Avelshay is a farm in the southeast corner of the island. In the 1503 Rental it was spelt Awaldschaw. Early tenants included Thomas Craigie and Donald ‘Curkquenefs’ in 1653, John and Andrew Moss in 1734, and James Mainland in 1740, and William Mainland in 1769.

01 Avelshay Annabella & Winnie Gibson & Mrs Horne, Sanday

Avelshay in the early 1900s - Annabella Gibson and her daughter Winnie with Mrs Horne, a visitor from Sanday

In 1845 Leslie Mainland was the tenant and he paid an annual rent of thirteen guineas. He was the son of Thomas Mainland, Shapinsay, later Knarston, and Margaret Chalmers and was born on February 2nd 1788. On December 29th 1809 he married 19-year-old Jean Mainland, the daughter of William Mainland and Isabel Baikie, and between 1811 and 1830 they had seven children; William, born on March 9th 1811, Betty, on April 8th 1813, Chalmers, on April 3rd 1815, James, on April 1st 1820, Leslie, on November 10th 1823, John, on March 2nd 1828, and Martha, who was born in 1830.

By 1871 the 63-acre farm at Avelshay was under the joint tenancy of  Leslie and Jean’s sons Leslie and John Mainland. Leslie married Anne Mainland, daughter of John Mainland and Christian Sinclair, in Westray in 1857, and between 1858 and 1873 they raised a family of eight children, before emigrating to America. In 1854 John married Barbara Mainland, daughter of William Mainland and Alison Rendall of Testaquoy, Wyre, and they had four children; Jane, John, Magnus and William, born between 1855 and 1866. In 1877 John was paying an annual rent of £70.0.0. for Avalshay and by 1878 he was joint tenant of Avelshay and ‘Cutmowat’ [This was Cott, Cot Mowat or even Commode – just below Kirkha’] paying £70 for the former and £25 for the latter. At this time the Valley of Glifter grazings were also included in the rent.

03 Avelshay. George & Annabella Gibson, Langskaill

George Gibson and Annabella Logie

In 1891, the land at Avelshay was farmed by George Gibson who paid £50 rent for both Avelshay and Cutmowat. He was the son of John and Jane Gibson of Langskaill, and he was born on November 13th 1863. On November 27th 1884 he married Annabella Logie of Pier Cottage, the daughter of General Burroughs’ yachtsman John Logie and Cecilia Gibson of Geo, Westness, born in 1865. [Annabella was the sister of Trumland House butler John Logie, and Rousay Pier carpenter and joiner Charles Burroughs Logie]

05 Avelshay 2 Gibsons back James, Minna, Winnie, J

Between 1885 and 1902 George and Annabella had seven children; James, who was born in 1885; John, born in 1887; Minna Mary Jane, in 1890; Winifred, in 1893; Charles, who died in infancy; Alfred George, born in 1894; and Edith, who was born in 1902. John married Cissie Harrold of Springfield; Minna married George Reid of Tratland; Alfred was killed in WWI; and Edith married James Marwick of Midgar.

George and Annabella with their children, James, Minna, Winnie, and John;

Alfred, standing to the left, and young Edith

06 Avelshay. Edie Gibson and her older sister Winnie 09 Avelshay. Edie Gibson with Dobbin, used for pulling a gig.

Edie Gibson with Dobbin, used for pulling a gig

Edie with her older sister Winnie

06a Avelshay. Edie Gibson c1910 08 Alfred G Gibson, Avalshay

Sapper Alfred George Gibson

130th Field Company, Royal Engineers.

Died in hospital on 16th February 1916,

aged 21. Alfred was buried in Grave

VIII.D.55, Boulogne Eastern Cemetery,

Pas de Calais, France.

07 Avelshay. 4 ladies & bike 1917 [see note]

Aggie Gibson, Bigland; sisters Cissie Gibson, Avelshay, and Jean Harrold, Springfield [with the bicycle]; Cissie Gibson, Bigland. Cissie [second left] was married to John Gibson, Avelshay, and their two children, Alfred and Kathleen, are also in the picture.

11 Avelshay. Edie & James Marwick c1925. One of the 1st women in Rsy to have a mbike

Two more photos of Edie. She was one of the first women in Rousay to own a motorbike. SF 2771 was a 1926 BSA S26 500cc., with 3-speed manual gears,

kick start, and chain-driven. Here she is setting off for a run round the island

with husband James Marwick.

13 Avelshay, old bothy TG 1994 14 Avelshay hen house TG 1994 12 Avelshay

The old hen house [left] and bothy, and farm house at Avelshay, photographed in 1994

15 The Bungalow, Avelshay 1930

The bungalow at Avelshay was occupied by George Gibson’s brother David [1868-1931]. He was married to Jessie Marwick [1872-1919], the daughter of Hugh Marwick, Guidall, and Lydia Gibson, Langskaill. Jessie was head teacher at the Sourin school between 1903 and 1911.

16 Avelshay today

Avelshay today - with a superb view of Egilsay across Rousay Sound


[All black & white photos are from the Tommy Gibson Collection]