Mathewson Lecture

Eileen Brooke-Freeman will deliver a talk next week about how she has discovered more about the life of her ancestor Andrew Dishington Mathewson of East Yell (1799-1887) through studying his letters, plans and other documents deposited in the Shetland Archives.

Mathewson was a remarkable man. He first started teaching other children to read aged only 6 years old and was in sole charge of a school in Fetlar at 14. In 1822 he became the first schoolmaster at East Yell and continued some aspects of teaching until 1878 (aged 78).

As well as teaching children, he taught navigation to young men from all over Shetland and supplemented his meagre income by working as a land surveyor and holding other posts like sessions’ clerk, postmaster and registrar.

He had a family of 12 bairns and faced plenty of personal tragedy in his lifetime, burying his wife and 9 of his children.

He helped the needy, often getting into debt through his preference to teach a youngster or help a neighbour rather than chase up his dues. He wrote letters about the need for legislative change on several issues, including the need to register stillbirths. He also wrote letters on behalf of other folk in the neighbourhood.

We know so much about Mathewson, his family, his teaching and life in Shetland because of his meticulous record keeping. He and his family were highly literate and through their detailed letter writing we learn not just about family life, but about their neighbours and events of the time at home and away. Mathewson recorded details of what should be taught in school in addition to the more usual class registers and log books. As a surveyor he produced field notebooks with calculations and sketches, and superbly drawn plans.

He had a habit of writing in a miniscule hand and often it is easier to study his writing today through photographs or scans of the original letters or by using a magnifying glass.

Eileen’s talk will go into more detail about the life and work of this notable man. The talk will be held at Shetland Museum and Archives on Thursday 30th March. Doors will open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start. Tickets are priced £3.50 and available from reception or online at

Related Posts

Shetland Museum closed Saturday (6 Aug) afternoon

Shetland Museum is closing at 2.00pm this Saturday 6 August.

Read more

Da Wadder

The weather is never far from conversation here, and it hasn’t been a great summer. Some good days though, and on July 19 the ...

Read more

Maggie Helen Under Sail

The Maggie Helen was under sail last night for the first time in over 100 years.

Read more

Temporary diversion at the Museum as the Maggie Helen is on the move

There will be a temporary car park closure and access diversion in place at Hay’s Dock at the Shetland Museum and Archives from the ...

Read more

Land of Straw Art Exhibition

Opening today, Berenice Carrington’s exhibition at the Shetland Museum and Archives focuses on the agricultural cycle of growing ...

Read more

The Laurel

The Shetland Times, 12 October 1907 reported an important event at the Ness. Harry Irvine of Glenfield got a Fifie fishing boat, the ...

Read more

Join the guest list for BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions at Shetland Museum and Archives

It’s your chance to ask a question and influence the debate as BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions is coming to Shetland Museum and ...

Read more

Shetland's jubilations (Part 2)

2022 is the third time in twenty years there’s been a Royal Jubilee, so you might think they come around often. In fact, it’s in ...

Read more

Shetland's jubilations (Part 1)

2022 is the third time in twenty years there’s been a Royal Jubilee, so a body might think they come around often. In fact, it's in ...

Read more

Johnnie Notions Project

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded funding from The Royal Society to make a film on 18th Century Shetland pioneer, ...

Read more

Hay’s Dock by the Dowry now open

Food and drink is back on the menu at Shetland Museum and Archives, with the much-anticipated opening of ‘Hay’s Dock by the ...

Read more

Crofthouse Museum open for the summer

The Crofthouse Museum at Dunrossness will be opening for the summer season from Sunday 1 May. The site has been closed for the last ...

Read more

Restoration work to begin on Maggie Helen at historic Hay's Dock

This week Shetland Museum and Archives will welcome traditional sail vessel the Swallow to Hay's Dock with its crew of shipwrights ...

Read more

Gunnister Man Coins

Over 70 years after his discovery in a Northmavine peat bog, Gunnister Man continues to intrigue. Last week Shetland Museum curator, ...

Read more

We are hiring - Cultural Heritage Manager

We have an exciting new position for a Cultural Heritage Manager to lead our work in protecting, enhancing and promoting Shetland’s ...

Read more