Times Past 23.10.09

25 Years Ago

Fair Isle’s community hall was an appropriate venue last Saturday night for the anniversary celebrations of 30 years of ownership of the island by the National Trust of Scotland.

Representatives from the trust included the president, the Earl of Wemyss and March; the director, Mr Lester Borely; deputy director, Mr Donald Erskine; factor for Fair Isle, Mr Richard Seligman; and the Rev Charles Edie. Mr David MacLehose, who was formerly the trust’s factor, represented the Fair Isle Bird Observatory trust. The final guest, for whom everyone had particular affection, was Mr Allan Whitfield, now employed by the trust as ranger for Kintail, but who established the regular Loganair service to Fair Isle.

The trust provided a superb meal prepared by the women, aided by the school girls, home from Lerwick, and afterwards Lord Wemyss spoke to islanders in the hall. He gave a brief resume of events from the time that the late Dr George Waterson handed over the island to the trust in 1954 and mentioned the absence because of illness of Ian Pitman, who had, with George, thought of the idea of the bird observatory which opened in 1948.

The help of Lord Bruntsfield and the Dulverton Trust enabled the initial purchase of the island and subsequently there had been many other bodies who had helped with projects. He stressed the progressive attitude of the local people who accepted and stimulated many of the changes and advances in the last 30 years.

To commemorate the occasion the trust presented the island with a video recorder and George Stout, speaking on behalf of the islanders, gave sincere thanks to Lord Wemyss for both the gift and the trust’s service to the island.

Afterwards the floor was cleared for dancing, rounding off a very happy evening which epitomised the relationship between the trust and the island: less than that of landlord and tenant than that of good friends working together for a common goal.

50 Years Ago

Shetland Church of Scotland Presbytery has declared itself to be against women ministers and elders – and in doing so has criticised a General Assembly committee for raising this matter again after having a decisive answer from Presbyteries previously.

The Presbytery, in private, last week considered the report of the Committee on the Place of Women in The Church.

The Presbytery stated that a feminine priesthood was not contemplated in the scriptures. From a practical point of view women could not take their full share in the management of a congregation as members of a board of management or deacon’s court, and thereby lend their practical gifts to the advancement of Christ’s work.

In the opinion of the Presbytery women elders were unacceptable. In addition to the traditional reluctance, the real reasons for which were indefinite, and probably had a historical and psychological basis, there was a more definite objection that in practice the women who would be ordained would be, in the main, unmarried.

A woman was more completely filling her God-given functions when she was engaged in the devoted upbringing of her children and while women so engaged found time to contribute to the work of the church, they would, except in rare cases, have little time and energy to devote to the extra work implicit to the eldership.

Not all women married but the traditional Christian vocation for women, such as nursing or teaching, in which women could contribute gifts of tenderness and vision peculiar to their sex were open, and might seem more appropriate channels for the energies of single women than work in the courts of the church.

Dealing with the theological and practical considerations the Presbytery pointed out that, in addition to what they had already said, the unlikelihood of any congregation ever calling a woman to be minister for practical considerations of domestic involvement must be taken into account. It would be unreasonable to expect the celibacy of women ministers and not of men.

100 Years Ago

Cunningsburgh – A meeting of crofters and others interested in land reform was held on the evening of Tuesday 12th instant. Mr A. Jarmson was called to the chair. After a good deal of discussion, it was resolved to form a branch of the new Highland Land League, which has for its object the abolition of deer forests; the extension of the crofter system, and to secure State ownership and control of all land in the country.

The meeting was also strongly in favour of electoral reform, and the payment of Members of Parliament and election expenses from the national funds, as it was realised that the crofters and fishermen, as well as the industrial workers, would never be satisfactorily represented until these democratic measures were carried into effect. The opinion was freely expressed that no real measures of reform could be expected from either the Liberal or Tory parties, and that the hope of the working-class could be realised in Socialism only. The meeting expressed approval of Mr D. Sutherland’s motion in the County Council. Another meeting will be held soon, and it is expected that all the crofters in the district will soon be enrolled in the Highland Land League.

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Display of Aurora – There was a most magnificent display of aurora at Lerwick on Monday evening and early on Tuesday morning. The display commenced about seven o’clock on Monday evening, when there was a large bank of cloud in the east and north-east, and the first appearance of the aurora suggested an eastern sky just before a moonrise. The aurora was faint and indistinct until shortly before midnight, when it burst forth in great beauty. There seemed to be two large brilliant bases – one in the north-west and the other in the south-east – and from these long tremulous arms of bright light shot up into the sky until they met in the zenith.

As one watched the display, it seemed as though the zenith had become the active circle, and from there downwards – south and north – the streamers of light descended almost to the horizon in the form of large and beautiful wings of light. Then the glow from the zenith grew less, and in the north-west and south-east quivering tendrils of green shot up over the sky, bright and scintillating, never resting, ever changing until the whole firmament seemed to be one pulsing mass of nervous flame. Now a beautiful pink, then a deep shade of green, and afterwards a shadow of its former self the “merry dancers” leapt across the sky in beauty and grandeur.

The beauty of the display continued for over an hour, but shortly after one o’clock the “fire” had gone out, and the aurora looked like thin films of white mist streaming across the sky. At two o’clock it had entirely disappeared, and at 2.30am thick clouds had covered the sky and a fine drizzling rain was falling, with scarcely any wind.


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