Past Times: Off on the Dunera

From The Shetland Times, Friday 5th May, 1961

Proud parents waved and the brass band played on Saturday morning as launches ferried 134 excited Shetland children to the educational cruise ship Dunera, which took them from Lerwick for a visit to northern capitals. They were the largest single contingent on the ship when she sailed in calm, misty weather for Bergen.

Dunera anchored in mid harbour promptly at eight. At the head of the slipway the children and their parents milled around but excellent staff work lay behind the organisation and a shuttle service of launches was operating within a few minutes. Within an hour 74 girls, 64 boys, and 10 adults had found their quarters onboard – and some of them had already found seats at breakfast tables! By the time the ship sailed the Shetlanders had been absorbed into a floating school with a membership of 870.

Mr John H. Spence, director of education, and Mr W. K. Conochie, representing the education committee, were in the adult party. Teachers travelling as party leaders were Mrs L. J. Henry and Messrs J. J. Graham, J. R. S. Clark and T. Moncrieff. Senior pupils had been appointed as prefects in charge of small groups of children. As they boarded the ship, under the eyes of a cross-section of Scottish educationalists, the Shetland children evoked favourable comment – they were definitely splendid young ambassadors for their native isles.

In contrast to some of the children who boarded at Greenock, the Shetlanders were doing it the easy way. From Sutherlandshire came a party which started out at 3 a.m. for a 4 p.m. sailing. The director of education for Sutherland, Mr McLellan said that some of his pupils came from places quite as remote as any in Shetland. Some had never been beyond Inverness before.

Although the children will have many exciting and interesting shore excursions, the accent on Dunera is definitely on education. They will attend classes during normal school hours at sea. And, while there will be plenty of recreation onboard, routine is a combination of boarding school and troopship, with daily routine orders, duty masters, and a school office which functions like an army orderly room.

A B.B.C. television team is on the ship but will fly home from Copenhagen to present a programme on the Scottish service on the evening of 10th May – the date on which the cruise ends. Recordings are also being taken for sound radio – mainly for children’s hour.

The interest which Shetland has shown in this cruise intrigued teachers who were escorting parties of perhaps 15 or 20 – and as small as the party brought along by Mr Tam Deyell, whose advocacy of “floating schools” is well known and who is deputy director of studies on this voyage. The second largest party of 130 came from a Roman Catholic junior secondary at Clydebank.

Among senior pupils from the Anderson Institute is one who will have the unique experience of taking an examination in mid ocean. Frank Robertson will sit a Highlands and Islands competition while Dunera is somewhere between Oslo and Copenhagen.


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