It is about time I paid tribute to Robert Craigie Marwick – for it is he who got me started on delving into the history of Rousay and the folk who lived here in the past.
Born in 1922, he was one of thirteen children born to John Gibson Marwick, Knarston, later Innister, and Anna Logie Craigie, Post Office, Hullion. Being an incomer I didn’t know him that well, for by the time I came here he had long since moved away from Rousay. After graduating from Aberdeen University he trained as a teacher, ending up as head of a large primary school in Kilwinning, Ayrshire.
Robert contacted me in 2004 before accompanying a group of Canadian and American Craigie descendants to Rousay, and I agreed to photographically record their visit. I had the honour of hosting him and his guests in my home, for one of the old houses they visited was nearby Greysteen; the others being Brough on the Westside, and Mount Pleasant, above Hullion in Frotoft.
Robert and his guests at Deithe – down at the Broch of Midhowe, and below with his lifelong friend Cathleen Craigie, of Furse and later Craigie Cottage.
Robert is, of course, the author of the well-thumbed book Rousay Roots. After a number of reprints Robert leapt into the computer age and created the Rousay Roots website. He also published the Rousay Censuses, including Egilsay, Wyre, and Eynhallow, and catalogued all the burials in the island’s kirkyards. Since his passing, the Rousay Roots website is continued to this day by Robert’s nephew John Marwick.
In 1995 he published From My Rousay Schoolbag – a fascinating history of the island’s schools, which includes schoolday reminiscences by former pupils. The text of his second book, In Dreams We Moor, is told in the way of a ‘letter’ to an Australian cousin of his. Published in 2000 the book contains a wealth of island history and life as it used to be, with fascinating personal stories and anecdotes. Don’t bother to search for these ‘out-of-print’ books on Amazon – both books are available for purchase from the Rousay Crafthub. Click on the logo below to go to its website, and then click on ‘Local Books’ in the menu.
The island’s main Post Office was at Hullion for many years, with smaller ones at Sourin and Wasbister. The mail used to be delivered by the post boat, which plied across Eynhallow Sound between Evie and Hullion pier. Each district had its own postman until the mid-1930s at which time a mail van was introduced to the island and one postman could cope with all the deliveries – except those in Sourin which were covered by a succession of postmen on foot.
The census of 1871 tells of two female letter-carriers, both of whom were 65 years of age. Barbara Craigie was one, living at Faro in Sourin. Betsy Craigie was the other, living at Roadside [Maybank] in Wasbister – known to one and all as ‘Post Betty’.
Above is the earliest photo of a Rousay postman, or ‘rural post runner’ as he was called in the census of 1901. He is Donald Baillie Mackay, who lived at Cruseday with his wife Mary Reid Mainland. Donald, or Danny as he was known, was the son of Mary Harrold, Gairsay, and Donald Mackay, and he was born in 1861. Mary was the daughter of John Mainland, Cotafea, and Mary Reid, Wasdale, and she was born in 1873.
Robert Craigie Marwick tells a story involving Danny in his book In Dreams We Moor: He was one of a group of men who had gathered at the Hullion shop one evening. There had been heavy rain and the nearby burn was in full spate. One of the group challenged Danny to leap the burn. Danny considered the matter for a minute and replied that he would be able to do it if he had a glass of whisky inside him. The drink was provided and Danny got ready for the dare. He took a good run at the burn but pulled up at the bank saying he was sure he could do it if he got another whisky. A second glass was produced and downed and Danny got set once more. This time he took a longer run, increased his speed until it looked as if he had enough momentum to take him across but again he pulled up at the edge. He assured his companions that just one more glass would do the trick. They debated the matter for a few minutes before consenting. After downing his third glass Danny removed his jacket, rolled up his shirt sleeves, tucked his trouser legs into his socks and took a very determined run at the burn. It looked as though nothing could stop him this time but he suddenly pulled up at the edge again. ‘What’s wrong this time?’ demanded his friends. ‘Boys’, replied Danny, ‘I doot I’ve had too much tae drink tae jump the burn the night.’
At the time of the 1901 census the Post Office at Avils, Hullion, was manned by 47-year-old post master John Inkster Craigie. He is pictured above with his wife Mary Sinclair of Stennisgorn, and their daughters Anna, and Isabella, who were employed as telegraphic clerks, and son John, who delivered telegraphic messages.
James Clouston was the sub-postmaster at Tou in Wasbister. He was the son of Magnus Clouston, Tou, and Jane Craigie, Quoyostray, and he was born in 1866. He was married to Annabella Craigie, daughter of James Craigie, Falquoy, and Janet Sinclair, Stennisgorn, and she was born June 1872. They had two children, Clara, who was born in 1892, and James, born in 1896. The family are pictured in the garden at Tou, with the Loch of Wasbister in the background.
Now we come to John Inkster, who, at the time of the 1911 census, was a crofter and rural postman living at Swartifield, Sourin. John was the son of Robert Inkster, Swartifield, and Mary Leonard, Digro, and he was born in 1864. He was married to Jane Irvine from Tingwall, Shetland, and they raised a family of eight children: Margaret Jessie, who was born in 1895; Mary Jane, in 1897; John, in 1900; William, in 1902; Samuel, in 1905; Robert, in 1907; Elizabeth [Elsie], in 1910; and Thomas, who was born in 1912. The family later moved to Essaquoy, John and his wife Jane finally living at Woo.
Here is an article from the columns of The Orcadian newspaper of 1932 recording the retirement of John Inkster:
ROUSAY. POSTMAN HONOURED
Walked 65,000 miles in 35 years
Rousay publicly honoured Mr John [Alexander Leslie] lnkster, of Woo, at the Recreation Hall on Thursday evening, on the occasion of his retiral after 35 years’ service as postman in the Hillside district of Sourin. During that time, Mr Inkster estimates he has walked close on 65,000 miles. Mr W R Walls presided at the gathering and Rev. R R Davidson handed over a handsome chiming clock for Mr lnkster, and an umbrella for his wife.
Mr Inkster’s Career. Born on August 3, 1864, the fourth son of the late Mr and Mrs Robert lnkster, of Swartifield, Rousay, Mr lnkster, as a young man, spent some time at the fishing, and later took the tenancy of Housebay Farm. Appointed to the postal service in 1898, his round till 1914 was a daily one. During the War the service was reduced to three days per week, the daily service being resumed in 1931. Only five families occupy houses they were in when he started as a postman. Many homes he once called at are now in ruins.
Varied Activities. Apart from his work as a postman, Mr Inkster has taken a keen interest in Church and public affairs. He has been Superintendent of his Sunday School for 48 years, and an elder since 1894. In the social life of the island Mr Inkster has occupied an important part, and he is a popular chairman at social gatherings. Mr Inkster has acted as registrar for Rousay for 14 years.
He is a successful farmer also. Ten years ago he bought the holding of Woo in the Sourin valley, where he will spend his retirement. Two sons, Messrs William and Thomas lnkster, are now to work the farm. Mr lnkster won outright the silver cup, presented by Messrs Reith and Anderson, Aberdeen, for the best five lambs, at Rousay’s annual show a fortnight ago.
An Orkney-Shetland Wedding. Mr Inkster was married on December 28th 1894, to Miss Jane Irvine, a native of Shetland. Seven of eight children survive. The eldest son, John, served in the Seaforth Highlanders in the Great War and died in hospital in July 1918. The second son, William, is at home. The third son, Samuel, was a bridegroom in the double wedding recently reported in The Orcadian. He lives at Wasdale, Rousay. The fourth son, Robert, is in Canada, and Thomas, the youngest, works at home.
Maggie Jessie, the eldest daughter, is married to Mr A Donaldson, blacksmith, Orequoy. Jeannie is the wife of Mr A Harcus, miller, Rapness Mill, Westray. Elsie, the youngest daughter, is married to Mr Ronald Shearer, Curquoy, Rousay.
James Campbell Bruce Craigie – Jim o’ Deithe [1895-1977]. Jim started with the Post Office in the late 1920s. At first, deliveries were on foot, then by push bike. He is pictured above having just made a delivery at Cott, Frotoft. When mail vans were introduced fewer men were needed and Jim was offered a job as postman in Quoyloo. He accepted and was there for 17 years, until his retirement in 1955. He came back to Rousay in 1957.
Postman John Marwick with his mail van in 1930 [above left], and a newer model while delivering at Avelshay later the same year. Below he is pictured with postmistress Sadie Gibson outside the Hullion post office at Avils.
Postman John Marwick lived at Breek, Frotoft. His daily sorting was done to perfection – never a wrong delivery. He was a stickler for time too, making sure his deliveries were made at the same time every day. He was the son of William Marwick, Essaquoy, and Sarah Leonard, Quoygray. He was married to Aggie Johnston, daughter of James Johnston, Breek, and Bell Corsie. John and Aggie had three sons, John, James, and Hugh, who was himself a postman in Harray for a number of years.
Postman Roy Russell, pictured above delivering at Tratland in 1960, was the son of James Russell, Brendale, and his first wife Agnes Munro. Roy was married to Anna Learmonth, daughter of Robert Learmonth and Violet Inkster, Cavit. Roy lived at Myres when he first became postman, and he used an autocycle to collect the van each morning returning home at night after garaging the van below Hullion. His father lived at Burrian. After a short time, he and his father swopped houses; Roy moved to Burrian, to save the journey to and from Myres each day, and his father went to live at Myres. In the early 1960s he must have been able to garage the post van at home because he moved back to Myres and the van was then kept there. He left Rousay about 1967 and moved to Holm to become postman there.
Postman John Inkster, Craigearn, photographed above in 1975. In 1948 he married Dorothy Mainland, daughter of Hugh Mainland, Weyland and Gairsay, later Hurtiso, and Alice Craigie, Falquoy. They had four sons: John, Robert, Bryan, and Steven.
In those days the Sourin post office was based at Hurtiso, and in the early days of her marriage Dorothy stayed at her parent’s home and ran the office. The Inksters later moved to the “Cop” and John took over driving the post van from Roy Russell. Dot Munro ‘came with the shop’, and was a great help to Dorothy and John. She did part of the post run, covering Hillside Road and lower Sourin on foot, bike, and latterly moped. Apparently Dot’s mental arithmetic was phenomenal – as was her wit! John was in bad health, and was allowed to take early retirement. Despite that he was a busy man, what with the shop and a grocery van to run too. The postal delivery was done on a temporary basis by John’s sons Bob and Bryan, and Tommy Gibson took over on a more permanent basis in 1970.
In the 1970s the island’s post office was housed in a shed beside Brough, Frotoft, where Margaret Mainland was post mistress, and ably assisted by her mother – Jeannie o’ Broch’. After a succession of relief postmen Gary Jarvis, who lived at Braes, was appointed full-time postman on the recommendation of John Inkster. The first postbus, a Chrysler Avenger, came to Rousay in 1978. In the photo above left, Councillor Nigel Firth is handing over the ignition key to Gary, flanked by post office representatives from Kirkwall. Margaret then bought the first ticket from Gary, watched by a small group of islanders which included Mansie Flaws, Wyre, Robbie Kent, Scockness, Mary Gibson, Brinola, George Sutherland, Viera View, Tommy Gibson, Brinola, and Norman and Hilda Reed, Lower Hammerfield. The post bus not only provided a service for islanders – quite a few tourists visited Rousay with the sole intention of travelling round the island in the vehicle in order to tick it off their ‘post bus list’.
Billy Kemp took over as Rousay’s postman on Friday July 21st 1978. He is pictured above left at Ervadale with the Chrysler Avenger post bus c.1981, and above right with post mistress Margaret Mainland at Greenfield beside the new Austin Maestro post bus. After Margaret and her husband Hugh moved to Greenfield in 1979 a new post office was housed in an extension between the main house and the garage. The colour photograph below shows Billy beside his Peugeot 309 post bus, having been presented with his KW-region Postman of the Year award by Mrs Helen Firth at Vacquoy, in May 1995. The ‘KW-region’ includes Orkney, Caithness and part of Sutherland. Billy retired in 2014 after 36 years delivering the Rousay mail.
Margaret Mainland has the final word: “I enjoyed working with all the postmen. They helped out lots of people in the community, and never expected any thanks or reward for it – but usually were rewarded around Christmas with home knitted socks and a bottle or two in appreciation of their help during the year.”
My thanks to Margaret Mainland, Tommy Gibson, Billy Kemp, and Bryan and Stevie Inkster – all of whom supplied information and photographs.
The following eulogy was written by Ed Firth, Nedyar, and read out by him to those attending Edwin’s interment at the Brinian kirkyard on the afternoon of April 21st 2018.
James Edwin Flaws was the son of Mansie Flaws of Heldie [Helziegetha] and Mollie of Horn [Hawn], and he was born at Horn in Wyre in 1936.
He was aged 14 when he left the Wyre school to work home at Heldie. Mollie didn’t want him called up so, at 16 he was put to Trumland Farm, with Bobbie Johnston, Archer Clouston, and Dave Craigie on special exemption as a farm servant.
He soon got fed up with that and volunteered for the Royal Artillery. After Rhyll and Oswestry he was sent to the Middle East. There he was on active service at Tripoli, Malta, and elsewhere. After he was demobbed at the Isle of Wight he came home to Wyre. He kept up with his comrades and he and Itha often went to reunions in Blackpool.
However, his uncle Neil, a blacksmith with Glossops of Hipperholme, invited him and Freddie Craigie of the Bu to work on the M62, amongst other projects, driving a road planing machine, amongst other heavy machinery. He enjoyed this work, but eventually he came home to Heldie to help his father run the post to the three isles.
He started courting Itha, who I mind was working at the Kirkwall Hotel; Johnnie Johnston and me spent many an hour about the toon waiting for Edwin to appear so we could run him back to Wyre in the old Alert! This courtship was not approved of, so Edwin eventually took matters into his own hands and he and Itha eloped; he picked her up off the shore of Evie, and they married in Wyre. There they stayed at Tongaday, where Fiona was born.
He was asked to Rousay for his blasting skills (He always liked a bang!), for a fortnight, but stayed for a year at Witchwood, where Callum was born. They went home to Wyre to work with Mansie, who was now running the daily ferry.
Edwin and Itha stayed at a caravan which they later developed into Caravelle. Their boy Stewart was born in 1967 but died in 1969. Angus appeared in 1971, and their family was complete.
Edwin, Ian and Jim Johnston had always played at Wyre dances; Freddie Craigie o’ Cavit joined them and they were eventually known as the Wyre Band, playing all over Orkney at weddings, harvest homes, Burns suppers and of course, folk festivals. We even ventured down to Argyll one year! Poor Freddie died in a car crash, but the band was enlarged by other casual players like Johnny Johnston, Nigel Firth, Jim o’ Westness, Sinclair Taylor, Malcolm Nicol and myself. Edwin’s style of playing had a terrific lift to it, which was great to dance to.
Freeland Barbour was in Wyre at a folk festival concert and afterwards climbed the castle there and was so taken with the dawn that he felt a tune coming over him which he named, of course, “Edwin Flaws of Wyre!”
Incidentally, the Wyre Band was playing in Auchtermuchty the next year, when, walking along the street a complete stranger came up to Ian, Edwin’s brother and said “You must be Edwin’s brother-give this to him.” Inside was a tape and the manuscript for the Freeland Barbour tune – it was the first we knew of it! – The great Jimmy Shand himself sought Edwin out to speak to him, which, according to Itha, made his day.
[Click > here < to watch and listen to a YouTube video of Rousay mother and son musicians Ellen and James Grieve playing ‘Edwin Flaws of Wyre’. Filmed at the St Magnus Festival, Kirkwall, in July 2016, they also play a well-known Jim o’ Deithe tune – ‘Maggie Watson’s Farewell to Blackhammer.’]
Edwin and Mansie developed transport to Tingwall. Using Sidney Bichan’s barge and later Ronald Leith’s landing craft, they shipped many kye and lambs to Tingwall. I remember well gathering 40 or so fostered calves, the farm’s total output for the year on the shore below the steamer store and caa’ing them with great difficulty onto the barge, with maybe 18” freeboard, and holding my breath for 50 minutes until we lowsed them out on the beach at Tingwall, where they were met by long suffering Messrs. Marshall, Spence and Harvey!
He worked for the Water department from ’94 to 05’, worked for Orkney Ferries from ’86 to ’96, started up Flaws Engineering in ’89, and was instrumental in the restarting of the regatta in the mid seventies. He would have loved to see a marina here. He even reopened the county quarry when the OIC ordained that it was unsustainable! Edwin was also a member of the fire brigade when it was first set up in Rousay.
Talking about blasting – we needed stone chips for the road, so I went along to Edwin’s hoose one time to get gelignite and fuse with him; the cupboard was damp and the gelly was nice and sweaty. We took this to the County quarry and set our charges, with plenty of semtex, but precious little fuse. He was always generous with his Cordtex and explosive, but very miserly with his fuse cord! Edwin went one way down the road, I went the other to stop the cars; the blast went off long before it was supposed to, and we got showered with shrapnel, fortunately living to tell the tale! That kept us crushing for weeks!
But the main thing he’ll be remembered for besides his music, is the Restaurant. He and Itha bought Pier Cottage in ’87, and spent all their effort into making it into a restaurant; soon it became one of the best in Orkney. Since then we have had lots of legendary occasions there; Music, regattas, Burns suppers, RNLI presentations, stag doos, treasure hunts, curry nights and of course it catered for umpteen visitors. It’s been the heart of the island. But, 10 years ago he took a stroke, which curtailed his many enterprises, although he still kept going, working at the restaurant.
One story that sums him up, is of the big snow in ‘78 when the hydro went off for several weeks. Edwin actually managed to pull a startomatic generator on a trailer through the snow to freeze folks freezers! We were most grateful but he wouldn’t, as you’d expect, take anything for saving our bacon!
He will be sorely missed by Itha, Fiona, Callum, and Angus and their partners, his grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren – he was the quietly beating heart of the family!
Thanks for all our super memories. Goodbye, Edwin.
Below I have included photos of Edwin so family members can download them if they so wish. Click on the individual picture to enlarge it, then right click on it, and use the ‘save’ option.
In Orkney we are lucky enough to witness the Aurora Borealis on frequent occasions. For many a year folk in Rousay have been gazing up at the heavens – marvelling at the coloured lights in the Northern sky.
Here is a selection of photographs I have taken of the Merry Dancers over the last twenty years or so from various vantage points in Wasbister to illustrate the phenomenon.
The Aurora is an incredible light show caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen. The lights are seen around the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.
A correspondent for the Orkney Herald put pen to paper and did an excellent job describing the dancer’s performance – or streamers as they called them in the old days – one September night in 1864.
1864 September 6 Orkney Herald
SPLENDID DISPLAY OF AURORA BOREALIS. – On Wednesday night a magnificent and singularly wild display of the Aurora Borealis was witnessed in this quarter. From masses of what resembled blue-white luminous mist in the SW., the Aurora swept in broad, bright, and swift sheets across the heavens to the NE., as if impelled by a furious gust overhead, and then the successive streamers melted away in mazy and eccentric motions. They seemed much nearer to the earth than usual, and emitted a gleam of light as they shot rapidly on their course. At times the streamers, breaking away from the bank of luminous cloud, unrolled themselves like curtains of mist, which quivered and gleamed, contracted and dilated with amazing rapidity. The most fantastic shapes were assumed by the streamers when they passed to the nor’-east. From curtains and wavy wreaths they changed to columns, spires, and domes, shining with a light as soft and clear as that of moonlight upon peaks of snow. Through the thinner wreaths the stars could be seen shining beyond, but their brightness was obscured where the luminous vapour was piled and folded in cloud-like forms. The wind began to blow while the strange phenomenon was yet visible, and during the night it increased to a gale. Although the Aurora remains somewhat of a mystery to meteorologists, there can be little doubt that it is of electro-magnetic origin, as it occasions irregular movements of the magnetic needle. The Aurora on Wednesday night was not accompanied by the noise, resembling the crackling of electricity, which we have occasionally overheard, but it was one of the strangest manifestations of this beautiful phenomenon that we have ever witnessed
Rousay folk on their favourite modes of transport.
Edie Marwick was one of the first women in Rousay to own a motorbike. The model is an Edinburgh registration BSA S26 500cc, 3-speed manual gears, kick start, and chain-driven. Bought new it would have cost in the region of £50 – but a restored machine [without sidecar] went for £8,650.00 at auction in June 2017. Edie and her husband James [in the sidecar], lived at Rognvaldsay, just up from the pier, in the 1930s.
Dr Boyle off to see a patient c1929
Above left: Jim Marwick and his older brother John with a bicycle at Grain c1939. On the right: Jim & Maggie Grieve, Greenfield, on a BSA 500 Sloper 1932 vintage
Douglas Craigie, Hunclett, on his 1920s AJS 349cc side-valve motorcycle, with Minnie Reid, Tratland, and two young visitors.
Samuel Inkster, Gorn, Scar, and later Kirkha’. 1876 – 1953
Mabel Sinclair, Banks, Frotoft, with her friend Girlie Logie, Ivy Cottage. The interesting thing about this picture is the fact the BS licence plate was registered for a car!
Postman James Campbell Bruce Craigie, Deithe, in the 1920s
George Craigie, Falquoy; Minnie Reid, Tratland; Annie Johnston, Breek; Hugh Sinclair, Sketquoy; and Hugh Robertson, Langskaill, with a1920s BSA motorcycle and sidecar
Ellen Mary Hourie, Braehead; Kathleen Craigie, Furse; Chrissie Russell, Brendale; Netta Sinclair, Sketquoy; Front – Netta Russell; Reenie Hourie
Jock Harrold, Rose Cottage, on his Edinburgh registered 1923 Raleigh 350cc, 2.75 HP. Fitted with a single-cylinder side valve engine, chain-cum belt drive, Sturmey-Archer gearbox with hand change lever, girder forks, flat tank, and luggage grid.
Nana Waterston, a relation of the Rev David Simpson Brown, Sourin Manse, on one of the first motorcycles and sidecar combinations in Rousay – a 1926 BSA 4¼ hp 557cc side valve
A young Archer Clouston with his bike on the road above Knarston c1935
Trumland Estate gamekeeper Mackie Hourie pictured at Hulllion c.1960 with his1930s Rudge-Whitworth Special 4-valve 499cc motorbike. It had a cast iron open valve cylinder head, parallel inlet valves and parallel exhaust, rockers on cast pillars, 18mm side plug, and 8” front & rear brakes, coupled with steel shoes.
All photographs are from the Tommy Gibson collection, and credit goes to Jean Tulloch / Orkney Vintage Club for help in identifying the motorcycles.
Most folk have heard of ‘Golf Course Corner’, that 90-degree bend in the road almost at the junction of the Westside and Quandale. Tommy Gibson, Brinola, tells us of the origin of the Rousay Golf Club:-
In the l920’s a golf club was formed in Rousay and a nine hole course was created in Inner Quandale. This was a very popular pastime with a large membership of young and not so young men. Hugh Marwick of Moan in Wasbister was employed as the green keeper. A corrugated iron shed was bought and placed above Wholme to keep the mowers and ﬂags. Members of the Kirkwall and Stromness golf clubs were invited and came out to Rousay and played many tournaments. This club was ﬁnished by the end of the l930’s.
In the early sixties another golf club was formed. Concerts were rehearsed and performed, cards were played, dances were organised, all to raise funds. This club was active till about I967-8. This was due to depopulation in Rousay.
It was said at the time, this was the best natural golf course in the north of Scotland, with its braes, humps and hollows. One man walking between the ﬁrst and second holes slid, fell and broke his leg ended up in hospital for a few weeks. The club was ﬁnished by the late 60’s.
The following is a report from The Orcadian concerning the Rousay Golf Club in 1968.
Rousay Golf Club organised a very successful evening’s entertainment on Friday April 12, in the Community Centre. This was a return for the Leap Year Dance given by the SWRI on February 29.
To begin with there was a short concert, compered by Rev. J Gillan as follows: Male Voice Choir, H Grieve, J Inkster, J Logie, H Lyon, H Mainland and W Mainland with Nigel Firth at the piano, sang “Dancing in Kyle”, “Clementine” (to Cwm Rhondda), and “Mocking Bird Hill”; Novelty Mystery Act – John and Bryan Inkster; songs with Guitar – Jim and Johnny Johnston. ITV Wrestling – Ian Flaws v. Hamish Delday, referee J Slater, commentator Johnny Johnston. Leap Year Theme – Rev. J Gillan; Skit: “There’s a hole in my Budget, dear Wilson” – Nigel Firth and Edwin Macaulay; Male Voice Choir – “Irish ‘Rover”, “The Unhappy Golfer”, and “Goodnight Ladies”.
Golf prizes for the year were presented by Mrs Liddle, who is in Orkney on holiday from Vancouver.
Mr J Inkster, president of the Golf Club, had a long list of people on his vote of thanks: Mr Gillan for acting as compere; Mrs Liddle for presenting the prizes, and donors of special prizes were all thanked. Raffles donated by J Craigie, D Gibson, H Grieve and Mr and Mrs J lnkster were gratefully acknowledged. The “golf widows” who prepared the buffet supper got a special thankyou also.
The dance followed, with Andy Munro as MC and N & E Firth and W Delday as musicians.
The Golf Club has been organised again after a lapse of many years. Through the kindness of the owner and tenants of Westness Farm they play on the course in Quendale. Any golfing visitors to Rousay will be welcomed by the Club.
Golf Prizes were as follows –
Challenge Cup by Master Bakers’ Association – Hugh Lyon; Miniature Cup by George Donaldson, butcher – Hugh Lyon (to become his own property); One Club Match – Special prize from R Garden – Hugh Lyon. Monthly matches – J Inkster, lowest score over 36 holes; special prize from Wm Grieve – Jim Marwick. Handicap Match – Jim Marwick. Four-ball Foursome – Hugh Mainland and Jim Gibson. Two-ball Foursome – John and Jim Marwick. Juniors: One Club Match: Miniature Cup from George Donaldson butcher – Alister Marwick; Special prize from Ronald Wilson, Stromness – Alister Marwick. Winners of the raffle were: – Iced Cake – Colin Craigie; Bottle of Sherry – Sheena Marwick; Box of Pillowcases – Mr. A Delday; Box of Groceries – Mrs C Manson; Box of Carrots – Ann Campbell; Sacks of Turnips – Mrs A Q Cormack and Vincent Mainland.
Two photos, courtesy of Graham Lyon. They show him as a budding caddie on the Rousay golf course c1970 – and the cup presented to his father Hugh – mentioned in the prize list above.
Jean Davidson of Stromness was kind enough to contribute these two photos of the Ladies Championship cup won by Miss Molly Mainland, Hurtiso, in 1930.
I was sent this colour photo by Mary Mowat. She writes – “I wondered if you might be interested in this photo of Neil Mowat, my husband, playing golf on Rousay in the summer of 1968. We’ve been looking at old photos and can date it because of other photos taken at the time.”
[Costa Head and the western entrance of Eynhallow Sound in the background].
1. Knockha’ 2. Gorn 3. Hammer [Thanks to Alistair and Muriel Marwick, Innister, for these names]
4*. Longaness 5*. Kuiv 6*. Meeran 7*. Hill Park 8*. Berry Brae
[All starred field names in this and subsequent images were supplied by a member of the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Community Council Local History Project, carried out in 1982]
SAVISKAILL – SKETQUOY – STENNISGORN
1. Mill Meadow 2. Breekness 3. Lower Bregaday 4. Corse Kirk 5. Longaness 5a. Kuiv 6. Upper Bregaday 7. Long Leys 8. Fal Quoy 9. Meadow Park 10. Grithin 11a. The Head (outer) 11b. The Head (inner) 12. Switzerland 13. Baterass 14. Conquoy 15. Nort Hoose 16. Backyard
[All Saviskaill names supplied by Athol Grieve]
17*. Nortby 18*. Hoosen 19*. The Grange
[Hugh Marwick’s Place Names of Rousay also mentions Husmasay, Lamiger and Swanaland at Sketquoy, and Fauld at Stennisgorn, but exact locations are unknown]
1. Horsepark 2. The Sands 3. Byre-sheid 4. The Nine Rigs 5. Ourin 6. Cooper’s Meadow 7. Lee 8. Knowe o’ Djue 9. North Toon 10. West Toon 11. Stackyard/Mill 12. Vacquoy 13. Nedyar 14. Lowshoose 15. Maybank 16. Lower Skuni 17. Upper Skuni 18. Heatherha’ 19. Chalmers’ Rig 20. Hungry Quoy 21. Seatter’s Quoy 22. Claybank 23. Middle Park 24. Castal 25. Turbitail 26. Flotty 27. Whitemeadows
[All names courtesy of Jo Inkster, Langskaill, and Ed Firth. Nedyar]
FA’DOON, SWARTAFIOLD, SWANDALE
Field names supplied by Alan and Ingrid Grieve
1. Mugley 2. Girsequoy 3. Assifiold 4. Nortoon 5. Skellamurry 6. Langquoy 7. The Meadows 8. The Sooth Meadows 9. Lower Geord 10. Middle Geord 11. Upper Geord 12. The Trepshead 13. Hungryquoy 14. The Upper Roondo 15. The Lower Roondo
BROLAND, ESSAQUOY, HURTISO
Field names supplied by Tommy Gibson and Alan Grieve.
Those marked with * are from the 1982 Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Community Council History Project
1. North Field 2. Meadow 3. Grit o’ the Nort’ Green 4. Hungryquoy 5. The Middle Field 6. The Dam Field 7. Houseby 8. The Brecks 9. Fananoo 10. Cuppo 11. Grindlays Breck Park 12. The Jib 13. The Minister’s Pow 14. The Meadow 15. The Well Field 16. The Longsheet 17. Husbae 18. Howdis Meadow 19. The Bowsprite
Field names, courtesy of Fred Garson and Laura French
1. North Park (Birdie Field) 2. New Park 3. Middle Hill 4. Mugly 5. Rabbit Field 6. Kissed Rig 7. Field above the Loch 8. North Meadow 9. Field below the Steading 10. Back of the Swine Park [swine pronounced swinee] 11. Mirpha or Mirthve 12. Neo 13. Mount Rascal 14. Field below the Cottage 15. South Meadow 16. Field below the road of Pow 17. Field at the back of Pow 18. Field at the front of Pow 19. Cuppo [Myres] 20. Sandsheet [Scockness] 21. The Ayre of Faraclett 22. The Taft 23. Hilter Sharn [Scockness] 24. Salt Water Loch [of Scockness] 25. The Ness [Scockness] 26. Tattie Plot
A – The fence that goes through Faraclett Head with a dog-leg angle in it was erected by SNH in the 1980s.
Scockness field names below supplied by Bruce Mainland
27. Bow Geo 28. Freshwater Loch Field 29. Byre Field 30. The Gubs 31. Home Field 32. The Links
BANKS, BRENDALE, WASDALE
Field names supplied by Eric Shortland
1. Finnio 2. Hill Park 3. Below 4. Mill Park 5. Roadside 6. Mill Brae 7. Volespreed 8. Houseby 9. Longsheet 10. Crossroads 11. Co-op Stable 12. Backyard 13. Quattro 14. Outerdykes 15. Faroe 16. Manse Field 17. Heather Park 18. Tirlot 19. Ervadale 20. Well Park 21. Hill of Wasdale & Ervadale 22. Wasdale 23. Heatherhouse 24. Curquoy 25. Lower Gripps 26. Upper Gripps 27. West Crea 28. East Crea 29. Feelyha
Field names supplied by Sinclair Taylor
1. Cott Mowat 2. Sheepy Park 3. Peedie Park 4. Enquoy 5. Lower Classiquoy 6. Heathery Park 7. Above the Boat 8. Far Watter 9. Above & Back o’ the Hoose 10. Above & Front o’ Cruar 11. Peedie Hill 12. Glifter
Field names supplied by Eric Shortland
1. The Hass 2. Upper Geord (Rock Ridge 2) 3. Lower Geord 4. Dishans 5. Rock Ridge 1 6. Taing 7. The Meadow 8. Green Field 9. Burn Field 10. Pier Field 11. Monument 12. Daisy Field 13. Viera View 14. Brinian
Field names supplied by Robert Mainland
1. Breckan 2.Varmady 3. Nether Hunclet 4. Geord of Hunclet 5. Lower Hill 6. Mount Rascal 7. Damm Field 8. Mill Sheed 9. Knowe Field 10. Myers 11. Geord of Nears
FROTOFT FIELD NAMES
1 – 14 supplied by Bruce Mainland – 15 – 19 by Olive & Billy Kemp
When the Frotoft ‘numbered’ houses were built they were all allocated with 14-acre strips of land.
1. Lower Hoose 2. Upper Hoose 3. Outer Quoys 4. Breek 5. Burrian 6. Brough 7. Workshop South 8. Workshop North 9. Home North 10. Home South 11. The Point / Vassay 12. Tank Field 13. Maybank 14 The Hill Field 15. Breckan [Tratland] 16. Fauld 17. Playground 18. Park of Newark 19. Mid Cruseday [Mid Hoose]
BANKS, NEWS, & HULLION
Supplied by Muriel Johnston, Thomas Sinclair & Bryan Inkster
1. Mayvie [Banks] 2. Owld Yard 3. Hookaly 4. Three Fields – a: ‘Next the Lodge’ – b: ‘Next Yorville’ 5. The Hill Ground 5a. Minners
5b. The Gin Yard, named with reference to illicit spirit smuggling. There was a drinking house over the dyke from Minners, near the well o’ Minners. Thomas adds: I believe that the name Fairy Brae [the strip below Banks] was because there used to be an ale house at Hullion. Patrons making their way home from there may have had a vivid imagination – kindo like “Tamo Shanter” !
A FOWLING EXCURSION TO ROUSAY. – Rousay is the Hoy of the North Isles, rearing his steep ridges proudly above the waters, and presenting attractions in the way of wild scenery and commanding views of sea and shore, which cannot fail to be appreciated by every genuine lover of the picturesque. Hills, whether bright with fields of grass and grain, or brown with heath, or grey with weathered stones, excite within the heart an unquenchable longing to scale their sides and surmount their summits, and more especially is this the case when the hills, far-seen over leagues of blue water, swell skyward from some island shore. Rising suddenly and abruptly from the sea level, island hills have a more imposing and attractive aspect than continental ridges of greater altitude. The Ward Hill of Hoy, for example is little more than fifteen hundred feet high, and yet, proudly beetling over the billows of the Atlantic, he may cope in grandeur with the Alps of Glencoe. Although the Rousay hills are not as weird, lofty, and precipitous as the heights of Hoy, they possess a lonely majesty of their own as they roll up from the shore, ridge after ridge, and sublimity clothes their grey summits when the storm-cloud from the Atlantic sweeps over them with streaming skirts. The lower reaches of the range smile with the verdure of cultured lands, and thus, from the fine combinations of the beautiful and sublime in scenery. Rousay may safely be pronounced the most picturesque island to the north of Pomona.
To this romantic hilly isle, towering above its neighbours, like Saul among the Princes, let readers now accompany me in fancy upon a fowling and exploring expedition; and our Aldershott friend, who enjoys a fireside trip, will not, we trust, forget to shoulder his imaginary musket and blaze away at any visionary auks and guillemots. It is a sunny morning (10 o’clock A.M.) almost the beginning of autumn, when our yellow-painted pleasure boat, the property of a courteous and accommodating citizen of Kirkwall, glides peacefully off from the vicinity of the harbour under mainsail and jib, which forms an easy-going rig for amateur boatmen to handle. Our crew, including the sagacious skipper and the whole company, consists of six hands, so that the boat is not overburdened, and there will be room for working the oars in a calm or for enjoying a noontide lounge when the breeze winnows the waters. Fowling-pieces, rifles, and a carbine belonging to one of the members of the 1st O.A.V. bask harmlessly in the sunshine across the seats fore and aft. The gleam of these well-polished and serviceable weapons gives a somewhat piratical or marauding aspect to our otherwise innocent craft, and the gulls, winging lazily overhead, return upon their course as if to satisfy the suspicion excited by the first glance. The motions of these birds are so graceful, whether wavering high above the mast on wide-spread wings or riding on the swell of the sea, that it seems almost a criminal action to dye their native element with their blood in the wantonness of sport. However, the weapons of destruction in our boat are as yet idle all, and it will be time enough to moralise when the first murder of scarf or gull has been committed. The second or third tack brings us close under the lee of one of Her Majesty’s ships that has taken up her station for a time in the bay, and then we run alongside the Westray packet to hail a friend who is bent on a kelp expedition among the North Isles. He is drawing what consolation he can from a well-used pipe, as the breeze has shed off in the direction of Weyland, and the packet seems unable to pass the floating target of the Kirkwall Artillery Corps. The fate of the packet is also our own, but the oars are swinging out, and we soon make cheery way, welcoming every waft of wind that comes from land or sea. The breeze freshens as we cross the mouth of the fine Bay of Firth, and anon, by the aid of sail and oar, we are coasting along the green shores of Rendall with the grey island of Gairsay in front, and the hills of Rousay shining in the sunshine on the opposite side of the Sound. The waters move around us in soft, silent, glassy undulations, flashing in the sunshine, and flickering in surf on the neighbouring shore. It is a day of pastime for all manner of sea-birds, and now that we are slipping quietly into lonelier waters, bevies of tiesties are seen disporting themselves in front and rear, while a lazy scarff raises himself up at full length over the surface here and there, and shakes his wings by way of apology for missing his fish. The temptation is too strong to be resisted, and though our rigorous rowers have unsteadied their hands by grasping the oar, the weapons of war are eagerly clutched amid a scene that looks the very image and perfection of peace. Powder flasks pass from hand to hand, and the dire clink of the ramrod is heard from stem and stern. Bang goes Number One, and the report echoes over the waters as if the shot were
This was absolutely a rifle shot, aimed at an audacious scarf which, stretching itself above the water, and thus forming a capital target, had the good fortune to escape unhurt as the bullet spluttered into the sea ten paces beyond the living mark. Had the bird been struck by a rifle ball at the distance of fifty yards, he would, without fail, have been cruelly beheaded unawares. Down dives the alarmed but fortunate fisher into the emerald depths of the sea, disappearing so suddenly that he seems never to have existed, and he will give the boat a wide berth ere he again shows his bill above the surface. Bang! Bang! Bang! – double-barrel and single blazing off simultaneously, and a shower of duck-shot scatters the plumage of a happy family if tiesties, dipping and diving on the gladsome waters. Some of them have disappeared, two make short, desperate efforts to escape, fluttering “half on foot, half flying” over the rippling crest of the waves, and a third floats on his back, with his red-webb feet quivering pathetically in the death struggle. Another well-aimed shot reduces the two broken-winged fugitives to the same helpless condition. With a touch of the oar and a turn of the helm, the dead and dying sea-birds soon come floating alongside our boat, and now when it is too late we admire the rich and glossy green of their plumage, and wish that they were back again rejoicing in the sea and the sunshine. Mr St John, the distinguished naturalist and sportsman, had an affection for all varieties of birds and wild fowl as strong as his passion for bringing them to grief among the solitudes of Sutherland or on the shores of Moray. It may be difficult to reconcile the affection with the destructive propensity, but in the case of St John and others it had actually existed, although the curious combination of opposites may transcend the reach of our philosophy. If any apology be deemed necessary for the slaughter of the tiesties now described, let it be believed that their doom was sealed in the interests of science. For ourselves, although forming a portion of the fowling party on their sporting excursion, we must plead innocent to the charge of wanton indulgence in bird-murder on the island seas. Bang again! It is the rifleman once more bent on exterminating scarffs without any unnecessary waste of small shot. The old bird has come back to his former fishing-bank to give our friend with the rifle another chance of distinguishing himself among his companions in arms. A hit? No, the wily bird was fathoms down ere the bullet left the barrel, and yonder his rises far to the left, like an accomplished diver who has performed a Blondin feat under water, scudding over the surface, and looking this way and that with outstretched neck and making dubious, startled turnings to and fro. There is an attractive beauty in all the motions of sea birds whether they ride upon the waters in unmolested joy or paddle rapidly away in the agitation of alarm. Our rifleman feeling himself insulted by the old cormorant, has made up his mind to aim at no other kind of bird, and so he has taken up his station at the prow, where, with his finger at the trigger, he keeps a sharp and revengeful look-out for scarffs. Divers, guillemots, little auks, and great auks he leaves to the disposal of his friends, nor do we think that he would change his determination though one of the ancient eagles that formerly haunted the heights of Rousay should come swooping all the way from the camp of Jupiter Fring. Success at last crowns his resolution, and the blood of the slaughtered scarf incarnadined the waters.
We are now dropping smoothly across the Sound that separates Rousay from the west mainland. The island to which we are bound seems nigh at hand though yet some miles distant – this optical illusion being caused by the height of the hills. Hitherto our prow has been turned in the direction of Hullion, but now we put about in the direction of the Wire Skerries, as our amateur sportsmen are anxious to test their skill in seal-shooting. The skerries lying about the little island of Wire or Veira are favourite haunts for seals, and on sunny days they delight in basking in happy groups on the black rocks. By the aid of a good glass we discern seals on the skerries, but ere the boat is brought within comfortable shooting range they slide quietly down to their native element, the mothers carrying the infant seals on their backs, and some old fellows thumping the youngsters with their finny paws until they have tumbled headlong out of harm’s way. The seal is a comical fish, very affectionate and attentive to family duties, but alive to the slightest indication of danger, and fierce when wounded or driven to bay. We should not be surprised to learn that the progenitors of the seals were a tribe of Esquimaux who took to the water for warmth and finally settled down in their adopted element. The affection of the parent seals for their offspring is easily explicable on this Esquimaux theory.
After firing a salute over the skerries, whether in chagrin or in triumph it boots not to inquire, we retrace our course along Wire Sound, and hold on our way rejoicing for the little pier of Hullion. Listen and you hear a roar from the nor’-west, as if the Atlantic were about to burst down upon us with the thunder and tramp of irresistible waves. It is the Roost of Enhallow, swirling, tossing, and boiling in the ebb tide – a terrible sea-cataract from which unskilled navigators might well pray to be delivered. Our course, happily, does not lead us in the way of the Maelstrom, and here we are at last safely moored by the side of the primitive quay of Hullion, and ready to scale the ridges of Rousay. Our sporting friends are under the dire necessity of leaving their guns in the boat, as the gamekeeper is abroad, and the shootings on the island are preserved for the companions in arms of the gallant Major Burroughs, who is being bronzed at present by a warmer sun than that which shines upon his own Orcadian Isle. Rousay is well cultivated on its lower reaches along the sea-margin, and we have no sooner left the boat than we find ourselves among corn fields that promise to yield a goodly harvest. An excellent road runs round the island between the slopes of the hills and the sea-margin, and we strike away up the road in the direction of Westness. To the right the heights rise above us in successive terraces of strange formation, which look as if they had been subjected to glacial action, or tilted up at long=distant intervals by some volcanic agency. In truth, when surveying these terraces, rising one above another, and bearing a close resemblance to deserted sea-margins, it is difficult to resist the impression that Rousay has mounted to its present altitude by the successive upheavals of a subterranean force. There are volcanic indications about the island, and the inhabitants need not be greatly surprised although they should find themselves and their belongings tilted up fifty or sixty yards some fine summer morning before sunrise. It is not unusual for volcanic isles to possess a mysterious attractive influence upon lightning when thunder-clouds are brooding in the sultry air, and tenements in Rousay have more than once been struck and blasted by the electric fluid. High up the terraces on our right sheep are nibbling the mountain grass, and the call of the shepherd to his sagacious dog echoes faintly among the heights. Over one of the ridges a grey hawk is sailing, now hanging on motionless wings in the blue air, or swooping suddenly down upon his prey. On the left and in front we obtain a glorious view of the beautiful Sound between Evie and Rousay as we ascend the winding Highland road. The district of Evie wears a beautiful aspect with its green and yellowing fields and numberless farm and cottar houses basking in the pleasant sunshine. In the middle of the Sound lies the little island of Enhallow, with cattle grazing on its slopes. Between Enhallow and Evie the Roost boils and roars in the ebb, while at the mouth of the Sound, on the Rousay side, a still wilder Roost is in full play, pouring down with foamy breakers into the Atlantic. When the ebb-tide ceases to run and the flood begins, the Roosts are overflowed and make no sign. It is said that the native boatmen, by watching their opportunity, can pass between the Enhallow Roost and the Evie shore. Where there is a narrow run of smooth water, but we should be loathe to accompany them on any such dangerous expedition. The island of Enhallow is now deserted of inhabitants, and it must ever remain a mystery why families were tempted to take up their abode on a grassy sea-surrounded mound, which, from its position, cannot fail to be overswept by the Atlantic spray in December storms. The now deserted island has its own melancholy annals. Some seven families, it is said, resided at one time on that lonely spot, and when a fatal fever broke out amongst them, those who escaped infection fled from the isle, leaving behind them the dead and the dying.. This reminds us of incidents in the great plague which desolated London, and the mournful legend accords well with the present loneliness of Enhallow. Beyond this island, guarding the entrance to the Sound, Costa Head, that rises to the height of 478 feet, frowns darkly over the waters of the Atlantic, “marked with many a seamy scar” which tell of the veteran rock’s long contest with wintry storms. Beyond the Sound and far off in the parish of Birsay we see the gleam of a loch gladdening its solitudes.
Below us now, at the foot of the steep slope, and on the margin of the waters stands the house of Westness with an adjoining farm-steading. There is an extensive garden and orchard attached to the house, on the cultivation of which much care appears to have been originally expended. The luxuriance of the trees and shrubbery takes one with agreeable surprise, although the garden has now for the most part been permitted to become a tangled wilderness. It occasions surprise that the remote and hilly regions of Rousay can produce grapes, and the wealth of flowers in the hothouses might astonish strangers who had only expected to find the heather-bloom or the Epiphobium augustifolium which haunts the burn at Trumland. The garden has a fine exposure, hanging on the slope full in the glow of the meridian sun, and it is defended on all sides with high walls from inhospitable blasts that might sweep from the hills or the sea. In front of the farm-steading and close upon the shore, there is a house of recent erection, which is used as shooting-quarters by sportsmen in autumn. The fields around Westness show traces of fertility and of careful cultivation. Farm servants, male and female, are busy at out-door work, and the expanses of corn have reached their transition state when summer green changes to autumnal gold.
Leaving Westness we strike up a steep and rugged path winding around the slope of a deep and secluded ravine. There is a queer, ancient-looking mill with its water-wheel which nestles snugly between the opposing slopes. The channel of the stream is dry, but the careful miller is hoarding for his own use the waters of one of the hill lochs for which we are bound, and the upraising of the sluice can at any moment enliven the ravine with the cheerful rushing noise of a headlong brook. There is a cottage, the beau ideal of an Irish cabin, hanging midway down the slope on the opposite side of the ravine, and a barefooted damsel standing in the doorway, empress of all she surveys, completes the secluded picture of still life. After climbing and stumbling up the rough primitive road for a considerable distance we gain the top of the gorge, and find ourselves on an undulating heathy plateau to the rear of the Rousay hills that front the mainland. We have thus succeeded in turning their flanks unawares, and in a short time we find ourselves in sight of the Muckle and Peerie Lochs, the locale of which has been indicated by a countryman. These lochs, or lochans, or tarns, are many feet above the sea-level, and lying in the heart of a waste heathy wilderness in the rear of the upper reaches of the hills, they present a singularly wild and desolate appearance. The largest of the two, which does duty as a dam to the mill in the ravine below, is fed by the torrents that seam the neighbouring ridges in days of rain and storm. A precipitous height in the immediate vicinity looks as if the half of its substance had been washed down into the loch by extemporised torrents and deluges of rain. Notwithstanding the darkness of the water – this being a characteristic of mountain tarns – these lonely lochs are said to contain some excellent trout, but so desolate do they seem in this uninhabited region of Rousay, that we may apply to them the poet’s words –
On passing from the lochs we, of course, make a point of inspecting the camp of Jupiter Fring. There can be little doubt that what presents the appearance of a camp is simply a natural ridge. We are bound to believe, because it is so written in the chronicles of tradition, that two large eagles haunted the camp “for ages,” but it is satisfactory to know that they were not Roman eagles left behind by Agricola. The name Jupiter Fring has evidently been given to the place by some Rousay dominie, who had a little learning, which is a dangerous thing. The camp is a hoax and delusion, and we advise all sensible antiquaries and sight-seekers to avoid it in future.
With labour, dire and weary woe, panting much and perspiring more, we gain at length the summit of a ridge on the south-west side of the island, and the magnificent far-spreading view is sufficient compensation for the toil that it has taken to reach the top. From the heights of Hoy you look down upon the Orkney Islands as from a balloon, and a somewhat similar effect is experienced on Rousay. The Islands seem to float about and around like portions of a semi-submerged continent, and they present such novel shapes that it is difficult to distinguish old acquaintances. Sitting down on the rich and rank heather, and lighting hookah and cigar, we enjoy the delightful spectacle in peace and at ease. Shapinsay, Eday, and the rest lie like low rafts on the water, while Gairsay, nearer at hand, presents a striking resemblance to a drifted hill. Indistinct in the distance, for a haze is beginning to gather, we see the blue smoky glimmer of the capital of the Orcades. Hoy we salute as he looms up, grandly on the horizon. Below us the Sound, laying the chequered fields of Evie, has narrowed to a stream, and turning round we front the grand expanse of the mighty Atlantic, and feel that our trip had not been in vain if we had only, from this elevation, been permitted to gaze some more on that ocean spreading away and away till sea and sky commingle in the west.
While warning the tourist to avoid the Camp of Jupiter Feriens, we urge him, if he admires the picturesque, to climb the summit of a Rousay ridge. Following the road to the nor’-west of the island he will find some wild and desolate coast scenery, and let him not forget to visit the loch of Saviskaill. Wild ducks there abound in numbers that would rejoice an old sportsman’s heart. Above all we advise him to remember the commissariat, for the pangs of hunger and thirst are now upon us, unprovided as we unfortunately are with wallet or flask, and so there is nothing left for us but to retrace our steps hastily to Hullion, where a hostelry is said to exist among the corn fields. Nearly opposite the pier, where our boat rocks impatious, there is a pathway leading through a patch of fine oats. At the end of the path is the welcome haven, where we refresh our inner man with such provender and temperate liqueurs as the island affords. It is a queer but comfortable upper room into which we are shown, and the good lady of the house does her best to supply a sufficient quantity of beer and biscuits to her unexpected guests. While sitting here enjoying our ease in our inn, there comes a sudden message from our worthy skipper, who has been putting the tackle of the boat to rights, urging us to hasten our departure as we have a lengthened sail before us, and the shades of a “dirty” night are beginning to fall. There is no use of attempting to account for Orkney weather. The beautiful day is rapidly settling into a rainy and gusty night, and the craft that must convey us to Kirkwall is not the best adapted for riding down the tides that will beset our pathway on the sea. However, we stow ourselves on board, and coats and plaids are speedily in requisition as the sky is thickly overcast; and the rain, which is intent on accompanying us home, has already begun to fall. We have faith in our wise skipper who has handled the tiller often before. “Keep a sharp look-out,” says honest Master Mainland, as we leave the little pier, and we are soon dashing through the swell and spray of the troubled Sound. “A yawl would have served us better tonight,” says the skipper, as the mane of a wave tosses in at the prow and its wet tail splashes over the bulwark astern. The boat does not rise to the sea, but after two bagfuls of heavy ballast have been cast overboard, we take the waves with a lighter bound and glide more lightly along. Thus we hold our own and hold on our course, tacking onwards and upwards to Gairsay, getting gradually soaked with the fast descending rain, and occasionally soused with an unexpected splash of spray. We skirt the edges of some of the wilder jumbles of tide in the vicinity of Gairsay, seeing the white and troubled crests of the waves tossing in the glimmering light, and thus by cautious tacking and a steady hand at the helm, and with Providence for our guide, we steer at last into smoother water, and feel ourselves more at home when the flickering lights of Kirkwall gleam through the rain like numberless beacons. Again we are under the lee of Her Majesty’s ships which shine forth a cheerful glow from cabin lamps, and once more, as the chimes of St Magnus strike an hour from midnight, we pass silently between the portals of Kirkwall harbour, thoroughly satisfied with our fowling excursion to Rousay.
1879 April 5th Shetland Times. – LAUNCH THE LIZZIE BURROUGHS. – Last week there was launched from the building yards of Messrs J. McKenzie & Co., Albert Dock, Leith, a fine smart packet, intended for the coasting trade between Rousay and Kirkwall. Her length is 65 feet; beam, 15 feet; depth, 6 feet; and she is to be fitted with a large hold forward, and a cabin abaft for passengers. As she glided into the water she was named the “Lizzie Burroughs” by Mrs George McKenzie, in honour the wife of Colonel Burroughs the chairman of the Company, to whose order she has been built. She is a sister ship the “Sefton” launched the same firm last June, and she will be fitted out with her engines and other gear on the most improved principles by Mr M. P. Galloway, marine engineer, Leith. We may mention that the whole arrangements of the launch were very efficiently carried out, and it is very creditable to the firm – taking into consideration the position of the building yard – that the vessel was got into the water without a single hitch or the slightest damage.
1892 May 3rd John o’ Groat Journal. – SALE OF THE s.s. LIZZIE BURROUGHS. – lt having been agreed to wind the Rousay, Evie, and Rendall Steam Navigation Company, the steamer Lizzie Burroughs was offered for sale at Kirkwall on Monday the upset price of £250. After spirited competition, the vessel was knocked down to Mr Robert Garden, merchant, for £484. Mr T. S. Peace was the auctioneer. One of the conditions of the sale was that the name of the steamer was to be altered within three months. The steamer will therefore be called the Aberdonian, and will continue in the present trade between Kirkwall, Rousay, Evie, Rendall, etc.
John Logie was the butler at Trumland House. He was also an accomplished photographer and artist, his expertise with the brush evident in his painting of General Burroughs’ yacht ‘Annie’.
The Reverend Alexander Pirie, Rousay United Presbyterian Church minister, [white beard, second right] with his wife Elsie and family members aboard Alick Logie’s boat in a photo dated August 1913. Alick lived at Pier Cottage with his father John, a retired yachtsman, and mother Jane.
When George Robertson’s ship Orcadia (I) became uneconomical to maintain, he helped to create a company which could afford a new steamer for the North Isles of Orkney. He raised capital through selling shares, and managed the company himself, calling it the Orkney Steam Navigation Company. It operated Orcadia (I) for a matter of months before Orcadia (II) was launched. Soon the Fawn was purchased in 1892, and she began operating to Rousay. The company operated just these 2 vessels until 1919, by which time the Fawn had been disposed of and Countess of Bantry was acquired. She operated as second service to the North Isles covering Rousay and the main North Isles roster, if Orcadia (II) was unavailable.
A painting of the ss Fawn by another accomplished Rousay artist, George Mainland
1914 March 16th Dundee Evening Telegraph. PASSENGER STEAMER BECOMES TOTAL WRECK. – A Kirkwall telegram states that the steamer Fawn, of Kirkwall, while on passage from Kirkwall to the Island of Rousay, with passengers and general cargo, was driven by the tide onto the Holm of Boray and has become a total wreck. Crew and passengers were landed at Gairsay, and afterwards taken to Rousay.
[The above newspaper report is dated 1914, but the Fawn must have been refloated and repaired for she was eventually taken out of service in 1919]
The 32-foot Otter was built by Kirkwall boat builders James Maxwell & Son for Walter Gordon Grant of Highland Park distillers and Trumland Estate, Rousay. The 6.5-ton boat was launched in Kirkwall Basin on May 19th 1926.
Eventually the craft was bought by the National Commercial Bank of Scotland, which later became part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, with the idea of the Otter becoming a sea-going bank. Re-named Otter Bank, she was used to serve the more remote communities across Orkney during the 1960s, allowing islanders to manage their financial affairs without making the long journey to the mainland.
Taken out of service in 1970 the vessel changed hands, ending up rotting away in a Merseyside shipyard. She was rescued by the Friends of the Orkney Boat Museum and has since been restored to its former glory – and is now on display at the Lyness Museum and Visitor Centre, Hoy.
Not to be outdone by their brother’s fine craft, Walter Grant’s sisters, Mrs Low and Mrs Laurie [who lived at Westness House] owned the ‘Busso’. She is pictured here below Ivy Cottage, just east of Rousay pier.
The Aberdeen Press & Journal carried a report on the Rousay Regatta, held in July 1934…..Fresh to light westerly wind prevailed for the annual regatta at Rousay, in the Orkney Islands. Chief results: 22 Foot class – Sea Imp (W. Sinclair), 1 hr. 3 Foot – Ivy (J. Foulis), 1 hr. 2 mins. 13 secs. 14 Foot – Yala (N. Cooper), 36 mins 37 secs. All-comers – Sea Imp, 59 mins. 12 secs. Local race – Lottie (C. Craigie), 54 mins. 49 secs. Motor boat race – Elsie (W. Foulis). Rowing races – Men’s singles – John Wylie; men’s doubles – John and James. Wylie; Women – Mary Petrie and Molly Flaws. Among the spectators joy-riding in two planes over the regatta were two octogenarians, Malcolm Corsie and James Alexander.
Collision course! A photo taken at the 1948 Rousay Regatta
[All photographs from the Tommy Gibson Collection]