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History / Folk invited to share memories and stories of whaling

Collage of historical items and photos related to whaling, including old photographs of whalers, maritime artifacts, newspaper clippings, and product advertisements.

FORMER whalers, their families and the wider community are being invited to take part in workshops in Lerwick next month and share stories about the industry.

It is part of a project called the Whalers’ Memory Bank, launched by the South Georgia Heritage Trust and the South Georgia Museum last year.

The project is about creating a living, growing digital time capsule where veterans of the whaling industry, their families and communities can come together to contribute and share their stories with a wider audience.

Since then, the South Georgia Museum has been busy collecting hundreds of stories, photographs and memorabilia from the former whaling communities.

Shetland has a strong history with whaling, both locally and through folk setting sail to regions like the South Atlantic and Greenland.

In Shetland there were whaling stations in areas like Ronas Voe.

There will be two workshops on Saturday 11 May at Shetland Museum in Lerwick, at 10.30am and 2.30pm, for local people to come along and share any whaling memories and stories.

But people do not need to have had any association with whaling to join in, with a drop-in session also planned for Sunday 12 May.

To book onto a workshop on Saturday 11 May email memorybank@sght.org, or just turn up between 11am and 3pm on Sunday 12 May.

Shetlander Helen Balfour is the community engagement officer for the Memory Bank project.

“The story of modern whaling in the Southern Hemisphere is a controversial one with British companies playing a key role in the industry,” she said.

“These companies had a largely Scottish workforce, with many from Shetland. Now, only a dwindling number of men survive that have first-hand memories of this industry, an integral part of Scottish and Shetland’s social history.

“As someone from a family with many connections to whaling, I am conscious that this is a story well known to some but not one that is more widely understood or discussed.

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“We don’t only want to delve into the stories of whalers, we want to explore questions such as: why was whaling so important? how did it help power the world between the wars, and what was it like to live, and work from the remote island of South Georgia in the Southern Ocean?

“I am looking forward to seeing some familiar faces over the weekend, and we really hope to see as many people as possible to help us shape and tell this hidden piece of Shetland’s and Scotland’s social history.”

As well as the workshops and drop-in sessions at the museum the team will also be running some smaller community drop-in events the following week in more remote communities.

Shetland Amenity Trust’s cultural heritage manager Jacqui Birnie said: “We are really delighted to be a partner in this project and to be working with the South Georgia Museum on this important and sometimes hidden part of Scotland’s history.

“We look forward to welcoming people to Shetland Museum as we work together to shape the Memory Bank. Getting people involved in their history and heritage is a mainstay of our work and this project is a fascinating way of doing that.”

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