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Cottage of ‘prolific’ writer on the market

Wullver's Hool, overlooking Baltasound _ Photos: Courtesy of Harper Macleod LLP

A HISTORIC stone-built cottage in Unst once owned by renowned Shetland author Jessie Saxby has gone on sale.

The detached single-storey property in Halligarth, which was build in the 1890s and named Wullver’s Hool, was home to prolific writer Saxby for a number of decades until her death in 1940.

The three-bedroom Baltasound property has an asking price of offers over £25,000 and requires complete renovation.

Due to the local significance of the house, a conservation agreement with the National Trust for Scotland will be put in place to make sure external features and the character of the building are kept.

An open viewing will be held on Saturday between 10.30am and midday.

Saxby wrote nearly 50 books, including the 1868 poetry work Lichens from the Old Rock.

With an asking price of offers over £25,000 the property requires a complete renovation, the agent said.

Shetland archivist Brian Smith said the author, whose work spanned fiction, history and folklore, was a “writing phenomenon”.

“She was Shetland’s most prolific author of all time,” he said.

“There’s actually 66 years between her first book and her last book, and I’m sure that’s some sort of record. She had a hugely lengthy literary career.

“She started writing for publication when she was a teenager, and when her husband died in the 1870s, she had to write for a living because she had five children to bring up in Edinburgh.

“When she returned to Shetland in 1899 she was nearly 60, but she continued to write.”

Saxby’s father, Laurence Edmondston, was a well-known doctor and ornithologist, while her brother Thomas was a famed botanist who wrote Flora of Shetland in 1845.

There are plans meanwhile to renovate the nearby Halligarth House and turn the derelict building into a visitor and resource library/learning centre.

A number of organisations including Shetland Amenity Trust, National Trust for Scotland and Unst Partnership are working together on the project, with dialogue currently underway on proceeding with funding applications.

The building, which has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland since 1998, was home to four generations of the Edmondston and Saxby families.

An open day was held on Thursday to allow visitors to access Halligarth House and learn more about the development plans, while archivist Smith gave a talk about Jessie Saxby’s life.

The area features the UK’s most northerly woodland, which was planted by Laurence Edmondston in the 1840s.

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