Friday, 16 December 2016

1960s/70s Shetland (and some of their boats)

When I was very young, my grandfather handed me his 35mm Nikon camera and let me take a photo of him standing on his front walkway, a photo that I still have somewhere, and an occasion that I still recall ever so slightly. I still possess and occasionally use the camera with which I made my first ever photograph, and I assume that I inherit my interest in photography from my grandfather. He amassed a large collection of trays full of slides (and has his own dedicated projector room where he used to show them to us), of which I have attempted to scan as many as I can over the years. I will occasionally show some of those images here, when it suits me to do so. 

One of the most recent trays to be scanned contained images of Shetland, a group of islands north of Scotland. My grandmother was born there, and my grandparents went back there several times. I am not able to be certain on the dates of all the slides in the post, but one trip was in 1961 (thgouh the visit of HMY BRITANNIA in some of the photos may coincide with a 1960 visit - hard to tell). The second batch of slides near the bottom was probably taken in the mid- to late- 1970s. Most of the images below were taken in Lerwick, the capital.

I should note up front that I am far from an expert on all things Shetland, and I am frequently referring to Wikipedia and other internet resources for the contents of this post, and I probably still have things wrong. (Corrections always welcome, of course).

What I am assuming is a view from above Lerwick, with the island of Bressay in the background.
My great-aunt remained in Shetland, and lived in Lerwick. While my grandparents went back many times, I only made the trip once when I was 13 - we returned to spread my grandmother's ashes in the town of her birth, Walls (or, more properly, Waas). I do not remember much of that trip, but what I do remember is of Walls and Lerwick.

Of great interest to me, of course, are the boats of Shetland. From what I can gather, traditional boats from Shetland have their roots in Scandinavia, and are clinker built. One of the larger types, not built since the 1880s, was the Sixareen (alternatively known as the Sixern, and apparently Sixaerin).

This sketch was in my grandfather's possession. It dates from 1933, and has seen better days. It is credited to "By Permission of A Johnson", but I don't know who actually drew it up.
These double-enders were square rigged, carried 6 oars (hence the name), and could fish farther offshore than the smaller Yoal. The boats that were numerous in Shetland when my grandfather visited were smaller "Shetland sailing skiffs" (hopefully I have the name right), which when rigged for sailing carried a fore-and-aft rig. They appear to have been used entirely for recreation at that time.

A Shetland sailing skiff. So many of my grandfather's slides have faded over the years, but this one doesn't suffer from that problem. The house just over the mast of the boat is the Church of Scotland manse in Walls (Waas), where my grandmother was brought up.
The Church of Scotland manse in Walls (Waas) with a Shetland sailing skiff moored in front of the house. We spread my grandmother's ashes in front of this house in 1987. The island on the left horizon is Vaila, for which my grandmother was named. Family legend has it that my great-grandfather wanted to name his other daughters after two other islands visible from the house, Linga (left middle ground) and Foula (further offshore to the right), to which my great-grandmother put her foot down. Photographer unknown.
At the time, the older style of wooden fishing boat in the background of the next image were also still common.

Somewhat traditional Shetland skiffs in the foreground with a then-common style of fishing boat in the background.

There was an active racing fleet of Shetland sailing skiffs in Lerwick in those days (and there may still be for all I know).

A line of Shetland sailing skiffs racing to windward. This photo may have been taken as early as 1954, and one of the boats may have belonged to a family member.
I wonder if the "L" on the sails in the above image stands for "Lerwick", in which case I suspect the "S" on the sails in the image below may stand for "Scalloway" which is located to the west of Lerwick. My conclusion here may be highly suspect, of course.

Shetland sailing skiffs. I have to think that it is a race day with the number of boats ready to go.

Shetland sailing skiff.

Shetland sailing skiff.

I'm not sure what this boat is for, but assume it is some sort of fishing boat.
The next photo helps to date these slides to the 1960-1977 period, during which the ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick was the St. Clair (3). She was 3303 tons and 296 feet, and could carry 314 passengers.

From 1960-1977, the ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick was the St. Clair (3).

Fishing boat on what I assume to be the Lerwick waterfront.

Collection of small boats in front of an unidentified ship.

Tug Atlantic.
Took me a while, but I was able to figure out that this was the tug Atlantic built for Bugsier Reederei-und Bergungs A.G. of Hamburg, Germany. You would think it would have been easy, but narrowing down vessels named "Atlantic" isn't easy when you aren't sure whether it was the name of the tug or the towing company. She worked as a tug until 1988, after which she was laid up and eventually converted to a yacht. There is more information about the vessel here (you need to scroll down a bit). Mac Mackay covered a fleet-mate, Oceanic, on his Tugfax blog.

Some years later, in 1967 or so, my grandfather caught another sister tug Simson in Halifax towing an oil rig.

Tug Simson (left) towing an oil rig in Halifax Harbour.

Scanned backwards, of course, and I uploaded before I noticed.

Several of the older wooden fishing boats rafted together.

Lerwick waterfront.
This does not necessarily date the following two photos, but HMY BRITANNIA made a visit to Shetland in 1960.



Even in ~1960, more modern steel fishing boats were displacing the older wooden fishing boats.

Newer steel fishing boats.

Older wooden fishing boats hauled up and being dismantled.

Fishing boats.

The view from my great-aunt's house: a snowy Lerwick, with a tug of some sort in the background.

My mother believes this image is of a fair in Cunningsburgh, some way south of Lerwick.
In February, the locals hold a fire festival called Up Helly Aa. Each year, a replica of a Viking galley (like the one below) is burned at night as part of the celebration. The photos below may actually have been taken by my grandmother, on a separate trip.

Viking galley replica to be burned during Up Hely Aa.

Up Helly Aa.

Up Helly Aa. The dragon head of the galley seems to appear to the right of the red cloud, so it probably hasn't been put to the torch just yet.
I started out shooting negative film, and grew accustomed to the 2x3 ratio image of the 35mm format that is replicated by my camera gear today. While scanning my grandfather's slides, I see a variety of image formats, including the square format of the images above. Fast forward to the 1970s and another trip back to Shetland, and he appears to have changed to a 35mm slide format. Shetland had changed somewhat as well. By this time, he would have been using the old Nikon that I still use occasionally.

Commercial Street in downtown Lerwick. The building with the columns in the background is now the Bank of Scotland. Google Streetview once again proves its worth.

I have to think the second "Goodlad" is a bit redundant.

Small coaster Saturnus in Lerwick with a cargo of tanks, as seen from the Esplanade. I managed to find another photo of Saturnus, but no further information.

Fishing boat in Lerwick, with The Grand Hotel in the background.

Fishing boat Wavecrest.

I assume this ship was involved in offshore oil exploration.
My grandfather would probably have gotten a kick out of the thought that I would be scanning his slides some 32 years after he passed away. It certainly occurs to me that he was probably the last person to touch the actual slides before I pulled them out to put them into the scanning guide.

1 comment:

  1. If you're interested in Shetland boats, you might find this book interesting: