25 Years Ago
O.I.L. (Shetland) Ltd is to announce “at least” 14 redundancies on Monday as a result of the North Sea oil slump.
Returning to Westminster after the Scottish Parliament I was stopped by an English Labour MP who enquired mischievously of me why I was in London. “I thought,” he said, “that you had just voted to be independent.” It was, of course, a flippant comment but one which highlights in many ways how difficult it is to explain where Scotland stands after 5th May.
Works convener Mr David Suckley said yesterday that volunteers had been asked for and a deadline of noon on Monday had been set. If there are not enough volunteers, the company will draw up a list of compulsory redundancies, he said.
The 190-strong workforce, one of the biggest in Shetland, will be holding a mass meeting on Monday afternoon but industrial action is not envisaged.
Sovreign Oil have already pulled out of the base and the jobs cut has arisen because of cutbacks by BP and Shell, O.I.L’s two major clients. Mr Suckley added that he was “very concerned” that this would not be the last of the redundancies.
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A veil of secrecy was drawn over proceedings centering around Shetland Fish this week. It is understood that uncertainty over the firm’s future has come to a head in recent weeks, but all those concerned have remained tight-lipped.
Last month Mr Frank Johnson of Shetland Fish said: “Just now we’re trying to get some calm back into the business, but there’s nothing drastic happening.” The firm’s problems appear to have worsened in recent weeks although the firm’s management this week refused to speak The Shetland Times. SIC is a major shareholder in the business and has invested over £¼ million in it. But spokesmen for the council directors involved refused to comment.
Yesterday morning the SIC held a special emergency meeting to discuss the future of Shetland Fish.
After yesterday’s meeting, chief executive Mike Gerrard said the two hour meeting had not been conclusive, that another meeting would be held in the near future, but that no other information could be given.
According to one source the firm – which is the second biggest processor in Shetland – is now in such severe financial difficulty that the SIC is the only body which could save it and if yesterday’s decision went against helping the firm it would mean the factory would close.
It is understood that the directors of Shetland Fish will meet today and the SIC’s charitable trust may meet soon to consider the situation.
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Shetland’s fish processing industry has been plunged into what is claimed to be one of the gravest crises in its recent history, with problems caused by the normal seasonal lull compounded by a huge increase in demand from south buyers “prepared to pay anything”.
Several local factories have either had to drastically cut production or close down temporarily. Although this is usually a lean period, many within the industry were saying this week that April and the first two weeks of May had been worse this year than ever before.
50 Years Ago
There is little doubt that the educational cruise on the schoolship Dunera was tremendous success as far as the Shetland party was concerned. The 130 youngsters, with their party leaders, returned to Lerwick last Friday bubbling over with enthusiasm about what they had seen and done.
“The Shetland Times” asked Mr John H. Spence, Shetland’s director for education, for his comments on the trip, and like the youngsters he is very much in favour.
“It would be fair to say there was not a great deal of formal education on board,” he said. “There were lessons in history, geography, mathematics and English, physical training, including games, swimming in the pool, pre-visit lessons on the countries and ports to be visited, films and slides of all the countries, with appropriate background knowledge, and so on.
“But there was a very great deal of informal education. The various school groups mixed freely, many friendships were made, ideas were exchanged.”
The informal side struck him as being the most valuable of all, and the ship’s discipline was an education in itself.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the whole idea is very well worthwhile. I think these cruises will continue, provided education authorities take them up and agree to help children to participate.”
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Truly this is the age of the common man (and woman). The latest sign that this is so appears in bold letters on Lerwick’s conspicuous new public conveniences – but it is something that does not please certain town councillors.
At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Bailie A. J. Nicolson said he was very sorry that ladies and gentlemen appear to be forgotten. Personally he did not like the new signs, and the wondered if any lady would like to go into the place.
Mr J. A. Daniel: It all depends on the pronunciation of the word “women.”
Dean of Guild Morrison: Who designed it?
Provost: Mr Moira, when he designed the conveniences.
Dean of Guild: It reads “Ladies” and “Gents” all over the world.
It was suggested that, according to the public, this was a very different type of convenience from the ususal, hence the signs might as well be different too.
And Treas. R. A. Anderson suggested they might be pleased the architect didn’t make it “Male” and “Female”.
Mr J. J. Paton: As long as folk know where they are going, that is the main thing.
On a more serious note, Mr Morrison pointed out the work had started about fifteen months ago, but the place was still not open. Apparently the doors were holding things up. When would they be ready?
The latest information was that the material required was “on the boat” so the day of the opening cannot be far away now.
100 Years Ago
The Opening of the Church – St Clement’s Mission Church, Albany Street, was opened formally on Wednesday afternoon by the Rev. A. J. Campbell, B.A. (Cantab.), minister of St John’s parish church, Glasgow, and until lately minister of the parish of Lerwick.
The new Mission Church or Hall was built by members of the Lerwick Parish Church. The outside dimensions of the building are – length, 92 feet, breadth, 36 feet 6 inches. The Church is raised upon a bank faced with grass some feet above the level of Albany Street. The front of the building is of square rubble stone with freestone dressings, and a handsome square tower, 40 feet high, together with a massive arched doorway, lend an air of distinction to the building. The Church is not yet completed externally, the walls requiring to be harled, and other work still required finishing. A vestibule gives entrance to the area and to a small gallery at the back of the hall. Seating accommodation is provided for about 450 people, and the pews are of varnished white wood. The pulpit and choir platform are of pine. At the back has been built a fairly large annexe, which can be used as a meeting room, or can be divided by a partition into two small rooms. A wooden lining runs round the area to the height of four feet in the Church itself, and the walls above that are finished with adamant plaster. Light is given by six large windows on either side, and ventilation has been carefully arranged for. The high wooden roof is supported by pitchpine rafters set on stone corbels. Provision is made for a heating apparatus in the base of the tower. Both externally and internally the building is one of the prettiest in Lerwick.
Its cost was £1600, of which £470 were received from the Home Mission Committee and £500 from the Baird Trust. The remainder of the sum necessary was gathered by means of sales of work, and the building has not only been opened free of debt, but a balance remains on hand for further decoration.
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Skeld – On the 26th April, Captain Laurence Hay, Westerskeld, Sandsting, passed away. He had reached the advanced age of almost eighty years. Though of an unobtrusive and unassuming manner, he held a prominent place in the minds of a wide circle of acquaintances and was worthily respected for his uprightness and his kindliness towards all who were under his command or in any way associated with him. As a neighbour and kindly adviser he will be much missed. As a lad he spent five seasons at the Greenland whale fishing and one voyage his vessel came home a full ship (200 tons). Then he sailed in Coquet, afterwards he coasted in the Nymph (under Magnus Robertson, of Walls). Later he sailed out of Liverpool in the merchant service. Then he was at the diggings in Australia, and sailed for some time on the Australian Coast. Later he tried the digging again, this time in New Zealand. He came home and married Ann Ridland, Searvister, and made his home in Westerskeld. Again he sailed for some time in Liverpool vessels. In his later years at sea he was promoted to be mate of the “Queen of the Isles,” under Captain Henry, or Westerwick; and then commanded the smack “Noran,” a coaster between Leith and Shetland, and other coasting vessels. His widow and family in their bereavement have the sincere sympathy of the whole community.