Past Life: A Year of Mixed Fortunes

From Shetland Life, December 1986, No.74

(Extract from) Editorial Comment: A Year of Mixed Fortunes

 1986 will soon be over. It has been a year of mixed fortunes for Shetland culminating in the terrible tragedy near Sumburgh when 45 men lost their lives.

The past year has shown conclusively that the oil boom is coming to an end. There will be benefits for years to come but the excitement that swept Shetland in the 1970s and early 80s has gone for ever to be replaced by a more realistic atmosphere. In local industries, too,  there have been setbacks with the collapse of Shetland Fish Ltd and the Reawick Lamb Marketing Company, either of which would have been regarded as an economic disaster not so long ago. That businessmen were prepared almost immediately to risk their money where others had failed indicates a high degree of confidence in the islands’ economy.

The tourist trade continues to grow, thanks in part, to skilful promotion funded by Shetland Islands Council. Shetland has a lot to offer the holiday-maker and this industry should grow steadily, provided our prices are competitive with other holiday areas. It is good to see the increasing number of visitors from Scandinavian countries – areas with which we have much in common.

However for most people it is smaller more personal things that make a year memorable. For many it has been a good year with happy occasions to remember but inevitably there are those who feel that there is little to celebrate this Christmas. On the whole Shetland has fared better during the past year than most parts of the country. Unemployment is low and most people are enjoying a standard of living that the islands have never known before. But happiness does not depend on one’s financial situation. If we take stock and count our blessings, as previous generations of Shetlanders used to do more regularly than we do we will find that few places in the world are more favoured than this windswept group of islands at the northern extremity of the UK.

At the same time we cannot ignore the problems that are facing the world at large – the slaughter of innocent people in places as far apart as Afghanistan, the Middle East and South America; the hatred that leads to killing in Northern Ireland and South Africa; the nuclear menace, epitomised in names like Chernobyl and Dounreay and with it the underlying fear that the world may blow itself apart in a nuclear war. A more imminent disaster faces the world from AIDS, the result of Man’s stupidity in abandoning the rules laid down both by Scripture and common sense for governing human relationships. Our children have inherited a terrible legacy from their elders bt, as the rising generation, they will have to sort out a mess for which they were not responsible. It is surely a terrible indictment of our society that young children have to learn about such topics as drugs and promiscuity and the threat that they pose to mankind. No longer can one talk about “the carefree years of youth.”

* * *

Soon it will be Christmas and for a few days at least the happiness of the festive season will help to banish the gloom of mid-winter – in human as well as seasonal terms. The light that first shone from Bethlehem almost two thousand years ago still radiates its message of love and peace to a world that is more lost and bewildered than at any time in its history and more in need of hope than ever. We must have hope that our present problems will be solved, that the world will be a better place for all mankind and that the old values of truth, fidelity, compassion and common decency will be given their due respect in society.


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