Times Past

25 Years Ago

Two youths have been charged in connection with the theft of the model clipper Matchless from the Shetland Museum last month. The model was found badly damaged on the roof of a shop in Lerwick.

The clipper schooner Matchless was Shetland’s main link with Aberdeen and Leith in the 19th century before the days of steamers.

The model, commissioned in 1973 by Mr Alex Cussons from the world-famous builder Donald McNarry, was valued at £3,000 and had rigging the thickness of human hair.

Security at the museum has been increased since the unprecedented theft but surveillance is hampered by the continuing staff shortages at the building. A plan to hire a second assistant for curator Andrew Williamson was a casualty of the recent council spending cuts.

50 Years Ago

A German naval training squadron of five frigates and two escort vessels is now paying a three-day courtesy visit to Lerwick – the first German naval ships to visit the port since 1904.

Commander Schlippenbach held a press conference on board on Wednesday forenoon. He was a submarine commander during the last war. He told reporters that he was delighted with the arrangements made for the entertainment of the crew members. In most of the places visited, entertainment had been laid on only for the officers, but in Lerwick they found that the sailors were being given ample opportunities to mix with the local population in sporting fixtures and at dances, and so on.

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A young Whalsay fisherman was saved from drowning last Thursday by his skipper’s presence of mind and the bravery of a crew-mate. The Whalsay fishing boat Brighter Morn was fishing east by south of the Bard and 19-year-old Andy Thomson, along with other members of the crew, was shooting the net when a shackle connected to the warp became entangled in his oilskin coat and pulled him over the side. Skipper Robert Hutchison caught a glimpse of the yellow oilskin in the sea and jammed the engine into reverse. Without any thought for his own safety, Willie Simpson (21), dived into the water with a grapnel and managed to catch hold of Thomson with it – the crew lost no time in bringing the two men back on board.

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Lt-Col. Magnus Shearer, O.B.E., T.D., J.P., died at his home, Bayview, King Harald Street, Lerwick, last Wednesday afternoon. Col. Shearer was one of Shetland’s best-known and best-liked men. He gave a great part of his adult life to serving his fellow Shetlanders in many public capacities.

Col. Shearer was a Whalsay man. He was born at Clate in July, 1890. His first job was as cook on the herring sail boat Reindeer. He became an apprentice cooper under his father and later went to work in Shields. He was selected for officer training and in 1916 he was commissioned before going to France to serve on the Western Front as a Lieutenant in the 9th Gordons.

When he was demobbed he set up business with his uncle James in the South End of Lerwick under the name of J & M Shearer. From then on the fish trade was his life’s work, and the firm operated curing stations in Whalsay, Cullivoe, and Lerwick, and also in East Anglia during the appropriate season. One of the biggest benefits the company introduced was the ice plant at West Dock.

He was county convener from 1930 to 1935, and Provost of Lerwick from 1941 to 1946.

100 Years Ago

Education Difficulties in Aith – A public meeting was held here on 3rd instant, to consider what steps might be taken to provide means to improve the education of the children in this district. There was a full attendance of ratepayers and others interested. Mr James A. Smith (late of Mid-Yell), was asked to preside over the meeting, and occupied the chair. He compared the opportunities for education within reach of children in Aith with other districts in Shetland, and said that so far as he knew very few if any townships had been so neglected in this respect. There were several reasons for this state of affairs which he believed could be remedied; for instance, the Twatt school, which the children were presently attending, was from two to three miles from their homes, and there was a road only part of the way, the remainder being over an almost impossible hill in winter. No doubt the children’s health had been greatly impaired by sitting in the school with wet clothes and feet, which were also a very powerful non-conductor between them and the teacher. At the time the Twatt school was built it was no doubt central and met the demands at that time, but the present day called for more efficient means, and it had now ceased to be central to the majority of the children, the greater number being from Aith.

The matter was thereafter discussed by those present. It was shown that there had been an increasing school rate every year without a corresponding increase in the means provided for the children’s education, especially in the Aith district, and it was thought the time was fully come when something should be done to alter the existing arrangements.

This is no new movement, an application for a school having been made to the School Board a number of years ago, but it was not granted. It was unanimously agreed to approach the School Board again and ask their co-operation. A grant in aid might be got, and a loan asked for the balance to build a primary school on the east side of Aith Voe to accommodate the Aith and East Burrafirth children. The present side school at East Burrafirth could be closed, and the Twatt school converted into a side school for the few children there and at Effirth. By this arrangement the salary of one teacher would be saved, which together with the increase in the average attendance, would more than pay the interest on the loan required.

There are 77 children under 14 years of age in Aith and East Burrafirth, of whom 52 are over 5 years. Owing to the distance and bad road to Twatt school, it is impossible for children to go there until they reach the age of 8 years, thus losing 2 or 3 years in time, and a very considerable sum in grants. By the aforesaid arrangement a new school could be built at Aith without any increase in the rates, which would be a decided improvement on the present system.


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