Leith Thule Club (1891)

Some histories of the Shetlanders shown in this photograph from 1891, from various sources (thanks to all for their suggestions) See the main Archive page

Back (L-R): F Inkster, TS Anderson, GR Jamieson, AA Robertson, RB Sinclair, IL Brown, W Williamson, RE Williamson

Front (L-R): WS Manson, L Henderson, LJ Nicolson, G Stewart, M Smith, WF Clark, AM Malcolmson

Brief Histories of these Shetlanders in Victorian Edinburgh

(information from Bayanne Shetland family website & Census, and by replies to our Facebook page)


Francis Inkster: (born Scalloway 1869), emigrated to Canada on 18th April 1906, on Sicilian, which sailed from Glasgow to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

(Transcription from The Golden Jubilee of the Nipawin Rural Municipality 1913-1963): A man who left his indelible mark on our municipality was the late Mr. Frank Inkster. This kindly, hospitable man was born in the Shetland Isles in 1869 and was a journeyman stone cutter by trade. In Edinburgh he married Miss Anna M. Black and they emigrated to Canada.

In the winter of 1906, Mr Inkster located land in what is today known as the Inkster district. He spent the winter months living in a tent in this wilderness and returned to Winnipeg to join his family and work at his trade during the summer months.

In October 1906, he brought his wife and two little girls as far as Star City by train. From there the little party set out on the long, rough journey to their homestead. With all their goods piled high on a rack they struck out over the corduroy and swampy trails, bogging down in the mire for hours at a time. The two Inkster girls who made the journey with their parents live at Codette: Ella (Mrs Wm Tait) and Betty (Mrs Chandler) and they can still recall some of the trials of the trip. Losing the trail, they wandered for hours until they finally spied a light in a homesteader's shack near the Leather River. The homesteaders, a Mr and Mrs Baird, welcomed them in and found a place for them to sleep. When they reached the trading post at Lost River, which the Bonners operated on the hill near Mr Bayliss' land, Mrs Inkster and the girls stayed there while Mr Inkster went on east to the homestead and built the log house which was to be their home for 15 years and into which the family moved in December 1906.

All these early settlers had to leave home to find work to keep their families in food and Mr Inkster soon took off for Melfort and worked at his trade there, leaving his family in the clearing. So passed the spring of 1907 and, as Mrs Inkster was expecting another child, it was arranged that a neighbour, Mr Isaac Buckwold, would drive the family to Melfort in July where Dr Chad, the hard working young Negro doctor, was to take care of her. The Inkster girls can still remember the trip; through sloughs, crossing the rivers, with mosquitoes following them in great clouds all the weary miles. The whole party was so bitten by the pests that they were thought to have smallpox on their arrival at Melfort.

The family returned home after four months, with the new baby, (Mrs Ted May of Calgary) and once more settled down into pioneer living. They discovered that all their supplies had been stolen and, as Betty recalls, they existed for the next three months on porridge and occasional wild game, with milk which they got from Granny Gorse, their only neighbours who lived two miles away.

The oldest daughter, Ella, took the place of a son and worked alongside her father; driving oxen, ploughing, cutting and hauling wood from the swamp. A gentle, sweet lady, it is hard to cast Mrs Tait in this role, but work she certainly did.

Other settlers were arriving and around the year 1909 student ministers would come through and hold services during the summer months at the various homes. The Inkster home was open to all who passed through and needed shelter for a night, or a week, or indeed for two or three weeks, while they hastily put up a home of their own. Betty mentions Bessie Dale (now Mrs Tony Tait) arrived in the fall of 1912 to keep house for her father. Other neighbours were the Taits, Bishops, Cotters, Curries, Houlihans, Fairs, Bushfields and, in time, many others as the land was filling up with squatters and with homesteaders after the land was opened for filing in 1908.

As the community grew, parties were held at various homes; dancing to music supplied by Tony Tait and George Dickinson. Sing-songs and concerts. Inkster School was opened in 1913 with a Miss Yates, the first teacher.

Mr Inkster walked to Melfort several times for what supplies he could carry home. He took the first census in the district, again on foot. Later he was appointed assessor and travelled the entire municipality by shank's mare as the heavy timber prevented any other form of locomotion at that time. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1914 and retained that office until the time of his death. His keen interpretation of the law and his sense of fair play was such that no appeal was ever made against his decisions. He was appointed to the Local Tribunal for the Military Service Act in 1916 and after the war worked hard for the re-establishment of the returned men. He was instrumental in building the cairne at Mac's Corners, commemorating the War dead. For these and other services he was made an honorary member of the Canadian Legion.

Mr Inkster realized the need for a hospital and induced the government to change the Municipal Act to allow the municipality to pay a grant for the maintenance of a hospital. He was greatly disappointed when the first local plebicite for a money grant under the new clause was defeated. The settlers were soon to learn the dire need for some adequate hospital facilities as many patients had to be taken on the long trips to Tisdale or Melfort and the second plebicite passed.

He was Secretary of L.I.D 487 in 1912, and when the municipality was formed he carried on in the same capacity until illness forced his retirement in 1938. He was a tireless worker for the improvement of the community and championed anything which led to the betterment of the district. Mr Inkster had no sons, but a school and the district surrounding his old home, both bear his name which will not soon be forgotten.

Thomas Smith Anderson (b Garth, Dunrossness 1853) resident in North Leith in 1891 (no further information)

George R Jamieson (b. Veister, Sandwick 1866): (from a reply by Mairi Jamieson, an extract from an article her father Graham Jamieson wrote) The shop and first bakery in the south end of Shetland at Moors, Sandwick, was established by my great-uncle, George Robert Jamieson, formerly of North Veister, Sandwick, and his brother and my grandfather William Jamieson. It was made possible through capital raised from the very successful business run by George in Jeffrey Street, Leith, consisting of a wholesale and retail licensed grocer, fish and egg merchant.

The firm also had 18 retail outlets between Portobello and Kirkcaldy. The partnership at Sandwick was named GR & W Jamieson, wholesale and retail bakers, grocers and general merchants, Central Stores, Sandwick.

The original article in the Shetland Times can be found here: Da Central Van.

Andrew (A) Robertson (b Sellafirth, North Yell 1845) possible ID, no middle "A" (was in St George parish central Edinburgh in 1891)

Robert Bell Sinclair (b Kirkhouse, Lunnasting 1849) (Edmondston descendents have the print from which the image was taken)

James Laurence Brown (b Skelbery, Dunrossness 1853) Commercial traveller. Was resident in Newington in 1891.

W Williamson (b 1858 "England" to Shetland parents, father John Williamson b Lerwick 1823). Resident in Leith 1891 (died Coburg Street in 1894)

Robert Edward Williamson (b Colvister, North Yell 1853) Sometime Hotel keeper in Leith (Old Ship Hotel?), resident Lasswade 1891 (drowned off Gutcher, Yell in 1892, also his wife Mary Jane [Johnson] Williamson - their boat sank)

A Jeremiah Johnson (b Oddsta, Fetlar 1854) was brother-in-law (brother of Mary Jane) is listed as Grocer, Hotel Manager and resident at Gordon Street, South Leith in 1891. I wonder if he took over the hotel? Robert evidently returned to Yell soon after the photograph was taken and was drowned with his wife on July 1892. It is likely that Jeremiah would have been in the "Thule Club".


William Spence Manson (b. Southtown, Delting 1845). Resident in Leith at this time but returned to Shetland. Listed (census) as a Boot and Shoemaker.

Laurence Henderson (b, Cullivoe, North Yell 1852). Resident Rosslyn Crescent, Edinburgh in 1891. Listed as a wholesale provision and spice merchant trading in Leith, Glasgow and Carluke.

Laurence James Nicolson (b. Lerwick 1844) Commercial Traveller, Tobacco. Known as the "Bard of Thule"

George Stewart (born Levenwick) of "Fireside Tales" fame was in Leith and would have been around 66 in 1891. "Brocht up idda Nort Punds o' Levnik, da hoose noo a ruins below da rodd upoa da cornir, I tink hit wis sed. He teached it winter skuls athin his youth, I tink mebbe Vatchley an Broo, afore gyaan sooth an settin up in business a Leith. Yun book an Stewart's Rum ir his lestin legacies.Da places I tink ir juist aboot aa real athin hit, da fokk, laekly no sae accurate, bit mebbe mair composites inspired be several" (from Michael Garriock).

He married Eliza Anderson of Dunfermline, and had a family of ten children, three survived, all in British Columbia, two of his sons, prospecting in Peace River District on 1903, located the settlement of what became the town and port of Stewart, about 100 miles north of Prince Rupert. George Stewart went to Canada in 1892 to join his sons, and he died at his daughter’s home in Victoria on 18th January 1911. He appears to have lived in Dalkeith between the 1850s and early 1870s, then in Leith, occupations listed (Census?) as Clerk in Iron Foundry, Provision Merchant (Bayanne website - children's births).

Sir Malcolm Smith (b. Hoswick, Sandwick 1856) (from Bayanne info): Malcolm Smith was born and brought up in a crofting family in Shetland but moved to the port of Leith as a young man. May have been resident in Dudley Gardens in 1891. There he prospered as a businessman and became the Provost of Leith from 1908 to 1917, shortly before the town was incorporated into the city of Edinburgh.

He was elected unopposed as the Member of Parliament for the island constituency of Orkney and Shetland in a by-election in May 1921, following the death of the sitting MP, Cathcart Wasen. Having stood in the by-election as a Coalition Liberal, supporting the coalition government led by David Lloyd George, he stood at the 1922 general election as a National Liberal, but was defeated by the Liberal Party candidate Robert William Hamilton

William Fordyce Clark (b Uyeasound, Unst 1865). St Andrew Edinburgh/Midlothian (Warriston?) census district 1891. (Bayanne: William was Secretary to the Scottish National Key Registry and Assurance Association, Ltd., Edinburgh. He was of a literary turn, and showed considerable literary power. For some years he was favourably known as a pleasant and attractive writer of popular sketches. In 1898 he published a small volume entitled "Northern Gleams:" Tales of the Shetland Isles. This was his first venture in book form. The stories were well told, and were written with much literary grace and undoubted ability, while a good deal of the Shetland dialect is introduced. The book contains many fine passages, and was received by the press with quite a chorus of hearty commendation for its general excellence).

Alexander Mouat Malcolmson (b. Swinister, Sandwick 1839). Grocer, Wine Merchant (Resident at 34 Madeira Street, North Leith in 1891)

(adding information as it turns up .... to be continued)