Times Past

25 Years Ago

Not surprisingly there were only ripples of interest, rather than shock-waves which went around Shetland when the old Zetland County Council and Lerwick Town Council handed over power to the SIC in May 1975. What seemed much more important at the time was the coming of North Sea oil and the upheaval it was to cause Shetland life.

Thus the first decade has been bound up with the establishment of the oil industry in Shetland. When Europe’s largest oil terminal was built in the isles and Shetland tried to come to terms with the consequential problems and benefits. The council has become a unique local authority. It has been given power and money, which must be the envy of most other councils, and, like Orkney and the Western Isles, is a most purpose authority, combining the roles of mainland, regional and district councils.

“On the whole the SIC has kept its head throughout this time of massive change,” chief executive Mike Gerrard says. The council, playing David to the oil industry’s Goliath, eventually secured what seemed like a superb compensation deal for the disturbance caused by the oil industry. There was a £2 million lump sum, plus two pence on every barrel of oil passing through Sullom Voe, which goes into a specially created Charitable Trust whose charitable status keeps the SIC clear of any headaches that the taxman or the government’s spending limits might cause. Today the trust’s coffers are full – £49 million.

The future will certainly be tough for the council. Understandably, it has spent its first decade slightly numb to the tightening grip of central government in its affairs. But the oil bubble, if it hasn’t already burst, is certainly shrinking and central government now has the power to effectively set rates, sell off council houses, even if this is against council wishes, curb local authorities’ powers to fix rents, and of course, to cut the rate support grant. If the first decade is the one in which it tried to come to terms with oil the second decade is likely to be the one where it tries to come to terms with being just another local authority, trying not to be a mere administrative arm of central government.

50 Years Ago

Hamefarin news: Last week we announced the arrival of the first hamefarer, Mr. Charles Law, from New York. But as we were going to press last Thursday afternoon Mr Law, who was taken ill suddenly and had to be admitted to the isolation hospital, died from a heart attack.

The funeral will take place this week at Walls, the village where he was born and from which he emigrated 46 years ago. He would have been 68 next Friday, the first day of the Hamefarin week, and had been planning a big celebration with his relatives in Shetland.

Today, the four Vikings chosen to go to Southampton to welcome the hamefarers when the Southern Cross docks at Southampton on Monday fly to London as guests of B.E.A.

The four are Messrs Jerry Andrew, Tommy Simpson, Bertie Simpson and George Abernethy and they will make the trip in Viking costume, which should be an eye catcher down in the south of England!

100 Years Ago

The Passing of King Edward – King Edward the Seventh, after reigning for about nine years over the wide dominions of Great Britain, with their millions of subjects, passed away at nearly midnight on Friday of last week after a brief and painful illness. He had been suffering from bronchial affections for some time, but no rumour of the true state of affairs reached the outside world, while, with the courage of a hero, the King performed all the duties pertaining to his high office, regardless of his personal suffering and physical deficiency. So it was not until Friday that the gravity of the situation leaked out, and away in our northern islands – where only the echo of conflicting emotions and Empire-stirring events can be heard – it was the most meagre news that came to hand. Yet it was sufficient to warn people that a grave crisis was at hand. Despite that knowledge, however, there was a feeling of deep, genuine, surprised sorrow felt throughout the whole islands when on Saturday morning, it became known that Edward the Peacemaker was no longer a ruling sovereign, but had been numbered with the dead. Men met each other with bowed heads and said in subdued voices “The King is dead”, scarcely realising the gravity of the message they conveyed to each other.

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Famous Arctic Explorer at Lerwick – On Monday last the small motor schooner Hvalrossen arrived at Lerwick from Norway en route for Davis Strait, where it is proposed that the vessel will be engaged in walrus hunting until the end of September, when she will return to Norway, preparatory to starting on another year’s cruise. The Hvalrossen is under command of Captain Otto Sverdrup, who, it will be remembered, was captain of the Fram, when Nansen made his dash for the pole. During that long period of stress and struggle, he was responsible for making a good deal of the history of the “Frozen North!” It was only after Nansen’s return to civilization, that Sverdrup struck out a pathway of his own. On two occasions he voyaged to the Far North, and as a result of his explorations he published a book entitled “The New Land”. It showed various new islands, and contained a vast amount of scientific information. The book was translated into other languages, and was highly spoken of by all scientific societies throughout Europe.

The Hvalrossen put into Lerwick Harbour on Monday for medical aid, one of the crew having had his hand crushed so seriously as to necessitate one of the fingers being amputated at the second joint, while another was ill with rheumatism. After being medically treated by Dr Maclennan, the members of the crew were sufficiently well to proceed on the voyage.

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From America is reported the death of a man who used to wager that he would swallow nails, and similar articles. In an attempt to save the man’s life, the doctors removed from his stomach a watch chain, several keys, and a number of iron nails! No wonder he died, for such things are not food, nor are they such waste as can be naturally expelled!


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