Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

The chances of the former Anderson High School site at the Knab in Lerwick being partly converted for sporting provision took a punch to the solar plexus last week.

A mainland-based company, 7N Architects, was asked to come up with plans for the area. But there was no carte blanche involved. The SIC had obviously stressed that its preferred option was for a large social housing scheme, along with a few unqualified additions at the back of the oldest part of the school and the former Bruce Hostel, and the retention of the science block below the Janet Courtney Hostel.

A representative from 7N suggested that ideas from meetings held three years ago had been fed into the council’s brief, but most who attended last Tuesday’s presentation were very much in the dark about that.

Officials – I’m not even sure that elected members have much of a say any more – appear to be of the opinion that more and more houses are what is needed in Lerwick. That is despite the fact that the town’s two primary schools are bursting at the seams, parking is often difficult … and don’t let’s get started on the health centre.

Twageos resident Willie Henderson, who spent many years working for the council’s housing department himself, raised several important points about the impact of over 100 extra dwellings on the area. There was only one road in and one road out, he emphasised, adding that the whole idea was madness.

The outline plans revealed last week by 7N may be just an an initial proposal, but they showed an astonishing lack of imagination. Cramming the area between the old school and hostels and Knab Road with hen-house-style units is not the wish of the people, save for a few council officials who are totally blinkered to the wider picture.

I commend the excellent turnout from hockey enthusiasts at the site meeting, and their energetic canvassing for a proper playing surface in town. And there are separate representatives who are arguing for some kind of provision, otherwise their sports could suffer. Among them are gymnastics, cricket and others, who in the past made use of the AHS games hall but are not catered for at the new Clickimin indoor centre.

On the subject of the games hall on the former school site, there is a story being peddled just now that the building is on its last legs, conveniently with the threat of demolition imminent. That’ll be similar to the old library at the Hillhead. It was said to be totally crumbling and the service was moved to the St Ringan’s UF Church. But now, lo and behold, the original building is suddenly fine and dandy and could well become a library again.

The participation of sport in Shetland is at an all-time high and the provision of facilities has steadily grown since the sensible decision to build the Clickimin Centre in the 1980s.

The relocation of the Anderson High School is the first time since then that we appear to be moving backwards. That should not be allowed to happen.

: : : : : : : :

Scotland’s rugby victory over Samoa on Saturday certainly made for an entertaining spectacle with the most points ever seen at Murrayfield in an international.

The turnout was tremendous, with a near capacity crowd certainly getting their money’s worth with a 44-38 scoreline which included 11 tries.

The fragile nature of the home defence will obviously be of some concern, however, with the Samoans seeming to score every time they got inside the opposition 22. Every time Scotland got what appeared to be a reasonable cushion, back came the visitors with a try of their own.

This Scottish team is having some desperate bad luck with injuries, with the names of prop WP Nel, lock Tim Swinson and back row forward Rob Harley now added to those already ruled out.

Coach Gregor Townsend does not have his problems to seek, especially with world champions New Zealand the opposition for tomorrow’s second match of the autumn series.

Townsend can take some heart from the fact the All Blacks normally give Scotland a greater degree of respect than some international teams, and scores between the two can occasionally be reasonably close.

There were some positives from the Samoan match, including the return of Stuart Hogg and Huw Jones and a fairly competent display in the set pieces. But New Zealand are an entirely different proposition and another porous defensive display could lead to an embarrassment.

: : : : : : : :

Fond memories were recalled when I discussed an obituary for the Rev David Harbison with a few Whalsay folk this week.

Harbison, who spent nine years there as the Church of Scotland minister, is most well known for his development of football in the isle.

His popularity was such that kirk attendances during his time, I am told, were at a level not seen before and certainly never matched since his departure in 1967.

Although many were not particularly religious their attendance was out of respect for, as Charlie Hutchison puts it, “one of the best men Whalsay has ever seen”.

Harbison was a very good footballer himself and also a top class athlete during his school and university days, winning honours at national level.

When he arrived in Shetland for his first ministerial post in 1958, Whalsay football was only just starting to take off and he more than anyone did much to further that.

He led Whalsay to Parish Cup glory in 1961, the first year the team entered the competition, and four years later he was picked for the Shetland side to face Orkney in the inter-county.

While the match was never going to eclipse that of the previous year when Shetland returned from Orkney with an incredible 9-7 victory, the Gilbertson Park encounter was a memorable one.

When the match ended 2-2 after the 90 minutes extra time was played. Orkney took the lead for the first time to make it 3-2 but Shetland centre forward Jimmy Mouat scored a well-taken penalty to tie things up and complete his hat trick.

Harbison, who The Shetland Times described as “the first man of the cloth to sport the blue shirt” and “the mainstay of the very popular Whalsay team which makes friends wherever it plays”, had performed well and supplied some excellent crosses.

With nine minutes remaining of the extra period he had a great effort for the winner. The match report stated: “Mouat slipped the ball to the wing, the minister ran on to it, the keeper came out to challenge and a real rocket shot just went over the bar. Had it been a shade lower it would have been a goal worthy of winning any game.”

That 1964 game, which my father took me to, was the first adult football match I saw. The crowd was two or three deep along the touchline in front of the park gates and I recall having to be lifted up at one stage to see some of the action.

I remember the tremendous display by Mouat, who had moved to centre forward only because star player Bert Sinclair had been left out after missing a training session, and the towering performance by Ness man Ian Manson at centre half.

But the presence of the balding left winger also left its mark, and being told “Yun’s da Whalsa minister” when I enquired further.

David Harbison died peacefully at a care home in Ardrossan last month. A death notice described him as a man dearly loved by his wife, children, grandchildren and sister. I am sure a generation of Whalsay folk can be added to that list.

: : : : : : : :

The shocking decision to award a penalty to Switzerland in the World Cup play-off against Northern Ireland, which effectively put the Irish out, surely reinforces the case for using video technology.

Obviously it could not be used at every match, but for important ties such as this it needs to be brought in.

There are other instances where refereeing errors have been responsible for teams exiting a competition. Remember when Thierry Henry deliberately handled the ball to keep it in play before squaring for William Gallas to score – and as a result the Republic of Ireland’s 2010 World Cup qualification chances ended.

Nearer to home, a free kick was wrongly awarded to Italy at Hampden Park which killed off Scotland’s hopes of making it to Euro 2008.

Video evidence is consulted in other team sports such as rugby and cricket. I’d say it is now time for football to follow suit.


Add Your Comment

Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.