Unst houses

In the 1960s June Owers did a splendid job of identifying, drawing and listing inhabitants in some of the old empty croft houses in Unst or “vod” houses as they are called here.

vod (adj) unoccupied, as a house.

From John J Graham’s Shetland Dictionary

Sheet 001 50pc

Example of the sheets in the Unst Heritage Centre for each house June Owers worked on

These are available to view at the Unst Heritage Centre. Those folk who come back to Unst to trace their family history find these invaluable.

I have been  thinking for a while now that we need to update this information by adding more houses to it. Even houses that are still lived in should be included with details of their history and the people who used to live in them in previous generations.

Walking at the Westing recently, I looked at the old disused School and then at the two houses nearby, one apparently called Murrasko.

I had found its name from this old map.

Murrasko Map

Map of Westing showing Murrasko and the School.
Click on the map to go to the zoom-able version on the NLS website.
This view is spread across two maps, click on the LHS or RHS to go to the full view of the appropriate map.

LHS of Map RHS of Map

Later, putting it on a local social media group, various people came up with lots of information including names of folk who lived in the house.

I decided that it would be good to ask people to help the Unst Heritage Centre to build on the existing material, including photos of houses and any information about who used to live there, and hopefully we can find out more, using family history resources, old maps etc.


Springpark, Baltasound, Unst
photo from John MacMechin

This is Springpark, the house I grew up in. So far I have found out that Charles Arthur, a retired school teacher who taught in Burrafirth School, lived there in 1891. Earlier there seems to be no reference to the house so I think it was built at that time or even perhaps built for Charles Arthur for his retirement.

My Grandmother, Marjorie Gray, came to the house after her husband died, having previously lived in Hoyvilla, a tied house linked to his work. She lived in Springpark from the 1920s.

My parents John and Mary Gray continued to live there.

I would really like Unst folk to let us have photos and information of houses they know or have family links to. This would be a tremendous addition to the family history section of Unst Heritage Centre.

We have a variety of maps and other documents at the Centre, as well as on line sites to check, so could help with the process.

This could take some considerable time, but looks to be an interesting project!

4 thoughts on “Unst houses

  1. Hi Rhoda

    This is an excellent idea. I will try to find out about Dale, where we were all born. Once we moved to Baltasound the roof of the house was taken off so Mootie didn’t have to pay rates on it

    Anna M Findlay Sent from my iPad


    • I am hoping that folk will bring photos and information about houses, and then hopefully we can dig up some more from family history and old maps and documents.
      I am planning to be at the Centre on Thursday afternoons from 2.30 working with stuff that comes in or folk can look along and speak about houses.

  2. According to J Laughton Johnston, Victorians 60 Degrees North (Lerwick, 2007), 278: Ursula [Edmonston (1819 – 1898)] also built a house, Springpark, for the retiring teacher at Burrafirth, the school for which her father, old Thomas [1779 – 1858], had once provided the funds.

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