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Tributes / Alistair Goodlad (1943 – 2013): A passionate Shetlander with a global reputation

The late Alistair Goodlad: Nothing gave him a greater sense of satisfaction than seeing fellow Shetlanders doing well – at school, university and in business - Photo: Courtesy of the Goodlad family.

Shetland lost one of its greatest sons when Alistair Goodlad died earlier this month. While Alistair was well known in Shetland, he also had a well-deserved global reputation as a fisheries and fish farming expert.

Alistair was born in 1943 to Henry and Mina Goodlad. Alistair’s father, grandfather and most of his uncles were fishermen so it was perhaps inevitable that the fishing industry would feature in his career.

After school in Scalloway and the Anderson Institute, Alistair went to Aberdeen University where he did a degree in Geography, graduating in 1965.

He then embarked on a PhD about the Shetland fishing industry. He had hardly finished this when, together with two of his uncles, he bought Shetland’s first purser from Norway – the Adalla.

This was typical of Alistair – he saw at an early stage that the days of drift netting were over and he wanted Shetland to be in the vanguard of the purse seining revolution.

Alistair eventually published his PhD as the Shetland Fishing Saga, which remains one of the most authoritative books ever published on Shetland’s fishing history.

He was then appointed assistant professor at Memorial University, St Johns Newfoundland in 1968. Never content to do one job he found time while in Newfoundland to go fishing on 150ft purse netters along the coasts of Labrador and Nova Scotia. He also took his Canadian skippers ticket at this time.

In 1971 he was headhunted by the UN Fisheries and Agriculture organisation as a fisheries specialist, based in Rome. From there he managed fisheries projects worldwide and travelled extensively.

It was while in Rome that he met his future wife Myrtha. They married in Gibraltar in 1973 and were based in Morocco between 1973 and 1974.

In 1975 they moved to Bahrain where Alistair managed a fisheries company and also was involved in setting up a cold store chain across the Middle East. Their daughters Natalie and Alexandra were both born during their time in Bahrain.

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They then moved to Saudi Arabia in 1980 where he was the general manager of the Saudi Fisheries Company, a position he held until the family moved back to Shetland 1982.

No sooner back home in Shetland than Alistair became one of the pioneers of the Shetland salmon farming industry, having set up his own company, Shetland Sea Farms in 1985, which he operated from below his house at Da Cutts, Trondra.

It was during this time that he bought the island of Hildasay and was active as the chairman of the newly formed Shetland Salmon Farmers’ Association.

He sold the fish farm in 1990 and then concentrated on salmon processing. He established Saga Seafoods, which in due course became the major employer in Scalloway until 2006.

At the same time he set up a company specialising in harvesting salmon, which operated several vessels in Shetland and Norway. He also became involved in a number of other fish farming ventures including halibut farming.

Sadly Myrtha died in 1997.

As well as his extensive business interests, Alistair found time to stand for Shetland Islands Council, being elected as the councillor for Burra and Trondra in 1994. He remained on the council until 2003.

During this time he was elected as chairman of the council’s harbour board and of Lerwick Port Authority. Outside Shetland, he was a board member of the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) and of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.

He was a farsighted man. He had the ability to see real potential before others, as his early ventures into purse seining and the fish farming business showed. He was innovative, enthusiastic and optimistic. These qualities not only brought him success in business, but also made him a very popular and inspirational man to all those who got to know him.

Alistair was also generous – with his time, his advice, his encouragement as well as his money. He genuinely wanted to see people getting on and he helped so many people in all kinds of ways to get into business and progress their education. Nothing gave him a greater sense of satisfaction than seeing fellow Shetlanders doing well – at school, university and in business.

Alistair never retired. After selling his fish farming businesss, he remained active buying and restoring property. He also spent a lot of time in his boat, mostly fishing, of course.

He also loved history and was a passionate Shetlander. He was proud of his roots and his community. And he never forgot where he came from. Although he was a great linguist, being fluent in at least six languages, his favourite language was Shetlandic which he loved using. You would never hear Alistair knapping on Radio Shetland. He believed Shetland was capable of achieving far more than it does at the moment. He always looked to Scandinavia as a social and economic model rather than Scotland.

Alistair has left a great legacy to his home islands – not only as a businessman, author, academic and public figure, but also as a friend and inspiration to so many people.

Alistair is survived by his daughters and his wife Yvonne.

Alistair Goodlad, businessman, born 19 September 1943; died 16 December 2013.



Paying tribute during the week before Christmas, council convener Malcolm Bell said: “We were deeply saddened to hear the news that Alistair has passed away.

“He served as a member of the council from 1994 until the election in 2003. I will pay a formal tribute at the next regular full council meeting.

“I and his many friends and former colleagues from within the SIC would like to express our deepest sympathy to his family and this very difficult time”.

Chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority Sandra Laurenson said: “I recall he was chairman of the board when we hosted the Tall Ships race in 1999. He was supportive of all the work that the port authority was doing.

“Although he was a councillor, he was also a businessman, so he had a very commercial mind and that was a useful attribute. It’s a very sad time for Yvonne and the family – he will be sadly missed.”


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