George Meikle McCrie

Conflict between the laird and the Rousay crofters came to a head with the visit of the Royal Commission to Orkney, and their findings were to lead to the Crofters Act. Burroughs evicted those tenants who gave evidence to the Commission. There was a storm of protest, not just in Orkney, but nationally and even overseas. This was the first case of crofters being evicted as a direct result of giving evidence to the Commission and their removal caused a sensation.

The local newspapers condemned the evictions, as did Scottish and English newspapers. An outspoken attack even appeared in The Boston Daily Evening Traveller, apparently written by one of the crofters who had emigrated after being evicted from Quandale in 1846. Both James Leonard and James Grieve argued the justice of their case in the local papers, the nationals copied their stories and Burroughs, supported by the `Respectables’, kept the controversy alive with a stream of letters and articles.

With support for the crofters gathering, Rousay itself was brought to the very brink of violence. Even before the Royal Commission there had been some unrest, but during the winter of 1883-4 there were frequent cases of damage to crops and agricultural implements. One of the `Respectables’, writing to The Scotsman, described how some of the Sourin crofters who had refused to attend the original meetings had damage done to their boats, and the writer warned the culprit that he ‘would not, if detected, guarantee him against a thorough lynching’.

The main trouble, however, centred on John Moyes, the Sourin schoolmaster, who was widely criticised for the part he had played in the investigation of the anonymous threatening letter sent to the laird. It was felt that he had been too co-operative with the authorities and had cast suspicion on boys who had recently been his pupils. Moyes’ duties included the unenviable task of collecting school fees from impoverished parents and compelling the attendance of children deliberately kept from school to assist on the croft. To this end he sent out Burroughs’ gamekeeper, George Murrison, who acted as Attendance Officer, to round up recalcitrants. Many were ready to believe the worst of the schoolmaster, and the Sourin crofters did not let matters rest until they secured his dismissal. Life for Moyes became increasingly difficult. Shortly after the Fiscal’s visit he went south to get married and arrived back in Rousay with a new wife and a boatload of furniture. He was met by a crowd of ‘roughs’ who jeered and hooted at him and he could find no one willing to transport his belongings to the schoolhouse. The farmer who eventually came to his assistance was threatened with vengeance and at night youthful vandals, now unrestrained by their parents, prowled round the school creating a disturbance and doing a certain amount of damage.

George McCrie of Curquoy, Inspector of Poor, was another target and, under cover of darkness, a section of his dyke was pulled down. He was disliked for his office and the niggardly amount of poor relief commonly given. He was also a leading ‘Respectable’ and a frequent writer of letters to the newspapers attacking the ‘Crofters’, sometimes under his own name but more often using various noms-de-plume. He encouraged Burroughs in the belief that unrest on the estate was the work of agitators. When Burroughs was in London for his customary winter visit, McCrie wrote:—

I trust that, by the date of your return, at all events, the present ‘wave’ of carefully fostered discontent will have passed away from the island. Nothing will give me greater pleasure than to see it subside – I am certain it will – for artificial sentiment never lasts long.

However, when Burroughs returned in April 1884, the disorder still continued. He did his best to restore peace, personally visiting the homes of some of the more unruly youngsters and telling their parents that he would hold them personally responsible for the actions of their children. He also wrote warning letters to some of the older people whom he suspected might be involved.

It was always Burroughs’ contention that it was the Napier Commission which had created the trouble in Rousay and set neighbour against neighbour. It was a rather superficial view since it glossed over the tensions which had been building up on the estate ever since 1840. Nevertheless, the Commission had acted as a catalyst. The facade of paternal concern had been stripped away and for the next six years there was to be continuous warfare between ‘Crofters’ and `Respectables’.

[George Meikle McCrie [1847-1895] was born in Leith, Edinburgh, the son of William McCrie and Isabella Greig.]

[Reference was made to The Little General and the Rousay Crofters by William P L Thomson: John Donald Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh]


Curquoy & Wasdale

Curquoy is the name of a farm on the north side of the Sourin Burn, high up in the valley between what was Upper Gripps and Wasdale. It was occupied by Peter Allan in 1734 and Alexander Robertson in 1798.  In the 1830’s it was where fisherman Thomas Sinclair lived with his wife Mary Corsie. Both born at the turn of the century, Thomas and Mary had five children: Barbara, who was born in September 1829; James, in March 1831; Mary, in November 1833; Thomas, in September 1837, but who died soon after; and a second Thomas, who was born in August 1838.

In 1851, when the annual rent was £1 7s 0d, farmer James Marwick lived at Curquoy with his wife Christie Groundwater, son John and daughter Mary, who were employed at home, and Christy’s widowed sister Mary. James was the son of James Marwick and Ann Mainland and was born in Westray in 1794. In 1824 he married Christian, the daughter of John Groundwater and Ann Harrold, and she was born on the island of Eynhallow in 1791. They had three children; James, born on December 13th 1824, John, on February 21st 1827, and Mary Wood, born on May 4th 1831.

Curquoy is far left – then Wasdale and Ervadale either side of centre, and Brendale far right.

The Marwick family moved to Midgarth near Knarston, and in 1861 Curquoy was occupied by blacksmith James Gibson and his family, having been moved from Flintersquoy during the clearances at Quandale. James was the son of Alexander Gibson and his second wife Margaret Craigie, and he was born on March 24th 1798. He married Mary Marwick, daughter of George and Barbara Marwick, and they had three daughters; Mary, who was born in October 1830; Maggie, in October 1832; and Anne, who was born in November 1835.

Ann died when she was nearly sixteen years of age. She was buried in the Westside kirkyard and her tombstone reads as follows:-

Erected by James Gibson, Curquoy,
to the memory

of his beloved daughter
Anne Jemima Marwick Gibson,
born on the 2nd November 1835
and departed this life
August 11th 1851.
“My race is run, my grave you see:
Therefore prepare to follow me:
A sinner saved by grace,
to the spirit home above:
When every sound of sin and strife:
Is quenched in songs of love.”

In 1861 James was in his 63rd year and wife Mary was 69. Also in the house on the night the census form was completed were Mary’s brother William, a retired ship’s captain, then 72 years of age; James and Mary’s 30-year-old daughter Mary, her husband James Gibson, a 35-year-old sailor, and their five-year-old son James; Margaret Marwick and Anne Clouston, who were domestic servants; and a visitor, Barbara Craigie, a 64-year-old farmer’s widow, and her grandson William Stevenson, who was a 6-year-old scholar.

Mary died in 1872 and husband James passed away in 1875. They were interred together in the Westside kirkyard, and the following inscription was inscribed on their gravestone:-

Erected to the memory of
James Gibson, Curquoy,
born 24th March 1798,
died 7th January 1875.
A faithful and beloved
disciple of Jesus.
Also of his wife Mary Marwick
born 24th June 1794,
died 23rd August 1872.
They were lovely and pleasant
in their lives and in death
were not divided.

The view south from Curquoy, with the ruins of Clumpy to the left, Whiteha’, Breval, Pretty, and Oldman to the right.

By 1871 James and Mary’s son-in-law James Gibson had swapped the sea for the land and he was tenant of both Curquoy and Brittany and their grazings which covered 220 acres, costing him £25.0.0. a year in rent. In 1881 James was 56 years old and his wife Mary was in her 53rd year. They had four children: James, born in March 1856; William David, in June 1861; Mary Ann, in December 1863; and Margaret Marwick, who was born in September 1867. On the night of April 3rd 1871 when the census was carried out, there were two boarders from Edinburgh staying at the farm, 51-year-old Thomas McCrie, a paper stainer, and his brother George, classed as a 33-year-old annuitant. William David Gibson was known as Big Bill, and was a member of police bodyguard for King Edward VII. In 1897 his sister Mary Ann married Robert Irvine Gibson, son of Robert Gibson and Isabella Craigie, Langskaill, his second marriage. In 1901 Margaret, the youngest, married George William Mainland, son of John Mainland, Cotafea, and Mary Reid, Wasdale, who was born in February 1867.

Back to the census of 1891, and by that time James was a widower, for his wife Mary had passed away in 1888. He was described as a crofter, living at Curquoy with his daughters Mary Ann and Margaret. George McCrie was still living there as well, and employed as the island’s Inspector of Poor, living on private means. He had replaced Thomas Balfour Reid, the previous Clerk of the School Board, Registrar, and Inspector of Poor. McCrie was an unpopular man. Click here > George Meikle McCrie < to find out why.

James Gibson passed away in 1900. The eldest of his two sons, James, had himself died in 1889, so his brother William David returned to Rousay and took over the tenancy of Curquoy. He did not stay long though, for by the census of 1911 Curquoy was occupied by 39-year-old farm manager James Linklater from Stromness, and his wife Elizabeth Johnston Black, then 45, from Milltown, Ross-shire. They had been married for precisely 22 years, eight months, and eight days. Their children were Robert, 13, Annie, 11, William, 9, and David, who was 5 years old.

Annie Linklater, who was born at 10pm on September 12th 1899, married joiner Hugh Alexander Sinclair on January 23rd 1920. He was the son of John Sinclair, Stennisgorn, later Vacquoy, and Barbara Gibson of Vacquoy, and was born in 1901. They had a son, Hugh Paterson Linklater Sinclair, born on September 7th 1920, and the family later emigrated to Sovereign, Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1930.

Annie Linklater and Hugh Sinclair,
pictured on their wedding day in 1920
Ronnie Shearer and Elsie Inkster,
who were married in 1928

Ronald Shearer was an 18-year-old ploughman living at Curquoy when he married Elsie Inkster on September 21st 1928 at Woo. She was the daughter of John Alexander Leslie Inkster and Jane Irvine, Woo, and was born in 1910. The record of their marriage was entered into the parish register by the then registrar – Elsie’s father John. Ronnie’s parents, Thomas Meil Shearer and Margaret Ann Miller were married in Stronsay on February 24th 1898, and moved to Shetland the same year. They had three daughters, Tomima, Robina [Ruby], and Ann. Their brother Ronnie was born on June 22nd 1910 when they were living at Blythoit, Tingwall, Shetland.

Ronnie Shearer, Tommy Inkster, John Donaldson, Elsie Shearer, Willie Inkster. In front: Angus Harcus and Thelma Shearer
Ronnie Shearer on his motorcycle, beside a year’s supply of peats at Curquoy, c1940
Ronnie Shearer, his mother Margaret Shearer, Ruby Shearer,
Thelma Shearer and Elsie Shearer.


Wasdale was a farm east of Curquoy and west of Ervadale in Sourin. It was built by George Reid after he and his family were evicted from Pow on the Westside in 1848.

George Marwick Reid was the son of George Reid and Barbara Logie of Garson, and he was born in 1807. In his younger days George went on one or two trips to the whale fishing in the Davis Straits in Greenland. On March 6th 1831 he married Janet Harcus, the daughter of William Harcus and Christy Flaws, Upper Mounsay, Quandale, who was born on June 21st 1801. They raised a family of eight children. William, who was born in April 1832; George, on New Year’s Day 1834; Mary, in March 1835; John, in November 1837; Peter, in November 1838; Hannah, in December 1840; William, in December 1842; and Lydia, who was born in October 1844.

The Reids were victims of the clearances and evicted from Pow, along with many other tenants in this area, and they moved over to Sourin, where George built a farm called Wasdale – named because of its situation to the ‘west’ of Ervadale and Brendale. It is said George slept in the heather up in the hill until the house was completed. He also dug the first fields at Wasdale by hand.

George Reid [1807-1900]
Janet Harcus [1801-1894]

The census of 1861 records the fact that by that time George was farming 36 acres of land there. Ten years later his 28-year-old son William, a master joiner, and his wife Catherine Baikie also lived at Wasdale. Catherine, born in Stromness in 1836, was the daughter of Magnus Baikie and Mary Hunter. The ceremony took place on September 17th 1863 at the Free Church Manse, where Catherine was employed as domestic servant. The officiating minister was the Reverend Neil Patrick Rose, and the witnesses were James Johnstone and William’s sister Lydia. Catherine and William had seven children: George William was born in November 1864; Mary Catherine, in July 1866; Lydia, in February 1868; Peter, in September 1869; Jessie Harcus, in April 1871; William John, in January 1873; and James Marwick, who was born in February 1875.

William and Catherine’s children just mentioned above: Standing: Peter, George, and James.
Seated: Mary, Jessie, and William.
Mary Reid and her sister Jessie [below]

The area of land farmed by George at Wasdale in 1881 had increased to 50 acres. He was in his 74th year by then, and his wife Janet was 79. Their 47-year-old son George lived with them then – he was skipper of the Rousay packet Lizzie Burroughs for a year or two. Another of General Burroughs’ ventures was the founding of the Rousay, Evie, and Rendall Steam Navigation Company, which first brought a steamship service to the islands of Rousay, Egilsay, and Wyre. For thirteen years the company and its little steamer, the Lizzie Burroughs, struggled in the face of constant financial difficulties, mechanical trouble, shipwreck and the suspicion of many of the islanders. Like everything else in which Burroughs was involved, the steamer was controversial. One reason for its lack of success was her failure to gain the mail contract. Mail continued to be brought across Eynhallow Sound in a small open boat which also carried a few passengers. It was a difficult and dangerous crossing, which sadly the Reids of Wasdale were soon to find out.

Above left is an old photograph of the steam ship Lizzie Burroughs, lying off Rousay in the 1880s – and to the right a painting of the Rousay post boat that was lost between Evie and Rousay in 1893, with the loss of five lives.

In 1887 George paid £25.0.0. rent, but the following year this was reduced by the Crofter’s Commission to £18.0.0. At this time the land at Wasdale comprised 21.102 acres arable and 35.319 acres of pasture land.

The Westside kirkyard is the final resting place for a number of the Reid family. George died on March 30th 1900 aged 92 years. His wife Janet passed away on March 1st 1894, and their eldest son William died in 1843, just 10 years of age – the headstone for their communal grave being erected by their daughter Lydia. George and Janet’s son John died by drowning during the loss of the Rousay mail boat while crossing Eynhallow Sound on October 11th 1893. William Reid died on May 29th 1915 at the age of 72, and his wife Catherine passed away on March 11th 1925, when she was 90 years old.

John Louttit, born at Faraclett in 1843, was postmaster at Coatbridge and later in Edinburgh. He was instrumental in obtaining post office positions for several relatives and friends from Rousay – one of whom was Peter Reid, born in September 1869. He lived at Old Monkland, Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, and was employed as a sorting clerk and telegraphist.

Peter Reid, his wife Mary Arthur, and their children William, James and Margaret.

Peter was 28 years old when he married Mary Arthur on July 1st 1898. She was the daughter of railway yardsman James Arthur and Margaret Dean, and she was born in 1875. They had three children: William, James Arthur, and Margaret Dean [known as Peggy]. Peter’s wife Mary died in October 1918. Two years later, in Glasgow, Peter married a second time. The bride was his cousin Margaret Reid, daughter of John Reid [who drowned with the mail boat in 1893], and Sarah Sinclair Mainland, Tratland. Peter ended his career as postmaster at Gourock, Renfrew, and died after an illness in November 1929. His daughter Peggy came to Rousay and married John Mainland, the island’s famous taxi driver, son of John and Betsy Mainland of Cott.

Later occupants of Wasdale were Sammy Inkster and his wife Violet Johnston. Samuel James Inkster was the son of John Inkster and Jane Irvine, Woo. Violet was the daughter of James Halcro Johnston, Crook, Rendall, and Margaret Ritch, Binaquoy, Firth, later Trumland Farm. They were involved in Rousay’s only double wedding, for on the same day, July 26th 1933, Violet’s brother James William Johnston married Johan [Nan] Johnston Leslie at Trumland church. Johan’s parents were monumental mason George Gerrard Leslie and Johann Johnston Sabiston, Aberdeen, who was a sister of George Harrold’s wife Barbara Sabiston, and having been a regular visitor to Rousay on holiday since childhood. At the time of the double wedding 27-year-old Sammy was farming the land at Wasdale and 23-year-old Violet was employed as a housemaid. James William was a 26-year-old research worker, living at Strathcona House, Aberdeen, and Johan, also 26 years of age, a ‘clerkess,’ living at Bedford Place in the same city. The ceremony was conducted by the Reverend Robert R. Davidson, and the witnesses were Sammy’s brother Tommy Inkster, and Isabella Craigie of the Sourin school house, and Robert Ritch Johnston and Robina Ann Johnston, Testaquoy, Wyre.

I am indebted to Margaret Green, daughter of James William and Johan for the photograph below and certain information regarding it. The wedding guests were a mixture of people from Rousay, Rendall (where the Johnstons had previously lived), and Aberdeen, and I’d like to thank the following for putting names to faces in the photograph: Margaret Green, Adele Marie Park, Sheila and Graham Lyon, Elizabeth Herdman, Clara Craigie and Margaret Gray.

Front row, from left: 1 George Leslie, Aberdeen, father of Nan. 2 James Johnston, Trumland Farm. 3 Margaret Johnston, Trumland Farm. 4 Mrs Johann Leslie, Aberdeen. 5 Bridesmaid, Isabel Grieve, Fa’doon. 6 Groom, Sammy Inkster, Wasdale. 7 Bride, Violet Johnston, Trumland Farm. 8 Flower girl, Marian Ritch, Aberdeen, a cousin of Violet. 9 Rev. Robert R Davidson. 10 Bride, Johan [Nan] Leslie, Aberdeen. 11 Groom, James William Johnston, Trumland Farm. 12 Flower girl, Joyce Ford, Aberdeen, daughter of Nan’s sister. 13 Bridesmaid, Ina Johnston, Testaquoy, Wyre. 14 John Inkster, Woo. 15 Jean Inkster, Woo. 16 Seated on grass, front left: Best man, Tommy Inkster, Woo . 17 Seated on grass, front right: Best man, Bobby Johnston, Trumland.

Second row: 1 Maggie Johnston. 2 Mr Fraser,  Feavel,  Birsay.  3  Mrs  Fraser,  Feavel. 4 Jessie Donaldson, Vacquoy. 5 George Harrold, Russness, Wyre. 6 Barbara Harrold, Russness, Wyre. 7 Jeck Yorston, Drydale, Stromness. 8 Bella Yorston, Drydale. 9 Violet Ritch, Kierfold, Sandwick. 10 Eliza Ritch, Myrtledene, Sandwick. 11 ?. 12 Maggie Jean Ritch, wife of Jamie Ritch and mother of Violet’s flower girl.  .

Third row: 1 Clara Johnston [half hidden]. 2 ?. 3 Edda Mainland, Cott. 4 ?. 5 Bella Johnston, Trumland. 6 ?. 7 Lily Fraser, Feaval, Birsay. 8 Louisa  Ritch,  Braehead,  Holm. 9 Anna Mathieson, Sourin Manse . 10 Jessie  Ford,  Aberdeen,  sister  of  Nan and mother of Nan’s flower girl. 11  Tina  Craigie  nee  Mathieson,  Wasbister  School. 12 Peggy Marwick, Ronaldsay. 13 Elsie Shearer, Curquoy, later Housegarth, Sandwick. 14 Jeannie Harcus, Knapper.

Fourth/back row: 1 ?. 2 Jim Craigie, Deithe. 3 ?. 4 Ronnie Shearer, Curquoy. 5 Thelma Shearer, Curquoy. 6 Bill Flaws, Hammerfield. 7 John Cormack, Witchwood. 8 David Craigie, Trumland. 9 Jamie Ritch, the youngest of the Ritch brothers, father of  flower girl. 10 Willie Inkster, Woo. 11 Sandy Donaldson, Vacquoy. 12 Angus Harcus, Knapper. 13 Robert Ritch, Barrhead, Holm. 14 William Ritch, Kierfold, Sandwick. 15 Jock Ritch.

[All black & white photos, unless otherwsie accredited, are courtesy of the Tommy Gibson Collection]


Brittany, Grips, & Craie

Bittany, Upper & Lower Grips, Hillside, East & West Craie,
& The Knowe of Craie

Map section showing the location of the ruins and vanished houses
in relation to today’s farmhouse of Curquoy.


Brittany was the name of the highest up of all the cottages in the Sourin valley, at the foot of the Brown Hill. Hugh Marwick in his Place-Names of Rousay says it is a fairly certain derivative of the Old Norse word brattr, meaning steep – for the hill rises steeply immediately behind the house. In Norway there was a farm-name  Brettene – ‘From the pronunciation this is the def. plur. form of  Brett – a bending upwards.’

David Inkster was the first recorded tenant of Brittany, for which he paid an annual rent of £3. In 1871 David lived there with his family and he was farming 43 acres of land in the vicinity. He was born on September 21st 1823, the son of James Inkster and Barbara Mainland of Saviskaill. He earned a living as a boat builder, and he was 26 years old when he married Janet Gibson, the oldest of seven children of Hugh Gibson and Janet Craigie of nearby Skatequoy, who was born on September 26th 1826. David and Janet had three children; Hugh, born on February 27th 1850, Janet Gibson, on Christmas day 1862, and Agnes Davie Gardner, who was born on February 23rd 1868.

Hugh Inkster [born 1850] married Eliza Robson Kirkness in 1878. She was the daughter of John Kirkness and Mary Alexander, and was born at Quoyostray in 1850. Hugh and Eliza had a son, David James, who was born on 31 December 1878. Tragically, Hugh was drowned while at the fishing in the Westray Firth on May 14th 1879, just a few months after the birth of his son. His body was recovered and later interred in the Wasbister kirkyard. Eliza had a shop at Quoyostray for many years and died in 1927 at the age of 76.

David James Inkster [1878-1944], who was a detective in the Glasgow police force.
A view of the ruin of Brittany, looking east.
The headstone David had erected in memory of his parents in the Wasbister kirkyard.
A view of Brittany from the southern slopes of the Sourin valley.

Hugh Inkster’s father David was 55 years of age when he died on the evening of September 12th 1877. He had hepatic disease and had been suffering from chronic bronchitis for seven months. His widow Janet continued living at Brittany with her daughter Agnes, who earned a living as a dressmaker. Janet passed away in 1908, and Agnes moved south to be closer to her sister Janet. Agnes worked as a domestic housekeeper at Linhope, a 22-roomed house in Powburn, Alnwick, Northumberland. She herself passed away on March 8th 1919. Janet married gamekeeper Robert William Reay in January 1899, living at Glendale, Northumberland. She passed away on February 20th 1933.


This is the name of a vanished house in Sourin, a little east of Brittany – not a trace of which exists today. In 1861 it was occupied 67-year-old Thomas Louttit and his 59-year-old wife Marian, and they farmed the adjacent 16 acres of land. Previously they had been living and working at the farm of Breckan, Wasbister. With her Christian name variously spelled, ‘Marian’ was christened Mary Ann, and was the daughter of Hugh Gibson, Sketquoy, and Janet Inkster, and she was born on April 14th 1799. She and Thomas ‘were married before witnesses’ on New Year’s Day 1828, according to their marriage certificate. Thomas passed away on July 20th 1865 aged 72 years, and is interred in the Wasbister kirkyard.

In 1871 Cecilia Leonard, a 73-year-old hand loom weaver’s widow, then classed as a pauper, lived at Hillside having moved up the hill from Whiteha’. That hand loom weaver was James Pearson, and they married on December 5th 1845. When James died at the age of 72 in 1860 Cecilia reverted to her maiden name.


Upper and Lower Grips were two small crofts east of Brittany, halfway between there and Curquoy. The Orkney word ‘grip’ signifies a little ditch or watercourse, on the north side of the Sourin Burn, and in a land valuation rental of 1865 the tenant was paying an annual rent of £3 for – Greenrips.


The census of 1841 tells of Alexander Leonard and his family living at Upper Grips. He was the son of Peter Leonard and Janet Louttit, Cutclaws, Quandale, where he was born on Christmas Day 1808. He was baptised on January 17th in the New Year, his parents surnames being spelled Lennard and Lowtit in the parish record. On January 10th 1832 he married Margaret Grieve. They had four sons: John, born in December 1832; Alexander, in January 1835; James, in November 1836; and Malcolm, who was born on September 15th 1839.

Brittany is middle left and Curquoy middle right. Hillside and Upper and Lower Grips would have been in the fields in between.
West Craie is just visible above the Curquoy barn.

In 1851 Upper Grips was called Brigs End in the census of that year – but reverted to Upper Grips when the relevant forms were filled out ten years later. By that time Margaret passed away on March 13th 1871, and when the annual population count was carried out a few weeks later on April 3rd, widower Alexander was on record as being a farmer of 14 acres of land.

In 1845 Alexander was paying 10s. a year rent and by 1887 it had risen to £6.0.0. for the 11 acres arable and 2 acres pasture. This was reduced to £4.0.0. by the Crofter’s Commission, and his son Malcolm paid a similar sum when he was tenant.

Malcolm Leonard was married to Mary Craigie, daughter of fisherman James Craigie and his wife Barbara, and she was born when they were living at Quoyfaro. Malcolm was 22 and Mary 23 years of age when they were married in Stromness on January 16th 1862. They had eight children: James, who was born in October 1862; Alexander Robertson, in May 1864; Mary Jean, in November 1866; Margaret Grieve, in November 1868; Malcolm Craigie, in November 1870; Annie Budge, in March 1874; Isabella Drever, in 1878; and John, who was born in 1884.

Malcolm Craigie Leonard, born November 1870.
He married Winifred Spence Sutherland,
Uyeasound, Unst, Shetland,
on January 18th 1906.

Thanks to Marion Paterson, Stromness
for the photo of her grandfather.

Malcolm’s father Alexander died on August 4th 1890 at the age of 82. His wife Mary died on June 23rd 1904, and Malcolm moved to Quoys with Isabella and John. Grips was then in the occupation of the Sabiston family, who had moved over to Rousay from Watten, Egilsay. John Sabiston was the son of George Sabiston and Barbara Harrold, and he was born in March 1858. In 1895 he married Margaret Inkster, daughter of James Inkster, Ervadale, and Margaret Pearson, Kirkgate, who was born in October 1861. They had five children: John Donaldson, who was born in 1894; Robert, in 1896; George, in 1898; Mary Ann, in 1899; and James, who was born in 1901.

The last occupants of Grips were the Hourie family. Annie Budge Leonard, born in 1874, married David Brown Hourie, Deerness, who was born in April 1866. They wed in 1894 and are pictured on the left with their two children: Mary Ann [Nanny], who was born in 1897 and later married Archer Clouston Snr. Their son Malcolm was born in 1898. In 1925 he married Ellen Mary Craigie, the youngest of the thirteen children of Magnus Craigie and Ellen Cooper, Falquoy, Claybank, and later Pliverha’. Malcolm, or ‘Mackie’ as he was known, was gamekeeper for the Trumland Estate.

Malcolm [Mackie] Hourie on his motorcycle at Hullion, c.1960


Lower Grips was called Greenrips in a land valuation rental of 1865. It cost James Craigie £1.5.0. to rent in 1845. James was the son of John Craigie and Margaret Murray of Bergodel, later known as Guidal, and he was born c.1773. On December 19th 1809 he married 26-year-old Janet Grieve, and they raised a family of seven children: Janet was born in October 1810; Barbara, in August 1812; James, in August 1814; Margaret, in August 1816; Jane, in August 1823; John, in February 1826; and William, who was born in June 1828.

Janet was 75 when she passed away in 1858. Her husband James was 88 when he died just three years later. Son John took over the tenancy of Lower Grips, paying and annual rent of £3.0.0., rising to £4.0.0. by 1887 for the 6 acres arable and 3 acres of pasture land.

John, born in 1826, was 37 years of age when he married Mary Wood Marwick, daughter of James Marwick and Christian Groundwater of Millhouse, close to Woo, and she was born on May 4th 1831. They raised a family of six: Mary Christina was born in May 1865; John Marwick, in November 1866; Jessie Ann Muir, in September 1868; Maggie, in March 1872; Jemima, in July 1876; and James, who was born in July 1878.

John Craigie and his wife Mary Wood Marwick
Sisters Maggie and Jemima Craigie

Jessie Ann Craigie [born 1868] was 23 years of age when she married 21-year-old Herbert John Sandbach, son of tailor John Sandbach and Sarah Ann Cadman. The ceremony took place at Milliken, Kilbarchan, Renfrew, on December 1st 1891. Jessie Ann was working in Kilbarchan as a domestic servant and Herbert was a groom. They are pictured above with two of their three children: John, born in 1893; and Herbert, in 1896. Their third, Mary Ann Jessie, was born in 1898.

Jessie’s sister Maggie Craigie [born 1872], was also 23 years of age when she married 23-year-old police constable George Hackston at Linwood, Renfrew, on October 9th 1895. George was the son of miner David Hackston and Mary McConnell. They are pictured with their two sons George, born in 1897, and David Craigie, who was born in 1899. They also had a daughter Maggie Craigie, who was born in 1904.

In 1888 the Crofter’s Commission reduced John’s rent to £3. He died in 1892, and that same year his widow Jane renounced the croft and moved to Windbreck on the Westside. Two years later widower James Cooper took over the tenancy of Lower Grips, having moved the short distance from Standpretty with his daughter Mary. James later moved to Sandwick, and Lower Grips was then unoccupied.


East Craie and West Craie were two small crofts, situated in the face of the hill above Curquoy in Sourin. There are numerous spellings, but I will go with Craie for that was provided by the man who built them, William Robertson, to the Ordnance Survey when Rousay was ‘mapped’ in 1879-80. Hugh Marwick in his Place-Names of Rousay thought this an interesting but obscure name, and though he suggested an origin its authority was to be regarded as ‘no more than tentative’!

Sheep on the rich pasture land below the ruin of West Craie

The record of a legal process dated 1823 is preserved in Kirkwall Sheriff Court Records Room in which John Gibson of Broland, Rousay, was prosecuted for slander by Janet McKinley, wife of John Pearson of Cruehannie. He was alleged to have called her ‘a thievish limmer’, and this he did ‘the day of the last sheep-shearing at Craya.’ This happened in the days when the hill was public common, and when the sheep of the whole district grazed on it. Mrs. Pearson must thus have been so insulted on the public sheep-shearing day when all the sheep were rounded up and confined in enclosures at Creya for shearing or ‘roo-ing.’

The name is also found in several other Orkney districts, e.g. Evie, Deerness, Orphir, and Stromness parish, and the situation of each is such that it might well have been that of the local shearing pens. The common Orkney word krue, an enclosure or pen, which occurs frequently in place-names (usually in the form kru), e.g. Cruar, Crooannie, Steincroonie (all in Sourin), and which is a Norse loan-word from the Old Celtic cró, a pen for sheep, cannot be the source of Creya. But there is another Old Norse word krá, a corner, which is sometimes confused with the preceding term. Subsequent investigation into similar Norse and Faeroese language revealed the word krogv, translated as meaning a corner or nook, a place for storing odds and ends, e.g. peats. Faeroese place-names include Kú-krogv,  ‘cow-krogv’, and Seyõa-krogv, ‘sheep-krogv’, which prove that the term has been used there for enclosures for cattle and sheep. It may be suggested therefore that in the Orkney name Creya we may see a specialised use of this term for the kind of pens into which sheep were driven for shearing. Hugh Marwick says that what he wrote above was written while he was under the impression that there was no local memory of a sheep-shearing site at Creya. He subsequently met by accident the then present tenant who informed him he had been told by an old neighbour long dead (Malcolm Leonard) that a part of the farm now cultivated and known as The Hole o’ Creya was the place where sheep were shorn in olden days.

By 1861 stonemason William Robertson was living at Crey, as it was called in the census, a house he built with his own hands – having been evicted from the Westside. More on that in a minute or two. William was the son of Alexander Robertson and Margaret Irvine of Egilsay, and was born on January 3rd 1810. In 1844 he married Elizabeth Harcus, the daughter of William Harcus and Christy Flaws, and they had four children; twins John and William born on November 16th 1846; Alexander, born on April 23rd 1849; and James, on May 10th 1851. William and his family moved here from the Brinian, and paid 12s. rent in 1867.

In 1871 William and Betsy Robertson were living at East Crey, while William Craigie and his wife had moved into West Crey, a house situated nearby with 20 acres of land. William Craigie was the son of William Craigie and Mary McKinlay, Feelie-Ha’, and he was born c.1814. His wife was Mary Kirkness, the daughter of John Kirkness and Barbara Craigie, who was born in November 1824 when they lived at Quoyostray. William paid £3.11.0 rent in 1869, rising to £4.0.0. in 1887 for the 10 acres arable and 10 acres pasture. This was reduced to £3.10.0. by the Crofter’s Commission in 1888.

During the Napier Commission investigation in Kirkwall on July 23rd 1883, the Chairman interrogated Rousay Free Church minister, the Rev. Archibald MacCallum who had been elected to stand as a delegate for the island’s crofters. He read a statement to the Commission explaining the crofters’ grievances regarding the present laird Frederick William  Traill-Burroughs. At one point he touched on the eviction of certain tenants, one of whom was William Robertson, though it was noted that these evictions actually took place in the time of the previous laird George William Traill.

The Chairman, Lord Napier, said:- The subsequent evictions you referred to are the cases of the tenant of Hammer and the occupiers of East Craye?

The Rev. MacCallum replied: Yes.

How many evictions were there?

East Craye was occupied by one crofter. He was evicted from one place which he had built and reclaimed, and then he was allowed to build in East Craye. The rent was then 10s., which has increased until it is now five times that amount.

How long was he in the place before the rent was raised in that way?

We have a statement from him here – [reads]

‘Statement by William Robertson, crofter, of East Craye, Sourin, Rousay, for Her Majesty’s Royal Commission on the Highlands and Islands:

My croft of East Craye is on the property of General Burroughs of Rousay and Viera. I am a native of the parish of Rousay, and am now seventy-two years of age. About 1845, I took a small croft at another part of the island from that where I now live, and got on that croft about a quarter of an acre cultivated when I entered on it. I paid 22s. of rent on that holding. As I improved, more rent was put upon me, until at last I was obliged to leave it altogether. I then got permission to build a dwelling on the hillside where I now live, where there was no cultivation of any kind, nor houses. I began to build, and got up with much trouble a humble cottage and outhouses suitable. I ditched and drained more than I was able, and got a little of the heather surface broken up. At this time I paid 12s.; but again, as I improved, more and more rent was laid on till I am now rented at a sum which is five times the rent I paid at first for a house I built myself. At the same time the common was taken away from me, as from all others; so that I am now not able to pay such a rent, nor to defend myself in any way, as I am wholly under the control and will of the proprietor.


The Chairman asked: Whom was the statement drawn up by?

It was taken from his own mouth by James Robertson [his son] in his own language, and it is signed by himself.

William Robertson did not attend the session, perhaps deciding it prudent to stay away. Which was just as well, as another delegate, James Grieve was asked one question – did he agree with the statements made by MacCallum and James Leonard? Grieve replied in just two words – “I do” – and they were sufficient to result in his later eviction as sub-tenant of Triblo by General Burroughs.

Over the years at East Craie William and Betsy Robertson’s rent increased, but this was reduced to £2.0.0. in 1888 by the Crofter’s Commission. It was at this time that he renounced this croft and moved down the hill to Hanover. East Craie’s next tenant was David Gibson and his family. David was the son of John Gibson, Broland, later Knarston, and his second wife Janet Craigie, and he was born in October 1849. In 1880 he married Ann Gibson, daughter of Thomas Gibson, Broland, and Jane Grieve, Outerdykes, and she was one of twins born in December 1843. They had a son, John, born in January 1880, but he died when he was just two years of age. They had a daughter Ann, born in February 1881, who was an invalid. They had one more daughter, Jane, in 1889, but tragically she died at birth.

William Craigie died in 1895, and the next tenants of West Craie were James Dishan, who was born in Evie & Rendall in September 1847, and his wife Christina, who was born in Westray c.1848. James Donaldson Dishan was the son of James Dishan and May Rendall who, as a young man, was employed as a seaman in the merchant service. He was 28 years of age when he married domestic servant Christina Scollay, daughter of farmer Robert Scollay and Anne Kent. Though christened Christina, she was called Cirsten on the wedding certificate, and the ceremony took place at St Catherine’s Place, Kirkwall, where James was resident at the time. They came to Rousay, and settled at West Craie, but then moved down to Trumland where James was employed as a ploughman, living in a small cottage between the farm’s archway and the road, and it was known to one and all as – ‘Dishans.’

It was a surprise in my research then to find that James Donaldson Dishan had died – at Post Office Cottage, Eday, at noon on May 2nd 1910. The death certificate declared he was a ‘pauper, formerly a farm servant, married to Christina Scolley’, and that he had been suffering from bronchitis and emphysema for five years. The Rousay census for 1911 shows his wife Christina living at Gue, above Westness, and described as a 67-year-old ploughman’s widow.

The same census has no mention of West Craie – but East Craie was then home to James William Shearer and his wife Elizabeth. James was the son of Thomas Shearer and Mary Skea, and he was born at Carrick, Eday, on September 13th 1875. Prior to moving to Sourin James was employed as a ploughman and was living at ‘Trumland cottage’. Circa 1896 he married Elizabeth Wylie, daughter of fisherman Peter Wylie and Mary Laird, Hunda, Burray, who was born on August 15th 1864. Elizabeth was 77 years of age when she passed away at East Craie on the morning of August 13th 1942. James William died from heart problems at 5 Bridge Street, Kirkwall, on October 13th 1948 when he was 72 years old.


The Knowe of Craie stands in enclosed land just above the vanished farmstead of East Craie, which itself in just above Curquoy in the Sourin valley. It was excavated by Walter G. Grant, and various pottery sherds, two scrapers, and four flint chips from the site are in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, presented by Grant in 1944-45.

The monument is a burial cairn of Orkney-Cromarty type, dating from the Neolithic period (probably in the fourth millennium BC). It survives as a circular grass-covered mound, approximately 12m in overall diameter and stands up to 0.8m high. The cairn was partly excavated in 1941, which has revealed the internal structure. A passageway, 2.8m long by 0.7m wide, enters the cairn from the E. It leads to a burial chamber, 4.6m long by 2.7m wide, which is divided by two pairs of slabs into three compartments. There had been benches on each side of the chamber, but these are no longer visible.

There seem to have been two floor levels: an upper one of clay (at least in the innermost compartment), below which a layer of ‘dark ashes’ was spread over the whole chamber. Finds included the remains of several pots (including an unusual bowl likely to be early in the Orcadian pottery sequence), flint scrapers and chips, and human remains. Outside the cairn, on the N side of the entrance, a small hollow in the rock contained ashes, burnt bone fragments, flint chips and pottery sherds. The cairn is situated on a gentle South-facing slope at approximately 110m above sea level, overlooking Egilsay and the Westray Firth.

[Text source: Historic Environment Scotland]

[Diagram: AS Henshall – Canmore collection / 1540665]




The cluster of mounds explored is situated a few yards to the north west of the farm house of Corquoy, and are locally known as “Manzie’s” (or Magnus’s) mounds. They have always been considered as burial-places. The measurement of the largest mound (in which the urn was found) was about 50 feet in circumference, and the top 5½ feet above the surrounding level, but there is no doubt it stood much higher within living memory. The others are smaller. A trench was dug from the north into the centre of the largest mound.

A cist was found almost in the centre of this mound, and at about the level of the surrounding ground. It consisted of a top and bottom stone (flat slabs partly naturally plane at the edges, and partly chipped into form), with four side stones, the whole neatly pieced and cemented with tempered red clay, probably from the Sourin burn some little distance off. The stone is of a hard blue nature, unlike any in the immediate neighbourhood, but like some to be found on the shores of the island. The cist was oblong in form, placed lengthways to N. and S., and measured inside about 2½ feet by 2 feet by 1½ depth. It was almost wholly filled with clay, ashes, and very minute fragments of bones, which crumbled to the touch. Marks of fire were visible on the stones, and fragments of what seemed to have been peat were among the contents. In the centre of the cavity of the cist was the urn. It stood mouth upwards, and was completely filled with clay, bone fragments, &c., of the same kind as outside. The material of the vessel is steatite, heavy and hard, but full of cracks, and rather brittle in parts. It measures 9¾ and 8 inches across the mouth, and stands 7 inches high; the thickness irregular, but averaging ¼ inch; weight about 3 Ibs. About one-third of the base was wanting when found, and a small portion of one of the sides has given way, but the piece can be accurately fitted in, being preserved.

The remaining mounds contained stone cists similar to the foregoing. Two of them were almost square in shape, and the smallest of all measured only 12 inches by 6 inches, and was without the clay cement. No urns were found or remains of any kind, except comminuted bones, and the smallness of the fragments of bone prevented anything being ascertained regarding their character. One small piece of what is apparently a frontal bone has been preserved.

It may be mentioned that in several of the mounds the side stones were buttressed by irregular blocks, more firmly to support the weight of the earth above.

[Mr Anderson stated that this appeared to have been a small cemetery of those peculiarly interesting interments which in his paper on the “Relics of the Viking Period in Scotland” he had correlated with a special class of interments in Norway of the later Iron Age. They are interments after cremation, and they differ from Celtic interments in having the burnt bones deposited in an urn of stone instead of the large ornate vessel of baked clay which is the invariable rule in Scotland. These stone urns, both in Norway and in this country, are usually of steatite. Some are of large size, one now in the museum being 20 inches high and 22½ in diameter. They often bear the marks of the chisel or knife with which they have been scooped out, but occasionally, as in the case of this one from Rousay, they have been smoothed and polished. The isles of Orkney and Shetland (which, as is well known, were colonised by the Norwegians in the later period of their Paganism) are the only localities on this side of the North Sea in which this class of burial has yet been found. They are therefore but little known, and up to this time no relics of distinctive character have been found with them except the urns. It is unfortunate that we have no detailed accounts of the phenomena of the burials, most of which have been investigated more with reference to the objects they have contained than to the phenomena they may have presented. In all probability the examination of these mounds during their excavation by some one who knew the differences between the phenomena of Celtic and Scandinavian burials might have detected evidence not obvious to the unskilled eye, and thus settled the question].

[Extracted from The Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, January 10, 1881. pp 71/72. Available at Orkney Library & Archive.]

[All black & white photos courtesy of the Tommy Gibson Collection]

[Edited map section courtesy of National Library of Scotland – Map Images]


Woo, Hanover, Faro, Free Kirk & Manse

Woo, an old farm in Sourin on the north bank of the Sourin Burn, was spelt Owe in the Early Rental of 1595, when it was skatted as a 3d land, this being the annual rent due from the tenant in occupation. Woo was jointly tenanted in 1653 by Henry Harrold and Andrew Moss and in 1738 the tenant was James Craigie.

Woo, old and ‘new’, in the foreground; Bendale middle left, Knapper to the right with Lee
immediately above it, Cruannie, and Digro furthest right

In 1841, Woo was occupied by farmer William Mainland and his family. William was the son of Leslie and Jean Mainland of Avelshay, and he was born on March 9th 1811. On January 2nd 1835 he married Betsy Reid, daughter of Peter Reid and Betsy Marwick, who was born in Stronsay c.1810. William and Betsy had eight children – the first of which were twins, christened William and Betsy, who arrived on November 1st 1835. Jane was born in July 1837; Anne, in April 1839; John, in April 1841; James, in June 1845; Peter Mowat in December 1847; and David, who was born in April 1850. The family later moved the short distance to the farm of Banks.

Thomas Marwick was the next tenant of Woo, paying £15.8.0 rent in 1845 and £28.0.0. in 1857. He was the son of Hugh Marwick and Betsy Sinclair of Scockness, and was born in 1796. He was the second oldest of Betsy’s “ten devils.” On January 28th 1820, he married Ann Gibson, the daughter of John Gibson and Giles (Julia) Grieve of Broland, Sourin. She was born on November 29th 1800 when they were living at Hurtiso. Between 1821 and 1845 Thomas and Ann had ten children: Hugh, was born in September 1821; Elizabeth, in October 1823; John, in July 1826; Thomas, in March 1829; William Gibson, in August 1831; Mary Mainland, in August 1834; Margaret, in March 1837; Isaac, in December 1839; Isabella Ritchie, in April 1842; and Ann, who was born in October 1845.

Their mother Ann died in 1861, and was buried in Scockness kirkyard. The inscription on her tombstone reads as follows:-

Erected by Thomas Marwick
in memory of his beloved wife
Ann Gibson
Who died 21 April 1861.
“Weep nothing my friends and children dear;
Lamented I am sleeping here.”

All but two of this family emigrated to New Zealand, most of them going in the 1850’s. The others, along with their father, went in 1862 after their mother’s death.

The two who did not emigrate were John and Margaret. She married Robert Stevenson of Kirbust, Egilsay, in 1860, where they raised a family of eight children. On February 21st 1860 John married Margaret Gibson, daughter of Robert Gibson and Christian Hourston of Bigland, who was born on August 20th 1832. Between 1861 and 1879 John and Margaret brought up a family of eight children at Woo: Robert, was born in July 1861; Thomas William, born in January 1863; Margaret Ann, in February 1865; John, in September 1867; Mary Gibson, in July 1870; Samuel Gibson, in March 1873; Isabella, in June 1876; and Elizabeth, who was born in September 1879. Between 1879 and 1886 John paid annual rent of £50.0.0. for Woo and its 66 acres of land.

By 1881 he was joined by another tenant – Peter Mainland. He was the son of William Mainland and Barbara Reid of Cotafea, and he was born on January 29th 1832. On February 21st 1860 he married Margaret Gibson’s younger sister Mary at Woo and they had six children: Peter, was born in April 1863; Robert William, in June 1865; Samuel, in December 1867; David, in January 1871; Mary Christina, in May 1873; and Annie, who was born in January 1878.

By 1891, John Marwick and his family had moved down to the Glebe at Knarston, and Peter Mainland and his family had moved over to Georth, Evie. Woo was then occupied by farmer Robert Marwick. He was the son of Robert Marwick and Bell Mainland of Essaquoy. He was born on September 4th 1845, and was later known by one and all as Robbie o’ Scockness. On October 25th 1866 he married 26-year-old Ann Blalick Hourston of Tankerness, and they raised a family of seven children: Isabella was born in June 1867; Mary Ann, in July 1869; Jemima Baikie, in December 1871; Robert William, in April 1874; Margaret Johan, in August 1876; Elizabeth, in July 1879; and Jessie, who was born in November 1882. Robbie’s wife Ann died in 1892 and she was interred in the Scockness kirkyard. Daughter Isabella died at the age of 16, and her brother Robert passed away in 1899 at the age of 25, and interred in the same burial ground. It was not long before Robbie and the remaining members of his family moved into the farm buildings of Scockness – right next door to the kirkyard.

In the early 1900s a new two-storey dwelling house was built at Woo, the old house being converted for use as a shed and cattle shelter.

Woo was occupied by James Kirkness Inkster and his wife Maggie. James was the son of John McLellan Inkster, Barebraes, and Betsy Inkster, Innister, and he was born in 1877. Maggie was the daughter of Alexander Gibson, Vacquoy, and Margaret Learmonth, Westness, and she was born in Oct 1865. James and Maggie married in 1902, though had no children. In 1914 James was paying an annual rent of £25 for both Woo and nearby Burnside.

Now we come to John Inkster [pictured left], who, at the time of the 1911 census, was a crofter and rural postman living at Swartifield, Sourin. John Alexander Leslie Inkster was the son of Robert Inkster [1813-1892], Swartifield, and Mary Leonard [1827-1909], Digro, and he was born on August 3rd 1864. On December 28th 1894 at Swartifield he married 23-year-old Jane [christened Jean] Irvine, daughter of James Irvine and Jean Williamson, Tingwall, Shetland, who at the time was a domestic servant at the nearby Free Kirk manse. The officiating minister was the Rev. John McLennan, and the witnesses were James William Grieve, and Jane’s younger sister Annie Irvine. John and Jane raised a family of eight children: Maggie Jessie, who was born in 1895; Mary Jane, born in 1897; John Angus Munro, in 1900; William Leonard, in 1902; Samuel James, in 1905; Robert Spark, in 1907; Elizabeth [Elsie], in 1910; and Thomas Work, who was born in 1912. During this time the family moved to Essaquoy, and later John and his wife Jane moved down the hill to live at Woo.

Above left is Maggie Jessie and her sister Mary Jane [Jeannie] Inkster, pictured together c.1913. – In the centre is their brother John Angus Munro Inkster. In WW1 he served as a private in the 4th (Reserve) Seaforths. He died of meningitis in Loanhead Hospital, near Edinburgh on 1st July 1918, aged 18. John’s body was returned home and buried in the Scockness Cemetery. – Seated above right is Willie Inkster and his friend James Sabiston, Gripps. c.1922.

Here is an article from the columns of The Orcadian of 1932 recording the retirement of John Inkster:


Walked 65,000 miles in 35 years

Rousay publicly honoured Mr John 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 [Essaquoy] 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.


John and Jean Inkster with daughter Elsie and her daughter Thelma. Elsie married Ronald Shearer, Curquoy, and Thelma was born in 1928.
Willie Inkster c.1925
From the left: Tommy Inkster, Elsie Shearer, Jean Inkster, Anna Shearer, Willie Inkster.
The car, BS 98, is a 1925 Morris Cowley Bullnose hardtop 2-door saloon.

Above left are brothers Sammy and Tommy Inkster, c.1930. Standing next to Tommy on the right is Billo Mainland, wearing his Home Guard uniform c.1945. Born in 1921 in Gairsay, Billo was the son of Hugh Mainland, Weyland, Egilsay, Gairsay, and Hurtiso, and Alice Craigie, Falquoy. He married Nessie Alberta (Netta) Russell, Brendale, in 1946, and they had five children: Wilma, Muriel, Eric, Thora, and Vincent. They lived at Woo – where Billo celebrates his 97th birthday today [29 12 2018]


Mill House, or Milnhouse, was situated half way between the General Assembly Schoolhouse and Woo, which stood on the bank of the Sourin Burn. In 1845 John Inkster’s grandfather William paid rent of £2. 5. 0. The Laird wrote in his rent book – “Must pull this house down, as the tenant poaches the salmon trout that come up the burn.” In 1851, William Inkster was living with his wife Margaret Gibson at Nether Swartifield, and the census of that year described him at 81 years old and ‘helpless.’


Hanover is a house in Sourin on the south bank of the Sourin Burn above Woo. According to Hugh Marwick in his Place-Names of Rousay it is pronounced ‘haino’ver’, the usual spelling is probably due to assimilation to the German place name. In Sanday the same name occurs, though there an ‘h’ is sounded in front of the ‘o,’ thus hainho’ver. The meaning of the first element is put practically beyond doubt by its presence in another Sanday farm name, Hinegreenie, which is obviously = the green pasture: Old Norse haginn groeni . The second element in Hanover is very much less certain, but may perhaps represent O.N. ofarr or ofr– in sense of ‘above’ or ‘higher up,’ the whole thus signifying ‘the upper pasture.’

Hanover [middle right], with the ruins of Eastaquoy closest to the camera and Outerdykes slightly above and left.
Above and to the right of there is Faro

In the early 1800s Hanover in Sourin was occupied by the Marwick family. William Marwick was an under-miller, and living at Clumpy at that time was miller Hugh Marwick, though whether they were related or not I do not know. William’s parents were James Marwick and Ann Mainland, and he was born in Westray c.1781.

On March 9th 1816 he married Jane Work, and between 1816 and 1838 they had ten children, six sons and four daughters: James was born in December 1816; Ann, in October 1818; William, in October 1820; John, in August 1822; David, in July 1825; Alexander, in February 1828; Jane, in April 1829; Betty Yorston, in July 1831; Samuel, in August 1834; and Elizabeth, who was born in November 1837. William was a brother of James Marwick of Milnhouse, Sourin, who married Christian Groundwater of Eynhallow, in 1824.

The census of 1851 tells us more about the Marwick family. William was then in his 71st year and described as a pauper, and wife Jane was 58. Ann, the eldest daughter, was married, and at that time her husband John Cooper, Whistlebare, Egilsay, was in Canada, working for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Second oldest son William was a blacksmith, second oldest daughter Jane, then 21 years old, was an agricultural labourer, and thirteen-year-old daughter Betsy was an errand girl.

Thirty years on, and by 1881, blacksmith William was head of the household at Hanover. He married Helen Grieve of Nethermill, Egilsay, in 1852. Over the years in the census Helen was also called Ellen, and in 1881 Nelly. She was the daughter of Navy pensioner James Grieve and Elizabeth Davie and was born on March 15th, 1819. She was actually christened Eleanor Bews Grieve. She and William had three children; Helen, born in 1854; William Reid, in 1857; and David, who was born in 1863, earned a living as a fisherman – eventually emigrating to America.

Helen Bews Marwick, nee Grieve. Born in 1819 she pased away in the flat above the Stables at Trumland House in 1904
Teacher John Yorston Grieve, Nethermill, with his cousin David Marwick who went to America. John died on Oct 28th 1889, aged 30

In the early 1900s Alexander Munro paid an annual rent of £1 for Hanover’s land, while Betsy Cooper rented the house and poultry yard after she and her daughter Betsy had moved from Pretty.

Willie and Tommy Inkster take a break from working on the land at Hanover
– posing for a photo with un-named visitors


Faro, or Quoyfaro, was a small croft on the south bank of the Sourin Burn, close to the Free Kirk. Its earliest known occupant was William Mowat, as recorded in a rental dated 1653. When a birth was registered there in 1822 it was spelled Quoyfaras, and seven years later Quoyferras when recording another birth.

According to the 1841 census the following people lived under three roofs at Faro. Firstly there was Betsy Craigie, a 30-year-old straw plaiter, and two children, William Garrioch, 7, and Betsy Gibson, 5. Then there was Isabella Mowat, a 70-year-old hemp spinner; and thirdly there was the Leonard family. Peter Leonard, born in November 1805, was the second of four children born to Peter Leonard and Janet Louttit who lived at Cutclaws, Quandale. On December 18th 1832, fisherman Peter married 20-year-old Eleanor [Helen] Bews, the second of seven children of Thomas Bews and Magdalene Grieve, Mid-skaill, Egilsay. She and Peter raised a family of eleven children: Thomas, who was born in September 1833, but died young; Peter, born in September 1835; a second Thomas, born in December 1837; William, in November 1840; John, in April 1843; Mary, in August 1845; James, in July 1847; Charles Reid, in November 1850; Alexander, in February 1853; Isabella, in April 1855; and Helen, who was born in April 1857.

Ten years on and in by the time the 1851 census was carried out the Leonard family had left Rousay, and were living at Quotquoy, Firth. Faro was called Quoy Faris. Still there was Isabella Mowat, then described as being 84 years old and a pauper. Also living there was another pauper, Isabella Craigie, widow of George Craigie of Hurtiso, and with her were her two surviving unmarried daughters, Janet, a 52-year-old agricultural labourer, and Barbara, a 45-year-old straw plaiter. William Garrioch still lived here, now 17 years old and described as a farm servant. Lastly, there was Betsy Costie, a 31-year-old seamstress.

Faro, in 1871, was spelt Pharo and the Craigie sisters were still in residence. Barbara was head of the household, 65 years old now, and she worked as a letter carrier. Her elder sister Janet was then 72, and a pauper. Living under another roof at Pharo was 78-year-old William Corsie and his wife Betsy, then 65. They had been evicted from the Westside and were classed as paupers, living at Faro rent free. Mary Mainland, a 79-year-old widow lived in the other property. Her parents were William Cooper and Cecilia Corsie and she married Alexander Mainland of Cott Mowat. He died in 1856 aged 86, and Mary died in 1877 at the age of 84.

By the time William Corsie died his son Malcolm had taken over the tenancy of Faro. Born in November 1849, he was 23 years of age when he married Mary Inkster, daughter of James and Margaret Inkster of Gorn, Wasbister, who was born on December 14th 1842. Malcolm and Mary raised a family of seven children: Mary Jane Learmonth, was born in October 1873; Jemima, in August 1875; Annabella Eunson, in 1877; Elizabeth, in June 1879; Malcolm, in August 1881; Maggie Inkster, in 1884; and Jessie, who was born in 1886.

In 1881 Malcolm was 31-years-old and was paying rent of £4.0.0. for Faro and its 3 acres arable and 7 acres of pasture land. In his rent book the laird wrote “In getting this holding he agreed to give his mother a home and to keep her off the poor roll.” In 1888 Malcolm Corsie paid rent of £2. 0. 0. Which prompted a further comment – “He threw his mother on the poor roll! So reduced by Crofter’s Commission!!!”

Samuel Inkster Corsie
The son of Maggie Inkster Corsie [born 1884], he was
born in 1911, and died in Edinburgh in 1974


The old Sourin Kirk was built as the result of a momentous upheaval in the Scottish Church in 1843 when hundreds of ministers and their congregations left the Established Church and set up the Free Church of Scotland. Among the ministers who left, taking most of his congregation with him, was the Reverend George Ritchie of the Established Kirk in the Brinian. That was the beginning of the Free Kirk in Rousay.

George Ritchie was born in Glasgow in 1799. In 1851 the census tells up he was living at the Free Kirk Manse with his 39-year-old wife Isabella, and children John, 8, Isabella, 5, and James,5. There were two house servants too – Mary Baikie, 23, and Betsy Hutchinson, 15, both from Evie.

A sorry sight: Today’s view of what is left of the Sourin Free Kirk.

Ten years on and the manse was occupied by Ritchie’s successor, the Reverend Neil Patrick Rose and his newly married wife Mary Catherine Leslie. He was the son of farmer Alexander Rose and Elizabeth Payne, and was born in Thurso in 1832. Mary was the fifth oldest of eleven children born to John Leslie and Mary Wallace, and she was born in 1835 in Edinburgh. Neil and Mary married on September 24th 1850, and went on to have five children: John Alexander Leslie, born in January 1863; Neil Cunningham, in December 1864; Mary Wallace Leslie, in February 1868; Henry Wellwood Moncrieff, in January 1870; and Arabella Jane Leslie; who was born in December 1880.

Here is an interesting article concerning the Free Kirk from the columns of the Orkney Herald, dated April 19, 1870:

ROUSAY – A FRUIT SOIREE was held in the Free Church here on the evening of Wednesday week. There was a large attendance of people from all parts of the island – many even from the neighbouring islands of Weir and Egilshay. The services commenced at half-past seven o’clock by the choir, under the leadership of Mr Leonard, singing the 100th Psalm.  After prayer, the Chairman – Rev. Mr Rose, pastor of the congregation – rose, and spoke on the nature and uses of social meetings. The Rev. John McLellan, of the U.P. Church, then delivered an excellent address on the power of habit, concluding by giving some suitable counsels to the young. The Rev. Mr Roy, of Firth, delivered an able and telling speech on “Lighthouses and their Lessons,” which was listened to with deep attention. During the evening the choir sang several pieces of sacred music, to which Mrs Rose, who presided at the harmonium, played the accompaniments. An abundant supply of fruit and cake was served to the company by Messrs Thomas R. Reid, George Reid, John S. Craigie, and John McLellan, who acted as stewards. After spending a very pleasant evening, the meeting separated about 10 o’clock, after the benediction had been pronounced by Mr McLellan.

Burnside: The old Free Kirk manse.

Rousay was one of the few parts of Orkney where crofters had organised and prepared a case for the Napier Commission, more formally known as The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands, held in Kirkwall in July 1883. This political awareness owed much to the radicalism of the Reverend Rose in the Free Church in Sourin. In 1880 Rose had left the island to take a church in Edinburgh, but in the summer of 1883 he returned on holiday and was active in urging crofters to put their case to the Commission.

The Reverend Rose’s position as minister of the Sourin Free Church had been taken up by the Reverend Archibald MacCallum, and as the Crofters’ Movement centred on the Free Church community it was inevitable that he should be drawn into the conflict. In 1883 MacCallum was thirty years of age and had been in Rousay for only three years, during which time his relationship with the laird had been fairly normal. He had spoken to Burroughs about one or two cases of hardship but, when he found the laird unsympathetic, he had not pursued matters. It was the Napier Commission that turned MacCallum into a determined opponent and revealed him to be a leader of considerable ability.

MacCallum played no part in the crofters’ first meeting and he was, in fact, away from Rousay at the Free Church Assembly in Edinburgh. However, by invitation he attended the final meeting two days before the Napier hearing in Kirkwall. Only crofters were to be admitted and the factor, who attempted to gain entry, was turned away. MacCallum, however, rented a small croft near the manse and so it could be argued that technically he was a crofter. He was brought in to give an acceptable literary form to the statement which the crofters had already discussed and which James Leonard had drafted. As those present went over the document line by line, the minister objected to such phrases as a reference to Burroughs’ ‘wanton and inconsiderate inhumanity.’ His efforts met with little success although this particular phrase was replaced by a criticism of ‘the utterly inconsiderate and unrighteous manner in which we are treated by the proprietor.’ The minister had not won much of a modification but it was as far as the crofters were prepared to go.

When the crofters were at the height of their power, with their management of the School Board vindicated at the poll and their rents recently reduced by the Crofters’ Commission, the crofters’ movement received a blow from which it never properly recovered – the scandal of MacCallum’s departure. Unmarried and living alone in the damp and cheerless Sourin manse, his drinking bouts were becoming increasingly frequent. His lapses were at first a closely guarded secret in the Free Church congregation but the point was eventually reached when the problem could be concealed no longer. In December 1888 he submitted his resignation to the Free Church Synod ‘as his health did not agree with the climate conditions in Orkney.’

By the time the census of 1891 was carried out on April 5th the Free Kirk and its manse were in the capable hands of the Rev Robert Bonellie. He was the son of earthenware printer William Bonellie and Ann Nicolson, and was born in 1855 in Dysart, Fife. On April 23rd 1889 he married Marion Goodall Baillie, the 29-year-old daughter of plumber and gas fitter James Baillie and Rose Blair of Musselburgh, East Lothian. Back to the census, and the Bonellis had company at the manse – 34-year-old John Dykes Lang, a visiting Free Church minister from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire; a boarder named Augustus Althridge, a 25-year-old registered physician from England – all of whom were catered for by 19-year-old servant Jemima Baikie Marwick, daughter of Robert Marwick and Ann Blalick Hourston, Woo.

The paragraphs referring to the Napier Commission and the Rev. Archibald MacCallum were extracted from The Little General and the Rousay Crofters by William P L Thomson
and reproduced by permission of Birlinn Ltd.

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


Outerdykes, Whiteha’, & Breval

The name Outerdykes is a corruption of the older house name Out o’ Dykes, spelled that way in Rousay Birth Records of the early 1800s. Volume 16 of the Orkney Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1879-1880, which covers Rousay, has the name Outerdykes, and uses the island’s Inspector of Poor, Thomas Balfour Reid, as an authority for its spelling. Description remarks in the book state that the name ‘applies to an ordinary farm situate 13 chains SW from ‘Hanover’ and 25 chains SW from the ‘School.’ Today we know it as a ruined farmstead in the Sourin valley which, when it was built, was outside the old hill dyke.

Its first known occupants were farmer Robert Grieve and his family. Born c.1790, Robert married 23-year-old Ann Work in 1812. They had seven children: Jane, who was born in August 1819; Ann, in May 1821; Robert, in December 1822; Alexander, in August 1824; James, in March 1826; William, in March 1828; and Malcolm, who was born in November 1830.

Robert passed away before the census of 1851, his widow Ann, then 61 years of age, head of the household, with sons James at the fishing, William and Malcolm employed as agricultural labourers.

Wiilliam Grieve, born in March 1828, was married to Jane Flett, daughter of William Flett and Betsy Harvey, and she was born in Stromness on June 3rd 1833. In the late 1850s they decided to emigrate to Australia. Jane was pregnant at the time, and their first child, Mary, was born during the voyage in 1857. Another eleven children were to be born in their new surroundings at Walcha, New South Wales, between 1859 and 1877.

Malcolm Grieve & wife Fanny.
Jean Craigie Grieve

Ann herself had passed away by 1871, son Malcolm now farming Outerdykes’ 12 acres of surrounding land. He was thirty years of age when he married Frances (Fanny) Costie on April 12th 1861. Fanny was the daughter of David Costie and Christian Mowat, and was born in March 1840. They had two daughters, Ann Gibson, born in July 1862; and Jean Craigie, who was born in May 1868. In 1888 Jean married John Kent, Musland, Westray. Between 1889 and 1910 they had eleven children.

By 1881 the area of land Malcolm was farming at Outerdykes had increased to 22 acres, and his older brother James also lived there. In December 1875 he married Mary Mainland, daughter of William Mainland and Barbara Reid of Banks, Sourin, who was born on March 29th 1827. Mary was employed as a housemaid at the laird’s house at Trumland.

James had been in Australia for 25 years with his brother William but later returned to Rousay, fairly affluent by local standards. The laird, General Burroughs had approached him with a view to his taking the tenancy of one of the Rousay farms, but Grieve had boasted that he intended to buy a farm of his own and that he would not consider paying the rent Burroughs was asking. James settled as a sub-tenant on his brother Malcolm’s croft of Outerdykes. He gave very brief evidence against General Burroughs at the hearing of the Napier Commission, set up in 1883 to look at the condition of crofters in the Highlands and Islands. The Chairman said to him: ‘You have heard the statement read by the Rev. Mr MacCallum and the verbal statements made by James Leonard and George Leonard: do you concur with them?’ James replied: “I do.” – and those two words were sufficient to result in his eviction from Outerdykes. He found accommodation at Mount Pleasant in Frotoft which was situated on land outside General Burroughs’ control.

The census of 1901 tells of John Craigie working the land at Outerdykes. A 34-year-old single man, John lived with his widowed mother Mary, described as a 69-year-old housekeeper. Mary was the daughter of James Marwick [1794-1875] of Westray and Christian Groundwater, who was born on Eynhallow in 1789. Mary was christened Mary Wood Marwick after she was born in May 1831. She was 22 years of age when she married John Craigie, son of John Craigie, Guidal later Gripps, Sourin, and Janet Grieve. Their son John, mentioned in the census above was born in November 1866 and was christened John Marwick Craigie.

Ten years on, and Outerdykes was in the hands of James Grieve, described in the census as a 59-year-old small farmer and employer. With him was his wife Isabella Alexander, and they had been married for exactly 39 years, 3 months and 2 days when the census papers were filled in. James, born in March 1852, was the son of James Grieve, Egilsay later Nethermill, and Margaret Craigie, Claybank. Isabella was the daughter of James Alexander, Netherskaill, Egilsay, and his first wife Douglas Garson, and was born in November 1845.

Ruins: Outerdykes in the middle, Eastaquoy in the foreground, and the old Free Kirk above


In the early 1800s Whiteha’, just north of Triblo, was the home of handloom weaver James Pearson and his wife Cecilia. In 1845 James paid rent of £1.8.0. In 1857 he was paying £3.0.0. but they were later classed as paupers and lived there rent-free. James had passed away before the census of 1861 was carried out, his widow had a young visitor to keep her company though – seven-year-old Anne, who was George and Margaret Leonard’s daughter who lived at nearby Triblo.

By 1871, the tenancy had been taken over by Robert Grieve. He was the son of Robert Grieve and Ann Work of Outerdykes, and he was born there on December 18th 1822. He married Isabella Leonard, the daughter of Peter Leonard and Isobel McKinlay of Digro, who was born on August 3rd 1828. Married in February 1848, they had six children; William Leonard was born in 1850; Isabella Ritchie in 1854; James Calder in 1856; Robert Irvine in 1862; Mary was born in 1865, but died just two years later. She had been suffering from croup for four days, and died on March 16th 1867. Her brother Peter Leonard was born the following year, but he had just reached the age of 11 when he passed away at 8pm on the evening of January 11th 1879. According to his death certificate the cause of death was unknown, and no regular medical attendant was present.

Of the children just mentioned, William Leonard Grieve [born 1850] married Christina Craigie, Fa’doon, and had seven children. Isabella Ritchie Grieve [born in 1854] gave birth to a son at Whiteha’ at 5am on July 27th 1875. Named James William Grieve, there is no mention of who the father was on the birth certificate.  James Calder Grieve [born 1856] married Williamina [Mima] Fiddler in 1875, and had five children: Malcolm Costie, born in 1876; Robert William, in 1879; James Alexander, in 1883; Isabella Leonard, in 1885; and Frederick, who was born in 1888. Malcolm married  Lizzie Thomson in 1898, Isabella married John Magnus Gorn of Kirkwall in 1905, and Robert, James, and Frederick all emigrated to America.

At this time Robert Grieve and his son William were fishermen, but later Robert turned his hand to farming the 12 acres at Whiteha’. Between 1879 and 1887 Robert was paying £5.0.0. a year rent, but this was reduced to £4.0.0. by the Crofter’s Commission in 1888.

Crofter Robert Grieve was 64 years of age when he died on the morning of February 17th 1890. Cause of death was ‘supposed’ bronchitis. In the early 1900s his widow Isabella was working the croft, with the assistance of her grandson James William Grieve, her daughter Isabella’s son. He was married to Mary Ann Harrold, daughter of William Harrold, Hammermugly [Blossom], and Elizabeth Marwick, Hanover, who was born in June 1876. They married in February 1897 and had a daughter in 1898, keeping the name Isabella in the family. In 1931 she married Bob Harvey of Birsay.

Robert Grieve and his wife Isabella Leonard
with three of their six children: Isabella, born
in 1854; James Calder, born in 1857;
and Peter Leonard, born in 1868

Mary Ann [Harrold] Grieve, wife of James William Grieve,  Fred Grieve, Billy Thomson,
Mary Ann’s daughter Isabella [born 1898] and her great-grandmother Isabella Grieve.
James Calder Grieve, [1857-1954], who married Mima Fiddler of Longhope in 1876.
James’s son Malcolm Costie Grieve and his
wife Lizzie Thomson. Their son Jim lived at Greenfield.
Malcolm’s sister Isabella Leonard Grieve, who married John Magnus Gorn, Kirkwall, in 1905.
Isabella, daughter of James William Grieve, on the day in 1931 she married Bob Harvey of Birsay. Bridesmaid was Daisy Gorn, and best man, Peter Harvey.
James William Grieve and his wife Mary Ann, either side of Mrs Jean Hackston who was paying them a visit at Whiteha’ c.1930
James William Grieve pauses for the camera as son-in-law Bob Harvey shows off his baby daughter Mabel, who was born in 1932.
All that remains of Whiteha’ and Breval [above] today


Variously spelled Breval, Bravel, Brayvale, and Bravehill, this small hill croft lay on the south side of the Sourin, or Suso Burn. In 1851 it was occupied by William Work, a 44-year-old farmer and fisherman, his wife Isabella, who was 48 years of age, and Barbara Leonard, his 84-year-old mother-in-law who earned a living as a hemp spinner. William and Isabella lived at Breval and farmed its 30 acres of land throughout the 19th century, employing Mary Forbes of Stromness as a farm servant, who they later adopted.

Breval cost William £1 2s 0d to rent in 1845. In 1857 this rose to £5, £6 15s 0d in 1872 and £7 in 1887. In 1888 he paid just £4 10s 0d…..‘So reduced by the Crofter’s Commission !!!’ – wrote the laird in his rent book, much to his annoyance! William became bankrupt in 1892 and later died at Gue, Westness.

In 1893 Ross-shire-born Duncan McLean became the new tenant of Breval having moved from the cramped confines of Lower Clumpy, paying £6.0.0. annual rent for the property and the surrounding 7 acres arable and 30 acres of pasture land. As mentioned under the heading of Clumpy, Duncan was employed as a roadman in Rousay, and Duncan’s Quarry, near the top of the Leean road, is named after him.

What exactly brought Duncan to Rousay is unclear, though during the late 1860s and early 1870s there were great improvements concerning transport in Rousay. Not only was a new road created round the island, but General Burroughs founded the Rousay, Evie and Rendall Steam Navigation Company and a new pier was constructed at Trumland. Duncan was born in 1838 in Polglass, a long crofting township between Achiltibuie and Badenscaillie, on the north shore of the sea loch, Loch Broom, Coigach, in the civil parish of Lochbroom, Ross-shire. He was one of eight children of boat carpenter Kenneth McLean [1790-c.1855] and Ann McLeod [1803-1861], Kenneth himself being the son of John McLean and Christy McKenzie.

Duncan was 39 years of age and living in the Brinian when he married Jane Grieve at Clumpy on February 11th 1881. She was one of twin daughters of James Grieve, Nethermill, and Margaret Craigie, Claybank,  born on December 31st 1845. The officiating minister was James Gardner of the Established Church, the witnesses were Alexander Munro and James Craigie, and Thomas Balfour Reid was the registrar.

Duncan McLean and his wife Jane Grieve,
with children, Maggie Ann, Kenneth [left]
and John James

Duncan and Jane had three children: Maggie Ann, born in 1882; Kenneth, in 1885; and John James, who was born in 1888. He was to lose his life by drowning off Stronsay at the age of 21.

Maggie Ann McLean was 23 years of age when she married John William Wyllie of Burray. They had six children: John Robert, born in 1904; Mary Alexina, in 1911; James William, in1914; Magnus, in 1916; Maggie Ann, in 1919; and Evelyn Bruce (Eva), who was born in 1926.

Kenneth McLean [born 1885] earned a living as a carpenter, and both he and his wife Mary Jane Kemp, were 28 years of age when they married in the Shapinsay Drill Hall on February 3rd 1914. Mary Jane was the daughter of farmer William Kemp and Mary Groundwater, who lived in Balfour Village on the island. Kenneth and Mary Jane emigrated to the United States, setting up home in the Bronx, New York City.

Wedding gift: To celebrate the occasion
Jane and Duncan were presented with
a bible by General and Mrs Burroughs.

Kenneth McLean and Mary Jane Kemp on their wedding day in 1914. Best man was Bob Harrold, and bridesmaid Jeannie Skethaway
Kenneth and Mary Jane in New York with
baby daughter Mary Jane

Kenneth and Mary Jane had two daughters, Mary Jane, born in March 1915, and Marguerita, who was born in November 1917. Kenneth’s grandson Ken Harth [Mary Jane’s son] writes: ‘My grandfather was afraid that when he came off the boat that he did not have the required $20. They asked the man ahead of him and behind him. The only rationale he had was he was carrying his tool box and they figured he had a trade. I still have that box. I also have his carpenters chest that I believe was kind of a final requirement to become a carpenter. One of the jobs he did was converting the Queen Mary into a troop ship for WW 2. I still have some of the brass fittings from that job. He was a devoted mason and was master of his lodge and the Grand Sword Bearer for the State of New York. To my knowledge the last time my grandparents went back to Scotland was 1923. My grandfather was paradoxical. His favorite Celtic song was Danny Boy. He also maintained that “There wasn’t an Irishman born that could play the pipes!” My grandfather died in 1968, my grandmother died in 1984.’

To the left: Kenneth and Mary Jane, with daughters Mary Jane and Marguerita. Below left is Mary Jane with her mother-in-law Jane during a visit to Breval c.1923 – and to
the right is Kenneth, showing off his mastery of the pipes.

These three photos are courtesy of Ken Harth.

Later occupants of Breval were the Munro family. Alexander James Munro was the son of Alexander Munro and Christina Stephen who lived at Old School, which  at  that  time  housed the Sourin Post Office. Born in 1884 Alexander was a 28-year-old stonemason when he married Agnes Lyon, 21-year-old daughter of Robert and Catherine Lyon of Ervadale. The wedding ceremony took place on October 2nd 1912 at Sourin Public School ‘after publication according to the forms of the Established Church of Scotland’ – the officiating minister being the Reverend Alexander Spark. It was a busy afternoon for all concerned in the Munro household, for that same afternoon, and at the same place, Alexander’s older sister Malcolmina was also married. After banns and publication according to the forms of the United Free Church of Scotland, 34-year-old postmistress Malcolmina married 36-year-old grocer James Bowie, from Glasgow. This ceremony was carried out by the Reverend Alexander Irvine Pirie.

Alexander and his wife Agnes [pictured to the right] had eleven children: Georgina Jessie was born in 1913; Lionel Edward in 1914; Daisy Williamina in 1916;  Alexander James Byng in 1919; Cathleen Christine in 1920; Margaret Ann in 1923; Andrew Hunter in 1924; Norman Herbert in 1926; Robert Watson Lyon in 1927; Agnes Dorothy in 1929; and Hugh, who was born in 1930.

Breval – c.1930.
Peat cutters – Lionel Munro, Breval, Tommy Donaldson, Gripps, and Jock Costie, Pretty, with tuskers, luggie, and forks.
Lionel Munro and his wife Lily Muir of Sanday
Andy Munro
Byng and Lily Munro on their wedding day
in Carlisle
The ruins of Breval and those of Whiteha’ beyond

All black & white photos are from the Tommy Gibson Collection unless otherwise stated.
My thanks to Ken Harth, Surfside Beach, South Carolina, for sharing family photos
and detailed information regarding his grandfather Kenneth.

Thanks also to Bertie Gillespie, Longhope, for information regarding
his Munro relatives who lived at Breval.


Triblo & Eastaquoy

To tell the story of Triblo and the folk who lived there we first have to pay a visit to Quandale, and a house named Stour-meadow. A Rousay Birth Record of 1822 has it spelled Staurameirie, but in the census of 1841, the house was called Stourmary and it was where 25-year-old shoemaker George Leonard lived with his wife Margaret Clouston. The annual rent on the property at this time was £1. George was the son of John Leonard and Isabella Inkster of nearby Grain and he was born in January 1816. Wife Margaret was the daughter of Magnus Clouston and Ann Flaws of Tou, and she was born on January 24th 1822 at Windbreck, close to the Parish School that served Quandale and the Westside. They married in September 1848, and initially they had three children whilst living in Quandale: Margaret was born in October 1849; Mary, in June 1851; and Ann, who was born in February 1854.

To tell the story of Triblo and the folk who lived there we first have to pay a visit to Quandale, and a house named Stour-meadow. A Rousay Birth Record of 1822 has it spelled Staurameirie, but in the census of 1841, the house was called Stourmary and it was where 25-year-old shoemaker George Leonard lived with his wife Margaret Clouston. The annual rent on the property at this time was £1.0.0. George was the son of John Leonard and Isabella Inkster of nearby Grain and he was born in January 1816. Wife Margaret was the daughter of Magnus Clouston and Ann Flaws of Tou, and she was born on January 24th 1822 at Windbreck, close to the Parish School that served Quandale and the Westside. They married in September 1848, and initially they had three children whilst living in Quandale: Margaret was born in October 1849; Mary, in June 1851; and Ann, who was born in February 1854.

All that remains of Triblo today.

George earned his living as a fisherman, but later found the produce of the land more profitable as he farmed the land around Triblo. George and Margaret had three more children whilst living there: Betsy, who was born in November 1857; George, in September 1862; and Isabella, who was born in December 1865. In 1855 George was paying a rent of £2 2s 0d. Between 1879 and 1887 this had risen to £6, but in 1888 George paid the lesser sum of £4 rent – ‘So reduced by the Crofters Commission!!!’ as the laird had written in his rent book. George had been brought forward to relate the story of the Quandale clearances to Lord Napier and his Royal Commission at Kirkwall in July 1883. Click > here < to read what he said.

In 1878 Betsy Leonard [born 1857] married John Craigie, son of John Craigie and Betsy Louttit of Shalter, who was born on March 4th 1859. They had ten children, the first of whom, Margaret, was born on January 24th 1879 at Triblo. Betsy, born on March 1st 1881, and William, on September 20th 1883, were born at Westness, and the next four children were born when the family lived at Shalter: Mary Catherine, on July 7th 1886; Isabella Marwick, on May 15th 1889; John Leonard on March 16th 1892; and Emily, on July 10th 1895.

George Leonard died on March 4th 1895, and his wife Margaret passed away in September 1903. Betsy, John and their family moved back to Triblo after George’s death. They had three more children: George, named after his grandfather, was born on November 23rd 1898; Hugh Gibson, born on May 11th 1900, and Annie Marwick, who was born at 9.30pm on January 18th 1904.

John and Betsy Craigie with Hugh [left],
Bella, and George. c1915

[Orkney Library & Archive]

Working the land at Triblo – and cutting peats in the hill

When World War 1 broke out in August 1914 many young men throughout Orkney enlisted. An estimated 688,000 Scotsmen joined up – and the sacrifice of Scots who served with the British Army during that War cannot be overstated, with almost a quarter losing their lives. Young George Craigie of Triblo was working at the Sourin mill with his father John when he boarded the boat to Kirkwall and signed along the dotted line. He was a Private in the 74th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, when he was killed in action at the Quadrilateral, near Ronssoy on 21st September 1918, just 19 years of age, and agonisingly just six weeks before the Armistice.

The Battle of Epehy, St Emilie and Ronssoy was part of a general advance made against the Hindenburg Line on the Somme. The objective was to establish a line from which the Hindenburg line could be assaulted. The attack commenced at 5.30am on 18 September 1918, renewed on 19 September but again failed. September 20th was spent consolidating and strengthening the defences. On 21 September a third attack against the Quadrilateral began at dawn. At first everything went well, the objective seemed to have been taken but during the advance to occupy it was found to be still full of German machine-gunners which had either had not been ‘mopped up’ or had filtered in from the north. There were heavy losses and 20-year-old George Craigie was one of the many who lost their lives that day. Another attempt to capture the Quadrilateral was made the next day. Both trenches were taken after a hard and desperate fight and a foothold hold was established. George’s body was later recovered and he was buried in Grave I.AA.6, Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile, Aisne, France.

The family was particularly badly affected by World War I, losing not only a son, but also a grandson, Hugh Gibson of Oldman, and a nephew, John Marwick of Quoys.

George [left] and his younger brother Hugh

John Craigie was the miller at the Sourin Mill for many years, but after the death of his wife Betsy in 1932 he, and his daughters Bella and Annie [pictured above], ran the Queen’s Hotel in Kirkwall. – The following inscription can be read on the family headstone in the Brinian kirkyard:

“Erected in memory of Betsy Leonard beloved wife of John Craigie who died at Triblo 26 Jan 1932 aged 74 years. Also their son George who was killed in action in France 21 Sep 1918 aged 19 years.  Also the above John Craigie who died at the Queens Hotel Kirkwall, 26 April 1943, aged 82.”

The picture above shows John and Betsy’s son John Leonard Craigie [born March 16th 1892] and Annie Brodie Stevenson on their wedding day, March 7th 1921.

At the time of marriage John was a 28-year-old joiner living in Garden Street, Kirkwall. His bride was the 24-year-old daughter of malt man John Brodie Stevenson and Isabella Cormack, Easdale, Kirkwall. The officiating minister was the Rev. William Barclay, and the witnesses were John’s older sister Bella, and Annie’s brother Oliver Corse Stevenson.

The cluster of ruined farm buildings at Triblo


The name of the croft of Eastaquoy in Sourin, midway between Quoys and Triblo, is a ‘transferred’ name. The original Eastaquoy, or Istaquoy, lay on the Westside between Ha’gate and Cott, high above Skaill. It was occupied in the 1840s and early 50s by farmer James Marwick, his wife Janet Craigie, and their children. A leased farm, Istaquoy was cleared in 1855 on the termination of its lease.

Eastaquoy, with Triblo on higher ground.

James Marwick was one of ten sons born to Hugh Marwick, Scockness, and Betsy Sinclair – collectively, and no doubt affectionately, known as her “Ten devils!” James, the third oldest of them, was born in 1798. He married his first wife Jean Marwick on December 19th 1826, and they had five children, born between 1827 and 1836 when they were living at Pow, Sourin. William was born in October 1827; James, in November 1829; Robina, in January 1832; Ann, in June 1834, but died in infancy; and a second Ann, who was born in April 1836. Jean’s death is on record as happening in 1836, so complications as a result of the birth of daughter Ann could have been the reason for her demise.

On August 5th the same year James married his second wife, Janet Craigie, daughter of James Craigie and Janet Grieve of Guidal, later Grips, Sourin, who was born in October 1810. They had five children: John, born in March 1838; Eleanor Traill, in August 1839; Hugh, in January 1842; Craigie, in July 1845; and David, who was born in July 1853. Having been cleared from the Westside James and his family moved to Sourin – and named their new dwelling Eastaquoy.

The ruin of Eastaquoy is nearest the camera. That of Breval is above it; Brittany is away in the distance; and Whitehall is to the left

James Marwick died in March 1867. Come the time of the 1871 census James’s 39-year-old unmarried daughter Robina from his first marriage was living at Eastaquoy and working as an agricultural labourer. James’s widow Janet had other company too, for son Craigie Marwick, a fisherman, had married 23-year-old Ann Mowat from Evie on February 6th 1869, and they lived with her at Eastaquoy.

By 1881 Craigie and Ann Marwick had moved to Breck, farming its 36 acres of land. Janet still had company though, for youngest son David and his family had moved in. David was a fisherman, and married 29-year-old Anne Hercus of Eday in 1877. They already had two children: David Logie, born in November 1878; and Jessie Craigie, born in Jun 1880. Another five children would follow in due course.

Eastaquoy, with Outerdykes above, the old Free Kirk – which is now also in a ruinous condition, and its manse, Burnside

David gave up fishing and he and his family moved up to Essaquoy, below Broland. That left the ageing Janet at Eastaquoy with Robina, who was earning a living as a wool spinner. Janet passed away on March 28th 1894, and Robina was joined at Eastaquoy by 61-year-old Mary Work, widow of crofter William Work who used to live at Breval. Both ladies made a little money by woolspinning and knitting.

[All black and white photos are courtesy of the Tommy Gibson Collection unless otherwise stated]


Clumpy, Oldman, Styno, & Pretty

Now we come to the houses of old in the Sourin valley, a vast swathe of land between Kierfea Hill to the North, the peat banks of Brown Hill to the West, Blotchniefiold, the Hass of Goustie, and Knitchen Hill to the south, and following the Suso Burn from the Muckle Water to where it flows into the sea by the old meal mill and Lopness in the East. At the time of the first census, carried out on June 7th 1841, there were 307 folk living in 55 dwellings in Sourin.

The first of these we visit are the small hill crofts of Clumpy and Lower Clumpy, located to the west of Quoys and Braes. In 1851, 68-year-old pauper and widower Hugh Marwick, a retired miller, and his 64-year-old widowed sister Margaret Mowat, both born in Westray, lived at Clumpy, where they tended to the needs of nephew William Mowat who was a 30-year-old invalid. The rent at this time was 12s.

In the census of 1861 the croft was spelt Clumpie, and its occupants were 65-year-old widow Christie Yorston and her 23-year-old daughter Lydia Downie, who was employed as a domestic servant. Lydia was born on April 25th 1839, her parents on her birth certificate being George Downie and Christie Yorstane. Christie reverted to her maiden surname on the death of husband, as was common in those days. That same year Upper Clumpie was occupied by the Grieve family. Farmer and fisherman James Grieve was the son of James Grieve and Elizabeth Davie, and he was born in Egilsay on March 24th 1816. In 1845, when he was living at Nethermill, he married Margaret Craigie, the eldest daughter of James Craigie and his first wife Betty Marwick of Claybank, Wasbister, who was born on November 1st 1815. They had four children; twins Jane and Margaret, who were born on December 31st 1845; Mary, in 1849; and James, who was born in 1852.

By 1881 James Grieve was farming 15 acres of land at Clumpy. His daughter Jane had married Duncan McLean from Ross-shire and they also lived at Clumpy, Duncan earning a living as a general labourer. In 1888 the rent was £2.10.0. for the 5 acres arable and 10 acres pasture.

James Grieve had died by 1891, and by then his widow Margaret was in her 76th year. Daughter Jane and her husband were now living at Lower Clumpy, and they had three children: Maggie Ann, born in 1882; Kenneth, in 1885; and John James, who was born in 1888, but who later drowned off Stronsay when he was 21 years of age. Jane’s husband was employed as a roadman in Rousay, and Duncan’s Quarry, near the top of the Leean road, is named after him.

Duncan and Jane McLean with their children,
Maggie Ann [front], Kenneth [left], and
John James on his mother’s knee.

Duncan, Jane and son John moved to Breval, or Bravehill as it was called in the census of 1901. Jane’s twin sister Margaret was fifty-two years old when she married ploughman William Sabiston, Brigsend, Westness, who was also born in 1845, the son of William Sabiston and Jane Louttit. The wedding ceremony, held at Clumpy on March 24th 1899, was performed by the Rev Alexander Spark and witnessed by William Grieve and Maggie Ann McLean.

The Harcus family were the final residents of Clumpy. Born in 1894 John Harcus was the son of Angus and Jessie Harcus of New Glen, Westray. A gunner in the Siege Artillery based at Catterick, Yorkshire, he was 23 years of age when he married 21-year-old housemaid Helen Craigie at Balfour Cottage, Shapinsay, on March 22nd 1918. Helen was the daughter of James Craigie and Helen Louttit, and was living at Breck, Rousay, at the time. The ceremony was performed by the Reverend Granville Cuthbert Hepburn Ramage, the United  Free Church minister in Shapinsay, and witnessed by James Craigie and Mary Harcus. John and Helen had four children: Helen Craigie (known as Nellie) was born in Westray in 1920. The family then moved across the firth to Rousay, where three sons were born – Angus, in 1922, John, in 1924, and James, who was born in 1930.

John Harcus and Helen Craigie on their wedding day, March 22nd 1918
Helen, or Ella as she was known, with Nellie, and baby Angus


According to Volume 16 of the Orkney Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1879/80 Oldman ‘applies to a small farm situate 13 chains S.E. from Pretty. The whole of the above houses are one storey, built of stone, thatched and in fair repair. Proprietor Colonel Burroughs, C.B. Rousay.’

The Sourin valley, with Oldman, nearest, middle left.

Oldman was the name of a hill croft in Sourin on the south bank of a burn of that name, close to the crofts of Clumpy and Pretty. This is a transferred house name, for the original Oldman was on the Westside, between the present third and fourth fields out from Westness Farm. The tenants there were cleared out from the Westside, and their lands laid down as a sheep-walk. Some of the evicted folk settled on new sites in Sourin – as in this case – and the old house name was applied to the new buildings on this site. Unfortunately the reason for original name is unknown.

In 1813 Peter Yorston, who was born in 1788 at Corse, married Rebecca Craigie, daughter of Mitchell Craigie and Ann Mainland of Hullion, who was born in 1783. They had three children: Peter, born in May 1814; Mary, in July 1816; and Ann, who was born in January 1823.

Peter, the oldest of the three children, was a 24-year-old fisherman when he married 22-year-old Lydia Turnbull of Evie on December 20th 1838. They had five children: May, who was born in 1841; John, born in August 1843; Peter, in May 1848; Harriet, in August 1851; and Robert, who was born in December 1854.

As the years went by Peter farmed the land at Oldman and in 1871 the annual rent for the 18-acre site stood at £8. He had the assistance of wife Lydia and 31-year-old daughter Mary, while 17-year-old son Robert was employed as a small grocer.

Oldman – and its proximity to neighbouring Standcrown

By 1881, another of their sons, also named Peter, was the new tenant of Oldman, now 33 acres in size. In 1870 he married Mary Kirkness, daughter of John Kirkness and Mary Alexander of Quoyostray, who was born in 1849. They had five children; Peter, born in 1871; Jemima Mary, in 1874; Elizabeth (Lilla), in 1878; James Kirkness, in 1880; and John Alexander, who was born in 1883. Tragedy struck the Yorston family in 1879 – when eight-year-old Peter and five-year-old Jemima both died of diphtheria, Peter at 2.30am on July 13th and Jemima five days later at half-past midnight on Friday the 18th.

Peter was paying £10 rent in 1885, but by this time he was also tenant of Eastaquoy. This was reduced by the Crofter’s Commission in 1888 and he paid an annual rent for both properties of £7 10s 0d.

Peter Yorston died on October 15th 1913 at the age of 65. His wife Mary Kirkness passed away on June 9th 1925, in her 79th year. They were interred in the Wasbister kirkyard in the same grave as their children, Peter and Jemima.


This was a pauper’s residence, situated 14 chains [just over 300 yards] S.W. from ‘Triblo’ & 16 chains [350 yards] S.W. from Pretty. There is only one record of its occupancy, in 1871, the pauper in question being 61-year-old widow Cecilia Leonard. The highest rate of pay for paupers at that time was about £4 a year – but at least they had a roof over their heads.

Cecilia was the daughter of Hugh Inkster, Tou, and Isabel Craigie, Corse, and was born on October 24th 1810. She married James Leonard, Grain, later Quoygray, the son of John and Isabella Leonard, who was born on May 8th 1811. They had seven children: Mary, who was born in July 1839, but died young; John Inkster, born in June 1841; Anna Hercus, in August 1843; Mary, in May 1845; Sarah Inkster, born in October 1847; Margaret, in 1849; and James Inkster, who was born in December 1854. Husband James passed away in 1864 at the age of 53. Cecilia died in February 1895, in her 84th year.


Widow Pearson was the occupant of Standcrown for many years, costing her 9s. 6d. a year to rent between 1833 and 1873. She was the daughter of farmer Robert Pearson and Margaret Downie. On May 5th 1829 she married farmer John Rendall. He was 27 years old when he died on May 15th 1833, and Mary therefore assumed her maiden name on his demise.

Standcrown’s two buildings are at the foot of the photo. Above them is Pretty; above that is Whaitehall; the long low buildings to the left are those of Triblo, and above them is Breval.

Mary always had company at Standcrown. At the time of the 1841 census her older sister Barbary, and 14-year-old Christie Costie were under the same roof. Barbary passed on, but Christie made a living from various means over the years, making herring nets, working as a farm servant, and knitting various items. Mary Pearson died in 1873 at the age of 89.

The house was known by various spellings over the years: Stine-Croonie, Stencrownie, and more commonly Styno, and it was occupied for the next fifty years by crofter/fisherman James Gardner Grieve and his wife Isabella. James was the son of James Grieve, Nethermill, and Margaret Craigie, Claybank, and he was born in March 1852. In April 1872 he married Isabella Alexander, daughter of James Alexander and Douglas Garson of Netherskaill, Egilsay, who was born in November 1845. They had three children; James Alexander was born in August 1873; Isabella Elizabeth, in 1876, and Mary Logie, who was born in 1880. By 1887 James was paying £3 rent, but this was reduced by the Crofter’s Commission in 1888 to £2. The area of land covered 4 acres arable and 11 acres pasture.

James and Isabella are pictured to the left in their latter years.

William Craigie and his wife Margaret were later occupants of Standcrown. William was the son of coach driver William Flett Craigie and Isabella Leonard of Geo, Westside, and he was born in October 1874. His wife Margaret Grieve Leonard was the daughter of Malcolm Leonard and Mary Craigie of Upper Grips, later Quoys, Sourin, and she was born in November 1868. Margaret had a son by John Yorston Grieve, son of Alexander Grieve and Margaret Alexander, Nethermill. Born in 1884 he was christened, John. His father John died in 1889 at the age of 30.

Maggie & Willie Craigie, with Mrs Stevenson, c1900.
Willie and Maggie Craigie, in the garden at Styno.

On July 12th 1894 Margaret Grieve Leonard and William Craigie were married in the Sourin Free Kirk by the Rev. Robert Bonellie. At the time William was a 19-year-old farm servant working on the farm of Braebuster, Deerness, while Maggie was a 24-year-old domestic servant. At some point they moved south, to Leith, where William was employed as a marine engineer. They had five children: Isabella Leonard Craigie was born in September 1895. On August 26th 1915 she married ship plater John Maule Ferguson. Mary Jane Craigie was born in September 1897. On February 19th 1917 she married seaman David Tod Addison. James William was born in September 1898, but died when he was just six years old. Annie (Nan) Craigie was born in June 1900. She married David Flanagan on October 23rd 1918, and their daughter Williamina (known as Billie) was born the following year. Malcolm was born in June 1905, but died when he was 12 years of age.

Willie, with various family members over the years
– and celebrating his 90th birthday.

William and Maggie returned to Standcrown, but Maggie died in 1948 and William passed away at Nethermill in 1965 at the age of 91.


Pretty was the name of a croft between those of Standcrown and Triblo in Sourin, the official name being Standpretty, but that was not used locally.

39-year-old farmer and fisherman James Cooper lived here in 1841. He was the son of Hugh Cooper and Jean Craigie, and was born on July 10th 1802. On July 15th 1831 he married Betty Craigie, daughter of William Craigie and Betty Leonard of Cruar, born on June 17th 1805. They had three children: William, born in February 1832; James, in March 1835; and Betsy, who was just five months old when the census was carried out on June 7th that year. In 1845 James paid an annual rent of £2 5s 0d, which by 1865 had exactly doubled.

In 1871 James was in his 68th year, wife, called Betsy in the census, was 66, and their unmarried 30-year-old daughter Betsy was employed on the farm. Their 34-year-old fisherman son James and his family also lived at Pretty. His wife was 29-year-old Harriet Smeaton Craigie, daughter of James and Barbara Craigie and they had ten children between 1863 and 1883. James Craigie was born in September 1863; twins Betsy and Harriet were born in October 1864; William Craigie was born in August 1866; Mary, in November 1868; Susannah, in April 1872; Margaret Ann, in 1873; John, in 1877; Frederick, in 1881; and George Stevenson, who was born in 1883.

In 1874 the rent at Pretty had risen to £5. James Cooper died in 1875 at the age of 73, and his son James took over the tenancy. The 1881 census reveals the fact that thirteen folk were then living at Pretty. Widowed Betsy was 73 years of age at this time. Living with her were two other Betsys – her 40-year-old unmarried daughter, and 11-year-old granddaughter. Son James, his wife Harriet and five of their children were in residence – as was another Cooper – the widowed wife of James’s brother William. At the time of his marriage William was a 39-year-old seaman in the merchant service, his home address given as Helzie-Githa, Wyre. On January 23rd 1871 he married 21-year-old Mary Ann [known as May] Linklater, daughter of Magnus and Catherine Linklater, of Lubbadale, Hillside, Birsay. They had a daughter, Margaret Ann, born in 1872, but she died just three years later, on the afternoon of November 23rd having suffered from bronchitis for three weeks. Her father William died at 9.30 on the morning of February 3rd 1881, “supposed to have been suffering from consumption for one year,” according to his death certificate. The 1881 census was carried out on April 4th, and his widow May was living at Pretty with her two daughters, five-year-old Mary Elizabeth, and four-year-old Mary Ann.

Betsy Cooper died in 1882 at the age of 76, though no death certificate was completed. The Napier Commission had been set up as a response to crofter and cottar demonstrations against excessively high rents, lack of security of tenure on land that had been in families for generations, and the forced evictions of crofters. During the commissions sessions held in Kirkwall in July 1883, reference was made to an incident concerning Betsy Cooper and the island’s laird. Speaking on behalf of the Rousay crofters at the meeting, James Leonard, crofter and mason, Digro, was asked by one of the commissioners, Charles Fraser-MacIntosh MP, if he had anything else to state besides what had already been heard on behalf of the people who had sent him there.

Leonard said he had to state that there was such an amount of landlord-terror hanging on them – he was asked to state that – that they would be pleased if the Commission would do what they could to have the cause of that terror removed. You could not fail to see that that terror existed. He had a statement from another crofter, but he didn’t think it necessary to read it.

Mr Fraser-MackIntosh told him he could leave it with the commissioners. James Leonard said he wished to refer to something that was mentioned in a previous statement. The expression occurred – “wanton and unrighteous conduct.” He gave an example of that, which involved the case of a woman in the island whom the proprietor visited, when she was on her death-bed. She had a small croft, and she would have to leave it, because he was going to give it to another person – a stranger. She said she would never leave it until she was put to a house from which no man could remove her. He said – “What house is that?” – and she said – “Where I will be buried;” and he struck his stick on the ground and said, “Would you like to be buried here on this floor?”

Mr Fraser-MacIntosh asked – “What is your authority for making that statement: was it the poor woman herself?” Leonard replied – “More than that; there are witnesses beside me who can speak to it.”

Later, in reply to questions from the commissioners, the laird, Lt. General Frederick William Traill-Burroughs, said he could say nothing about the story concerning Mrs Cooper on her deathbed, and he didn’t remember any such thing.

As the Rousay Crofters’ Movement centred around the Sourin Free Kirk community it was inevitable that the minister, the Reverend Archibald MacCallum, should be drawn into the conflict. He told the commissioners he – “heard it from the lips of the woman herself and also from her daughter.”

The laird replied that that was possible, but he didn’t remember it.

Mr Fraser Mackintosh: “Would you not express an opinion now, that if you said it you regret it? The laird replied: “If I did say it, I am exceedingly sorry for it; but both I and my wife were very kind to the old woman and did everything we could for her. I wanted to give her land to her son and to let her remain. But she and her son quarrelled, and she would not hear of the proposal; and I believe she died on bad terms with him. If it is true that I said any such thing I am sorry for it; but I don’t believe I said it. They may have twisted something I said to mean that, but I did not certainly mean that…..”

In 1883 James Cooper paid five guineas rent, but in 1888 this was reduced by the Crofters Commission to £4. At this time Pretty consisted of 10 acres arable and 10 acres pasture land.

At the time of the 1891 census the late Betsy Cooper’s daughter Betsy, then fifty years of age, was living at Pretty with her three-year-old nephew Allan Cooper. Harriet Cooper died in 1889. Her husband James was away from Pretty when the census was carried out, his 16-year-old daughter Maggie Ann being described as head of the household and looking after her younger brothers, John, Frederick, and George. May Cooper, then earning a living as a charwoman, had moved to ‘The Hill’ with daughters Mary Elizabeth, then a 15-year-old sewing maid, and fourteen-year-old Mary Ann, who was at school. ‘The Hill’ was in fact a second house named Hillside in the district, this one being a small dwelling between Curquoy and Brittany. May was still living there in 1901, earning a living as a woolspinner and knitter.

Pretty was now occupied by 46-year-old crofter John Mowat and his wife Jane. John was the son of crofter George Mowat and Mary Yorston, Evie, and he was born in 1855. He was a 42-year-old widower when he married 46-year-old Jane Johnston at Kirkha’, Brinian, on February 19th 1897. The officiating minister was the Rev. Alexander Irvine Pirie and the witnesses were Rousay postman Danny MacKay and Jane’s older sister Jemima. Christened Jane Walker Johnston, she was the sixth of nine children of John Johnston and Elizabeth Reid, and she was born on January 6th 1851. Jane had two children before her marriage, John Harrold in 1870, and Elizabeth Reid, who was born on June 26th 1877.

All black & white photos are courtesy of the Tommy Gibson Collection.

The map section is ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’
– though it has been altered somewhat to improve its legibility.


Banks & Finnio

If you were in Sourin in 1734, you would know Thomas Reid, for he was the man who worked the land of Banks – a large farm that still thrives to this day.

The census of 1841 records brothers Thomas and John Marwick farming the surrounding land at Banks. They were the sons of Hugh Marwick [1766-1820] and Betsy Sinclair of Scockness – two of her ‘Ten Devils’! Thomas was born in 1796, and married Ann Gibson in January 1820. She was the daughter of John Gibson, Broland, and Giles [Julia] Grieve, Hurtiso. Thomas and Ann had ten children of their own. All but two of them emigrated to New Zealand, but after Ann’s death in 1861 the others and their father joined them.

Thomas’s brother John Marwick was born in January 1803. He married Betsy Mainland, daughter of James Mainland and Christian Louttit, Cotafea, who was born in June 1806. They had no children, but adopted their nephew, James Marwick, son of John’s brother Robert.

In 1845 Chalmers Mainland was tenant and he was paying an annual rent of £50 6s. 6d. Two years later his brother William was tenant and he was paying £30 rent. William was the son of Leslie and Jean Mainland of Avelshay and was born on March 9th 1811. In 1835 he married Betsy Reid, the daughter of Peter Reid and Betsy Marwick of Cruar, and on November 1st of that year Betsy gave birth to twins, who themselves were christened William and Betsy. Between 1837 and 1850 she bore another six children; Jane, Anne, John, James, Peter, and David who was born blind.

Years ago ploughing matches were very popular In Rousay. The photo above was taken c.1908 during one of these events on the land at Banks. The Sourin mill is just visible beyond the horses to the left.

In 1862 William was paying £52 10s 0d. rent for Banks and its 50 acres of land. Three of his sons were working with him at that time; William was an agricultural labourer, John was a ploughman, and Peter was a cowherd. In 1876 the rent stood at £73 and the area of land at Banks had risen to 100 acres. When the census of 1881 was carried out son William, then 45 years of age, ran a shop at Banks, situated in the east end of the dwelling house, his occupation being described as a grocer and general merchant. His father William died in 1892 at the age of 81 and his widow Betsy went to live at Redlums, Banks having been taken over by Robert Seatter from Westray in 1894, at which time he was paying £50 rent.

The Seatter family of Banks, Sourin c1905.
Standing from the left: Sybella, Robert, John, Ellen, and Marion.
Seated: Sibla, Edward, Robert.

Robert Seatter was the son of John Seatter and Merron [Marion] Drever, and he was born at Newark, Westray, c.1854. On November 30th 1883 he married 25-year-old Sibella King [or Sibla as it was spelled on her birth and wedding certificates]. She was the daughter of Edward King and Hellen Scott of Grimbust, Westray. [Entries in census returns have her name variously spelled Sibella, Sibbla, Sybella, and even Sibbley. The house had alternative spellings too, i.e. Grindmust and Gronhast]. There were six children: John, born c.1885; Ellen, 1888; Robert, 1890; Marion, 1892; Bella,1896; and Edward, born c.1898.

The photos above show Edward Seatter, Banks, to the left with John Hourston Marwick [standing], and his brother Robert, Essaquoy later Quoys, Wasbister, and wearing his army uniform. Edward and John were both killed in WW1

Private Edward King Seatter served with the 8th/10th Gordon Highlanders during the First World War. He was killed in action near Guémappe, part of the Arras Offensive, on 21st April 1917, aged 19. He is commemorated in Bay 9, Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Arras Offensive, April 1917: The 8th and 10th Battalions had amalgamated in 1915 and in January 1917 carried out a successful raid dressed in white to blend in with the snow. This was at the Butte de Warlencourt. In April they were part of the Arras offensive and were pinned down by heavy fire at Railway Triangle just east of the city of Arras. Eventually they battled their way through and defeated the enemy. The 4th and 5th Battalions fought alongside each other to help capture Vimy Ridge, 5 miles north of Arras, after a determined attack by the Canadians and themselves, the 4th suffering particularly badly. The 6th Battalion also suffered heavy casualties but achieved their objective at Rolincourt.

The 9th Pioneer Battalion prepared tracks and constructed great underground networks in this battle. The 1st Battalion went forward, in the lead, very rapidly on the first day and reached their target within 20 minutes. Soon after they were again the lead battalion but by the evening were prevented from reaching the enemy trenches by enfilade fire. Two days later they were in action at Guémappe where they sustained heavy casualties.

Private John Hourston Marwick, 58th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, formerly 13092 Seaforths, was killed in action near Epéhy on 7th September 1918, aged 21.

He is commemorated on Panel 10, Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Born at Essaquoy, Sourin, Rousay on 30th April 1897, son of David Marwick and Ann Marwick (née Leonard).

Robbie Seatter, Banks, [centre], with Edward [Ned] Seatter, Queena, Rendall, and his brother George, Onziebust, Egilsay.
In 1910, Robbie’s sister Ellen, born in Westray in 1888, married Thomas Marwick Garson, the son of Thomas Garson and Mary Mainland of Grugar, Egilsay.

Robbie Corsie Seatter [previously mentioned, being born in 1890] was the tenant of Banks from 1922 to well into the 1960s. The roof of Banks blew off in the hurricane of 1952, which resulted in Robbie building a new house. In 1917 he married 19-year-old Lizzie Robertson Corsie, daughter of John Corsie, Brendale, and Margaret Jane Skethaway, Knarston. Robbie and Lizzie had three sons, Robert Seatter, born in 1917; John Corsie Seatter, born 1922; and Edward King Seatter, who was born in 1931.

The new house at Banks, built after the hurricane which wreaked havoc throughout Rousay and Orkney early in the morning of Tuesday January 15th 1952. To the left is the old mill, its huge waterwheel can just be seen in situ.

Above left is Lizzie Seatter with her son Robbie, born in 1917. Bella, or Sibella, Seatter born in 1896, was 34 years old when she married Andrew Moodie, a 33-year-old farmer from Muddisdale, Kirkwall, the son of James Moodie and Rachel Work. The minister at the marriage, held in the King Street Manse, was the Rev. W. G. Murray, and the witnesses were William Wood, Quarrybank, St. Ola, and Sibella’s sister Marion, who was living at Watergate, Kirkwall, at the time. Sibella and Andrew had a son, John, who was born in December 1930 – and he is pictured, above right, with his grandfather Robert, who would have been nearly 80 years of age when the photo was taken. – The photos below show young Robbie on the farm.

On January 23rd 1942 Robbie Seatter married 22-year-old Chrissie Davina Russell, Brendale, and they later moved to Elsness, Sanday. In 1950 his brother John Corsie Seatter married 18-year-old Gertrude Anna Jean Moar, daughter of David Moar and Clara Clouston, Saviskaill. They left Rousay and rented the farm of Sandside, Graemsay, in 1952.

Youngest brother Edward King Seatter [born in 1931] is pictured about to set off on a motorcycle ride with with Marjory Scott, Livaness, Shapinsay. c.1954.

Banks, and its environs, as it is today:-


In Rousay Birth Registers of 1738 and 1745, the name of this dwelling, situated on the farm of Banks, was spelled Housefinzie; in 1821 Housefinian; and in 1823 and 1830 Housefinzean. At the shore below Finyo is the Noust of Finyo – one of the best landing places along that shore, ‘naust’ in Old Norse meaning a shed or stance for boats when drawn up.

Magnus Craigie, born in 1786, lived at Finyo. He was married to Christian Craigie, daughter of Mitchell Craigie of Hullion and Rebekah Marwick, who was born in 1787. They had ten children: William, who was born in November 1811; Katherine, in March 1814; Janet, in June 1816; Barbara, in January 1819; Mary, in June 1821; Christian, in April, 1823; James, in November 1824; Margaret, in August 1827; Isabel, in November 1829; and Betty, who was born in May 1832. Their father Magnus died in 1840, at the age of 54.

Originally there were two buildings on the site of Finnio – the grassy, nettle-covered mound to the right being all that remains of the second house.

The following year, the census records the fact that Christy Craigie was earning a living as a wool spinner and living at Cruar with three of her daughters, Janet, Barbara, and Betsy. Cruar was a small croft on the south side of the Burn of Cruar, between Knarston and Avelshay.

Other spinners and weavers in Sourin included Christy Leonard, a 70-year-old hemp spinner at ‘Nether Kingly’. At Whitehall 50-year-old James Pearson worked as a hand-loom weaver, while neighbours Robert Harrold of Cruannie and Peter Leonard of Digro were wool weavers. 25-year-old Julia Mainland of Nethermill was a bonnet maker, and in unrecorded houses at Sourin were a number of straw plaiters, including Margaret and Jane Craigie, Robina and Isabella Marwick, Mary and Janet Flett, Mary Harcus, and Mary Flaws. 40-year-old Margaret Grieve was also employed as a straw plaiter at Barebraes.

In 1841 Finyo was occupied by James Grieve, a 65-year-old navy pensioner, from Egilsay. He was married to Elizabeth Davie and they had six children, all born in Egilsay. James was born in March 1916; Eleanor Bews in March 1819; Margaret in December 1821; Mary, in June 1825; Alexander, in March 1828; and William, who was born in July 1831.

Fisherman William Inkster held the tenancy of Finyo in 1851 after moving from Ervadale. The son of William Inkster and Robina Rendall, he was born in 1795, and was married to Margaret Gibson. They had seven children: Bethynia, born in April 1823; Christian, in August 1825; Ann, in August 1827; William, in October 1829; Margaret, in April 1833; James, in March 1836; and Hugh, who was born in February 1839. Living with them at the time of the census were their daughters Robina, a 28-year-old straw plaiter and Christie, then described as a pauper. Margaret died in 1855 at the age of 60, and William passed away in 1869 in his 74 year. [Hugh Inkster born in 1839 married Isabella Kirkness, Quoyostray, moved to Shetland, and raised a family. Isabella died, Hugh returned to Rousay, married his late wife’s cousin Mary Kirkness, and took over Westness Farm.]

Spelt Finno in 1861, Betsy Sinclair, a 78-year-old widowed pauper and her 45-year-old daughter Mary Turnbull, who earned a living as a seamstress, lived there – as did 27-year-old agricultural labourer John Gibson and his two-year-old son John. He was married to Lydia Craigie of Myres, but she was away from home when the census forms were filled in. John was the son of Hugh Gibson, Burness, Wasbister, and his third wife Margaret Harcus, and he was born in February 1834. His wife Lydia was the daughter of John Craigie, Hurtiso later Myres, and Mary Ann Louttit, Faraclett. They had four children: John, born in November 1858; Allan, in December 1861; Lydia, in October 1864; and Agnes, who was born in February 1868.

Finyo was unoccupied in the early 1870’s, but by 1881, 39-year-old farm servant John Mainland and his wife Martha lived there with their young sons James and John. John senior was the son of William Mainland, Avalsay, later Banks, and Betsy Reid, Cruar, and he was born in 1841. His wife Martha was the daughter of James Mainland, Avalsay, later Gorehouse, and Jean Gibson, and she was born in 1850.

Malcolm Grieve and his wife Fanny [pictured above] lived at Finyoe, as it was spelled in the census of 1901. Malcolm was the youngest of seven children born to Robert Grieve, Outerdykes, and Ann Work, and was born in 1830. On April 12th 1861 he married 21-year-old Frances Costie, known to one and all as Fanny, daughter of David Costie and Christian Mowat. She died in May 1908 at the age of 68, and Malcolm passed away in November 1914 in his 84th year after moving to Westray.

On December 12th 1912, Banks farm ploughman John Carr Adams Seatter married 25-year-old dressmaker Mary Mainland. The son of Robert Seatter and Sibella King, he was born in 1884. Mary was the daughter of John Mainland, Onzibist, Wyre, later Essaquoy, and Margaret Mainland, Cavit. The wedding ceremony took place at Swartifield, the officiating minister was Robert Henderson Abel, and the witnesses were Mary’s younger brother Robert and John’s younger sister Marion. They lived at Finnio for a while before moving to Rendall.

My thanks to Sarah and Stuart Sailor for allowing me access with my camera on their land to show Banks and Finnio as they are today.

[All black & white photos are courtesy of the Tommy Gibson Collection.]


The ‘Cop’ & Craigern

The information below was forwarded by Bob and Bryan Inkster.

The Cop is local for The Northern Co-operative Society, or Co-op. It was a movement which built stores throughout Scotland by self help. It started in News [Newhouse], above Hullion, run by merchant/grocer John Sinclair [1824-1897]. The shop later moved to Clumpy in the hill behind the school in Sourin and eventually the shop, stable, sheepy hoose, and slaughter house were built on the bend of the road between the school and Old School. Hughie o’ Saviskaill told Bob that the men of Rousay all got together and quarried the stone to build the Co-op and Robbie Seatter of Banks gifted the land for it.

Craigern, pictured above, was built for the Craigie sisters who acquired the Cop because there was originally no house with it. The sisters were Annie and Bella Craigie, daughters of John Craigie, Shalter, later Triblo, and Betsy Leonard, Triblo. They bought the shop from the locally run Co-op and ran it successfully before they retired to Kirkwall. Documents regarding the transfer of ownership to the Inksters referred to the ladies as “the sisters Craigie”.

Jock and Dorothy Inkster moved to the Cop in the mid-1950s, Jock eventually taking over driving the post van from Roy Russell. When the family moved in the house was not joined on to the Cop and had an outside toilet and no running water for a family of four boys [the “boys o’ the cop”] and a grannie. Much later, Jock built the connecting part which thankfully included a bathroom!

John Inkster and Dorothy Mainland are pictured on the day of their wedding – Friday July 16th, 1948. Best man Robert Learmonth, and bridesmaid/maid of honour, Cathleen Craigie, Furse, with flower girls Mary Craigie, Hurtiso, and Linda Grieve, Saviskaill. John’s mother was Violet Inkster, daughter of David Inkster and Isabella Sinclair, Cavit. He was born in 1922, before Violet’s marriage to Robert Learmonth. That marriage produced two offspring: Anna and Robert. Dorothy was the daughter of Hugh Mainland, Gairsay, later Hurtiso, and Alice Craigie, Falquoy. John and Dorothy had four sons: John, Robert, Bryan, and Steven.

The Inkster family of Rousay, beside the Austin shop van, c.1960.
To the left is Stevie and John Snr; Bob and Bryan in the doorway; Dorothy holding young Stanley Aim; Mrs Aim [from Holm]; and John Jr.
Photo taken by Ronnie Aim.

The Cop hoose had gas lighting when we first went there which was considered sophisticated compared to the Tilley. The shop had a J.A.P. lighting plant which sat in the “Sheepie Hoose”, the small concrete shed to the North of the shop, used for starving sheep prior to slaughter. The slaughterhouse is the lean-to on the North end of the Cop. It had a sloping floor with a drain to a large cess pit. The North end of the main building was called the “Mealy End”, where sacks of meal, flour, Cosetas etc were stored. Cosetas was an animal feed which came in large sacks and consisted of flakes of yellow vegetable matter. Bryan thinks it might have been made from maize, for he remembers eating it and found it was quite palatable!

A photo taken in the mid-1990s, showing the Cop and Craigern, after renovation.

The Inksters got the Old School too, after Sandy Logie moved to the toon. Jock’s stepfather, Bertie Learmonth lived there for a spell but mostly it stood empty until Jock fixed it up for his retirement.

Sandy’s brother, John Gibson Logie, was a private in the Gordon Highlanders regiment. He was 37 years of age when he died of wounds received during the capture of Beaumont-Hamel, a tactical incident that took place during the Battle of the Somme on November 22nd 1916.

A bronze Memorial Plaque, or more commonly known as the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’, was issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a consequence of the war. The plaques were about 4.75 inches in diameter, were cast in bronze, and came to be known as the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’, because of the similarity in appearance to the much smaller penny coin of the day which itself had a diameter of only 1.215 inches. Sandy had the large ‘penny’ displayed on the mantelpiece above the fireplace in the Old School for many years.

Bob and Bryan, when in their very early teens or perhaps younger, were helping to rip out an old fire place in the Old School when they found the ‘death penny.’ The boys used the building as a motorbike workshop and spent a lot of their time trimming up the old pre-war bikes which abounded in Rousay at the time. Sandy Logie had previously told them to watch out for the Death Penny if they ever renovated the building. They excitedly took their treasure to show to their parents. Jock got in touch with Sandy Logie and he could remember it falling down behind the fire place and being unable to get it out and over time he had forgotten about it. Much to the boy’s disappointment their ‘treasure’ was reunited with Sandy but he was happy to have it back!

As a boy Bob used to go on the delivery run with his father and the highlight was the stop at Trumland Farm with Robert Johnston because they got in to watch TV (first in the island) – The Lone Ranger and Whirly Birds being favourite programmes.

Bob’s wife Sally was working in the Post Office in the early ‘70s and there was some fuel crisis and petrol was going to be rationed to only those with valid road tax. They had a sudden influx in road tax applications. Sally was paid £12 a week for running the post office then.

The boys got sixpence worth of sweeties every Monday and they would go to Dot Munro at the shop for it, but they would always go again later in the day claiming they hadn’t gone before. Needless to say Dot never fell for it. Bob and Bruce Mainland decided they could maybe distract Dot and pinch some sweeties. Bruce got the distracting job and Bob grabbed the first packet he could reach. They opened up the package only to find what they thought were something like surgical masks, which they hooked round their lugs and ran around with only to discover later they were in fact sanitary towels!

The Rousay, Egilshay, & Veira Co-operative Society was established on September 21st 1910, and when this annual return for the year ending 31 December 1914 was completed the society had 96 members belonging to the Rousay community.

Society Officers who were in receipt of or in charge of money were as follows: The treasurer was John Logie, land steward of the Trumland estate and caretaker of Trumland House; the Secretary was William Grieve, residing at the Society’s registered office at Upper Knarston; and Thomas Work and James W. Grieve, c/o the Co-operative Store in Sourin. Detailed accounts were kept regarding cash receipts and payments, trading expenditure and income, and profit and loss. When all the figures were tallied up the society’s assets stood at £810 19s. 9½d.

Another annual return for the year ending August 31st 1928 recorded the society’s description of trading. Agricultural requirements included grocery, drapery, boots, stationery, paints, oils, tar, nails, feeding stuff, seeds and manures. Agricultural produce included eggs, butter and cheese. Harry Gibson, Braes, was manager at this time, and John Harcus, Clumpy, was employed as van-man. Payments and expenditure included the upkeep of the horse that pulled the van, and a donation of £5 to the Balfour Hospital. That year’s closing figure was £2,379 9s. 0d.

Below I have selected just three from a large collection of Rousay, Egilshay, & Veira Co-operative Society share certificates in the possession of Bob Inkster.

On the left is that of farmer John Gibson, Faraclett. He had four five-shilling shares, which were later transferred to sons Hugh and John, and daughter Maggie.

In the centre is the certificate belonging to farmer James Inkster, Woo. Purchased in October 1910, his four shares were cancelled in November 1922.

Robina Marwick’s certificate to the right shows she bought just one share in December 1911. She was born in January 1832, the daughter of James Marwick, Eastaquoy, and his first wife Jean Marwick. After her death Robina’s single five-shilling share was transferred to her half-brother Craigie Marwick on the 20th day of December 1918.

Adele Marie Park has memories of the Cop – she stayed with Tommy and Adeline Inkster at nearby Woo.

“I mind the shop weel. Granny o the Co-op – I have her recipe for Clootie Dumpling, still mak it. I remember Dorothy and the boys of course, Stevie, and John. They had petrol pumps, Esso, and I fell in love with the plastic tiger head on top of the pumps. When they changed the head or something, Dorothy gave me the plastic tiger head; there is a photo of me in the garden at Woo with it, looking pleased as punch. I remember one poppy day we had gone up on Saturday and I had bought a green toy soldier with a parachute, the kind you throw up in the air and they float down with the parachute. I played with him on the Sunday then when the poppies came down on the television. I threw him in the air to come floating down. It was a big thing to a kid. I thought I was taking part in the ceremonies and remembering the soldiers who died. Dorothy was always smiling and Granny lived in the cottage across from the shop. Sweeties, smiles, and magical things – it was a fantastic shop and the people were magical.”

Phyllis Muir, daughter of Archer and Doll Clouston, Upper Knarston, later Glebe, writes:-

“The Co-op, or ‘Cop’ as we would pronounce it, was the shop that my folks mainly used as it was the nearest and as most journeys were made by bike, the road there and back was fairly flat, apart from the brae of Quoys.   There were no freezers until the Hydro came to the island so a trip to the Cop for fresh food was necessary on certain days of the week.  Thursday in particular sticks in my mind as it was Orcadian day and the paper had to be got that day.  Fresh meat and bread also came that day so by the time the supplies got there, about lunchtime, there would often be a queue but the aim always was to get there before the Egilsay men.  I don’t think there was a shop in Egilsay so a small boat, with 2 or 3 men, used to cross Egilsay soond and land below Banks. They would do shopping for a number of households, load it into sacks which got slung over their shoulders and off they would set back across the fields.  I remember it being a total pain if you had to wait until they had been served! Although, if the weather was bad nobody minded if they jumped the queue so that they could get home before it got dark. It was also recommended not to be in a hurry shopping when the mail came in as it had to be sorted. Dorothy Munro helped in the shop and she also delivered the mail to the Sourin houses.

“The shop was always well stocked with the basics and at one end there was the post office.  My mother relied on ‘the Family Allowance’ for cash so her book would be cashed at one end then spent at the other!  Although at that time it was common for people to have a ‘book’, where everything was written in as it was bought and then paid for at the end of an agreed period, maybe a month, 3 months or longer.  My father would pay by cheque having checked what had been bought.  He would sometimes moan about ‘unnecessary’ purchases, in his mind, but he smoked at the time so he never got far with that argument!

“The Cop was in a way a social meeting place.  If my sister Marlene and I had cycled there we were always asked who had been at the shop and whether there was any news on our return.  Marlene was always better at getting the gossip than me!”

Tommy Gibson tells of Sourin shops and shopping in the past:

The shops in the district were at Guidal, Isaac Marwick was a general merchant also a joiner shop and cobbler. Many other things took part as well. The registrar was at Guidal for many years. The odd tooth was extracted, hair was sometimes cut. Another shop was at Banks; this was situated in the east end of the dwelling house. This shop closed in 1896 when the Mainland family left Banks and the Seatter family came from Ness in Westray. The Seatters lived and farmed in Banks till the mid 1960’s. In 1870, James Yorston started up a small grocery store at the Old Man. I would have thought that this was not a very good site, but he carried on and was taken over by a Co-op about 1890. A new building to house the Co-op was built near the school. The Co-op was moved to its new premises about 1906. A house was then built for the manager. The Co-op used to employ 3 to 5 workers. They were managers, van men and assistants. The van went out most days with deliveries and for collections. A horse van was used for delivery and collections. The Co-op kept a horse for the van, but when the van was due for Wasbister, the horse of Woo was traced into the van. This horse helped pull the van to the top of the Sourin Brae. A two-ton Commer lorry was then purchased in the mid 1930’s. The Co-op stable was converted as a garage to house the lorry. For deliveries and collections the platform was used; old lorries were high and the platform was about 5ft. 6ins above the ground. Top speed was about 30 mph. For selling groceries, the old horse van was converted to fit the lorry, with an arrangement at the rear for the elderly and infirm to get into the van. There was a remarkable amount of groceries in the shelves for sale. The van usually stayed on the public road, but if a farm road was good the van went to the house. When the van was not used, an endless chain fixed to the garage roof lifted the van off the platform.

The Co-op shop van in Rousay, with Trumland House in the background, c1910.
The van man was James William Grieve of Whiteha, and the horse was named Prince
and came from Faraclett. Paraffin drums can be seen on the side of the van.

Some van men I remember were John Seatter of Banks, then John Grieve, Digro, Fred Craigie of the Bu in Wyre. This shop, like the Hullion one, was remarkable. The shops carried all the groceries and animal and poultry feeds, oils, tools, and hardware needed by all the families in their respective districts.

The first manager was a Mr. Work from the Mainland; next was Sandy Grieve of Nethermill, then Harry Gibson, whose parentage came from Upper Knarston, married Hannah Grieve, Fa’doon. By the 2nd World War a Mr. Walls from Rendall took over as manager. Mr. Wall’s son Thomas lost his life in the war in Burma building an infamous railway. The next manager was Magnus Flaws from Wyre, then two brothers from Kirkwall John and Gib Taylor was manager and store man respectively.

Two ladies were next, Annie and Bella Craigie [pictured left]. They were born at Treblo. Their father, John Craigie, owned the Queens Hotel in Kirkwall. He had been a miller in Sourin for many years. John and Dorothy Inkster, from Hurtiso were next. They had the post office and telephone exchange. This was transferred with them. The Sourin Shop as it was then, closed in 1973-4. It was sad day for Sourin. At one time the shop did deliveries of animal and poultry feed and collected 1000’s of eggs. Hullion’s shop closed in 1989. This was transferred to Marion Clark who opened a shop at Essaquoy in November. Shelves were erected, groceries were bought, and a large van was acquired. A remarkable amount of groceries adorned the shelves. Petrol pumps, and a tarmac road for easy access were put in in 2000. The first recorded shop was at the Oldman in the 1871 census, with Robert Yorston. This would have been, to say the least, modest. With merchants at Banks, Guidal and the Co-op, and a period of about 15 years without a shop, Sourin folk have been shopping for 115 years.

Reproduced, with permission, from his book In Dreams We Moor, Robert Craigie Marwick tells us about his experience of ‘The Cop’.

Next door to the school is the former Co-op shop and store. All through my childhood the Co-op van was a familiar sight on the road as it did its twice a week circuit of the island. At first it was pulled by two horses but in the 1930s a lorry was acquired and the van body was carried on that. The van carried not only groceries and a selection of small household goods but also numerous two-gallon cans of paraffin stacked in racks on the outside. Everyone needed paraffin for oil lamps in those days when no one entertained thoughts of mains electricity ever reaching the island. At that time the old wick lamp with its flame protected by a glass funnel was beginning to give way to the much brighter Tilley lamp which burned vaporised oil within a delicate, gauze mantle. One minute the vanman might be measuring out a gallon of paraffin for a customer and the next handing her an unwrapped loaf of bread. Hygiene was not something that was of great concern to the vanman. He probably had never heard of the word but it is likely that neither had some of his customers. When I recall the lack of hygiene in the handling of food in those days it makes me wonder how any of us survived.

On its rounds the van collected large quantities of eggs which the farmers’ wives brought along to exchange for their groceries. Before the lorry appeared on the scene the conveyance of eggs had become an increasing problem because near the end of the Saturday round, late at night, the van had to ascend the very steep Leean road, a tough task for the horses at the end of a long day.

The first vanman I remember was Sammy Inkster who was a very small man. Although having the misfortune to be slightly hunchbacked he appeared to us children to be very strong as he heaved large bags of poultry feedstuff about with apparent ease. It amused us that every heave was accompanied by a very audible, and probably involuntary, “Humph!”

Sammy [pictured above] had a mile or two to travel to work [he lived at Kirkha’] so he acquired a motorbike. One day when it came time for him to go home for dinner he started the machine, let the clutch in and tried without success to move off. He revved the engine a bit more but still the machine would not move. This was because, unknown to Sammy, two of the bigger boys from the school had sneaked up behind him and had lifted the rear wheel just clear of the ground. Then, as Sammy revved the engine even harder, they let go and the machine, with Sammy holding on for dear life, shot off like a bullet from a gun. As with many of the practical jokes perpetrated in those days, it is unlikely that the possibly dire consequences of this one had been given much thought.

‘The Rousay Co-op Van’ – posted by Gordie Peterson on the Orkney Communities Image Library in November 2006, is reproduced here with his permission.

He writes: This photo, shows my grandfather Jacko Linklater (left) with the Rousay Co-op van, delivering to Jock (Craigie) o’ Breck in 1938. Just why a vanman needed thigh boots I have no idea!

Robert  Craigie Marwick added the following comment:-

I remember an occasion when Jacko finished work late at the Co-op store next door to the hall where there was a dance in progress. He was keen on dancing so, without wasting time going home to change, he crossed the road to the hall, rolled down his thigh boots, and danced the night away, as nimble footed a performance as you could have wished for.

[All black & white photos, unless otherwise stated, are from the Tommy Gibson Collection]


Quoys, Braes, & Old School

Quoys, the old Sourin croft on the southern margin of the Loch of Quoys, is a good example to illustrate how it is thought that typical ‘quoy’ farms arose. The Old Norse word kví was used for a fold for animals, and such folds were often situated at places where animals gathered together to spend the night. A natural place for cattle pasturing outside the tunship or farm dykes was some sheltered spot along the outside of the dyke. In the course of time such a spot would become so highly fertilised by the constant animal manuring that it would become well worth cultivating. Hence, a ‘quoy’ farm would be established there, and the old dyke shifted back to enclose it, or a new dyke might be built, of stone and turf, around itself.

Such is the explanation of the fact that quoy-farms, as a general rule, are to be found on the outskirts of the older settlements, more or less on the line of the old tunship dykes. In the case of Quoys at Sourin, the old hill-dyke is still clearly visible inside the park of Banks, just across the public road from Quoys.

In 1845 fisherman Hugh Cooper and his wife Jane lived at Quoys. The rent at this time was £1.2.0.

By 1861 Quoys was occupied by farmer William Inkster who was a widower. He was married to Margaret Gibson, but she died in 1855 aged 60. William, the son of William Inkster and Robina Rendall was born in 1795. He and Margaret had seven children: Bethynia, who was born in April 1823; Christian, in August 1825; Ann, in August 1827; William, in October 1829; Margaret, in April 1832; James, in March 1836; and Hugh, who was born in February 1839. At the time of the census in 1861 the three eldest daughters, all unmarried, lived with William at Quoys. Bethynia, though called Robina in the census return, was a 39-year-old agricultural labourer; Christie, 37, was a seamstress; and 35-year-old Ann was a domestic servant. William died in 1869, at the age of 74.

In 1871 Christie was head of the household and described in the census as a pauper, while her older sister, Robina, was employed as a labourer. Their younger brother James, a fisherman, was a joint tenant, and he lived there with his wife Margaret Pearson. She was the daughter of James Pearson and Mary Leonard of Kirkgate and was born in 1837. They had six children: Margaret, who was born in 1861; James, born in 1865; William, in 1867; Hugh, in 1869; David, in 1876; and Robert, who was born in 1880. The oldest daughter, Margaret married John Sabiston, the son of George Sabiston and Barbara Harrold of Whitemeadows.

To the left is David Pearson Inkster, Ervadale, later Quoys, Sourin. born 1876. A blacksmith who went to America, his father was a brother of Hugh Inkster, Shetland & Westness.

Come the time of the 1911 census, carried out on April 5th, Quoys was occupied by 71-year-old Malcolm Leonard. He was the youngest of the four sons of Alexander Leonard and Margaret Grieve of Upper Grips, Sourin. Born in April 1840 he married Mary Craigie in 1862, daughter of James and Barbara Craigie, who was born in January 1839 at Quoyfaro. They had eight children: James, who was born in 1862; Alexander, born in 1864; Mary Jean, in 1866; Margaret, in 1868; Malcolm, in 1870; Annie, in 1874; Bella, in 1878; and John, who was born in 1884.

Malcolm Leonard with his son John, daughter Bella, and her daughter Mary Ann

Back to Quoys and the 1911 census. Living with Malcolm were his 33-year-old daughter Bella, a former domestic servant, son John, a 27-year-old agricultural worker, and three grandchildren: Mary Ann Hourie, a 13-year-old scholar, was Annie’s daughter, having married David Hourie of Deerness; Charles Flett, 9, who was also at school, and Mary Ann Leonard, who was just five months old, both of whom were Bella’s daughters.

A nice photo of John Leonard and his faithful hound.
[See the shadow of the tripod-mounted camera]

Braes, close to the school in Sourin, and also known as Barebraes in the past, housed three families in 1851. Christie Craigie, a widowed 62-year-old pauper, lived at Barebraes 1 with three of her unmarried children; Janet, a 34-year-old seamstress; 31-year-old Barbara who was a knitter; and 26-year-old James, who earned a living as a farmer/fisherman. Christie’s husband was Magnus Craigie of House-finzie [Finyo], Sourin, who died in 1840 at the age of 54. Christie and he raised a family of ten children between 1811 and 1832

Barebraes 2 was occupied by James Grieve, a 90-year-old pauper from Egilsay, his wife Barbara, who was 70 years old, and their 53-year-old unmarried daughter Barbara, who, like her mother, was a hemp spinner.

Rebecca Yorston, another pauper, lived at Barebraes 3. She was the 70-year-old widow of Peter Yorston of Oldman, Sourin, and was supported by her 27-year-old daughter Ann, who earned money by plaiting straw. Rebecca, born in 1783, was the daughter of Mitchell Craigie of Holland, Frotoft, later Hullion, and Ann Mainland

In 1861s Braes 1 was occupied by Barbara Work, a 77-year-old widow and pauper. Living with her was Margaret Grieve, her unmarried step-daughter, 64, also a pauper, and Nanny Work, Barbara’s unmarried sister, 69, who earned a living as an agricultural labourer.

Christy Craigie was still living at Braes with her seamstress daughter Janet – together with son James and his new wife Betsy Mowat. She was the daughter of John Mowat, Scowan, and Isobel Yorston, Trumland, and she was born in April 1827. [Scowan was a small croft below Midgar].

Rebekah [Craigie] Yorston and Christie Craigie both died at Braes in 1872. The death certificates of both ladies record their parent’s names as Mitchell Craigie and Rebekah Marwick. Robert C. Marwick in his book Rousay Roots wonders if Mitchell was married twice, with Rebecca and Christian being children of the earlier marriage.

James and Betsy Craigie continued to live at and work the land at Braes into the early 1900s. James died in 1910 at the age of 85, and Betsy passed away two years later in her 82nd year.

Four generations of one family, photographed in the garden at Braes, Sourin: Tom Shearer, his son Ronnie [married Elsie Inkster, Woo], and his granddaughter Thelma [b. 1928] [married James Leslie, Whitemeadows, later Kirkwall] with her children Edwin, born in 1949, Brian, born 1950, and Elizabeth, who was born in 1951.

Thomas Meil Shearer was the son of James Shearer [1836-1897] and Margaret Meil [1835-1896], and he was born at Freehall, Stronsay on June 4th 1873. He was employed as a ploughman, living at Housebay, when he married 25-year-old Margaret Jane Miller on February 24th 1898. She was the daughter of Robert Miller and Elizabeth Shearer, and lived at Hunton on the island,. They had four children: Tomima, Anna, Ruby, and Ronald – all born in Shetland, where Tom was employed as a carter, living at South Houlland, Tingwall. Eventually the family moved back to Orkney, Tom farming the land at Lochend, just east of The Ouse and Leira Water, Shapinsay. His wife Margaret passed away at 6pm on October 21st 1940 – after which Tom and his unmarried daughter Anna moved to Rousay, living at Braes.


In 1721 a petition was sent to the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge from the Presbytery of the North Isles pleading Rousay’s case for a school. ‘The case of the island of Rousay is very lamentable, having no School-master, and the people for the most part both Ignorant and Barbarous, and the Presbytery entreats that a Charity school be settled there.’

Two years later a school was promised to the island which in turn promised that accommodation and a stack of peats would be provided for the schoolmaster. It was, however, to be another two years before the school was established on a small area of ground at Banks in Sourin and it opened for the first time in 1725.

The North Isles Presbytery was asked to find a suitable person to take charge of the school in Sourin, and in due course the Rousay minister, the Reverend Andrew Graham, reported that a David Marwick who had been doing some private teaching on the island was such a person. The Presbytery examined Marwick and found that he had ‘sufficient knowledge of the principles of our holy Religion for that station and could read and write very well and had also competent knowledge in Arithmetick.’ Having been tried and tested and found fit for his duties David Marwick became Rousay’s first official schoolmaster. He was to remain in that post for the next 49 years.

By 1827 an Assembly school had been established in the premises which had been provided for the SSPCK school a century earlier. The curriculum in Assembly schools was fairly basic, consisting of reading, writing and arithmetic, and of course, religious instruction. Girls were given instruction in sewing and knitting.

The school’s teacher, when the census was carried out in 1841, was forty-year-old William Smeaton and he lived at the schoolhouse with his wife Harriet, also 40 years  of  age, and their seven children: Harriet, 14, William, 12, Mary, 10, Thomas, 8, John, 6, Elizabeth, 4, and one-year-old James. Smeaton remained in the post till 1843. It was in that year that a great many ministers and members of their congregations left the Church of Scotland and formed the Free Church. This breakaway was known as the Disruption and was brought about mainly through dissatisfaction with the practice of patronage, whereby the patron in a parish, usually the largest landowner, had the right to select the parish minister. Smeaton ‘came out’ at the Disruption and joined the Free Kirk, as did a lot of other Assembly and Society teachers. Consequently many of them, including Mr Smeaton, were dismissed from their posts.

He was replaced by Thomas Balfour Reid, the son of George C. Reid and Elizabeth Yorston of Shoreside [the original name of what we know today as Balfour village], Shapinsay, and he was born on January 5th 1824. At the time of the 1851 census he was 27 years of age, and living in the schoolhouse with his wife Betsy Thomson, 32, from South Ronaldsay, and children Thomas, 5, and William, who was two years old. Living with them was Betsy’s unmarried sister Helen, who was a 30-year-old seamstress. Things were not all plain sailing for Thomas though, for he was not without his critics in Sourin. In September 1851 the Assembly’s Education Committee decided to dismiss him after receiving an unfavourable report from the parish minister. Later, the committee had a change of mind and decided to retain him until the Secretary could visit Rousay and judge the situation for himself. Reid escaped dismissal at that time and continued to serve in Sourin until the School Board took over more than twenty years later.

Important changes in Scottish education were brought about by the Education (Scotland) Act of 1873, which decreed that responsibility for providing and administering schools would lie with publicly elected School Boards. Another of its main provisions was that attendance at school would be compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 13 years of age.

At this time a petition signed by the heads of 42 families and ten others in Sourin was presented to the new Rousay School Board asking for a new school building and a ‘thoroughly qualified teacher.’ The widespread dissatisfaction with Mr Reid was reflected in the poor attendance with only one child in four attending school. The Board agreed to the points raised in the petition, and within a few months permission was obtained from the Education Department in Edinburgh to build a new school on the opposite side of the road from the old one. Two years elapsed before building began, but eventually the new school, pictured above, was officially opened by General Burroughs in January 1876. Mr James Inkster was now the schoolmaster, a position he held until 1881.

The following story involving Thomas Reid was printed in the Orkney Herald on May 25th 1880:-

SINGULAR LOSS AND RECOVERY OF £83. – On Wednesday last, when the steamer Lizzie Burroughs was leaving the moorings at Sourin, Rousay, Capt. Reid had occasion to lean over the bulwarks, when an envelope containing £83 and some silver coin dropped out of his pocket into the sea. It is customary for the captain of this and other packets to convey large sums of money to town. In the present case the money had been handed to Capt. Reid by Mr. Thomas B. Reid, Clerk to the Rousay School Board, for the purpose of being lodged in one of the banks in town. On falling into the water the envelope floated for a few moments, but sank just as a boat approached. Capt. Reid sent the steamer to town in charge of the mate, and proceeded himself to the Clerk of the School Board, and informed him of the loss, when it was decided to proceed to Kirkwall by a boat and endeavour to secure the services of a diver. Mr Calder, one of the divers who has been engaged at the pier, at once proceeded to Rousay, and descended at the place where the money was lost, the depth of water being about four fathoms. He had only been down a minute or two when he discovered the envelope lying on the bottom. Short as the time was that the money had been in the water, a large shell-fish known as a “buckie” had taken up its abode on the top of the envelope, thus effectually anchoring it to the spot. It is fortunate that there is not any strength of tide at this place. Had the loss occurred where the current is swift the cash would probably never have been seen again.


In the 1880’s Thomas Reid was still head of the household at the Old School, but he had retired from teaching. In 1881 he was 56 years of age and he was an Inspector of the Poor, the island’s Registrar, and Clerk to the Rousay School Board. His wife Betsy was then in her 62nd year. They had a boarder at that time, Duncan McFadyen, a 34-year-old schoolteacher, who was born in Islay.

Ten years later the Sourin schoolhouse was occupied by a new teacher, 29-year-old William Simpson from Banff, his wife Maggie, and baby son William. The Old School had new occupants too – the Munro family who had moved from Trumland Lodge. Head of the household was Alexander Munro, a 49-year-old merchant from Bower, Caithness. He was the son of Angus Munro and Janet McDonald, and was born in April 1841. On July 14th 1876 he married 26-year-old Christina Steven, daughter of Alexander Steven and Janet Calder. They had eight children: Malcomina Calder, who was born in 1878; Agnes MacDonald, born in 1880; George Morrison, in 1883; Alexander James, born in 1885; Hugh, in 1887; David William, in 1888; Mary Ann McKay, in 1890; and Albert Edward, who was born in 1893.

Alexander Munro, with children Hugh, Malcomina, and Agnes
Alexander with his wife Christina and son George.
[Both images courtesy of Orkney Library & Archive]

Over the years Sourin school had a succession of teachers: John Moyes in 1881; Alexander Oswald in 1886; William Wilson in 1887; William Simpson in 1890; Alexander McPherson in 1894; David Clouston in 1895; John Carrill in 1896; Louis McLeod in 1900; and Jessie Marwick, daughter of Hugh and Lydia Marwick of Guidall, who was head teacher from 1903 to 1911 at which time Lydia Gibson Baikie took over. She was the daughter of Kirkwall baker James Baikie and Lydia Gibson Craigie of Myres.

Old School in 1911 housed the Sourin post office, with Alexander Munro being employed as Sub Post Master. When the census was carried out on April 5th that year Alexander and his wife Christina had been married for 34 years, 8 months, and 8 days. With them that night were four of their offspring: Agnes, 30, employed as a cook, but home on a visit; sons Hugh, 24, and Albert, 18, both employed as farm horsemen; and Mary Ann, who was a 21-year-old general domestic servant.

Reference, with permission to reproduce, was made to Robert Craigie Marwick’s book From My Rousay Schoolbag for the detailed information regarding schooling, teaching, and the building of the new Sourin school earlier in the text.

[All photographs, unless otherwise stated, are from the Tommy Gibson Collection.]