Bressay pensioner denies charge which saw him banned from lunch club

An 88-year-old widower has been barred from the pensioners’ lunch club at Islesburgh for allegedly swearing at a teenager, a charge which he strongly denies.

Roy Whitehead
Roy Whitehead

Roy Whitehead, from Bressay, has been unable to go to lunches for more than six weeks. He has tried to get the ban rescinded but the council, which runs Islesburgh, is adamant that it should stand, citing “aggressive behaviour”.

Mr Whitehead lives alone and says the lunch club is one of his “few contacts” with other people. He is one of its older members, has been a regular since his wife died six years ago, and would like to get back there.

But his six-month ban could be extended indefinitely if he refuses to meet  Islesburgh staff and agree to “standards of behaviour”.

Mr Whitehead is reluctant to do this. He said: “I most certainly would be unwilling to meet them, I’ve been humiliated enough.”

He described the situation as “stalemate” and said he is disappointed with the stance taken by the Royal Voluntary Service, the charity that runs the lunch club since it moved to the community centre from Freefield.

He said: “What saddens me is that RVS [seem to have] completely ignored it. I thought their main aim was to help elderly people.”

However his real problem is with the council’s sports and leisure department. After the ban for using “inappropriate language” was imposed by Islesburgh manager Dale Smith, initially for an indef­inite period, following an incident on 9th August, Mr Whitehead wrote to sports and leisure manager Neil Watt.

Five weeks later he received a reply, reiterating the ban but this time limiting it to six months from August. He plans to ask his councillor to look into the situation and is considering community mediation.

Mr Whitehead believes he has been unjustly treated since the incident, which happened when he was eating lunch.

According to him, a boy, “who looked about 14”, was playing pool alone on the pool table in the corner of the general purpose room, where the lunch club is held – and was hitting the balls so hard with his cue that one came off the table.

Mr Watt declined to comment about Mr Whitehead’s ban. The Royal Voluntary Service did not wish to comment.


Add Your Comment
  • ann henderson

    • September 26th, 2013 18:45

    Why are kids playing in a room where pensioners are eating?

  • Ivan Coghill

    • September 26th, 2013 18:53

    Storm in a tea cup?

  • Peter Ley

    • September 26th, 2013 20:43

    Reading this, I am seeing a sad bunch at Sport & Leisure where more of those infernal ‘Do as I say’ individuals treat pensioners like naughty children because of one little ripple. It’s not a hanging offence so why make such a big issue of it?

    The trouble with the human race is the people.

  • Suzy V Jolly

    • September 26th, 2013 23:36

    Do the council ban teenagers too or could there possibly be a case of ageism going down here?

  • David Spence

    • September 27th, 2013 2:28

    I find it quite alarming that a pensioner should be banned from the lunch club for a behaviour that you hear every day in the street by certain members of the youth of today…….in fact, some cannot even string a sentence together unless it contains the odd expletive (and I suspect at Islesburgh Youth Club where the offender is more than likely NOT banned from the youth club for swearing either at other people of their own peer group or staff)

    I think Mr Dale Smith’s action against Mr Whitehead is, I would say, double standard and more than likely hypocrisy if he is prepared to, probably, let young people off with such behaviour because they are young……and probably to his mind…..lack any form of politeness or proper etiquette (allegedly)…….even so, swearing is swearing and the rule should be applied to the young as well…..which it probably isn’t.

  • Stewart Mac

    • September 27th, 2013 10:53

    I am not, and would not, condone any form of abusive behaviour such as is perhaps being suggested here however i thought everyone was given assurances when the Lunch club moved to islesburgh that the pensionser would be way better off at the new place?

    It seems if the reporting is correct that the lunch club takes place in a room where other patrons are still permitted whilst the lunch club is going on? Im not convinced that the elderly would enjoy eating lunch whilst others play pool around them. Im not sure i would enjoy my lunch in such surroundings either.

    Sounds like more information is needed here to find out whether the reports are accurate and what actually occurs on a day to day basis.

  • Hazel wiggins

    • September 27th, 2013 11:26

    Even if this gentleman used bad language, so what, he is 88 years old probably served in the war and worked until he retired.

    Then in his retirement he is rewarded by being banned from a lunch club, a social activity which is probably a lifeline for him. Where he has to eat his lunch in an area where young folk are playing pool?

    SIC and RVS you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • Raymond Smith

    • September 27th, 2013 11:43

    Why should an OAP have too put up with someone rattling pool balls around a table while they eat their lunch. A bit of common sense should prevail here. Local management seems to have gone over the top with reaction in banning this OAP.

    Raymond Smith

  • David Seymour

    • September 27th, 2013 12:07

    It’s a one sided story with only the ‘victims’ side to go by (and I think it would be entirely inappropriate for staff at SIC and RVS to comment on the ban to the media anyway). Some of the comments here are worthy of the Daily Mail:

    “It’s not a hanging offence so why make such a big issue of it?”

    Who is making a big issue of it? I’d say that The Shetland Times and commentators here are.

    “one little ripple”

    SIC staff cite ‘aggressive behaviour’

    “I find it quite alarming that a pensioner should be banned from the lunch club for a behaviour that you hear every day in the street by certain members of the youth of today”

    You don’t know the details the ‘behaviour’, yet have managed to extrapolate that unknown factor into accusations against ‘certain members of the youth of today’

    “I think Mr Dale Smith’s action against Mr Whitehead is, I would say, double standard and more than likely hypocrisy if he is prepared to, probably, let young people off with such behaviour because they are young……and probably to his mind…..lack any form of politeness or proper etiquette (allegedly)”

    Two instances of ‘probably’, one of ‘more than likely’ and an ‘allegedly’ all in one sentence, but you feel you know enough about the situation to comment on it publicly?

    “he is 88 years old probably served in the war and worked until he retired.”

    ‘Probably’ seems to be a theme here.

  • Richard Gibson

    • September 27th, 2013 12:17

    I am with you Roy. Sounds like guilty until proved innocent!

  • David Spence

    • September 27th, 2013 12:46

    I would have expected an element of fair play here, which has not been mentioned in this report, by giving the person (the pensioner) a caution or atleast a subtle reprimand rather than an outright ban.

    I am sure if the boy in question had hurt somebody or damaged property as a result of the pool ball flying off the table, the boy probably ‘ would not have been banned ‘ and just told to behave themselves.

    I think Mr Whitehead should be allowed back to the Lunch Club as it is a prime example of an over reaction by the SIC and RVS.

    I would also like to ask Did the boy in question apologise for his disruptive behaviour, and was he also banned from the Youth Club?

    This example is a prime example where it seems kids have more rights that adults, and they can, literally, get away with anything under the guise of……well, you know.

  • John Anderson

    • September 27th, 2013 13:20

    Well said, David Seymour. There is a heck of a lot of assumption going on here. The Shetland Times is getting fond of these tabloid-style tales, and the SIC is entirely right not to comment.

  • Johan Adamson

    • September 27th, 2013 13:37

    I think they should have got the two together, like a sort of restorative justice, got them to both apologise and move on.

  • Stephen Johnston

    • September 27th, 2013 14:11

    I’ve know and worked regularly with Roy for over 30 years and have yet to hear him swear.

  • David Spence

    • September 27th, 2013 14:46

    Well Mr Seymour, if you know more about the said situation please enlighten us more on the subject.

    I have been to the Islesburgh Community Centre (as part of a project related to traditional dances) and have heard for myself kids swearing at each other and nothing has been done about it……so yes, I think I am right in saying there is an element of hypocrisy and double standards. One rule for them another rule for Mr Whitehead.

    Admittedly there is only one side of the story being publicised, and yes, there may be an element of bias against the action(s) of the SIC and RVS. Even so, I do think it is a little heavy handed the way in which it has been dealt with and also, as mentioned, the impression of unfair justice towards, lets say, a more valued member of the community (in terms of their contribution to society).

    I cannot see why the Pensioners Lunch Club cannot be held across the road in the Hostel (especially when the hostel is closed during the winter season) as it is away from the disruption of other people using the Community Centre, and the surroundings are more pleasant.

  • Ken Gear

    • September 27th, 2013 16:31

    Here is an 88 year old man whose wife has passed away recently and who says the lunch club is his main contact with folk. Youth smouth; personally I find the social commentary in general far from sympathetic with a lonely old (and indeed perhaps understandably grumpy) man who has been the victim of what can charitably be described as loathsome, officious PC garbage. The UK has totally lost the plot with all this politically correct bull***t, and it saddens me deeply to see how much this utter garbage has penetrated Shetland. For goodness sake how about all reading this demand that the council immediately and without further PC bureaucracy or posturing face saving allow the old fellow back to his club. What has happened to Shetland? If this is how it treats it’s vulnerable old folk it certainly hasn’t improved since I left almost 30 years ago. Shame on you SIC; my wife who is a Buddhist says that Karma will return to the decision makers involved. I hope they will rectify this affront so that whatever your beliefs this becomes academic.

  • Michael Garriock

    • September 27th, 2013 21:22

    It couldn’t have happened at Freefield.

    Where were the SCT when the pensioners were being driven up the road with their arms twisted behind their backs, it was surely set up for incidentals like this wasn’t it – Oh, yeah, they were over-committing to pie in the sky windmills, and everything else gets the chop as a result.

  • Rachel Buchan

    • September 27th, 2013 22:21

    And have any of the bairns never sworn when they’re at Islesburgh? Well I know they do, because my bairns go there. They tell me what’s going on, and some of the behaviour is shocking. I’m not saying my bairns are innocent, of course they’re not. But I dinna see any of them getting banned! I think that the man involved should never have been banned. He should have been allowed to eat his dinner in peace, and speak to his friends, without worrying about misplaced pool balls shooting all over the place!

  • Peg Young

    • September 28th, 2013 6:04

    Not knowing what exactly was said, my reaction is: Wha…..t? A pool-playing teenager is offended by someone swearing? What’s the world coming to? It seems to me that the most offensive language I’ve heard in recent years comes from the young. Every second #%$@#&$ word is a #$%^&#$ swear word. Sigh……

  • Ted Knight

    • September 29th, 2013 14:26

    Unbelievable! Would be more appropriate, in my view, to sack the po-faced PC brigade that currently run this nineteenth century, out-of-touch establishment than bar this chap from his lunch.

  • geoffrey care

    • October 14th, 2013 12:32

    I join Stephen Johnston in his long experience that it is highly unlikely that Roy Whitehead swore.

    But what is ofgeneral concern is that a fundamental principle arises here -the procedure adopted to arrive at the ban may have been in accord with some internal regulations but failure to have a hearing is a breach of a fundamental right and is also a breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human rights.

    Undoubtedly the decision would be set aside if the matter came before the Courts on Judicial Review


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