Times Past

25 Years Ago

The SIC has come a step nearer to breaking the deadlock in its battle with the North Isles ferry crews. It seems that despite some dissent the SIC is now determined to force a shift system on the Yell Sound ferry crews, even if this means industrial action followed by help from the Advisory, Conciliatory and Arbitration Service.

Speaking at last Thursday’s policy and resources committee meeting, transport committee chairman Mr Jim Irvine made it apparent that he is ready for battle, and he found a supporter in the policy and resources committee chairman Mr Willie Tait.

The council was committed to improving the North Isles ferry service, Mr Irvine said, and that involved introducing a shift system for the crews. This would mean cutting their working week down from as much as 80 hours to 40 hours a week. But to cushion the blow, the council would phase in this cut over three years. “That’s our final offer,” said Mr Irvine. “We’re not going to go any further.”

He spoke of this “bizarre situation” where ferrymen had “complained of working long hours” but were now unwilling to accept a reduced working week. “It’s SIC policy that there should be a shift system … I intend to pursue the question of better evening services and to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion.

“We’re not going to have ferrymen laying down the law and putting a curfew on everyone who travels from the North Isles.

“We’re not going to get anywhere unless we bring in an independent judge. The sooner we go to arbitration the better and if the arbitration says we’re wrong then we’ll have to pay the extra.” Mr Irvine spoke of how the matter had “dragged on” for years.

50 years Ago

Ships raced for shelter last week-end following forecasts of a Force 12 storm in the north, and although the worst forebodings did not materialise, Shetland had its share of a severe gale which caused damage on many coasts. Lerwick lifeboat and the Norwegian rescue ship “Haakon VII” had missions to perform and there was justifiable anxiety for the safety of a small cargo ship on passage from Wick to Lerwick.

The tail-end of Hurricane “Betsy” appeared to be reaching the Shetland coast in mid week, when high seas and a heavy swell were everywhere evident. Then on Saturday night the trawlers started to pack in at Lerwick’s quays just as the “St. Clair” headed south in the teeth of a gale that steadily strengthened. At sea throughout the whole period was the Shetland seine-netter “Cornucopia”. She left for Aberdeen early on Saturday and got there 30 hours later.

About 9.45 p.m. the maroons announced the almost anticipated first incident of the storm and Lerwick lifeboat was quickly away to aid the Peterhead fishing boat “Golden Harvest”, ashore on Robbie Ramsay’s Baa, just outside the north entrance. She was followed soon afterwards by the “Haakon VII” and while nautical assistance was on its way, members of the Coast Lifesaving Crew drove out to Green Head and started the difficult job of carrying rocket line equipment across rough country in the dark.

The lifeboat went right alongside the casualty and a line was quickly secured and towing started. Meanwhile the “Haakon” approached across the shoal, swung stern on wit the intention of securing a line – and went aground herself. Almost simultaneously, the lifeboat pulled the “Golden Harvest” clear.

Propeller threshing up mud and seaweed, the “Haakon” appeared in poor case for a short time but the heavy swell lifted her and she came off aided only by her own powerful engines. Neither she nor the fishing boat appeared to be more than superficially damaged.

100 Years Ago

Is it to be War? – For some time now there has been a strong feeling of unrest and uncertainty throughout the whole of Europe, which had its rise in what is known as the Moroccan affair when Germany despatched a man-o’-war to Agadir to protect, she explained “German interests,” interests which most people believed were more imaginary than real. It was generally believed at the time that Germany was really anxious to pick a quarrel with France and renew the strife of forty years ago. There were two deterrent factors which no doubt caused uneasiness in Germany and made her pause before she despatched the Red Uhlans, those merciless forerunners of Moltke’s conquering army, over the border-line into French territory, the first being that France is better prepared for war to-day than she was in 1870, and the second, the fact that France had, in England, an ally whose first line of defence – the Navy – is superior in men and ships and armament to any Navy in the world. Rash and impetuous though he may be, the Kaiser of Germany hesitated to let loose the dogs of war in Europe, when even he must have felt sure that the issue of his conquest by land was in great doubt, and that his recently founded Navy was almost certain to be wiped out. Men who should be in a position to judge are of opinion that these two factors have made the Emperor pause and endeavour in some way or other to count the cost before taking the fatal step that must plunge Europe in war and bloodshed. The unfortunate thing, however, is that as the days go by and merge into weeks the tension, instead of growing less, becomes more acute, and nobody knows what a day may bring forth. It is generally believed that Germany does not possess a very extensive war chest. Her inhabitants have been taxed to the utmost limits to maintain her huge army and build up her new navy, and in times of peace her resources have been strained almost to the breaking point. Leaving out the other aspects of this grave question, for a country to go to war against a powerful antagonist when she is verging on a state of bankruptcy, and when her inhabitants are taxed to distraction, could not be other than disastrous to that country even if she were victorious, and it would be utter ruination if she were beaten.

Such considerations may well make the German Emperor and the German people pause before they plunge Europe into all the horror and hideousness of a terrible war. In the present day, where nation depends on nation, no matter what the issue in a great war, every country engaged in it must suffer greatly, not merely the conquered, but the conqueror, for trade and commerce would be crippled if not paralyzed, and the money used for promoting the arts of peaceful industry would be squandered in maintaining great armies in the field, and carrying on hostilities to a finish. Apart altogether from and consideration of business relations or money making which are, after all, but sordid considerations in the face of the awful calamity a great war would bring on humanity; it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive what death and desolation a great war between civilised nations would mean at the present day, when the genius of man has invented such powerful machines for destruction of life and property, and the mind shudders at what would certainly take place in the event of war being declared. That such will not be the case at this time is the earnest hope of ever sober minded person in Europe, and that the Emperor of Germany may find some method of gratifying his ambition and helming his Empire to take its proper place in the sun without resorting to the horrible scheme of sacrificing human life and drenching Europe with blood.


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