Times Past

25 Years Ago

Four Shetland men risked their lives by going into a burning building to check if there was anyone inside a blazing television lounge at the Staney Hill Hostel in Lerwick. They were driven back by thick choking smoke but fortunately the lounge was empty.

The blaze at the council-owned hostel was spotted shortly after midnight on Tuesday by Leslie Setrice, who fetched assistant manager Neil Hall. Two other residents, Robin Gilfillan and Stuart Graham, had also seen the flames coming from the block which contained the television lounge, games room and dining area and called the fire brigade. The four then met outside the burning block and went inside.

Mr Hall said: “We switched on the lights and saw lots of flames coming from behind one of the doors to the television room. I opened the door but there was too much smoke. I shouted to see if there was anyone inside. There was no way we could even put a fire extinguisher on it. Then we decided to get out and leave it to the fire brigade.”

By the time Lerwick’s three fire appliances were on the scene flames 20 feet high were spurting from the broken windows and the walls were on fire in places.

Two firemen wearing breathing apparatus went into the building and used hoses to prevent the fire spreading into the other half of the building which contained the canteen.

Meanwhile staff carried out a check to make sure the 40 residents were all safe.

Workmen demolished the half block which had contained the television lounge, games room and lavatories. On Tuesday afternoon Divisional fire officer Mr Graham Carlile said that there were no suspicious circumstances. The block was rebuilt six years ago following a suspected arson.

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The question mark hanging over the charitable trust’s Christmas grants to pensioners should be cleared up next Friday when a special council meeting will be held to decide on whether the money will be given and where it will come from.

The Inland Revenue is at the root of the problem. It questioned whether the trust’s grants to pensioners should be tax-free since it took no consideration of the recipient’s financial status.

At a trust meeting last Friday, when members were told of the special meeting, it was stated that the money for the grant could come from the SIC reserve fund.

Mr David Costello, of the SIC’s finance department, said this week that there is no reason to believe the grant will not be given, and that a switch to funding from the reserve fund will make no difference to the amount received by Shetland’s pensioners.

50 Years Ago

A fortnight’s visit to the isles to provide dental treatment led to a Lerwick dental surgeon incurring a total loss of £223!

This was stated by the dentist, Mr P. S. Gall, at a meeting of Health Executive Council last Thursday. He added that while he wanted to provide a service for the isles, it was pretty obvious he could not keep on running like that.

The chairman, Mr W. R. T. Hamilton, suggested that the Council might invite the Dental Service Committee and the chief dental officer for Scotland to visit Shetland and examine the position at first hand.

Mr R. Adair said he had noticed there was a young dentist in the outlying area of the Hebrideas subsidised to the extent of £1600, and was likely to have that amount raised to £2000 this year. If the council asked for an investigation they might get a subsidy too.

Mr Gall said that he now had a small boat of his own, and he could go around the isles during the summer. But it would be difficult in winter, when places like Fetlar, Skerries, Whalsay, Fair Isle and Foula were out of the question. There was a terrific overhead in running a practice, and he could not afford to be away from his practice unless he was subsidised.

The clerk said that he had made enquiries in Orkney, Argyll, and Inverness to see what the position was in these places. In Orkney there was a dentist who intended to go to the isles every two months. He was paid travelling and subsistence, plus travelling time – very similar to what the Shetland Council was already paying. It seemed to work well and everybody was happy. In Argyll two brothers from Glasgow were using their own converted M.F.V. as a dental surgery, and there were no complaints from patients or dentists. The same pair did the Inverness islands, while another Glasgow dentist visited outer areas of Inverness. All were paid on pretty much the same basis of travelling expenses and loss of remunerative time while travelling.

It was agreed that an invitation should be sent to the Scottish Committee and chief officer, after Mr Gall had said he would welcome a visit, when he could produce all the necessary figures for their perusal.

100 Years Ago

Yell Agricultural Society – A largely attended and enthusiastic meeting of the members of the above society was held in the Mid-Yell Public School on Friday of last week, presided over by Jas. A. Loggie, Esq., Lerwick, Vice-President of the Society.

The minutes of the previous meeting being read and adopted, the Secretary intimated that since last meeting the Marquis of Zetland, and W.J. Turnbull, Esq., Edinburgh, had each sent donations of £5 5s, and R.N. Ballantyne, Esq., £1 1s. Several new members joined.

The prize-list for the 1912 show was again carefully gone over, keeping in view the most suitable prizes for the district, and it is now almost into shape for final consideration at a later meeting before the show.

The Society being desirous to encourage school gardening decided to arrange for prizes to be given for the best kept garden and also for produce from these gardens. It may be found possible to give prizes to those children showing the best results in flower cultivation, but this would depend entirely on what funds were available for the purpose. The Secretary stated that W.J. Gordon, Esq., Windhouse, the president, had kindly offered the use of one of his fields for the show.

The meeting instructed the Secretary to write to the Parish Council and request that body to make a strong representation to the Congested Districts Board showing the need of one or two bulls for the Island of Yell.

The invested funds of the Society at this date amount to £29 8s. The membership now stands at considerably over 120, representing a sum of £7 3s. It will thus be seen that although the Society has made a good beginning, and its membership is steadily increasing, financial assistance is still urgently needed in order to place it on a firm basis, and to meet the initial expenses which will be incurred at the first show. The Society are therefore compelled to appeal to all those who are interested in the progress of agriculture to give what little help they can. It must be borne in mind that since the failure of the fishings, so far as this island is concerned, the crofter has now nothing to bring in a living except such precarious income as his stock can produce, and the object of the Society is to stimulate that industry and encourage the crofter to improve his stock of animals.

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Dunrossness School Board – A special meeting of the School Board took place at Levenwick on Thursday at noon. The meeting had been called to meet Mr Rankine, H.M. Inspector, and to consult with him, with a view to arranging cookery classes in connection with the schools in the parish. After some discussion, the Board resolved to fall in with the suggestion, and it was unanimously agreed that day cookery classes be opened in the schools at Sandwick, Cunningsburgh, Levenwick, Virkie, and Quendale; and should these prove successful the scheme might be extended to evening classes for cookery in those schools. The Clerk was instructed to apply to the County Education Committee, giving the cost of the equipment required for the teaching of cookery, and asking the County Education Committee to stand half the cost of same.


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