Past Life: Letter

From Shetland Life, March 1985, No.53

I have begun going through the newspapers here in Cumberland for the period 1812-1912, extracting various materials, including any relating to Orkney and Shetland, especially in the era before local newspapers were established in the Northern Isles. Surprisingly, there’s quite a bit about the islands. This is, I think, because the various editors each week took in the main national newspapers from London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, besides those from other towns, and extracted what they thought would interest their readers to fill the four large, closely-printed pages. Local news as such filled about half a page most weeks, news from elsewhere in the country another page and adverts about half a page, most weeks.

The earliest Cumberland paper was the Cumberland Pacquet which began in 1774. Its format was very like that of The Times’ first issue (1785). Its town, Whitehaven, was a flourishing sea-port and anything to do with shipping or trade found a place in it, hence the Orkney and Shetland news.

At present I am not doing a comprehensive extract – only of the Easter fortnight each year. However I’ve already noted these items:

Cumberland Pacquet
, 7th April 1818: “Zetland Road Act. We understand that additional extensive tracts of roads are about to be surveyed in Argyllshire and we also learn with satisfaction that the same spirit has extended to landholders in the Ultima Thule and that a road act is now contemplated for the Shetland Isles. Here will be much scope for the ingenuity of the engineer for, in so far as roads are concerned, this is entirely a new country.”

Cumberland Pacquet, 28th April 1835: “Herring Fishery. Being the total amount of Shetland: 1830, 10,350 barrels; 1831, 21,000 ditto; 1832, 26,000 ditto; 1833, 36,000 ditto and in 1834, 64,446 ditto.”

Jeremy Godwin.


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