Scalloway Museum blog
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The Shetland Bus Friendship Society (SBFS) and Scalloway Museum are pleased to announce that the Prince Olav Slipway Project is now 100 per cent funded. Getting to this stage has been a lot of work for the museum trustees, and we’re excited to share a little background to the project.
The slipway and cradle, originally constructed in 1942, are set to be reconstructed as a wartime exhibit for locals and visitors to enjoy as they uncover the Shetland Bus story in Scalloway.
At a meeting last week with local ship repair company Malakoff Ltd, SBFS instructed them to proceed with the reconstruction of the cradle and the refurbishment of the slipway. It has taken a lot of hard work to raise the money to fund the project. Almost half the sum was raised by our 'Friends in Norway', and the remainder has been wholly raised in Shetland, with the exception of a donation from The Gerry Holdsworth Special Forces Trust.
The reconstructed cradle and slipway refurbishment will capture a unique moment in the history of Shetland and Norway, and further strengthen the friendship between the two countries. It will also inform future generations of the endeavours of a wartime generation who did whatever was necessary to defend freedom.
Following the relocation of the Shetland Bus operating base from Lunna to Scalloway in the summer of 1942, William Moore & Sons’ engineers and Norwegian shipwrights constructed a slipway.
The Admiralty were asked if they would build the slipway. When they received no response, Sub-Lieutenant David Howarth and Jack Moore, owner of Wiliam Moore & Sons, decided to build it themselves. The Admiralty provided £750 towards the cost, and second-hand materials were sought from all over Shetland. The main part of the cradle construction was long lengths of 9”x 9” Oregon pine, and the slipway used second hand railway rails sourced in Aberdeen. Crown Prince Olav of Norway visited Scalloway in October 1942 and gave permission for the slipway to be named after him.
The slipway was needed during the Second World War to carry out essential repairs on the Norwegian fishing boats used on the dangerous SOE-operated missions to occupied Norway during the winter months. Later the slipway was used to repair the three sub-chasers, Hessa, Hitra and Vigra which replaced the fishing boats in late 1943.
The first inkling of the project to reconstruct and refurbish the slipway started a few years ago. During an unrelated museum project in 2017 carried out with the help of the late Jacky Priest, a retired William Moore & Sons carpenter, discussions arose regarding the Prince Olav Slipway. As Jacky was one of the last people familiar with the slipway, it was decided out of historical interest to document the construction of the cradle and slipway. Many hours were spent extracting information from Jacky’s memory, and a set of preliminary drawings were produced. At this time several interpretation boards were sited at the slipway telling its story. Images of the drawings were included, and visitors took great interest in the site and slipway story.
The three mayors
Scalloway Community Council had for some years been twinned with the Sund Kommune on Sotra, an island west of Bergen. In 2018 Scalloway received a visit by the three mayors of the kommunene on Sotra – Sund, Øygarden and Fjell. The kommunene were later to be amalgamated into one – Øygarden.
During the visit, the then mayor of Øygarden, Børge Haugetun, viewed the slipway and became aware of the drawings on the interpretation boards. The idea to reconstruct the cradle and refurbish the slipway began to form in Børge’s mind, sowing the initial seeds of the project.
In September 2019, museum trustees visited Bergen to attend a music concert in Håkonshallen given by Jenna and Bethany Reid from their record, Escape. Jim Young and Charlie Grant were approached by Børge, who more or less instructed that the Shetland Bus Friendship Society (Scalloway Museum) should carry out a project to refurbish the cradle and slipway. There was no arguing with him, and the Øygarden Kommune made the first generous donation to the project fund!
To achieve authenticity, it was crucial that the reconstructed slipway was as close as possible to the original wartime structure. There were reservations about the existing slipway drawings, and it was important to speak to more people who had worked on the site to ensure a high level of accuracy.
The museum was fortunate to have the assistance of retired engineers, George and Raymond Sinclair who had operated the slipway in the years following the war when it was used for repairing fishing boats.
Their detailed memory of the wartime cradle and slipway was remarkable, and over many months a revised set of drawings were painstakingly produced. With accurate drawings reflecting exactly how they believed the slipway looked in 1942, the museum was confident that the project was viable.
Reaching this stage could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of museum trustee, Jim Young who carried the project forward, right from its early conception. Almost half the sum raised came from 'Friends in Norway', and the remaining money has been wholly raised in Shetland, along with a donation from The Gerry Holdsworth Special Forces Charitable Trust. Community Councils throughout Shetland have contributed, indicating the level of support the project has within Shetland. Local ship repair company, Malakoff Ltd, is in the process of reconstructing the cradle and refurbishing the slipway.
There are four people without whom the project would not have happened - Børge Haugetun the former Mayor of Øygarden whose idea it was to restore and refurbish the cradle and slipway, George and Raymond Sinclair, two retired engineers whose detailed memories of the slipway were invaluable, and Jim Young.
The reconstructed cradle and refurbished slipway will capture a unique moment in the history of Shetland and Norway, and further strengthen the friendship between the two countries. It will also inform future generations of the endeavours of a wartime generation who did whatever was necessary to defend freedom.
We look forward to sharing the progress of this important project with you.