I am a former director and superintendent of Lindsay and Gilmour Pharmacy, and I am also a former member of the Scottish Board of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. I ‘retired’ to Shetland in 2014, but the quiet life didn’t materialise as I am still an elected member of Shetland Islands Council, serving on various healthcare-related committees, as well as a volunteer COVID-19 vaccinator in the current pandemic.
When I first came to Shetland permanently, I attended the Remembrance Day wreath-laying ceremony at the local derelict church. The first thing I noticed was the extremely poor state of the war memorial. The second thing I observed was that, on the memorial, one of the fallen — Thomas Tait — had ‘MPS’ after his name.
I engaged in some further research and discovered that Thomas attended Heriot Watt College in Edinburgh. Upon qualifying in 1939, he became second pharmacist at A L Laing in Lerwick, Shetland Islands. He was given the opportunity to take on the company’s pharmacy in Scalloway, but instead elected to help the war effort by signing on as a seaman. At the time, a rule was in place that two members of the same family could not sail on the same ship. Thomas’s brother John was the first officer on the Scottish Trader, and he allowed Thomas to sail with him on his first voyage.
At around 21:00 on 6 December 1941, the Scottish Trader was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-131. There were no survivors.
The local council have now prohibited access to the war memorial on safety grounds, given the derelict condition of the church. Myself and local residents have decided to erect a new memorial to Thomas and his fellow fallen in a safe position in our village, which would show proper respect for our war dead.
We are actively fundraising for this, so any member who wishes to make a small donation in Thomas’s memory may send it to me at:
Robbie McGregor MRPharmS
3 North Heights
Tel: 01950 477883