would have paid me off I would have settled there”.

Mr Hughson wasn’t paid off and returned to this country, to Clydebank, where he married and spent a few years as a rigger in a shipyard.

Mr Hughson still had wanderlust and this took him to Canada. For a period between the great wars he sailed on Henry Ford’s boats on the Great Lakes, but this did not content him and in 1939 he joined the Merchant Navy. He was torpedoed during the Second World War 20 miles outside of Cape Town and was three hours in the water before being picked up.

Finally Mr Hughson settled in Toronto where he worked as janitor in a production plant until he retired in 1951.

Mr Hughson certainly has plenty of real-life adventures; he reckons he’s seen all the countries of the world. The wanderlust was still in his blood when, at the age of 78, he de­cided to come back and have another look at his birthplace.

Changes were so numerous in Lerwick that Mr Hughson states that he would have never of known the old place.

100 Years Ago

Lerwick Town Council – the housing of the people: Councillor Laing said there were houses in Lerwick for which people were paying £5 rent, and you couldn’t stand your height in them. In connection with that, he would like to move a motion.

The Provost: What is the nature of it?

Councillor Laing: I beg to move that a committee of the council be appointed to consider the existing Acts regarding the housing of the people, with a view to the Council applying for a provisional order so that the Council might undertake the erection of proper houses for working people. In my opinion, it is nothing short of a scandal that whole families of working people in Lerwick should be compelled to live in one-roomed tenements. This state of affairs is quite in keeping with the conditions prevailing in large industrial centres in the south, and should not be allowed here. Many people in Lerwick, who are living under such conditions, would be glad to escape from them, and are quite willing to pay higher rents in order to do so, but they are compelled to remain where they are owing to the lack of sufficient housing accommodation. The scheme being carried out by the Feuars and Heritors, desirable as it is, is entirely inadequate to meet the needs of the people; and whatever the other members of the Council may think, my two colleagues and I never intended that this scheme should be the final word in the housing of the people of Lerwick. In time past the party to which I belong has been obliged to force the housing question on the notice of the Council, and I now ask every member of the Council to join with us so that something may be done to remove the distress caused through the lack of sufficient housing accommodation. Any member who refuses to do so must be entirely out of sympathy with the working people of this town, and must be putting his private interests before his public duty.

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A belated letter – We had delivered at our office the other day a letter which had been posted at New York on 9th October, 1908, so it has just been over ten months on the journey. There are no marks on the envelope other than the New York post office stamp. The letter was sent by the assistant editor of the Shipping Illustrated, conveying information of the death of a Shetlander, who was a regular reader of the Shetland Times, and took a keen interest in fishing matters and in seamen generally.

It would be interesting to know how this particular letter has taken such a remarkably long time in reaching Lerwick.


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