Times Past

25 Years Ago

British Telecom say that they have no intention of a last minute reprieve for the Lerwick telephone exchange which is due for closure in March 1987 despite widespread local opposition to the plan.

The announcement in January 1985 that operator services would be transferred to Aberdeen as part of BT’s modernisation programme led to a determined opposition campaign spearheaded by the SIC and the operators union, the Union of Communication Workers.

Fears were expressed that the loss of the 20 operators in Lerwick would lead to a deterioration in service, especially when responding to emergency calls, and the SIC’s charitable trust, which owns 760,000 shares in the company, went as far as sending Mr Jim Irvine to British Telecom’s annual general meeting in September 1985 to raise the matter.

A spokesman for BT dismissed the notion that operators in Aber­deen would have difficulty under­standing what islanders were saying. “Our operators are highly trained and use of the latest equip­ment will mean a faster response. All the operator has to do in an emergency situation is connect the caller to the correct service and I don’t think they will have much trouble understanding ‘police, fire or ambulance’. We have heard the same objections whenever we have closed a local exchange and the difficulties have always been ironed out.”

He denied that BT could be “narrowing the odds on someone’s life” in cases where, on previous occasions, an operator might use their local knowledge to help contact a doctor in an emergency situation.

“All we are obliged to do is connect the caller to the number they asked for. I think it is unfair to ask a company to do more than that.”

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A mystery boat was found washed up in the uninhabited isle of Gunnister in Northmavine on Sunday.

Lerwick coastguard station was only informed of the curious find on Wednesday, but already work has begun to trace the boat which could have come all the way from Norway if the registration is anything to go by.

The 16 foot fibreglass boat was found upturned on Gunnister and had clearly been in the water for at least several weeks because there was a lot of marine growth. The boat’s cabin has been smashed off and the coastguards are now trying to identify the manufacturer from what is left of the boat, in the hope of finding the owner.

50 Years Ago

The B.I. liner “Dunera” will call at Lerwick twice in the last week of this month. In addition to her Sunday visit with 950 passengers on a National Trust for Scotland cruise, she will return on Friday at 5p.m. on an educational cruise. It will be her fourth call at Lerwick this year.

The passengers on the 29th September will include many of the directors of education in Scotland as well as between 200 and 300 senior pupils from Scottish schools. They will arrive at 5p.m. that day and their shore excursions are now being planned by the director of education for Shetland, Mr John H. Spence.

Visits to the “Past & Present” exhibition, the town hall and Clickimin broch will be arranged and there will be plenty of opportunity for shopping as the ship will not sail again until noon on Saturday.

100 Years Ago

Police Court – The Tale of a Tub – On Monday before Bailie Stout, Archibald Campbell, fisherman, Parkfield Road, Lerwick, was charged with having on 3rd September, in an area tenant house at 39 Commercial Street, occupied by David Moar, wilfully broken and destroyed a washing tub and in Church Lane, Lerwick, in the house of James Peterson, bellman, conducted himself in a disorderly manner. The case had been adjourned from last Thursday, when Campbell pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Mrs Moar, 9 Commercial Street, deponed that Campbell in company with another man named James Mouat visited her house on the day in question. They were both the worse of drink. She would not let them in. There was a washing tub outside the door and they threw it and broke it.

Bailie Stout – Who threw the tub? Witness – I can’t say, these men were both there, and they called me names, and I then went for the police, because they would not go away.

Accused denied having spoken to Mrs Moar at all. He did not use abusive language. It was a thing he never did.

Bailie Stout (to witness) – Did you hear this man use bad language? Witness – Yes.

Next witness called was the daughter of previous witness, and she deponed that she was standing at the door, and saw her mother refusing to let the men in. Both men were using abusive language. In answer to a question, witness said that she saw the broken tub afterwards.

James Peterson deponed to seeing both men in Church Lane on Saturday of last week. The rain was coming down, and they rushed upon him, and started to abuse him. Witness said he would go for the police, but accused said he did not care for him nor the police.

Bailie Stout – Was it this man or Mouat who said it? Witness – It was Mouat who abused me.

Witness further deponed that he asked the accused his name and he gave him some curious name which he did not think was his right name.

After further evidence, accused admitted having broken the tub. Bailie Stout in fining Campbell 15s or 7 days, said that the case was clearly proven against him.

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Letters to the Editor – Strange Occurrence at Yell – Dear Sir, – On Friday afternoon I had been fishing in the sea for sea trout when it came on a shower. We, James Anderson, North House, and I, went into the booth for shelter. I looked out to see if it was any better when I was surprised to see all the sea at the “Long Point” at the burn in com­motion. I called James’ atten­tion to this and as he stepped out he said, “I was to look.” I looked north­wards, and to my surprise saw a tremendous rush in the water. All the trout came racing for shelter at the weeds at the pier and burn, but on came the large fish until it turned. When it turned we could see quite distinctly it to be a large blue shark with a tail about 2 feet across. We were only about 70 yards off and saw him splendidly. There were hundreds of trout and some of them very large. There were two other people on the beach at the same time, but only thought it was a big trout. It should be interesting to know if such a thing has ever been seen before. – Yours truly, Wm. Stevenson Smith, Ferncliff House, Gutcher, North Yell, 2nd Sept. 1911.


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