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The Tangwick Haa is known to have been built in the late 17th century as a three storey house for the first Cheynes of Tangwick.
The word Haa means the house of the laird or landowner. However the word Haa is also found in many small townships where it is simply the name of a house and its associated croft.
The Haa of Tangwick would have been a fine house in its day.
The last resident laird, John Cheyne VIII of Tangwick, died in 1840 and thereafter a caretaker looked after the Haa.
The Cheyne family was thereafter based in Edinburgh but came to Shetland in the summer until the First World War.
The building was empty during most of the 20th century being used as a workshop for some of this time. The fabric of the building had deteriorated until the Shetland Amenity Trust carried out a renovation in 1985 with the museum opening in 1987.
Lairds of Tangwick
The Cheyne family first came to Britain at the time of the Norman conquest. A later branch found its way to Scotland at the end of the 12th century. This family was of some importance in Aberdeenshire until around 1600 when their rigid adherence to the Roman Catholic faith brought them into disfavour and they transferred their fortunes to Shetland where they had acquired considerable land-holdings as early as 1587.
The first laird of Tangwick was John Cheyne b.1631 building the Haa in late 17th century and the current descendant is Robert Cheyne Turcan who inherited the estate in 1975 and resides in Fife. The last resident laird died in 1840 and was John Cheyne VIII (1763-1840).
The Haa was handed over to the Shetland Amenity Trust by Robert Cheyne Turcan the present owner of the Tangwick estate.
With help from the Tangwick Haa Museum group the Shetland Amenity Trust carried out a renovation in 1985 on the original building leading to an opening of the museum in 1987.
The renovation was pretty extensive involving a new roof, windows and all interior woodwork. Some pictures can be seen on the timeline.
The extension at the east of the Haa was originally the kitchens and was renovated over a decade later. This was completed in 1999 and provides display space for an annually changing exhibition.
Two close relatives of the lairds rose to distinction themselves and their biographies are covered in the museum.
Andrew Cheyne was the eldest of two illegitimate children born to James Cheyne, brother to the third laird of Tangwick, John Cheyne at the time. He grew up at the haaf fishing station at Stenness and went to sea around the age of twelve rising to command a brig in the far East at the age of 22. Captain Andrew Cheyne was involved in the Sandalwood trade in the South West Pacific during his time at sea in the mid 19th century.
In 1852 Captain Andrew Cheyne had a son William Watson Cheyne later becoming Sir William Watson Cheyne, a very famous surgeon. His distinctions included principal medical man for the Boer War and for the Royal Navy in the First World War. More information can be found at the Fetlar Interpretive Centre website.
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