Times Past

25 Years Ago

The chairman of the SIC’s new dev­elopment sub-committee came back to the full council this week and complained that the spending powers he had been given were too big.

Mr Willie Tait told the council on Tuesday that he thought the sub-committee should be allowed to approve grants up to £10,000 rather than the £50,000 allowed for when the group was set up, in an effort to cut red tape for grant applications.

“If we are to approve grants of up to £50,000 then we will be passing judgment on virtually all the cases which come before the development committee,” he said. Even with a cut-off point of £10,000 the sub-committee would still be handling over two thirds of all applications.

After a lengthy discussion the council agreed that £10,000 should be the limit and that the sub-committee should have fully delegated powers to approve applications up to that sum.

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Scalloway is to be the home of the new fisheries training centre, not Lerwick. Councillors voted by 15 to four in favour of the ancient capital on Tuesday morning, reversing an earlier decision. With Mr Henry Stewart absent at the fisheries council meeting in Brussels, there was little debate on the merits of Whalsay.

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“Jubilation” was the SIC’s re­action yesterday to the news it will get a massive increase in housing cash next year.

The government has announced a huge increase in the money it will give to the SIC for its housing revenue account – 18 per cent more than this year. In its next financial year the council will have £4½ million to spend on its stock houses, compared with £3,753,000 in 1985/86.

“This really is a very, very good figure,” said Mr Jim McConville, housing director.

“To be honest we were quite taken aback. It’s cause for jubilation.” And housing committee chairman Mr Willie Cumming and chief executive Mr Mike Gerrard both endorsed Mr McConville’s feelings.

50 Years Ago

A Shetland fisherman who risked his own life to save that of a comrade eleven months ago had his heroism recognised on Tuesday, when, at a County Council meeting, he was presented with a Royal Humane Society’s bronze medal and cer­tificate.

He was Mr Robert S. Anderson, Cullivoe, a member of the crew of the St Vincent. The skipper of the boat and some other members of the crew (including the rescued man, Mr James B. Spence) were present at the ceremony, and so was Mr A. Gear of L.H.D., Ltd.

On behalf of the Council the convenor welcomed Skipper And­rew Spence and the other visitors.

Mr Henderson said most councillors would recall the oc­currence. Almost a year ago, on the morning of Wednesday the 13th January, the St Vincent was fishing about five miles south-west of Lerwick. It was a pitch dark morning, with some wind and a heavy swell. It was, said Mr Henderson, easy to visualise the accident. The boat was rolling heavily, the wet-decks were slippery, and overboard went Mr James B. Spence –a non-swimmer, and fully clothed in heavy seaboots and oilskins.

Without the slightest hesitation, although he was also wearing sea­boots and oilskins, Robert Anderson jumped after him.

Skipper Spence threw the engine out of gear, then went astern.

His judgement was good, and Mr Anderson was able to bring Mr Spence alongside, and both were dragged safely on board.

“It takes cold courage for an experienced seaman who knows the hazards to give himself to the sea on a cold, dark winter morning, clothed in all his heavy encumbering sea gear,” said Mr Henderson.

100 Years Ago

Abandoned Barque – Norwegian Vessel’s Terrible Experience – The Norwegian barque Pioneer, which left Liverpool bound for Skeen, near Porsgrund , Norway, with a cargo of coal, met with terrible experiences on her voyage. She sailed from Liverpool on 21st November last, and at the end of twenty-six days’ battling with tempestuous weather, after having been almost within sight of her destination, she was driven back upon the coast of Shetland, and had finally to be abandoned on Friday morning by her crew, who were utterly exhausted. The vessel, however, was picked up some hours later by a number of fishermen from Whalsay, who were successful in bringing her safely to anchor in Whalsay sound. The crew of the barque, after four hours’ pulling among the reefs off the coast of Nesting, at last managed to reach Eswick, Nesting, where they received the care and attention rendered necessary through their long suffering. The day following, the mate of the vessel, Esack Andersen, was driven down to Lerwick, where he met with the Customs Authorities.

Interviewed on Saturday evening shortly after his arrival at Lerwick, the mate had a terrible story of suffering to tell. The vessel, he states, left Liverpool on 21st Nov­ember last with a cargo of 1200 tons of coal for Skeen, under the charge of the captain, Hans Lund. From the very beginning they encountered fierce storms and were often deluged with water, but everything went well at first considering the weather.  They made a slow, if arduous and uncertain passage, until on 7th December the Norwegian coast was sighted. At the time a severe gale was blowing, but it shortly afterwards increased to the strength of a hurricane, and the vessel pitched and rolled tremendously, flooding her decks, and threatened every minute with a final catastrophe. She, however, weathered it, but the crew were kept constantly on the alert and were unable to take the slightest rest.

For two days the hurricane raged with unceasing fury, until officers and crew alike were almost ex­hausted. For two days they were driven farther off the shore, and then a fresh calamity befel them. On the 9th December while the captain was on deck, part of the cordage carried away, and he himself went in order to have it righted immediately, despite the fact that immense seas were washing the decks continually. He had reached the place and was working at the defect when a huge wave took him and swept him helplessly to sea beyond any hope of rescue. He was never seen more.

The gale drove them steadily back to Shetland, and they were powerless to help themselves, fight as strenuously as they would. Then they came to dangerous waters, drifting hard upon an iron-bound and reef-bestrewn coast. Suddenly in the darkness of Friday morning they heard the noise of waters breaking off the rocks. Still they endeavoured to save themselves, tired and broken as they were. But a crowning calamity occurred. The steering gear gave way and the barque become totally unman­ageable. Then the weary crew gave over. Tired and dispirited, they feared nothing more could be done, and they stood on the deck and waited, while the roar of the breakers sounded louder and louder through the darkness, and they knew they were drifting steadily to destruc­tion.

The mate gave the order, and some of the weather beaten sails were stowed. The boats were got ready, and again the crew waited, while they were driven slowly nearer to the broken waters and the pitiless rocks. At length the order was given to man the boats, and the crew, fourteen all told, scrambled in, while the vessel was only two lengths from the shore. Finally, after four hours’ pulling, they landed at Eswick, where they were at once cared for. They landed ex­hausted, but fortunately despite all the danger they had passed through no one was injured in any way.


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