Billy’s rare Times has a reminder of bygone age

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A copy of The Shetland Times dated 1875 has been unearthed in a house in Lerwick. Billy Williamson, who works at Lerwick Building Centre, discovered the 136-year-old newspaper among old papers that had been left in a cupboard by a relative.

Mr Williamson has looked through the paper, dated 7th August 1875 and priced at one penny, but could find no clue as to why this issue should have been kept.

However, it is an interesting historical document, he feels, and has donated it to The Shetland Times. He said: “I thought it would be of interest. They could put it in a frame and preserve it.”The front page of the paper, which was published and printed by the proprietor, Christopher Sandison, at the Shetland Times office in Queen’s Lane, Lerwick, and is in broadsheet format, is devoted to adverts.

These are mainly for Shetland bus­­inesses, from drapers to stone cutters for tombstones to plumbers, gasfitters and bellhangers or gig hirers. Many are for medical cures, important in the days before the NHS.

Lerwick’s Medical Hall dispense prescriptions “carefully and accurat­ely” and boasts “fancy tobacco of all kinds always in stock”. Chemist shops advertise quinine wine, and there are more tonics available with Dalroy’s Imperial Eradicator, claim­ing to remove all traces of small­pox.

Inside the paper are more medical adverts – Holloway’s Pills cure “im­purity of the blood” and their “won­derful” qualities are for “the dys­peptic, weak, and nervous may rely on these pills as their best friend and comforter as they act upon the main springs of life and thus save thous­ands from a premature grave”.

Then there are Page Woodcock’s wind pills and Clarke’s Blood Mix­ture, which apparently cures every­thing from scurvy sores to cancerous ulcers, or adverts to “con­sult a London physician by letter without a fee.”

Mr Williamson said: “I looked through the paper and couldn’t find anything relating to the family. Maybe they were looking for Holloway’s Pills!” He was intrigued by the adverts for cures for “debili­tated constitutions”, he added.

In a sign of the times, the paper also features several adverts for emigration. For free passages to “any of the New Zealand provinces” and assisted passages to Canada readers could apply to “John Man­son, local agent”. Agent Richard Tait in his advert for free emigration to New Zealand specified the people required: married and single agri­cultural labourers, navvies, plough­men, shepherds, mechanics, and single female domestic servants, cooks and nurses.

Grants of land and other “induce­ments” were available under a government scheme for emigrants to Canada, and government emigration to New South Wales was also advertised. This was available for married couples not exceeding 40 years of age, with or without children, or single people under 35 for farmers, mechanics and miners and domestic servants. People over 12 would have to pay £5 and 10 shillings, with a reduction for younger people.

Another sign of the times is an article about seal hunting in Green­land, and a poem about summer on the coast full of Victorian sentimen­tality, as in “rippling wavelets murmur music sweet”.

Other parts of the paper are familiar, with letters to the editor and reports from the sheriff court. Letters include one on wildflowers: “Were I to notice all the flowers of interest within a five minutes’ walk of Hillhead this letter would swell to a volume.” Another is on the Teut­onic influence on Shetland words.

The court report shows that two registrars were up before the sheriff for not filling in the records correctly and a fisherman who had been engaged to work on a Faroese vessel and who had received an advance from them and subsequently went to work on another boat was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment with hard labour.

Details of the price of provisions in Lerwick also feature in the paper. A pound of butter was between one shilling two pence to one shilling four pence, mutton was cheaper at eight pence a pound while a loaf was seven pence. Flour and oatmeal were sold by the peck.

Other parts of the slim paper report on the events in various Shet­land districts, with articles densely packed and no photo­graphs. Mr Williamson said: “There is a lot of reading and a lot of pure information.”

When he found this copy of The Shetland Times, issue number 164, he also found two copies of The Shetland News from 1934 and 1936.


Add Your Comment
  • James Stewart

    • October 1st, 2011 14:26

    That’s amazing! The Shetland Times should really have it as a roving exhibit and have it do the tours of the various museums in Shetland!


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