Times Past

25 Years Ago

The legendary Shetland scholar Laurence Leask Johnson, who died last month, has left his entire collection of more than 2000 books to the library – but there are so many books, and such a shortage of space, that the library has been left with “a massive problem”.

Head librarian, Mr John Hunter, said this week that Mr Johnson had bequested his entire book collection to the Anderson High School library, which is staffed and run by the country library, based in Lerwick’s Hillhead. Headmaster George Jamieson had himself been left with “a massive problem”, Mr Hunter said.

“Many of the books, which number between 2000 and 2500, are very valuable and are all very interesting,” he said. “But in some ways it’s too generous a bequest – we’re so short of space.”

“The collection reflects what a remarkable man Mr Johnson was. He was an extremely well read individual.” Under the terms of the bequest, the library can pick which book it wants, but Mr Hunter said he felt it would be wrong to “just take a few of them”, when the whole collection had been given to the public. What would be equally wrong, however, would be “packing most of the collection into boxes and leaving it in a cellar somewhere.”

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Shetland’s only nightclub may have to close unless Shetland Licensing Board changes its mind on a decision it made last week.

On Tuesday the board turned down an application from Posers, the night club (based within the Grand Hotel) which opened at the end of October, for an extension of its licence, from 11pm to 2.30am daily. The board agreed to grant an extension till midnight on Mondays to Saturdays and refused to give any extension to the Sunday licence.

Mr Niel Wilkins, managing director of the firm which runs Posers, told board members that since the nightclub opened it had “cultivated quite a good clientele”, and had proved popular and successful. The experimental extension licence extension till 2.30am which had operated over the festive season had worked well, but the club was now back to a one o’clock closing. This was a “limitation”, Mr Wilkins said – people had to leave while they were still enjoying themselves. He wanted to provide a better customer service.

50 Years Ago

The stage is set for the Up-Helly-A’ festival of 1961. The galley is almost completed, as are the 650-odd torches. This will be a largely no-change festival – the same eleven halls will be open and guizers will follow the same route – but there is one major innovation.

Amplifiers are to be placed along convenient sites along King Harald Street, where the turning movement takes place and the public will now be able to see the guizers AND hear them singing, for there should be no excuse that the music cannot be heard. As usual, Lerwick Brass Band will be in attendance.

Garrison Theatre was filled almost to capacity at the final mass meeting on Tuesday night, and the guizers were welcomed this year’s jarl, Mr James Young.

Mr Young expressed his hope that every one of the guizers would enjoy himself and that the weather would stay fine for the big night.

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Back in Shetland in time for Up-Helly-A’ are the Coutts family of Fetlar. Two years ago, Jimmy Coutts, his wife Adeline, their daughter Florence and two sons Frank and Peter emigrated to Australia – first to a sheep ranch in the bush and then to a suburb of teeming Melbourne. But they just didn’t like it, and now they are home to stay on the lonely croft of Strand in Fetlar.

Jimmy’s first job was on a sheep farm in the Northway Range country and they stayed in the bush for ten months, despite the heat, insects and snakes! Jimmy said that there were three types of snakes in the area, Tiger, Copperhead and Black snake and if any one of the three bit you, you had less than half an hour to live unless you got help – so everyone in the bush carried an antidote with them to give them time to get to the nearest doctor.

but it was probably the weather which the family disliked the most. Mrs Coutts said that while one had to be constantly on guard against snakes and insects – some of the spiders grew to enormous sizes – it was the extremes of heat which really got the family down. One moment the temperature would be 130 in the shade and then a few minutes later it would have rocketed down to about 80 and while the heat was terrible during the day it was bitterly cold at night – sometimes below freezing point. “Believe me,” said Mrs Coutts, “you really needed a sense of humour to stay there!”

100 Years Ago

Proposed Herd-Book for Shetland – From an announcement in another column of to-day’s issue, it will be observed that an effort is being made to form a Herd-Book for Shetland cattle. There is little necessity for us giving expression to the satisfaction which this proposed movement affords us. For years we have advocated the formation of such a Society in the interests of the breed of Shetland cattle, and we are pleased to find that agriculturalists have at length taken the matter seriously in hand with a view to carrying out a work which cannot fail to be beneficial to the whole islands. There is no possible comparing of the rearing of Shetland ponies with the breeding of Shetland cattle, yet we cannot but think that the latter has too long been neglected. Some years ago there grew up a strong desire to introduce a breed of cross-cattle into the islands, and these are to be met with in most parishes today.

We have always contended, however, that it would be a wise and judicious thing to preserve as much as possible the real Shetland breed of cattle for various reasons. When well fed and well tended they give an exceptional supply of milk in return for their expense of keep, as compared with other breeds of cattle, and it is well known that when fattened for killing purposes, they yield a particularly sweet and tender meat. That there has been a great danger of this particular breed of cattle disappearing everyone knows, and the proposal to establish a Herd-Book should be hailed with pleasure by everyone who is interested in the welfare of the crofters and small farmers throughout Shetland. The Jersey cattle are little if any bigger than the Shetland breed, yet we find by careful selection and good breeding, these animals constantly appear in the show rings of the most famous agricultural societies in the south and carry off many and valuable prizes. If we mistake not, the late Queen Victoria had a small herd of those miniature cattle whose existence did much to popularise the breed. While we scarcely expect that Shetland cattle will rank alongside the natives of Jersey in the very near future, yet we are hopeful that much good will result from the formation of this Herd-Book Society, and that, relatively speaking, what has been done by enthusiastic breeders in the south of England may be accomplished in perhaps a lesser degree by those gentlemen who have now taken the matter in hand on behalf of these northern isles.

At the meeting held at Lerwick last week, the gentlemen who were appointed officials of the Society are well known to all our readers, and we are of opinion that nothing that they can do will be lacking to promote the interests which have been placed in their care. They are representatives of almost the whole islands, and the two gentlemen who have been selected from outside Shetland have time and again shown the deep practical interest which they take in everything relating to the agricultural advancement of these islands, and their hearty co-operation and support in this movement may be confidently relied upon. In the selection of Mr Laidlaw McDougall as Secretary to the Society, we venture to think the meeting was guided by a wise instinct. To have a resident Secretary means that the Herd-Book’s headquarters will be in Shetland, and in Mr McDougall, except we are very much mistaken, will be found a gentleman of keen business talent and deep interest in the welfare of the islands, and no effort on his part will be spared to make the venture the success which it deserves to be.


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