Times Past

25 Years Ago

Fish processors in Shetland have been warned that they could lose council financial help if their products do not come up to standards set by the quality control company established last year by the SIC and the fish industry.

Mr Willie Cumming, councillor for Burra and Trondra and chairman of Shetland Seafoods Quality Control Co. Ltd, issued his stern warning yesterday after Shetland Fish Ltd was recently prosecuted in Yorkshire for passing off whiting as haddock. He said that Shetland Fish Ltd had been given a warning by the quality control company, which was at present interviewing for staff and would soon be moving into offices at the Scalloway fishmarket.

“If the full inspection system had been set up then I don’t think this isolated and unfortunate incident would have happened,” Mr Cumming said, but he was confident that there was nothing wrong with the quality of the fish in Shetland.

He did not know of any other cases. “There is no other company involved,” he said, “and people in the industry are very, very disappointed about what has happened.” He did not think it had been a serious problem in the past but if it happened again it would be “stamped out”.

50 Years Ago

The storm which reached its furious crescendo, when a record gust of 109 miles an hour was recorded at Lerwick Observatory, extracted its toll twelve hours earlier. Before daylight 13 Russian fishermen lost their lives when their vessel was wrecked on the north end of Yell.

Thursday had been a day windy enough to cause cancellation of air services and during the night the gale increased in violence. Very heavy seas were running, visibility was extremely bad, and rain was lashing when, at 6.15 next morning, Wick Radio received a distress message form a Russian parent ship, saying that one of her catchers was in distress and needed assistance. She did not give the position of the casualty but was herself a few miles north of Yell. The wind was gusting to 75 m.p.h. at that time.

Coastguards and L.S.A. crews were alerted and, after Aith and Lerwick lifeboats had been warned, the decision was made to launch the Lerwick boat.

In the darkness of such a morning, there was no sign of a ship in distress or on the shore at the north end of Yell, but two Russian ships and five of their fishing craft could be seen well to seaward. Meanwhile, as Lerwick lifeboat came abeam of Whalsay, the Russians sent a message to the effect that help was no longer required. The lifeboat returned to base and it was assumed that the Russians had been able to handle the matter themselves – they had a considerable fleet, including two ocean tugs, in the area.

Then came a message from the Aberdeen trawler “Seaward Quest”. She had picked up an empty life raft about two miles north of Yell and later half a submerged lifeboat was sighted – but it too was empty.

The next information confirmed the tragedy the first evidence indicated – a wreck was spotted on a reef of rocks at the north end of Yell. Mr W. B. Henderson, coast watcher at the north end of Yell reported that his son John and Mr Angus Hendry could see mast tops of the boat on the rocks at the point of Oustaness. On any normal day this could have been seen from Mr Henderson’s own window but that morning the visibility was almost nil and a tremendous sea was running. Mr Henderson said he had never seen such waves before and he did not think anyone could have survived.

100 Years Ago

The Ancient Festival of Uphelly A’ – High Revels in Lerwick – The celebration of the ancient Norse festival of Uphelly A’ took place in Lerwick on Tuesday night. It was plainly evident for weeks before the occasion that there was no diminution of the spirit which has infused the festival since its resuscitation some years ago from almost total neglect, and as the guizers went through with enthusiasm such rites and practices of their ancestors as have been handed down by tradition, the spectacle was as brilliant and impressive as any former ceremony. In many respects it was more so, for the clear and still night – a finer night than it has been the fortune of the guizers to have for a long number of years – enabled every detail of the ceremony to be carried out to perfection. There was neither rain to spoil the appearance of the procession and the bonfire, and give discomfort to spectators and revellers alike, nor was there wind to disturb and annoy.

As usual, preparations for the most important festive event of the year began while the day itself was still far off on the calendar, and they were carried through with their customary completeness. Preparation for Uphelly A’, in fact, has been brought in town almost to an exact science, in these days when guizers have their Worthy Chief Guizer and general committee to attend to the larger affairs, while they themselves in squads meet and decide upon dresses and similar matters, with their outfitters’ catalogues and fashion plates before them.

To a long line of Worthy Chief Guizers Mr E. S. Reid Tait was this year added, and upon him and his committee, with the addition of representatives from the “Docks Boys,” devolved the immense amount of labour requisite in organising the successful conduct of the festival. They fulfilled their duties worthily, the arrangements being on this occasion complete even to the smallest detail, and carried through without a hitch.  The construction of the war galley, which figures so prominently in the proceedings, was entrusted to Mr David Shearer, cabinetmaker, who turned her out with her proudly raised dragon head and gay colouring, as lifelike and beautiful as she has ever been. The young men residing about the Docks assisted the procession very materially in a spectacular way by their model of the United States man-o’-war North Dakota, and a second or smaller warship, built by Frank and Alex Anderson and a number of prominent young naval architects, was also deemed worthy of being included.

Their were 27 squads, and probably the total number of guizers was not far short of three hundred. As ranged in order they were: Indian Sikhs, Chinese ladies, Irishmen, Schoolboys, Elizabethan noblemen, Lerwick patent slip, Would-be toffs, Lord Nelson, Fairy princes, Lerwick cookery class, Punch, Shoe-shine brigade, Fashions for all, Army and navy, Bon-bons (xmas crackers), King of spades, The mad hatters, Saxon peasant women, German peasants, Frogs, Scalloway sma’-drinks, Hobble skirts, Pierrots, Man-o’-wars men, Lowestoft fishermen, Yarmouth fishermen, Peterhead fishermen.


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