Flora Shearer

Flora Shearer

Flora Shearer (1900-1987) was born Flora Stephen in Scalloway, the daughter of Alexander Stephen, a shipping agent for the North of Scotland Company. Alexander Stephen was an active man, in the local Territorial company, and in sport. Flora spent her early years in a house in Scalloway named after his favourite football team, Aston Villa. Her father was made shipping agent in Lerwick, and she was to spend the rest of her life in the town.

She had two older brothers, George (1893-1918), Alexander (1898-1986), a younger sister, Ethel (1902-1991), usually known as Winnie, or Winifred, and a younger brother, James, (1903-2000). He, father and two brothers were to serve in the war. Both George and Alexander were promoted to Lieutenant, her father to Major. George was not to survive, dying in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

In peacetime, George had worked in the Union Bank of Scotland (now Bank of Scotland) housed in an impressive building at 117 Commercial Street, Lerwick. It had male staff. With the war pressing on male recruitment Flora got her brother’s job, and became one of the pioneering female bank employees in the islands. She spoke about it in a recording made in 1986.

I got into the bank here, because my brother had been in before me, but he had gone to the war, and I got in there. We got twelve an sixpence a week…it was [a good wage] in that days, because it was a very good job. No cups of tea or anything like that; oh no, nothing, nothing like that. Just did your work and went…[Mr Hunter, the manager] He was really a splendid type of man. Yes, he really was, he was awful nice and we just adored him, you know, he was so nice. Tell you anything you wanted to know, no bother, you see, that kind of thing…Well, you just did all the kind of jobs, just the ledger and the cashbook and whatever you had to do...there was men too but there was quite a few women that went.

The job had an additional benefit. She got trips back to Scalloway, dealing with the Burra Isle fishermen among other things.

I think it was a Tuesday that we went to Scalloway, and one of us – one of the girls went with the accountant…then of course the Burra Isle men used to come in, settle up and all that kind of thing. I was so pleased at getting back to Scalloway, you know, just for a little while again.

After the war, the bank work ended. She married in 1922 to Magnus Shearer, a war veteran and army Lieutenant like her brothers. The rest of her life was taken up being a businessman’s wife, mother, and grandmother.

Flora Shearer,1930
Flora Shearer, circa 1930. Courtesy of Magnus Shearer.
George Stephen, standing
George Stephen, standing, with another soldier. Courtesy of Magnus Shearer.