John Robertson (i)

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For other people with the same name, see John Robertson.

John Robertson (b. 29 November 1810, Murron, Lunnasting, d. 9 April 1892, Lerwick) was a general merchant and had a lengthy spell in the Lerwick Town Council, representing initially from 1850 to 1874, then again from 1876 to 1890, a total of 38 years.


John was a very well known public figure in Shetland, with his obituary taking up three columns in the Shetland Times.

He was born in Lunnasting, and moved to Lerwick in 1826 aged 16. He first worked in his brother Robert's shop, before setting up his own grocery shop in February 1832 on Commercial Street.

Alongside his grocery business, John ventured into fishcuring with his brother Robert from 1832-1844 but there was a near collapse of the industry. He then set up sites in Dunrossness and Skerries, before also expanding his grocery business into Vidlin and Lunnasting. Although his curing businesses were shut down around 1855, he continued to run his grocery stores until 1885.

In 1859 when William Merrylees died, John was appointed an Agent of the North of Scotland Company with William's son Charles. He held this post until resigning in 1874, leaving Charles as the sole manager of the company.

In 1864, he set out to raise funds to improve the Victoria Pier, raising £300 when £500 was needed, so he subsequently made up the shortfall.

He was involved in setting up the Lerwick Gas Light Company and his grocery store in Lerwick was the first shop on the Isle to have gas lighting in 1858.

In 1877, he went to London to promote the Lerwick Harbour Bill to Parliament with a committee. He was also the Chair of the Harbour Board.

He was first elected to be a Commissioner of the Police in 1842, and joined the Lerwick Town Council in 1850. He served the Council for 40 years, and spent the final seven as the Chief Magistrates of the Burgh.

As a councillor in 1862, he was an important part of helping Lerwick improve in line with the Lindsay act, which sought to improve sanitation in the town.

He was the Junior Baillie from 1865-1874.

Other titles he held were Director of the North Sea Fisher and Zetland New Fishery Company. He was also a Commissioner of Supply, a Road Trustee and a Justice of the Peace. As well as holding a Licensing Justice role, wherein he always voted with the temperance movement. He was a member of the Parochial Board, a director of the Lerwick Town Hall Company and a director of the Shetland Fishermen's Widows' Relief Fund.

In politics, he was a Liberal, and a member of the Dissenting Church of Scotland, having previously been in the United Presbyterian,

His nephew, John, was also a Lerwick Town Councillor.

Political Career

External Links

Preceded by
Thomas Cameron
Chief Magistrate
for Lerwick Town Council

Succeeded by
Charles Robertson
Charles Robertson Headshot.png
Leaders of the Lerwick Town Council
Councillors Arthur Edmondston (1818-1823) • Charles Ogilvy Snr (1823-1827) • William Spence (1827-1832) • Charles Ogilvy Jr (1832-1844) • Joseph Leask (1844-1847) • William Sievwright Snr (1847-1856) • Charles Duncan (1856-1862) • Joseph Leask (1862-1865) • Charles Duncan (1865-1874) • William Sievwright Jr (1874-1876) • Thomas Cameron (1876-1883) • John Robertson (1883-1890) • Charles Robertson (1890-1895) • John Leisk (1895-1904) • James Goudie (1904-1907) • Arthur Porteous (1907-1910) • Arthur Laing (1910-1913) • Robert Stout (1913-1915) • Peter Goodlad (1915-1920) • Robert D. Ganson (1920-1924) • James Laing (1924-1927) • John Sinclair (1927-1930) • William Sinclair (1930-1933) • Robert Ollason (1933-1936) • James A. Smith (1936-1941) • Magnus Shearer (1941-1946) • James Aitken (1946-1950) • Robert A. Anderson (1950-1953) • George Burgess (1953-1956) • William Conochie (1956-1959) • Robert Blance (1959-1962) • Harry Gray (1962-1965) • Andrew Nicolson (1965-1967) • Eric Gray (1967-1971) • Bill Smith (1971-1974) • James Taylor (1974-1975)