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Voluntary Action Shetland

Issue 293 - Yule 2020

The New Shetlander is back on the shelves in good time for Christmas, with plenty of varied reading for dark winter nights, and still priced at £3. The striking cover picture is a painting by Janette Kerr.

The lightsome lead article is Mary Blance’s profile of Marjolein Robertson, who as most local folk know is a versatile entertainer, being a ‘comedian, improviser, story teller and film maker’. She was beginning to establish herself at a national level when the 2020 pandemic put an end to stage performances. Marjolein’s hard work and versatility have come to the fore in this difficult year.

The work of the six Young Writers of 2020 appears here. The standard was high in all three sections of Shetland Library’s competition, where the theme of ‘The Cave’ was interpreted in remarkably different ways, ranging from the magical to the science fictional, from the story set in time past to the question of what happens at death. One chilling story develops from the 2020 events we know.

Christine De Luca, Gordon Dargie, James Sinclair, Jim Mainland, Lydia Harris, Maxine Rose Munro and Colin Rutherford all contribute poems. One or two deal with aspects of lockdown.  James Sinclair’s ‘Shipwreck’ shows us the skills and atmosphere of a boat repair yard. Lydia Harris was inspired by items in Tankerness House museum. Christine De Luca’s poems reflect on youth and growing up. They are frank and reminiscent, one set on a burnside, and one in the old Viking cafe, with pop song lyrics to match!

The late John (Jock) Johnson remembered many local businesses on Commercial Street, and recorded them in his article Memories of da Street, kindly forwarded to the magazine by Douglas Smith. Jock depicts a street of watchmakers, bakers, butchers, drapers, grocers and others, with a thriving ‘shebeen’ inside one well-known establishment! Peerie stories bring people and places to life.

Tales of ice-bound ships are part of the legacy of Arctic whaling years. One excellent account recently came to light: Frozen in. The narrative of a Shetland seaman, from his own recital, first published in 1863. We do not know the name of the man whose story it was, who was ‘still but a boy’ that winter in the Davis Straits.

Victuals for fish! The Hanseatic trade from Bremen and Hamburg to Shetland, is by Bart Holtermann and Philipp Grassel. A clear map shows the trading routes, and another, local harbours used by the trading ships. The Germans bought mostly fish, and sold commodities such as flour, beer, cloth and metal goods. We hear of the involvement of the traders in local life, trading ships which were wrecked, and the sites of trading booths. The writers stress that there is potential for a great deal more research to be done, both on sites and in documents.

Quite a lot of research has been done on a certain local car by Brian Duncan, with the help of Graham Johnston, who has written the article PS 1045: Austin Ruby (1934-58). Ten photographs are included. The list of this little car’s owners includes a series of district nurses, some wartime RAF personnel, a minister, shopkeepers, a roads foreman, a man from the Herring Industry Board, a North Mainland councillor, and quite a few others. All the named owners are part of the story, and details of their lives are often included.

The editorial comments on news items about the Council. The editors go on to thank Shetland Amenity Trust for their assistance with the financial difficulty recently experienced by the magazine.

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