Marion Ninianson’s Roup

Roup is a word not commonly used in Shetland any more, although the Shetland Times in 1962 advertised a house in Scalloway “for sale by public roup.” A roup is an auction. The word derives from old Scots and old English terms meaning to shout or cry out. There may even be a connection to an Icelandic word meaning to brag or boast. Some roups, like sales of stock could be fine social occasions, meeting places for the like-minded. Some other roups were sadder – business ventures gone awry, or the result of plain bad luck.

There’s a roup document from 1770 among our Sheriff Court processes, auctioning off the effects of George Nicolson and his wife Marion Ninianson, in Gott (spelled Goat), Tingwall. The bundle of documents opens with the roup roll – the auction list (eBay may be the biggest ever roup roll). The family had five cattle to sell, including two quackes (young cows). Tirval Morrison bought “one red cow” and the two horses went to Oilpher [Oliver] Hunter and Andrew Hardie. There were couple of “standing beds” for sale – suggesting that the Nicolsons didn’t use box beds. A step above the common people.

The next document in the bundle suggests hardship, of Marion being in “very necessitous circumstances” with her husband dying in late 1766. She had a child shortly after, and applied to the document writer, Andrew Hardie for help. He got her brandy, tea, sugar, and some money to buy food for her children. Andrew, who notes that in these cases “bills are neither demanded nor given,” was trying to claim back his money from the roup, even if he had no paperwork.

There are other documents, one referring to Marion as “Marion Niniansdaughter.” Thomas Bolt puts in a claim for cess (a tax) owed. Jerom Jameson lists other debts, the funeral charges for Marion, and most sadly funeral expenses “for one of her children,” and the cost of “Elizabeth Goodlad for nursing the youngest child for one year.” George Harcus makes a more interesting claim. He had “served the deceast Marion Niniansdaughter for a year and a quarter” and was married to her for four months before her death. He said he was owed eight pounds Scots.

Marion’s oldest child, Jerom Nicolson, was only about ten when she died in 1770. He enters the proceedings in 1775, having engaged Magnus Fraser in Lerwick as legal help. He states he has three siblings, George, James, and John. He was representing their interests as well, arguing that two thirds of the “moveable estate” belonged to them. A final document allows him £70 2 shillings Scots. The Nicolsons largely disappear from the records after that, although it seems he became a fathered a daughter Jean Nicolson in 1786 A Jerome Nicolson features in court case in Tingwall in 1777, but that need not be our one.

How did it all happen? The sudden death of Marion’s husband, leaving four children and a widow, can’t have helped. Widows with children looked into an abyss in those days, and the death of a child can only have made it deeper. The roup roll runs to three pages, and included around forty threaves of bere. The length of the roll suggests a more secure way of life than most Shetlanders had in 1770, but it was a small amount of wealth, and it didn’t take much to move to very different circumstances.

Related Posts

Shetland Museum unveils new photographic exhibition capturing 1970s social history

A new photographic exhibition opens today at Shetland Museum and Archives which provides a glimpse into an aspect of Shetland’s ...

Read more

Shetland Museum unveils ‘All About Everything’ featuring the creative work of Eric Gray students

The creative and colourful work of Eric Gray students is on display from today in a new exhibition ‘All About Everything’ at the ...

Read more

New summer exhibition Ebbe and Flow to open this weekend

A new exhibition celebrating cultural and maritime connections with Scandinavia through the work of Scottish and Norwegian artists ...

Read more

Shetland Amenity Trust celebrates collaboration with Shetland Family History Group in acquiring Gilbert Goudie’s Notebook

Shetland Amenity Trust is delighted to announce the successful acquisition of a significant 19th century notebook to the Shetland ...

Read more

Wonderful woolly evening at the Shetland Museum

What a fantastic evening at the Shetland Museum celebrating the announcement of the new Shetland Wool Week Patrons, the Doull Family, ...

Read more

Shining a light on Ann Harriet Pottinger this International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 we shine a light on Ann Harriet Pottinger, née Hunter, one of many unsung, hard-working ...

Read more

New book of Shetland Fine Lace Knitting launched

A new publication, ‘Shetland Fine Lace Knitting – Recreating patterns from the past’ by Shetland Museum’s textiles curator, ...

Read more

Profound new exhibition, Polar North, captures the fragility of the Arctic landscape

A profound new exhibition which captures the fragile and shifting beauty of the Arctic landscape opens this Sunday 10 March at Da ...

Read more

Shetland Museum and Archives launches series of ‘Thursday Lates’ heritage talks

Evenings celebrating Shetland’s rich culture and heritage will begin next month as Shetland Museum and Archives launches its ...

Read more

Be My Valentine

It’s that time of year, Valentine’s Day, the 14th of February. In the Shetland Archives Catalogue references to Valentines are ...

Read more

Old style islands courtships

We’re warming ourselves up to the idea of Valentine’s Day. Some might say Shetlanders are not renowned for being romantics and ...

Read more

Shetland Museum celebrates Lerwick Up Helly Aa 2024

The Shetland Museum & Archives was full of activity last week as we celebrated Lerwick Up Helly Aa with a series of fiery events and ...

Read more

Shetland Amenity Trust’s heritage sites open for this year’s Up Helly Aa

The fiery season will soon be back and Shetland Amenity Trust is putting together a series of events as well as offering extended ...

Read more

Shetland's War Memorial - constructed by William Horne

Shetland’s War Memorial on Hillhead is now one hundred years old, and was rededicated with a ceremony on 6 January. The memorial ...

Read more

Christmas in Shetland - 1923

1923, like many of the years between the wars, was not a good one. The Shetland Times year end report spoke of a poor herring fishing, ...

Read more