Times Past

25 Years Ago

Lerwick Harbour Trust still wants to demolish the controversial wooden walkway at Albert Buildings on the Esplanade but trustees will have to get planning permission before they go ahead. In the longer term they want to demolish the whole building and build anew.

Mr Jim Irvine told the trustees monthly meeting that “the sensible thing” would be to remove Albert Buildings altogether. “It’s just an old corrugated iron building”, he said, “and we could be faced with horrendous costs at the end of the day for remedial work.”

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The 1986 winter herring fishery in Shetland was worth nearly £2.5 million, according to figures published this week by the fishery office in Lerwick. Their records show that 25,306 tonnes of herring were landed at Bressay Sound and sold at an average price of £97.86 per tonne.

50 Years Ago

Should a baby grand or an upright piano be provided for use in the Garrison Theatre? On Monday night, the Education Committee did not approve a recommendation by a sub-committee that an upright should be purchased, but referred the matter back to the sub-committee in light of information that Lerwick Orchestra is about to be revived.

The Garrison Theatre Sub-Committee considered correspondence from Miss Iris Loveridge, the internationally-known pianist, regarding the provision of a grand piano. Miss Loveridge suggested a suitable instrument at a cost of about £200.

Mr Billy Kay was of the opinion that, while a grand piano was desirable for special occasions, there would be insufficient use for it in the theatre at present, and he considered that meantime the theatre’s needs could best be served by the provision of an ordinary piano of good quality – at a cost of 175 guineas.

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The skilful seamanship of Skipper James Fullerton, the initiative of the “Scottish Daily Express” and the rapid organisation of the Chief Constable, Mr Robert Bruce, brought food and mail to lonely Foula on Wednesday after a record 77 days of isolation.

Last weekend, as food stocks dwindled, the island postmaster, Mr Harry Gear, told a “Shetland Times” reporter that Monday would probably be D for decision day on the island. Then, if weather still prevented them launching the “Island Lass”, they will have to ask the Chief Constable to put into operation the emergency plans he had in mind.

Monday’s weather, however, turned out to be as bad as any experienced this winter with gale force winds gusting up to 80 mph. In the House of Commons, the Secretary of State for Scotland told Mr Jo Grimond MP that an aircraft was standing by at Prestwick to drop supplies if no other method could be used.

Meanwhile another aircraft was preparing for a daring relief attempt. A Prestwick Pioneer owned by Scottish Aviation Ltd flew to Dyce to await an opportunity of landing on the isle, with the captain and pilot hoping to demonstrate the prowess of the aircraft.

On Monday night Tods of Lerwick was given an order for supplies, and these were at Sumburgh early on Tuesday. The aircraft reached Foula at 11am on Tuesday to seek a landing place. A 150-yard stretch at Stremness had been marked out by islanders and a fire lit to indicate wind direction. Captain Hope decided to land on this improvised strip, intending to take off again and bring the food from Sumburgh if he thought it possible to land a loaded plane. But he had not realised how soft the ground was – the plane came to rest with its wheels bogged down and it lay at an angle.

But while the airmen laboured to get their plane free of the tenacious peat, two newspapermen were heading to Shetland with the object of getting supplies to Foula ahead of all rivals. “Daily Express” reporter Bill Alsopp and photographer Jack Hill arrived at Lerwick at 10am on Tuesday and immediately set out to find a skipper who would at least attempt to reach Foula. Mr James Fullerton of Hamnavoe and his crew agreed to go to Walls at crack of dawn and pick up supplies in their fishing boat “Golden Harvest”.

The Chief Constable, anxious that Foula should be relieved, was also relieved the public purse should be spared. He willingly arranged for supplies and mail and alerted Mr James Rattar, an elderly Foula man who had been stranded on the mainland after a spell in hospital, to the opportunity of getting home. Just to satisfy himself that all was well on the island, he sent P.C. R.J. Isbister, a man with Foula connections, with the party.

The journey to the isle was unpleasant but quick. Good fortune and skill combined, the wind fell away to give momentary calm in the vicinity of the pier at Ham. Seizing the opportunity, skipper Fullerton had just time to put goods, mails and passengers ashore before he had to cast off again.

100 Years Ago

The Census – The census of population in the British Isles is to be taken at midnight on Sunday, 2nd April. Having regard to the valuable nature of the information thus obtained to Government Departments, such as the Poor-Law officials, to city and country corporations, and to statistical experts, and considering also the relatively small cost of taking the census – in Scotland, between £40,000 and £50,000 – it is surprising that attempts have not been made to have it done oftener, say at quinquennial periods instead of once in ten years. For many years after its institution this census-taking was regarded with extreme disfavour by most of the people in the country. The wider spread of knowledge has now made its very great advantages better understood, and there are not a few, particularly those interested in social problems, who would welcome a more frequent “numbering of the people.”

The principal changes in the census papers of this year are all made with a view to arriving at still more definite knowledge of the occupation of the British people. A new column has been added, so that besides arriving at the precise work upon which persons are engaged it is made possible to find out what particular branches of the great industries they belong to. For instance, under Column 10 (“Personal Occupation”) is filled in the occupation, such as “Cooper,” while under Column 11 (“Industry or Service with which worker is connected”) the work is particularised as cooper in a “Fishcuring Yard,” or “Brewery” or so on. The information asked regarding crofters is more searching than formerly. If a crofter is engaged also in fishing or road work, he must return himself as a “Crofter, Fisherman,” or as a “Crofter, Road Surfaceman,” as the case may be. Crofters’ sons and daughters or other relatives must be returned as “Crofter’s son or daughter, etc., working on the croft.” So far as other agriculturists are concerned, those in charge should state whether they are “Farmers,” “Graziers,” or “Farm Managers”; and for such of their relatives as are employed on the farm the fact should be stated. Farm servants are divided into several classes, all of which are given on the form, such as “Farm Grieve,” “Ploughman,” “Farm Carter,” etc.

In Shetland the responsibility for taking the census is in the County Clerk’s hands, while the Town Clerk has charge of the work in Lerwick. Enumerators have already been appointed, the greatest number for any parish outside of Lerwick being six. Schedules will be lodged shortly in the various houses. The task of enumeration of sailors and fishermen at Lerwick, Baltasound, and Scalloway has devolved upon the Customs officials, who will perform this duty on Monday morning, 3rd April. At places where no Customs officers are stationed, the local authority have made the necessary arrangements. To the police has fallen the work of taking a census of vagrants, and tinkers and all camp dwellers of this kind. The carrying out of the arrangements should present no more difficulty than usual. In Lerwick, fortunately, though the Suffragists are active they are not of the militant class who have been loudly threatening to evade the law by walking the streets all night, although it might be thought that the information provided by this census would be very valuable in event of the redistribution of Parliamentary seats which is nearly sure to follow any great alteration of the franchise. In Shetland at any rate the tale of the people should be very complete.


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