From The Shetland Times, Friday 30th October, 1959
The Rechabite Hall is no longer in existence. We don’t mean that the building has been swept away, but from today the hall will be known as the Planets Ballroom.
The new owners of the building recently ran a naming competition, and the Planets is the one they have chosen from the entries received. The identity of the person who sent in the winning entry will be revealed at next Wednesday’s dance. The winner also submitted decorative designs to support the name, and it is hoped to incorporate these into the hall.
The new owners are 17 young local men who formed themselves into a company to take over the hall only a few weeks ago. And they are determined to make the place an attractive and comfortable hall – and the work is all being done on the do-it-yourself basis.
It’s a long-term project, of course, but even in the past few weeks the place is beginning to take on a new look. Several parts of the building have been re-planned, and quite a lot decorated.
One of the biggest drawbacks in the old hall was lack of lavatory accommodation, and that has been overcome by turning the old kitchen into a gent’s toilet. The winding staircase has been renovated, and the staged balcony converted into a flat “room”. Tiles have been laid there, and the bottom half boxed in with hardboard. The ceiling was papered, and then painted a tasteful light blue. Tables and chairs have been set up, so that the balcony is now virtually a buffet room, where the dancers can sit out, but still listen to the music while enjoying a soft drink.
Next on the agenda is the provision of a new kitchen, which will occupy a quarter of the old Tent Room.
The joint owners have all pitched in with the painting, plastering, woodwork, etc., no matter the nature of their work-a-day jobs.
It will be a long time before they can hope to make any profit out of the venture, because at the moment every penny taken is being ploughed back to finance the reconstruction work.
The ultimate aim is to provide the modern dancing facilities which Lerwick has lacked for so long. They hope, too, to be able to bring up “name” bands from the mainland. Meantime, dances are staged by the company every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and the hall is still used by other organisations, including the Old Time Dancers, and youth organisation such as Brownies.
One note which will be of interest to those who normally spend Up-Helly-A’ night in the Rechabite – the lads have decided to give the use of the hall free of charge to the hostesses who have run it in the past.
There has been a building on this site for 135 years. It was in 1824 that the Wesleyan Methodists finished a chapel on the site, and they used it until they built their present church on the Hillhead in 1872.
The building was acquired by Mr C. D. Jamieson, Lerwick stationer, who converted it into a public hall, named the Mounthooly Street Hall, which was the main public hall in the town until the Town Hall was opened in 1884.
Later the building was purchased by the trustees of Lerwick Baptist Church and used by them as a place of worship until their present church hall was built. They disposed of the building to the trustees of the Independent Order of Rechabites, Zetland District, which had been instituted in 1893 (although the first Tent, St. Columba, Lerwick was formed in 1890). The Rechabites razed the old building to the ground, and erected the present hall, which was formally opened on 20th May, 1896, when there were ten Tents with a total of 330 members. Today there are ony two Tents, with 150 members, and the hall, with adjoining house, was offered for sale in June this year.