Times Past

25 Years Ago

There were signs this week that Lord Lyon, the heraldic official who regulates the use of flags, banners and standards in Scotland, may have found what he calls a “diplomatic” solution to Shetland Islands Council’s “embarrassment” over the proposed referendum on a Shetland flag.

Councillors were told on Tuesday that the Lord Lyon had been interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland that morning, and according to Mr Edward Thomason, the vice-convener, he appeared to be suggesting that a “community” flag was “permissible in certain circumstances”.

After some discussion about what time of day councillors woke up and switched on their bedside radios it was decided to accept Mr Sandy Cluness’ suggestion that they should write to the Lord Lyon to ask he would give permission for a “community” flag and that, in the meantime no action would be taken on the referendum which was decided upon at the SIC’s last meeting.

In a letter to the council Lord Lyon’s clerk, Mr J.I.D. Pottinger, had reminded them that the SIC already had a banner, incorporating a Viking galley with a raven on its sail. He enclosed a drawing of it to jog their memories. The flag forms part of the council’s coat of arms which, as usual on the days of full council meetings, was flying from the Town Hall on Tuesday.

The Lord Lyon warned councillors that for them to fly any other flag “of heraldic character” would be illegal and could result in prosecution.

“This could not be other than extremely embarrassing” he suggested. Perhaps the “lesser embarrassment” of announcing that they had “discovered” that they already had a banner for Shetland might be a “diplomatic solution”, he thought.

The Lord Lyon enclosed a five-page explanation of Scottish heraldic flags and their use, a document which Mr John Graham described as “medieval claptrap”.

50 Years Ago

In the past, most Shetland school s which wanted to boast of a piano had to raise part of the cost themselves. In the future it looks as if the Education Committee will be meeting the cost in cases where they consider a piano can be used to advantage.

The Committee recently approved a recommendation by the Property Sub-committee that pianos costing not more than £90 be supplied for each of the new school premises at Scalloway and Olnafirth.

The decision was challenged by the Rev. H.A.S. Brydone. Would he be correct in assuming this was a new policy they were starting? If not, why should these two schools be favoured with pianos and the others not?

Chairman: I don’t think the general principle was ever mentioned.

Mr R.J.H. Ganson: We have been contributing towards the cost of pianos for a number of years.

The director of education pointed out these were new schools that were being provided, and they were getting pianos for a number of years. Most of Shetland’s schools were going to be rebuilt, and presumably the committee would bear that point in mind as they went up.

Mr A.I Tulloch: The pianos are regarded as part of a new school’s furniture.

But Mr Brydone continued to object to the schools being singled out for favouritism. Many schools required pianos. Why was it insisted that other schools had to find fifty per cent. of the cost? It was just not fair.

Mr Tulloch: We are trying to be fair for the future.

Mr Brydone did not wish the schools out of their pianos, but he would move that the supply of pianos should be a general principle – that all schools should be provided with them.

Chairman: I think we should deal with each application as it comes forward.

Mr Brydone: Were there applications from these schools? I think it is competent for me to make such a motion.

The Rev. F. C. Searle seconded. He would have thought pianos were part of school equipment. If not, what did they do for morning worship – use tape recorders or something? Surely if they were to fulfil the obligations laid down they ought to have pianos in the schools. He heartily supported Mr Brydone.

100 Years Ago

Whist! – There has taken place in Lerwick recently a game of cards which has been of more than usual interest. As the proceedings were conducted more or less privately, the card players in town have not had the full details of the game laid before them, and I think a short account of them might be in some degree entertaining.

The tournament commenced in a ladies’ society known variously as “Mount Zion,” the “Work Party,” the “Tuesday Gathering,” etc., which has been established in town for some considerable time. The members are accustomed to meet once a week for work) and social converse – in fact, to bridge over a few hours of idleness and prevent an inclination to nap. With the introduction one night of a gentleman who took a hand in the game an exciting contest arose.

First of all a lady at a particular table led a modest spade, which had done good work before. Immediately the gentleman, who played second in hand, declared this was not a fit and proper thing to do, and before the company could realise the circumstances he hammered on an ace. This unusual departure from the rules excited a vast amount of surprise and consternation among the assemblage, whose adverse comments became painfully free. There was a considerable uproar, but the gentleman maintained he knew what he was about and that the trick was his so far. The lady retired hurt temporarily, and the game was taken in hand against her opponent by a set of gentlemen who now appeared on the scene. The counselled her to play patience in the meantime.

A lengthy argument arose between the newcomers and their opponent. He insisted that his action was legitimate on account of his black suit, and that this was a new way of discarding from strength; they asserted that it was outside of the rules altogether. He refused to take his card up again; they refused to allow him to proceed. After nearly exhausting a session in disputation, a misunderstanding was arrived at.  His card was trumped and the first round ended in favour of the lady, who was then asked to resume her play.

Everything having been settled, it was thought, satisfactorily, the game was begun again, and the second round opened in the Albert Saloon, amid a different group of spectators. The game was proceeding as usual, when, quite unexpected by the opposition, the gentleman revoked. The lady and her partner at once lodged a strong protest, but the first player insisted that he could make the rules in this place, and disavowed the society’s connection with the central association of card players. The other players refused to admit his right at all to alter the rules. They contended he had changed the game and was trying to euchre them. He, however, was firm and gathered up the cards amid applause, claiming to have won the second round.

Some other rounds were played in different places. The lady’s cause was championed by the set of gentlemen already mentioned, who insisted upon better dealing and entered with their hand and hearts into the business of bringing him to book. But it was a case of diamond cut diamond, and both sides engaged in a keen contest. He refused quietly to follow their lead, and once again a session was spent in asserting that the rules were as they said. He declined to admit their right to teach him how the game was played, and the puck of gentlemen felt in consequence very much cut. Each side adjured the other not to make trouble, nor to try to crib or grab the game. The dispute is going on still, and as things are at present, honours are even. Clubs will probably be trump soon, and then spectators will witness more forcible play.


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