1960 Shetland Hamefarin

A warm welcome for the Hamefarers at Victoria Pier, 1960In 1958, a Mr. John L. Arcus of Wellington, New Zealand, wrote to Zetland County Council and Lerwick Town Council (the civic authorities that would become known in later years as Shetland Islands Council) to suggest that a ceremonial return of those of Shetland extraction worldwide be organised for 1960. The suggestion was taken forward, and in March 1959 an executive committee was formed, under the chairmanship of school headmaster George W. Blance. The committee was charged with welcoming the visitors, organising events across the isles and ensuring that the returning exiles met with a favourable impression of the post-war Shetland.

The main party of ‘Hamefarers’ arrived in Lerwick on board the St. Clair II at 8am on Friday 20th May. The total number of Hamefarers was thought to be nearly eighty, many seeing Shetland for the first time, and they ranged in age from 10-year-old Stewart Irvine from Auckland to Mrs Agnes Brown from Wellington, who celebrated her 77th birthday en route to Shetland. Members of the Hamefarin committee had travelled to Southampton to greet the Southern Cross, the ship that delivered the Hamefarers to the UK.

Concerts, church services, coffee mornings, tea parties, factory visits, shopping trips, slide shows and talks were laid on for the Hamefarers over the course of their stay, which took in not just Lerwick but also Scalloway, Cunningsburgh, Dunrossness and Tingwall, among other places.

The week of the 1960 Hamefarin was agreed to have been a great success. The Hamefarers had been treated to a week of pageantry, events and entertainment in Shetland. The Hamefarin was agreed to have been the sort of publicity that money alone could not buy.

“We hope you will all find what you have come to seek, and that the memory of your visit will long remain with you.”
- Address from Provost R. B. Blance to the Hamefarers arriving off the St. Clair.

“If at times there is a feeling of frustration in our islands and a tendency to seek the easy way, there was a challenge in being sown how under the most difficult conditions we have come so far, and how under much easier circumstances we might see how far we can go.”
- Letter to The Shetland Times from George H. Burgess OBE, ex-provost of Lerwick