19th April 2019
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Veteran author and teacher dies, aged 95

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Renowned local author James W Irvine, 95, who explored the close relationship between Shetland and Norway during the war years, has died.

The retired teacher is remembered for writing over 20 books in three decades.  His treasured works include well-loved titles like The Waves Are Free, which studied the wartime Shetland Bus operation that transported vital supplies to Nazi-occupied Norway from the isles.

In 2008 the veteran writer was officially recognised by the King of Norway, when he was presented with the country’s most prestigious honour – the Saint Olav’s Medal – at a special ceremony in the Town Hall.

Born in 1917 at Exnaboe in Virkie, Mr Irvine was brought up in the area, before schooling at the Anderson Educational Institute. He went on to study at Edinburgh University, from where he graduated in 1939.

Mr Irvine saw six years of army service, including being present at the D-Day landings of 1944. He later wrote a book about his own and other Shetlanders’ memorable experiences of World War II, entitled The Giving Years.

After the war he became further education officer for Shetland for a time before reverting to teaching. He became headmaster of Bell’s Brae Primary School in 1966, a position he held until his retirement in 1977.

He was made a Fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland in 1973, and awarded the MBE in 1974.

Mr Irvine wrote his first book in 1980, and his writing became more and more prolific, until in 2004 he completed what he described as his last book, Final Curtain.

Since then, however, he wrote three other books – Memories are Made of This, Costly Cargoes and Meandering.

Mr Irvine is survived by his wife Bella, daughter Marion and son Alan.


About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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  1. Ian Mundie

    It is with sadness that I read of the death of Jiimy Irvine. He was our class teacher at the LCPS before going to the secondary section. His nickname among the class was “brains” and believe me he was all that and more. A very caring and understanding teacher.
    My sympathies and condolences go to Bella and Alan.
    R.I.P. Jimmy.

  2. Peg Young

    Jeemie meant mair ta me dan I can ever truly express. He wis a shinin example for me as a teacher mesel, an he was as fine a man as a body could hoop ta ken. He wis a gentleman, a mentor, an a true son o Shetland. My deepest sympathies go tae Bella and Alan in their huge loss. He will never be forgotten.


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