Times Past

25 Years Ago

Three years ago Shetland Islands Council changed its mind and left Lerwick Community Council with a load of old cobbles – £8,000 worth of granite paving stone which was to be used in front of the Town Hall to mark its centenary in 1983.

The SIC originally agreed to the paving stones idea, and even gave the community council an £8,000 grant to buy the stones from Aberdeen harbour. But after the purchase, the SIC changed its mind, and since then the stones have been stored on Lerwick Harbour Trust property at Gremista.

The community council cannot sell the stones. To use them for anything other than paving the Town Hall would be to breach the terms of the grant, and could mean the community council having to pay back the £8,000.

This week the community council was told that the stones would have to move again – the harbour trust has another use for the storage space, which has been given free to the community council.

The community council has written to the SIC to get permission to sell the paving blocks, but in the meantime they are wondering just where these rolling stones will end up next.

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The doors of Reawick Lamb were re-opened on Monday by the receiver to allow the slaughter season to be finished. But controversy has been raging within the SIC over the decision to make a £12,500 grant to the receiver for him to start work again at the company.

The receiver said the crofters’ main chance of getting the £49,000 owed them for the lambs already sent for slaughter is to keep sending animals in.

The full meeting of the council which took the decision was only attended by 13 of the 25 councillors, with two of them declaring an interest and taking no part in the debate.

Many of the councillors who were not present were angered by the fact that they felt no effort had been made to tell them that the receiver’s request for a grant might be discussed at a full council meeting called initially only to ratify a decision on accommodation for the finance department. Some only learned of the decision on local radio.

Mr Finn of Hodgson Impey said that as a receiver he was not allowed to take risks but if the council made the grant he was confident the bank would make the other £12,500 he needed to re-open the slaughterhouse available. He added: “This is the first time I have come across a situation when the bank was prepared to put money into a company after it had called in the receiver.”

The council voted 7-3 to make the grant.

In the week that Reawick was closed an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 lambs which would have gone there were bought and shipped to the mainland.

50 Years Ago

Future passengers to Fair Isle may have a more comfortable trip there because of a recent collision at sea, says a National Trust representative. It was, fortunately, a very minor bump and it happened when the island motor boat “Good Shepherd” with about half the population on board, came alongside “Dunera”.

The British India liner was on her National Trust for Scotland cruise. Her circumnavigation of the island, which the Trust owns on behalf of the people of Scotland, was one of the highlights fo the voyage. When her passengers knew the “Good Shepherd” had sustained damage, they opened a repair fund there and then, and over £35 was subscribed within a few hours.

At Trust headquarters in Edinburgh a letter has now been received from Mr James A. Stout, conveying the thanks of the “Good Shepherd’s” crew and the island’s people.

He wrties: “The ‘Good Shepherd’s’ damage was fortunately merely superficial and only a few pounds will see it put right.”

This will leave a balance which he suggests be used for small improvements including seats for the passengers.

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Any Shetlander who happens to find himself in Tanganyika needn’t blink and wonder if he is seeing properly when he catches a glimpse of a Shetland model boat being operated by a native crew on Lake Tanganyika or Lake Victoria.

A move is on foot to build Shetland models of up to 30-ft keel in Tanganyika, and the man behind the suggestion is Mr Ian McDonald, fishery officer responsible for the entire western province of Tanganyika.

His wife is a Shetland lady, formerly Miss Lilian Laurenson from Laxo, and while they were in Shetland Mr McDonald fashioned in balsa wood a three-foot model of a Shetland boat, and he will take this back to Tanganyika with him. Plans for a full-scale prototype have already been sent out, and he hopes that work has actually started on it.

He feels that the Shetland model, fitted with a sail and an engine, will be very suitable type to replace the existing native fishing boats, which are of the canoe type and not very reliable. The project to build the new fleet is government-sponsored, and he hopes that the Shetland-type boats will be a big success.

The boats will be built by a Tanganyika firm, which has a bid reputation for good workmanship using native labour.

100 Years Ago

Terrific Storm in Shetland – The meteorological records of Shetland will require to be searched for a long time back before anyone will find a parallel to the long drawn-out storms which swept over the island during the last week-end, and raised the seas around our coast into seething masses of storm-tossed foam. For over a fortnight the weather had been unsettled. A deep depression – one of the widest and deepest experienced for several years – had visited the north Atlantic. The “eye of the storm” was situated slightly to the south of the Faroe Islands, and while the weather was fairly quiet there, all around, from Iceland right over the whole of north-western Europe the cyclonic storm raged with great fury.

The westerly gale was felt in all its fury at the Hillhead and at the tops of the lanes. The gusts of wind during the day were of great strength, and many people were lifted off their feet and dashed to the ground. Several women received nasty bruises in this manner, and more than one man was injured. The velocity of the wind seemed to be most felt at the top of Charlotte Street and at the top of Pitt Lane. A young man was lifted off his feet on the Hillhead, and thrown to the ground with such violence that he had to remain indoors owing to injuries to his back. A woman was thrown down by the wind and was seriously injured. At first it was thought that she had broken one of her thighs, but she had escaped with nasty bruises on her right thigh and arm. Fortunately, in no case were bones broken, although a goodly number complained of rather severe bruises.

Lying exposed to the full fury of the Atlantic and every breeze that blows from the westward, Scalloway got a lion’s share of Saturday’s storm. Early in the day the wind shrieked over the village with demoniac fury, and the sea driven to desperation, dashed on the shore with appalling force, while the wind, catching up the spray, carried the spindrift over the entire village in a never-ceasing deluge. People of mature years were unable to recall a worse day in their recollection. The sea beat on the shore, and filled the street knee-deep with “waar” and other flotsam and jetsam. Many of the big fishing boats which were considered safely moored commenced to drive, and for a time it seemed as if disaster was unavoidable. However, volunteers went out at a great risk and succeeded in putting out kedges from the boats, which checked the shoreward movement, and kept them in position of safety. Many of the smaller boats, which had been anchored in the bay, foundered at their moorings. Altogether, the day was one which will live long in the memory of the inhabitants of the Ancient Capital, as being a standard for strong wind and heavy sea.

In exposed places in country districts and on unprotected roads, the full fury of the gale was experienced. Travellers who were going from one place to another have thrilling stories to relate. One man, who had no very great distance to go, was overtaken by the gale. For a time he struggled on, until at length his strength was exhausted, and he was almost compelled to lie down, when a dogcart came along, and he got a lift to his destination. But for this he feels quite certain that he would have succumbed. A driver who is on the road most days of the year, says he had the worst experience of his life on Saturday. He set out for Scalloway by way of the Valley of Tingwall. The horse staggered along on the exposed places not so badly, till the top of the Windy Grind was reached, where the velocity of the wind was most terrific. Here, being side on to the gale, trap and driver were more than once threatened to be blown off the road. The trap was running for some time on one wheel, when the driver sprang on its weather side, and by a great effort succeeded in maintaining its equilibrium until the danger zone had been passed. A motor car which was coming from North Roe to Lerwick was met by the gale, and so great was the wind force, that, although running at top speed, the car was brought to a momentary standstill when struck by a squall.


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