speaking with past liaison officers - david smith

November 10th 2022

Not long ago we spoke with David Smith, who volunteered as a Liaison Officer for The Tall Ships visit to Lerwick in 1999, 2011 and will again in 2023. We discussed his experience and what made it special.

Back in 1999, David was due to be a Liaison Officer for a youth sail training ship that unfortunately ran aground before making it to Lerwick, meaning he was reassigned to a German ship, the Grossherzogin Elisabeth - which he shared with Audrey Thompson. He recalls the great time they both had with the trainees, noting that “they dived into every activity they could.”

As a Liaison Officer David explains the role is simple; get your crew to the right place at the right time, sort out any problems or answer any questions they may have. More significantly though is to make the crew feel welcome in Shetland. David said “You’ll get out of it what you’re prepared to put into it. You won’t know the answer to all the crews’ questions, but you will know someone who does.”

In 2011 David was assigned to the Norwegian Tall Ship, Sorlandet. This time his role as Liaison Officer was different as the Norwegian terror tacks occurred during the Lerwick event. He recalls supporting the crew with such heart-breaking news. Regardless of the terrible attack, David tells us people still made the most of the event. Recalling a fond memory of hand-delivering a love letter from a trainee on the Sorlandet to another on a Columbian ship before they sailed away. “There was a feeling of togetherness, everyone was there for the same reason and to try and have a good time”

When we asked David what had pushed him to apply to be a Liaison Officer again, he replied “I had such a great time in 1999 and 2011. It’s a chance to meet folk and show off Shetland. To make sure they enjoy themselves for the short time they are here.” He reassures anyone else wanting to volunteer that there were no issues with a language barrier as almost everyone spoke English. For those who don’t, many Liaison Officers made good use of Google Translate in 2011!

David explains one of the advantages of being a Liaison Officer is the access to the event you get. You get to meet people and experience things members of the public attending wouldn’t - such as when the crew of Sorlandet invited him and his family to come on board to watch the fireworks. We end the conversation with David exclaiming “Bring it on! I am looking forward to Lerwick being a hive of activity!”

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