Times Past

25 Years Ago

The TV licence detector squad’s recent campaign in Shetland has prompted a sudden rush of work in the main Lerwick post office, with up to 300 applications for new licences.

The detection “task force” was in Shetland earlier this month and returned this week as part of a nationwide crackdown.

Acting head postmaster Mr Jim Johnson said that there had been a “marked increase” in applications for TV licences; between two and three hundred new licences had been issued this month by the Lerwick office. On top of this figure were the licences issued by rural post offices – the Lerwick office had no record of these.

Of the new licences issued, 24 of them had been for black and white licences upgraded to colour.

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A one-day strike by most Shet­land teachers next Thursday seems inevitable following Wednesday’s overwhelming rejection of the Secretary of State Mr Malcolm Rif­kind’s package to settle the teachers’ dispute by Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Secretary of the 300 strong Shet­land branch of the EIS Mr Bill Anderson said: “The Rifkind pro­posals are a typical political swindle. If there was such a thing as an average teacher they would lose £1,100 with this deal. The Main Report had a lot of flaws but we could have talked about it. Main was offering a 16.4 per cent increase back dated to October, but Rifkind is offering half of this next January and the other half next October – who knows what it will be worth by then with things like inflation.”

The EIS’s national council is meeting today and tomorrow in Edin­burgh to consider what action they are going to take in the dispute which has now lasted two years with varying degrees of industrial action.

It has already been decided that if the postal ballot of its 40,000 members rejected Mr Rifkind’s offer there would be a one day strike next Thursday.

50 Years Ago

Unst is to remain a dry area. On Tuesday the first local veto poll in the island since 1925 resulted in a majority of 45 for “continuance” of the dry state which has existed for 40 years.

The voting was : In favour of con­tinuance, 236; in favour of repeal, 191. Total votes cast, 427, out of an electorate of 644, giving a percentage of roughly 66.

In the Unst North division, 300 of the 464 voters cast their vote, while in Unst South the figure was 129 out of 180.

When Unst first went dry in 1921, the majority in favour was 136. The last attempt to turn it wet again was in 1925, when the dries had a majority of 60; now it is cut to 45.

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The urgent need for improve­ments to the road at Clickimin was stressed by Mr Robert Strachan at last Tuesday’s meeting of the County Roads Committee.

He raised the matter on a sub-committee report which noted that gale force winds and high tides had necessitated the removal of seaweed from the roads on three days, and that a retaining wall at Sound Sea Road was breached – storm damage to that road was estimated at £1,240, and it was agreed that the Scottish Home Department be notified of the damage.

Mr Strachan said he would like to move as part of the next major works improvements that the sea road be given consideration. (It became clear he meant the main south road at Clickimin, not the Sound Sea Road). The road was very greasy with tang and he had witnessed what could have been a serious accident.

100 Years Ago

Swedish Honour for Shetland Doctor – The King of Sweden has conferred the honour of “Knight, First Class, of the Royal Order of Vasa” on Dr Thomas E. Saxby, of Baltasound, Shetland Isles, and King George has been pleased to permit the doctor to accept and use the insignia of the Order.

This is one of the highest honours which Sweden bestows (and rarely) on foreigners. The reason for this special favour is explained by the fact that King Gustaf takes a paternal interest in all that concerns even the poorest of his people, and his notice has been drawn to the hundreds of his fishermen who rendezvous at Baltasound, and are indebted to the doctor there for many kindnesses as well as for medical attendance.

No long since, the Commercial Association of Upsala (on the invitation of Dean Törner) issued on behalf of the deep-sea fishers of Sweden an address, which expresses their thanks to the doctor. This address is worded in the simple and poetical English which characterises Scandinavian use of our language. It speaks of “your long, faithful, unselfish and invaluable services,” and it goes on to say, “Swedish hearts have been touched and warmed … The Commercial Asso­ciation of Upsala, which fully understands the hardships and dangers of a fisherman’s life, appreciates very highly your valuable assistance and warm-hearted sympathy in times of need. We are indeed very grateful for all you have done, and it has deeply moved us that you are learning our language for the sake of our country­men.” The address, by the way, is printed on parchment, exquisitely bound on embossed leather, and is a work of such high art as one expects from the craftsmen of a truly artistic nature.

The Swedes who frequent the Shetland seas are a peaceable, courteous race. They are very devout, and observe religious ordinances with strict attention. They have built themselves a little chapel on the shore at Baltasound; and a pastor from their own country resides in the place during the fishing season. The chapel is used as a reading room when storms drive the men into havens. The Shetlanders, of Norse blood, frater­nise very willingly with their peerie visitors, whose “ways” resemble their own, much more than those of the Scottish people.

It may not be out of place to mention here that Dr Saxby’s father was an Englishman, well-known to natural science, and his mother is the author of numerous popular Shetland tales. The doctor’s pater­nal grandfather was the first to elaborate a “weather system” which later scientists now accept as a law of nature. His maternal grandfather was an able naturalist in days when nature study had few devotees. – From “The Westminster Gazette,” 21st November, 1911.

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“Messages” from the Sea – On 11th November Mr John Goodlad, Burra Isle, found a bottle driven ashore on the sea beach there, which on being opened was found to contain no less than five messages, apparently sent off by passengers on the steamer Grampian bound from Greenock for America. The bottle was dropped overboard on 25th June last, when the vessel was about 400 miles out from Greenock.

Pat Skelton announces the fact that he is “getting on all right, and not seasick as yet.” George Anderson announces that owing to stormy weather he has lost a new cap. Peter Graham declares that he is “feeling rotten. I wish I was home with wife.” T. McBryde and Allan Beaton have no special message to give, except the position of the ship at time of writing.


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