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Community / Language expert Derick Herning dies aged 86

Derick Herning addressing Norwegian National Day celebrations in Lerwick in May 2010. Photo: Nat Hall

RENOWNED local linguist Derick Herning died last Friday, aged 86, following a short illness.

Originally from Fife, Mr Herning came to Shetland in 1968 to work as a languages teacher at the former Anderson Educational Institute until his retirement in 1995.

He had a lifelong fascination for languages and was in command of around 30 languages including Gaelic, Afrikaans, Bulgarian and Albanian.

In 1990 he won the title of polyglot of Europe after proving he was fluent in 22 languages.

Lerwick Sheriff Court, Shetland Coastguard and the local police force all relied on Mr Herning’s linguistic skills over many years, including a number of emergencies involving East European fish factory ships in the 1990s.

Former sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie remembered when speaking to Shetland Newsafter retiring from his post at Lerwick Sheriff Court in 2003, how he learned speaking his native Gaelic more fluently thanks to help of Derick Herning.

He once recalled how he had learned speaking Afrikaans, a language exported from Holland to South Africa in the 17thcentury and then shaped by many native languages but also Portuguese and German.

He was then lucky enough to use his Afrikaans skills to speak to a woman walking her dog not far from his home at Lerwick’s Hayfield Court.

“It was a bit rusty and I have to think hard not to make grammatical errors. But I would say I speak Afrikaans without a distinctly Dutch accent,” he told Shetland News back in 1999.

Mr Herning was a long standing chairman of the Shetland Norwegian Friendship Society, Islesburgh Drama Group and local dialect group ShetlandForWirds.

He is survived by his wife Nina. His funeral will be held on Monday at 2pm at St Magnus Church in Lerwick.