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Tibbie (Isabella) Shiel lived from 1783 to 23 July 1878. She was the wife of a molecatcher who became an innkeeper and established what is today known as Tibbie Shiel's Inn on the strip of land separating St Mary's Loch from Loch of the Lowes. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Tibbie Shiel was born in Ettrick, the daughter of Mary and Walter Shiel. After minimal education she earned a living working on local farms, including for a time working for the parents of James Hogg, later to become a renowned poet and author. In 1806 she married Robert Richardson, a molecatcher. In 1823 they moved with their three sons and three daughters to St Mary's Cottage, rented from the local laird Lord Napier on land overlooking the southern end of St Mary's Loch.
After her husband died in 1824, Tibbie supported herself and her six children by taking in lodgers: anything up to 35 at a time, although there were only 13 guest beds. Tibbie Shiel's Inn soon established itself as a local institution, a process assisted by the patronage of writers like James Hogg and Sir Walter Scott. Other prestigious visitors included the poet William Wordsworth. Tibbie Shiel's Inn has since been extended considerably beyond the original two rooms and loft of St Mary's Cottage, and it remains a popular stopping off point for those travelling along the A708 which runs down the west side of the valley here, or the Southern Upland Way, which passes up the east side of the valley and St Mary's Loch.
Tibbie died in 1878 at the grand old age of 95. She is buried in the churchyard at Ettrick, some four miles (by hill track, much further by road) south of her inn. Meanwhile her ghost is reputed to put in guest appearances at the inn still named after her at irregular intervals.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".