Times Past

25 Years Ago

Off the Spike: My recent article in Off the Spike about women Guizer Jarls seems to have created a bit of interest and I have been told of several informal fire festivals or parties where women have acted as Jarl – including one after the recent Uyeasound Up-Helly-A’ when Annette Priest presided over the burning o an old boat in Norwick and the festivities that followed.

Mrs Joyce Petts, who lives in Currie, Midlothian, and is possibly better known under her maiden name, Joyce Peterson, also sent me a photograph of herself taken in 1949 by the Edinburgh Evening News when she acted as Guizer Jarl in the Shetland Students’ Up-Helly-A’. Joyce had the full attire and there was also a peerie galley, which had been built by her husband. Although the galley wasn’t burnt, she tells me that there were fireworks and feasting until the early hours of that morning. CBB

50 Years Ago

Tuesday night this week was one of the worst experienced in Shetland for many years. It was a terrible night with very heavy snowfall, whipped into huge drifts by gale-force winds, which gusted to 80mph.

Wind gusts were 60mph on Tuesday morning, but the peak came on Wednesday at about 4am.

On Tuesday all telephone exchanges in the west mainland were cut off and many poles and wires were down in the area. GPO engineers worked in dreadful conditions to re-establish connections. Unfortunately the weather on Tuesday night undid all their good work and lines were out of order on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, normal life was virtually at a standstill for most people in the islands. Conditions in the morning were so bad that no attempt was made to clear any roads outside the Lerwick area. General level of the drifts was about six feet, and ranged up to 12-15 feet in places.

Overhead conditions improved as the day wore on and shortly after 2pm two convoys were sent off. In each case the object was to get the GPO and Hydro linesmen out to trouble spots. The effort to get to Scalloway was most successful, but the other convoy ran into 12 foot drifts at the Windy Grind and its efforts had to be abandoned.

Yesterday morning an all-out effort was made on the roads, in calmer conditions, and following comparatively little overnight snow.

School attendances were, naturally, badly affected; few schools opened on Wednesday and those that did closed at 11.30am.

There were practically no milk supplies reaching Lerwick – in fact, nearly everyone had decided that it was better to sit tight for a day and not attempt anything foolish.

Yesterday morning a ferry-boat left Scalloway for the west side. It took mail; a member of the roads staff with a wireless set to Reawick to establish communications with his headquarters; and GPO linesmen to Bixter.

100 Years Ago

The last of the ballot boxes arrived at Lerwick on Saturday evening, and were to have left later by the Fishery Board cruiser Norna (Capt. Wright), direct for Kirkwall, but owing to the state of the weather, the captain considered it advisable to wait until daylight. A strong gale was blowing with a heavy head sea running, and a very low barometer, so it was not until between seven and eight o’clock on Sunday morning that the Norna got under weight. The ballot boxes were accompanied by Sheriff Broun, while Mr Alex. Mitchell, solicitor (Mr Wason’s agent in Shetland), also proceeded south by the Norna. Mr G.W. Hoggan, solicitor, was also to have proceeded south, to be present at the count, but he was unfortunately prevented owing to a bad cold, through which he was confined to his house.

It was generally understood at Lerwick, and also in Kirkwall, that the count was to commence at midnight on Sunday, and that the result would be known here early on Sunday morning. However, owing to objections raised by Mr Hemsley’s Orkney agent (so it was current in Lerwick), the count was put off till ten o’clock on Monday morning, and it was expected that the result would be known about one o’clock.

Shortly after midday a great number of people were on Commercial Street – in the vicinity of the Post Office and other places, eagerly awaiting the receipt of the news. It was just shortly before one o’clock when the first telegram reached Lerwick. We had arranged with the Editor of the Orkney Herald to send us the news as soon as the figures were known, and at 12.53 pm., we received the following telegram: Wason – 4117. Hemsley – 994. Liberal majority – 3123 The pleasure of the Liberals at such a splendid victory, after such a sustained and persistent fight, was great; but a number of Unionists refused to believe the figures as correct, until confirmatory telegrams arrived, almost half an hour later. At least one candid Tory shook his head and exclaimed, on reading the figures, “That is just what I expected all along.”

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On Sunday afternoon last, the mail packet WE Gladstone, which trades between Fair Isle and Dunrossness, became a total wreck at Fair Isle. She had arrived the previous Tuesday and discharged her cargo. She lay at the south end of the island for a day or two, being unable to get out for her return journey on account of the wild weather, and on Sunday afternoon at about half-past two, while a very strong gale was blowing right in, she dragged her anchor and came ashore, becoming later a total wreck. Fortunately the crew had left her the previous evening for the shore, so that when she was wrecked they were not on board. The boat had no cargo in her. On Monday the skipper and crew boarded a trawler at the north end of the island and returned to Dunrossness.


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