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Bakery Founded During WW 1 Celebrates Centenary

by Alastair Hamilton -

A bakery opened during the First World War to feed the Royal Navy squadrons that bunkered at Busta Voe in Shetland has been celebrating 100 years of active service.

In 1915, the Voe Bakery became central to the operations of a blockade to prevent merchant ships from neutral countries getting supplies to Germany.

Providing bread – always white unsliced – and ship’s biscuits, the small but efficient business in Voe quickly became popular with the hundreds of men based nearby and is now celebrating a century in business.

However, the Voe Bakery was just one part of a very active village; as well as fishing, there was employment in knitting, weaving and boat-building. The whole enterprise was owned by the firm of T. M. Adie and Sons, probably best known for providing the Shetland wool jumpers worn by mountaineers Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hillary as they became the first men to conquer Mount Everest in 1953.

On Saturday 23 May, people from all over Shetland joined the celebrations, with live music, stalls, exhibitions, food and drink. On the following day, a wreath-laying was followed by a service in the Voe Kirk to remember all those who lost their lives in the Great War.

Tracey Thompson, Voe Bakery Office Manager, said:

“We are so proud of our bakery and even more so now we’ve reached our centenary year. It is an important part of the community and it will be great to see old and young come together to celebrate this momentous occasion as well as commemorate those involved in that difficult time. Of course our range has expanded a great deal from white sliced bread and ship biscuits but there can’t be many places in the UK still doing the same thing as a hundred years ago and still taste so good!”

Dr Ian Tait, Curator of Shetland Museum, said:

“Up to 100 years ago, most people in Shetland had their own crops and were making their own bread – that was a main food source. The bakeries were created following the boom in the fisheries in the late 19th Century. When the Navy set up their base in the North West corner of Shetland, they needed a supply of foodstuffs – mainly bread and beef. T. M. Adie was a very forward-thinking firm which was always looking out for a new commercial outlet and was able to supply large quantities of both.

“At any one time, there were 50 ships at the base, with thousands of sailors to feed, and Adie’s contract saw them supplying thousands of white loaves and up to two dozen cattle a week to the Navy. Although not a Navy bakery, it was an operation whose genesis was entirely due to a war being on. Afterwards, as we moved into a cash economy, the bakery adapted to changing consumer needs and continues to this day. It’s a remarkable story and I’d like to congratulate the bakery on its 100th anniversary.”

The bakery at Voe is one of several around the islands that continue to thrive. Each of them has its own range of bread and other baked goods – and its own band of loyal devotees.

Posted in: Community, Heritage, News

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