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News / SIC urged to make U-turn on hostel name

L/E/F recently fitted a fire suppression system to the Anderson High School hostel.

A MOTION is set to be proposed to Shetland Islands Council later this year to encourage it to reverse its decision not to name the new Anderson High School hostel after former manager George McGhee.

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said he hopes to present the notice of motion to the next meeting of the education and families committee in December.

Last year the SIC went against public support to name the new halls of residence after the now retired McGhee – who worked at the Janet Courtney hostel for nearly four decades – because he was a member of staff who was still alive.

Instead, the local authority chose to call the 100-bedroom building the Anderson High School Halls.

Over half of the 80 votes cast in a consultation was in favour of naming it after the hugely popular warden, while a petition ended up collecting around 750 signatures.

Lerwick man Peter Gear has now reignited the campaign in the same week that keys to the new Anderson and the halls are due to be handed over to the council.

The hostel is only set to be officially opened sometime next year and Gear said the time was right to try to convince the local authority again to make a U-turn.

In a letter due to be presented to councillors, he said: “Whilst last year’s committee decision ran contrary to the voices of hostel residents present and past, there is still time to set this right, as the building’s ‘official’ opening ceremony is not due to take place until next year.

“We urge you to take another look at this, in light of the strength of feeling on this issue.”

Gear said McGhee is “unquestionably one of our most well-respected and hardworking public servants.”

McGhee previously told Sheltland News that he was “honoured and touched that so many people put forward their name and signed petitions for it to be named after me”.

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While he reiterates that he will continue to respect the council’s decision, the hostel man has given his consent for the campaign to restart.

“I was asked if I had any objections to them going forward with [the campaign] again, and I said no,” McGhee said on Thursday.

Thomson cited the council ferry Hendra and Edward Thomason House, as well as the Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow, as examples of buildings or infrastructure named after living people.

The John Goodlad Centre at the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway – which was opened in 2001 to accommodate the expansion of its marine science activities – is named after the former Shetland Catch chairman and current trustee of the fisheries college.

“I’m happy to support this campaign,” Thomson said.

“This was something I promised to look into if I were elected and as councillors we have a duty to listen and represent the public, and when public opinion is so strong, when we can, we have a duty to respect that.

“There was a petition with 750 names on it this time last year, along with ‘George McGhee’ halls being the preferred choice among those consulted, and the very fact this remains an issue a year on with a public campaign continuing to gather pace shows how strong people view this issue.”

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