Reid Tait

The Archives holds papers and published works collected by E.S. Reid Tait. Tait was a draper in Lerwick, but his real love was literature about his native Shetland. Throughout his long career, and in retirement, he collected material about the islands from every possible source.

Tait’s book collection was and is unrivalled as a corpus of Shetland material. It includes the standard works about the islands, but also rare early items, articles about Shetland from periodicals, from the eighteenth century onwards, and also printed prospectuses and law papers from the same period.

Each time he saw a reference to Shetland in a newspaper, or a printed book, he clipped it out and pasted it in a scrapbook. The collection includes thirty such scrapbooks, one of them eight inches thick, containing many thousands of items.

He also collected manuscripts, some of which he saved from destruction: for instance, a large body of papers of James Greig, a lawyer in Lerwick during the early 19th century. It is safe to say that if Tait had not been a collector, many documents about Shetland’s history would have disappeared forever.

Tait bequeathed his books and papers to the Shetland Library, and they are now preserved in the Shetland Museum and Archives.