Get Your Skates On!

The weather has changed, the temperature risen, wind and rain are back, the frosty winter fun gone. In 1909 though, one organisation hosted a solution, at least for the skaters – roller skating. By the early 1900s Shetland had a raft of temperance organisations promoting an alcohol free life, and providing facilities for wholesome entertainment and improving practices. One such was the International Order of Good Templars.

The Good Templars, a crusade against alcohol, borrowed their name romantically from the Knights Templar, and a lodge structure and regalia from the Freemasons. Unlike some temperance organisations, they were open to both sexes. They no longer exist in Shetland, but still have an international headquarters in Stockholm, having abandoned much of Masonic terminology. In Lerwick they began in a small way, with a room in the Town Hall. In 1909 they moved up a gear and established a hall in the redundant infant school building in Prince Alfred Street, later the Shetland Times headquarters, and now the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

TO/8/2/55 The Good Templars Hall Plan

On the 11 December 1909 the Shetland Times noted that the craze for the new form of skating has at length come to Lerwick. It wrote that one or two gentlemen interested had The Good Templars Hall floor relaid for the purpose. They advertised for a cash girl in the same issue. On the 18th the paper remarked that on the Wednesday opening night the floor of the Good Templar Hall was fully occupied by the skaters. There were spectators too. The Good Templars were a venue for something novel, and it no doubt fitted with their objective, keeping young people away from drink. By early January 1910 they were holding five-a-side football matches on roller skates. In February 1910 the rink had a carnival, partners being let in at 2/6.

The skating rink is a bit mysterious in some ways. T.P. Milne, the manager, may have been someone brought up from south. It sounds practical, Shetland wouldn’t have had anyone who knew much about roller-skating rinks. He doesn’t seem to have stayed long. The rink is still being advertised up to April 1910, and then stopped. Not surprising for an indoor winter entertainment. The 17 September 1910 Shetland Times advertised the rink open for a few weeks only … finest skates obtainable used, A.P. Solotti the manager this time. There are a few more adverts, then in the Shetland Times 11 February 1911 an auction sale offered a quantity of roller skates in first class order. Perhaps it was a craze that came to an end like so many do, or perhaps more likely, Lerwick didn’t have a large enough population to support it profitably. The rink doesn’t get a mention in the 1911 papers.

Typical roller boots from the 1980s

Roller skates didn’t quite end in Shetland, they appeared in school playgrounds from time to time. The skateboard, a sometimes less appreciated derivative, appeared in the 1970s. When Shetland began to afford radically new leisure facilities like the Clickimin Centre, indoor skating revived. Images show protective equipment and helmets, probably not features at the Good Templars, but the same enjoyment of movement and meeting people. Some things don’t change.

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