Robert James Jamieson (1890-1918) was the son of James Jamieson and Barbara Ann Williamson. The family lived at 21 St Magnus Street, Lerwick. James Jamieson was a seafarer on the Solway Queen, a coaster trading between Shetland and the south.
Robert was a clever young man. A certificate from Lerwick’s Central School shows him gaining good marks for French. As an adult he held a job in John Brown’s business, at Freefield, Lerwick. He became involved with politics and joined the passionately Marxist Social Democratic Federation. It had around 200 members in Lerwick at one time. Unlike other parts of the left, it did not oppose the war.
Robert’s brother Peter, eight years his junior, was clearly very fond of him. Peter was an indefatigable note-taker and writer, and founded a still-extant magazine, the New Shetlander. His papers are in the Shetland Archives, among them the letters and other artefacts he retained from his brother. He copied out, lovingly, some of the letters into a notebook.
Robert was a great correspondent for the short time he was at war. The tone is never downbeat, in fact, it is reassuring. He is interested in what is around him, and is gaining a new skill. He trained as a signaller in Cromarty, gaining good marks, and sometimes tobacco. He told home it was a safe job. He wrote regularly, and if there was a gap the family sent an enquiring telegram. The Jamiesons were a communicative family, concerned with one another. There’s a feeling, unsurprisingly, of anxiety among it all.
On 4 January 1918 he marks his passage to France using a letter card with views of Folkestone, France, and he is finally able to use his French, fascinates him. He praises the country. Despite his assurances, his work as a signaller was not safe. He died of wounds on an ambulance train on 12 April 1918.