Thomas Harold Grimshaw, Shetland Islands Missionary and Author
Thomas Harold Grimshaw was born in Haslingden, Lancashire and entered the Methodist ministry. He married Anne Barlow and served as a missionary in the Shetland Islands before moving to Australia and, finally, the U.S., where he retired in California. He was apparently deeply impressed by his experience in the Shetlands and was moved to write three books (two of them nearly identical, but separated in time by more than 40 years) about his experiences and impressions on the islands.
Thanks go to Marian Gardner for posting information on Thomas Harold Grimshaw on the “Migrations” website, which is shown on this webpage.
A brief biography of Thomas Harold Grimshaw (“Harold”) was presented on the jacket one of his books1 and is provided below. A photo was included with the biography and is presented in Figure 1.
BORN IN Haslingden, England, the Rev. T. Harold Grimshaw is a retired Methodist minister who has become an adopted son of California. Educated in England, he was a cadet at the Congress Hall in London before coming to the States. Later, he pursued studies of literature at the College of the Pacific, California; and studied the pipe-organ in the Conservatory of Music at the same college.
Before his retirement Mr. Grimshaw was pastor of the Carson Valley Parish in Nevada, and sometime previously was minister of the “Church of the Wayfarer” in Carmel, California. He is the author of Sunshine Sonniksen (An Idyll of the Shetland Islands), published last year. Mr. and Mrs. Grimshaw now make their home in Hemet, California.
Figure 1. Photograph of “Harold” Grimshaw in about the mid-1950s, the publication date of the book on which the photo was presented.
Information on Harold’s ancestors, and his descendants, has not yet been obtained for this webpage. It is hoped that an interested descendant may be willing to provide additional information in the future.
In April 2009 Marian Gardner posted the following information on a group website for the Grimshaw family. It contains valuable information regarding Thomas Grimshaw’s origins in Lancashire.
Here is what I have and believe to be correct: My g-grandfather, Samuel Grimshaw, born 12 Apr 1854 in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, to James and Mary Ann Grimshaw. Samuel had siblings Martha, Mary Alice (Polly) and Joseph.
Samuel married, I believe, Sarah Ann Mullins in March, 1876 in Haslingden. I have a photo that I believe to be Sarah with a baby. Samuel married my g-grandmother, Elizabeth McMinn on 05 Aug 1880 in Blackburn, Lancashire and he is listed as a widower on the marriage license. Samuel and Elizabeth had two children, Martha Annie (Cissy) and my grandfather Thomas Harold Grimshaw.
Samuel died in 1923 at age 69, in Cissie’s home 95 Blackburn Rd, Clayton le Moors, Accrington.
I have been unable to tie ‘my’ Grimshaws with any real line. My grandfather T. Harold, came to the USA in 1910 as a minister, with wife Alice Barlow.
Any information would be greatly appreciated. Marian Gardner
From the information posted by Marian, the following ancestry can be constructed for Thomas Harold Grimshaw.
James Grimshaw and Mary Ann ?
|—Mary Alice (Polly) Grimshaw
|—Samuel Grimshaw (12 Apr 1854, Oswaldtwistle – 1923, Clayton-le-Moors) & Sarah Ann Mullins? Married Mar 1876, Haslingden.
|—Samuel Grimshaw (12 Apr 1854, Oswaldtwistle – 1923, Clayton-le-Moors) & Elizabeth McMinn. Married 5 Aug 1880, Blackburn
|—|—Martha Annie (Cissy) Grimshaw
|—|—Thomas Harold Grimshaw & Alice Barlow
Previously, Marian posted the following information on a different website on the reasons for Thomas Harold Grimshaw’s immigration to the US with his wife, Alice (Barlow) Grimshaw.
Name: Thomas GRIMSHAW
Where Born: Haslingden, England
Migration Steps: to Bay City, Bay County, MI in 1911
Additional Notes: Thomas Harold Grimshaw and new wife Alice Barlow Grimshaw, moved in 1911 to Bay City, MI from Haslingden, England. Thomas was taking the position of minister to a Bay City Methodist Episcopal Church. Thomas and Alice were my maternal grandparents.
Researcher: Marian Gardner
Thanks, again, to Marian for posting this important information in the public arena.
The website of the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island (http://www.ellisislandrecords.org) includes an immigration record for Harold as follows:
Place of Residence
Date of Arrival
4 Feb 1910
Ship of Travel
Port of Departure
Liverpool, England, UK
The website also provides a description of the ship on which Harold arrived, the Mauretania as shown below; a photo is shown in Figure 2.
Built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Limited, Newcastle, England, 1907. 31,928 gross tons; 790 (bp) feet long; 88 feet wide. Steam turbine engines, quadruple screw. Service speed 25 knots. 2,335 passengers (560 first class, 475 second class, 1,300 third class).
Built for Cunard Line, British flag, in 1907 and named Mauretania. Liverpool-New York service. Wartime service, 1914-18. Used primarily as a cruiseship, 1930-34. Broken up in Scotland in 1935.
The ship was only three years old when Harold made his trip.
Figure 2. Photo of Mauretania as shown on website of American Family Immigration History Center.
Harold wrote the following three books on the Shetland Islands:
1) A Sturdy Little Northland – a Tribute to the Shetlanders1 (1913)
2) Sunshine Sonniksen – an Idyl of the Shetland Islands2 (1954)
3) Memories of the Shetland Islands – the Delineation of an Afterglow3 (1955)
The third publication is basically the same book as the first, with updates for the 40 years between the two. The title pages for these two books are shown in Figure 3. The third book is described near the bottom of this webpage.
Figure 3. Title pages from two of Harold Grimshaw’s books on the Shetland Islands.
A summary of Harold’s Memories of the Shetland Islands appears on the cover flyleaf of the book:
LYING FAR NORTH of Scotland, the Shetland Islands appear to be barren in their isolation and bleakness, but not so to a former minister who served in Shetland, and who, in this fascinating and warm account, now looks back in the afterglow of his sojourn and reminisces: “Shetland is a little world of itself, full of interest, novelty and romance … a land of rugged grandeur … a blessed land.”
For T. Harold Grimshaw, the minister who lived and worked there, the islands hold a special place in his heart and memory. With insight into the hearts and ways of the Shetlanders, Mr. Grimshaw portrays these people in warm and -glowing colors as hospitable without measure, as brave and hard-working, as religious in the deepest sense, in short, as possessing all the basic characteristics that we in America have come to believe were those of our own pioneers.
With a reporter’s eye for detail, the eloquence of the creative writer and the compassion of a sensitive and humble man, the author describes the unique flora and fauna of the islands, the beloved ponies, the myriad birds (“… there is no place where wild birds are less molested … and probably nowhere on earth has the ornithologist a richer field for observation of bird life” ) , the age-old customs of the Shetlandlanders, their marvelous skill in knitting, their homes that burn never-dying peat fires, their belief in trows (mischievous elves) , their poems, sayings and wonderful folk wisdom. And in beautiful and poetic prose, the author describes the everchanging seas, so important in the lives of the people, these toilers of the melancholy and treacherous briny deep. “Their life is one of hardship and toil, peril and chance, and the sternness of it all brings out all that is good and virile in them. The sea runs in their blood, and they love it and fear it. Its music to them is life; its harvest their daily bread. ..and a rare happy life it is to live among them.”
Here are deeply moving and unforgettable pen-pictures of the passing of old Johanna, the homecoming of Margot, the mysterious David, and others.
To us of the Western Hemisphere, very little is known of this group of islands referred to by the early Roman explorers as Ultima Thule ( Dispecta est Thule – or “farthest point of known land”). In reading through the pages of this book, there comes first an awareness of their existence, then knowledge and enlightenment, and with it love and understanding of a wonderful people and their island home.
EXPOSITION PRESS INC., 386 Fourth Ave., New York 16, (New York)
T. Harold Grimshaw apparently was the source of the following notation in one of the copies of his “A Sturdy Little Northland”. Unfortunately, he did not include a date or his signature. It is not known who Tom Orne is.
An attractive abstraction of a Shetland village appears on the cover of the Memories of the Shetland Islands and is shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Cover artwork from Harold Grimshaw’s Memories of the Shetland Islands.
To provide a sample of Harold Grimshaws work, an excerpt from the Proem and Chapter I of his Memories appears below:
The sketches that make up this little book are the afterglow of a unique and beautiful experience. As a sojourner in their seagirt isles I learned to know the Shetland folk – simple, kindly, valorous, and good. And remembering all their loving kindness, out of the fullness 0£ my heart I write 0£ the grit, the invincibility, and the nobility in the lives of this golden-hearted people.
“Ultima Thule to the Romans;
Hjaltland to the Vikings; now,
Shetland home of the brave.”
Hanging from the Arctic Circle like so many pendants from a necklace are several islands and groups of islands. The largest and most northerly of them all is that silent and mysterious land – Iceland, with its famous Thingvellir, its volcanoes, its geysers, and deserts which are more barren than the deserts of Siberia. A few miles southeast of Iceland lie the Faroe Islands, with then. quaint capital – Thorshaven. They are a dependency of Denmark and are exceedingly sterile and rugged. Still further southeast there lies Ultima Thule, a group of islands known to the early Roman explorers as “Dispecta est Thule,” or “farthest point of known land.” It is the Caledonian commander Galgacus who asks : “What mad desire for conquest is it that has brought the Romans here? This is the end of the world; there is nought beyond.” Undoubtedly they thought it was the “farthest north,” and really it is very far north. But for the kindly influences of the Gulf Stream, these islands would be more frigid than Labrador. Their latitude is between 60° and 61°N . Traveling on the same degree of latitude in a westerly direction, one would pass north of Labrador, through northern Canada and Alaska. Thule is further north than Cape Farewell in Greenland, and almost as far north as Dawson City in the Yukon.
Shetland, as it is now called, is really Norse territory and once belonged to the Danish crown. Both the Orkney and Shetland islands were presented to Britain as the wedding dowry of Margaret of Denmark, who married James the Third of Scotland. The annexation of Shetland took place in the year 1469. Soon there began a considerable and most unwelcome Scotch immigration. A long time ago the islanders used to say that the Scotch had brought them nought but dear meal and greedy ministers. But there is this to be said: If the Scotch have introduced harmful Scotch elements, the Norsemen have somewhat converted the canny Scots to beneficence.
Shetland is a little world of itself, full of interest, novelty and romance, and consists of one hundred islands, less than thirty of which are inhabited. The larger and those of interest are Mainland, Yell, Unst, Fetlar, Whalsay and Bressay. Also there is Foula, which is eighteen miles from the nearest land and often isolated by storms. There is also Fair Isle, about midway between Shetland and Orkney. Mainland, the largest island, is of a scraggy, skeleton-like shape less than sixty miles in length and nowhere more than twelve miles wide. There is a spot near to the Parish of Brae called Mavis Grind where one can cast a stone from the east coast into the sea on the west coast. Yell and Unst are next in size and are commonly known as the North Isles.
Shetland is a land of rugged grandeur. Nowhere in Great Britain is its rock scenery surpassed. In some places sheer cliffs rise out of the sea to a height of thirteen hundred feet. The coast is much indented, its indentations resembling the fjords of Norway, but almost treeless. Were these “voes” studded with trees, the scenery would equal that of Killarney. Shetland is often classed with Scotland, but this should not be done, as it is a different land in many respects. Even the rock strata is different. Shetland is extremely hilly; hardly can it be said to be mountainous. Ronas Hill-the highest peak-is 1475 feet high. It is not always visible, often being draped in mist, and in winter appearing like a snow-capped sentinel against the gray of the arctic sky. The hill surface is invariably peat and is dotted everywhere with granite boulders of supposed glaciological origin. It is a woefully sterile land, scarcely an apology for a tree growing anywhere on its bosom. Beautiful heather, bearing myriad pink flowers, is God’s carpet for this land, and occasionally one finds a sprig of the rarest white. In summer the banks of the burns are often garlanded with primroses, and with lovely wild bluebells. There is also a species of yellow lily growing where fresh water flows. The lochs and burns offer the fisherman plenty of brown trout, and in the fall one may hook a fine sea trout.
Here is the home of the cormorant. Amid the wildest tumult of a winter’s gale he can be seen taking his constitutional, bobbing up and down on the seething waters. Here, too, is the haunt of the kittiwake – a northern gull with three toes and with black-tipped wings. Some of the rarer gulls are well protected. Shetland is a birdland pre-eminent. It is said that in Lerwick, the capital, a sea gull roosts on every chimney-pot; and often the streets fairly echo with their shrill haunting cries. Children try to make pets of the gulls and call them by name and feed them daily. The birds soon learn to recognize their young admirers; and should a person come across a pile of rice laid out on the garden wall, he or she would know that it had been placed there for some pet gull. At night the gulls leave their own appointed chimney-pots and fly gracefully away to their nesting places on the rocks of the Isle of Noss, where they live by the thousands. And, of course, the poets of Shetland ( of which there are many) have something to say about the beloved gulls (peerie mootie ) :
Peerie mootie! peerie mootie!
O, du love, du joy, du beauty!
Whaar is du come frae?
Whaar is du been?
Wi’ di swittlin feet
And di glitterin een?
It is a lovely and satisfying thing to be able to say that, in all this wide world, there is no place where wild birds are less molested, either for food, feathers, or gain. Shooting birds for “full’ is everywhere frowned upon in the Shetland Islands. And probably nowhere on earth has the ornithologist a richer field for observation of bird life. Quite a number of native Shetlanders are enthusiastic students of the varied peculiarities of their feathered friends. The variety is astonishing: many species of duck, some wild swans, even the falcon is seen; and among the smaller birds, linnets, larks, wrens, starlings, and sparrows are extremely common.
In the voes one rarely gets a glimpse of a whale; but outside, one occasionally sees them, though no longer in schools as formerly. Seals and porpoises are quite numerous.
All over the island, that hardy and beloved creature is seen – the Shetland pony. In the many years they have existed in Thule, they have mostly had to take care of themselves, both in summer and in winter. In winter one often sees them eating seaweed on the shore. Some of these ponies live to be very old, frequently about thirty years, though one here and there has been known to reach the hoary age of forty-five! They are almost human in intelligence and most affectionate in their remembrance of friends. But their day is on the wane, due to good roads and the motor car. And electricity in the coal mines forbids the Shetland pony’s return to that shameful darkness-that is one bright blessing for which their friends are profoundly thankful. Yet, “Nothing sadder in the history of the islands, so far at any rate as the dumb creation is concerned, has ever happened than the shooting by their owners of these beautiful and hardy little Shetland ponies almost human in their intelligence. Through untold generations they had gradually adapted themselves to their environment, only to find at last that they were unnecessary to their owners, and unwanted by anyone else.”
The climate here is uncertain: sometimes more charming than California, though ofttimes more akin to North Britain. There is much rain, some fog, some snow, and frequent sunshine; when sunny days do come, they are enchanting. A young lady from London, in charge of a school, writes : “‘Life is very narrow here. That is one of the defects of Shetland; but I suppose it has its compensations-the summer, for instance. It is a most elusive thing, this summer; it reminds one of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ who had jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today .” It is indeed a rainy land, and one cannot trust the signs of the times; but Shetland’s best friend ( climatically speaking) is the Gulf Stream; hence the winters are less cold than in either England or Scotland. Really hot weather is unknown, and “from June to September the weather can be perfect, and sometimes is.” Rainfall in Shetland is about forty inches. Comparably, this is certainly not excessive. Yet, at times, it rains and rains and rains-“there is a sound of abundance of rain” – then, happily, “clear shining after rain.”
The capital city of this rocky archipelago is Lerwick – the quaintest town that ever was built. Coming in from the North Sea by way of Bressay Sound, one does not seem to notice any streets. One visitor says: “It seems as though the buildings had at one time danced a jig and then had sat down any way and anywhere.” Upon landing, one finds the houses all huddled together, and some of the streets are very narrow, extremely so. On the waterfront there are buildings that stand in the water of the harbor, waves often breaking on their gable ends. But Lerwick is not merely quaint and lacking in modernity. The beautiful town hall with its clock and peal of bells is worthy of much admiration. It is said that this is the finest building in all the northern islands and the most ambitious of their modern architecture. It is of Gothic design, and both inside and outside are elaborately decorated. The beautiful stained-glass windows presenting historical portraits are a joy to behold; and the sweet-sounding bells of the tower were cast at the famous foundry of Van Aerschodt, of Louvain, in Belgium. In a word this attractive civic structure is a “historic memorial of the past thousand years.” Other fine buildings in Lerwick include the Bruce Hostel for Girls, the Anderson Educational Institute, the Carnegie Hostel for Boys, the Central Public School, a splendid fish mart, and most excellent harbor works.
On a sunny summer day the town and harbor present a most beautiful sight, especially if viewed from some points on the North Road. We, Alicia and I, will never forget cycling in one day from the country, and suddenly coming into full view of the scene. The sun was shining wonderfully, and the sky was as blue as an Italian sky. In the harbor there lay at anchor a variety of steamers and some wind craft with sails idling in the breeze. It was exquisite! Lerwick is a wonderful little city in many respects – unique and different as could possibly be. Its nominal population is about five thousand, though in the heydays of the herring industry it rose steadily during the summer months to over twenty thousand. Unfortunately, those banner days are no more, thanks to British governmental disinterest and laxity in allowing Norwegian whaling stations to be set up with their filth and offal poisoning the coastal waters; that, and the greediness and lawlessness of some companies in grasping for the last fish.
Then came the world wars with the consequent loss of European markets and the call to the colors. Shetlanders, both men and women, rose to defend the nation which had neglected them. In the Second World War one Shetland man in seventy gave his life for the Empire. Their loyalty should be emblazoned in gold. During the great herring seasons of the past, the push and business-like spirit of Lerwick compared quite favorably with anything in America 0£ similar size. Hundreds of steam and diesel drifters visited the port month after month. Then there were the herring stations where hundreds of girls were employed “gutting.” It was hard, cold work and their wages nothing wonderful. Here they worked from daylight to dark, and often beyond the dark. Lassies, only Shetland lassies, but everyone of them a heroine!
Scalloway, a quaint village of some eight hundred inhabitants, is the old capital and is about seven miles southwest of Lerwick. Here is an ancient castle built by slave labor for Earl Patrick Stewart in the year 1600. The Shetlander has no good word for the builder. For seventeen years Earl Patrick tyrannized the Shetland people, and as “Black Pate” he has gone down in history as the worst tyrant and plunderer the islands ever knew. There is still to be seen the big iron ring from which the Earl used to hang all the “bits o’ bodies that wadna do something he bade ’em.” No wonder “fouk speak muckle black ill of Earl Patrick.” He was finally executed for tyranny and oppression.
The “farthest north” town in the islands is possibly Norwick in Unst. What Point Barrow is to Alaska, Norwick is to Shetland. The comparison is purely a matter of geography, and there truly does the comparison end. Norwick is for the most part a quiet and peaceful village. Further north is a bird sanctuary, I think; and still further north on an outlying islet is Muckle Flugga Lighthouse – Great Britain’s most northerly island residence. Beyond the light there is nothing but rocks and the illimitable polar ocean; nothing but a vast boreal theatre of monstrous billows, ice fields and snow-an immensity often lit by those magical fires of the great white north, the phantasmagoric aurora.
Harold Grimshaw included the following photographs in the original edition of his Shetland Island book. They are reproduced in Figure 5.
- It Is a Woefully Sterile Land
- A Shetland Peasant and a Kishie of Peats
- “Making Good” – A Native Son, A Ship’s Master, A Gentleman Loved by All
- A Shetland Home
- Wildly Grand in All Its Adorable Rage
Figure 5. Photographs from A Sturdy Little Northland
The epilogue to Memories of the Shetland Islands gives another nice sample of Harold’s work as an author:
These Shetland Islands, this wonderland, are so full of interest and novelty that it would take a thick book to describe it all-one many, many times larger than this small volume of fact and fantasy. It is a land that is always the same but of qualities opposite: a barren land, a land of heather bloom and wild flowers; of mad tempestuous seas, and a marvelous stillness pervading some exquisite nights and days; a land where desolation and solitude reign-one where truest fellowship dwells. A sturdy archipelago of rocky isles, ocean-girt and sometimes blizzard-swept-but nevertheless a blessed land. One does leave these islands with deepest regret and remembers them with love and longing.
“Let my right hand lose its cunning,
If I forget thee – “
Title page, dedication, and contents…
Proem and first two chapters…
P R O E M :
Thule, now known as Shetland, is an archipelago of one hundred islands, less than thirty of which are inhabited, situated on the sixtieth parallel and lying considerably to the north of the Orcades. “There,” says Tacitus in a reference to their early Roman discovery, “far beyond, Thule dimly gloomed on them: “Thule, which hitherto snow and tempest had concealed.” And it is Galgacus the Caledonian chieftain who cries: “What mad lust of conquest is it that has brought the Romans hither? This is the end of the world! There is nothing beyond but rocks and floods.” So sterile are these islands that the hardiest trees in the world have refused to grow in their miserable soil; nothing but stunted heather clothes the nakedness of the rocks, which, where exposed, have been scoured and bleached, by the countless gales of the centuries, like the bones of some huge mammal.
However, this very wildness of things is an enchanting wildness; like many of the subarctic lands Thule has a spell of its own! Not only is it a playground for tempests and desolation; it is, par excellence, a place to arouse the sense of wonder. There is a charm about the land itself: great brown hills that in summertime are graced with purple heather-bloom, and in winter appear like a sparkling crystal wilderness. To climb to the summit of a nearby elevation and look down on a patch of snow-covered islands – white spots on a sapphire sea – especially when the snow is new, is a sight to make one shout for joy. And overhead stretches a smokeless sky of bluest blue. This sky too is magical: in the morning, it is soft and mellow with an eastern tinge of orange; at evening, it is often a phantasmagoria of brilliant red and gold. And, when the lamp of day has gone to shine in some other land, mystic, magic beams of light-pink, yellow, white, green-flash across the heavens like filmy searchlights; and great luminous curtains swish and rustle in the sky, august heralds of Valkyries riding. This is what Shetlanders call “the merrie dancers,” the Aurora Borealis. Thule’s sea is also an enchantment beyond compare. One day it is mirror-like; the next, a boiling tumultuous waste. Sometimes its music is a funeral dirge, minor and weird, moaning like a god in pain. Sometimes it is a march of gladness, as the snowy-tipped breakers roll in majesty toward the land. But it is at night, when the breeze has diminished and all is quiet, that the sea sings its divinest song. The big waves are dissolved in slumber, the crash and the thunder have gone, but down on the shingly beach a trio of wavelets is kissing the little pebbles. They are playing truant, for Mother Sea is sleeping. Ever so often they steal away from her bosom. There is a noise of love-making among the pebbles; then with a “swish,” the wee waves run back, and all is still again.
“Music that gentlier on the spirit lies
Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes.”
The Shetlanders are of Viking extraction, resembling their heroic ancestors not only in facial contour and expression – prominent cheekbones and the use of Norse words – but in quality of blood and greatness of spirit. These people, now so distant from their roving forefathers, and so little known to the great world at large, are still living the same indefatigable heroic life of good deeds and chivalrous acts.
It was while he was a missionary in the district of North-mavine that the writer of this account came into close touch with the real Shetland and the Shetland people:
“A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich on forty pounds a year:”
His headquarters was the little Manse at G–. There were many sub-quarters, blessed homes of the poor. And they were poor homes indeed, with earthen floors and smoky peat fires, but the meanest was redolent with a beneficence and gracious welcome which are worth a pilgrimage to find.
There were but two rooms in the Manse: one was a lumber room; the other served every conceivable purpose both domestic and ministerial. Only in the center of this latter apartment could one stand upright, because the roof was water-shed. Standing in the middle of the room and facing north, one could see the sleeping quarters with the romantic iron bedstead. The fancy iron framework at the lower end of this piece of furniture had been broken away and an extension affixed, because a predecessor had been a longfellow. At the right, pots and pans in bright array hung on their respective hooks. To the left was the open fireplace, where, in the warm glow of nocturnal flames, a troupe of gymnastic mice used to enliven the dominie’s sleepless hours; while in the direction that faced the big brown hills was the study.
Not many pictures adorned the walls of this room. Those over the fireplace were begrimed with the peat smoke that persisted in puffing down when the wind was in the south. On the floor the only covering was a bit of ragged oilcloth and a sheepskin or two. When the wind was blowing east and the rain was beating down, water got in by the window, so that there would be a constant pool near the door. Peter Manaon, they said, had tried again and again to stop the intrusion, but his kindly amateur patches were of no avail…. Dear little Manse, thy faults were many, but he whom thou didst shelter still remembers thee with love and longing!
The traveler who first learns of the Shetlander’s honesty finds it nothing short of a revelation. In this mercenary age, the uprightness and integrity of this people presents a striking example. Old Magnus Troil, in Scott’s Pirate, says: “There are such things as bolts and bars in Scotland, though, thanks to St. Ronald, they are unknown here, save the great lock on the old Castle of Scalloway that all men run to see”; and, in the same book, Mertoun says to Cleveland: “You will find no occasion for weapons in this country; a child might travel with a purse of gold from Sumburgh Head to the Scaw of Unst, and no soul would injure him.” “Robbers!” echoed Triptolemus Yellerly. “There are no more robbers in this country than there are lambs at Yule. I tell you there are no Highland men to harry us here. This is a land of quiet and honesty. O fortunati nimium!“
After spending twelve months in the homes of this indefatigable seafolk (many of them the poorest), and after experiencing their kindness, honesty, and heroism, the writer finds that they have somehow gotten themselves into his heart. No greater-hearted people ever lived. They are a folk who are ever on the lookout for someone poorer than themselves, for it is their nature to give like the sun and the flowers. During his stay with them, the writer felt as though kind, obliging friends were always lying in wait to serve and do him good. So very often, parcels of butter, eggs, or bread were found on the stone doorstep of the little ‘Manse, and very seldom could he learn who had left them. These people perpetually seemed to practice that particular New Testarnent injunction: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” They could never be persuaded to accept money in return for kindness rendered, and they were offended if one attempted to pay them. Notwithstanding the lack of the wherewithal to help, there was abundant willingness in their hearts. A man of the parish of Northmavine set out late one night in his punt pulling “a lang Scots mile.” For what? To claim a legacy? To take care of a lighthouse? Nay, it was “to tak’ auld Magn ie a peerie scar o’ cough medcin.” And often during the wild and stormy winters the lassies will put on their brothers’ clothes, and set out in the wind and the snow to find the sheep.
Dr. Frederick A. Cook has said, concerning the Danes in Greenland: “It is with sweetest memories of the warm hospitality of these people that I here subscribe my never-to-be-forgotten appreciation.” Likewise the writer, once a lone minister in Thule, does here inscribe his humble testimony: that the Shetlanders, by reason of their greatheartedness and wonderful kindness, have caused to be written in the archives of his remembrance a scroll of lovely memories which will never lose their fragrance and never cease to bloom….
“When chapman billies leave the street”
“What ill wind’s blowing noo?”
So spoke a certain Shetland crofter named Magnus Thorsen, by way of an unwelcome greeting to one Obadiah McLain, a Scotch peddler, who was at the moment in the act of landing from a borrowed punt to the steppingstones of Thorsen’s jetty at Papa Litta.
” ‘Tis a ill wind indeed that blows nae good,” retaliated the peddler in a jocular way, as the keel of his boat growled on the shingle.
“Na, na! Magnus Thorsen kens a good thing when he sees it! The breeze that brings McLain t’ th’ Isle is an ill wind, I tell ye.”
“Come, come, honored sir,” said the peddler, stepping from the punt and pulling it over the tide-line, “dinna be sae sour on this, me farewell veesit. The merchant McLain bids adieu t’ Thule.”
“That’s braw good news for Shetland,” replied the crofter carelessly.
This peddler, McLain, was a hawker with a most unsavory reputation; a passerby, but the antithesis of the stranger of Jerome’s fancy. Plainly speaking, he was a cumberer of the earth. It is most unlikely that the reader has met such an individual in his travels. He was not tall, certainly no more than five feet; and exceedingly stout about the abdomen, the latter being graced by a multicolored vest of huge dimensions. His trousers were always the same old pair of soiled gray, armored very substantially by darnings about the knees. He wore a parson’s coat, long since green, that had once adorned a pulpit of the Established Church; and his unusually large head, with furtive eyes, was ornamented with a full and preposterous beard. The men hated him; the capricious youths played their pranks upon him; and the wisest of the women steadfastly forbore encouragement of his trade.
“I hae with me the day, my dear sir,” said the hawker, opening his pack, “a limited number o’ unco braw pipes-clays, French briars, and cherry. This silver-mounted beauty is the companion o’ ane that I sold t’ Lord Perth. For the meeserable consideration of a paltry halfcroon, it shall-“
“Were it made o’ gowd,” replied Thorsen, suddenly be-thinking himself of something and moving over into the wind, “I dinna want it; I hae nae use for sic things.”
“Well, noo, would ye care for some fancy soap, a clock, a comb, jackknife, pincers, pencils, and what not?”
“Naething the day, McLain.”
“Perhaps the good wife hae need o’ hodden gray, buttons, thread, hooks and eyes; or, maybe she hae need o’ a sma’-tooth comb?”
“McLain, the Thorsens are na’ in need o’ a thing,” the crofter said with much earnestness.
“Let me sell ye a bonnie diamond ring, or a coral brooch for th’ lassie,” persisted the nuisance.
Exasperated, Thorsen replied, “Have I nae just telt ye, Magnus Thorsen does na’ wish t’ buy a thing o’ McLain. Jewelry and fancy vests are na’ for crofters, McLain.”
“A’ things that come frae God, my frien’, are guid things. Ye surely dinna ca’ luxuries things o’ the Deil!”
“Things that blast and blight are things t’ be shunned,” said the crofter vehemently. “An’ I tell ye this, it was a muckle ill day for Thule when the Scots gat a hold o’ her.”
“But, my dear sir, progress and advancement are the glory o’ ceevilization,” argued the peddler. “Gad, Thorsen, ye sin against th’ licht! Does na’ the guid auld Buke say: `Arisel and shine for yer licht is come’? The Shetland folk need enlichtenin’, ye ken.”
“Ye Scot!” thundered the crofter in a rage. “I’ll tell ye summat that would mak’ angels greet. There’s them o’ your kind that be always a-preachin’ and a-sayin’ `eddicate the crofters, teach ’em ceevilization’1 An’ listen, ye Scotl” – here Thorsen took hold of the peddler’s vest with such vigor that the latter almost lost his balance – “listen l do ye hear me while I tell ye summat mair: Thanks to ceevilization, there will sune be nae hearthstanes withoot their shamfu’ secrets, and sune oor lads and lassies will hae left naething untried. And I’ll say this while I’m aboot it: never dare ye to come t’ Papa Litta again a-preachin’ ceevilization.”
The big Shetlander turned and began to walk toward the door of his cottage. He was warm with the heat of the argument, for it was a subject near to his heart; he could not bear to see the crofters and their families being corrupted. Of a sudden, he stopped at the grind of his plantie cruive, * and, with back to the peddler and arm upraised, he exclaimed with fervor:
“Give me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire, That’s a’ the learning 1 desire.”
After this, he quietly passed through the grind and entered the house. McLain had by this time hobbled his way back to the punt, which was afloat. On reaching midstream, he shook his fist in the direction of Thorsen’s croft, muttering all the while into his ample beard.
2 MAGNUS THORSEN
“No delight has he in the world,
Nor in aught save the rolls of the billows-”
Midway between the parish of Arundel Roe and that ro-mantic spot Mavis Grind, there is a small unpretentious island that is called Papa Litta. The tourist, should he wish out of curiosity to visit this isle, can locate it by taking a small boat either from Aith, Brae, or Olnafirth, though, if he would make sure his safe return, he must take with him a kindly “old salt,” because it is the easiest thing in the world to get lost in the maze of smaller islets and the labyrinth of sounds and voes. Papa Litta is the island which lies to the south of Muckle Roe and east of Vementry. It is less than a mile in length, and at the present time is uninhabited except by a flock of hardy sheep which all the year round manage to subsist on the heather. In common with all the islands of this quaint archipelago, its shore is rugged, and in quite a number of places the rocks are red. Seldom indeed does the sun shine on Papa Litta or human foot tread its stony elevations. Its associates are the cormorant, the gulls, and the seal, the wild sea waves, fog, and hail. Surrounding it is sea water that is black and deep and treacherous – so black, that the channel which lies to the north has been designated Coal Deep. Several times during fifty years has the British Admiralty sounded this passage, and each time the lead has gone down a full hundred and twenty fathoms.
It was about the year 1845 when Magnus Thorsen and his family dwelt on Papa Litta. Their home was a simple straw-thatched cottage, such as still enshrines the virtuous life of the peasantry of North Britain. It was on the east side of the island, being the lee side, that the Thorsens lived, and to this day the crumbling ruins of their small croft can still be seen. Nothing whatever is left of the once – cherished home but the lower half of its four stone walls; not a splinter of wood, except the telltale bits of wreckage that lie strewn above the tide-line, is anywhere to be seen. On the south side of this ruin, there is a last evidence of two small outhouses, such as the Shetlanders use for cattle; while immediately north is a pile of stones – perhaps at one time part of the building – resembling closely an Iceland vardr.
Magnus Thorsen was a Norseman and a capital specimen of the race. He was the last representative of the long line of Thorsens. One had but to look at him to get a fair idea of the sort of stuff that once made Viking chiefs. He was a man of lofty stature, well proportioned, and bore a look of the unconquerable. His countenance, while of a dominant cast, was also full of tenderness, so that those who knew him both loved and feared him. His face was brown and weather-beaten, and his hair, worn long, was in color like the seaweed and inclined to be curly. A beard adorned his face, long, smooth, and dignified. His mouth and nose were perfect; his eyes, deep blue and pleasing. He impressed one as a person who had never wept, but to whom weeping was not impossible. On the other hand – insult him, or rouse his indignation and wrath, and he might quickly take on the character of a lion.
Supreme above all minor characteristics was this stalwart’s blood – he was Norse. This was his birthright, and he was exceedingly proud of it. He was so loyal that whenever a stranger asked him his name, he must also learn his heritage. He had a skipper-like way of saying – “Magnus Thorsen, Norseman.” Thorsen was one of the few Shetlanders of his day who reverently treasured the remaining fragments of a once great and glorious Northland. To be compelled to wit-ness the tragic decay, and see the encroachments of that new thing called civilization, was to him a painful experience. To such as he, the march of the new, though indeed very slow, was pregnant with disquieting symptoms. Strange new inventions occasionally made their appearance; and such things as strong spirituous liquors, questionable traders, and traveling shows, were leaving ugly footprints in their wake.
No man in Thule hated the Scots more than he, and he was one of the fast-decaying minority who still felt wounded by the passing of the Islands to British rule. “I like you the better for being no Scot,” said Scott’s Magnus Troil. “Hither they have come like the clack-geese, and here they roost for ever.” Yet, Thorsen spoke Shetlandic, which by this time had become almost Scotch, with but a fragmentary suggestion of the once glorious Norse. But there was indeed one Scotch-man who had gained for himself the respect and admiration of the Viking: this was none other than Sir Walter. Perhaps, and it is a thought which blossoms more and more, the rea-son may be found in the virile wholesomeness of Scott’s Pirate which, with its strong Norse sympathies, must have seemed to Magnus Thorsen like a very precious letter from afar. It is known that The Pirate had a place in the Thorsen home.
Like most of his fellow islanders, Magnus Thorsen was a benefactor. Should the raggedest beggar that ever lived come to his door in the dead of night, our Viking would rise and say: “Stranger, ye are welcome, come ye in.” Those who lived in the vicinity of Papa Litta used to relate the story that when a certain whaler went to pieces on the northwest point of the island, this generous man and his wife fed and housed as rough and ill a set of shipwrecked dunderheads as ever climbed a companionway. Like Mess Lethierry: “He wore his heart on his hand.” It was a large coarse hand and a great big heart.
The Thorsen family consisted of father, mother, one daughter, and three sons – the latter being deep-sea men and all in foreign lands. The wife and mother was a blue-eyed, flaxen-haired daughter of the district of Northmavin. As a family, they were not in penurious circumstances. Neither were they well-to-do. Their total stock of sheep was about twenty; they had a cow and a sheltie (Shetland pony). Being honest and tactful, fortune had at least not frowned on them; the family had always been comfortably provided for, ac-cording to the simple standard of the northern islands. Of course, as is usual in Shetland, the three sons who were sailing the seven seas always remembered the “auld hame,” and at Christmastide, year by year, they had sent home to parents and sister, in all a considerable sum.
The daughter, Helga, was a typical Shetland maid of about twenty summers, tall and exceedingly graceful. She was, at first glance, the image of her mother, though in some respects she bore a strong resemblance to her father-like him, her eyes and nose and mouth were perfect. Those deep-blue dreamy eyes, which are occasionally seen in the princesses of Thule, and which, better than sapphires, are the index of a pleasing personality, were hers. And O! such a wealth of flaxen hair that verily shone of its own luster. It should also be told, that a curious crimson birthmark might have been seen just a little below her right temple. Strange to say, this mark – it was in no way a disfiguration – had the shape of a small starfish. Some tourists who once saw it said it was like a miniature poinsettia. Like all Shetland lassies Helga was industrious, particularly noted within the districts of Aith-sting and Delting for her exceptional skill in spinning and delicate shawl work. Shetlanders now residing in the vicinity-of Papa Litta faintly remember her by name as a model of thrift and ability. In her day, there was no other maid could compete with her for improvisation of pattern and rapidity of production. She made shawls, wraps, and bridal veils with such taste and delicacy of style that the merchants near-by directed occasional travelers to the Thorsen home.
Located about 20 miles southwest of San Jose, CA…
History and Pastoral Leadership of the Methodist Church in Boulder Creek, California
White settlers began moving into the Santa Cruz Mountains in the mid-1800s and some accounts indicate that by 1865 Methodist class meetings began in the area. A likely class member was Joseph W. Peery. Peery, born in West Virginia in 1830, located to Boulder Creek in 1868 and purchased a waterpower sawmill. A 1903 California History credits Peery with having, “devastated of their natural growth eighteen hundred acres of land in the county.” The history also notes, “He is the owner of two hundred and sixty acres of land, besides a portion of that upon which Boulder Creek has been built.” Peery, disturbed by the lifestyle of loggers who supported numerous saloons, gambling and prostitution, founded the town of Lorenzo, built one-quarter mile south of Boulder Creek. Peerys lots featured no whiskey clauses.
In 1874 Peery built the Lorenzo Methodist Episcopal Church, the first church in the San Lorenzo Valley. The church was built on land where the current United Methodist church stands at the corner of Mountain and Boulder Streets. The Lorenzo Methodist Episcopal Church was part of the California Conference and originally located in the San Francisco District. In the Methodist Church, the Bishop makes pastoral appointments and the District Superintendent provides supply pastors. Appointments and assignments are made one year at a time, usually at the Annual Conference. In the early days, the Annual Conference was held in the fall, and appointments began shortly after. Over the years, the church in Lorenzo, which became Boulder Creek, has been served by both appointment and supply….
Rev. T. Harold Grimshaw served for four years, from November 1922 through October 1926. The Ladies Aid recorded paying Rev. Grimshaw for janitorial services in 1922 and 1924. His wife, Alice was president of the Ladies Aid during his tenure. Rev. Grimshaw was paid salary in 1925 of $190 and $80 in 1926. He recorded performing 4 weddings and 3 baptisms in his tenure.
George W. Gordon followed Grimshaw from November 1926 to October 1928. The Ladies Aid recorded paying $40 in moving expenses for the new pastor. Rev. Gordon sought their approval to take a vacation for the month of Sept. 1927. To save money, the Ladies Aid asked the Rev. Gordon to cut down on electric light expenses in Oct. 1927. Rev. Gordon recorded 14 baptisms from December 1927 through April 1928.
On October 9, 1928, the Ladies Aid hosted a reception to welcome back Rev. Grimshaw and his family who returned to Boulder Creek to minister for another year…
This project is my gift to all the saints, past and present whom have made Boulder Creek United Methodist Church a home to encounter God, a hearth for the spirit, and a doorway to Christian discipleship. May we in all our human creativity, strength, and imperfection continue to be Gods church for this time and place.
October 2, 2005
Located northeast of Scotland, 600 miles north of London…
Shetland (formerly spelled Zetland, from Ȝetland) formerly called Hjaltland, is one of 32 council areas of Scotland. It is an archipelago to the north-east of Orkney and mainland Scotland, with a total area of approximately 1466 km² (566 sq. miles). It forms part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. The administrative centre and only burgh is Lerwick.
The largest island, known as the Mainland, has an area of 374 square miles, making it the third-largest Scottish island and also the third-largest island surrounding Great Britain.
Shetland is also a lieutenancy area, comprises the Shetland constituency of the Scottish Parliament, and was formerly a county.
During the 1960s and 1970s oil and gas was found off Shetland. The East Shetland Basin is one of the largest petroleum sedimentary basins in Europe and the oil extracted there is sent to the terminal at Sullom Voe (Norse: Solheimavagr). Sullom Voe terminal opened in 1978 and is the largest oil export harbour in Great Britain with a volume of 25 million tons per year.
The culture of Shetland is very much a mix produced by the influences from both Scandinavia and the British Isles. Shetland’s fiddle music is a blend of many influences, including ancient Norwegian folk music, Scots reels, jigs and slow airs, and tunes brought home by sailors from Ireland, Germany, North America and even Greenland. The landscape and the light found here has been an inspiration to many artists in the fields of painting, drawing and sculpturing, both local and from other parts of the world. There are several local art galleries. The Shetland dialect was actively discouraged in schools, churches and civic life until the late 20th century, but has since then been restored to be also a language of culture. It is used both in local radio and dialect writing, kept alive by the Shetland Folk Society and the quarterly New Shetlander magazine.
Up Helly Aa is any of a variety of fire festivals held in Shetland annually in the middle of winter. Some of the elements of Up Helly Aa is said to go back 12 centuries and more, but the festival is only just over 100 years old in its present, highly organised form. The festival is a celebration of the islands’ Viking heritage and includes a procession of men dressed as Vikings and the burning of a replica longship.
Out of the approximately 100 islands, only fifteen are inhabited. The main island of the group is known as Mainland.
The other inhabited islands are: Bressay, Burra, Fetlar, Foula, Muckle Roe, Papa Stour, Trondra, Vaila, Unst, Whalsay, Yell in the main Shetland group, plus Fair Isle to the south, and Housay and Bruray in the Out Skerries to the east….
Fair Isle lies approximately halfway between Shetland and Orkney, but it is administered as part of Shetland and is often counted as part of the island group. The Out Skerries lie east of the main group. Due to the islands’ latitude, on clear winter nights the aurora borealis or ‘northern lights’ can sometimes be seen in the sky, while in summer there is almost perpetual daylight, a state of affairs known locally as the ‘simmer dim’.
Shetland has a temperate Atlantic Ocean climate, which entails that the summers are mostly drizzle, light and cool. The sunniest months of the year are the period from April to August and has at most 19 hours of sunlight in a day. Winters are dark, mild and with the number of daylight hours dropping to below eight a day.
Average yearly precipitation is 1037 mm, which is half that of Fort William on the west coast of Scotland. 3/4 of the precipitation falls during winter. The driest period is from April to August and fog is common in the east of the islands during summer.
Average temperature coldest month 4.9 °C (February)
Average temperature warmest month 14 °C (August)
Number of days with temperature below freezing 33 days
Annual precipitation 1037 mm
Number of days a year with snowfall 70 days
Number of days a year with precipitation 269 days
Source: Shetlands tourist agency, 8. November 2006
The landscape in Shetland is marked by the grazing of sheep and the rarity of trees. The flora is dominated by arctic-alpine plants, wild flowers, moss and lichen.
Shetland is the site of one of the largest bird colonies in the North Atlantic home to more than one million birds. Most birds are found in colonies on Hermaness, Foula, Mousa, Noss, Sumburgh Head and Fair Isle. Some of the birds found on the islands are Atlantic Puffin, Storm-petrel, Northern Lapwing and Winter Wren. Many arctic birds spend the winter on Shetland and among those are Whooper Swan and Great Northern Diver.
Map of Shetland Islands
Shetland Pony and Scenery
1Grimshaw, T. Harold, 1913, A Sturdy Little Northland, a Tribute to the Shetlanders: Cincinnati, OH, Jennings & Graham, and New York, NY, Eaton & Mains, 108 p.
2Grimshaw, T. Harold, 1954, Sunshine Sonniksen: an Idyl of the Shetland Islands: New York, NY, Exposition Press, 72 + 1 p.
3Grimshaw, T. Harold, 1955, Memories of the Shetland Islands, the Delineation of an Afterglow: New York, NY, Exposition Press, 27 p.
Webpage posted April 2001, updated June 2001. Updated November 2006 with addition of “Migrations” website information from Marian Gardner (later replaced in April 2009). Upgraded March 2007 with addition of information on Sunshine Sonniksen as well as maps and Shetland Island summary. Updated April 2009 with addition of Thomas’ ancestry information by Marian Gardner.