Times Past

25 Years Ago

Faced with the prospect of not being able to build any new houses for five years or cutting back savagely on house repairs, the SIC is to ask the Scottish Office for permission to spend oil monies on housing.

A special meeting of the housing committee last Friday recommended that a delegation be sent to the Scottish Office to ask for consent to spend at least £1 million, and probably as much as £2 million, from the reserve fund.

Councillors heard that the design and technical department faced a dilemma between just making houses wind and water tight or completely refurbishing some of the older housing stock. Department director, Mr Peter Grant, said refurbishment would be more economical in the long run, but finance official, Mr Gordon Small, warned that course of action could mean some houses were not made wind or watertight for 20 years.

The cost of repairs varies according to the age of the houses with refurbishment costing as much as £28,200 and £4,600 the minimum price to make a house wind and watertight. Apart from the Cruden houses, the older schemes in Lerwick and the Swedish houses are causing the most concern and are likely to be most expensive to repair.

Mr Grant said that the original intent with the 60-year-old houses in the Knab Road/Breiwick area of Lerwick was to make them wind and watertight, but so many interior faults were discovered when work started the houses already dealt with had been completely refurbished. He said that there was a choice between doing a good job and keeping five tenants happy or a botched job and keeping 20 happy.

Mr Grant claimed a problem faced by his department was when they were asked why, when the council was spending so much money generally, it could not afford to spend more on houses. He asked councillors to advise tenants how council money could not be switched from one department budget to another.

For next year the housing department estimates it will get government consent to spend £2.7 million on building new houses and capital repairs, such as replacing windows and doors. The Council wants to spend £4 million.

Mr Gordon Mann, director of planning, said 300 new houses were needed in the islands and urged the council to encourage the private sector and housing associations to build more. Director of housing, Mr Douglas Smith, said that in Lerwick alone there was a backlog of 1,700 repairs that needed doing.

Mr Smith said that tenants in rural areas seemed to be happy with the speed with which repairs were being carried out, but the backlog in Lerwick meant that there had been little improvement there.

Councillors agreed with Mr Smith that officials should report on how much work could be done with available resources including local labour, and then approach the Scottish Office for consent to spend the extra money that could be spent.

50 Years Ago

Our Readers’ Views: In the recent Licensing Court Mr McHutcheon stated that parents would be afraid to send their children to youth clubs etc because they might meet drunk men on their way.

I am a parent and I would like to tell Mr McHutcheon that men may be like this where he comes from, and I have never heard of bairns being molested by drunk men here.

It is time these soothmoothers stopped telling us Shetlanders what sinners we are. The old Shetlander was as good a Christian as you would find anywhere and there is nothing wrong with the youngsters if they are left alone.

When I travelled abroad I was always told that it was good manners to abide by the local customs and bad manners to try and force your own opinions on the natives.

If Mr McHutcheon and his friends don’t like the way we lived there is no-one asking them to stay. There are too many good Shetlanders who have been driven away from here already. It is time the rest of us made a stand for our own way of living.


100 Years Ago

Motor Boat Building in Lerwick – A Fresh Departure – Two boats which mark a new departure in boat-building as far as Lerwick is concerned, are at present being constructed by Mr John Shewan, in Messrs Hay & Co.’s shed at Freefield. These are haddock boats in which the motor is to be fitted as an auxiliary. There are many experienced men who consider that the motor has come to stay, both in herring and haddock fishing, and that it is only a question of time when the whole fleet will be equipped with them. The trials and the records of the two boats which Mr Shewan is building will therefore be watched with more than usual interest, and in all probability the results obtained by them will have a great bearing on the question locally. The first boat is being built by Mr L. J. Garriock, Scalloway, and it will be ready in a fortnight. The other is to the order of Messrs Thomas Isbister & Co., and she is expected to take the water in a month. It is gratifying to know that Shetland boatowners are not behind others in making experiments likely to prove beneficial to the fishing.

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Lady Stout’s Opinion of Shetland and Shetland Women – We take the following from the “Evening Post” of Wellington, New Zealand, of date October 18. Several copies of the paper were sent to us by Shetlanders in New Zealand, some of whom had given vent to their feelings in expressions of indignation, at which we do not wonder:- The Lerwick women, when lady stout was in Shetland, were very keen about the franchise and Lady Stout consented to become President of their League. Mr Wason, who opposes the movement, had a very hostile meeting, and a vote of no-confidence was passed, although Mrs Pankhurst could not arrive in time. The society of which Lady Stout has become President, is not to become militant, and not to oppose Mr Wason if he reconsiders his position on the franchise. The militants are getting hundreds of adherents and thousands of pounds. Women certainly require the vote if only to help to improve the conditions of their children.

In driving down to the quay Sir Robert and Lady Stout passed through the waterside slums, which were awful, and the women there too dreadful to look at. The laziness and shiftlessness of the Shetland crofters much impressed Lady Stout, who marvelled that any crops or vegetables could grow under such conditions, for weeds abound, and the disorder is awful. No attempt is made to make the surroundings of the cottages even decently tidy, and no beautifying is ever done. The contrast between the neatness, charm, and order of even the smallest cottage in Switzerland contrasted keenly with the dirt, squalor, and depression of the Shetland farms.

The women, too, have a hard life. Old women whose life work should have been completed, having only rest and comfort at the fireside, dig peats and carry them home on their backs, and many spend the whole day digging in the field. Women were seen by Lady Stout when in Germany guiding the cow that dragged the plough that the man drove, but she never saw women there doing degrading work, nor acting as beasts of burden, as do the Shetland women. Indeed, there they seem to do all the hard work, all the farming, peat-carrying, and digging, while the men are fishing. New Zealand women have an enviable time in comparison with their sisters in other lands.


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