Times Past

25 Years Ago

Purse net skippers rebelled this week against regulations which stop them landing herring and mackerel to be made into fishmeal. And at least two of them got away with it.

Only a last minute turn-around by the fisheries office in Lerwick prevented nearly 170 tonnes of herring being dumped on Wednesday.

After a day of frantic negotiations the Lerwick office of the Dept of Agriculture and Fisheries agreed to jump a bureaucratic hurdle and let two boats land herring to the Bressay factory.

The Whalsay purser Antares and the Fraserburgh-registered Aquarius II arrived in Lerwick with respectively 120 tonnes and 50 tonnes of herring. The local DAFS office said they could not land the fish, which could only be landed at a designated port, which Lerwick was not, although trans-shipment to klondykers in Lerwick would have been allowed, as would landing herring to a local factory for processing for human consumption. But landing a whole catch for fishmeal in an undesignated port was prohibited.

However it became clear that the north-east Scottish ports were saturated with herring, and there were no markets open in Scandinavia.

The department finally agreed to make a special exception of the two boats’ case and allow them to land at Bressay. “We’d have had to dump the lot otherwise,” Antares skipper Lowrie Irvine said. “It seems a very stupid rule.”

The incident illustrated the need for Lerwick to be designated a herring port, Mr John Goodlad, secretary of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association said. This was something the association had been pushing for but was unlikely to happen before adequate processibng facilities were built in Lerwick.

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Tenants in Westsandwick in Yell have expressed astonishment at the SIC’s agreement to allow the extraction of sand in the area without insisting on conditions to ensure the reinstatment of all the land affected by the work over the past 12 years.

In a letter to the council on behalf of the tenants, Capt Bob Manson recalls that in November 1984 the council only agreed to renew planning permission for the work temporarily on the condition that agreement was reached on the restoration of the site.

Capt Manson said that locals had been under the impression that the question of reinstatement had been settled then. Now they had discovered this was not the case, and in the meantime some of the land had been flooded by the sea.

“The whole thing is a colossal mess, a complete shambles,” Capt Manson said.

50 Years Ago

The Carnegie UK Trust has made a magnificent offer to Shetland – a £10,000 grant towards the cost of providing a museum and library, estimated to cost (fully equipped) about £46,000.

The offer was revealed publicly for the first time at Lerwick Town Council’s meeting on Tuesday. The Town Council agreed to accept their obligations under the proposed scheme, and will inform the negotiating committee accordingly.

The new building will be on the area of ground known as the Drying Green, North Hillhead.

Hon. Treas. R. A. Anderson said the amount of money the building would take would be considerable. It had been the wish of Shetlanders for generations to have a museum, and now they were committed to providing a new library anyway it was better to have a joint building. He did not think it could have been achieved any way but this way.

The possibility of utilising library staff for looking after the museum, with the appointment of a person in charge, was an ideal solution. It meant that assistance could be given from one side to the other. It was only by means such as that that a county like Shetland could afford to think of having a museum.

If they went ahead, the building that had been proposed was one that would grace the site and be acceptable to the public.

100 Years Ago

A Spirit Warning – A Tale of Last Century – In connection with the correspondence upon spirit-return going on in the columns of this paper, a correspondent “J.H.S.,” sends us the following interesting communication: – On the above subject there has been much written and spoken of late, and by able writers too. For my own part I never heard or saw anything that I found not a natural cause for, but there were many people who said and thought differently from me. In my early days I heard stories of the sort that could fill your paper, as your respected correspondent the writer of “Current Topics” remarks, but out of the many I have heard I shall try and give one. This story was in connection with a crew of fishermen going to the winter haddock lines.  They had agreed in the evening to make ready to go the next morning with their lines. One of the men had his house nearer the boat than the others, so they told him they would call him up in the morning. This man went home, prepared his line, and went to bed, but after he had been in bed a short time a call came at the door for him. He got up, had some refreshment, and taking his lines on his back followed after his companions, as he supposed, to the boat. When he came to the boat, to his great surprise, there were neither men nor lines there.

He paused for a little, then he put his lines in the boat and went up over the brow of the bank and leant against an old wall. The moon was shining full at the time, and as he was standing looking down on the sea he saw a fearful-looking creature rise out of the sea and come slowly over the white sand right for where he was standing.

He was so spellbound at the sight that he could not move a foot from the place. The apparition appeared to be in the shape of a man, but black and awful. He looked helplessly the one way and then the other, and then he saw a beautiful white being come speeding from the churchyard right towards and past him. It went down the banks and closed with the monster. A sharp struggle ensued, but in a short time the black creature was driven back into the water. Then the beautiful being came back past him to the churchyard, about two hundred yards away from where he was.

When all was still and quiet the man took his lines and went home. When his partners did come along for him and asked if he was ready, he answered that he was not going, as he was not well. When the men had gone he went to bed again, and whether in a dream or not I never heard, but this same radiant spirit came to him in the night and gave him certain instructions, one of which was a warning that neither himself nor any of his name was to cross a certain piece of water, or else the same wicked spirit which he had seen would have power over them. The man never crossed this water while he lived.

This was said to have taken place over a century ago. Strange to say, in my own memory, a boat and four men were lost at the fishing on the same spot or very near to it, and there was a man of the same name in the boat.

There is one thing about these old stories that I wonder at. In my younger days I heard many of them, but for the last fifty years I have heard nothing of the kind. I have been told it is because the present generation does not believe in them. It may be so; I cannot say. It is for abler people than I am to say if they are correct.


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