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Coming Home


Emigration was an essential part of Fair Isle’s story, but particularly between1910 and 1945, the outside world was also insecure. Between 1920 and 1939 the average wage in the UK was £4 a week and labourers earned much less.  During the 1930s wages were reduced in the public sector and elsewhere, as the economy faltered.  Some unions agreed not to cut manpower, but men only worked (and were paid) every second week! 


For much of this time there were 2 million people unemployed in Britain and at times it was nearer 3 million, with scant unemployment benefit.  Yet many of the émigrés, or their children, went home to visit.  For those who travelled by steamer to Fair Isle in the 1920s and 30s, the full return fare to Lerwick had to be paid (around £2 for 2nd class travel), plus £1 10s for the steamer to stop at Fair Isle, a considerable amount of money for someone earning £4 a week (or less).  At some point the steamer agreed to cut its engines rather than simply slowing down, which made the transfer from steamer to yoal slightly less hazardous.


Does anyone know if the Fair Isle men who met the steamer in their yoals, received any of this £1 10s?

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