Cluik & Newark

Two houses in Frotoft that vanished long ago.

Cluik was an old house in Frotoft near the much larger houses of Banks and Newhouse, its earliest known occupant being Gilbert Reid. In a Sasine* dated 1627 it was known as ‘Clouk in Bankis,’ and Clouk and Cluick in the Rousay Birth Register in 1741, when George Marwick was the tenant at this time. *[Scottish legal term for the action of giving legal possession of feudal property, and also, the instrument by which the possession of feudal property is proved.]

In the early 1800s Hugh Marwick and his family lived at Cluik. He married Mary Yorston in 1808 and they had six children, five girls and one boy. Mary was the firstborn, on November 18th 1808, followed by Isabel, born on September 14th 1810, Betty, on August 16th 1812, Barbara, on March 18th 1815, William, on January 31st 1818, and finally Janet, who was born on August 29th 1820.

The only mention of this house in any census of Rousay occurred in 1841 when it was spelt Cluk. Living there at that time was Robert Yorston, a 35-year-old described as living independently, his 30-year-old wife Margaret, and children, three-year-old Alexander and Hugh, who was 12 months old.

Newark was the name of a dwelling between those of London and Lower Cruseday in Frotoft. In 1841, 70-year-old miller John Pottinger lived there with his 75-year-old wife Janet.

In 1851 Isaac Costie, a 38-year-old miller, his wife Catherine Craigie [36], who was born in Egilsay, and their three children Helen, born in 1842; Isaac, in 1845; and William, who was born in 1849, were the occupants.

Young Isaac was nineteen years of age when he moved to Kirkwall in 1864 where he worked as a shoemaker. He married Jemima Helen Robertson in April 1870, and come the time of the 1881 census Isaac’s profession had changed to that of police constable.

He was living in Main Street with his wife and five children: Jemima, Elizabeth, Mary, Robina, and Isaac, who at that time was just 10 months old. Isaac rose through the ranks and was appointed Sheriff’s Officer, later becoming a Bar Officer in succession to Thomas Hutchinson. He resigned in 1926 at the age of 81.

Isaac Costie in his latter years


Knowe of Ramsay



by J. Graham Callander, LL.D., F.S.A.Scot., Director of the National Museum
of Antiquities of Scotland, and Walter G. Grant, F.S.A.Scot.

In the last two issues of the Proceedings, vols. lxviii. and lxix., we gave an account of the excavations of two Neolithic, long, stalled, chambered cairns of the Rousay type, the Midhowe cairn and the Knowe of Yarso. Both of these constructions had an entrance passage at the eastern end leading into a long, narrow, rectangular gallery or chamber, which was divided into small cells or compartments by upright slabs projecting from the lateral walls. The chamber in the Midhowe cairn was divided into twelve cells, and from the Neolithic level were recovered remains of twenty-five human skeletons, a small number of animal bones, fragments of seven clay urns, and a solitary flint implement, a well-made knife. The Knowe of Yarso had only three cells, but it produced, also from the Neolithic deposit, fragments of twenty-nine human skeletons, a large quantity of animal bones, almost entirely representing red-deer, a few bone tools, and sixty-nine implements and worked pieces of flint. No Neolithic pottery was found, but a few fragments of a Bronze Age food-vessel and two other pieces of pottery came from the top of the relic bed; no doubt these had been intruded at a time later than the primary burials.

In June last (1935) we excavated a third cairn of the same class, the Knowe of Ramsay. This monument is built about 12 yards from the southern edge of a narrow shelf or terrace, some 50 yards wide, on the lower south-western slope of Blotchnie Fiold, at an elevation of about 200 feet above sea-level, barely a quarter of a mile east of the post-office at the hamlet of Hullion. To the south it overlooks Eynhallow Sound and the island of Mainland beyond, and, like the Knowe of Yarso, before it became dilapidated and covered with grass and heather, it must have formed a very prominent feature in the landscape when viewed from the lower ground.

The Knowe of Ramsay had been very much plundered to provide stones for building houses in the immediate vicinity, and all that remained was a long irregular mound of stones over-grown with grass, measuring 113 feet in length, 27 feet in breadth, and 5 feet in height, with a number of slabs set on end peeping through the surface of a hollow that ran along the summit. These indicated quite clearly the character of the monument, a stalled cairn. Excavation showed that its destruction had been more thorough than that of the Knowe of Yarso, which was bad enough.

After its outline had been cleared of the accumulation of soil and broken stones with which it was encumbered, the cairn was seen to be an irregular oblong on plan, with the north-west end rounded, and the sides and south-east end, in which is the entrance to the burial chamber, generally straight (fig. 1). Its main axis runs about 40° magnetic west of north and east of south, or about north-west and south-east. The entrance passage leads into a long, narrow chamber divided into fourteen cells by slabs set on end and bonded into the walls on both sides. These uprights are placed in line opposite each other so as to form a row of stalls on both sides of the chamber, similar to those seen in the Midhowe and Yarso cairns (fig. 2).

Outer Wall. – The face of the outer wall is formed of ordinary dry-stone building, but, as already remarked, it is now very much reduced in height. At the south-east end it is only 1 foot 9 inches, which height is maintained for about 30 feet along the north-east side; after this it decreases to about 14 inches until it approaches the north sector, where it has been entirely removed. At the north-west end only from 8 inches to 15 inches remain. Along the south-Western side it rises from 3 feet 3 inches to 4 feet 2 inches, then decreases to 2 feet 4 inches, and as it gets nearer the south-east end the height is no more than 14 inches. The foundation course does not project outwards beyond the wall face as in the Midhowe and Yarso cairns.

There is a re-entrant angle, 6 inches deep, in the wall on the north-east flank of the cairn, 30 feet from its south-east end, and eastwards from this point there is a disturbed face of building extending for about 20 feet. The reason for this is not clear, as at a distance of from 6 inches to 9 inches in advance of it is a course of foundation slabs in alignment with the other parts of the outer wall. At first it was thought that, as in the other two stalled cairns in Rousay which already had been excavated, there was an inner built face in the thickness of the wall, but no such feature was found in other parts of the cairn, though searched for. Near the re-entrant angle, however, is a vertical joint, and opposite it on the face of the wall on the south-west flank are indications of another. But these joints cannot be traced through the building into the walls of the chamber. Possibly there may have been a change in the plan after the work of building the cairn had been started.

Some 4 feet 9 inches from the south-east end of the north-east side of the cairn is a wall or ramp built against it at right angles, and extending outwards for 7 feet 9 inches. It measures 2 feet 6 inches in breadth, and from a height of 2 feet 9 inches slopes down gradually until it dies out. On the west side, in the angle where it abuts on the main building, there is a recess, the lintel of which is 16 inches above ground-level, measuring 10 inches in height, 10 inches in breadth, and 7 inches in depth.

Outside the western sector of the cairn is a casing wall about 21 feet in length, 4 feet 9 inches in breadth at the centre, and 2 feet in breadth at its southern end; it is carried round in the opposite direction as far as the middle of the north-west end of the cairn, into the wall of which it gradually merges (fig. 3).

Entrance Passage. – The outer jambs of the entrance passage into the burial chamber are placed 6 feet and 7 feet 5 inches from the north-east and south-east corners of the monument. The passage measures 6 feet 5 inches and 6 feet 2 inches in length along the north and south sides, and 1 foot 8 inches in width. The walls on both sides where they enter the chamber are 2 feet 4 inches high and a few inches lower at the outer end. The height of the passage cannot be ascertained, as all the stone lintels with which it would be roofed have been carried off.

Burial Chamber. – The total length of the chamber is 88 feet, and its inner end, which is formed by a large slab set on edge and measuring 2 feet 10 inches in height and 5 feet 1 inch in breadth, terminates 8 feet 8 inches from the face of the outer wall at the north-west end. The fourteen cells into which it is divided increase in width, though not quite regularly, from the entrance towards the inner end, from 3 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 8 inches, and their length, which is not exactly the same on both sides, varies from 3 feet 11 inches to 7 feet 2 inches (fig. 4). In the same way the projection of the divisional slabs from the walls shows considerable irregularities; it ranges from 7 inches to 1 foot 9 inches, and the gradation is not regular but haphazard. For example, the slabs on the sides of compartment No. 5 on the north side project 1 foot 9 inches and 1 foot 4 inches respectively, while those in the stall on the opposite side project 1 foot and 9 inches. The lateral walls of the chamber, as in the Midhowe and Yarso monuments, are not correctly aligned, there being a difference of 1 inch to 3 inches in the projection of the east and west faces of some of the slabs. They measure from 1 inch to 5 inches in thickness and from 2 feet 6 inches to 4 feet 9 inches in height. The distance between the inner edges of the pairs of uprights in the eastern half of the chamber ranges from 1 foot 8 inches to 1 foot 11 inches, except between cells Nos. 4 and 5, where it is only 1 foot 1 inch. In the western half the variation is from 1 foot 8 inches to 2 feet 7 inches. Generally the tops of the upright flags are fairly level.

Near the south-west corner of compartment No. 5, about 9 inches from the adjoining divisional slab, was a small stone cist of pentagonal plan, the wall of the chamber forming one side. It measured 14 inches in length and 10 inches in breadth at the bottom, but as two of the slabs on the north side slanted outwards at the top it was 20 inches long and 18 inches wide at the mouth. The depth was 18 inches, and the floor was rather more than 1 foot higher than that of the chamber. No relics, human or otherwise, were found in the cist.

While the Knowe of Ramsay is a good example of the distinctive, long, stalled, chambered type of Neolithic cairn, which so far has been recognised only in the Orkney Islands, it differs in some respects from the other three which have been excavated in the island of Rousay. The outer wall is quite plain, ordinary, dry-stone building, with the stones laid on bed and the foundation course in line with it, while in the other three the wall exhibits decorative motives. The Midhowe cairn has a stepped plinth for a foundation, above which the lower part of the wall shows the stones laid obliquely in one direction for some distance and in the reverse direction for the remaining portion. The upper part, which is set back a few inches from the lower and is separated from it by a string course, has the stones built in the opposite direction. In the Yarso cairn and in one at Blackhammer, which was excavated this summer, the foundation course projects a few inches, and in the first the stones are built obliquely in the same direction along the flanks and round one end, and in the second they are set so as to form a pattern of reversed triangles, recalling some of the designs on Orkney Neolithic pottery.

In a distance of less than two miles on the naturally terraced slopes of Blotchnie Fiold, overlooking Eynhallow Sound, there are five Neolithic cairns: Taiverso Tuick, a two-storeyed example; the Knowe of Lairo, a long-horned cairn; and the three stalled cairns just mentioned. On the seashore, within two miles and a quarter to the north-west, is a stalled cairn at Midhowe. A long, stony mound at Rowiegar a few hundred yards south-east of Midhowe; the Knowe of Lingro towards the north-western corner of the island; a mound near Bigland in the north-east corner; and the Knowe of Craie in the Sourin Valley, though much dilapidated, exhibit surface features suggestive of their belonging to the stalled type of cairn. But they await excavation before their true character can be determined. In some of the islands to the north-east of Rousay there are other ruined cairns that in all probability belong to the same type. One, on the Holm of Papa Westray, described in our Proceedings, vol. ii. p. 62, and figured on pl. iii., certainly is a stalled cairn.

Most of the cells, Nos. 3 to 11, had a certain amount of rude paving mostly on the north-east side, but in No. 5 it was carried across to the opposite wall.

Signs of burning were observed in all the cells from No. 6 to No. 11, sometimes on the lateral walls and occasionally in the centre.

Very few artifacts were recovered during the excavation. There were only a bare half-dozen of small shards of reddish ware; the biggest was no larger than a shilling, and consequently it was impossible to determine the character of the pottery. These were found in cells Nos. 2, 5, and 6. The only other relics were six pieces of flint, one a poorly made scraper and the others splinters. These were all calcined except one.

Human bones were scarce and very much broken or decayed. The remains consisted of those of an adult, probably male, from cell No. 3, of an elderly male from No. 5, and two fragments of an arm and a leg bone from No. 8. The bones were not cremated, though several of those from cell No. 5, like some of the animal bones found, were scorched, presumably by the fires that had been lit in the burial chamber after the remains had been deposited there. One of the skeletons exhibited signs of chronic rheumatism, such as have been so often observed on other Scottish prehistoric skeletons.

Bones of animals were numerous, and there were a few of birds and one of a fish. They included red-deer, sheep and ox, great auk, bittern, cormorant, curlew, duck, sea or white-tailed eagle, pink-footed goose, and conger-eel. Many of the animal bones were broken or splintered, and some, as we have seen, were scorched.

We should like again to express our thanks to Mr James K. Yorston and his son James for the care and intelligence displayed in examining the cairn, and we are grateful to Professor Low and Miss Margery I. Platt for examining the human and animal remains found.


by Professor Alex. Low, M.D., F.S.A.Scot.

The human bones are very fragmentary and mixed with numerous pieces of animal bones.

Cell No. 3. – The only human bones are the fragments of an adult, probably male, skeleton, represented by: 2 fragments of sacrum; heads, and the much eroded lower ends of right and left femur, 2 fragments of shaft of femur; fragments of upper and lower ends of a left tibia; fragmentary astragalus and internal cuneiform of a right foot.

Cell No. 5. – The human skeletal remains in this cell, while fragmentary, are evidently those of an adult male advanced in years; the bones show evidence of chronic rheumatism, and, further, several of the bones have been blackened by fire.

The skull is represented by fragments of the flat bones and a rather imperfect lower jaw; there are 2 cervical vertebrae; 10 rather imperfect thoracic vertebrae; and the fourth and  fifth lumbar vertebrae very much affected by rheumatic changes; the body of the sternum and the remains of 10 right and 6 left ribs. Of the upper limb there persist fragments of both shoulder blades, a third of right clavicle, a fairly complete right humerus, lower end of a right radius, upper thirds of both ulnae; of the hands there are 2 wrist bones and the remains of 3 right and 4 left fingers. Of the lower limb there remain a fragment of the right hip bone, an imperfect right femur, the head and a piece of the shaft of a left tibia; of the right foot there remain the astragalus, os calcis, cuboid and internal cuneiform, as well as the 4 inner metatarsals; of the left foot a fragmentary astragalus and 4 metatarsals.

Cell No. 8. – The only fragments of human bones are the lower third of a left humerus and a small fragment of a shaft of femur.


by Margery I. Platt, M.Sc., Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh.

The animal remains found in this cairn, excavated during the summer of 1935 by Mr. Walter G. Grant and Dr. Graham Callander, form interesting additional evidence of the animals connected with early man on Rousay to those found the previous year at the Knowe of Yarso. The bones, associated again with human remains, appear to be, strange as it may seem, the fragmentary portions of food animals with perhaps the exception of one of the birds. As in the case of the Yarso cairn, skeletal remains of the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus, L.) are the most numerous. Apart from the abundance of the latter species, resemblance between the relics of the two burials ceases. The difference between these will be dealt with more fully later. Few bones approach being intact, the majority being extremely broken up, and were so probably at their initial accumulation. This suggests some reason for their fragmentary state, such as the purposeful extraction of marrow or the use of bone splinters as tools, etc. In most cells of the cairn some bones were calcined or charred, and the few pieces of deers’ antlers which occur all seem to have been treated by fire, and this may account for their sparse numbers. The various species of animals represented by the bones in the individual cells are noted below.

Cell No. 2. – The most numerous relics occurring here were those of the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus, L.). Mature animals of a medium size were represented together with young ones as evinced by the presence of numerous milk molars and under-sized ribs. Almost as plentiful as the Red Deer were the remains of sheep, which appear to be of a slender and horned variety. The majority of these bones were from mature sheep. Ox bones took third place in importance – their remains being but very scanty. Many of the larger bones of both deer and ox were split and broken in various ways, possibly for the extraction of marrow. In this cell there was little evidence of calcination. Two bird bones occurred—the humerus of a Cormorant (Phalacrocorax c. carbo, L.) and the ulna of a Gannet (Sula bassana, L.), together with the shell of a common periwinkle (Littorina littorea, L.) from the shore.

Cell No. 3. – Very fragmentary remains of the Red Deer predominated here, representing both young and adult animals. Sparse indications of ox and sheep were also found. The majority of the bones were split and calcined, the greater part being the merest fragments too small for identification. No bird relics were present in this section of the cairn.

Cell No. 4. – Bones of the Red Deer again exceeded in numbers those of any other species, their remains being indicative of young as well as mature animals. Ox and sheep were equivalent in numerical importance. All the material was broken up and of little comparative value. The humerus of a Gannet (Sula bassana, L.) occurred here, and also the lower jaw of a conger eel (Conger vulgaris, Cuv.). The latter is the only relic of piscine nature found in this excavation.

Cell No. 5. – Bones of old and many young Red Deer occurred here, milk molars being especially numerous. Two fragmentary burrs of antlers were present, from separate individuals since they differed considerably in thickness. The latter, as also many of the broken bones, were calcined. In addition to the remains of Red Deer, only two broken ribs of an ox were present and the tibio-tarsus of a Cormorant (Phalacrocorax c. carbo, L.).

Cell No. 6. – Red Deer were represented by almost every bone of the skeleton, though the presence of only three animals could be identified. Ox remains were very scarce, there being rib fragments only, whilst sheep were again unrepresented. The coracoid of a Sea or White-tailed Eagle (Halicetus a. albicilla, L.) was the only bird bone. Calcined and split bones were numerous.

Cell No. 7. – Bones of the Red Deer were again the most abundant, the species being represented by remains from adult and young animals. It is impossible to estimate the number of individuals, owing to the extremely broken state of the fragments. Part of a reasonably large tine was found here. A few sheep bones occurred of a species quite indeterminable. Ox relics were also very scarce and consisted principally of split long bones and broken ribs. Apart from the mammalian species only three bird bones remain to be recorded. These were: the ulna of a Bittern (Botaurus s. stellaris, L.); the humerus of a Cormorant (Phalacrocorax c. carbo, L.) and the humerus of a Gannet (Sula bassana, L.). Many bones had been calcined or split for extraction of marrow.

Cell No. 8. – This cell contained more animal relics than any other. There is, too, an increase in the number of bird species. Excepting the latter fact, the proportion of species one to another does not differ materially from that of the cells previously described. Red Deer was again predominant, and among the numerous remains of this species the only cannon bone approaching completeness was found; its measurements are recorded below:

Metacarpal of Red Deer:

Maximum length – 25.5 cms.
Maximum width of proximal end – 3.1 cms.
Maximum width of distal end – 3.5 cms.
Minimum width of shaft – 2.1 cms.

Numerous milk molars, also bones from small immature and fully grown deer in almost equal quantity occurred. Of the adults the majority of the remains indicate deer rather larger than those of the present day, and of decidedly good size for island stock. From the evidence of a particularly large rib head, one deer at least was of enormous size, comparable with the large prehistoric deer of the mainland of Scotland, whose remains are occasionally found in the peat mosses. In this part, too, the third molars of sheep were particularly plentiful, showing the presence of many mature animals. Among the sparse bovine remains is a good metatarsal, indicating an ox of small and slender proportions. Measurements of this bone are given below, together with the corresponding data, for comparison, from the skeleton of an ox of small Shetland race stored in this Museum.

Metatarsal of Ox:

Maximum length – Ramsay, Rousay, 23.8  cms – Shetland, 20.9  cms.
Maximum width of proximal end – 4.58 cms – 4.43 cms.
Maximum width of distal end – 5.59 cms – 4.93 cms.
Minimum width of shaft – 2.74 cms – 2.5   cms.

From the figures it is seen the two oxen were of similar build, the Ramsay specimen being slightly larger. Split bones form a goodly proportion of these mammalian remains and there is some evidence of calcination. Eleven bird bones present in this section represent six species. These are: the Curlew (Numenius a. arquata, L.), the Gannet (Sula bassana, L.), a Duck whose species is undetermined, a Swan, in all probability the Whooper (Cygnus c. cygnus, L.), the Cormorant (Phalacrocorax c. carbo, L.) and lastly the Great Auk (Alca impennis, L.) which was probably quite common in Orkney during certain seasons, at the time when these remains were assembled.

Cell No. 9. – In this cell the bones of Red Deer and sheep occurred in about equal proportions. In kind and condition they resembled those of the foregoing sections. A few ox remains, chiefly ribs, were also present here. The bird relics consisted of the broken ulna and humerus of a Gannet. (Sula bassana, L.) and the carpo-metacarpus of a Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus, Baillon).

Cell No. 10. – Red Deer was the most abundant species here, the remains represented young and adult animals similar to those previously described. Sheep and ox bones occurred but in very small numbers. The former species was represented by molar teeth only, and the latter by two rib fragments. Split and broken bones occurred as usual, but there was little evidence of calcination. The humerus of a Gannet (Sula bassana, L.) was the only bird relic.

It will be gathered from the previous notes that in every section of the cairn the remains of a presumably wild animal, the Red Deer, exceeds those of the domesticated species. This was the case in the Knowe of Yarso, the contents of which were examined last year, with this difference, however, that here at Ramsay domesticated breeds are definitely present, whereas at Yarso they were so sparse as to indicate possibly an accidental occurrence. The significance of Red Deer in a prehistoric structure in Rousay was commented upon in a previous publication (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. lxix, Sixth Series, Session 1934-1935, p. 343), and these notes give further confirmation of its occurrence in this locality. Regarding the number of Red Deer typified by the whole of these remains it is quite impossible to estimate exactly because of their very imperfect nature. Taking a right calcaneum as an index, it is certain that there were at least fourteen, and in all probability were actually many more than this.

It is apparent from the species of birds represented that these, too, were of food value to the early inhabitants of Rousay. The species occurring most often is the Gannet, which was used for food extensively in the past and up to recent days still contributed a staple diet for islanders, such as St Kildans. The flesh of the Garefowl or Great Auk was, in addition, greatly prized by fishermen and coast-dwelling tribes in the past. The inclusion of remains of this last species is interesting as indicating no doubt a period when this now extinct, and for many centuries diminishing, species must have been common in the northern islands. The same might be said of the Bittern, and perhaps also of the Sea Eagle which is much less extensively distributed than at one time not many years past. Although these early natives of Rousay appear to have been hunters and herdsmen rather than fishers and of sea-faring habit, judging by the paucity of fish remains, a conger-eel, perhaps caught stranded in the rocks, would afford an acceptable though accidental addition to the usual food supply, but this point should not be stressed too much as shell-fish, which could be easily obtained, were represented by a solitary periwinkle.

Further, to the remains recorded under the separate sections above are a handful of the shells of the garden snail (Cepaea hortensis, Müller) which occurred in Cell No. 5. These may be of archaeological value since they have been recorded in holocene deposits from various localities from time to time. Alternatively, they are of widespread occurrence in the British Isles to-day and may have been included in comparatively recent soils.

My thanks are due to Mr Grant and Dr Callander for kindly submitting the material to me for examination, and also my gratitude to the former gentleman in permitting me to include in the collection of sub-fossil bones at the Royal Scottish Museum these remains which may prove of comparative value at some future date.


[Extracted from the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 70, pp. 407-419, May 11th 1936. Available in the Orkney Room at Orkney Library & Archive.]


Knowe of Yarso


J. Graham Callander, LL.D., F.S.A.Scot.,
Director of the National Museum of Antiquities,
and Walter G. Grant, F.S.A.Scot.

In many parts of the island of Rousay the land rises from the shore in a series of shelves or flat, narrow plateaux, exposing, in places, a face of much weathered flagstone rock of the Old Red Sandstone formation. On the south-western slopes of Blotchnie Fiold, the highest hill in Rousay, 821 feet high, which lies in the south part of the island overlooking Eynhallow Sound, these shelves are prominent features in the landscape, as will be seen in fig. 2. In the area known as Frotoft, about 500 yards slightly east of north of the standing stone on the roadside at Langstane, and about 480 yards west-north-west of the farm of Mid Crusday, at an elevation of 300 feet above sea-level, was a mound of stones overgrown with heather and grass, known as the Knowe of Yarso, and marked on the 0.S. Map as a broch. However, it was a cairn erected close to the outer margin of a shelf, which is about 50 yards wide at the spot, and is bordered by a rocky escarpment about 30 feet high. As the edge of the rock is jagged, in parts there was only room to pass between it and the cairn, and at no place was the side of the structure more than 12 feet distant from the brink. To the south the monument commands a magnificent view of the island of Mainland and of many others, from the mouth of Eynhallow Sound on the west to the island of Stronsay on the east. Before excavation it was quite evident that this was a stalled, chambered cairn of the same class as the Neolithic cairn at Midhowe, lying about 3 miles to the north-west, described last year in the Proceedings, vol. lxviii. p. 320, because the tops of three pairs of erect slabs set in alignment across the structure, dividing the chamber into three compartments, projected above the debris with which the interior was encumbered. However, it differed from the Midhowe cairn inasmuch as it was shorter and had been destroyed in a different fashion. At Midhowe the roof had collapsed before the structure was despoiled in later times, and even then the stones which had fallen into the chamber had not been removed. At Yarso the superstructure of the monument had been carried away for building purposes, and all the large stones which had fallen into the central cavity had been dragged out, with the result that there was more soil amongst the debris than at Midhowe, and the relic bed on the floor with its contents was much disturbed.

The mound, which was rectangular with rounded ends, measured 62 feet in length, 32 feet in breadth, 6 feet in height at the north-west end, and 4 feet at the south-east, but the cairn proper within the accumulation of soil and debris is 50 feet long and 25 feet 6 inches in greatest breadth. The main axis lies 45° west of north magnetic, approximately north-west by west and south-east by east. The sides are nearly straight, the four corners and the north-west end rounded, and the south-east end, where the entrance is placed, straight.

This cairn bears a striking resemblance to the Midhowe mausoleum both in its internal and external structural features. The chamber in each monument is divided into stall-like compartments by flagstones set on end opposite each other on both sides, only, while there are twelve compartments or cells at Midhowe, there are but three at Yarso (fig. 1 above). In both the inner cell is subdivided, and there are indications that there had been an upper storey at the farther end. It will be remembered that at Midhowe there is a face of walling within the mound, and that the outer wall is built with the stones not placed on the flat, but with their outer edges lying obliquely; the same features with certain modifications are to be seen at Yarso.

The foundation course of the outer wall consists of fair-sized flagstones laid flat, and projecting outwards about 3 inches from the face of the wall so as to form a plinth. At the south-east end of the cairn the stones forming the outer face of the wall on the west side of the entrance slope downwards from right to left (fig. 2); on the east they slant down from left to right, and this formation continues right round the monument until the south-west corner is reached (figs. 2, 3, and 4). The outer face of the wall still maintains a height of 2 feet 9 inches and 3 feet 3 inches on the west and east sides of the entrance, 2 feet 4 inches at the south-east corner, from 3 feet to 3 feet 2 inches along the east side, 1 foot 11 inches at the north-east corner, 2 feet 7 inches at the north-west end, and from 2 feet 6 inches to less than 1 foot along the west side. In places, owing to the face of the wall slipping forward, the plinth is barely visible. It is not known whether the upper part of the outer face may not have been built with the stones laid with a reverse slant and a flat string-course below, as in the Midhowe cairn (fig. 5), but in the latter the top of the string-course is only 2 feet 6 inches above the foundation, while at Yarso the face rises over 3 feet in height without any indication of a change in the style of building, and thus it is quite likely that the upper part of the wall was constructed with the stones slanting in the same direction as the lower.

Near the northern end of the east side a break in the surface of the building has exposed a length of about 8 feet of the face of an inner wall built in the ordinary way, 2 feet 4 inches in from  the  outer  face (figs, 3, 2, and 4, 2). This portion of the inner wall stands 2 feet 2 inches above the remaining part of the outer one, which is about 3 feet high here, thus indicating a surviving height of about 5 feet for the former. The inner wall was not traced farther except at the north-west corner, but it seems practically certain that it extends right round the cairn as its ends are clearly seen on both sides of the entrance passage 3 feet 10 inches from its outer end.

The burial chamber and its entrance passage (figs. 2 and 6) are placed almost in the centre of the cairn, the passage measuring along its medial line 13 feet 2 inches in length and the chamber 24 feet 1 inch. The width of the cells varies from 5 feet 5 inches to 6 feet, and the average distance between the inner ends of the divisional slabs is 2 feet 7 Inches. Both the entrance and the chamber have been rudely paved with flat stones.

The Entrance Passage. – This measures 13 feet 3 inches in length on the west side and 13 feet 1 inch on the east, and its walls still average about 3 feet in height – at the middle of their length they are 6 inches higher. The width is 1 foot 11 inches at the outside, 2 feet 4 inches about half-way along, and 2 feet at the inner end. As no lintels survive the height of the entry is unobtainable, but it must have been no less than 3 feet at any part, and so it would not be necessary to crawl in on the hands and knees as in some of the Caithness cairns where the portal is only 2 feet and 2 feet 6 inches high. It may be mentioned that in the cairn of Maeshowe the entrance at the outside is 4 feet 4 inches in height. There is a sill or step, rising 4 inches in height, 11 feet from the outer end of the passage at Yarso, and the floor of the chamber is continued about this level to the inner end.

The Chamber. – As already stated, the gallery is divided into three compartments or cells by pairs of upright flags built into and projecting from the wall on either side, almost opposite each other (fig. 6). These slabs vary from 2½ inches to 5 inches in thickness. The first pair, which are placed immediately at the inner end of the passage with their inner edges in line with its walls, project 1 foot 10 inches from the wall on the west side of the gallery, and 1 foot 2 inches from that on the east side. They measure 4 feet 1 inch and 4 feet 6 inches in height, their tops being highest in the middle, one being curved and the other ending in an obtuse angle. The next pair, which are set up 7 feet and 6 feet 1 inch farther in, project 1 foot 4 inches and 1 foot 6 inches, and measure 4 feet 9 inches and 4 feet 3 inches in height; their tops are bevelled downwards from the edge nearest the centre of the chamber to the wall. The third pair stand 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 9 inches from the last two, and project 1 foot 5 inches and 1 foot 8 inches. They are 5 feet 2 inches and 4 feet 11 inches in height, and the tops are roughly level. The distance between them and the inner end of the gallery is about 10 feet 10 inches. The lower part of the wall at the inner end is formed by a slab set on edge, measuring 3 feet 1 inch in breadth at the bottom, 2 feet 8 inches at the top, and 3 feet 1 inch in height, and the upper part by building about 3 feet 5 inches high, which curves into the side walls (fig. 6). This gives a total height of 6 feet 6 inches for the inner end of the chamber as it now stands. The end slab has been inserted after the side walls had been built as they extend beyond it. The same thing is to be seen in the cairns at Midhowe and Unstan. Along the centre the cells Nos. 1, 2, and 3 measure about 6 feet 6 inches, 5 feet 6 inches, and 10 feet 10 inches in length. Cell No. 3 is subdivided into two parts by low septal slabs and blocks of stone. Two flags project 1 foot 9 inches from the side walls, but their height is only 1 foot 10 inches as their tops have been clured off with stone tools. The space between their inner edges is blocked by two stones 5 inches high. The inner half of this cell seems to have had an upper storey, otherwise it is difficult to explain a scarcement 3 inches wide that runs round the wall at an average height of 3 feet 9 inches above the floor, and a wall-hold projecting 7 inches from the east wall about the same level, above the low divisional slab. A break exactly opposite in the west wall suggests that there had been a corresponding wall-hold there. The width of the chamber here is 5 feet 11 inches, but there would have been no difficulty in getting a lintel to span the vacancy. At the chambered cairn Taiverso Tuick, only about a mile away, there is an upper storey, and it is believed that a similar feature existed in the Midhowe cairn.

In noting the distances that the divisional flagstones project from the wall the measurements stated were all taken on the south side of the stones. If measured on the north side there would have been a difference of from 1 inch to 2 inches but no more, so the side walls are not exactly aligned. This may give an indication as to the method of erecting the cairn. This suggests that, the site having been decided on, the upright divisional flagstones were placed in position before the walls between them were built up.

Relics. – Save for an occasional animal bone no relics were found until the chamber had been cleared out to within 1 foot 9 inches of the floor, after which numerous fragments of human skeletal remains and a large quantity of animal bones were encountered. An exception, however, has to be made in the case of the inner cell, No. 3, where a few pieces of human bones were found about the height of the scarcement, 3 feet 9 inches above the floor. These may have been late intrusions, but we think it more likely that they had been brought up from a lower level when the stones that had fallen into the chamber were being dragged out. Several shards of pottery, a few implements of bone, and a considerable number of tools and chips of flint were also recovered. It was very difficult to detect the last, as from the position of the cairn, on a flat rocky shelf, the seep of water from the higher ground to the north-east had made the relic bed very wet. Indeed, although all the sodden earth was carefully examined, handful by handful, a number of flints were recovered only after the wet soil had been spread out and washed by rain. So much disturbance had taken place while the stones were being dragged out when the upper part of the cairn was being removed that practically all the long bones and many of the human skulls had been smashed and displaced, human and animal bones being mixed up promiscuously. In one place where there were two broken skulls lying near each other, with animal bones between and around them, a deer tooth actually lay within the brain-pan of one. Nowhere was it possible to detect where a single body had been placed, as no limb bones occupied the relative positions of a skeleton either in a crouched or extended position.

Human and animal bones were found in the entrance passage and in each of the three cells, but more than four-fifths of the former and most of the latter came from the inner cell, No. 3. As we have seen, the latter is subdivided into two parts by low divisional stones, so to simplify description these compartments will be referred to as Nos. 3A and 3B, the last being at the inner end. Unless specifically mentioned, the human and animal remains were distributed over the floors of the different cells.

The scanty and much broken remains of one adult were found in the entrance passage, two in cell No. 1 and one in cell No. 2. When cell No. 3 was reached human bones were much more numerous. From the outer half, No. 3A, skeletal remains of seven adults and one adolescent were recovered. Skulls of five adults, three fragmentary and two rather better preserved, were found lying at the foot of the wall on the western side, and the remains of the other three individuals in the middle of the cell. But it was cell No. 3B that yielded most of the osseous remains. No less than seventeen adults were represented by skulls usually very much broken, vertebrae, fragments of eight femurs, other leg bones, and two humeri. Nine of the skulls were placed in juxtaposition along the foot of the western wall, six along the opposite side, and two about 15 inches from it. In no case was the lower jaw present. A very fine skull was found in the south-west corner of the cell, touching the divisional slab, which doubtless accounts for its good state of preservation.

Although some of the skulls arranged along the foot of the wall had suffered from disturbance, it seemed that they had been placed cranium upwards facing the centre of the chamber.

The bones of twenty-nine individuals at least, twenty-eight adults and one under twenty years of age, were identified. Owing to the broken state of the bones the sex was determined in only three cases, two male and one female; other two were doubtfully male.

An occasional fragment of highly calcined bone, probably human, but very small and in a very friable condition, was recovered.

The quantity of animal bones found was considerable, and consisted almost entirely of red-deer, many being of the size of the best animals existing in Scotland to-day. Bones from thirty-six of these animals were identified. Ox and sheep were just represented, and there were a few bones of a good-sized dog. Many limpets were found, and it may be recalled that about three gallons of them were discovered in a heap at the floor level in Midhowe cairn. Fish was represented by wrasse as at Midhowe. The bones were distributed throughout the relic bed of the chamber, but, as already mentioned, were more numerous in the inner half. They were much broken, and included teeth, ribs, and many articular ends and splinters of leg bones. The latter presumably had been deliberately split to get at the marrow. Many of the Yarso animal bones showed distinct marks of scorching and burning, as did a few from Midhowe.

Pottery was extremely scarce, and what we did find seems to have been deposited at a time later than the original burials. Near the top of the relic bed were found a basal fragment of a food-vessel (fig. 7, No. 1) and three small pieces of the wall. These were found quite close to the two skulls in cell No. 3B, inside one of which the deer tooth was lying. The food-vessel was of very dark ware, and was ornamented with vertical, deeply incised zigzag lines. There were also two wall fragments of other two vessels. One, of dark pottery, buff-coloured on the outside, and decorated with an incised zigzag, measuring less than 1 square inch, was so thin as to suggest that the vessel may have been a beaker (fig. 7, No. 2). The other, which was also dark in colour but with a reddish outer skin, measured 2¼ inches by 115/16 inch by ½ an inch. It bore two horizontal lines with short oblique ones above, all slightly incised (fig. 7, No. 3). It is quite impossible to determine accurately what kind of vessel it formed a part. The food-vessel seems to be the first recorded from Orkney, and the same may be said of the beaker if we are correct in our identification.

Implements and small flakes and splinters of flint were quite numerous and there were a few of grey chert; a considerable number were calcined. The implements consisted of two leaf-shaped arrow-heads, measuring 15/16 inch by 9/16 inch and ¾ inch by ½ inch, one barbed and stemmed with one barb broken off, measuring ¾ inch in length, and one very crudely made specimen with the suggestion of a tang and its edges battered, measuring 13/16 inch by 11/16 inch (fig. 8); a knife of red colour nicely worked along one edge, measuring 1⅞ inch in length, and another of grey colour, measuring 2 inches in length (fig. 9, Nos. 16 and 17); one object which has been identified as a burin d’angle or graver, measuring 1½ inch by 1⅛ inch (fig. 10); forty-six scrapers; and sixteen worked flints, a total of sixty-nine objects. The barbed arrow-head, three scrapers, four knives, and a worked flint came from the relic bed in cell No. 1. Two scrapers were found 2 feet above the floor of cell No. 2, and two knives and twenty scrapers in the bottom layer. At the latter level in cell No. 3A there were recovered a leaf-shaped arrow-head, a knife, and two scrapers, and in cell No. 3B three scrapers. The remaining implements were found in the sludge which covered the floor of the chamber. A selection of scrapers and other implements is shown in fig. 9. In addition the following flakes and splinters were found: twenty-three from cell No. 1, fifteen from cell No. 2, fourteen from cell No. 3A, and nineteen from cell No. 3B, all from the relic bed. So far as we know the burin is the first recorded from Scotland, with the exception of some Tardenoisian micro-burins.

Most of the scrapers are of small size and often of irregular shape. They measure from 7/16 inch by 17/32 inch to 1 13/16 inch by 1 inch in size. The flint is typical of what is found in Orkney, some being cherty and most of poor quality. The predominating colour is from light grey to dark and there are a few yellow. The collection again demonstrates how fully the meagre supply of this much sought after material was utilised in Orkney. It may be recalled that geologists consider that this flint was brought up from the bed of the North Sea, from the south-east, by ice.

One tine of the red deer, with the point sharpened, measuring 3 15/16 inches in length, and five pointed implements made out of splintered ox bones, were found ‘in the lowest level in cells Nos. 2 and 3. Two other splinters with spatulate ends were also recovered, one about half-way up cell No. 2 (fig. 11, No. 5). With the exception of one of the pointed tools all were more or less decayed, the surface cracked and scaling off in places; it is difficult to say whether the spatulate objects are really artifacts. The five undoubted implements consist of a pin, measuring 2 inches in length, two bluntly pointed instruments, measuring 3¾ inches and 3 9/16 inches in length (fig. 11, Nos. 1 and 2), a sharply pointed object, measuring 3½ inches in, length (fig. 11, No. 3), and one with a narrow point squared at the end measuring 3 13/16 inches in length (fig. 11, No. 4). The last resembles some implements dating to Palaeolithic times found in France, which are recognised by archaeologists in that country as having been used for flaking flint. On one side of the point of the Yarso example is a carefully made hollow, into which the thumb fits comfortably, and it may well have been used for pressing off small flakes of flint.

In describing the stalled cairn at Midhowe last session we expressed the opinion that to a certain extent it had been used as an ossuary (Proceedings, vol. lxviii. pp. 334 and 335), because in addition to skeletal remains from bodies which had been placed in a crouching position, and perhaps in some cases in a sitting position, being found, there were deposits of bones from dismembered skeletons or parts of skeletons. In the Knowe of Yarso by far the greater number of skulls were arranged along the base of the walls of the two sections of the inner cell, No. 3, and so far as we could see they showed no individual relationship to the other bones. Of course, the layer containing the remains, except in the parts that lay close to the walls, was much disturbed and mixed up, presumably when the cairn was plundered for building stone. Thus it would seem that this monument should be considered an ossuary rather than a burial vault. At Midhowe the whole twenty-five individuals had been placed in the eight inner cells and none in the four which had to be traversed to reach the first deposit. At Yarso, of the twenty-nine individuals buried, twenty-five were found in the two sections of the inner cell, No. 3, seventeen in the inner half and eight in the outer. Presumably, the first burials would take place in the inner section of the inner cell, and when that was fully occupied those following would be deposited in the adjoining one. Our suggestion that the reason why no human remains were found in the four outer cells at Midhowe was that some of the bodies had been placed there until the tissues had decayed, and the bones could be removed to the inner chambers. This may quite well hold good for Yarso, as the remains of only four persons were found in the entrance passage and cells Nos. 1 and 2.

We have seen that many of the flint implements and some of the animal bones found were calcined. There are also distinct indications of fires burning within all the cells of the chamber, and on both sides. Many of the stones in the walls are reddened and cracked by fire, and bear traces of soot, from a height of 1 foot 6 inches to 3 feet above the floor. At the same time, quite a lot of pieces of charred wood and ashes were observed in the deposits on the floor. No signs of fires were seen outside the entrance.

One of the skulls from cell No. 3B, that noted as No. 4 in Professor Low’s report, shows evidence of having been in contact with fire. This would seem to show that the fires had been kindled within the chamber after some of the skulls had been deposited.

While the two cairns were extraordinarily rich in skeletal remains, twenty-five individuals at Midhowe and twenty-nine at Yarso, the amount of pottery recovered was most disappointing. Fragments of seven Neolithic vessels, mostly of the Unstan type, were found at Midhowe, but not a single shard of this period was got at Yarso. This is the more surprising when we recall the great collection of pottery found in the Unstan cairn on the adjoining island of Mainland, and the considerable quantity in the Taiverso Tuick cairn in the near vicinity of Yarso. As for the flint implements recovered, the position is reversed. Midhowe produced only one, Unstan eight, and Yarso sixty-nine.

Seeing that no Neolithic pottery was found at Yarso, but fragments of a food-vessel and possibly part of a beaker were discovered, it might be argued that the cairn should be considered as belonging to the Bronze Age. But the forms of the few skulls surviving in a measurable condition indicate the earlier period. They clearly show Neolithic characteristics, and not those of the Bronze Age people. Further, Yarso has the chamber divided into stalls like the cairns at Unstan, Midhowe, and Taiverso Tuick, all of which yielded Neolithic pottery, and, like the last two, seems to have had an upper storey at the inner end. As for the presence of Bronze Age pottery, we have evidence elsewhere in Scotland of late intrusions into Neolithic cairns, as witness the beaker pottery from the cairns at Lower Dounreay; Caithness, Clettraval, North Uist; and Rudh’ an Dunain, Skye; and the flat discoidal beads of shale at Yarrows, Caithness.

We should again like to express our great indebtedness to Mr James K. Yorston and his son James for the careful and intelligent way in which they assisted us to excavate the cairn, and to Professor Low and Miss Platt for their reports on the osseous remains.

Mr Grant has handed over the monument to H.M. Office of Works for preservation, and has given the skeletal remains to the Anatomical Department of Aberdeen University. He has also most kindly presented the artifacts found to our National Museum.


Margery I. Platt, M.Sc., Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh.

Numerous animal remains associated with Neolithic human burials were found at Yarso during excavations there by Dr J. Graham Callander and Mr Walter G. Grant in the summer of 1934. These relics are fragmentary in the extreme, yet nevertheless are of great interest in that they provide evidence of the wild life on the island in early prehistoric times. Abundant as these remains are, there is not one bone complete. In the case of the limb bones it seems quite clear from the longitudinally split fragments that they have been broken purposely for extraction of the marrow. Under these circumstances, too, it is difficult to deduce the actual size of the animals, but some idea of this may be assumed from the relative size of the articulating processes which have been preserved. In addition, it may be recorded at the outset that the use of fire is clearly evinced throughout every part of the excavation, from the many bones which have been merely charred or further calcined. The various species are dealt with below under headings representing the level at which they were found.

Entrance Passage – relic bed on floor. – The shells of limpets (Patella malgata) occurred here having both low and high cones, indicative of their being gathered from both exposed and sheltered parts of the beach. The greater part of the remains were composed of skeletal fragments of the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus). They represented two adults and one very young fawn. Both the flesh and marrow of these, together with the soft parts of the limpets, no doubt provided food for these early peoples.

No. 1 Chamber – relic bed on floor all over chamber. – In this section were the remains of three red deer, fully adult, as indicated by the lower jaws in which the molar teeth were well worn. There were also a few limb bones of very immature animals. The only antlers represented were two small tines. Lastly, there was the almost complete tibia of a dog, probably of similar height to our collie of the present day. One limpet shell only was present.

No. 2 or Middle Chamber – relic bed on floor all over chamber. – Bones of the red deer again predominated as in Chamber No. 1. The relics indicated the presence of two adults, as large as any maximum modern representative of this species, though not so massive as those whose remains have been recovered from prehistoric deposits in Scotland. For instance, a deer’s skeleton found in the peat moss in East Lothian, now preserved in this museum, was one and a quarter times as large again as these Orkney deer. Further, a young specimen was present in whose jaw the milk molar had not been shed. One small tine occurred here too. Though of no prehistoric value, it is interesting to note that some bones had been gnawed by a small rodent, possibly the Orkney vole. A few limpet shells also were found.

No. 3 or Inner Chamber. – Top of relic bed 1 foot 6 inches to 2 feet above floor all over the chamber. – A great collection of red deer bones was present at this level, six animals being represented. Most individual bones of the skeleton were found, but only one small tine. There were the remains of two sheep, one approaching maturity, the other a very small lamb, and limpet shells also occurred.

From 1 foot to 1 foot 6 inches above floor all over the chamber. – In this section there were more bones of red deer than in any other part. Ten adults were represented, though not all of equal size. Four were as large as to-day’s maximum, whilst the others were smaller in differing degrees. The well-preserved teeth indicate a difference of age in the various adults. Some were old, with molars well worn down, whilst others were not so old and have much higher crowns. One decidedly immature beast was present, having the last milk molar still present and lacking the last permanent molar. Limpet shells were in abundance from several localities. Three ribs of sheep occurring here are probably accidental. About 1 foot above the floor were found pharyngeal bones of the wrasse, Labrus maculatus.

Lowest level. – Bones of red deer were most numerous. Lower jaws, odd teeth, limb bones, and ribs, etc. were in a fragmentary state, four adults being represented in the west half of 3B, and two in the east half. Only one rib of a sheep was present, as also the humerus of a dog derived from an animal of similar size to that indicated by the tibia found in Chamber No. 1. Limpet shells gathered in both exposed and quiet localities were plentiful. Two wing bones of small birds whose actual species have not been determined were also found. There were marks of gnawing on some of the bones.

Bones of three red deer and a fragment of a large antler came from the west half of 3A. Two of the tibia are judged to be of the same size as those of a maximum-sized stag of the present day, the third being rather smaller. The remains of three more deer came from the East half of this section, as also a single piece of a rib of an ox, 12 cm. in length, and the fourth metatarsal (left side) of a dog of a large size, corresponding with the other canine remains recorded above. The ox bone was the only authentic fragment of this species, and one may not lay too much significance upon the presence of this animal.

The chief interest in the facts recorded above lies in the ample remains of red deer. on the island of Rousay during a Neolithic period.

Although it is generally recognised that red deer existed in the Orkneys in prehistoric times, its occurrence in Rousay (N. of Pomona) is unrecorded for such a date. Definite dating is always difficult, and placed localities of Pleistocene or post “Pleistocene” period cited in a recent publication – Reynolds, A Monograph on the Pleistocene Mammalia, vol. Iii.  part iv. pp. 4-9 (The Paloeontographical Society) – are both situated on the island of Mainland, otherwise Pomona. The prehistoric range of red deer given in  a  map  in  The  Influence of Man on the Animal Life in Scotland (Ritchie, 1920) is seen only in a restricted part of Pomona and islands to the east of this, and consequently does not include Rousay. Hence these facts extend the range of the red deer in the Orkneys generally at a time when the presence of man had not materially affected its numbers, directly or indirectly. As stated previously, the red deer no doubt was the chief source of food of these early inhabitants, together with the shellfish represented here by limpets. There is little evidence of domestic stock. Most of the sheep bones occurred in the upper layers, and jaw bones only at the top level, where bones of red deer were correspondingly sparse. Also the presence of ox is extremely doubtful, since only one fragmentary rib was found, and it may have accidentally fallen from surface soils.

Altogether three fragmentary bones of a dog occurred in differing situations, although their size indicates they may have all belonged to the same animal. In the absence of jaws or a more complete skeleton, one may regard these remains as accidental or intrusive. Further, the dimensions are not consistent with those of a dog from such an early period.

In conclusion I wish to record my thanks to Mr Grant and Dr Callander, who have kindly put the material at my disposal


by Professor Alex. Low, M.A., M.D., F.S.A.Scot.

Dr Callander and Mr Walter G. Grant have given an account of the position in which the human remains described in this report were found. The remains represent at least twenty-nine individuals, all adult except for one young individual perhaps about eighteen years of age. As is mostly the case in Neolithic interments the bones are poorly preserved. The broken nature and irregular position of the skeletal remains suggest that there probably had been some disturbance of the original interments. In all, only five skulls and four leg bones are approximately complete.

One cranium, except for the mandible, is complete and excellently preserved, and fortunately other four with some reconstruction are in fairly good condition and admit of measurements being recorded.

List of Skulls.

No. 1. (Cell 3B, west side of inner compartment.) Complete cranium; male, between 30 and 40 years.
No. 2. (Cell 3B, west side of inner compartment.) Cranium, face absent; male, about 40 years.
No. 3. (Cell 3A, west side of outer compartment.) Cranium, face absent; female, about 45 years.
No. 4. (Cell 33, east side of inner compartment.) Cranium, fairly complete; male, about 25 years.
No. 5. (Cell 3A, west side of outer compartment.) Complete cranium but abnormal; male, probably early twenties.

Skull No. 1 (figs. 12 to 15) is complete except for the mandible, and is that of a male. The teeth are in very good condition and have all been present at death, but the two upper central incisors are now missing. The teeth do not show any trace of disease and the amount of attrition of the crowns is very slight, not more than would be expected in an individual in the late twenties. On the other hand the sutures on the inner aspect of the cranium are all closed; on the outer aspect the whole of the sagittal suture, and the coronal and lambdoid sutures except at their lower parts are obliterated. The condition of the sutures would indicate an individual of at least forty years of age.

The cranium is elongated and ovoid with a relative breadth of 70.5 per cent – dolichocephalic. The profile view shows a long skull of medium height with glabella and superciliary arches moderately developed; upper part of forehead rather full; occipital squama projecting well beyond the inion. The upper face is relatively long, the orbits and nasal aperture from their indices are just to be reckoned narrow; the upper jaw is prognathous, this is largely due to subnasal prognathism but is partly accounted for by the rather short basinasal length. The occipital view (fig. 15) shows well the pentagonal outline, parietal eminences placed high up, and the sides flattened. The cranial capacity of 1390 c.c. of mustard seed is rather under the average.

Skull No. 2 is represented by the calvaria, and is that of a male, the condition of the sutures indicating an individual about forty. While this is a larger and more massive calvaria, it has much the same characters as the previous skull; thus it is elongated and ovoid with projecting occipital squama. The cubic capacity is approximately 1500 c.c. and the length-breadth index 73.7 – dolichocephalic.

Skull No. 3 is a calvaria with the facial skeleton missing, except for the two nasal bones. It is that of an individual probably about forty-five years of age; the sex is somewhat doubtful, but on the whole the characters are those of a rather muscular female. The upper orbital margins are thin and sharp, the glabella and superciliary arches faintly marked, and the forehead high and well arched; there is flatness of the vertex, prominence of the parietal eminences and the side walls of the skull approach the vertical. The skull is relatively somewhat wider with a cephalic index of 74.7 – just in the dolichocephalic group.

Skull No. 4. This cranium, apart from lower jaw, is sufficiently intact to allow of a fairly complete series of measurements being obtained. The skull is that of a young individual, and sex characters, though not so marked, are those indicating a male. The basilar suture is closed, but all the other sutures of the cranium are open both ectocranially and endocranially; the teeth in the upper jaw have all been present at death, but now only five remain; these are in very good condition, the amount of attrition being slight, and further, in the same compartment and similarly stained as the skull, there was a male left hip-bone, in which the secondary epiphysis has only partly fused along the crest; there is a probability that the skull and the hip-bone belonged to the same individual, a young man about 25 years. In its cranial features this skull is very similar to the others; the glabella and superciliary arches are of medium development, upper part of forehead prominent, occipital squama projecting; face of medium height with upper jaw projecting – prognathous; orbits and nose narrow.

Skull No. 5 is abnormal and of remarkable shape and will be described separately.

Unfortunately, the other bones of the skeletons are very fragmentary. Several separate vertebrae show marked evidences of rheumatism. Of the many limb bones, only one right femur and three separate tibiae are complete. The maximum length of the femur is approximately 430 mm., which gives a calculated stature of about 5 feet 4 inches. The shafts of three other femora are intact and the diameters of the upper third of the shaft in four specimens measure 28 by 36; 26 by 33; 26 by 36; 28 by 40; the proportion of the antero-posterior to the transverse diameter varying from 70 to 78.7 per cent. – a degree of platymeria usually present in femora of the Neolithic period. In the middle of the shaft the antero-posterior diameter was the greater in four male femora, and also in two female femora; the linea aspera in the four male femora was well developed.

The total length of each of the three entire male tibiae is 330 mm., 331 mm., and 346 mm. respectively; calculating by Pearson’s formula gives a stature of approximately 5 feet 3 inches, practically the same as that obtained from length of femur; the two short male tibia are right and left and seem to be a pair. In addition to these three entire tibiae there are the shafts of seven others with the upper and lower ends deficient. Of the seven tibiae two are rather slightly built and probably female, the other five are stouter bones and probably male. The tibiae are flattened from side to side, being platycnemic; the diameters at the level of the nutrient foramen of the eight bones apparently males, give a mean index of 66.5 and of the two female 72.2.

The limb bones on the whole are such as would have belonged to individuals of average muscular development; further, they are relatively short, and so far as can be calculated from the measurements obtainable the men were about 5 feet 4 inches in stature.

The skulls are very similar to those recovered from the Midhowe stalled cairn, and indicate a people with elongated heads, with forehead rather prominent, brow-ridges moderately developed, nose narrow and orbits not wide, and face prognathous.

Skull No. 5 consists of the calvaria with the facial portion fairly complete, but the lower jaw is missing. The skull presents unusual features in that it shows very marked asymmetry associated with premature closure of the sutures. The skull is probably that of a young male, but no trace of suture is to be seen on the calvaria, the synostosis being so complete that there is no indication of the separate bones. The teeth are irregular; there is no trace of the presence of the lateral incisors; the left canine is present and erupted, but the right while present in the jaw is unerupted; the two right bicuspids are also unerupted, while the two left are erupted; the first and second molars are well developed and present on both sides; the third molars are unerupted; the crowns of the erupted teeth show little attrition. The irregularity in suture closure and in eruption of teeth make it difficult to assign an age for the skull, but it might be that of a young man in the early twenties.

The dimensions and features of the skull can be learned from the illustrations (figs. 16 to 19). The asymmetry is noticeable in the vertex view, the long axis passing through the right frontal eminence which projects in front of its fellow. There is asymmetry of the base of the skull, the transverse level of the left external ear being in advance of the right. There is also asymmetry of the face and palate. The cranium is very narrow from side to side, and viewed from above is boat-shaped, cranial index 63.3 – ultradolichocephalic; further, there is marked heightening especially of the upper part of the frontal region in the facial view, producing the appearance of steeple-skull. A factor in the production of this abnormal skull form, has been an arrest of growth with premature closure of the cranial sutures.

In fig. 20 are shown face views of skulls Nos. 1, 4, and 5, and vertical views of skulls Nos. 2 and 3.

We are greatly indebted to Walter G. Grant, Esq., F.S.A.Scot., of Trumland, Rousay, who has presented these Neolithic skeletal remains for preservation in the Anatomy Museum, University of Aberdeen.


Measurements in mm. of Skulls from a Long, Stalled Cairn, the Knowe of Yarso, Rousay, Orkney.

Extracted from the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 69, pp. 325-351, March 11th 1935.

Available in the Orkney Room at Orkney Library & Archive


William Mainland’s Trafalgar Medal

William Alexander Mainland was born in Frotoft, Rousay, in 1763, or thereabouts. He, his two brothers, David and Alexander, and their parents lived at Tratland.

On April 10th 1795 William is on record as being an Ordinary Seaman aboard the 32-gun frigate HMS Astraea. An ordinary seaman was a man assigned to deck jobs as a trainee on ships. Working and gaining experience as a trainee followed by a couple of years as ordinary seaman allowed an individual to get a promotion as an able seaman.

The Astraea was a 32-gun frigate of 689.27 tons burden with an overall length of 140 feet, the length of the lower deck being 126 feet, a beam of slightly more than 35 feet, and a draft of 17 feet forward and 17½ feet aft. She was built in Robert Fabian’s boatyard at East Cowes, Isle of Wight, and launched in 1781. Having been rigged and fitted out she was commissioned in Portsmouth on October 1st, 1781, and with a total of 220 men and officers making up her roster, she was finally ready for duty in the Royal Navy.

Seamen were assigned various duties and rates dependent on their capabilities rising from Landsman when unskilled through Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman when they could ‘Hand Reef & Steer’. The youngest and nimblest would be assigned to sail handling and were called topmen. Experienced hands might be given a minor responsibility such as Captain of the Maintop overseeing sail handling in that position or coxswain of a ship’s boat. A seaman joined a particular ship not the Royal Navy and in theory his service ended when the ship paid off although in time of war he was likely to be pressed immediately if he did not volunteer for further service in a new ship.

Capture of La Gloire by HMS Astraea April 10th 1795, painted by Thomas Whitcombe, National Maritime Museum

With the treaties of Paris and Versailles in 1783 an end was put to the war and for a period of ten years Britain was at relative peace. With the French invasion of the Netherlands early in 1793, however, Britain was once again drawn into war; and so was Astraea. Although she had played only a relatively minor role in the capture of the South Carolina ten years earlier, she was to score her first real triumph on April 11th 1795 when she captured the larger 42-gun French frigate La Gloire off the French coast near Brest, Brittany. At the time Astraea was commanded by Captain Lord Henry Paulet and she carried a crew of 212 men, whereas La Gloire carried a crew of 280 men. The first gun was fired at sunset and only after a long and severe battle did the French frigate strike her colours just before midnight.

Two months later on the 22nd of June, while Astraea was cruising with a fleet of 25 vessels commanded by Admiral Bridport on board the first-rate vessel Royal George, a French fleet consisting of 23 vessels was sighted. Due to light and variable winds the meeting was delayed 24 hours, by which time the fleets were off Groix, an island off the coast of Brittany in north-western France. According to British sources the actual engagement lasted four to five hours and resulted in the capture of three French vessels carrying nearly 700 killed and wounded men, while the British claimed a loss of less than 150 men.

According to William’s service record his next ship was HMS Victory. On May 11th 1803 his rank/rating was Able Seaman, and his ship’s pay book/service number was SB519. Under the comments section the word ‘prest’ was used, meaning an advance of money had been paid to him when he enlisted in the Royal Navy.

The ship’s Captain and nine commissioned officers were in overall charge of the ship and the crew, whilst warrant officers like the Boatswain, Gunner, Carpenter, Surgeon and Purser were specialists responsible for a single aspect. The Master, for example, looked after navigation and the ship’s log. The Royal Marines provided the ship’s fighting force and numbered 11 officers and 135 privates.

The great majority of the crew – over 500 – were the seamen who sailed or fought on the ship. These men were rated (and paid) according to their skill and experience; from the 70 skilled petty officers, through the 212 experienced able seamen and the 193 useful ordinary seamen right down to the 87 landsmen – who were without previous experience of the sea.

‘Victory at Sea’ by Monamy Swaine

Able seamen like William Mainland were very experienced sailors who could serve at any of the stations of the crew. They could tie dozens of different knots, and knew when and where to use each. They could find any rope or line in the dark, make emergency repairs and instruct the younger men. When the men worked in isolated parts of the ship such as in the masts and rigging, the senior able seaman took command of the others, supervising their work.

For these men, living and working at sea was dangerous; it is estimated that 90% of the 92,000 British fatalities during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with France were caused by disease, accident and shipwreck. However, many of the aspects of life at sea which appear to us harsh, such as child labour and corporal punishment, were also a part of life ashore. Navy service was attractive in many ways. Although basic pay was relatively low (23s. 6d. a month for an ordinary seaman in 1805) compared to that of merchant seamen, the crew were guaranteed regular food and drink and a chance of prize money. William’s prize money amounted to £1 17s 6d. He had a Government grant of £4 12s 6d, and his monthly pay was £1 13s 6d. Experienced sailors would have been aware that, with many more men aboard, their duties were actually lighter than on merchant ships. The old belief that Victory’s sailors were forced to serve by the Press Gang, or were convicted criminals who chose to serve in the Navy rather than sit in gaol, is too simplistic. Among the crew at Trafalgar were 289 volunteers, as against 217 who had been pressed into service and no one at all who had been recruited from prison.

‘HMS Victory in action at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars’
a painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner

In five hours of fighting, the British devastated the enemy fleet, destroying 19 enemy ships. No British ships were lost, but 1,500 British seamen were killed or wounded in the heavy fighting. The battle raged at its fiercest around the Victory, and a French sniper shot Nelson in the shoulder and chest. The admiral was taken below and died about 30 minutes before the end of the battle. Nelson’s last words, after being informed that victory was imminent, were “Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty.”

Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar ensured that Napoleon would never invade Britain. Nelson, hailed as the saviour of his nation, was given a magnificent funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Back to William’s service record. After Trafalgar he spent a brief time on board HMS Ocean, and then joined the crew of HMS Fame, a three-masted 74-gun ship of the line, on January 17th 1806. His ship’s pay book number was SB66 and his rank/rating was Able Seaman – but on January 31st he was promoted to the rank of Quartergunner.

There was one quartergunner for every four guns on board a ship. The main duties of a quartergunner consisted of assisting the gunner, keeping the guns and carriages in working order and ensuring that there were sufficient supplies for their use. One of his tasks was to keep two matches burning day and night suspended over a bucket of water, for the gun’s themselves would have been kept in a constant state of readiness. The quarter gunners wore no special uniform or distinguishing marks but they were allowed small privileges such as sleeping on the berth-deck or on the cable tiers. They were paid between £1.16s and £2.2s per month.

HMS Fame’s armament was as follows: On the Lower Gun Deck were 28 British 32-Pounders; Upper Gun Deck 28 British 18-Pounders; Quarterdeck 12 British 32-Pound Carronades; Quarterdeck 2 British 18-Pounders; Forecastle 12 British 32-Pound Carronades; Forecastle 2 British 18-Pounders; and in the Roundhouse were 6 British 18-Pound Carronades.

HMS Fame – painting by Antoine Roux

In the Mediterranean in November 1808, whilst under the command of Captain Richard Henry Alexander Bennet, HMS Fame joined a squadron lying off the Gulf of Rosas. Captain Thomas, Lord Cochrane, was assisting the Spanish in the defence of Castell de la Trinitat in the province of Girona against the invading French army. Boats from Fame helped evacuate Cochrane’s garrison forces after the fort’s surrender on 5 December.

In June 1813 HMS Fame, under the command of Captain Walter Bathurst, participated in the siege of the Spanish port of Tarragona and rescue operations of sunken transports at the mouth of the Ebro. Fame returned to Chatham, and William was discharged from the Royal Navy on October 3rd 1814 ‘per Admiralty order.’

After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 the government awarded a medal to every man who had taken part. The naval veterans of Trafalgar had been presented with an unofficial medal paid for by the industrialist Mathew Boulton whilst the crew of HMS Victory had received a similar unofficial medal from Alexander Davidson, Nelson’s Prize Agent. To make matters worse for those who valued their medals, soldiers were allowed to wear their Waterloo medals but sailors and marines were not allowed to wear their unofficial Trafalgar medals.

In 1848 the government relented and announced the award of the Naval General Service Medal. All naval veterans were to receive a medal with the clasp for each action they had taken part in. However the veteran had to be living to make their claim. Of the 18,425 sailors and marines at the Battle of Trafalgar only 1,561 survived to claim their official medal.

William Mainland indeed fought at the Battle of Trafalgar and survived! He was awarded the Navy Medal with Trafalgar bar in 1848. He lived latterly in the north-east of England, near Newcastle. For many years, William’s medal was in New Zealand where most probably it was taken by one of the children of William’s nephew, boat builder John of Cruseday – two sons, Hugh and John, and daughter Jane Hughina, who went to New Zealand to act as housekeeper for her elder brothers who had emigrated some years earlier. In more recent times the medal was returned to George William Mainland [son of John and Betsy Mainland, Cott, born in September 1897] who had the tattered ribbon replaced. It was later in the possession of John Mainland of Nears/Cruseday [son of Robert and Edda Mainland, born 1930], the great, great grand-nephew of the man to whom it was awarded – and the medal is now in the safe-keeping of John’s son Robert. My grateful thanks go to him for allowing me to photograph it.

William Mainland’s Navy General Service Medal and Trafalgar bar,
the close-up showing his name inscribed around its edge.

Tratland & Gripps Earth House

Tratland was a farm west of Hunclett and adjacent thereto. The Old Norse word þrœt(u)-land, translates to ‘dispute-land,’  from  þrœta, a quarrel, dispute, litigation, etc. This farm is not recorded in the early Rentals, and is probably a later settlement than Hunclett. Situated as it is between the old Hunclett and Frotoft tunships, it has probably formed a bone of contention between these two at one time. So wrote Hugh Marwick in his Place-Names of Rousay. The earliest mention of ownership is in 1738 with names Rolland Marwick and William Lerro making an appearance.

John Sinclair was the son of Archibald Sinclair and Bell Louttit of Pow, and he was born there in 1785. He was at Hudson’s Bay from 1806 to 1813, and on his return to Rousay he lived at Breck for twelve months before moving to Tratland. In 1816 he married 24-year-old Magdalene Craigie, daughter of Mitchell Craigie and Ann Mainland of Hullion, and between 1817 and 1831 they had eight children. Ann was born in February 1817; Mary, in May 1819; Margaret, in August 1821; Janet, in October 1823; Sarah, in May 1826; twins John and Isabel, who were born on October 19th 1828; and James, on November 1831.

Mary Sinclair, born in 1819, married John Mainland, son of Nicol Mainland and Ann Craigie Mainland, of the Bu, Wyre, and they raised a family of six – five girls and one boy, born between 1847 and 1859.

John Sinclair died in 1845, at the age of 60. In the census of 1851 his widow was referred to as Marjory and Tratland was called Frotoft No. 8, for which the annual rent at this time was £6.10.0. Living with her was 22-year-old daughter Isabella, a dressmaker, and 24-year-old daughter Sarah and her husband John Craigie, a 24-year-old merchant’s son.

Older daughter Margaret also lived at No. 8. She was married to James Mainland, another son of Nicol and Ann Mainland of the Bu, Wyre, who was born on March 18th 1820. They had two children; Anne and Sarah Sinclair, born at Tratland in 1847 and 1850.

A photo of Mary Sinclair [1819-1882] and her husband John Mainland [1815-1892] who lived at Onzibist, Wyre

James and Margaret Mainland farmed the 14 acres arable and 9 acres of pasture land at Tratland throughout the rest of the 19th century. In 1875 their daughter Sarah married John Reid, son of George Reid and Janet Harcus of Wasdale, who was born on November 6th 1837. Between 1876 and 1887 they raised a family of five children: John was born in August 1876; Margaret, in January 1878; George, in July 1880; Anna Gibson, in September 1884; and Mary Mainland, who was born in July 1887.

John Reid and his wife Sarah Mainland
…and two sons; John with his marksmanship cup, c1903…
Their three daughters – Maggie, Anna, and Mary…
…and George

As a young man John Reid senior went to New Zealand where he worked as a gold-miner for 15 years. When he returned to Rousay he married Sarah and settled at Tratland. He and James Sinclair, News, ran the mail-boat between Rousay and Evie, but tragedy struck when both men were drowned when the boat was lost in October 1893. Four passengers, a mother and her three children were also lost.

The following is an inscription on his gravestone in the Westside kirkyard:-

Erected by Sarah Mainland
in memory of her beloved husband
John Reid
who died by drowning
while crossing Eynhallow Sound

11th October 1893, aged 56 years.
Also the above Sarah Mainland
who died 27th July 1922,
aged 72 years.

Son George became head of the household at Tratland. He married Minna Gibson, daughter of George Gibson, Avalsay, and Annabella Logie, Pier Cottage. George and Minna had two daughters, Annie and Minnie. Annie married John Petrie, Onzibist, Wyre, and Minnie married his brother George.

George Reid and his wife Minna Gibson
George and Minna, with Annie and Minnie
George Reid, crofter and boatman c.1920
Tratland – the Reids, cutting crop c1930
Hay stacks west of the Tratland farm buildings
George, Minna, Annie, and Minnie, on the farm at Tratland
Friends: Tom Shearer and George Reid
Sisters: Anna and Mary Reid
Annie Reid, who married John Petrie, Onzibist, Wyre
Brothers: John and George Reid
The Reid sisters at Tratland:
Anna, Mary and Maggie
Annie Reid, Tratland; Kathleen Gibson, Avelshay; George Petrie, Onziebist, Wyre; Edith Gibson, Avelshay; and Minnie Reid, Tratland. c1930

[Photographs courtesy of Olive Kemp and Tommy Gibson]



Early in April 1937, while Mr George Reid, farmer, Tratland, was harrowing a field of oats on the adjoining farm of Gripps, one of the barrow tines so displaced a thin-edged stone that it would have interfered with future farm work. Mr Reid, on trying to pull it out of the ground, found it to be quite loose but could not extract it. When he let go his hold the stone fell into a cavity which, on a little investigation, proved to be an earth-house. A lintel stone that was broken across was removed, and access to the chamber, which had not been filled up by the infiltration of soil, was obtained. After the mouth of the entrance passage had been cleared of accumulated soil, the broken lintel, which had first drawn the attention of the farmer and was subsequently removed, was replaced by a similar slab from the beach nearby and the surface of the field was levelled up.

The building is situated about 40 feet above high-water mark, some 120 yards north-north-east of the shore of Eynhallow Sound and 150 yards west-south-west of the farm steading of Tratland. Before its discovery there was not the slightest surface indication of the presence of any building.

In constructing the earth-house a trench had been dug into the clayey subsoil towards the rising hillside, running in a north-east direction for 12½ feet, where it turned to the north into the widened chamber (fig. 1).

The trench and inner enlarged part were then roofed over with slabs set from 6 inches to 27 inches apart; these in turn carried generally lighter slabs laid lengthwise with the passage and chamber. The clay walls of the trench and chamber were left unfaced by building, but additional support to the cross-lintels in the chamber was given by five slabs set on end against its natural clay walls and by one pillar formed of built masonry.

Entrance to the passage is obtained by two steps down, the first cut into the clay and the second having a laid stone tread. The passage therefrom measures some 10 feet long with an average width of 2 feet 6 inches, a height of 2 feet 8 inches at its outer end, and, the floor rising some 4 inches, a height of 2 feet 4 inches at the inner end.

The inner chamber running south to north measures approximately 8 feet in length and 3 feet in greatest width; its maximum height in the centre is 2 feet 11 inches. From 2 to 6 inches of silt covered the floor, and the scarcity of relics which it contained was disappointing. Of stone there were an oblong object (1) with rounded corners, having two notches on one edge and measuring 11¼ inches by 7½ inches by 1⅛ inch; a rude club-like implement (2) 10⅞ inches in length; a cleaver-like implement (3) 10⅞ inches in length, and a hammer-stone.

Four pieces of pumice were also found, two being round and another grooved on one side. The pottery comprised the rim and portion of the wall of a vessel (fig. 2) of dark red ware containing crushed stone. The mouth has been about 8½ inches in diameter and the wall is 5/16 inch thick. There were also a small rim fragment, flat on top and ⅜ inch in thickness, a basal fragment, a few more fragments of other vessels, and two small pieces of what looks like a clay mould.

A human molar, parts of the tooth of an ox or deer, the crown of the milk tooth of a pig, fragments of animal bones (unidentifiable), and a splinter of flint were also recovered.

It is well known that in Orkney there is a class of earth-house of very small size which so far has not been recorded from any other part of Scotland. Such have the lintelled roof supported by pillar stones often brought up to the requisite height by the insertion of small slabs.

These pillars are frequently placed some distance from the wall. Sometimes the wall is of the natural clay, but at times this is supplemented by building. In the earth- house described the walls are formed entirely of the natural subsoil, against which the supports of the roof are placed, and it is notable in having a longer entrance passage than any of the other Orkney examples.

Mr Reid has earned the thanks of all Scottish archaeologists for the steps he took for the preservation of the building, and I was glad to have the opportunity of discussing the structure with the late Dr Graham Callander, who was able to visit the site a few weeks after its discovery.

[Reference: pp 273-275 Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. LXXIII 1938-39
Available in the Orkney Room at Orkney Library & Archive.]


Cotafea & Gripps

COTAFEA is a house in Frotoft to the south of the public road, between Langstane and Gripps, the site of which is now the excellent Taversoe Hotel.

William Mainland, born in 1788, was the son of James and Mary Mainland of Banks in Sourin. In 1813 he married Sicilia Mainland and they had six children; Marjory, Ann, William, James, Christopher and Hugh, who were born between 1814 and 1822.

A view of Cotafea today – with Langstane and Cott down the hill to the right

In 1824 William married his second wife, Barbara Reid, oldest daughter of George Reid and Barbara Logie of Pow, Westside, who was born in 1801. They had two children while they lived at Banks, Sourin, George and Mary who were born in 1826 and 1827. The family then moved to Cotafea, where a further five children, Jean, Peter, John, Harriet, and Ritchie, were born between 1830 and 1843.

William and Barbara Mainland in their latter years.
[The children are not identified]

In 1847 William was paying £7 10s 0d rent. He was 69 years of age when he died in 1857. His widow Barbara then had to find the money to pay the rent, which had risen to £11 5s 0d by that time. She died in 1863 at the age of 61.

By 1871 their 36-year-old son John and his family were living at Cotafea, then called No.6 Frotoft. In 1863 he married Mary Reid, daughter of George Reid and Janet Harcus of Wasdale, who was born on March 28th 1835. They had three children; John, born on March 5th 1864, George William, on February 8th 1867, and Mary Reid, who was born on July 29th 1872, and pictured to the right. The annual rent for Cotafea between 1876 and 1887 was £13.

In the early 1900s Cotafea was occupied by the Sinclair family. Tom Sinclair was a son of Thomas Sinclair, Swandale, and Mary Gibson, Broland, and he was born on December 28th 1876. In 1905 he married Mary Inkster, daughter of Hugh Inkster, Ervadale and Shetland, and his first wife Isabella Kirkness, Quoyostray, and she was born in 1880 when they were living at Greenfield, Unst, Shetland. Thomas and Mary had four children; Thomas, born in 1907; Ann [known as Cissie] in 1908; Mary Isabel, [Mabel], born in 1910; and Lily.

Tom Sinclair senior, wife Mary, son Tom junior, and daughters Lilly and Mabel

The Sinclair family moved to Banks, Frotoft, and Tom Sinclair, father and son, ran the post-boat between Rousay and Evie for many years – and their story can be read under the heading of Banks, Frotoft in the main menu.

GRIPPS, also known as No 7, Frotoft, was built in 1846-7 at a cost of £48.19s.1d. Its first tenant was Magnus Marwick who, having moved there from Nears, paid rent of £5.10.0. Magnus, born in 1795, was the second and youngest son of Magnus Marwick and Christy Craigie. On December 19th 1828 he married 35-year-old Rebecca Craigie, daughter of Rowland Craigie and Janet Craigie, and they had three children; Mary, born in October 1829; William, in April 1832, but died before the 1841 census; and Ann, who was born in April 1834, who died before the 1861 census.

Gripps in the 1940s.

On November 8th 1861, elder daughter Mary married her first cousin, 31-year-old James Marwick, the son of Rowland Marwick and his second wife Isabel Craigie of Nears. In 1871 James was head of the household and farming 10 acres at Gripps and by that time he and Mary had four daughters; Mary Robertson, born in August 1863; Ann, in October 1865; Margaret Robertson, who was born in July 1867; and Sarah Mainland, in October 1868.

Rebecca Craigie Marwick died in April 1863 in front of Tratland from “suicide by drowning in a fit of insanity.”  Her husband Magnus died at Gripps in 1879 at the age of 84. Between 1879-1887 James paid an annual rent of £8.

James Marwick’s half-brother Magnus was 27 years old when he emigrated to Canada in 1843 with his sister Christina and their 24-year-old cousin James Clouston, son of David Clouston [weaver, living at Moan, Wasbister] and Janet Alexander (Barbara Marwick’s (sister of Rowland Marwick) daughter). The men were allocated 50 acres of land each: Magnus’s was on Conc. 11, lot 33, east half, Brant Township, Bruce County, Ontario, and James Clouston’s 50 acres was on the west half of Conc. 11, lot 33. A handwritten note to the land agent dated Oct. 19, 1854 exists to this day, stating that Magnus deposited 5 pounds for the north half of lot 33. The 1861 census lists him as owning a 100-acre farm worth $300 with a one-storey log house. In fact he only had three acres cultivated with potatoes, turnips and spring wheat which made family members today think he wasn’t the greatest farmer! The 1881 census has Magnus and Christina living together on the farm, but he died in 1886 and left the farm to his sister.

Mary Marwick and her daughter Sarah. Unfortunately no photographs exist of Mary’s husband James
Sarah, Maggie and Annie Marwick
Magnus Marwick is buried in the North Brant Presbyterian Cemetery in Brant Township, Bruce County, Ontario  
Portrait of a young Sarah.

It was then she asked her half-brother James to leave Rousay and come to Canada and help her on the farm. It was in 1888 that James, his wife Mary, and their three daughters left Orkney and crossed the Atlantic. Unfortunately James died in 1891, and Christina passed away in 1902, leaving the farm to her three nieces, Annie, Maggie, and Sarah. By 1903 though, the girls had started to sell off the land, half to surviving members of the Clouston family and half to the Thater family. By that time Annie and Sarah were married, and Maggie and mother Mary were living with Annie and her husband in Toronto.

My grateful thanks to Sandra Grant, of London, Ontario – great granddaughter of Sarah Mainland Marwick, for the use of her information and photographs.

Regarding a correction in the name of the lady in the middle of the above photo Sandra comments: ‘I think it is Annie – she had a longer face than Maggie. My grandmother (Sarah’s daughter-in-law) was pretty good about labelling pictures but I notice that one has my dad’s writing on it. I do wish more ancestors wrote names on photos!’

James and Mary’s tombstone also in the North Brant Presbyterian
or Malcolm Cemetery.
A picture of Mary Marwick taken in Toronto in the early 1900s. She died in 1914 at the age of 91.

Meanwhile, back in 1891 Gripps was the home of James Mainland Craigie, a 32-year-old farmer and postman. He was the son of John Craigie, the ‘Young Laird,’ and Sarah Sinclair of Hullion, one of twins born on July 19th 1858. He married Maggie Mainland, daughter of John Mainland and Mary Sinclair of the Bu, Wyre, and they had two daughters, Adelaide, born on December 28th 1884, and Maggie, born on November 1st 1885. James was a postman first in Rousay and later in Firth on the Mainland.

In 1894 William Logie was the tenant of Gripps, paying £7 5s 0d rent for the property with 6 acres of arable and 4 acres of pasture land, the 1901 census describing William as 37-year-old farmer and post boatman. William’s mother was Betty Logie, whose parents were Alexander Logie, merchant, Quoygrinnie/Cott, Westside, and Isabel Harold. William married Isabella Robertson, daughter of John Robertson, Banks, Frotoft, and Isabella Corsie of Nears. William and Isabella had three sons, Charles, John, and William.

Isabella and her sister Mary Ann
‘Isie o’ Gripps’

Sadly Isabella, or Isie o’ Gripps as she was known, suffered complications during a pregnancy, leading to heart failure and her demise at 2pm on February 13th 1910. The census of the following year showed William living up at Mount Pleasant with eight-year-old son John.

William Logie, c1914.

[The three photos above, and all those in black and white under
the Cotafea heading are courtesy of Tommy Gibson.]


Frotoft – Past & Present

Tom Kent’s famous photo of Frotoft, circa 1900.
A superb view of the Frotoft houses – Langstane, Cott, Brough, Burrian, and Breek.
The photographer is unknown, but the image was found in Mrs Middlemore’s
Journal, in the possession of Helen Firth of Vacquoy –
and it was she who allowed me to copy it.
Looking west from Hullion Pier, showing Viera Lodge, Corse, Eynhallow and Costa Head. An old watercolour from Mrs Firth’s collection – though the artist remains anonymous.
An old postcard, showing Hullion, Yorville, and Viera Lodge.
The view across Eynhallow Sound from the end of Hullion Pier.
The monastic building on Eynhallow showing up in silhouette on the lower slope of the island – a view from the shore below Yorville.
Hullion Pier provides another viewpoint, the crystal-clear waters of
Eynhallow Sound reflecting a bonny summer’s day.
Eastern view from Corse – Yorville in the foreground, and Cotafea on the high ground in the distance.
Spectacular peaty waterfalls above Banks.
The familiar Frotoft phonebox – still in situ, despite being obsolete.
Looking back, from a little further along the Frotoft road.
The Langstane – beside the house of the same name.
Mount Pleasant, high on Sinclair’s Hill.
A rainbow arcing above the old Frotoft schoolhouse.

Cott & Langstane

In the mid-1850s there a house named Cott on the Westside, there was one in the Brinian, also known as Coatmode, and one at No. 4, Frotoft.

Living at No 4 at that time was Peter Louttit, a 69-year-old farmer of 6 acres, his wife Jean, who was 62, their son David, a 15-year-old scholar, and 22-year-old Lydia Mowat, who was employed as a house servant. Between 1847 and 1859 Peter was paying £5 10s 0d rent.

4, 5, and 6 Frotoft – Cott, Langstane, and Cotafea

In 1871 James Mainland was farming the 8 acres of land at Cott and paying £9 rent. He was one of triplets born to Alexander Mainland, Cruseday, and Janet Kirkness, daughter of James Kirkness and Ann Harold. James and his siblings were born on February 23rd 1839. He was 19 years of age when he married Margaret Mainland, the daughter of Nicol Mainland and Margaret Louttit of Banks, Frotoft, and she was born on April 24th 1831. They had seven children; William, born in April 1858; Lydia, born in January 1860; another William, in March 1863; John, born in August 1865; Nicol, in January 1869; Harriet, who was born  in December 1870; and Margaret, born in May 1875.

In the early 1900s Cott was occupied by John Shearer, born at Lady, Sanday, in 1865, and earned a living as a farmer, cutter, and tailor. With him was his wife Lydia, and their six children: John, William, Robert, Eva, James, and David.

John Mainland of Cott, 1864 – 1954
His wife Betsy, on the right with her sister Isabella, daughters of John Mainland and Lydia Mowat of Cruseday

By the time the 1911 census was carried out on April 5th of that year, the Shearer family had left Rousay. Cott was then occupied by John Mainland, a 47-year-old seaman, who was captain of the steamer Fawn for a time. He was the son of John Mainland, Cotafea, and Mary Reid, Wasdale, and he was born in March 1864. His wife was Betsy Craigie Mainland, daughter of John Mainland, Cruseday, and Lydia Mowat from Scowan, below Redlums, Sourin. Married in 1896, John and Betsy had three children; George William, born in September 1897; John, born in September 1899; and Lydia Mary, known as Edda, who was born in August 1902. The family were living at Mount Pleasant, above Hullion, before moving down the hill to Cott.

Lydia Mary, with her brothers George William, and John…
or Edda, Doddie and Johnny as they were better known.
George and John, photographed, c1918
Edda, posing for the camera at Trumland House, c1920.
Danny Mackay, Johnnie Mainland, Lydia Ann, Doddie Mainland, Teen [Doddie’s wife],
Betsy Mainland, and John Mainland, posing for the camera while stack-building, c1925
Johnny Mainland with a cartload of hay
Sisters, Lydia Ann Mainland (seated), Bella (right)
and Betsy, with her husband John
Betsy Mainland with her great-grand-daughter Sheila Mainland, c1935
John and Betsy in their latter years.
Cott today – the house [lower right] and its associated farm buildings, Langstane, Maybank,
and above there is Cotafea

Langstane was the name of a small croft in Frotoft, named after the old ‘standing stone’ adjacent to the farm buildings. It was also known as Section V, or No. 5, Frotoft, and John Mowat paid £7 10s 0d rent annually to farm the eight acres of land in the late 1840s.

John was the son of Thomas Mode and Helen Peace of Milnhouse, halfway between the public school and Woo in Sourin, and he was born in 1794. In 1824, he married 34-year-old Isabella Yorston of Trumland and they had five children; Margaret was born on February 25th 1825, Betty on April 17th 1827, Lydia on March 30th 1829, Jean on July 23rd 1831, and John, who was born on October 7th 1835.

Langstane c1940

John died in 1869 at the age of 75, and his widow Isabella moved into a cottage at neighbouring Cotafea. In 1852 their third oldest daughter Lydia married farmer and boat builder John Mainland of Upper Cruseday, and by 1871 they and their family had moved into Langstane. John was the son of David Mainland and his second wife Marion, and was born on March 1st 1819. Between 1854 and 1873 he and Lydia had nine children: Hugh, who was born in February 1854; John, in September 1855; Mary, in October 1857; Jane Hughina, in March 1860; Janet, in October 1862; Duncan, in May 1865; Betsy Craigie, who was born on February 16th 1867; Isabella, in August 1869; and Lydia Ann, who was born on June 18th 1873. John paid £11 5s 0d rent on the property in 1875. This rose to £13 in 1876 and stayed at that rate between then and 1887. Langstane was made up of 10 acres arable and 4 acres pasture land.

I am reliably informed the Mainland family were evicted from Langstane by General Burroughs, as he wanted the building to house his factor Robert Graham – the last eviction to be carried out on the island. The census of 1901 shows retired carpenter John Mainland, then in his 83rd year, and his 72-year-old wife Lydia living up at Mount Pleasant. Lydia died in 1903, and John passed away four years later 1907. Also living at Mount Pleasant, under another roof before her parents died, was their daughter Betsy, who by that time had married seaman John Mainland of Cotafea, already mentioned under the Cott heading.

Robert Graham and his family moved away, and Langstane was then occupied, in 1911, by 76-year-old John Gibson and his 62-year-old wife Matilda. John, pictured to the left, was the son of Hugh Gibson and his second wife Margaret Harcus, and was born at Geo, Westness, in February 1834. He lived at Finyo with his first wife Lydia Craigie of Myres. She died in 1873, and he then married Matilda Saunders of Evie.

John Gibson and his wife Matilda shearing a sheep at Langstane. Having lost the use of her legs, Matilda shuffled around on a creepie.

Langstane was eventually occupied by Mainlands again for many years – sisters Isabella and Lydia Ann ending their days there in the 1950’s when they were 90 and 82 years old respectively.

Isabella Mainland, c.1900
and c.1925 above.
A painting of Langstane by John Logie, dated 1896.

Grateful thanks to Graham Lyon, Sandwick, for allowing its reproduction here. Graham writes:- “This was a wedding gift to my great-grandparents Betsy and John Mainland, and dated the year they married.”  

[All black & white photos courtesy of Tommy Gibson]


Breek, Burrian, & Brough

In Frotoft, the houses were known by both name and number – Breek was No.1; Burrian, No.2; Brough, No.3; Cott, No.4; Langstane, No.5; the first recorded occupant of Cot-a-Fea, No.6, was John Craigie in 1794; Gripps, No.7, was built in 1846; and an old parochial register informs us that Tratland, No.8, was occupied by Rolland Marwick and William Lerro in 1738.

BREEK was the name of an old house in Quandale, north of Tofts, and in the early 1800’s it was occupied by George Flaws and his wife Margaret Low. George was born about 1785 and Margaret was born in 1782. They had four children; Margaret, Janet, George, and Jane, all of whom were born at Breek between 1817 and 1825. They lived at Deal for a while before being evicted from Quandale in 1845. By 1846 a small croft and house, also named Breek, was built in Frotoft and occupied by the Flaws family, the annual rent being fixed at £4 10s. 0d.

The census of 1851 records the fact that 27-year-old son George was head of the household, and at that time he was earning a living as a blacksmith and farmer. Living with him was his father George, then 66 years of age, his mother Margaret, in her 69th year, and his 24-year-old sister Jane, who was employed in the house.

George worked in the smiddy for many years, and though retired by 1881 he still lived at Breek. At this time joint-tenant James Johnston and his family also lived there. At this time the rent was £7 0s. 0d. per annum, but was reduced to £5 in 1893.

James, an agricultural labourer, was the son of John Johnston and Elizabeth Reid of the Brinian, and was born in 1839. He married Ann Craigie of Hullion and they had two children, James and Isabella. He then married Bell Corsie, the daughter of Alexander Corsie and Ann Sinclair of Cruseday, who was born in 1850. They had three children; Alexander, William and Aggie.

John Marwick was a later occupant of No. 1. He was the son of William Marwick and Sarah Leonard of Quoygray, and he married the aforementioned Aggie Johnston. They had three children, John, born in November 1913; James, who was born in November 1914; and Hugh, also a November baby, born a year later in 1915.

Breek group: Aggie Marwick, Jock o’ Cott, Ella Johnston-Flett, Jock Marwick,
Janet Johnston-Liddle, Kenneth Flett, Bell Johnston, Annie Craigie,
Edith Maclean, Isobel Flett-Johnston, Isabella Johnston. C1920
Jock Marwick was a postman, and he is pictured while making a delivery at Avelsay, c1938

Burrian, Frotoft, c1890. The occupier at that time was Fanny MacKay.

BURRIAN, also known as No. 2 Frotoft, was where joiner William Mainland and his wife Isabella lived in 1841. William, son of William Mainland and Alison Rendall of Testaquoy, Wyre, was born in 1813. They lived at Burrian for many years, originally paying £4.10.0. rent in 1846 and £6.15.0. in 1879.

Burrian is situated between two other crofts, Breek and Brough. 34-year-old crofter/fisherman David Johnston was the son of John Johnston and Elizabeth Reid of Brinian. In 1891 he lived at Burrian with his wife Fanny Mackay of Thurso and niece Eliza Reid, a 13-year-old scholar. In 1894 David paid £6.0.0. rent. In an old estate account book the laird, General Frederick William Traill-Burroughs wrote, “He may have become a crofter but decided to be dishonest!”

Later occupants were James Alexander and Sarah Ann Marwick. Sarah Ann was the second of ten children born to Hugh Marwick, Whitemeadows, and Mary Inkster, Innister. She was born in April 1862, and had a son James Smith Marwick, born in 1885 – always known as James Smith. Sarah married James Alexander, son of Magnus Alexander, Cairn, and Margaret Inkster, Deithe, and he was born in 1854.

James Smith, c1910
James Alexander & Sarah Marwick, c1930

Sarah Ann’s son James Smith married Catherine Foulis of Deerness in 1907. They had three children, James, William, and Sarah. Sarah married Neil Flaws, son of Magnus Flaws and Williamina McKenzie of Halbreck, Wyre, but she died in 1942 aged just 26.

Brough, Frotoft. c1930

BROUGH, the farm on the Westside of Rousay, was the famous old homestead of the Craigie family. From 1823 it was occupied by Magnus Craigie, and the census carried out in Rousay in 1841 tells us that Magnus was then a 40-year-old farmer, his wife Mary was 35 years of age, oldest daughter Janet was 20 and employed as a servant, and younger daughter Mary was 13 years old.

Moving along from Burrian in Frotoft we come to No. 3, and when the census of 1851 was carried out on March 31, it was occupied by 38-year-old widowed farmer James Smith and his two young children, seven-year-old George, and John, who was three at that time.

By 1861 Magnus and Mary Craigie had moved from Brough on the Westside to Frotoft and they took the name with them, the census revealing their occupancy of ‘Section 3’. Magnus was in his 63rd year by that time, and he was farming five acres of land there. His wife Mary was then 56 years of age.

Later occupants of Brough were James Craigie and his wife Isabella Kirkness. James was the son of James Craigie and his first wife Betty Marwick, and he was born in August 1822 at Quoyferras [Faro], the family later moving to Wasbister, when James senior married Jean Craigie of Claybank.

In 1868 James junior married 22-year-old Isabella Kirkness, daughter of James Kirkness, Quoyostray, later Grain, and Grace Craigie, Deithe. Their four children were Isabella, born in July 1869; Mary Kirkness, born in June 1871; James, born in February 1873; and John Kirkness, who was born on August 1st 1876.

Jim Craigie and his sister Isie. She married Fred Inkster and they lived at Greenfield

The 1911 census reveals Brough being occupied by John Gibson and family. John was the son of David Gibson, latterly Hullion, and Ann Sinclair, Newhouse, and he was born in 1876. In 1901 he married 33-year-old Margaret Craigie, daughter of Hugh Craigie, Turbitail, and Ann Gibson, Langskaill, and he earned a living as a fisherman. They had a son David, born in 1906, also a fisherman, and he was married to Mary Jane Donaldson, second of nine children of Alexander Donaldson, Vacquoy, and Margaret Jessie Inkster, Woo.

John Gibson of Broch and Bill Spence, Evie – below Yorville c1925

John and Margaret had moved into Brough in 1906, along with Margaret’s mother Ann following the death of her husband Hugh at Turbitail. Apparently they had hoped to rent Corse, but the tenants of Brough got the Corse tenancy and so they were offered Brough instead. They rented it until the estate was sold off in 1922 when they paid £125 for it.

David Gibson aboard the Ceska, c1924
…and wife Maggie outside the house, c1930.
Another photo of David aboard the Ceska, c1968
Brough, photographed in 1994

[All photos from the Tommy Gibson Collection]


Hullion – by Kitto Gibson

Hullion – From 1907 Onwards

by Kathleen [Kitto] Gibson

Kitto Gibson was a daughter of Hullion merchant James Gibson and his wife Mary Cooper. She was born in 1907, and as a child lived at Hullion with her six siblings. She was later a teacher at the Frotoft school, married Robert Harcus, and passed away in 1974 at the age of 67.

My thanks to Edith Gibson for allowing me to transcribe her aunt’s valuable handwritten document, and giving new readers a fascinating insight into Hullion’s past.

Over the past sixty years, life and circumstances in Rousay have changed so much that it should be of interest to recall life as it used to be. The writing will certainly be deemed nostalgic, but I shall attempt to confine my efforts to recording the happenings at Hullion, where I was born. So large was the family there that many aspects of life will be presented to the reader.

Hullion is one of the oldest houses in Rousay. The title deeds were dated 1649 when my father had them. After the farm was bought by the late Walter G. Grant he had the title deeds altered, and all the ancient rights were deleted. At the time the Craigie’s lived at Hullion there was a drinking room there [our kitchen], a pork house, where pork was salted, and a sewing room above the shop. Certainly the shop must have been a busy place then. My grandparents came from Snelsetter, Longhope, to live at Hullion when my father was a young man. The Gibson family numbered nine – five girls and four boys. My grandmother was a sister of Hugh Sinclair of Newhouse, which is directly above Hullion. At right-angles to Hullion was the Post Office, owned by John Craigie, who had originally been at Hullion. These three homesteads, so near to each other, formed a township on their own. The Post Office was the only telegraph office in Rousay. The mails came from Evie to the Hullion pier, and the Rousay Co-operative Society had a shop at Newhouse for a time. This meant that in my father’s youth there were as many people at these three houses as are now in all the houses from Westness to Hullion.

My grandparents made many alterations to the house when they took over Hullion. I imagine that it was quite a grand house then, but to us it was just our home! The kitchen was a low, cosy room, with a flag floor [long slabs of stone]. Hefty undressed beams held up the ceiling, which was really the floors of the two bedrooms above. I can remember an architect from the Office of Works suddenly getting up from his chair in the kitchen one day. He begun to measure the space between the beams and told my father that according to all the rules of architecture the house should have fallen down. My father’s reply was that “the auld hoose wid be standin’ when they were both in their graves”. This has proved true, altho’ the old kitchen, now no longer used, has at last got a sagging roof. The walls were three to four feet thick and there were two windows which opened like doors. The one at the front of the house was normal size, with four large panes of glass. The one at the back was tiny and also had four panes of glass. Apparently there was no window at the back when the Gibsons came there. My grandmother selected the spot for her back window. When the masons made a hole in the wall there they found a little window, complete with glass, which had been built up. The present window is still the same size. Its hinges are of leather and it is secured by a wooden “tirlo.”

A winding stair went from the outside door to the two bedrooms above. The first three steps were of stone and the others wooden. To cover up these steps in the kitchen a little closet was made. It was triangular and had a shelf about half way up the wall. The shelf was wide at the front and tapered into a point at the back. On the shelf were a basin and soap dish, while a long roller towel was fixed on the inside of the closet door. Here everyone washed their hands. At the back of the shelf there were boot brushes, stove brushes, flue brushes etc. Under the shelf stood the paraffin flask and the pail for dirty water. All clean water had to be carried in from the well, and all dirty water was carried out and emptied in the “middin”.

The kitchen furniture was plain – a table with drop sides and wooden chairs and armchairs which had to be scrubbed every Saturday. Other seating was a long wooden settle, an Orkney chair and a big creepie. A big press stood in one corner and a dresser and small girnel completed the furniture. The walls were always covered in gaily patterned paper and there were bright curtains at the windows. We had a downstairs sitting room and one upstairs. The one downstairs was in constant use, but “the best room” upstairs was seldom used. As children we called it the “chapel”, because of its unusual ceiling. The wooden ceiling was quartered, with lines running into a centre piece – rather like those in a church. There were quite a few good pieces of furniture in this room and many unusual ornaments. Pictures hung in tiers of three. There were thirty-six altogether. Father was quite dismayed when his young daughters reduced the number to twelve. He asked what we had done with “mother’s pictures”.

When I first remember there were eight bedrooms in use. Although the family was so numerous there was always room for guests. My mother kept boarders who had the use of the “best room” and the best bedroom and sometimes another smaller bedroom. The front door opened on to another stair – eleven wooden steps – which went straight up to the “best room” and four bedrooms. When paying guests were in the house we children didn’t use the front door and only used the stairs to get to and from our beds. In my schooldays there were five Gibsons, and four Leonards to get out to school every morning. The four Leonards were cousins – their mother was a sister of my father and a widow. It was quite easy, apparently, to keep nine children away from the front of the house. Instead of going up “the close”, which was what we called the nicely laid brigsteens, we used “the lower way” from the kitchen door. That way led down five rough stone steps to dairy, wash-house, byres etc. Then there was a cassied-walk for the cattle and a rough path along the midden dyke to the road. Although we children tried to be neither seen nor heard our boarders often found where we played with kittens and pups, or at some of our old fashioned games. They were anxious to speak with us and I’m afraid got some puzzling answers. One minister asked a cousin her name. She replied “ ‘Peggy’ – Maggie Jessie Leonard”. When asked what her brother’s name was she said “Billy Gibson”. Strangely enough we never used “thee” and “thou” when speaking. On looking back I think this may have been because even then we were talking very proper English in school and had teachers, doctors and ministers as family relations. The funniest sentence I recall is a question asked by a school inspector. He said to my mother, “Mrs Gibson, do you “thee” and “thou” your husband?” He must have noticed they did just this, although we children seldom used the words.

Our boarders came from various walks of life. We had our regulars – pension-officers, school inspectors and travellers. Dr Mackintosh, from Evie, often had to spend a night at Hullion. He attended patients in Rousay when there was no resident doctor. Other names that come to mind are the Storer Clouston family, and old Colonel Johnstone. He seemed a very quiet and retiring man, and thus we missed a golden opportunity for improving our botanical knowledge. We are often asked if the house is haunted. To this I can find no answer. Like all houses it has sounds that cannot be explained. The most peculiar one at Hullion is the opening and shutting of a door. Whoever hears it so often calls out, “Anybody there?”, or goes to see who has come in. Over the years we have exclaimed – “Oh, its that man again!” I cannot say that this has ever alarmed me and there is not a trace of a hostile or antagonistic “presence” about the place. If often wonder if Dr Mackintosh got a fright one night when he had to occupy the best bedroom unexpectedly. In the wee sma hoors a little girl in her goonie and carrying a lighted candle opened the door and came into his room. Never glancing at the bed, she lifted the carafe of water and walked out again, closing the door quietly afterwards. He certainly mentioned it at breakfast the next morning. My mother had to explain that the children knew they could always find a drink of water in the two spare bedrooms. His nocturnal visitor had been a thirsty member of the family who certainly didn’t realise that the room was occupied that night. As a child I hated the long dark passages, both upstairs and downstairs, but this is quite a natural reaction in children I find.

People with all “mod-cons” ask how we managed without piped water and no bathroom. When one is brought up without these, one can live quite comfortably. Our best bedroom had a double bed and a double washstand, with towel rails at each end. On each hung a huckaback hand towel and a terry towel. There were two oval-shaped blue and white china basins and one fat dumpy ewer for cold water. One big soap dish and two little ones and a china jar also stood on the top. This vase-shaped jar was for a gentleman’s shaving water. There were two drawers below the top surface. Under the drawers there was a little cupboard which held the chamber [po, we called it]. In the corner there was a china slop pail with a lid and a wicker handle. For hot water we had tin hot water cans. They resembled garden watering cans, but had a lid hinged in the middle. A can of hot water and the visitor’s cleaned boots or shoes were set on the mat outside their bedroom door every morning. The other spare room had a single bedroom-set, a less elaborate washstand and an enamel slop-pail, with lid. All other bedrooms had a washstand, some with a tabletop, and some with a hole cut in the top for a basin. All basins were enamel and a saucer served as a soap dish. The po always stood under the end of the bed.

There was work around the house called men’s wark and other work was exclusively wimen’s wark. One of the jobs for women was to make beds and empty the slops from basin and po. This was no-one’s favourite task, but undertaken as part of the daily round. Emptying the slops was quite a ceremony according to mother’s instructions. Armed with a large tinnie of water, a zinc bucket and a “po-cloot” we had to do the rounds of the bedrooms. First we emptied the basin and washed it out with clean water. Then we emptied the po, rinsed it out with water and wiped it clean. The slops were emptied on the middin and the pail rinsed out at the soft water barrel. The “po-cloot” was hung up on a nail on an outside wall.

There was the “peedie-hoose” – an outside W.C. or dry closet for visitors. When any member of the family was confined to bed the commode was moved to the room where it was needed. Otherwise the women and young children used the byre and the big boys and men used the stable. The upper part of the oddlers was used because younger kye banded there and there was little danger that they would annoy you. After you had relieved yourself you were supposed to cover your mess with a wisp of hay or straw. This practice always reminded me of cats scraping earth over their dirt! When the byre was cleaned all was pushed out with a big scraper through the dung hole. The stable had a little pile of dung just inside the door. This was the men’s W.C. As we grew older we had two W.C.s – one for the men, above the hoose, and one for the women, below the hoose. Now, of course, there is a flush lavatory. But during the summer of 1968 I had a most nostalgic experience. I visited the nicest, tidiest, little place I had been to for a long time. Before we left for a long drive home I asked if I could go to the bathroom. The lady of the house said, “You could pee in the byre”. I said I’d do just that. She showed me into a very clean byre with sanded floors and I felt like a bairn again!

Even if you had to answer the call of nature out in the fields you were always supposed to cover up your mess with a stone or with grass. Nowadays it seems a child must have a potty or a bathroom or have to dash wildly home before it can get relief. In the old days the call of nature was always respected. I heard a tale of a lonely little boy who never wanted to leave his playmates and go into a meal with his grown-ups. Many times when he heard his name shouted he used to pop his head above a dyke and call back, “I kinno come noo for am dirtin!” It seems this excuse was always accepted and allowed the lad to stay with his companions a bit longer.

NB: On Wednesday 3rd June 1970, my brother, David Gibson, had the old iron grate and wooden mantelpiece removed from the downstairs sitting room in Hullion. He is to install an electric fire there. When sweeping the chimney before boarding it up he discovered a large iron hook firmly imbedded in the back wall of the chimney. To remove it would have damaged the wall, so it was left there. My sister tells me that this room was at one time the kitchen and must have had an open hearth fire.

The building now covered with ivy at Hullion was one of the early two storey houses in Rousay [known as Holland]. It had only two rooms. The downstairs room had a big open hearth and the upstairs one a tiny fireplace and a very small window. There was an outside stone stairway that led to the upper room. Built into this stairway was a recess, which I’m told was a peat-neuk.

In the mid-1930s Kitto was the teacher at Frotoft school, at which time there were just six pupils – one of whom was her brother Dave. Two of the other pupils were John Mainland and his sister Sheila of Nears. My thanks to Sheila for allowing me to reproduce her memories of those Frotoft schooldays.

Kitto with her pupils in 1936: Ronald Stevenson and Dave Gibson, and in front:
Harry Marwick, John Mainland and Jimmy Pirie. Unfortunately Sheila
had left the school by the time the photo was taken.

[Photo courtesy of Tommy Gibson]

“When I started at Frotoft school there were only six other children. One, Ronald Stevenson, left after three months and another, Dave Gibson, after six. Dave’s sister, Kathleen was the teacher throughout my time at school. She became Mrs. Harcus when I was 12. As the oldest pupil at that time it fell to me to present her with the wedding gift from the pupils. She cycled over from Hullion every morning and we would watch as she went past the window trying to judge by her expression what kind of mood she was in.

The day always started with the Lord’s prayer followed by copybook time using pen and ink. We had a cup of cocoa at peedie playtime and kept our piece for the longer break. Playtime games included rounders, football and picko. On wet days we played marbles and ‘Pussy wants a corner’ in the boys’ lobby.

The teacher’s desk had two compartments which we never got the chance of looking into. We knew the strap was kept in one of them for it was frequently brought out and used. Sometimes it was left on the desktop to act as a warning. Another thing that was kept in the desk was a set of mental arithmetic cards. The teacher sometimes took us out to the floor and asked us questions from these cards. The strap would have been preferable!

The highlight of the school year was the picnic held at the end of June. Everybody in the district attended, old and young. I cannot remember a picnic day when the sun did not shine. The grown-ups enjoyed watching the children’s races, and some of the youngsters’ fun came from watching their elders making fools of themselves at the wheelbarrow, sack, and thread-the-needle races. The dance that always followed the picnic was always a lively affair with all ages joining in. The old ladies would enjoy watching the latest romance and who was dancing with whom, and how often. Dresses old and new would be commented on. Supper was served as darkness fell and the oil lamps were lit.

The school cleaner had the task of emptying the bucket from the girls’ toilet several times during the evening and from time to time she sent me out to take a look and report back if it was time for another trip to the midden.”