"Service above self"

Rotary Club of Shetland

Rotary wheel outline 100 x 100

The Rotary Month

January / February 2012

2011 was a sad year for the Rotary Club of Shetland with the death of former president Bob Manson so it was great that 2012 started with the opportunity to do something in his memory. Bob was a great supporter of the Red Cross so the Club talked to Red Cross House in Aberdeen to find out whether there was something that the Club could do for them. We were delighted in January when Bob’s children, Dawn and Angus, were able to visit Red Cross House to present them with a new television for use by visitors.

As always, Wednesday night is Rotary night and the Club continued its weekly meetings in January and February. A history theme seemed to develop with speakers covering topics from several centuries past to events that many would remember.

One of the first speakers of the New Year was member David Polson who talked to members about the visit of the royal yacht Britannia in 1981. The Queen was due to visit Shetland to open the Sullom Voe terminal and, as harbour master at the time, a lot of the arrangements for Britannia’s visit fell to David. The Britannia’s navigating officer came up to inspect the berth and left a huge list of instructions that covered everything from the number of phone lines required (twelve) to the angle of the gangplank to the position (and height) of the fenders. The fenders had to be underwater so that they wouldn’t scratch the paintwork and a certain amount of improvisation was required to come up with a solution. The answer was to borrow some very heavy anchor chain from Shell and attach the right amount to the bottom of the fenders.

Our next meeting also looked back but to a very different subject. Our speaker was member Steve Benn who spoke about his time as governor of Hayclife Special Needs School in Bradford. Steve is always willing to help, so when a speaker at his local Rotary club asked for community governors he instinctively said yes. Haycliffe was a school with plenty of problems but turned into a great example of what could be achieved with a little imagination and energy. The arrival of a new headmaster gave the opportunity to change the culture and anyone who could help was asked to get involved. Some of the most helpful people were the local traveller families who not only repaired a lot of the facilities but introduced horse riding and gig driving to the school. The school branched out in all sorts of directions with lots of sports and even a horticulture operation. Word of the school’s success spread and the school ended up with a waiting list

Our next meeting was a return to the present with a visit from Emma Georgeson who is the services manager for the Red Cross in Shetland. Emma gave members an overview of what the Red Cross does worldwide but also what it does locally. Many of these things, such as First Aid training and the Red Cross transport services are probably well known to people but some are probably a lot less so. For example, the Red Cross still provides an international tracing and messaging service and this was used recently by somebody in Shetland to contact their daughter after a hurricane in the USA. One of the fastest-growing services is the Therapeutic Care service. This offers a massage treatment to about 30 people per month, mostly in care centres and greatly helps their well-being.

Our first speaker in February was Bruce Sandison, who gave members his recollections of his wartime childhood in Lerwick. Whilst most of the memories were happy (moving to Haldane Burgess and having a bath with taps!) there also some startling images that had stayed with him, such as the burning flying boat. For members who did not grow up in Shetland, there was plenty in Bruce’s talk that was a surprise, such as the mines exploding at the Sletts in 1942. Bruce’s description of the North Star Cinema as the hub of Lerwick social life seemed to bring back happy memories to several members. If you wanted to see the picture you just had to remember to go to the early showing as by the end of the evening the smoke made the screen hard to see.

Local farmer Ronnie Eunson came to see the Club in February and gave us a fascinating talk about Shetland lamb. When Ronnie started farming in 1985 hill farming was a very uncertain business. Although grants were available for fertiliser and re-seeding, lamb prices varied hugely and it was an unsustainable operation. The focus had started to change to conservation and Ronnie turned his mind to how to make a sustainable, profitable business out of hill farming.

At around this time, Ronnie had heard about the work of Professor Ray Noble and his theories about healthy fats. Modern breeds were focused on milk production and muscle growth and the fatty acid balance in animals had changed. The fats that were good for you had gone. Ronnie sensed an opportunity here as the traditional Shetland breed still had these good fats but how could you market something that you couldn’t see or taste?

The answer was to send lambs out to top butchers and get feedback and it worked. One butcher in London now takes most of Ronnie’s lamb and he has won two Smithfield gold medals for his meat. More widely, the local livestock co-operative has gradually achieved a better return for Shetland’s farmers and the future looks a lot brighter than it did twenty years ago.

Our last speaker in February was member Peter Garrick who took us back to Sandness in 1708. Peter grew up in Sandness where there is a hill called Kitty Ratter’s hill so Peter decided that it was time to find out a bit more about who Kitty Ratter was. It turned out that Kitty, along with her sister Elspeth and brother Andrew, were accused of being witches and were investigated by the Kirk for witchcraft. Whether you believe in witchcraft or not, it seems that the three of them managed to instil terror in their community and they used this power to take whatever they wanted from their neighbours. Kitty died in a snowstorm on the hill and was buried where she died, hence Kitty Ratter’s hill.

The Club is always keen to get involved in local activities and is entering a team into the Relay for Life in May. The proceeds of the raffle at the Club’s next Cheese and Wine evening at the Town Hall at the end of this month will be donated to the Relay Life, along with a matching amount from Club funds. If you see Rotary members out getting fit for the big day in May then please give them your support!

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