Times Past

25 years ago

A battle against time is being fought to salvage Shetland Fish Ltd., after the company this week went into receivership and paid off its staff of over 100.

Although Shetland Fish has suffered the most dire week of its existence – at one point it seemed the company would go into liqui­dation – there is now considerable hope that other processing firms or a workers’ co-operative could take over the firm’s factories at Ronas Voe and Lerwick.

The company’s board of directors was expected to appoint a receiver yesterday afternoon, as we went to press, following an announcement that the company will be wound up. The company told its workforce on Friday that it intended to go into liquidation. A day earlier the com­pany failed to persuade the SIC, which has a £300,000 stake in Shet­land Fish, to bale them out. That SIC meeting, held last Thursday, was held in private and no infor­mation was given afterwards.

The council, sitting as charitable trust, held a further meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Again the meeting was behind closed doors, but Mr Malcolm Green, SIC finance director, stated afterwards that “the trust considered a request from the board of directors of Shetland Fish Ltd. that written consent be given by the trust for the company to proceed with the winding up of the company. The trust has decided that a receiver should be appointed forthwith, and the steps are in hand to achieve this.”

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A duck and 11 of her young were given a police escort through Lerwick on Tuesday afternoon. They were discovered wandering about in the middle of Gilbertson Road by school children returning from Bell’s Brae Primary School. A woman motorist who narrowly missed the wandering waterfowl called the police who dispatched a constable to convoy them safely to a more familiar habitat at Hay’s Dock.

50 years ago

While playing on the rocks at Mioness, Skerries, last week, 14-year-old C.G. Williamson, a local boy, picked up a Dutch gold coin, dated 1711 – further evidence that there is still treasure from the Dutch ship Liefde lying on the seabed there.

The Liefde is regarded as the richest and most intriguing wreck round Shetland. She was a Dutch East Indiaman from Amsterdam, and was commanded by Capt. Berend Muykens. With 300 crew and passengers, and treasure amount­ing to 227,000 guilders, she sailed from the Texel for India on 3rd November, 1711.

Four days later she went on the rocks, and only one sailor survived.

After weeks of hard work at the Liefde only two small chests of coins, valued at £2500 sterling were recovered.

No serious attempt has been made to salvage the treasure since the early eighteenth century, and it has only been disturbed by the sea.

On 16th February, 1900, a great gale blew in Shetland, and after the storm a number of gold ducats and silver coins were picked up in the crevices of the rocks on the shore near where the Liefde was wrecked. The coins were in a state of excellent preservation.

Since then the odd coins have been found, the latest occasion being last summer, when about half-a-dozen turned up in the month of June – they were later shown to the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh by Mr Tom Henderson, county convener, when their Royal High­nesses visited Skerries last August.

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Before the year is out, an elderly Shetlander will sail for Australia to “settle down”– for the third time. Mr Robert B. Johnson of Scarvister, Wester Skeld, went out in 1927, came home again in the depression of ’32, returned in ’35, came home again in ‘39 – and is now planning to join his son in Cloncurry, N.W. Queensland.

Mr Johnson’s current plans follow a visit from his son, James, who joined him in Australia in 1936. Now a public accountant in Cloncurry Mr Johnson, jun., has persuaded his father to make his home with him and his family but, because he has his croft to dispose of, Mr Johnson, sen., cannot leave immediately. Mr and Mrs Johnson, jun., after three weeks in Shetland, sail home on the maiden voyage of the new “Canberra” next week.

100 years ago

Fishermen’s Sports – The fisher­men visitors who were forced to remain idle at the port of Lerwick for the ten days preceding this week owing to the operation of the close time, on Saturday afternoon last carried out a long and interesting programme of sports in the Gilbert­son Public Park. The idea was first mooted towards the middle of last week and was taken up with the utmost enthusiasm. The organis­ation of the events was taken in hand by a few of the fish salesmen, curers, and skippers, who circulated a collecting sheet amongst them­selves and the various traders in the town, with the result that no less than £25 10s were raised in a very short time towards prizes for the successful competitors. With the knowledge of this handsome sum for prize-money, the committee in charge of affairs were able to pro­ceed upon a large and generous scale, and to provide what was easily one of the best sporting displays ever seen in the town, as it was certainly one of the most interesting and entertaining.

Saturday turned out one of the finest summer days that have been seen here so far, and the success of the sports was assured. In cele­bration of the occasion most of the drifters lying at the wharves were made gay with large displays of bunting, and at the public park strings of flags decorated every available vantage place. At three o’clock, the time for beginning the shorter items of the programme, a crowd numbering well over three thousand people was congregated on the grounds. All the drifters at the piers were practically deserted, the crews having come to the sports almost to a man: the townspeople also turned out in great numbers to witness the proceedings. The Territorial pipe band attended and enlivened the programme at intervals with military selections.

Punctually to the time appointed for opening the first event was started off. This was the bicycle race, for which only two competitors turned out. From the beginning it was plainly evident that Marjoram had the race in hand and he came in an easy winner. The 100 yards race was so popular that it had to be run in several heats. In the putting competition, the prize-winner, Mr W. Robertson, sent the ball 24 feet 10 inches, while the second prize was given for a putt of 23.2 inches by Mr W. Taylor. Great amusement was caused by the seaboot race, and there is no doubt about it that any man who attempted to run far in them well deserved a prize. Another humorous item was the sack race, in which the usual calamities befell the com­pet­itors. The events for fishworkers were confined to a skipping race, and a thread-the-needle race. Both of these races were most amusing to witness. Among the events which attracted much interest was the flat race for men over 40 years of age, and also the race for cooks. Humorous items figured largely on the programme. In addition to those already men­tioned, there was an obstacle race, a lemonade race, a three-legged race, and an egg and spoon race. The first in particular created much amusement, especially at the expense of the unfortunate com­petitor who was the first to dive under the heavy sail on the return journey, but was unable to get out again until another competitor had wriggled successfully past him. The tug of war and the team race were also events in which much interest was displayed, and the stalwarts watched attentively such feats as putting and caber tos­sing. The sports lasted till nearly seven o’clock. From first to last they were enjoyable to witness and the interest never flagged for a moment.


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