Times Past

25 Years Ago

The slump in North Sea oil prices hit the SIC with a vengeance this week. With the council standing to lose between a third and two thirds of expected harbour profits from Sullom Voe, reserve fund spending for this year has been slashed by £1.5million.

The effect of falling prices will leave the reserve fund around £2m short this year alone. By the end of the decade there could be a loss in revenue of between £14m and £24m.

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The Shetland Folk Festival Society has won a fight for later drinking times at festival events.

Applications from the Islesburgh community centre, Clickimin sports centre and Sound public hall had previously been restricted to 11pm and midnight by Shetland Licensing Board.

But Mr Paul Rutherford, the society’s secretary, said: “Many of the artistes are performing in country areas and do not get back to Islesburgh, the festival pub, until 11pm to midnight, which is just when the bar would be closing.”

The board granted extensions until 1am.

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The Licensing Board has given the thumbs-up to the opening of a bingo club in the North Star cinema, Lerwick. But it also means the cinema will only be open four nights a week instead of seven as at present.

Proposing the motion in support, Major Bill Anderson said: “I’m in no doubt there is a demand for what is a harmless pastime, especially if it is the only way to keep the cinema viable.

“My experience of bingo crowds is that they certainly don’t go in for riotous behaviour. They are orderly establishments with people having a harmless gamble.”

The application was approved unanimously, as was another for 12 gaming machines in the building.

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Shetland Field Studies Group came under the microscope of the SIC’s education committee. It had agreed to fund the group for the next three months but will be taking a careful look at what the group does and how it spends its money before committing itself fully.

The compromise was the eventual outcome of a split in committee thinking about the pros and cons of the field studies group.

Previously the group fell within the remit of – and was funded by – the council’s general services committee.

Mr Henry Stewart was far from keen about the education committee taking the group under its wing. He suggested that “if these people go about they might find a new kind of spider or something”. People coming from mainland Britain imposing their ideas on islanders were “infuriating”, he said.

And Major Bill Anderson said the council was already funding one full-time worker for the field studies group, and now there were plans for two full-time workers. “These things grow and grow. It needs firm control. It’s expanding more than was the council’s intention.”

But Mr John Graham, assisted by Dr T.M.Y. Manson, sprang to the defence of the field studies group. It played an important educational function, he said. “They are basically a resource centre for the study of nature and wildlife, not only for schools but for the general public.”

50 Years Ago

To election candidates I give warning – you are expected to take part in a public hustings. An effort to put on a meeting, with candidates on the platform, in the Garrison Theatre tonight fell through because of the short notice given and the number of conflicting engagements. Next year, however, candidates will be confronted on nomination day with an invitation to “take the plunge” and, appropriately, a silver collection may be taken in aid of the swimming bath fund!

I must say that I see no sign of interest in the election at all, despite the imposing list of candidates from which the electorate can choose. And in County Council circles the policy is even more negative, candidates saying that they won’t bother to do any electioneering at all and inferring that if the electorate does not have the foresight to put them in, that will be its misfortune.

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The Twin Pioneer has certainly focused interest on the possibility of inter-island air services. Last week a single-engined Prestwick Pioneer landed without fuss on Fair Isle. This week there is news of an inter-island air service for Orkney.

A director of Oxford Aviation Ltd has been to Orkney to see what the chances are of starting a charter service there. His ideas are being considered by public bodies and business interests.

The Orkney move means that Shetland will have to look again at the position before tempting Scottish Airlines to come north. It may be that Shetland could be serviced by a company based at Grimsetter. A note to Oxford would not be out of place.

100 Years Ago

The Measles Epidemic in Yell – Christmas Guizing Gives Disease a Hold – In a special report to the Local Government Board, Dr Henry Pearson Taylor, Medical Officer of Health for the North Isles, makes the following remarks: – During January and February, the townships of Mid-Yell, Herra, Vatsetter, Westsandwick, and Colvester were visited by an epidemic of measles of a most virulent type. Complications, such as severe conjunctivitis, middle-ear disease, diphtheric sore throat, and catarrhal pneumonia were present more or less in the majority of cases.

The history of the epidemic is, briefly, as follows. A young man came home to spend Christmas and New Year with his friends. Unknowingly, he had been in contact with measles either in the south or on the journey north, and a few days after his arrival here, though feeling unwell (but not knowing the nature of the disease from which he was suffering) he went out “guizing” with his companions on 26th December, and I believe I am safe to say that he visited forty houses in the neighbourhood in most of which were individuals, old and young, who had the disease to get, and the young man was that night passing through the most infectious stage of the disease. It is presumable that before the 26th others might have been in contact with the young man and on the night of the “guizing” individuals from neighbouring townships were in Mid Yell and became contacts.

I was sent for on the 27th to see the sick man but I did not see him until the 29th, as I was detained in North Yell at a very serious case. It is needless to point out that a great number of people became contacts, and considering the great amount of intercourse between friends and relations and the social distractions in Mid Yell during Christmas and New Year, isolation of contacts was quite impossible. Instances were not uncommon where individuals actu­ally suffering from the prodromal symptoms, and presumably, know­ing that they were “in for the measles” exposed themselves in pub­lic one day, and the next, had a full developed rash.

I also heard of persons who, in order to get the measles, wilfully went to individuals suffering from that disease. One case came to my knowledge, too late, however, where a person who knew that she had been in contact and was likely to take the disease, deliberately visited her friends in another district. Surely the time has arrived when it has become imperative to deal with measles and other so-called child­ren’s infectious diseases in the same way as scarletina and diphtheria. Measles is a very common and wide-spread infectious disease, its complications and sequels are most dangerous, it being well-known that measles frequently leave the lung tissue in a most perfect condition for the reception of the tubercule bacillus.

In this advanced age we ought not only to be in possession of means with which to check this infectious disease, but also to stamp it out. Unless measles is scheduled under the Notification of Infectious Dis­eases Act that is impossible. The punitive clause would act as a powerful deterrent to those who, at present, are regardless of the welfare of their neighbours. All germ diseases scheduled under the Notification of Infectious Diseases Act are steadily disappearing, then why not add measles, whooping cough and phthisis to the list of compulsorily notifiable diseases?

For my part, I would willingly forego the 2s 6d notification fee per case than face another such epidemic as this island has experienced, with all its attendant sorrow, trouble and expense.


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