J.J. Haldane Burgess

James John Haldane Burgess (1862-1927) was a prolific writer and socialist who lived most of his life in Lerwick. He was educated at the Anderson Educational Institute, where he excelled, winning first prize in a Scotland-wide bursary competition run by Glasgow University in 1881. He continued his studies at Edinburgh University.

An academic career seemed likely for him, but while he was in Edinburgh his eyesight failed completely. He was blind for the rest of his life. After returning to Shetland he went on to produce a steady stream of books, poems, stories and articles. He was fascinated by Scandinavian literature and language, and played a major part in creating the modern Up-Helly-Aa festival.

Burgess left a large collection of papers. It contains early versions of his published works, as well as a substantial number of short stories and articles, some of which remain unpublished. His wide and varied correspondence includes letters from writers such as John Buchan, Sabine Baring-Gould and Virginia Woolf.

Burgess spoke most European and Scandinavian languages, and he had some knowledge of several languages from Asia. He was an enthusiast for the artificial language Esperanto. The collection includes a translation of his volume of poems, Rasmie’s Büddie (1891), into that language.