Times Past

25 Years Ago

Shetland had a white New Year and a fairly quiet one. Snow and ice kept most folk off the roads and the going on foot was treacherous because of the ice and snow.

The Old Year ended well below zero, with the coldest week’s weather of 1985. Between Christmas Day and Hogmanay the temperatures recorded at the Lerwick Observatory were mostly below freezing, reaching as low as minus 6.6°C (20.1°F) on Monday night.

Snow which had begun to fall on Christmas Day was eight inches deep and more over most of the islands by Saturday and there was considerable drifting and high winds. But Sunday dawned frosty and calm and fortunately most of the snow lay until a slow thaw set in on Hogmanay, turning pavements and streets in the town to slush. The slush then froze again and the first footers had a slippery time of it.

Despite the weather there was a good-natured crowd of several hundred at the Market Cross in Lerwick, where police reported no trouble of any kind, but in general there appeared to be fewer guizers out than usual.

:: :: :: ::

It could be illegal for Shetland Islands Council to pick a flag for the islands, it was revealed this week.

The Court of Lord Lyon in Edinburgh said on Tuesday that the council already had its own flag and it had no authority to designate any other flag for Shetland. A spokesman said that if anyone in Shetland flew a flag which was not on the statutory register then he or she could be committing an offence.

The council would need to tread very carefully and consult all the appropriate bodies, said the spokes­man. It was not enough to choose a flag and start using it.

If a community flag was wanted for the islands then Shetland would have to apply to the Court of Lord Lyon to have to registered. A registered flag could be flown in the islands and used for badges and car stickers for tourist souvenirs. If the flag was to be flown at sea, such as on local fishing boats, then the issue became more complicated – the Admiralty had to give its permission for that.

At their last meeting councillors voted to hold a postal referendum to choose which of the possible two flags should be adopted. Postage alone for the referendum would cost nearly £4,000 and in addition there would be printing and administration costs.

This week one councillor said he thought the referendum was too expensive and that he would be trying to reverse the council’s decision. Mr John Graham said that not only was it costly, but he thought referenda should be only used for major issues.

50 Years Ago

Shetland’s estimated population is now at an all-time low figure of exactly 18,000, according to figures published at the weekend by the Registrar-General.

The estimated figure is taken on the 30th June, 1960. A year before the figure was 18,205, so there is no doubt that the depopulation trend is continuing.

It is interesting to look back and see the trend develop, at least since the last year immediately before the second war. In 1938, the population was 20,155 – 15,017 in the landward districts and 5084 in Lerwick.

The total didn’t change much during the war years. The 1947 figure was 20,145, only ten less than nine years previously; but during those years Lerwick had grown to boast a population on 5784, while the landward are figure had dropped to 14,361.

But despite the many new houses built in the town since then, the Lerwick population has not gone up and last year it was 5593, more than two hundred fewer than in 1947. At the same time the rural population figure had dropped by nearly 2000 to 12,407.

:: :: :: ::

Although there is very little beef left in available in local butchers’ shops, the ban on imports of beef into the isles is continuing – but the position will be reviewed tomorrow night. The ban on other farm goods also continues.

Meanwhile the county convener and the provost have appealed to housewives not to ask for beef during the coming week, but to be content with mutton or lamb, supplies of which are plentiful.

100 Years Ago

Letter to the Editor – Dear Sir, I am one of your oldest readers.

I had the first copy and have had the paper ever since. I can go farther back than that, for I remember the first news sheet ever published in Lerwick. It was called “The Shetland Advertiser”; the party who was proprietor had a hard fight to supply a much felt want, and after losing a good deal of money he had to give it up, and all the thanks he got was a proposal from a hard-hearted wretch, to erect a monument for him at the Market-Cross, and the statue to be placed in such a position as to illustrate what I shall not describe. That is past history.

The object of my writing now is to wish the proprietors and Editor of the “Times” a very prosperous and Happy New Year, and to express my admiration for the way the paper is now conducted. I greatly admire the “Sunday Corner,” the selections are splendid and I know many of your readers agree with me, I have had letters from them to this effect. I wish more of the public press would follow your example and avoid the filth of our Law Courts, which I am glad to see does not pollute your pages. I once had to find fault with some infidel matter that appeared in the “Times,” and the then proprietor said he was glad to get anything to fill up. Those who run a newspaper should take a higher view than that, a newspaper might be made a handmaid to the church, and a help to raise the morality of men and women. So far as I can see you don’t need to go in doubtful ways to “fill up,” as your paper is well filled and should be prosperous. May it ever be so, and the proprietors long spared to enjoy the prosperity. – Yours etc. SHETLANDER (Edinburgh, 2nd January, 1911).

:: :: :: ::

Odd Election Expenses – Barely thirty years ago election expenses were enormously higher than they are to-day, and the contrasts between the expenses of successful can­didates was much greater than it is at present. At the General Election of 1880 there were five constituencies where the legal expenditure exceeded £20,000. Of these South-East Lancashire held the record with the enormous sum of £25,782. The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act has cut the cost of Parliamentary elections by nearly 50 percent. For instance, in 1880 a candidate was permitted to hire conveyances to take voters to the poll, and in the Lancashire contest above mentioned no less a sum than £6,148 6s was spent on this one item. To-day, the candidate who spends a single shilling that way would infallibly lose his seat. Curiously enough, hire of vessels is permissible where the nature of the constituency is such that a voter cannot reach the polling-place without crossing an arm of the sea. This is what makes Orkney and Shetland so costly to fight. Every item of election expenses must now be carefully tabulated, and is submitted to rigid scrutiny.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.