Margaret Chalmers, poet, self-styled "first British Thulian quill", was born on the 12th of December 1758 in Lerwick. Her father William is said to have been the son of a Lord Provost of Aberdeen, factor to Earl of Morton and tacksman of various local estates. Her mother Catherine (Kitty) Irvine was born in Trondra in 1734. Margaret had four sisters and a brother, William, who joined the navy and was killed, aged thirty-five, in the battle of Trafalgar.
The death of her father is not recorded, but by time of Trafalgar her mother and one of the sisters were bedridden and the family was living in penury. Petitions were raised in the hope of securing a government pension, but these failed.
Following the lead of her younger fellow Lerwegian poetess Dorothea Primrose Campbell, whose life was similarly marred by poverty, Margaret arranged to publish her poetry by subscription and her solitary book was published in Newcastle in 1813, after long delays during which many subscribers lost interest. The book was poorly printed, but it brought the interest of Sir Walter Scott. However, it did not garner the profit she had hoped for. In 1816 she applied instead to the Royal Literary Fund, which awarded her the sum of ten pounds.
She died in Lerwick on the 12th of March, 1827.
Margaret Chalmers, 'Poems', Newcastle: S. Hodgson, 1813
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