J.J. Haldane Burgess
J.J. Haldane Burgess From Lerwick. Outstanding scholar, teacher and writer. Went blind during his university years in Edinburgh. After gaining his degree, he came home to Shetland to study, write and teach classics and mathematics to private pupils. Willing volunteers helped his studies by reading to him, and he continued to learn a wide range of languages, specialising in Scandinavian ones, but also including Esperanto. He wrote on a typewriter: articles, poetry and novels, notably Tang (1898). Poetry volumes: Rasmie’s Büddie (1891), and Young Rasmie’s Kit (published posthumously in 1928). Rasmie’s Büddie was written as a response to those who said that the dialect was incapable of expressing great thought or feeling. Haldane Burgess took an active part in Lerwick life: he could be seen out walking every day, and was involved in and consulted about many things, including the early development of Up-Helly-Aa. He was a socialist, a wonderful character and a very well loved man. His former pupil Jack Peterson described him as ‘the blind man who saw in the dark; who could not see across the road but saw across centuries; whose very bearing, gay and vivacious, invited passers-by to be of good cheer’. (New Shetlander No 164, 1988)
A new edition of Tang was published in 2021 by Michael Walmer: the first reprint in the Northus Shetland Classics series.