A poignant memorial to the many seafarers who lost their lives at sea was officially unveiled today (Friday).
Shetland Seafarers’ Association (SSA) marked the long-awaited unveiling at Hay’s Dock in Lerwick with a special ceremony to coincide with Merchant Navy Day.
It marks the end of a long and sometimes challenging process that was only made possible thanks to the Shetland community.
SSA vice-president Errol Smith greeted crowds of well-wishers, many with seafaring connections, ahead of the official unveiling by Lord Lieutenant Bobby Hunter and a blessing by Aubrey Jamieson of the Shetland Fishermen’s Mission.
Speaking after the unveiling, Mr Smith said it “felt fantastic” to finally have such a fitting memorial.
“There are so many folk who have left Shetland to go to sea, often never to return,” he said.
“Until now we’ve not had any way to properly remember them.
“We have Remembrance Sunday but many of those lives lost at sea were not in conflict, they were lost in weather of accidents at sea – it can be a very hostile environment.
“It’s been a long time coming but it feels amazing to be here today knowing we’ve finally achieved something that will be here long after we’ve all gone.”
SSA treasurer and secretary Callum Smedley said the memorial had been a key focus for the association throughout his five years as a member.
“It’s brilliant to see it here today,” he said.
“We’ve got our AGM next week and it’s really nice to think we’ll be able to write ‘closed’ by this point of business.”
Mr Smedley noted that the SSA had changed its name in from the Merchant Navy Association of Shetland to reflect seafarers in the broadest sense.
“Shetland has such a strong seafaring connection and we wanted this to be for everyone,” he said.
Mr Jamieson, Senior Superintendent with the Fishermen’s Mission , said: “Seafaring and Shetland go hand in hand.
“There’s not a family in Shetland that is not connected in some way to seafaring, either directly or indirectly,
“That’s why it’s so important to have this kind of memorial to remember those we’ve lost.”
Ross Stopper of Shetland firm Hot Gecko Media, who designed the memorial for the SSA, said he had been asked to create a motif which represented the sea and ships.
Having had relatives who worked at sea, some of whom lost their lives, Mr Stopper said it was an honour to have been involved with the memorial.
He used “augmented reality” software to help show the SSA what it would look like when built.
“It looks even more impressive here in reality,” he said.
“It’s great to have something that as soon as you look at it you think of the sea and those lives we’ve lost.”
Among the crowds gathered to watch the ceremony were seafarers of all description, from the young cadets, to tugmen and harbour masters, with every rank of the Merchant Navy represented from deck hand up.
John L Jamieson, 76, spent half a century working at sea including 32 years as a tugman, rising the rank of mate.
“I’ve spent all my life at sea,” he said.
“So I’m really glad to see it – it’s long overdue.”
SSA has thanked the many individuals and organisations who donated to the memorial fund as well as Ocean Kinetics, which built the memorial and Hot Gecko Media, who designed it.