Elizabeth Balneaves


1911 – 2006

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Who was Elizabeth Balneaves?

Elizabeth Balneaves was a Scottish author, painter and filmmaker.

She was born in Aberdeen, the only child of Annie and Alexander Balneaves. She graduated from Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen and married the psychiatrist Dr James McLauchlan Johnston of Shetland extraction in 1934. Although they were separated for several years, James supported her in her work throughout their married life.

Elizabeth wrote six books, made a number of documentary films, drew many portraits in pastel and charcoal and painted many landscapes, latterly mainly of Shetland and Cullen. In Shetland, which she first visited with Jim in 1934, she is perhaps best known for The Windswept Isles, which she wrote during the 20 or so years she and James lived in retirement in the old manse at Bigton in the 1960s and '70s. This was her tribute to the people and the islands whom she always felt had adopted her.

During those years she also made a documentary film of Shetland for the BBC: People of Many Lands - Shetland.

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Sep 24, 1911
  • England
Nov 7, 2006

on July 23, 2013


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