According to the census of 1851 a building at Westness farm was occupied by 29-year-old farm labourer George McLeod from Halkirk and his five-year-old son George. Also there were unmarried house servant Margaret Louttit (28), and farm servants Janet Gibson (23) and Mary McKinlay (17), both of whom were also unmarried.

001 Westness Farm [in Mrs Middlemore's book 1891] 002 Westness Farm 002a Westness c1910 a

In the mid-19th century Westness Farm covered 1,200 acres of land, and by 1861 it was farmed by 56-year-old George  Learmonth of Haddington, East Lothian. With him was his 54-year-old wife Ann, 20-year-old son Peter, a ploughman, and 17- year-old Alexander, who was a shepherd. Daughter Margaret also lived at the farm with her husband Alexander Gibson of Vacquoy, a 24-year-old joiner. They were married in 1860, and between 1862 and 1873 they had six children: Anne, Barbara, Maggie, John, Elsie Clara, and Alice. Alexander designed and built the Wasbister School, which was opened in 1881.


The Learmonth’s oldest son William also lived at Westness with his family. Employed as farm manager, he was married to Mary Sarle Gibson, daughter of Alexander Gibson and Janet Carmichael Marwick of Stennisgorn who was born on May 12th 1830 at Bucket, Wasbister. At this time William and Mary had two children, Jane (2) and Ann (1). Other people employed on the farm included Elizabeth Logie, a 36-year-old servant, her widowed 67-year-old mother Mary, who was a dairymaid; and two ploughmen, James Yorston (19) and James Sabiston (17).

In 1873 General Burroughs was the proprietor, and the rental value was £370.0.0. including Quandale and the Cots. Between 1877 and 1891 George Learmonth was the tenant, paying £600.0.0. and by this time wire fencing had been erected enclosing the hill pasture. In 1891 Robert Learmonth was tenant. The rent he paid was reduced to £540.0.0. owing to the fact that his father was now over 80 years of age and Robert himself had been struck by paralysis.

Inkster family

In 1895 Hugh Inkster was tenant, having travelled down from Haroldswick, on Unst, Shetland, with his family. Paying rent of £370.0.0, the farmland consisted of 281 acres arable and 2623 acres pasture, with 60 cattle and 700 sheep. Hugh was the son of William Inkster and Margaret Gibson of Ervadale. He was the youngest of seven children, and was born on February 28th 1839. In 1865 he married Isabella Kirkness of Quoyostray and they had seven children: Mary, Frederick Traill, Thomas, Ann, Isabella, John, and James. Mary, born in 1880, married Thomas Sinclair of Banks, Frotoft, who with his son Thomas ran the post-boat between Rousay and Evie for many years. Fred married Isabella Craigie of Corse, and farmed Furse, Innister and Trumland. Living at Greenfield after retiring from farming he served as county councillor for Rousay for a time.

Inkster sisters and Fred Inkster sisters

Before moving down to Rousay, Hugh and his family lived at Greenfield on Unst, a farm of 40 acres, 20 of which were arable. On August 4th 1882 Hugh’s wife Isabella died in childbirth. It was some time later that Hugh married her cousin, Mary Kirkness of Grain, the daughter of James Kirkness of Quoyostray later Grain and Grace Craigie of Deithe. Hugh and Mary had six children; Mimie, who married businessman James Groundwater [whose brother John was a well-known Kirkwall baker]; Janet, unmarried; David; Robert, who emigrated to Canada and married Christena Macauley, daughter of John Macauley and Isabel MacDonald, Isle of Lewis; Lily; and Hugh, who married Maggie Jessie Craigie of Deithe. They had one child, Hugo, who, like his uncle Jim o’ Deithe, was a renowned fiddle player.

003 James W Mainland [Jim o' Westness] & prize har 005 Westness Farm. Robert, James & John Mainland c

Come the census of 1911 Westness farmhouse was occupied by John Mainland and his family. He was the son of John Mainland of Bu, Wyre and Mary Sinclair of Tratland and was born on May 3rd 1857. He married Annie Louttit, daughter of John Louttit and Jane Wilson of Reedlums, though she passed away in 1893. He then married Isabella Stevenson of Kirbist, Egilsay, daughter of Robert Stevenson of Scockness, later Kirbist, and Margaret Marwick of Woo. John and Isabella had five children: Robert, born in 1900; John Sinclair, in 1901; Mary, in 1902; and twins James William and Maggie Jessie Ann, born in 1905. Robert went on to farm Nears, and was married to Lydia Mary [Edda] Mainland of Cott.

01 Westness farmhouse (1) 01 Westness farmhouse (4) 04 Barn (1) 04 Barn (2) 009 Westness Farm 008 Westness Farm 02 Dairy (1) 03 Milker's byre (1)

Fred Inkster with his sisters Ann, Mimie, Janet, Mary and Lilly.

The Inkster family of Westness.

Back row (l to r) -  Ann, Janet, Lily, Mimie, and Mary.

Middle row - Hugh and Mary (the parents), Isabella, and Fred.

Front row - David and Robert.


(This photo and the two below are courtesy of Ron Spence, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, grandson of Mimie Inskster who married James Groundwater)

Carding and spinning: Ann, Lily, Mimie and Mary.

James William Mainland [Jim o' Westness]

The Mainland brothers: Robert, James & John c1925

[picture courtesy of Tommy Gibson]

Westness farm has been in the hands of the Marwick family for many years now.


Here's what it looks like today.


The barn and water wheel, which used to drive machinery to thresh oats.

Sheep grazing below Cat Hill. high above the Westside

Barley ripening in the summer sunshine below Quoygrinnie

The old dairy with its crow-stepped gables

Jeemie Lows, or Shore Cottage at Westness

Westness. Turnip singling. 1920s Westness harvesting c.1920 Standing is Robert Mainland, far right Cilla Logie & Mary Jean Low Westness. Harvesting 1935 Westness Farm. George Learmonth [see note]

George Learmonth, with son Robert and house keeper Margaret Grieve c.1892

Westness harvesting c.1920 Standing is Robert Mainland,

far right Cilla Logie & Mary Jean Low

Turnip singling at Westness, 1920s

Harvesting at Westness, 1935