Papers of James John Haldane Burgess, 1862-1927, writer

Scope and Content

Correspondence from J J Haldane Burgess to W Walker: refers to his books Shetland Sketches and Poems, and Rasmie’s Smaa Murr 1919

Administrative / Biographical History

James John Haldane Burgess was born on 28 May  1862  in Lerwick, the son of John Burgess. He was educated at the Anderson Institute and won the Glasgow Bursary Competition in 1881. He worked as head teacher in Bressay before embarking upon a degree in Divinity at the  University of Edinburgh in  1886 . Despite the onset of blindness, he attained an MA degree in  1889  after sitting oral examinations. Due to his disagreement with certain church doctrines, Haldane Burgess rejected a career as a church minister and returned to Lerwick. Following his return to Shetland, Haldane became a freelance writer and private tutor in Mathematics, Classics and modern languages. He knew most European languages and was particularly knowledgeable in Icelandic, Norwegian and Danish. He also learnt Esperanto. Using a typewriter specially designed for use by the blind, he wrote numerous short stories, poems and an unpublished novel. He played the violin and piano. He became a Marxist socialist in the  1890s  and described himself as a Socialist Democrat in 1907. In  1897  Haldane composed the lyrics of the song sung at the annual Viking festival Up-Helly-Aa. Haldane Burgess never married. Such was the acclaim of J J Haldane Burgess that he was the first person to be honoured by a public funeral in Lerwick which was held in the Parish Church.


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Further details about the collection are held on  Stirling University Library web-based catalogue.

Data about collection held on Stirling University Library web-based catalogue.

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Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

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This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 559 procedures

Custodial History




Related Material

Correspondence and papers, 1872-1927, Shetland Archives, ref D2 (NRA 22620 Haldane Burgess); Correspondence and papers: see Location register of 20th century English literary MSS 1988. For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, search the indexes of the  National Register of Archives, at the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

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Additional Information

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds level description compiled by H M Kemp and Alan Borthwick, Scottish Archive Network project, 10 May 2002.

Geographical Names