A Shetland Love Story (The Flash)

This month on the blog, the Experimental Daters have been writing about LOVE!  Our resident photographer The Flash rounds up April on the 30 Dates Blog with a story of some rather lovely letters!

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

I have 48 love letters.

None of which are addressed to me, but I sigh and smile and get doe eyed reading them just as much as if they were.


They were written 150 years ago by a courting couple in Shetland, and have been published alongside beautiful black and white photographs of the islands that absorb you straight into Robert and Barbara’s 19th century world.


Living 30 miles apart, in a harsh, windswept landscape where travel was often difficult, their courtship was mostly conducted by letter. It’s totally fascinating; you can literally read their relationship unfolding on each page, beginning with the first letter in which Robert declares his love for Barbara, written two years after their first encounter. Since that initial meeting, he describes how he has intentionally avoided seeing her as much as possible, for fear of making his affections known before he had the means to support a wife.


Ok, so it sounds massively removed from our 21st century lives in many respects, I know! Declaring undying love after just a handful of meetings, no ‘dating’, but having already considered the financial implications of marrying and building a home with her…sounds pretty intense! But as distant as those concerns are from what we experience, I can’t help recognising something so timeless about issues of love and relationships – the feelings Robert and Barbara battled and expressed are often the same that we feel and struggle with today.


I’ve never received a love letter (they just don’t exist in today’s world, right?! 😉 ) This is where I think technology is definitely letting us down. A love email just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?! Emails are never going to last 150 years, to be treasured, read and re-read, stored in an attic, and then even discovered by descendants and read all over again.

Imagine how it felt to write, to take your time, crafting the exact thing you wanted to say, carefully phrasing each expression so you communicated really well, as you knew you wouldn’t be there to see the reaction your words prompted and quickly correct any misinterpretation.

Imagine the suspense, the drama that built as you waited for the return letter. This is the ‘will he/won’t he call’ dilemma multiplied tenfold! In 19th century Shetland, you might have had to wait a couple of months, not sure if there had just been dreadful storms that had prevented mail getting through, whether some unexpected illness had come upon your loved one, or whether you simply needed to face the possibility that your affections weren’t returned. Talk about suspense!


Looking through this book, the romantic in me loves to dream about the way relationships were conducted 150 years, and imagine myself in that world, writing poetic letters. But then I come across some incredibly sexist thing Robert says (at one point he praises the bride at a wedding he was at, because “she behaved remarkably well and spoke but little”) and I thank the Lord I live in urban 2014!

Still, I definitely believe the world could do with more letters. Even if you’re not at that point in a relationship, maybe you could write some pure and simple Letters, minus the l-word? Or drop that girl/guy you fancy a little witty handwritten note instead of a text. (Just make sure it’s not cheesy. Or sexist.) Or, as ridiculous as it sounds, you could even write a love letter for a stranger: www.moreloveletters.com!

The Flash


Learn more about the book here: www.shetlandalovestory.co.uk


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