The Pioneers of the Temperance Movement in Lerwick

Published: 22nd May 2020

Excerpts from The Pioneers of the Temperance Movement in Lerwick

Being an Address delivered at the Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Opening of the Rechabite Hall, Lerwick, April 5th, 1922 by Reid Tait

Research by Jasmine Moncrieff.

When this speech was delivered, the statement that I had been unable to discover whether or not there was any organized systematic attempt at the formation of a Temperance Society in Lerwick before these men commenced their work for Temperance, was made in all sincerity. I was firmly convinced that I had discovered the original founders of the Lerwick Total Abstinence Society, and incidently, I may say, I was confirmed in this belief by Sir Robert Stout and Mr Gilbert Goudie F.S.A.Scot. both of whom, by relationship and association, were extremely intimate with the men in question.

Subsequent research has proved that I was entirely wrong, and that the title of this article is incorrect, as the preceding article amply proves. If not actually the pioneers in point of time, however, these men by their whole-hearted labours richly deserve the tribute paid here to their memory, and therefore, I see no necessity to alter one single word of what has been written.

These men are dead and gone; we have here a generation that knows them not, and their memory is fast fading away from our midst. In our time we have one link, and one link only, connecting us with them. That link is Sir Robert Stout, Chief Justice of New Zealand, who as a boy was taken to these meetings, possibly by his uncle William Stout already referred to. In a letter to the late Mr Gilbert Goudie, the well-known antiquary, written a few years before Mr Goudie’s death, Sir Robert refers at some length to his presence at these meetings. So impressed with them was he, that he says he has long intended to write an account of them, and he finishes by adding “The knowledge of life and human thought acquired there formed the best part of my education”

I have had a letter or two from Sir Robert Stout on this subject, extracts from one of which I will now read you. He says “Dear Mr Tait, - I knew your great-grand uncle, Andrew Goudy b.1802 -1870 well, and was often in his shop. He was one of the leading men of the Temperance Organization in Lerwick. They had a Temperance Society of which he was a member of the Committee, and for some time my Uncle William Stout, was Vice-President.. In those days that I speak of, Mr Goudie very rarely left his shop before 12 at midnight; and it was a regular thing, perhaps from 6 to 8 o’clock in the evening, to enthusiastic Temperance men we had, and use to pay great attention to Homeopathy: in fact he even went and visited the sick people and helped them all he could….I owe much to Mr Goudie. He was always calm, considerate, and he was certainly very able; and he had a judicial mind on every subject that came up for discussion. When he spoke he was always looking all-round the question, and not taking up any narrow view”