Times Past

25 Years Ago

Technological advances are no threat to the Shetland coastguard services, Captain Peter Harris, Britain’s chief coastguard, said last week during a two-day visit to the islands.

Capt Harris was making his first tour to Shetland since taking over the top job last Christmas.

He said a major reorganisation of the coastguard service by intro­ducing new technology had improved efficiency in recent years, but there were no plans to dispense with the Shetland operation.

“You could have just one vast station, but it would be a massive emporium,” he said. “It is better common sense to have the operation we now have, with 24 main stations around the country.

“We do need local knowledge and if we got rid of many of the present stations our ability to understand what is happening in the marine field would be diminished to a large extent.

“Nobody can see round corners or predict what can happen in these uncertain times, but I can see no changes for Shetland in the forseeable future.”

He added: “There might well be changes when we do everything by satellite, but we are then talking about the next century.”

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There are no plans to carry out tests for radiation contamination in Shetland lambs, the Scottish Office said this week, despite the ban on the movement and slaughter of lambs in three areas of Scotland.

A government spokeswoman said analysts had studied those areas with the most rainfall on the 2nd and 3rd May, the period immediately following the Cher­nobyl nuclear disaster in Russia.

“It follows that if areas with more rainfall are within the limit, then those with less rainfall should not be affected,” said the spokes­woman.

However, the nuclear cloud is believed to have passed over Shetland on 4th and 5th May and there was heavy rainfall here on 5th May.

The Scottish Office says that, despite this, results from previous tests on milk, grass and water show there is no need for the testing of lambs.

Dr Andrew Cooper, chairman of Shetland’s area medical committee, said this week that the adequacy of monitoring in the islands was “a matter for public concern”.

“If lamb is being tested throughout Scotland, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be tested here, but you (the press) probably have more information than we do.”

50 Years Ago

The first entirely new school to be built in rural Shetland under the current building programme was officially opened last Thursday afternoon. It is Olnafirth Primary School in Voe, which, along with the schoolhouse, has cost about £27,000.

The school has been occupied since the Easter vacation, and quite a few people have visited it. All have been very much impressed by the new building, which fits in harmoniously with the surroundings, and which has every modern convenience. The design and the workmanship are of a high order. There’s no doubt that in this case the children “never had it so good”.

At first sight the new school appears to be built with traditional materials – newly quarried stone from Ratchie Quarry, Dunrossness, a slated roof, cedar boarding, and liberal areas of glass. But the way in which these materials have been used is far from traditional. The roof trusses, designed with special metal containers, achieve great strength with less material than is normally required; the glazing has been calculated to withstand gales of upwards of 100 miles per hour; the intensity of lighting in the classrooms has been calculated beforehand.

The interior is very colourful, and the use of skilful blends, combined with most unusual natural and artificial lighting and polished hardwood floors, results in an atmosphere of cheerfulness and spaciousness.

When the old school had only one classroom, the new one has two plus a large general purposes room. This fine big room is used for meals and is separated from the infants’ classroom by a sliding partition. The kitchen features the most modern devices, and there is a staffroom, cloakrooms and toilets.

The heating boiler is oil-fired and automatically controlled; warm air is circulated throughout the larger rooms and entrance hall by fan-driven cabinets. A radio set is connected to built-in loudspeakers in the three main rooms. Daylight is controlled in the classrooms by venetian blinds, and the junior classroom can be darkened sufficiently for films to be shown.

The nearby schoolhouse is a modern four-apartment bungalow.

The school was formally opened by Mr James J. Hay of Brae, who first went to school in 1884 when Gladstone was Prime Minister.

In his young days [he said] there were no cars, no aeroplanes, not even push bikes. Only the well-to-do could afford a pony and trap. Shetland’s roads were just dirt tracks with many gates across them.

Schooling finished in the sixth standard or at the age of fourteen, whichever came first.

Nowadays the children arrived at school in cars; had a forenoon break; got a substantial dinner at mid-day; and were driven home again in a car at night. There were bursaries to keep them at higher schools and if they had sufficient brains they could go to college.

The people of Voe felt very proud of their beautiful new school, the finest of its kind in Shetland. It would be a great pity if this fine building were used only between 9am and 4pm, when it could easily be the focal point of the community, next to the kirk. Let the present public hall be used for dances by all means, but why not hold other social functions in the school? Things like W.R.I. meetings, Women’s Guilds and any other people not likely to engage in violent activity.

The head teacher Mrs A.J.H. Couper thanked Mr Hay. The new school made a most welcome change for the children and herself, having spent many years in cramped conditions.

They had been greatly indebted to Brae J.S. School for providing accommodation for so many of their primary children, and also for the very efficient way in which they had been supplied with meals for more than eight years from the Brae canteen.

Mr Tom Henderson, county convener, proposed a compre­hensive vote of thanks to all who had taken part in the planning and building of the school and those who had participated in the opening ceremony, which ended with the singing of the National Anthem.

100 Years Ago

The Smoking Concert – The arrangements for the concert last Saturday were in the hands of Mr Ashley, whose name by this time has only to be mentioned in order to draw an immense audience, and the Town Hall, in spite of the seats being placed as close as possible, was so easily packed that late comers were unable to find even standing room by the door. The programme was as follows:- Piano duet, “Qui Vive,” Miss Campbell and Mr Beck; Song, “Love the Pedlar,” Mrs Harrison; Song, “Land of Hope and Glory,” Mr Beck; Humorous Song, Mr Sammie; Song, “The Inquisitive Kiddie,” Mr Lennie Cook; Vocal duet, “A Tale of Two Sausages,” Miss Robertson and Mr Ashley; Song, “Gardens Filled with Gold,” Mr Fisher; Humorous Song, “I don’t want a Girl,” by the “Dirty Pirate,” alias Mr Ashley; Song, “Alice, where art thou,” Miss Fordyce; Song, “The Song that reached my heart,” Mr S. Doddington of the “Dollar Princess,” who sang “The Queen of the Earth” as an encore; Selections of popular songs played by Miss Campbell; Song, “There are nice Girls Everywhere,” Mr Ashley, who gave as an encore the duet with Miss Robertson, “I worship the Ground”; Song, “Beat the Drum,” Buckie of the Young Fred. There is no need to speak any words of praise for the performers, as the applause after each item showed how much the audience appreciated all, but at the same time mention must be made of the songs which were given by the fishermen, as they showed first-class humour and talent, and it is seldom possible to listen to a finer singer than Mr Sid. Doddington. We hope to hear him on many future occasions. Cigarettes were kindly provided by Miss B.C. Anderson.

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Fisher Girls Sing-Song – Good news spreads very quickly and therefore it was not surprising to see several fresh faces in the Rechabite Hall last Monday night. All felt sorry that it had been necessary for the boats to go to sea on Coronation Day, so that the fishermen and fisher-girls could not join in the national rejoicings, but just as last Saturday’s concert made up for the fishermen’s lost day of joy and festivities, so, too, last Monday night the fisher-girls were able to enjoy the Coronation as much as if they had not had to work last Thursday. Tea was waiting for the girls when they arrived, but it was hardly finished before they were crying out to begin the dances and games, in which all joined. As last week, intervals of rest were necessary and there was only one thing in the eyes of the girls which could take place during these and that was that Nurse Hodge should sing, and she will be lucky if she ever finds a more appreciative audience. Miss Paddon and Miss Fraser also sang and a sword dance was given by Miss Maggie Simpson. Miss Dorothy Henry again played the piano for the dances and songs.

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Man Jumps into the Sea – Some excitement was caused at Victoria Pier last Saturday afternoon, when a man from Walls who was being conveyed to Montrose Lunatic Asylum, taking advantage of a momentary engagement of his keeper, plunged into the harbour from the deck of the ss. St Sunniva. A firemen on the vessel gallantly jumped in after him and in a short time succeeded in bringing him to the wharf so that he could be easily taken out.


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