1933 November 14 The Scotsman



An important discovery of what seems to be a Neolithic burial place has been made in the Island of Rousay, one of the Orkney group. Excavations have been carried on for some time by a private resident in the island, and visits of inspection have been made by representatives of H.M. Office of Works. The discovery, it is understood, is regarded as one of great importance.

    Stone burial chambers have been uncovered containing no fewer than twenty skeletons. Along with these have been found examples of pottery and other relics which, may have an important bearing on a knowledge of the period in this remote area .

    The chambers in which the bones were found were constructed of broad flat native stone, which is still used for roofing most of the dwellings on the island, and which is found lying on the shore in broad slabs, practically ready for use when employed for such purposes.

    Rousay is one of the Orkney group, lying to the north-east of Mainland. It is roughly circular in shape, and has a diameter of about five miles. The tides race through one of the straits with great speed, making the passage practically unnavigable, and tremendous waves frequently beat on the shores. Apart from the high winds which sweep over the island, it has a pleasant climate. It has rising ground, and there are a number of stunted trees. Agriculture is carried on, and there is a considerable amount of lobster fishing round the coasts.

    It is expected that the Office of Works will take over the care of the newly discovered Neolithic relics.




1934 March 13 The Scotsman



.....AN ORKNEY CAIRN. - Dr J. Graham Callander, F.S.A.Scot., and Mr Walter G. Grant, F.S.A.Scot., described the excavation of a long cairn of Neolithic times lying on the south-west coast of the island of Rousay, about 100 yards east-south-east of the Broch of Midhowe. It had been intended that the examination of the monument should be described by Mr J. Hewat Craw, F.S.A.Scot., but his lamented death had necessitated that this should be done by the authors of the paper, who had been able to follow the excavations closely, and had had to complete them.

    After excavation it was seen that the mound consisted of stones encircled by drystone building, the sides being practically straight and parallel. The roof had collapsed, and the burial chamber was filled with fallen debris. On this being cleared out, there was seen a long narrow gallery with vertical walls running nearly the whole length of the mound, and divided into twelve cells by large upright slabs projecting from the sides, giving it the appearance of a narrow byre with stalls on each side . At its widest part the chamber was about 8 feet wide, the spaces down the centre between the edges of the divisional slabs being about 3 feet to 4 feet across.


REMAINS OF HUMAN SKELETONS. -  In the fourth cell from the south the remains of two human skeletons were found 4 feet above the floor. These burials were much later than the period of the cairn, as they must have been made after the collapse of the building. A rude stone implement, hammer-stones, and animal bones, which were found at various levels, had been carried in with the fall of the roof.

    In one of the corners of the first cell was a heap of about three gallons of limpet shells. These had been deposited before the destruction of the gallery, as they lay on the floor. No other relics were found until the fifth cell was reached, but in this and in the next five cells the remains of no less than 26 human skeletons were discovered, and in the end cell skulls of two more . All these remains, with the exception of one skeleton, which lay on the west side of the gallery, were deposited on the east side, not on the floor, but on a shelf or platform of small flags, rather less than one foot high. The number of skeletons varied in each stall, but usually there were at least three. They had been placed in crouching positions, but in one case the bones had been collected into a heap and placed at the back of the stall to allow of another burial in it.

    The skeletal remains were submitted to Professor Low, of Aberdeen University, who reported that of the individuals represented by the bones 21 were adults, seven young persons between 14 and 20 years of age, and two children under four. Very few of the bones were so complete as to allow of measurements, but there were three fairly complete skulls, two of men and one of a woman. They resembled Stone Age skulls found elsewhere in Scotland. They were dolichocephalic, or long-headed, with the capacity of the cranium not far short of modern Europeans. The height of the men was no more than 5 feet 5 inches, and of the women 5 feet. The crowns of the teeth were much worn, and, while there were no signs of caries [decay and crumbling of a tooth or bone], some of the tooth sockets showed evidence of pyorrhoea. One skull showed impaction of the wisdom teeth. Underneath one of the skeletons were the remains of an egg-shell.....

1934 April 26 The Scotsman


AERODROME ON AN ORKNEY ISLAND. - Rousay, one of the Orkney north isles, is the latest island to equip itself with an aerodrome. Two fields below Trumland Farm have been converted after two months' labour into an admirable landing ground, which has now been reported satisfactory by Highland Airways (Ltd.)


1934 July 27 Aberdeen Press & Journal


ORKNEY REGATTA. - Fresh to light westerly wind prevailed for the annual regatta at Rousay, in the Orkney Islands. Chief results:-

    22 Foot class - Sea Imp (W. Sinclair), 1 hr. 3 secs.

    17 Foot - Ivy (J. Foulis), 1 hr. 2 mins. 13 secs.

    14 Foot - Yala (N. Cooper), 36 mins 37 secs.

    All-comers - Sea Imp, 59 mins. 8 secs.

    Local race - Lottie (C. Craigie), 54 mins. 49 secs.

    Motor boat race - Elsie (W. Foulis).

    Rowing races - Men's singles - John Wylie; men's doubles - John and James Wylie;

                             women - Mary Petrie and Molly Flaws.

Among the spectators joy-riding in two planes over the regatta were two octogenarians, Malcolm Corsie and James Alexander.


1935 March 12 The Scotsman


NEOLITHIC MAN – Examination of Remains Found in Orkney – SCIENTIFIC VALUE


A DESCRIPTION, based on their skeletons, of people who lived in Orkney in the Neolithic period and who suffered from chronic rheumatism in their later years, was given at the monthly meeting of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland, held in the Library of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, Queen Street, Edinburgh, last night.

    Dr J. Graham Callander, F.S.A.Scot., and Mr Walter G. Grant, F.S.A.Scot., described a long chambered cairn, the Knowe of Yarso, belonging to the Neolithic period, on the island of Rousay, Orkney. The cairn, which was built near the edge of a shelf on the steep hill side running up from Eynhallow Sound, measures 50 feet in length and 25 feet 6 inches in greatest breadth. It now measures 6 feet in height. Much of the superstructure has been removed to supply building stone in late times. The burial chamber was divided into three stall-like compartments separated by vertical slabs set up opposite each other on both sides. Its length was 24 feet 1 inch, and its average breadth about 5 feet 9 inches. Access was obtained by an entrance passage 13 feet 2 inches long and about 2 feet broad. The outer wall of the cairn was built in a peculiar fashion. The foundation course was formed of flat slabs projecting 3 inches beyond the face of the wall, which was not built in the ordinary way, but by placing the stones of which it was composed obliquely, their outer edges sloping downwards from left to right.

    The remains of 29 human skeletons were found in the cairn, but before being deposited it appeared that the bodies had been dismembered as most of the skulls were found ranged along the foot of the stalls of the two inner chambers. Possibly the bodies had been allowed to decay before the bones were collected and finally buried in the cairn. Many flint implements, including arrow-heads and scrapers, and many animal bones were found in the layer containing the human remains. Small fragments of a food-vessel urn of the Bronze Age, and of two other vessels were recovered from the top of this layer. Probably they had been deposited there at a date subsequent to the Stone Age burials.

    Mr Grant, it was reported, has presented the artefacts to the National Museum of Antiquities, and the human remains to the Anatomical Department, Aberdeen University.

    SUFFERED FOR RHEUMATISM. Professor Low, of Aberdeen University, described the human skeletal remains . There was evidence of 29 individuals, all adults except for one adolescent about 18 years of age. On account of the fragmentary nature of the remains it was difficult to sex the bones.

    Five skulls except for absence of lower jaws were sufficiently intact to allow of measurements, four of men and one of a woman: one of the male skulls was in exceptionally good preservation. Four of these skulls had the characteristics of Neolithic skulls found elsewhere in Britain, they were oval-headed dolichocephalics with a cranial capacity almost the same as the modern European (brow ridges of no great prominence: forehead somewhat receding: back of head bulging and face somewhat projecting with narrow nose.)

    The fifth skull shows remarkable features: it is that of a young man, probably in the twenties, with incomplete dentition, the wisdom teeth not erupted, and this is associated with complete closure of all the cranial sutures.

    The result is a very much elongated oblong skull showing marked asymmetry of the vault and base.

    They were a people of low stature, 5 feet 3 inches, and of moderate muscular development. There was no evidence of caries of the teeth but in the older individuals many of the vertebrae and some of the other bones showed the effect of chronic rheumatism.

    Professor Low emphasised the paucity in Scotland - and the great scientific value – of such Neolithic remains.....


1935 September 7 Dundee Evening Telegraph


SCOTTISH AIR LINER COMES DOWN IN TREE. LADDER RESCUE OF FIVE PASSENGERS. – A Highland Airways Ltd. Airliner touring the Orkney Islands with a pilot and five passengers came down in a tree at Rousay as a result of a “down draught” from a hill.

    Nobody was hurt apart from a few scratches. All the passengers belonged to Kirkwall.

    The machine was left suspended and ladders were hoisted. The five passengers climbed down and went home by boat and motor car.

    “The machine was engaged on a two hour tour of the Orkney Islands,” an official of the Highland Airways agency, told a reporter.

    “The pilot decided to make a forced landing owing to a strong downwind from a neighbouring hill. It was exceedingly difficult country and part of his machine caught the branches of a tree. He came to rest with the machine’s tail suspended eight feet from the ground.” [ Click here > Westness plane crash < for pictures!]

1935 November 30 The Orcadian


PRIZE DAY - WASBISTER SCHOOL. - On Tuesday afternoon, 26th November, Rev. R. R. Davidson visited Wasbister School and presented the prizes won by the pupils for attendance, for merit, and in the Orkney and Zetland examination. Before handing over the books, Mr Davidson took the children on an imaginary trip to the Gold Coast, made vividly real and fascinating by photographs, native hand-carved wooden stools and combs, woven blankets or cloaks and a huge snakeskin. He told them of the ‘vegetation, the insect and animal life, and the response made by man to such surroundings. He spoke of the work done by the missionaries, both educational and religious, and he pointed out the advantages the children present possessed. Thereafter he brought what had been “one crowded hour” of unusual enjoyment to a close by presenting the prizes with encouraging remarks to those who had won the Orkney and Zetland prizes and merit prizes. Miss Matheson spoke in appreciation of what Mr Davidson had at no small trouble to himself done for them that day, and asked for a hearty vote of thanks, which was accorded with enthusiasm. Mr Davidson then proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Matheson for arranging the prize day, and again there was a generous response. Annexed is the prize-list:-

    Orkney and Zetland prizes - James R Sinclair and Anna L Marwick.

    Good attendance prizes - Clementine Donaldson, Phebe Marwick and Elsie Donaldson.

    Merit prizes - Infants – 1. George Sinclair, 2. David Marwick.

    Junior II – 1. Phebe Marwick, Elsie Donaldson, 3. Edwin Moar.

    Junior I – 1. Irene Hourie, 2. David Leslie, 3. Evelyn Clouston;

    Senior III – 1. William Donaldson, 2. Jean Marwick;

    Senior II – 1. Donald Marwick, 2. James Leslie;

    Senior I – 1. Clementina Donaldson, 2. Agnes Marwick;

    Advanced II - 1. James R Sinclair, 2. Anna L Marwick;

    Advanced III - James C B Craigie.


1936 January 27 The Scotsman


CHARGE OF THEFT ON AN ORKNEY ISLAND. - John Robert Wylie , labourer-fisherman, and Magnus Wylie, labourer-fisherman, both residing at Roadside, Sourin, Rousay, Orkney Islands, but at present in custody, appeared before Sheriff Brown at Kirkwall on Saturday charged on indictment with having, on December 13 last, at Midskaill, on Egilsay, a neighbouring island to Rousay, broken into a shop occupied by Helen Mainland or Inkster, widow, and stolen £15 in cash. Both men pleaded not guilty, and trial by Sheriff and jury was fixed for February 10. Eleven witnesses are cited for the Crown and the productions will include plaster casts of footprints.


1936 February 11 The Scotsman


ROWED TO A ROBBERY - Orkney Brothers Sentenced.

Two young brothers were found guilty at Kirkwall Sheriff Court yesterday, and sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment each, for having rowed from Rousay, one of the Orkney north isles, across to Egilsay, a neighbouring island, and robbed a shop of £15. The jury included six women, and the trial lasted five hours. Accused were Magnus Wylie and John Robert Wylie, fishermen, Roadside, Sourin, Rousay.

    Mrs Helen Mainland or Inkster, widow, Midskaill, Egilsay, the shopkeeper, said she lived 200 yards from the shop, which was entered by burglars and the till robbed between midnight and breakfast. Robert Grieve, farm servant, Whiteclett, Egilsay, identified a 10s. note, which he said he had carried about for three weeks before spending with Mrs Inkster, and which was afterwards spent at Rousay Co-operative Society by one of the accused. Alexander Flett Yule, farm servant, Saviskaill, Wasbister, Rousay, said that he accompanied both the accused on a rabbit shooting expedition to an islet called the Holm of Scockness, afterwards accompanying them to Egilsay. He refused to go right to the shop with them, as he had previously been in trouble for misappropriation of money, and did not want another black mark against him. He denied having shared in the proceeds of the theft.

    EXPERT WITNESS'S REFUSAL. - An expert witness refused directly to associate police plaster casts of footprints with the boots produced as having been worn by the two accused. Both the accused, in evidence, declared that Yule requested them to row him to Egilsay on an errand, the nature of which he did not disclose, and that they waited for him at a certain place, to which he returned and invited them to accompany him in a raid on the shop. They refused, and he returned to the shop, and subsequently rejoined them for them to row him home again.

    Out of the proceeds of the robbery, they declared, Yule paid certain debts outstanding to them. This accounted for their being flush of money soon after they had applied for public assistance relief money to be paid a day earlier than usual, and for one of the Egilsay notes being traced to their account at the Co-operative Society. The jury's verdict, after an absence of seven minutes, was unanimous.


1936 March 12 The Scotsman


COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEAL. - Unpremeditated Orkney Crime.

The Court.....agreed to a reduction of the sentence pronounced in the Sheriff Court at Kirkwall on February 10 against John Robert Wylie and Magnus Wylie, who were convicted on a charge of breaking into a shop at Midskaill, in the island of Egilshay, parish of Rousay and Egilshay, and county of Orkney, occupied by Mrs Helen Mainland or Inkster, widow, and stealing £15. The appellants were each sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment, to date from December 19. They contended that the sentence was excessive, looking to their youth and to the fact that it was their first offence.

    Mr W. J. Bryden, advocate, for the appellants, said that the crime was not premeditated. The appellants had never been in the hands of the police before. On the night of December 13 they went out in a boat with another man, and engaged in shooting ducks and rabbits on a neighbouring island. They met with little success, however, and they proceeded to the island of Egilshay. The two Wylies proceeded to the shop of Mrs Inkster, which they entered, and rifled the till. This type of crime was very rare in the Orkneys. It was unjust, counsel said, that a man in the Orkneys should suffer a sentence three or four times as severe as was pronounced elsewhere for a similar offence. He suggested that this was a case for a very substantial reduction in the sentences.

    The Court held that the sentence of fifteen months was excessive, and reduced it in each case to three months' imprisonment, to run from the date of the conviction.  

1936 May 12 The Scotsman


REINDEER ANTLERS. – Miss Margery I. Platt, M.Sc., of the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, submitted a short paper describing reindeer antlers of record size. The antlers comprise a complete pair attached to the frontal bones, and a third single antler of the left side. Both of these are the property of Mr Walter G. Grant, of Trumland. They were dug out of the peat on Westness, near Muckle Water Loch, Rousay, Orkney, in an approximate position of 59 degs 9 mins N. 3 degs 4 mins W., many years ago. Only one other antler of great size (approximating 3 feet) has been recorded previously, and it is interesting to note that this, too, was found in the peat on the same island. The reindeer is adapted to persistent cold, and it is the only species of deer which ever populated the icy floes and bare tundras. These facts indicate that reindeer of large size and good condition existed in prehistoric times on the island of Rousay, when the race generally was retreating northwards from extensive southerly localities in Europe, driven by a steadily increasing warmth of climate.

    BURIAL CAIRN - Stone Age Human Relics. - A Stone Age burial cairn at Hullion on the Island of Rousay, Orkney, was described in a paper by Dr J. Graham Callander, F.S.A.Scot., and Mr Walter G. Grant, F.S.A.Scot., at the monthly meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in the Library of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, Edinburgh, yesterday.....

    The cairn - the Knowe of Ramsay - was the third monument of its type on the Island of Rousay to be described before the Society, the others being the Midhowe Cairn and the Knowe of Yarso. The three showed the same general features - an entrance passage leading onto a long narrow gallery divided into compartments by vertical slabs set in pairs opposite each other, and projecting inwards from the lateral walls so as to form a series of stalls on each side of the gallery or chamber. The last mentioned two cairns, however, had a face of building within the thick wall, and in the outer facing the slabs were laid obliquely instead of on the flat. In the Knowe of Ramsay, however, there was no inner face of walling, and the outer face consisted of ordinary building. At the northern end and for a short distance along the north-west side was an outer facing wall. Near the south end on the south-east face was a short section of walling jutting out at right angles from the main structure, which seemed to belong to a later date.

    DILAPIDATED CONDITION. The Knowe of Ramsay was in a terribly dilapidated condition, the whole of the superstructure having been removed to provide building material for houses and dykes in the immediate vicinity.

    The entrance passage measured 6ft 3ins in length, and 1ft 8ins in width, while the gallery measured 88ft in length and about 5ft in general width, the walls on each side being reduced to a height of 4ft 6ins or less. It was divided into 14 cells.

    As for relics, only a very few fragments of pottery and some pieces of flint were recovered. Human remains were found in three of the cells, but too fragmentary to give an indication of their period. Two of the skeletons were probably those of male adults, one showing evidence of chronic rheumatism. Some animal and bird bones were also found. Ox, red deer, and sheep were identified amongst the animal bones, and duck, cormorant, gannet, bittern, goose, swan, sea-eagle, and great auk amongst the birds.

    The walls of the chamber showed signs of burning in many places, and some of the human and animal bones were blackened by fire.....


1936 September 4 The Scotsman


A "monster" reported seen off Rousay, one of the Orkney islands, is declared by local experts to have been a great-headed cachalot, a member of the whale family. The two fins which were visible gave the suggestion of horns.


1936 October 26 Dundee Evening Telegraph


Orkney Distillery Staff's Gift to Employer. - Walter G. Grant, F.S.A. (Scot.), Kirkwall, and Trumland, Rousay, whose practical interest in the development of civil aviation in the Orkney Islands was again demonstrated recently by his provision of a site for the Air Ministry directional radio station, was honoured to-day on the occasion of his silver wedding.

    The staff of Highland Park Distillery, Kirkwall, of which he is proprietor, presented Mr and Mrs Grant with a case of silver and ivory fish knives and servers, the gift being handed over by Mr James Stout, the oldest employee.


1936 November 7 The Scotsman


LAYING A TELEGRAPH CABLE IN ORKNEY. - His Majesty's telegraph ship Alert is employing this week-end a Kirkwall auxiliary ketch, the Wharrie Glen, for shallow water work, in laying a new cable between Evie, on the Orkney mainland, and the island of Rousay, across Eynhallow Sound. Over two miles of cable will be laid. The old cable will not be lifted.


1937 January 9 The Scotsman


A NORTHWARD EXPEDITION (By Dr. Robert J. Drummond).....

Eynhallow Sound. -  To make a round of it the way lay by Evie, a village above Eynhallow Sound, which flows between the Mainland and Rousay. It is not a mile across, and yet the ministers of Evie and Rousay have been known to exchange for services on the Sabbath, and in the meantime such a gale has blown up that the next week-end has come before they could return to their manses, though the houses faced each other across the Sound. Such things do happen in those tide-swept islands. A preacher was thus once storm-stayed in that very isle of Rousay. He was due in South Ronaldshay on Sunday. But all the week a storm was raging and no boat would put to sea. Saturday came, and by much pleading he induced two men to venture out, and with great difficulty and no little danger they landed him at Kirkwall. He was still miles away from his destination. But he slept the night in Kirkwall, and rose betimes next morning. He had ten miles to walk and two ferries to cross ere he reached St Margaret's Hope. He arrived there as the bells were ringing, and went straight to the church and into the pulpit. The church was vacant. The people thought that is the kind of man for us, and they called him, but he did not accept. It was the writer's own father.....


1937 March 9 The Scotsman


STONE AGE CAIRNS. - Dr J. Graham Callander, F.S.A.Scot., and Mr Walter G. Grant, F.S.A.Scot., described two long chambered cairns of the Stone Age, excavated last year in the island of Rousay, Orkney. One, which was of the stalled type, measured 72½ feet in length and 27 feet in breadth, at Blackhammer on the south side of the island, contained seven compartments separated from each other by divisional slabs projecting from the wall and set up in pairs opposite each other. This cairn differed from the three others of its type which had been excavated in Rousay, inasmuch as its entrance passage was placed in the south side of the building, instead of at the east end. After the final burial had taken place, the mouth had been sealed up by careful building. Remains of two adult males and a considerable quantity of animal bones were found in the burial chamber, as also a broken urn of clay, a stone axe, a finely made knife of flint which had been burnt, and a few scrapers and splinters of flint. The other monument [the Knowe of Laro], which was a cairn of the horned variety, measured 182 feet long, 72 feet broad, and 16 feet in height, lay near the hamlet of Hullion. The sepulchral chamber was in the east end, from which the monument tapered away gradually both in height and width to the west. Under the highest point was the burial chamber, access to which was obtained from a low narrow passage between the horns at the east end. The chamber had originally been divided into three parts by pairs of slabs projecting from the sides. The greater part of the chamber was later occupied by secondary structures, substantially built. These consisted of lateral walls built right up to the top of the chamber, which was 13 feet 8 inches high. In the north side of the secondary building there were two large recesses, and on the opposite side three. Human bones were found in each one. The only other relics found were a stone axe in the floor of the chamber and two fragments of pottery on the floor of the entrance passage.

1937 December 15 The Scotsman


FOR SALE by Public Roup on Monday, 17th January 1938, at 12 o'clock noon, within the office of Messrs MACRAE & ROBERTSON, Solicitors, Commercial Bank Buildings, Kirkwall, the Holding of MIDGITHA or MIDGARTH, with the Strip of Land formerly part of the Farm of Knarston, in the Parish of Rousay and Egilshay and County of Orkney. There is a substantial Two-Storey Dwelling-House of Six Apartments on the Holding. Assessed Rental, £3 10s.; Rateable Value, 10s. Entry at the term of Candlemas 1938. UPSET PRICE, £300. For further particulars apply to JAMES C. MORRICE, Solicitor, Fraserburgh: or the said Macrae & Robertson, who will exhibit the Title Deeds and Articles of Roup.


1938 January 1 Aberdeen Press & Journal


DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION IN ORKNEY. - Dr Hugh Marwick, Orkney's director of education, who has been honoured with the O.B.E., is an outstanding Scottish educationist.

    A native of Rousay, he graduated M.A. in 1909 and D.Litt. in 1926 at Edinburgh University.

    He was headmaster of Kirkwall Secondary School from 1914 until 1929, when he received his present appointment.

    A devoted student of archaeology, he is the author of a number of important antiquarian articles.


1938 July 30 The Scotsman



[By Professor V. Gordon Childe, D.Litt., D.Sc.]

An incomparably vivid picture of the domestic life of a self-sufficing " Stone Age” community has been afforded by the sand-embalmed village of Skara Brae, on the Mainland of Orkney. Only, the villagers were so self-sufficing that the age of the settlement in relation to other monuments of Scottish prehistory was debatable. A new village of the same kind, discovered this year by Mr W. G. Grant at Rinyo, on Rousay has settled this controversy. Its latest occupation and that of Skara Brae are dated to the period of transition from the Stone to the Bronze Age in Britain. Both may provisionally be put 3500 years ago. Moreover, Rinyo has not, like Skara Brae, been partially washed away by the Atlantic, but is probably intact. Its complete excavation will therefore give a full picture of a Stone Age village as a whole where deductions can be made as to the size, the social organisation, and the economy of such an ancient community as nowhere else in Western Europe. Complete excavation will take many years. In the meantime one season's campaign in bad weather has already enormously enriched our conceptions of Stone Age life in Britain.

    Shelter of the Cliff. The site is not like Skara Brae, on the shore, but seems to have been chosen for the shelter afforded by a steep brae, which rises, in places as a cliff, some 20 feet, immediately east of the ruins. The rock, outcropping in the cliff would provide the settlers with convenient building material. They undoubtedly did quarry the easily split stone, but how much of the quarrying near Rinyo is really prehistoric still remains to be settled. Below the brae the first occupants found a gentler slope of deep soil washed down from above on which they built their dwellings. To secure anything like a level floor for these the land had to be terraced. For this purpose flagstones were piled up in layers, or banks of refuse, supported by slabs on edge, were heaped up. Even so, the house floors slope down noticeably from east to west; and rain water collecting on the hill above is liable to trickle down over the site and seep through the joints of the rock, as the excavators have found to their cost this summer. To counteract this inconvenience an elaborate drainage system, comparable to that at Skara Brae, was constructed.

    Stone Age Furniture. On the terrain thus prepared houses were built of quarried slabs, laid in courses as in a dry-stone dyke. The walls have been much denuded by agricultural operations, but the general outlines are clear. The best-preserved dwelling, hut A, is a rectangle with rounded corners some 14 feet long by 11 feet wide, enlarged by a recess 4 feet wide in the west wall. It was entered through a paved doorway, 2 feet wide, west of the centre of the north end wall. In the middle of the room thus entered, the visitor sees a square hearth, framed with kerb-stones set on edge, close west of which a main drain passes under the floor. A sump near the south-east corner of the hearth communicated with the principal conduit by a subsidiary channel under the hearth.

    Just south of the latter three stones set in the floor frame the socket for a post, from which vessels could be hung over the fire. On either side of the fireplace are enclosures separated from the rest of the room by stone slabs on edge. Similar enclosures, partitioned off by wooden slabs, serve as beds in Norwegian peasant houses, and those at Rinyo are clearly just stone versions of such beds. In the southeast  corner  of  the room a cubical box, formed of carefully squared slabs, has been let into the chamber floor. It was found still covered with its square stone lid, but contained nothing but earth that had trickled in under the lid. Finally, in the rear wall are foundations for a dresser, presumably consisting, like those at Skara Brae, of two tiers of shelves.

    The Clay Oven. Of course, all these articles of furniture are just translations into stone - the only material available on a treeless island - of wooden constructions. In other parts of Great Britain where trees grew, contemporary dwellings may have been just as commodiously furnished with articles that  have  perished.  To  the  east  of  the  dresser, a second doorway led through the rear wall into another chamber, B. This occupies the highest point uncovered this year, and is built partly on a platform of slabs, piled up to level the floor. Only a small hearth, a cubical stone box, and a dilapidated  bed  survive. To the west, at the foot of the terraces on which A and B stand, are ruins of a third dwelling, C; but ploughing has damaged them so badly that only a hearth, a post-socket, a cubical stone box, and short segments of walling can be clearly identified.

    The fireplace, over three feet square, was full of a tough mixture of peat-ash, burnt bone, and miscellaneous refuse, save for a hole, eight inches wide, in which a cooking pot could be sunk. The round stone lid for such a pot was found on the brink of the hole. Immediately in front of the hearth stood a clay oven partially sunk in the hut floor upon a slab of slatey stone. It measured 1 foot 8 inches square inside. Its walls were so hard-baked that they could be removed bodily. Thereupon, a shallow depression, hollowed out in the supporting slab and exactly corresponding to the plan of the  oven,  was  revealed. It looks as if it had been cut out, but perhaps the hollow is due to the disintegration by heat of two or three skins of the laminated stone where it was not protected by the  clay. In any case, such a clay oven is a new item in the list of  Britons'  Stone  Age  furniture. An exactly similar slab was found under the floor of room A, and another in a fourth chamber, D, so that ovens may have stood in all houses.

    Bone arid Pottery Fragments. The solidity of the dwellings, their abundant furniture, and their careful drainage enhance our admiration for the prehistoric Orcadians' capacity. Of course, they were disgustingly untidy, though not more so than their Norse successors two and a half millennia later. Unburnt bone hardly survived at Rinyo, but everywhere trodden into the floors were bits of burnt bone, teeth, and ghosts of unburnt bones of sheep and cattle, as well as a few pieces of stag's antler and whalebone blocks. Numerous pieces of pumice stone, often grooved, had evidently been used for sharpening bone pins. Flint scrapers littering the floors, had served for dressing the skins that the villagers wore as garments. Fragments of pottery, often richly decorated with applied strips, were scattered everywhere,

    Below the floors of the structures just described, are remains of an earlier occupation. Right under the wall of chamber A we found a hearth and segments of wall on virgin soil. They were built in the same style and on the same plan of those of the later structures, and the relics recovered suffice to prove that they were built by the direct-ancestors of the later villagers. The projected exploration of these deeper levels, presumably older than the transition to the Bronze Age to which the latest occupation can be assigned, may give clues as to the relation between the settlers at Rinyo and the builders of those monumental burial vaults, generally termed "neolithic," of which Rousay has yielded so many imposing examples.

1938 October 7 Aberdeen Press & Journal



"All for one, one for all, united we stand, divided we fall." This motto was commented on by the president, Miss Inkster, at Rousay W.R.I., Orkney. The special item on the programme was a talk on embroidery given by Mrs Shearer, Sourin Schoolhouse. She had with her a selection of very fine pieces of embroidery, and these she used to illustrate her remarks. Rhubarb jam entries were judged by Nurse Shaw and Mrs Sinclair, Cogar. The winner of the first prize was Mrs Gibson, Bigland.


1938 November 21 Dundee Courier


TRAWLER HOLED; CREW SAVED. ISLAND RESCUE IN DARKNESS. – The Hull trawler Cheriton was beached at Longataing Sound [off Scockness], Island of Rousay, Orkney, in a sinking condition.

    In the darkness, Rousay lifesaving apparatus crew, under command of John Cormack, went alongside in a motor-boat and brought eight of the crew ashore. Skipper Brown, along with the mate and chief engineer, remained on board, but, as the trawler took a heavy list, they were later taken off by the fishery cruiser Freya, which sent a boat alongside.

    The Cheriton’s crew left for Kirkwall yesterday. Skipper Brown and the chief engineer are remaining at Rousay meantime in the hope that it may be able to salvage the vessel.

    Interviewed, one of the Cheriton’s crew said:- “We had a rough time on Skea Skerries, and began to think we were done for. A big sea lifted us off the rocks, but the stern plates burst and the sea poured into the cabin-room, flooding the furnaces.

    “We had just enough steam to run her ashore.”

    Stromness lifeboat had left to go to the aid of the trawler, and did not return to harbour until 3 a.m. yesterday.

    The 30-mile run to Rousay Island was made in a westerly gale, accompanied by hail showers, thunder, and lightning.


1938 November 28 Aberdeen Press & Journal




MEN who had been shipwrecked on the dreaded Orkney Skerries passed through Aberdeen on Saturday on their way to Hull - ten English fishermen who formed the crew the Milford Haven trawler Cheriton, which on Saturday, November 19, struck a reef in an eighty-mile-an-hour gale, was swept off, and drifted in a sinking condition on to the beach of Rousay Island.

    Among them was a grey-haired veteran of the seas, Mr Arthur Pearce, 20 Constable Street, Hull, to whom the ill-fated fishing trip was the last he was making before retiring at the age of sixty-eight years.

    "The crew were marvellous," Mr Pearce told a "Press and Journal" representative.

    There was no panic. The young men as well as an old hand like myself stood quietly at their posts.

    "We kept on hoping for the best, but fearing the worst as the terrible seas, breaking around us, lifted the ship below our feet and bumped it on the rocks.

    TERRIBLE MOMENT. " For over an hour it went on. Then the unexpected happened. A huge wave lifted us clear of the rocks and threw the ship into deep water.

    “That was a terrible moment. The ship might have turned turtle. Finding ourselves in deep water, we steamed full ahead."

    The ordeal of the crew of the Cheriton was not over yet. Darkness was falling. The ship filled rapidly with water as five vessels raced to the rescue in answer to the SOS. Soon the Cheriton was drifting helplessly across the dangerous Westray Firth with boilers and engine flooded.

    For six miles it drifted among the reefs until it beached on Rousay Island.

    Aid was at hand, however. A motor boat, manned by the Rousay life-saving brigade - farmers, crofters and fishermen on the island - took eight of the crew ashore. The skipper, Mr Frank Glesson, and the chief engineer were later taken off by the fishery cruiser Freya.

    ESCAPED USUAL FATE. In the comfort of Rousay crofters' homes the crew heard of their good fortune in striking the Orkney Skerries and coming out alive.

    "They told us we were the only crew who had all lived to tell the tale," said Mr Pearce.

    "Once a ship, swept off the rocks as we were, turned turtle, they said.

    "It was an exciting last trip for an old man like me," he added as he went off to send a telegram - " Home to-night. Dad."

    The crew were quartered in Kirkwall, and took spells of keeping watch on the stranded Cheriton.

    They arrived in Aberdeen early on Saturday morning on the St Fergus. The Cheriton herself arrived at Aberdeen yesterday in tow of the salvage steamer Bullger, which had brought her from Rousay Island. What damage the trawler has sustained will not be known until she is placed on the pontoon to-day or to-morrow.


1938 November 29 The Scotsman


A LOCUST IN SCOTLAND. – [At a meeting of the Royal Physical  Society,  in  the Council Room of the Royal Scottish Geographical  Society,  Synod  Hall,  Edinburgh].....Mr Waterston also exhibited a remarkable visitor which came to Scotland last September - the Old World locust, which had been captured alive on the island of Rousay, Orkney, and sent to the Royal Scottish Museum for identification. The specimen, a female, belonged to the solitary phase, and it was quite unusual for specimens of this phase to migrate. The speaker outlined the "phase" theory of locust migration and recalled occasional migrations of locusts in Scotland dating from 1748 onwards. It had previously been assumed that such migrations were composed of locusts belonging to the true migratory phase, and the detection of the solitary phase in Orkney had raised a problem worthy of close study.

1939 June 30 Aberdeen Press & Journal


ROUSAY NEEDLEWORK. - The members of Rousay W.R.I., Orkney, met in Wasbister School with Miss Inkster, president, in the chair. She discussed the motto – “None of us get dizzy with doing too many good turns for others," and introduced the demonstrator, Miss Pexton, who delighted with a demonstration of the making of loose chair covers and afterwards judged the overall competition. There were numerous entries, and the winners were:- 1. Mrs Hourie, Maybank; 2. Mrs Craigie, Furse; 3. Mrs Gibson, Lopness. The latter part of the programme was devoted to entertainment, solos being sung by Miss Pexton and Miss Sutherland, with accompaniments by Mrs Paterson. Tea was served by the hostesses.


1940 August 30 Aberdeen Journal


ROUSAY COMPETITION. – “One may do a great deal of good in the world if one does not care who gets the credit,” was the motto commented on by the president, Miss Inkster, at Rousay W.R.I., Orkney. In a ‘bere bannocks’ competition the winner of first place was Mrs Shearer. A talk on blood transfusion was given by the president, who appealed for blood donors. She also appealed for sphagnum moss. Tea was served by Miss Craigie, Miss Sinclair, and Miss Kirkness.


[When sphagnum moss is dry it is not only absorbent but also mildly antiseptic. During the First and Second World Wars it was collected in many parts of the Highlands and Islands and sent south to be turned into wound dressings. It was also used for lamp wicks, bedding and babies nappies.]


1943 February 27 The Scotsman



.....A friend tells me of the curious taste of a pair of Orkney ravens. Over a Neolithic burial chamber at Westness, Rousay, a large cover house was built. At one end of the building is a large observation window, and the plate glass is held into the wooden frame by a thick bed of putty. A pair of ravens took a fancy to this putty and dug holes out of it, so that it had to be repaired more than once. Putty has a curious fascination for some birds, and I have known a pair of crossbills dig it out of the bedding of a skylight window.


1944 August 5 The Scotsman



One of the loveliest of all British wild flowers is the Pyrola, or Wintergreen......The other day, rummaging in Mr Magnus Spence's delightful ‘Flora of Orkney,’ I was delighted to find that he too shared my ecstatic feelings about the  Pyrola. He had  gone  to  the Island of Rousay to see Pyrola rotundifolia in her rare habitat, "near the Goukheads where the Sourin Burn flows from the Muckle Water." There he came upon "a glorious display, the dark-brown heather served as a background  for  the  lovely  waxen  pink and white blossoms, which grew in slightly waving racemes  so  far  apart  as  to enhance the beauty of the scene. Eager to touch, yet loth to destroy, I lay down amid the heather and admired the picture. It is, I think, without exaggeration  the  prettiest  flower in Orkney. " – I.W.H.


1947 July 24 The Scotsman


THE PLACE-NAMES OF ROUSAY. By Hugh  Marwick.  -  (7s 6d.  "The  Orcadian."). - Dr Marwick and his Orcadian publisher are to be congratulated on this careful little book. Probably no man living knows as much about Orkney names as Dr Marwick, himself a native of Rousay. This work, we hope, may induce others to take up the survey of some other Orkney or Shetland or even Outer Hebridean isles. Dr Marwlck speaks modestly, often laments that the origin of a given name is quite uncertain, and hopes that others will be able to help. It would sometimes be easy to make a guess about names which he terms uncertain. But it would be only a guess. The local sites are all well known in this Rousay or "Rolf's Isle," and all the available old forms have been collated. These are few and very rare before the Rentals begin in 1492; and competent scholars have scanned them all. So hopes cannot be high. The earliest nameable race in Orkney is  the  Picts, or early British as opposed to Gaelic Celts, here by at least 100 B. C. No Pictish name survives. As to the later Gaels, Dr Marwick, very rightly, is chary about admitting any Gaelic names either, even such a tempting name as Brae an Finyan. For the most of the names are Norse - i.e., later than 800 A.D. Rousay, it is interesting to note, contains several names which are adjective alone - e.g., Neo, "new," and Gamli, “old." It might be thought, therefore, that Pretty would be quite simple. But Pretty is found as a name in Westray as early as 1492, and so to claim it as an English adjective would be rather foolish.


1948 April 16 The Scotsman


The Island Estate of TRUMLAND & WESTNESS, ROUSAY, ORKNEY (within daily reach of London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, by air service.) - Over 7000 acres including several excellent farms and other holdings; principal residence with 4 reception, 7 family bedrooms, 5 bathrooms; electricity, central heating; charming secondary residence, also modernised; good dogging moor yielding a varied bag of grouse, woodcock, numerous snipe, wild duck, golden plover, &c., 3 capital trout lochs with exceptional records of catches; several good cottages; perimeter county road. Further details and sporting records from the Solicitors, W. & F. HALDANE, W.S., 4 North Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, and the agents, JOHN D. WOOD & CO., 23 Berkeley Square, London, W.1.

1949 August 11 Aberdeen Press & Journal


TWO HORSES ONLY AT ROUSAY SHOW. - Evidence of the increase of mechanisation on Orkney farms was to be found in the fact that only two horses were forward for this year's agricultural show at Rousay.

    It was the smallest entry ever in the horse section. The cattle and sheep sections were also smaller than last year.



    Best gelding - lnkster Brothers; reserve. J. Marwick. Best animal - R. Johnston; reserve, Mrs Cormack. Best cow in  yard  -  R.  Johnston;  reserve,  W.  Alexander. Four cattle - Inkster Brothers; reserve. W. Alexander. Best pair of yearlings  showing calf teeth - lnkster Brothers; reserve, R. Johnston. Best cog-fed calf - Mrs Cormack; reserve, Inkster Brothers. Best calf, excluding pure breds - Mrs Cormack; reserve, Inkster Brothers.   Shorthorns,  under  two  and  half  years  old  -  T.  Donaldson;  reserve,  W. Alexander. Best cow with two offspring - R. Johnston; reserve, J. Seator. Best pair in cattle section (farms of £30 rental and under) - A. Harcus; reserve J. Seator. Best butcher’s animal C. Donaldson: reserve, J. Seator. Best animal in cattle section (farms of £20 rental and under) - Mrs Cormack; reserve, Mrs Grieve,  of  Falldown.  Best animal in cattle section (farms of £12 rental and under)  - Mrs Cormack; reserve, Mrs Grieve. Two-year-old  heifer  calf – 1  R. Johnston;  2  and  3  Inkster  Brothers. Best sheep show - R. Johnston; reserve, R. Seatter, of Banks. Best ewe, any  breed - R. Seatter; 2 R. Johnston; 3 R. Seatter. Best fowl - Mrs Inkster; reserve, D. Moar.


    Leicester ewes - R. Seatter. Cheviot ewes - l, 2, 3, and 4 R. Johnston. Halfbred ewes – 1 and 2 R. Seatter. Half-bred lambs – 1 and 3 R Seatter; 2 and 4 R. Johnston. Cross ewes – 1  and  2  R.  Seatter;  3  and  4  J.  Seator.  Leicester  rams -  l  and  2  R. Johnston. Cross lambs – l, 2, 3, and 4, R. Seatter.


    Polled cattle. - Calf calved after October 1 - 1 and 2 Inkster Brothers. Calved after March - Mrs Cormack. Polled bulls - T. Donaldson. Cows in milk or calf - R. Johnston. Three-year-old cow - 1 and 4 W. Alexander. Three-year-old steers – T. Donaldson. Heifer in calf - R. Seatter. Two-year-old steers - 1 and 3 Inkster Brothers. One-year-old heifer - W. Corsle. One-year-old heifer, March 1 - A. Harcus.

    One-year-old steer - Mrs Grieve. One-year-old steer, March 1 - A. Harcus. Shorthorn cattle in milk or in calf - W. Corsie. Three-year-old calf - T. Donaldson. Pure-bred milk heifer, in milk - 1 and 2 Inkster Brothers.

    Horses; - Draft gelding - 1 Inkster Brothers; 2 J. Marwick.

    Poultry: - Wyandotte cock - Mrs Inkster; hen - D. Moar. R.I.R. hen - Mrs Inkster. Cross hen – 1 and 2 Mrs Inkster.


1949 October 27 The Scotsman


MORE CASES OF FOWL PEST IN ORKNEY. - Two more cases of fowl pest involving the destruction of 400 hens have been confirmed in Orkney on the islands of Rousay and Eday. This brings the total number of cases confirmed in Orkney to 21 and the total number of birds destroyed to 7000.


1952 May 26 Aberdeen Evening Express


TRAWLER STILL FIRM ON ROCKS. - The Aberdeen trawler Unitia is still firmly wedged on a shelf of rock in Rousay Sound, Orkney. The vessel went aground at 10 p.m. on Saturday. Despite attempts by Stromness lifeboat to tow her off and fresh attempts made to-day by the island steamers, Earl Sigurd and Earl Thorfinn, the Unitia has not moved. The lifeboat returned to base this morning after a thirty-hour vigil. It is feared that as attempts to tow the vessel by two steamers have failed, the Unitia may be stranded until the next spring tides around June 10. The alternative is to lighten the vessel if she is to be freed now. The crew members are still aboard their ship. They are in no danger and as the vessel is close inshore they can be taken off whenever necessary by motor boat.


1954 May 11 Aberdeen Evening Express



“The four-minute mile? I did it fifty-two years ago in the Orkneys wearing my ordinary suit and shoes – and thought nothing of it!”

    The speaker, the Rev. Alexander Spark (71), 13 Dundonald Road, Glasgow. Are you sure about the distance? he was asked.

    “Certain of it. Accompanied by my younger brother I ran between one mile post and another on the island of Rousay. I timed myself with my old iron-clad watch that never lost a moment in twenty years.”

    “And I am quite sure,” he added, “that I could have done it in less than four minutes if I had taken my jacket off and really tried.”

    Was he a trained athlete? – No.

    “I never consciously trained in my life,” replied Mr Spark. “The life we young lads led in those days made us supple and fit – we didn’t need any scientific training.”

    Mr Spark, who has been a Church of Scotland minister in Glasgow and Edinburgh for forty years, entered the feat in his diary at the time and only looked up the entry after he had read accounts last week of Roger Bannister’s record-breaking mile.

    “I was nineteen at the time and a student at Edinburgh University,” he said. “I had gone back to the Orkneys for a holiday – to the place where my father was parish minister for thirty years.

    I don’t know why I started the race, I suppose it must have been high spirits, but I felt none the worse afterwards.

    “When I was a boy at school I used to race the schoolmaster along the mile between the schoolhouse and my father’s manse. He had his cycle, one of the early models, and I ran. He never passed me until we reached a slope running to the manse.”


1966 December 15 Aberdeen Press & Journal


ANOTHER ORKNEY ISLE SWITCHED ON. – Electricity reached the island of Rousay yesterday, making power and light available to 82 more Orkney premises. The switch-on ceremony was performed by Dr Helen Firth, the island's county councillor, who expressed the hope that other outer isles in Orkney would soon be in the same position. This development required the construction of 33 miles overhead lines, including nine miles of 33.000-volt transmission line on Orkney mainland, and a one and half mile submarine cable from the mainland to Rousay. The cable was laid in 1965 at the same time the cable for Shapinsay, the first of Orkney's outer isles to get power.




That concludes 'Rousay in Newsprint'