Two old photos featuring Langskaill and its land – the smoking lums of the long house, and herding sheep on foot and horseback.
Above left is ‘Fiery Bill’ Inkster of Cogar. Born in 1860, he was the first of ten children born to William Inkster of Cogar and Mary Gibson of Langskaill. He was married twice, firstly to Jean Learmonth of Innister and latterly to Sarah Folsetter of Dale, Evie.
The text from a newspaper cutting below tells of his working life:-
Isabella Louttit of Maybank, Wasbister, and her husband Walter Muir of Breckan, later Warrenfield, St Ola. Isabella, daughter of William Louttit of Maybank and Margaret Gibson of Broland, was born in 1878. Walter came to Rousay and worked as a farm servant at Saviskaill. They had eight children, Maggie Jessie, Bessie, Walter, Bella, Clara, Ronald, Thomas, and Robert.
The New Firemaster of Aberdeen. – Mr Wm. Inkster, who was yesterday appointed ﬁremaster of Aberdeen, is a native of Rousay, Orkney Islands, and is in his 36th year. A ship carpenter to trade, he sailed in foreign-going vessels for eight years. It was in April 1889, that he became a member of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and being located at the Whitechapel Station, he has had many opportunities of acquiring both a practical and theoretical knowledge of the most approved methods of dealing with conﬂagrations large and small. In the construction and repair of ﬁre appliances his ﬁve years’ experience in the workshops of the brigade at headquarters has been of much advantage to him. He has also taken considerable interest in the internal construction of buildings, and in what he considers the best methods of providing for the security of the inmates. On several occasions Mr Inkster has visited this city, and has a very good knowledge of the main thoroughfares and principal streets. Capt. Simmonds, late chief officer of the London Fire Brigade, in a testimonial, says that Mr Inkster is a man of good abilities, and thoroughly understands the duties of a fireman.
Wasbister School: ‘The Old Comrades’, c1923.
Back row, from left: Boggy Shearer; Robert Sinclair, Newhouse; John Marwick, Breek; ? Shearer, Trumland; ?; James Marwick, Grain; John Craigie, Cruar. Middle row: Tom Marwick, Grain; James Taylor, Swandale; William Grieve, Digro; James Craigie, Deithe; James Leslie, Whitemeadows; Albert Munro, Old School. Front row: James Clouston, Tou; Hugh Craigie, Deithe; James Craigie, Corse; James William Grieve, Whitehall; Sandy Logie, Cubbieroo; James Munro, Breval.
Wasbister football team, 1923
Back row, left to right: James Craigie, Feolquoy; James Clouston, Tou; James Marwick, Grain. Middle row: Hugh Sinclair, Sketquoy; George Craigie, Feolquoy; ?. Front row: Bill Flaws, Hammerfield; Robert Inkster, Furse; Malcolm Hourie, Maybank; William Craigie, Ivybank; James Craigie, Deithe.
Sally and Clara Craigie photographed in 1922, and their younger sister Cathleen c1950. Their parents were John Craigie of Furse and Ann Russell of Brendale.
Robert Sinclair with his horse and cart going up the Leean, c1930. Robert of Stennisgorn, later Skatequoy, married Margaret Flaws of Hammerfield; they had four children – Robert, born in 1891, George in 1893, Annabella in 1903, and Hugh, who was born in 1906.
Wasbister School, 1931
Back row: Miss Tina Mathieson, Stanley Moar, William Marwick, David Wards, Sinclair Craigie, Thomas Donaldson, Thomas Marwick, James Craigie. Middle: Jim Sinclair, Clara Donaldson, Agnes Marwick, Netta Sinclair, Jean Marwick, Kathleen Craigie, Clem Donaldson, Anna Marwick, Robert Marwick. Front: William Donaldson, Jim Leslie, Donald Marwick.
Harvest time at Furse – 1955
All the black & whitephotos above are courtesy of the Tommy Gibson Collection.
Above left is a modern day view of Wester from the old peat track leading up to Loomachun. On the right, the Wester Loch, with Cogar, Ivybank and the old school to the left, Feolquoy in the centre, Vacquoy and Nedyar to the right.
A long lens shot from halfway up the Leean, with Nedyar and Langskaill in the foreground; Quoys, Ivybank, Cogar and the old school; the old smiddy, Quoygray/Quoyostray, Tou and Tou Cottage; and Hammerfield and Lower Hammerfield top left.
Details of some of the ‘vanished’ houses and sites in Wasbister.
Bakicrass was the name of an ancient house in Wasbister. William Craigie and his wife Isabel Gibson lived there and James, their only child was born there on June 4th 1802.
Barebraes was a small croft in Wasbister on the hillside above Cogar.
Bleaching Knowe: On the southern shore of Wasbister Loch, immediately north of the school building, there is a much destroyed burnt mound which is locally called ‘The Bleaching Knowe’. There are also traces of cist-like boxes formed of slabs set on edge in and close to the water.
Burrian, applies to a small island or crannog situated in the Loch of Wasbister. It contains the site of an ancient chapel and was formerly connected with the mainland with stepping stones still visible under the surface of the loch. From the fact of deer horns, bones, coins etc having been found on the site of the old chapel, it is thought that a more ancient building existed there prior to the erection of the chapel.
Bretta Ness. A chapel formerly stood at this spot, a small promontory on the eastern side of the Loch of Wasbister. Its stones have been removed and placed on the margin of the loch. A gently rounded mound at the extremity of Bretta Ness may be the remains of this chapel; presumably the dedication was to St Brittiva, Bridget or Bride.
Bucket is the name of a vanished house in Wasbister; on record as being mentioned in the Rousay Birth Register of 1830.
Castal. In a field immediately to the north of the old house of Stennisgorn in Wasbister is a site known as the Castal. Here an old building once stood, and the late proprietor told Hugh Marwick that when his father was removing stones from the site he came upon a metal basin-shaped object. It was broken, but standing out in relief on its outside were figures of what he termed ‘an angel and a dragon’. The dragon ‘had scales marked on it.’ Some who saw it thought it might have been a bell, but from his description it must have been too shallow for such a purpose. It ‘lay about the house’ for some time, but he had lost sight of it for many years.
Corse Kirk. The present Wasbister kirkyard is beside the old chapel-site, and was apparently dedicated to The Holy Cross.
Easter Lee was a dwelling between Turbitail and Burness. In 1851 it was occupied by Mary Flaws, who used to earn a living as a straw plaiter, but by this time she was classed as a pauper.
Flottahall. Flotty was the name of a field on the south side of the road at Langskaill. An entry made in 1821 in the Rousay Birth Register records a house called Flottahall in Wasbister, and in the census of 1841 it was recorded as being somewhere between those of Whitemeadows and Langskaill. It was occupied by 40-year-old fisherman James Flaws and his 30-year-old wife Betty Barnetson. They had four children; James was born on July 22nd 1829 when they lived at Vacquoy. The other three were born at Flottahall; William, on May 27th 1831, Betsy Sutherland, on August 3rd 1834, and Margaret, who was born on August 25th 1836.
Gateside, another vanished house in Wasbister, was mentioned in the Birth Register in 1833.
Heather Hall was situated close to Blackhammer and Cubbidy on the hill above Wasbister and in the census of 1851 it was occupied by two families. Living at Heather Hall 1 was William Scott, a 28-year-old grocer and fisherman from North Ronaldsay, his wife Robina, who was 33 years of age, and their children; three-year-old William, and Ann, who was twelve months old. Jean Craigie lived at Heather Hall 2 with her son James. Jean was a 46-year-old stocking maker and her 22-year-old son earned a living as a fisherman. She was the widow of James Craigie, originally of ‘Giddystane, Wasbyster.’
Howatoft was the name of an old Wasbister house, probably in the neighbourhood of Saviskaill. In Heart’s Sasines is a record of a sale to Thomas Alexander, eldest lawful son of Henry Alexander in Saviskaill, by Katherin Brok, one of the lawful daughters and heirs portioners of James Brok in Howatow of her third of the halfpenny udal land under the house of Howatow in Wasbister. Sasine was given on March 5th 1624.
On April 26th 1625 Thomas Alexander obtained sasine on a charter to him from William Craigie of Papdale of 1 pennyland of udal land in Howatoft, of which half was called Brokeisland half Rigersland, which had been sold to him by James Craigie in Westray and Margaret Brok with consent of Magnus Hourston in Skabrae – heritors thereof. In 1634 William Craigie got a decree against Thomas Alexander’s widow for unpaid dues in respect of Howatoft, and two centuries later, in 1828, John Inkster had the cot-house of Howatoft included in his sasine of Saviskaill lands.
The Brok ownership of lands in Howatow and Howatoft seems to be sufficient proof that both names refer to the same property, and are only different forms of the same name. To Hugh Marwick the name seemed to point to an Old Norse hauga-topt, ‘taft of mounds,’ the site of some structure at or near mounds. He could not say definitely though that Howatoft actually meant a site marked by natural hillocks, or whether the mounds marked the ruins of previous structures, or whether they were perhaps prehistoric burial cairns, so-called picts-houses.
Lee was the name given to a dwelling, mentioned in the census of 1861 as being somewhere in the vicinity of Langskaill. It was occupied by 79-year-old agricultural labourer John Clouston and his 62-year-old wife Mary. Ten years previously they were living at nearby Claybank, and previous to that they lived at Croulay at Quandale.
Lerquoy was the name of a house in Wasbister built c1600. In 1733 William Yorston was the tenant, and when James Inkster was the tenant in 1840 he paid rent in kind, though by 1843 this had been established at the sum of £5.10.0. In 1847 Lerquoy was added to the farm of Quoys.
Lows House was in the neighbourhood of Feolquoy in Wasbister. It was most probably named after a family of that name, for the name Lowe is on record in Wasbister during the 17th century. In the 1840’s, it was occupied by shoemaker Alexander Marwick and his family. Alexander was paying £4.11.6. rent for Loweshouse and half of Negar at this time. By 1851, the Marwicks had moved to Corse at Frotoft. Loweshouse was then occupied by Alexander Craigie and his wife Ann Murray, and it was not long before they moved into Feolquoy.
Meeran, or Quoymeeran, was an old house below Feolquoy in Wasbister occupied in 1814 by John Mowat.
Negar was an old farm in Wasbister, spelt Niagair in 1633, and Neager in 1657, and was situated on land close to that of Feolquoy. William and Elizabeth Marwick lived at Heatherhall, Wasbister, in the latter part of the 18th century. They had two daughters, Rebekah, who was born in 1797, and Christian, born on July 4th 1799. The family then moved to Negar, and it was there that Elizabeth gave birth to three more children; Alexander, on July 11th 1801, William, on May 17th 1803, and James, who was born on September 7th 1807.
Alexander Marwick married Isabella Gibson, the daughter of David Gibson and his second wife Jean Marwick of Langskaill, on March 6th 1829. Writing less than a dozen years after the Quandale clearance of 1845, Alexander remembered how “in summer the hills swarmed with horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and geese.” The 40 families between the Dyke of Grind, the southern boundary of Westness, and the Lobust, the northern limit of Quandale, owned 70 horses, 220 cattle and between 600 and 700 sheep. “There was more beef and mutton used in Rousay in one year,” he wrote, “than is now used in ten years.”
Roadside, a cottage in Wasbister near the school, was also known as Maybank. In 1861 37-year-old boat builder David Inkster and his family lived there. David, born on September 21st 1823, was the son of James Inkster and Barbara Mainland of Saviskaill. In 1849 he married Janet Gibson, daughter of Hugh Gibson and Janet Craigie of Skatequoy, who was born on September 26th 1826. They had three children; Hugh, born on February 27th 1850, Janet, born in 1863, and Agnes, who was born in 1868.
In 1871 65-year-old Betty Craigie lived at Roadside. She was the daughter of Drummond Craigie and Barbara Murray of Whoam, and she was born on July 29th 1805. Unmarried, she was employed as the island’s letter carrier, and was commonly referred to as ‘Post Betty’.
In 1881 Roadside was occupied by 30-year-old general labourer James Craigie. He was the son of Alexander Craigie and Ann Murray of Falquoy, and was born on July 11th 1850 at Loweshouse. On April 15th 1870 James married Janet Sinclair, daughter of Hugh Sinclair and Isabella Gibson of Stennisgorn, who was born on January 9th 1851. They had seven children: Annabella was born on June 7th 1872 at Falquoy, John, on March 30th 1875 at the Old School, Wasbister, as was Jessie Alexina, on April 25th 1879, Clara, on August 30th 1881, James, on April 13th 1884, and Sarah, on April 30th 1886.The youngest child was Alice who was born on December 10th 1891 at Falquoy.
Seaterquoy, mentioned in 1823 in the Rousay Birth Register, was a Wasbister house, long deserted and demolished, situated above Feolquoy.
Torcabreck was the name of an old house in Wasbister. Mary Flett, the first child of George Flett and Christian Inkster was born there on July 15th 1816. Their other children were born at nearby Hillhouse; Janet, in June 1819, and James, on September 11th 1822.
Toisterburn is the name of another vanished Wasbister house.
Upper Geo was the name of a dwelling in Wasbister. Hugh Craigie, who was born in about 1786, married Christian Gibson on January 22nd 1816 and their first two children were born at Upper Geo; Margaret, on October 15th 1821, and Sally on December 8th 1823. They had four more children who were born at nearby Castlehill; a second Sally, on November 16th 1825, Hugh, on July 12th 1829, Mary, on February 1st 1832, and James, who was born there on January 15th 1837.
Wasbister Field Names. Bregaday, on the north side of the Loch of Wasbister; Conquoy, a field name and also that of a geo on the shore north of Saviskaill; Kuiv at the NW corner of the Loch of Saviskaill; Kunquoy is another field name in this vicinity; Fauld, on the old farm of Stennisgorn; Fidge Meadow, a low-lying tract of ground on the north side of the public road below Vacquoy; Hungry Quoy, near Falquoy; Husen and Husmasay, near Skatequoy; Lamiger, near Skatequoy; The Nine Rigs at Langskaill running down to the shore east of the farmhouse; Owern, at Langskaill next to the Leean; Skooany, above Cogar; Swanaland, at Skatequoy; Flotty and the West Toon, at Langskaill.
Well of Ease was the name given to a fresh-water spring that bubbles up on the beach below Langskaill. Its origin is obscure; it is only a few hundred yards along the beach from the site of the ancient Colm’s Kirk – a ruinous chapel site of Celtic foundation, possibly dedicated to either St Colm of St Columba.
The earliest mention of Vacquoy was from a rental document when it was occupied by Rowland Couper between 1734 and 1737. Moving on to the first official census the house was occupied in 1841 by 30-year-old John Gibson, his wife Barbara Craigie, and children Cecilia (8), Alexander (5) and Mary (1). John was the second son of David Gibson and his second wife Isabel Mainland of Langskaill. Barbara’s parents were Hugh Craigie of Lerquoy, Wasbister, and Sicilia Gibson of Langskaill. She and her twin brother William were born on 27 April 1811 when they were living at Grithin. The census of that year tells us John Gibson was a wright, a skilled workman, especially in constructing items, though normally used together with the trade i.e. wheelwright.
Vacquoy was the inspiration for this painting, Croft, Rousay – 1940s, by Stanley Cursiter. Grateful thanks to Sinclair Robertson for allowing me to reproduce it here.
[Kirkwall-born Cursiter was one of Scotland’s most prolific twentieth-century painters as well as being a writer and curator. He was appointed Director of the National Galleries of Scotland in 1930 and King’s Limner for Scotland in 1948.]
1861, and John was now a farmer of 12 acres of land. Daughter Mary was a dressmaker, Hugh an agricultural labourer, while Anne and Isabella were at school.
John passed away in 1866, leaving Barbara to tend 8 acres of land at Vacquoy, with daughters Mary and Anne still living at home. Oldest son Alexander and his family were now living at Vacquoy too. By this time he was 34 years of age, employed as a joiner, and had married Margaret Learmonth of Westness in 1860. They now had five children: Ann, born in August 1862; Barbara, in August 1864; Maggie, in October 1865; John, in August 1867; and Elsie Clara, born in October 1869. In 1877 Alexander paid £6 to rent Vacquoy and its surrounding 10.2 acres of land.
When the census of 1881 was carried out on April 4 widow Barbara Gibson was described as a sixty-nine-year-old annuitant – the receiver of an annuity. An annuity was income paid to a beneficiary at regular intervals, for a fixed period or ascertainable period (usually the lifetime of a nominee) in return for a lump sum payment having been previously made into the scheme by a subscriber – i.e. a spouse, benefactor or employer.
Barbara’s son Alexander was now described as a joiner employing six men, the census revealing other joiners in Wasbister at the time:- John Sinclair of Stennisgorn, David and Hugh Craigie of Burness, Samuel Russell, a lodger at Innister, and John Kirkness of Grain. It was Alexander who designed and built the Wasbister School which was opened in 1881.
The image above left shows mention of joiner Alexander Gibson in the Rousay, Egilsay & Viera section in the 1878 edition of Peace’s Orkney Almanac. [Note the population figure at that time.] The document to the right, dated January 7th 1884, is in connection with Alexander Gibson’s proposed work on the U.P. Manse, now Brinian House.
Alexander passed away in 1887. His daughter Barbara married John Sinclair of Stennisgorn in 1883 and they lived together at Vacquoy. John’s parents were Hugh Sinclair of Newhouse, later Stennisgorn, and Isabella Gibson of Langskaill. Barbara and John had three children; John, Maggie Jessie, and Hugh Alexander. According to the Rent Roll of 1898 both John Sinclair and Hugh Craigie, who was also the tenant of Turbitail, paid fifteen shillings rent for Vacquoy and its extent of land in Imperial Acres – ten arable.
Later occupants of Vacquoy were the Donaldson family. Blacksmith Alexander Donaldson was the son of Thomas Donaldson and Mary Sabiston of Watten, Egilsay, and he was born in 1887. Alexander, or Sandy as he was known, married Maggie Jessie Inkster, first-born child of John Inkster of Swartifield, Essaquoy, later Woo, and his wife Jane Irvine. Jessie, as she was known, was born in 1895. She and Sandy lived at Lower Blackhammer [Manse] for a while before moving to Vacquoy. They eventually had nine children: John (known as Tottie), Mary Jane, Thomas, Clara, Clementina, William, Elsie, Arthur Irvine, and Margaret.
The photo above, kindly loaned to me by Margaret Gray of Dounby, shows her grandfather Sandy and his wife Jessie, with her half-brother Jimmy Irvine on the right. The children are Tommy, Clara, Jeannie, and John (Tottie), all of whom were born at the Manse before the family moved down to Vacquoy.
Upper Grain, or the Breck o’ Grain, was also known as The Slap. In 1851 it was occupied by Isabella Inkster, widow of John Leonard of Grain, and by that time she was in her 74th year. She earned what money she could by knitting stockings, but she finally passed away in 1865 at the age of 89.
Living at the Breck o’ Grain in 1871 was Isabella Craigie, for which she paid rent of 12s., though over the years this fell gradually to 6s. in 1878/9 and 1s. in 1885. She was known as ‘Bell o’ the Slap’ and had a reputation for being well versed in the black arts of witchcraft and those who crossed her were in danger of having a curse called down upon their heads.
The following story was told to me some years ago by Robert Craigie Marwick, and it was later published in his book In Dreams We Moor:-
The Inkster family who were in Innister at that time, and who were about to flit to Nigley in Evie, had fallen foul of her in some way. On the day of the flitting they were making their way towards Frotoft from where a steam-boat was to convey them and their belongings across to Evie. As they approached the Slap they spied old Bell moving about on the road.
‘She’s crossed the road twice,’ observed Mrs Inkster to her husband. Being a Caithness woman, she knew about such things. ‘That’s no a good sign, I can tell thee,’ she added, shaking her head slowly.
Not a word was exchanged as they drew level with Bell at the side of the road, glowering at them from beneath the black shawl pulled low over her eyes.
‘That wis no a good sign,’ repeated Mrs Inkster. ‘I dread what this day will bring.’ As the boat took them across Eynhallow Sound a sudden, violent storm blew up, making it impossible to land on the Evie shore.
The storm raged all that day and all that night but shortly after daybreak it eased off and the Inksters, along with their stock and all their belongings were safely landed after a terrifying night at sea fearing for their lives. When they arrived up at Nigley they found that every window in the house had been blown in, such had been the violence of the storm. Later, Bell o’ the Slap gloated over what had happened and was heard to claim that if she had crossed the road a third time in the path of the departing Inksters the boat and all aboard would have perished.
In the early 1900s Grain itself was occupied by crofter/fisherman Hugh Marwick, his wife Isabella, and their five children; Hugh, Sarah Ann, Ida, Thomas, and James Gibson. The annual rent for that property was £2 Sterling. Hugh also paid the sum of six shillings for the half-year’s rent for Upper Grain on November 26th 1906.
This is an Ordnance Survey benchmark on a corner-stone at the Slap, and is shown on the OS map of 1903 indicating the height above ‘the assumed Mean Level of the Sea at Kirkwall and Stromness’ to be 292 feet and one inch.
Greysteen was the site of two houses south-west of Deithe, close to the Quandale dyke in Wasbister. John Yorston and his wife Margaret Harrold lived in the original building in the 1730’s. It was spelled Graceton in the Birth Register when their first child William was christened on December 18th 1734. At this time Wasbister was spelt Weybyster, and it was here their second son was christened David on November 9th 1738; and their third child, a daughter, was named Christian, on March 2nd 1744.
Agricultural labourer Henry Craigie and his family were the occupants of Old Greysteen in 1851. Henry’s parents were Hugh and Isabel Craigie of Brough, Westside, and he was born on January 30th 1811. He married 24-year-old Jane Craigie at Innister in 1842 and they had nine children between 1843 and 1862. The three eldest were born when they lived at Mid Quandale; Jane, was born on April 4th 1843; James, on October 20th 1844; and Janet, on December 13th 1847.
At about this time the Craigie family moved to Greysteen, and it was there the other six children were born: Mary, on January 16th 1850, Samuel Seatter, on May 20th 1852, David, on November 12th 1854, Margaret Inkster, on August 24th 1857, Peter, on September 21st 1859, and Neil Patrick Rose on November 23rd 1862.
At New Greysteen, James and Janet Murray were both in their 54th year, and daughter Janet was a 12-year-old scholar. Living with them was Janet’s first daughter Mary Sinclair, who was now an unmarried 25-year-old agricultural labourer – with a one-year-old son James to look after as well. On November 18th 1869 she gave birth to James Robertson, whose father was James Robertson, a servant at Scockness. On October 17th 1872 she had a daughter, Alexina Louttit Sinclair, but who the father was is not on record.
Between 1872/79 James Murray’s rent was 5s. a year. In 1876/77 Henry Craigie paid James’s share of the rent as he was not a fit man. In 1883 James was a pauper and paid no rent. He died in 1885.
In 1883 Mary Sinclair married John Craigie of Blackhammer. They had two daughters, Mary, born on October 26th 1884, and Jemima Janet, born on May 27th 1886.
When she was 32 years old, Alexina Louttit Sinclair had a son James Craigie Inkster Sinclair, born on October 19th 1904, whose father is not on record either. She later married blacksmith David Pearson Inkster and they went to Canada, taking the youngster with them. By then he was known as James Inkster, but he died in 1915.
On December 22nd 1870 James Craigie from Greysteen, who was descended from the Craigies of Brough, married Mary Craigie from Mount Pleasant in Frotoft. James, mentioned in the second paragraph above as being born on October 20th 1844 at Mid Quandale, was the son of Henry and Jane Craigie. His wife Mary was the daughter of William Craigie of Fa’doon, later Mount Pleasant, and Janet Inkster, Pow, and she was born on October 15th 1846. They emigrated to Canada, settling at Goderich, Ontario, on the eastern shore of Lake Huron at the mouth of the Maitland River. It was there they raised a family of ten children: Mary was born in October 1871; James Henry in September 1873; another James Henry in May 1875; Jane Jessie in December 1877; John William in October 1879; Alexina in November 1882; Frederick Thomas in September 1885; Margaret Ann in March 1888; Elizabeth Mabel in July 1889; and Neil Patrick Rose, who was born in February 1893.
James and Mary Craigie, photographed with the younger members of their family in Canada in the early 1890s.
[Picture courtesyof Liz Harmer – whose grandmother Alexina is seated front right]
In the summer of 2004 several Canadian and American descendants from those mentioned above travelled to Rousay to visit the places associated with their ancestors. They are pictured within the ruins of Mount Pleasant [below left] and at Greysteen with the late Robert Craigie Marwick, who was their guide and informant that day.
This is Lower Blackhammer, also called the Manse, on the hill overlooking Wasbister. In 1851 it was occupied by the Louttit family, 72-year-old stonemason Alexander, his wife 55-year-old Janet Craigie, and two of their six children – 28-year-old son Edward, and 15-year-old daughter Betsy, both of whom were employed as agricultural labourers. Edward Louttit was later expelled from Rousay by the laird for taking seagull eggs from the Lobust. He went to live in Stronsay.
The 1871 census tells us Lower Blackhammer was still occupied by Alexander, then 92-years-old and described as a farmer of six acres, and his wife Janet who was then 76. The oldest of their three daughters was Barbara, then 42-years-old and unmarried. She was employed as an agricultural labourer, and her illegitimate 18-year-old son William Louttit, earned money as an apprentice shoemaker. In 1873 the extent of the land at the Manse covered 15.3 acres, for which Barbara paid an annual rent of £1.
By 1891 Alexander and Janet Louttit had passed away, but Barbara still lived there, now 65 years old and described as a ‘small farmer.’ Also at the Manse was 37-year-old washerwoman Margaret Gibson, widow of William Louttit of Maybank near the Wasbister School who passed away in 1884. She was known as Maggie o’ Maybank and they had three children, Maggie Jessie, born in 1877, Isabella, born in 1878, and William, born in 1882. Maggie o’ Maybank died on May 17th 1931 at the age of 79.
In the early 1900s the Manse was occupied by the Donaldson family. Alexander Grieve Donaldson was the son of Thomas Donaldson and Mary Sabiston, Watten, Egilsay, and he was born in 1887. In 1914 he married Maggie Jessie Inkster, daughter of John Alexander Inkster and Jane Irvine, Woo, who was born in 1895. They raised a family of nine children. Second oldest was Mary Jane [known as Jeannie]. She was born in 1917 and left the Manse at the age of twelve when the family moved to Vacquoy.
Her father “Sandy” Donaldson, (Alec to his wife), worked as a blacksmith, first in the smithy below Feolquoy, then at the smiddy close to Quoyostray. They kept cabbage in the plantie-crue – about 50 young plants. Jeannie reminisces about her younger days in Wasbister:-
“The east part of the Manse was the original house, and one of Jeannie’s earliest memories was that it contained hens. At that time it was roofless, but it was later repaired and incorporated with the rest of the house. Jeannie remembered watching from a window at the Manse as Sally of Westness’s wedding procession made its way down the public road and round the Loch of Wasbister.
The children from the Manse went to school via Pig Street. There was a “duckie pond” below the well; the byre had hens in the inner piece and a cow, a calf, and a goat in the outer piece. The shed behind the west side of the house had ashes and hens and was known as the “ashie hoose.”
St Mary’s Church, on the Westside, is by the broch. Jeannie was told that Nelson’s cabin boy came from the Westside and was buried in the churchyard. The school above the bend in the road on the Westside was for the Quandale children only.
Jennie Murray, the “Fat Wifie,” lived in the house between Greysteen and the Manse. She sat in the blacksmith’s place for food when he was late home from work.
No-one lived at Helliatrow (Upper Kirkgate) in Jeannie’s time. Mary Mowatt, an ex-milliner, lived in the Garrett – others lived in Shalter and Everybist. Her nephew (?) was mayor of Johannesburg.
The Sinclairs lived in the Upper House at Blackhammer. There was Sena, who was tall, and Mary, who was fat, and they were sisters. Charlie Logie stayed there as a boy. His father Willie Logie lived at Mount Pleasant and when his wife died Willie went to sea, and it was at this time that Charlie lived with the Sinclairs in the Upper House.
Jock and Mamie Johnston lived in the Lower House, having returned from America (Canada ?). Mamie was a Sinclair before her marriage to Jock. Their daughter May became Mrs Baikie and lived in Kirkwall. May was mannish. Jeannie remembered baby-sitting in Blackhammer and listening to the rain on the metal roof.
Tom Marwick worked at Trumland House but was later sacked. When the Johnstons moved he and his wife Emma moved into the Lower House at Blackhammer. Emma was Ivy Cooper Craigie’s sister, and she and Tom had one daughter called Emma – who died seven or eight years later in the 1920s.
Jean of Kirkgate went off with Tom Marwick on his motorbike, along with a bundle containing money, pension book and a blanket – leaving Howie. Later she came back to him and stayed with him until he died.”
[In 1941 Jeannie married fisherman David Gibson, son of John Gibson of Hullion later Brough, and Margaret Craigie of Turbitail].
Grain was a small croft on the roadside just beyond the entrance to Wasbister from Quandale. John Leonard lived there in the late 1700’s, and in 1802 he married Isabella Inkster, daughter of William Inkster and Mary Bichan. They had four children; John, born in 1802, Mary, in 1810, James, in 1812, and George, in 1816.
In 1841 son James was head of the household at Grain. He was a fisherman and later a seaman in the Merchant Service. He married Cecilia Inkster, daughter of Hugh Inkster and Isabella Craigie of Tou, who was born on October 24th 1810, and between 1842 and 1855 they had six children; John, Ann, Mary, Margaret, Sarah and James.
When the census of 1851 was carried out James was away at sea. Cecilia was occupied with a young family of five children, though she had the company of her widowed mother Isabella, then a 74-year-old pauper, and her widowed mother-in-law, also named Isabella, and also a 74-year-old pauper.
The Leonards later moved a short distance down the road to Quoygray, and by 1871 Grain was occupied by the Kirkness family. James Kirkness, a stonemason, was the son of John Kirkness and Barbara Craigie of Pliverha’, later Quoyostray, and he was born on October 9th 1820. In 1842, he married Grace Craigie, daughter of Hugh and Isabel Craigie of nearby Deithe, who was born on April 20th 1820 at Mid Quandale. They had five children; James, born in 1843, Isabella in 1846, Janet in 1849, Mary in the following year 1850, and John in 1857.
In 1873 the extent of the land at Grain covered 10.9 acres, for which James paid an annual rent of £2.
Like his father, John, born in 1857, was a stonemason. He married Isabella Anne Mainland, daughter of James Mainland and Jean Gibson of Gorehouse, who was born on September 4th 1859. They had two children, John and Mary. John senior built a new house at Grain but died shortly afterwards in 1884.
In 1885 his widow Isabella married crofter/fisherman Hugh Marwick, and they lived at Grain, where they raised a family of five children. Hugh was the son of Hugh Marwick and Mary Inkster of Quoys in Wester, later Whitemeadows, who was born on November 20th 1864. Isabella and Hugh had five children; Hugh, born on August 19th 1886; Sarah Ann, on March 4th 1890; Ida, on June 4th 1894; Thomas, on March 8th 1896; and James Gibson, born on October 28th 1899.
In 1885 Isabella paid £2 10s. rent and £13 7s. was spent on improvements to the property. In 1888 the annual rent on Grain was reduced to £2 by the Crofters Commission, and you’ll see from the document below that rent was the same in 1906 – one pound sterling for a half-year.
Kirkgate is a croft below Blackhammer and east of Deithe in Wasbister, named, no doubt, from its proximity to the old road to the church at Skaill on the Westside and that of Corse kirk, which stood adjacent to where the kirkyard is beside the Loch of Wasbister.
John Leonard, son of John Leonard and Nelly Gibson, was born on January 12th 1831 at Kirkgate. Their second son, Peter, was born on April 7th 1833 at ‘Gateside, Wasbyster’.
In 1851, James Pearson, a 40-year-old fisherman, lived here with his wife Mary Leonard. She was the daughter of John Leonard and Isabella Inkster of Grain, and was born about 1810. They had a family of seven children. The three eldest of these were Mary, 17, Margaret, 15, and John, 12, and they were employed as agricultural labourers. The younger children were christened Isabella, James, Robert, and David.
In 1861 James was earning his living as an agricultural labourer, as was his daughter Margaret. Isabella was now working as a servant with the Craigie family at Claybank, young James was an apprentice joiner, and Robert and David were scholars. By this time Mary had given birth to two more boys, Hugh (7) and William (4). Oldest son John was now a 22-year-old agricultural labourer, and he was living at Kirkgate with his 27-year-old wife Ann and their newborn son John, who was just one month old when the census was taken. According to the Lands Valuation Roll for the year commencing Whitsunday 1865, Kirkgate was called Houlterburn, for which James paid £2 rent.
Mary Louttit, the 42-year-old widow of an agricultural labourer, was living at Upper Kirkgate, alternatively known as Helliatrow, at this time, and she had a visitor, Ann Sabiston, a 23-year-old dressmaker. Mary paid 12s. rent a year for the six-acre site.
In 1871 James Pearson was 63 years of age and working as a quarryman, and his wife Mary was in her 62nd year. James paid an annual rent of £2 10s. to live at Kirkgate, the extent of the land of which now covered 19.5 acres.
Daughter Margaret was married to fisherman James Inkster, and they were living with their four children at Quoys, Sourin. James and Mary’s youngest daughter Isabella had returned to live at Kirkgate and was now 28 years of age and employed as a seamstress. Her 26-year-old brother James was a qualified joiner; 25-year-old Robert was a farm servant and living at The Booth, Westness; Hugh was now 17 years old and working as a farm servant on William Mainland’s farm Onziebust, on the neighbouring island of Egilsay; and William, the youngest, was a 13- year-old scholar. Mary, their mother, died on June 7th 1876 at the age of 66.
By 1881 the only member of the original Pearson family living at Kirkgate was Hugh. Having returned from Egilsay, he was now earning a living as a fisherman, and lived at Kirkgate with his 24-year-old wife Jane Berston Laughton, daughter of Robert Laughton and Jane Berston of South Ronaldsay. By this time Hugh and Jane had three children, James (4), Hugh (2), and 8 month-old Agnes.
In 1886/7 Hugh paid £6 rent for both Upper and Lower Kirkgate and their surrounding land which comprised 7 acres arable and 20 acres pasture. In 1888 Hugh’s rent was reduced by the Crofters’ Commission to £418s 0d.
In the 1891 census Hugh was described as a 37-year-old crofter/fisherman, and by that time Jane had given birth to six more sons; William, Robert, John, David, Alexander, and George.
Above: Hugh and Jane Pearson at Kirkgate, c1925. Below: George Pearson, who emigrated to Canada like his older brother Hugh before him, and his older sister Agnes Calder Laughton Pearson.
On January 31st 1901 Agnes Pearson had a child out of wedlock, born at the Royal Maternity Hospital, St. Giles, Edinburgh. She was christened Mary Jane.
At Kirkgate on August 2nd 1906, Agnes Calder Laughton Pearson was a 26-year-old domestic servant when she married 26-year-old Kirkwall coachdriver William Harrison who lived at 4 Olaf Place. The Rev A. Irvine Pirie officiated, and David Pearson and Mary B. Harrison were witnesses. They lived at 6 Victoria Street, Kirkwall and had two children: Maud, who was born on November 25th 1913, and James Flett, born on November 14th 1916.
James Flett Harrison grew up to be a well-known cobbler and ba’ maker at his shop in the Strynd in Kirkwall. An Uppie, Jim won the men’s New Year’s Day ba’ in 1957.
Mary Jane Pearson was 19 years old when she married David Baikie Marwick in 1920. His parents were David Marwick, Essaquoy, later Quoys, Wasbister, and Ann Leonard, Treblo, and he was born on November 16th 1890. Mary Jane and David had three children; Agnes, David, and Cathie.
[All black and white photos are courtesy of the Tommy Gibson Collection]
Tou was a farm in Wasbister, known at Tow in charters dated 1567, 1624, and 1640, close to Hammerfield and Breckan. Early tenants included Hugh, Thomas, and William Craigie in 1736, Thomas Brand in 1740, and William Wishart in 1798.
In the early 1800s, Tou was occupied by Hugh Inkster and his family. In 1801, he married 20-year-old Isabel Craigie, Corse, and they raised a family of 12 children. Twins Thomas and Hugh were born on July 6th 1801, but Hugh died in infancy. Another Hugh was born in September 1804; Margaret, in August 1805; Jean, in March 1807; Cecilia, in October 1810; Katherine, in November 1813; James, in September 1815; Robert, in August 1818; John, in 1821; Ann, in February 1825; and another Jean, who was born in October 1826.
Paying rent in kind, the tenant of Tou in 1840 was Magnus Clouston. Magnus, born in 1790, married 34-year-old Ann Flaws of Hammerfield in 1819. They lived at Windbreck, Westside, and that was where their first three children were born; Margaret, on October 9th 1820, though she died in infancy; another Margaret, on January 24th 1822; and Betsy, born on December 3rd 1823. They then moved to Tou, where Magnus and John were born on September 14th 1826 and December 19th 1829 respectively.
Magnus Clouston had died by 1851. The census tells us that son Magnus, now 24 years old, was head of the household and farming the surrounding 16 acres of land. The rent at this time was £11 a year. His widowed mother Ann was in her 65th year and sister Betsy was 27, and both employed at home.
Above left is cobbler David Marwick and his wife Betsy Clouston at Tou, c.1880. To the right is Betsy’s brother Mangus [Mansie] Clouston, with Lower Hammerfield in the background, c.1895.
[These two photos, and the one below are courtesy of Orkney Library & Archive]
On March 15th 1861, Magnus married Jane Craigie, the daughter of Henry and Mary Craigie of nearby Quoyostray, who was born when they were living at Quoygray on August 26th 1828. Magnus and Jane had two sons; James, born in 1866, and John in 1869. By this time Magnus’s sister Betsy had married shoemaker David Marwick. He was the youngest son of William Marwick and Ann Craigie of Quoys, later White-meadows in Wasbister, born on September 26th 1830. They lived at Upper Tou and had a daughter, Ann, who was born on October 1856.
Ann was 18 years of age when she married James Inkster Leonard in 1874. He was the son of James Leonard, Grain, later Quoygray, and Cecilia Inkster, Tou, and was born in December 1854. Ann and James raised a family of seven children: David Marwick was born in 1875; James, in 1877; John, in 1879; Archibald McCallum, in 1881; William Rendall, in 1880; Ann Elizabeth, in 1885; and Mary, who was born in 1889.
In 1891 at Upper Tou David Marwick was still making shoes, now in his 60th year. Betsy, his wife was 67, and living with them was their 16-year-old grandson David Marwick Leonard, employed as an apprentice at blacksmith Magnus Kirkness’s smiddy just down the track from Tou and close to Quoygray. Meanwhile Magnus Clouston was paying £15 rent for Tou and its 26.5 acres of land. By then his wife Jane was 62 years old, son James was a 25-year-old fisherman, and younger son John a 22-year-old shoemaker.
John, just mentioned, was 21 years old when he married 19-year-old Maggie Ann Craigie, the first-born of the thirteen children of Magnus Craigie, Falquoy, later Pliverha’, and Helen Cooper, Sound, Egilsay. The ceremony at Tou, on August 18th 1899, was conducted by Rousay Established Church minister Rev. Alexander Spark, and witnessed by John Shearer and Alexander Craigie. Maggie Ann and John had two children: Maggie Jane, born in 1900; and John, who was born in 1902.
On February 26th 1892 John’s brother James married Annabella Craigie, first-born daughter of James Craigie, Falquoy, and Janet Sinclair, Stenisgorn, who was born in June 1872. This ceremony was held at Falquoy and also officiated by the Rev. Alexander Spark, the witness being David Inkster and Robert Sinclair. Annabella and James had two children; Clara Craigie, born in 1892; and James, who was born in 1896. Clara married David Cursiter Moar, Yesnaby, in 1912 and raised a family of five children. In 1925 James Clouston, junior, married Annabella Sinclair, daughter of Robert Sinclair, Stenisgorn, later Sketquoy, and Margaret Flaws, Hammerfield, who was born in August 1903.
Above left: Clara & James Clouston of Tou c.1900. Above right: Young James with his grandfather Mansie. Below: James Clouston and his wife Annabella Craigie with their children Clara and James, c.1906. Right: James and Annabella, again with Clara and James, just prior to him joining up and going to war. c.1916.
Magnus [Mansie] Clouston was 86 years of age when he passed away on March 20th 1913, just over two years after his wife Jane died. In all, Tou was occupied by members of the Clouston family for nearly 200 years.
James Clouston senior was sub-postmaster at Tou, and the photo below shows Tou today, the cluster of buildings towards the centre/right. The Rousay Post Office is to the left, with Lower Hammerfield and Hammerfield above, and Quoygray and Quoyostray below.
All black and white photographs, unless otherwise stated, are courtesy of the Tommy Gibson Collection.
The map is a section from the Ordnance Survey 25 inch to the mile, 1st edition, Survey date: 1879, Publication date: 1880 [Edited and enhanced for clarity] ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’
Hammerfield was the name of a farm on the face of the hill above Wasbister, built in 1789. The earliest recorded tenant was John Flaws, who married Isabel Alexander on November 15th 1799. They had two sons; James, christened on August 17th 1800, and William, who was christened on March 21st 1802.
In 1841 Hammerfield was occupied by farmer James Flaws and his family. He married Isabel Gibson on December 29th 1826. She was the daughter of James Gibson and Katherine Inkster of nearby Stennisgorn, born on March 29th 1803. They had six children; James was born on February 27th 1828, John, on February 26th 1829, William, in 1839, David, in 1841, Magnus, in 1843, and Margaret, in 1847.
The 1851 census records the fact that young James was a 23-year-old seaman, his 21-year-old brother John was described as being ‘an idiot,’ and William was a scholar. The annual rent for Hammerfield was £5. Also living at Hammerfield at this time was Margaret Craigie, an 80-year-old widowed pauper.
In the census of 1861, the widow Craigie’s age was given as 97. James Flaws was now 62 years of age, and farming 16 acres of land, for which the annual rent was now fixed at £5 15s 0d. Isabella was in her 60th year, son John was now described as an unmarried 33-year-old pauper, and his sister Margaret was a 14-year-old scholar. James and Isabella’s son David now lived at Upper Hammerfield with his newly married wife Margaret Louttit, the daughter of Alexander Louttit and Janet Craigie of Lower Blackhammer, who was born on April 7th 1830.
The 1871 census reveals a great deal more about the Flaws family. James was then in his 71st year and was farming 17 acres of land at Hammerfield, and his wife Isabella was now 65. Son John was 41-years-old and then described as an imbecile, and daughter Margaret was an unmarried 24-year-old. Living with them was Isabella’s widowed sister Margaret Holland, who was a 73-year-old annuitant and blind.
Eldest son David, a fisherman, and his wife Margaret now had three children; Williamina, born in 1863, but died in childhood; David, born in 1865, who later drowned in Egilsay Sound; and James, who was born in 1868.
David’s younger brother Magnus and his family also lived at Hammerfield. He earned his living as a boot and shoemaker, and had married Anne Scott of Birsay on February 4th 1869. At this time they had one daughter, Annabina, who was born in 1870.
The picture above, taken in 1880, shows another Wasbister shoemaker David Marwick and his wife Bettie who lived at Tou. He was the youngest son of William Marwick and Ann Craigie of Quoys, later Whitemeadows, born on September 26th 1830.
James Flaws died sometime before 1881, for the census of that date reveals that his widow Isabella, now in her 78th year, was head of the household and farming 20 acres of land at Hammerfield. Son John was now a 51-year-old pauper, and unmarried 30-year-old daughter Margaret was a farm labourer. Isabella’s 84-year-old sister Margaret was still lodging with them.
David and Margaret Flaws had a welcome addition to their family, since the deaths of Williamina and David – a daughter Margaret, born in 1872.
Magnus was now working not only as a shoemaker but as a grocer as well. His wife Anne had given birth to a daughter, Jemima, on September 12th 1871, but she died. Another daughter, Isabella, was born on June 10th 1873.
By 1891 at Hammerfield, Isabella and her sister Margaret had passed away, and there was no mention of the whereabouts of son John. Daughter Margaret lived alone, and was described in the census as a hire-woman. She died in 1928 at the age of 81.
Magnus and Ann had earlier moved to Rusness on the neighbouring island of Wyre, where another two children were born; James in 1884, and Magnus Flett on December 29th 1886.
Farmer/fisherman David Flaws was now 55 years old, and his wife Margaret was 59. Their daughter Margaret had left home and married Robert Sinclair of Skatequoy, and son James was now 22 years old.
In 1884 David was paying £7 rent for Hammerfield and its 15 acres arable and 4 acres of pasture land. In 1888 he paid a lesser sum of £6 12s 0d this having been fixed by Crofters Commission, though he renounced being a crofter according to the laird writing in his rent book.
David and Margaret’s son James later became head of the household at Hammerfield. He was a stonemason, and he married Mary Catherine Craigie Marwick, the daughter of William Marwick and Janet Craigie of nearby Furse, who was born on June 15th 1871. They had five children; Arthur; James; David, born on 17 March 1897; William, born in 1903; and Maggie Jessie, born in 1904.
James, father of the two lads in the picture above, worked the sixteen acres of land at Hammerfield, and in 1906 he was paying £3. 10s. as payment for the Half-Year’s Rent on the farm. He was also the tenant of nearby New Greystone, for which he paid eight shillings rent for the same period.
The following information comes from a statement made by Mary Flaws, with the assistance of a solicitor, concerning the payment of Separation Allowance, her son David having been called up for Army service in March 1916.
This statement, covering three sides of foolscap, was found within the effects of the Flaws family at Hammerfield.
In about 1910, David was serving his apprenticeship as an assistant draper with Mr. Thomas T. Smith of Kirkwall, and his wage was five shillings a week. During this apprenticeship his father James supplied him weekly with food off the farm, consisting of potatoes, turnips, meal, bread, butter, eggs, and meat such as fowl, a rabbit or a piece of pork, according to whatever James and his wife Mary had at the time.
All the time David was in Kirkwall he sent his clothes home to be washed and mended, which his mother Mary did for him. With all the food which his father sent him weekly he was able, during his apprenticeship, to live in town and pay for his own lodgings and any other necessaries he required. He finished his apprenticeship in October 1915, and Mr. Smith then raised his wages to fifteen shillings a week.
He continued to lodge with a Mrs. Yorston in Victoria Street, and the usual basket of food was sent in to him weekly. David came home to Hammerfield for the New Year of 1916, and when home he gave his mother £4. 10s., which he had saved for her out of his wages.
Mary Flaws stated that Hammerfield at that time was a poor croft, housing a family of five, and, while all the children were at home they had to live very plainly and had to do without many things they would have liked and which their better off neighbours were having.
David was called up for the Army in March 1916. He told his mother he intended to send her five shillings a week out of his Army pay, but having travelled south and joined the Army he was told that the maximum he could send home was three shillings and sixpence.
Mary was sent a form in connection with an application David had made for Separation Allowance of ten shillings a week for his mother, as she was losing what he would have paid her had he remained in Mr. Smith’s employment. The form had to be filled in and signed in the presence of Mr. David Gibson, J.P., and it was returned to Perth.
Some time afterwards the Pension Officer called at Hammerfield, when Mary was at home alone. He had been sent to make enquiries regarding the application for the Allowance and she answered his questions to the best of her ability; but she was upset by his bullying manner and his suggestion that she would be prosecuted for filling up the form she had sent to Perth.
He noted the things that David had been in the habit of getting from home when working in Kirkwall, and he estimated their value on the prices that they would have cost him if he had bought them from shops in Kirkwall. He made them out to be something like seven shillings a week, and argued that as she was getting an allotment of three shillings and sixpence she was not losing anything by David being away and was consequently not entitled to any Separation Allowance.
Mary estimated the value of the weekly basket to be more like two shillings. In the application for the Allowance she stated that she was dependant on David to the extent of ten shillings a week, as that was what he was giving her when he was taken away. The statement ended with Mary saying that she knew a number of people in Orkney who were much better off than she was, and who were getting Separation Allowance on account of their sons being called up.
On March 30th 1917, Mary wrote a letter to David, a private in No. 4 Platoon A Company of the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, who was by that time serving with the Expeditionary Force in the trenches in France. In it she told him that their case had been dropped earlier, but she was now getting Separation Allowance, backdated to the time he originally applied for it. The letter ended as follows:-
“……I will have to draw to a close now with our united love, and may the Almighty be with you and all who are in danger, and bring a sudden end to this terrible war.”
David never received the letter – he was killed in action on April 11th 1917.
Click here > Davie Flaws < to access a special page devoted to him.
James Flaws died at Hammerfield on 5th July 1935, aged 67 years. His wife Mary died on February 2nd 1952, at the age of 80.
James, father of the two lads in the picture above, worked the sixteen acres of land at Hammerfield, and in 1906 he was paying £3. 10s. as payment for the Half-Year’s Rent on the farm. He was also the tenant of nearby New Greystone, for which he paid eight shillings rent for the same period.
In 1938, James and Mary’s son William, then 35 years old, married Mabel Sinclair, the daughter of Thomas Sinclair and Mary Inkster of Banks, Frotoft, who was christened Mary Isabel in 1910. They were the last of the Flaws family to occupy Hammerfield. Bill was 78 years old when he died in 1981. Mabel died in 1995, at the age of 85.