A Sad Tale - The Nesting Fever Case

Published: 29th April 2020

A letter in The Shetland Times from March, 1880 sadly tells the desperate tale of a lady from Nesting (click the image right to see the letter in full). During these times many letters were submitted and published under a pseudonym. In this case, it would have been interesting to know who the author was, perhaps a local Minister, an angry neighbour or local political activist.

Whilst it would be crass to compare todays pandemic of Covid-19 with the Scarlet Fever outbreak in the 1880’s this desperate tale perhaps highlights some very different social care, living condition and basic medical care differences between the two.

Bruce Laurenson was born on 23rd May, 1842 at Vassa, Nsting. She was the daughter of Gaudie Laurenson and Sarah Morrison. She married Alexander Bruce Johnston in 1865, he died aged 22 years in 1866 when their son, also named Alexander Bruce Johnston, was just three months old.

Her second marriage was to Robert Gear in 1870, he was lost at sea in 1875. The couple had two children, Jessie Gear born 1871 and John Gear born 1873.  Alexander and Jessie were the two who died with the Fever in 1880.