William Smith (iv)

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Bill Smith's Provost portrait.
Image kindly provided by the Shetland Islands Council
Bill Smith outside the Town Hall.

William Angus 'Bill' Smith BEM (b. 20 August 1919, Hamnavoe, d. 5 September 2012, Lerwick) was a former Post Office engineer, signal engineer, Lerwick Town Councillor, Shetland Islands Councillor and member of numerous other public bodies. In total, he was a councillor for 32 years when he retired in 1999.

Abridged Biography

Early Life

William Angus Smith was born in 1919 in Burra, the seventh and final child of James Smith (b. 1879) a fisherman and crofter, and Mary Jane Cumming (b. 1879). To his family and close friends he was 'Billy' but otherwise he was known as 'Bill'. He was first educated at Hamnavoe Primary School and later moved on to the Anderson Educational Institute, as it was known. He left school aged 18 and his first job was also the one which he retained until retirement; a Post Office Telecomms engineer (barring 6 years of military service). Bill was first called up to the miliary in 1940 and worked as a signal engineer. During his term he served in various Middle Eastern and Asian countries, including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Burma, Lybia, Germany and Palestine. Upon his return, he married Daisy Manson (1923-2005) and together they had 4 children.

Council Years

Lerwick Town Council

After the war, Bill joined the Labour party. He first properly became enlightened to political thought during his training in Yorkshire, where a Yorkshireman had shared an interest and inspired Bill. Although he had never really given a thought to becoming a councillor, he had canvassed for other well known Labour candidates such as Alex Morrison. It took a colleague at the Post Office to convince Bill to stand and in 1967, he submitted his nomination form.

The Lerwick Town Council at the time was a 12-member council which represented Lerwick and elected normally four individuals every year. At this election, Bill came in fourth and was elected, gathering 604 votes, with the next nearest Labour man coming in seventh. Bill's seat was up for election again in 1969 and this would be the last time he would stand as a Lerwick Town Councillor. The election itself was a sweeping victory for the Labour party, with all four vacant seats won. Bill came in third with 1,054 votes. It was during this period of office that Bill became Provost, taking over from Eric Gray and holding the post from 1971 until 1974 when Jim Taylor took over.

The Lerwick Council eventually dissolved in August 1975 and was replaced by the Shetland Islands Council.

Shetland Islands Council

The first ever Shetland Islands Council election occurred in 1974, one year before it officially began business. Bill, describing the situation, said that to him and a few other councillors the end of the LTC and beginning of the SIC "felt more like a takeover". Despite this, Bill stood in the Lerwick West constituency and was elected unopposed. Lerwick West was abolished for the next election in 1978, and Bill stood for the Lerwick Central constituency and he was successful in this election, and every following one; 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994.

In 1978, he beat James Wiseman by 200 votes, and for the following two elections he was unopposed. In 1990, he beat Liberal Democrat candidate Kenneth Crossan by 91 votes, and independent Tommy Goudie in 1994 by 146 votes. Bill decided not to stand again in 1999, ending his 32 years of service as a councillor.

Post-Council Life

In reflecting upon his decision to end his council career, Bill admitted that he had caught himself increasingly wondering if the "old way" of Council business was better than the newer way. He knew that this attitude wasn't productive and he didn't want to hold up progress and so felt that he should no longer continue as a councillor.

He was in his 80's when he left the council and retired to his home in Lerwick where he resided until his death in 2012 at the age of 93.

Author's comment

"I consider myself very fortunate to have met and interviewed Bill. The above biography is based off my interview with him.

"Despite being 91 at the time of our interview, he was still very able and had a fantastic memory. His ability to recall even minor, trivial events was incredibly impressive. He struck me as one of the most genuine individuals I have ever met. He led a very honest and principled life. Bill commanded a rare respect among many Shetlanders due to his lengthy service as a councillor combined with his general attitude and presence.

"Bill felt that his most important contribution to Shetland was education - he was a great believer in giving everyone an equal opportunity. I believe he was being modest; having been on various public bodies including the Harbour Trust, he contributed to Shetland in a very positive way throughout his life.

"Bill was an inspirational character who has led a rich, fulfilling life, and I felt that even at the age of 91 - as he was during our interview - he would have made an excellent councillor!

"I was saddened to learn some time later the Bill has passed away, on 5 September 2012. I was still living in Shetland at the time and attended his funeral at St. Columba's Church. He was a quiet giant in Shetland politics who is greatly missed."

- James, ShetlandHistory.com

External Links

Preceded by
Eric Gray
Eric Gray Headshot.png
for Lerwick Town Council

Succeeded by
James Taylor
James J Taylor Headshot.png
Leaders of the Lerwick Town Council
Councillors Arthur Edmondston (1818-1823) • Charles Ogilvy Snr (1823-1827) • William Spence (1827-1832) • Charles Ogilvy Jr (1832-1844) • Joseph Leask (1844-1847) • William Sievwright Snr (1847-1856) • Charles Duncan (1856-1862) • Joseph Leask (1862-1865) • Charles Duncan (1865-1874) • William Sievwright Jr (1874-1876) • Thomas Cameron (1876-1883) • John Robertson (1883-1890) • Charles Robertson (1890-1895) • John Leisk (1895-1904) • James Goudie (1904-1907) • Arthur Porteous (1907-1910) • Arthur Laing (1910-1913) • Robert Stout (1913-1915) • Peter Goodlad (1915-1920) • Robert D. Ganson (1920-1924) • James Laing (1924-1927) • John Sinclair (1927-1930) • William Sinclair (1930-1933) • Robert Ollason (1933-1936) • James A. Smith (1936-1941) • Magnus Shearer (1941-1946) • James Aitken (1946-1950) • Robert A. Anderson (1950-1953) • George Burgess (1953-1956) • William Conochie (1956-1959) • Robert Blance (1959-1962) • Harry Gray (1962-1965) • Andrew Nicolson (1965-1967) • Eric Gray (1967-1971) • Bill Smith (1971-1974) • James Taylor (1974-1975)
Shetland Islands Council
Constituency created Member for
Lerwick West

Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Eric Gray
Eric Gray Headshot.png
Member for
Lerwick Central

Constituency abolished