Times Past

25 Years Ago

A young East German seaman has defected to the west – by walking into Lerwick Police Station.

On Wednesday the Home Office in London confirmed that a 21-year-old crewman from the East German klondyker Granitz, registered in Rostock and lying at anchor in Bressay Sound, came ashore last Tuesday and asked to go to West Germany.

It is understood that he was flown to Dusseldorf the following day, paying his own fare on ordinary commercial flights via Aberdeen and London.

The West German consulate in Edinburgh later identified the man as Herr Ralph Mayinger. The East German Embassy denied all knowledge of him or of incidents in Lerwick on the day of his defection.

According to unconfirmed reports, Herr Mayinger was hunted through the town by a search party from the Granitz and several of his former shipmates congregated on the steps of the Lerwick police station while he was being questioned inside. Herr Mayinger, who at first called himself “Karl”, apparently spoke little English and was eventually questioned by a German speaking immigration official on the telephone line from Aberdeen.

The incident took a farcical turn when two men from the Granitz apparently mistook a local man for Herr Mayinger and were on the point of “apprehending” him at the Market Cross when they realised their mistake.

50 Years Ago

A Whalsay schoolboy’s gallant attempt to save his brother from drowing and the gallant and successful rescue of both boys by a Whalsay merchant seaman was recognised on Tuesday afternoon when 13 year old David William Paton received the Royal Humane Society’s testimonial on parchment and Mr George T. Poleson, who saved the lives of David and his younger brother, Jimmy, received the Society’s testimonial on vellum.

The rescues took place on 17th August last year and it will be recalled that Mr Poleson had just come home from sea when he performed his brave deeds. On Tuesday the testimonials were presented at a meeting of the County Council’s general Purposes Committee – because Mr Poleson is off to sea again and will not be in Shetland when the Council next meets in full session.

Chairman of the committee, Mr A. I. Tulloch, said they had a very pleasant task to perform that afternoon – to recognise two brave acts. He welcomed the two heroes and their relatives who had come to attend the ceremony.

Mr Tulloch then recounted the events of 17th August, when David and his brother went fishing from the rocks at Laamer, near Marrister, Whalsay. Jimmy fell in and David, without thinking of his own safety and although he could not swim, immediately jumped in to try and save his brother. Just then Mr Poleson was on his way to the shore. Before he reached the rocks, he saw a boy jump into the sea. He jumped two fences anda dyke as he ran to the shore, shedding his clothes as he ran. The two boys were being carried away by the strong tide when he reached them. He had difficulty in rescuing David, who was inclined to struggle in his anxiety to help his borhter, but he brought him ashore and then rescued Jimmy, who had been carried a considerable distance away.

“On the part of a strong swimmer this would have been a brave act,” said Mr Tulloch. “But I understand that Mr Poleson is in fact a very indifferent swimmer. Therefore, in saving two lives he is a very gallant man. Whalsay has always been famous for the courage of its men upon the sea. Not the least famous in Whalsay’s history will be the courage of Mr Poleson.”

100 Years Ago

Entertainment in Unst – The Coming of Age of Mr Ewan W.M. Cameron – On Tuesday, 22nd ultimo, the tenants on the Garth Estate with their wives and children from Baltasound, Balliasta, Coldback, Colvadale, Norwick, Valsgarth, and Haroldswick, met at the Reading Room, Baltasound, as the guests of Mrs Cameron of Gardie House, Bressay, to celebrate the coming of age of the young laird. Unfortunately, owing to the inclemency of the weather, a few of the old tenants were unable to be present.

The tenants were received and warmly welcomed by Mrs Cameron and her son, Mr Ewan W.M. Cameron. Shortly after assembling, the guests were treated to a substantial tea and “bags,” served out by Mrs Cameron and her friends, and afterwards sports and games of various kinds were engaged in the show park, which adjoins the Reading Room. Major Holland, who was amongst Mrs Cameron’s guests, also helped to make this part of the entertainment most enjoyable. The guests afterwards assembled in the Reading Room, and dancing was engaged in for a short time.

Thereafter Mr Edmondston of Buness, on behalf of the tenants moved a very hearty vote of thanks to their hostess and host for the very enjoyable afternoon all had spent, and wished the young laird long life and prosperity. This was heartily accorded and suitably acknowledged by the young laird in a way which will not be forgotten by the tenants. On the call of Mrs Cameron a hearty vote of thanks was accorded to the ladies who had made the tea, and to Mr Henry Hunter, who had charge of the arrangements.

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Training for Domestic Servants – In a letter received from the Congested Districts Board, the attention of crofters and cottars residing in the congested districts is again drawn to the opportunities afforded for the domestic training of girls at the schools established by the Board, in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

For crofters who desire their daughters to be trained for domestic service, facilities are offered. It is the desire of the Board to afford girls of a certain age such training as may enable them to fill good situations and earn good wages as soon as the course of training is completed. In addition to training, selected applicants will receive the following privileges, subject to good conduct and industry. Payment of cost of journey to the school, under prescribed conditions. Board and lodgings free during the six months’ training. Pocket money, not exceeding one shilling a week, for car fares, postage stamps, etc. A working outfit will be provided for use in the school. A suitable outfit will be given on leaving the school to take up a situation.

The girls will be chosen with due regard to their health, capacity, and character, and to the circumstances of the family. They should not be less than 16 or more than 20 years of age. Satisfactory evidence as to their condition of health must be furnished, and they must be recommended by a minister of religion, schoolmaster, or the like. Continuance in the school is dependent on good conduct and industry. To intending applicants a form will be supplied on application, which must be signed by the girl herself, and by her father, mother, or guardian (or, in exceptional cases, on their behalf by a minister of religion, schoolmaster, or the like), and forwarded to the Secretary of the Congested Districts Board, Parliament Square, Edinburgh.


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