In Print

Newsprint 1863 – 1864

1863 January 3 The Orcadian

THE LATE TERRIFFIC GALES. – As communication opens between the North Isles and other parts of Orkney, news of the most appalling and distressing character come dropping in daily of the sweeping effect all over our islands, both by land and sea, of the two disastrous gales of the 18th, 19th, and 20th, and also of the 25th and 26th ult. [December] In South Ronaldsay a very large number of boats were completely destroyed, entailing a heavy loss on the fishermen. So violent was the storm that, in the South Parish, ancient garden walls, some of the stones of which weighed nearly two tons, and had stood for centuries, were levelled. At the same place – at the house of Brough – a wall, six feet high, built 20 years ago, was thrown down, and the sea, having entered the barn, destroyed a large quantity of grain. A quantity of grain was destroyed at Burwick. Several boats rode under, and the large mail boat at Weddel, Burray, was smashed. At Evie, Rousay, Sanday, Westray, and indeed almost every island of the whole group, a large number of boats have been damaged or lost…..From all parts of the county intelligence reaches us of roofless houses, windows blown in, stacks blown over, and the sheaves scattered in the fields…..The Rousay packet “Brothers” was blown from her anchorage on the west side of the island on Friday the 19th, and became a total wreck. A large amount of goods was on board and destroyed. A servant girl, who went home with the packet to be married, lost her marriage outfit, chest, and other articles of clothing, &c. Some of the articles have since come on shore…..

NEW YEAR’S DAY IN KIRKWALL. – Thursday, the first day of January, 1863, was ushered in by the usual hilarity of first-footing. Crowds of noisy and joyous youths paraded the streets during the early morn, which was beautiful moonlight. There were no improprieties charged against any one, and the silent hours passed off with comparative quiet and order. The day as it lighted up gave promise of being fine, and numbers were induced to take a jaunt to friends in the country, and otherwise to enjoy a fine winter day walk, of which, we are glad to say, they were not disappointed.

The principal event of the day, as a matter-of-course, was the game of “football.” About half-past twelve o’clock people from all parts of the town began to assemble on the Broad Street; but the attendance was considerably less than on previous years – a sign, we think, of an improved and healthy feeling in regard to this custom. At one o’clock a pistol shot gave the signal for action The ball was then thrown up, and the combatants, many of whom were accoutred for the occasion, began the tug of war. For an hour and ten minutes crush succeeded rush, the coveted object of both parties being that the ball might be earned either up Victoria Street on the one hand, or down Albert Street to the shore on the other At ten minutes pest two the ball was triumphantly borne down Albert Street, along Shore Street, and at length thrown into the harbour, the champions of “down the gate” finding little opposition after the ball had left Broad Street. During the melee shirts, caps, and other articles of clothing were thing about the streets. The roads, owing to the late rains were exceedingly muddy, and as knockdown blows were neither few nor far between, the appearance of many engaged in the struggle may easily be imagined. It was evident that those who went most respectable into the affray came least respectable out of it; while the used-up and patched-up appearance of some of the “brave boys” gave sad signs of the hard and sanguinary nature of the struggle. It was no small relief when the end came. We are far from discouraging anything tending to promote a healthy or a vigorous enjoyment among our young men, neither do we wish to interfere with ancient customs, where interference can be avoided, but we submit that the exhibition on New Year’s Day, in the game of “football” – where at times, when sparring room could be obtained, the spectators were treated to a “scene” from the prize ring – was certainly not only productive of no good, but of much positive evil, and we can only hope that the good sense of all parties may see it to be their duty next year to find amusements of a more manly and at the same time more genial description.

1863 January 17 The Orcadian

We are in the enjoyment of moderate winter weather, with occasional showers of rain. There is no appearance as yet of snow, and we have had very little frost. The weather is favourable for ploughing. It will be seen, from our advertising columns, that ploughing matches are advertised to take place shortly. Trade continues dull. Cattle still continues low in price – no demand for fat stock.

1863 January 31 The Orcadian

THE WEATHER. – Our remote island home continues to be ravaged by storms. High winds have prevailed during the week, with heavy showers and occasional sunshine. The steamer “Queen” arrived from Aberdeen on Saturday, but did not return from Lerwick till Tuesday night about 9 p.m., and sailed the same night. The gale continued strong from the west until Thursday, and fears are entertained for the shipping on the coast. The shipping at Long Hope, Walls, for this season has been considerably under that of former years, indicating that fewer vessels have been on our island cost. Friday moderate – wind S.W.

1863 February 17 Orkney Herald

THE WEATHER. – The weather, which had continued stormy throughout the greater part of last week, underwent a pleasant change for the better on Friday. That day in fact was remarkably beautiful. The “south wind blew softly” and balmily, and wafted abroad the first breathings of Spring. Skylarks, fondly imagining that winter was past, and that the “time of the singing of birds had come,” made the best of the sunny hours, and carolled the natal songs of a new season. The air, purified by the recent stormy weather, was remarkably pure. Seen from elevated spots, there was a summer aspect about the Islands reposing on the calm blue waters. Ploughmen were all afield, striving to make the best of the shining hours. Saturday, Sunday, and yesterday were likewise fine, clear, Spring-like days.

1863 March 17 Orkney Herald

ON THURSDAY NIGHT last some boys had set fire to the heather on the Rousay hills, and the conflagration soon spread to such an extent that it seemed as if the Island were about to be burned to the water’s edge. This bonfire certainly excelled all the Orkney burnings of the previous week in honour of the Marriage Celebration.

[The marriage of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and Princess Alexandra of Denmark took place in St George’s Chapel, Windsor on March 10th.]

1863 May 12 Orkney Herald

DURING the last week there was fine summer weather, and farmers had full opportunity for making up their leeway, and for vigorously prosecuting agricultural operations. A large quantity of seed was cast into the ground last week. The season until a few days ago had been very unfavourable for lambing, and the more genial weather has been hailed with satisfaction by those who rear sheep on their farms.

1863 May 26 Orkney Herald

THIS WEEK set in dry after a large tract of wet weather, but the air is still cold, and not very summer-like. Most people have got their peats cut. Oat-sowing is over for the season, and farmers are now busy planting potatoes, and sowing bere. That unwelcome visitor, the grub, has again made its appearance on some farms.

GAME has considerably increased in this Island during the past few years. This is chiefly attributable to the appointment of a gamekeeper who, though the protector of game, is the inveterate enemy of hawks and other pests.

THERE ARE several boats engaged in the lobster fishing at present, some using nets and others creels, but without any great success. We have only two large boats at the cod-fishing this year.

1863 June 9 Orkney Herald

MR ROSE OF ROUSAY’S SERMON IN THE ASSEMBLY HALL. – Mr [Neil Patrick] Rose of Rousay, who preached in the Free Assembly Hall on Sunday week, took for his text Heb ix, 24. The Daily Review has the following on the subject: – “Mr Rose, who, in our Ultima Thule, is not, perhaps, so well known to the Church as Mr Robertson, preached a most admirable discourse. The people of Rousay may consider themselves very much favoured in having such a man for their minister, if only they can manage to keep him always to themselves.”

1863 June 16 Orkney Herald

THE WEATHER for the past two weeks has been fine. The frequent mild showers and warm sunshine have tended very much to advance the crops. On account of the rough, disagreeable weather in winter and spring, the grass does not look well; and though farmers are forced to put their cattle out, the food in many cases is very scant. Turnip sowing has commenced, and will be general in a few days.

DURING the past few years large tracts of waste land have been brought under the plough, but the tenants of such farms are in general much disheartened, as their efforts to make a living have proved almost a failure, chiefly owing to an exceedingly bad subsoil. After the rent is paid – which, in general, has as yet been done pretty regularly – there is little or nothing left to the tenant, and some contemplate emigrating.

COLDS have for some time been very prevalent both here and in the neighbouring islands of Egilshay and Weir.

THE U.P. MANSE is at present undergoing repairs, during which operations the Rev. Mr McLellan and family are occupying Howan House, Egilshay, the use of which has been kindly granted by the excellent proprietor, James Baikie, Esq. of Tankerness.

NOTWITHSTANDING the fact of Mr McLellan residing in a neighbouring island, he still continues his custom of preaching in the different districts of the congregation every Sabbath evening.

1863 June 23 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY. – THIS ISLAND is at present, and has been for some months past, infested with tinkers, some of whom are like to frighten poor old women out of their senses. Terror compels many to minister to their demands.

THE BOATS engaged in cod-fishing have not been so successful this week as they were last week. The highest take of which I have heard this week is little more than a ton, whereas last week one boat had as many as two tons and a half.

LOBSTER FISHERS have done well this week, I am told; but they do not give information freely regarding the number caught each night.

1863 July 7 The Orcadian

EGILSHAY – Friday. – Our crops in general are not looking so well this season as in former years. Comparing the crops of the previous three or four years with the present, we regret to say that this year’s appearance is considerably below the average. The soil throughout the island being so very wet, as soon as the drought set in, the surface became hard and baked, and in consequence the bere and oats are keeping very backward. If we are not favoured with a shower soon, our grain crops will be both short and thin. The wettest ground is now suffering most by this continued drought. The turnip crop is looking very poorly, and several pieces have been sown a second time. The potato crop looks vigorous, and is well forward in general. The crops round St Magnus Church are, as usual, the best in the island, and those on the farms of Minnies and Oniebuist rank first.

[Minnies, or Meanis, was farmed at this time by 66-year-old Hugh Bews and his 38-year-old son, also named Hugh. 74-year-old farmer Thomas Gibson and his sons John and James worked the land of Onzibist.]

1863 August 25 The Orcadian

ORKNEYMEN ABROAD. – It gives us much pleasure to take notice from time to time of the creditable effects of our countrymen abroad to better their own condition and benefit their fellow men. By a private letter received last week from an Orcadian in New Zealand, we are informed that Mr James Harrold, a native of Rousay, we believe, has started a fishery on Stewart’s Island, in that remote colony, which offers to be quite successful. He lately brought to Dunedin 300 cases of cured fish, 50 lbs. each, the finest sample ever seen in New Zealand. Quantities are also sent to the Melbourne market, and meet a ready sale. The writer further states that since the discovery of the gold mines, a strong impetus has been given to labour of all kinds. The city of Dunedin has been greatly enlarged, and now covers an area of ground of upwards of two miles. In another letter from an Orcadian in Vancouver’s Island we are informed that the ‘take’ of gold there is quite unprecedented – large bags of gold dust are being carried along the streets upon poles resting on men’s shoulders, and every morning when the steamers arrive, hundreds of the inhabitants run out to see parties arriving with their gold bars. All hands are going to the mines this year, leaving their families, homes, and business.

1863 September 1 Orkney Herald

THE 93D HIGHLANDERS AND MAJOR BURROUGHS. – The following letter, in reference to the losses sustained by this fine regiment, has been addressed by the Commander-in-Chief of the forces in India to the officer commanding the regiment. Major Burroughs, who commands, is well known in Orkney as the proprietor of Rousay and Viera: –

“Regimental orders. – Sealkote, 21st May. – The following letter is published for general information: – “Adjutant-General’s Office, Head-Quarters, Simla, 11th May 1863.

Sir, – I have the honour of submitting to his Excellency the Commander-in-Chief your confidential report of your inspection of the 93d Sutherland Highlanders, for the second period of 1862, in the general observations attached to which you gave a short account of the regiment for the few months preceding your inspection, during which it suffered very severely from repeated attacks of cholera. His Excellency perused your report with very great interest. The Commander-in Chief sympathises deeply with the regiment in the loss they have sustained in the late Major Middleton, an officer for whom his Excellency had personally a great regard, and of whose ability as a commanding officer he had a very high opinion. His Excellency also regrets extremely the deaths of Lieut.-Colonel Macdonald, Ensign Drysdale, and Assistant-Surgeon Hope. It is most gratifying to the Commander-in-Chief to learn that the conduct of all ranks throughout the trying season was so admirable, and that, notwithstanding the adverse influences of cholera and fever, the drill and discipline of the 93d Highlanders did not suffer in any way, a state of things which reflects the greatest credit on Major Burroughs, the officers, and non-commissioned officers and men of this very distinguished regiment, in whose welfare his Excellency takes the greatest interest. His Excellency has had great pleasure in making known to his Royal Highness the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief the excellent conduct of the regiment, and his very favourable opinion of it; and he has also made special mention of the devotion, ability, and excellent service of Dr Munro, not forgetting the valuable assistance he derived from his subordinates. – Signed, HENRY TORRENS, Adjutant-General; GEORGE ROE FENWICK, Captain, Acting-Adjutant, 93d Highlanders. – To Brigadier-General Haly, C.B., Commanding Peshawur Division.”

1863 September 22 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY. – THE HARVEST has scarcely yet begun on this island. A few parties certainly have commenced, but cutting will not be general before next week. The crop, however, looks well, and it is hoped will be average.

THE HERRING FISHING is now over, and the boats from this island have succeeded pretty well.

A Large subterranean building was discovered some time ago on the ground of Faraclett, but little further than its mere existence has yet been ascertained. The entrance was made through the roof, and the apartment entered in this way is circular and about 10 feet high. In all probability there are similar chambers communicating with this one, but they have not yet been explored.

1863 December 1 Orkney Herald

To a good hand liberal wages will be given.
For further particulars apply either, personally,
or by letter to WILLIAM LOGIE, Boot and
Shoemaker, Sourin, Rousay.

[Widower William Logie lived with his young son John at Lee,
between Digro and Blossom].

HANDS WANTED FOR THE HUDSON’S BAY COMPANY. – From an advertisement in our columns, it will be observed that a number of young men are wanted for the Hudson’s Bay Company as labourers, boat builders, and blacksmiths. This seems an excellent opening for young men of good character.

1863 December 1 The Orcadian

ROUSAY. – The article on fellowship meetings which appeared in the columns of the Orcadian a week or two ago, was exceedingly liked in this quarter. Such matters, at least occasionally, cannot fail to impress and do good. We are glad to be able to say that we have a young men’s Sabbath morning fellowship meeting – one of the fruits of the late Revival still remaining. Several of the members have gone to distant lands full of promise.

Thursday the 19th November was held as a day of thanksgiving for the harvest in the U.P. and Free Churches here. In the Free Church the Rev. Mr Rose preached an able sermon, from Psalms LXXXV. 12 “Yea the Lord shall give that which is good, and our land shall yield her increase.”….. – A collection was made for the debt still remaining on this church, amounting to the handsome sum of £4 11s 7d, which very nearly cleared it all off.

1863 December 8 Orkney Herald

STORM PREDICTED THIS WEEK. – Inglis’ Tide Tables for 1864 (Inglis, 28, Quay, Aberdeen), contain a prediction by Mr S. M. Saxby, of a storm likely to occur this week. The intimation is as follows: – “Mr Saxby strongly warns against a probably terrific hurricane ‘twixt the 10th and 13th of December, and an extraordinary high tide on the 12th. If the wind be northerly and easterly, the storm will prove exceedingly disastrous to the whole east coast. Fishermen, and others interested, are warned to watch the tides from the 10th, and to prepare for the tide of the 12th.”

1863 December 15 Orkney Herald

STORMY WEATHER. – For several days at the beginning of last week the weather was very stormy, with the wind – laden with rain and hail – coming in sudden and sweeping gusts, but we were not visited with a hurricane at all comparable to that which, at the close of the preceding week, raged along the English coast, causing a great destruction of life and property. The sea, however, around the Orkney shores, was very wild. The Queen steamer did not return from Shetland to Kirkwall until Friday morning. She had previously tried the passage, but was compelled to return to Lerwick. There were high tides here at the close of the week.

1863 December 22 Orkney Herald

SEVERE GALE. – On Wednesday we were visited with a severe gale which increased in force after nightfall, and blew with great violence on to an early hour on Thursday morning. The wind blew in strong, sweeping gusts characteristic of sea-born gales. These gusts were frequently accompanied with drenching streams of rain. Locomotion on land was difficult, and it must have been a wild night on sea, although no casualties, so far as we know, have been reported in this quarter. Thursday was a fine bracing day, with a frosty air, but rain again fell copiously throughout the greater part of Friday.

DURING the past week 168 wrecks have been reported, making a total for the present year of 2487.

1863 December 29 The Orcadian

From the John o’ Groat Journal. – RUMOURS of the wreck of a large passenger ship somewhere near the Orkneys have been current here this week. The story was brought from Orkney by some travellers who passed through here by mail [coach & horses], and is detailed with great circumstantiality. It is asserted that a large number of dead bodies have been found in a cave. – (We are happy to be able to state that the above was only a mere rumour. It was quite current here for some days that a catastrophe similar to that pictured above had occurred somewhere near Rousay, but people we have since seen from that quarter stated that it was only after they came to town that they heard of anything of the kind, and that, so far as they were aware, there was no foundation for such a report).

1864 January 12 Orkney Herald

HEATHER BURNING. – During the past week the hills of Rousay and the slopes of Rendall presented a picturesque appearance after nightfall, as seen across the [Kirkwall] Bay, by the burning of the heather – a common process at this season of the year. The fire illuminations were certainly superior to anything of the kind we had on the eventful 10th of March.

1864 February 2 The Orcadian

PRODUCTION OF KELP. – It will be good news to landlords along the coast, and the poor people who earn a subsistence by gathering and burning sea-weed, to hear that the price of iodine has again advanced from five shillings per pound to eight shillings per pound; and kelp will, therefore, no doubt be in much better demand during the ensuing season, and bring considerably higher prices than it has done for many years past.

[A number of folk in Wasbister were active in the harvesting of drift seaweed, the sandy shore of Saviskaill Bay being the location for this industry.]

1864 February 23 Orkney Herald

THE WEATHER. – After the severe storm of Saturday week the weather continued open, with occasional showers of snow, till Saturday night, when we had a heavy fall of snow, which continued at intervals till Monday, when it reached a depth of from four to five inches. The best feature of the change has been the complete cessation of boisterous winds by which we had been visited for some time previous. Sabbath night was brilliant and frosty, and yesterday there was strong sunshine.

COAL-FAMINE IN KIRKWALL. – It is three weeks since we mentioned the fact that there was a dearth of coals in Kirkwall. No vessel, with that indispensable mineral, has since arrived, and here we are, with snow on the ground and sharp frost in the air, reduced to an almost fireless condition. Coals cannot be had either for love or money, and some poor people are  suffering much from the want of them. With snow on the ground even peats cannot be easily obtained, and so the town is at present, through sheer want of management on the part of owners of trading vessels, in a more wretched condition than any other town of similar dimensions in Britain. In some parts of the country indignation meetings would have been held before now.

SNOW-STORM. –  On Saturday night and Sabbath morning, after the setting-in of a pretty hard frost, there was a heavy fall of snow, which covered the ground to the depth of five or six inches. Occasional showers fell during Sunday, and early on Monday morning the fleecy robe of the earth was thickened still more. On Sunday the streets of the town looked cleaner and fresher than they could possibly be made by the united wisdom of the Commissioners of Police and the Road Trust. In some places where there had been a drift the snow lay to the depth of a foot.

1864 March 1 Orkney Herald

THE WEATHER. – The weather last week was such as has not been enjoyed in Orkney in the month of February for a long series of winters. There was hard frost at nights which served as a pickle to preserve the snow, and the days were calm, bracing, and beautiful with sunshine. The appearance of the sky on several evenings, before and after sunset, was remarkably fine – the most delicate green, saffron, and blue tints running into each other with lovely gradations of colour. The colours of the sky seemed to gather new beauty from the contrasted whiteness of the hills and landscapes below. Thaw set in on Saturday; on Sabbath the snow had disappeared; and February terminated yesterday in rain and gloom.

1864 March 8 The Orcadian

DEATHS…..At Whitemeadows, Rousay, on the 29th ult., George Sabiston, drainer, aged 35 years.

ROUSAY. 1st March. – As will be seen from our obituary list, George Sabiston died here yesterday from fever, which has been raging in his family for a considerable time past. The deceased was an honest man, but very poor, and now he leaves behind him a widow and seven children, the oldest of whom is only 10 years and the youngest 10 months, and four of them cannot walk; they will thus be thrown upon the world without any means of support. Grateful thanks are tendered to Mr George Scarth, Inspector of the Parochial Board, and to the public generally, for their kind attention to their wants during the time of their trouble, and it is further hoped that they will not now forsake them – “Him that giveth to the poor laudeth to the Lord.”

[George was born on May 16th 1829. On July 30th 1852 he married Barbara Harrold, daughter of William Harrold and Elizabeth Grieve, Hammermugly [Blossom], who was born in November 1824. They had seven children: Margaret, born in September 1854; Mary, in February 1855; James, in September 1856; John, in March 1858; William Harrold, in November 1859; David, in July 1861; and Alexander, who was born in April 1863. – William was seven years old and Alexander just 4 when they died of diphtheria within two weeks of each other in the summer of 1867.]

1864 March 15 The Orcadian

SNOW-STORM AND STRONG GALE OF WIND. – On the night of Tuesday and the morning of Wednesday last, a very heavy fall of snow took place in the West Mainland; at Stromness, on Wednesday, we believe, the fall was fully six inches. There was little or none on this side. Wednesday was a lovely day, hard frost and scarcely a breath of wind to ruffle the water; but at night we had a pretty heavy fall of snow. Upon Thursday the weather was again more broken, the wind blowing fresh from the south. Friday morning came in with light southerly winds, which continued, with occasional showers of snow, until about seven o’clock in the evening, when, without the slightest warning the wind chopped round to north-west, and blew a perfect hurricane with close sleet, lasting until nearly daylight on Saturday morning. Some of our small fishing boats had very narrow escapes, but we are happy to state that they all got safely into harbours, one being obliged to run to Rousay for shelter. Saturday blew strong all day from north to north-west with sleet, and on Sunday we had a close snow from the south-east until the afternoon, when it turned into pouring rain, rendering the streets a perfect mire of ankle-deep slush, a most uncomfortable state of matters for the people returning from church. The wind in the evening veered round to the west, and blew very strong. Yesterday the wind was north, blowing fresh, and all the snow had disappeared except on the tops of the hills.

1864 March 29 The Orcadian

SCHOOL EXAMINATIONS….. ROUSAY FREE CHURCH SCHOOL. – This school was examined on Tuesday 22nd inst., by the Rev. Mr [Neil Patrick] Rose, in presence of a large assemblage of parents and others, among whom we observed Mrs [Mary] Rose; Mr Hugh Sinclair, Stennisgorn; William Craigie, sen., Cogar; Mrs [Eliza] Inkster, Innister; Mrs [Janet] Inkster. Roadside [Maybank], &c., &c. The appearance made by the scholars reflected the highest credit on Mr Bruce, their industrious and pains-taking teacher. Besides the usual branches, there were Latin and mathematics, and the pupils professing these acquitted themselves to the entire satisfaction of the examiner. The accuracy and readiness wherewith the pupils in the various branches answered the searching questions put to them, proved the skill and success of their teacher. After a thorough and sifting examination, Mr Rose, in a brief address at the close, expressed himself as highly satisfied with the general progress made during the year. There was a keen competition for the Dymock Prize Bible, which was conducted for writing. The successful candidate was Frederick Kirkness, Quoyostray. In addition to the Dymock prize other prizes were awarded, as follows:-

Scripture Knowledge – 1st Frederick Kirkness, Quoyostray; 2d, Mary Kirkness, Quoygray. Highest English – Boys – William Craigie, Cogar. Girls – Mary Sabiston [Whitemeadows]. 5th English Class – William Louttit [Lower Blackhammer]. 4th English Class – John Inkster, Quoygray. 3d English Class – David Inkster [Pliverha’]. Spelling – Boys – William Craigie, Cogar. Girls – 1st. Mary Sabiston [Whitemeadows]; 2d. Janet Sinclair [Stenisgorn]. Grammar – Boys – John Inkster [Quoygray]. Girls – Mary Sabiston [Whitemeadows]. Geography – Hugh Inkster, Roadside [Maybank]. Senior Arithmetic – Boys – John Inkster [Quoygray]. Girls – Janet Sinclair [Stenisgorn]. Junior Arithmetic – Ann Craigie, Turbitail. Mental Arithmetic – Boys – William Craigie [Cogar]. Girls – Ann Craigie [Turbitail]. Mathematics – William Craigie, Cogar. Latin – 1st, William Craigie [Cogar]; 2d. Frederick Kirkness [Quoyostray]. Writing – Boys – John Inkster [Quoygray]. Girls – Janet Sinclair [Stenisgorn]. Progress – Elizabeth Craigie [Cogar]. Regular Attendance – Ann Marwick [Upper Tou]. Good Conduct – John Gibson [Langskaill].

1864 July 12 The Orcadian

ROUSAY – 4th July. – Our fishermen are commencing to fit out their boats in preparation for the herring fishing, and, probably in consequence of the success of last year, they have added two new boats to the fleet of the stamp familiarly known as the “firthies.” Crops promise exceeding well, particularly in Wasbister. Potatoes show a very healthy appearance and are well advanced on good light soil. Turnips also have come up remarkably well. We hear of no complaints. Cattle are in great demand; scarcely a week passes without a visit from one or more dealers, and excellent prices are given.

1864 July 26 The Orcadian

ROUSAY – 19th July, NARROW ESCAPE. – Some weeks ago a calf belonging to Mr Robert Gibson, Bigland, broke from its place of confinement and got out, where it seemed to enjoy its liberty by running to and fro; it at last took for an adjoining crag, being closely pursued by its owners. It ran to a precipice or crag, called the Blue Geos, where it halted a little, still followed by its pursuers. It then stumbled and fell over a height of at least 120 (some say 150) feet into the sea, from whence it swimmed a considerable distance into Garsnegoe, where its owners went down with ropes and hoisted it up, nothing hurt. It then ran home before them, seeming to have enjoyed its race and bathe.

CROPS in general are looking very well here, and there is now every prospect of an early and abundant harvest. Turnip thinning, pest carting, and starting for the herring fishing are now the order of the day. The lobster fishing has done pretty well here this season. The cod fishing has not been successful.

1864 July 26 Orkney Herald

HAY-MAKING. – During the last week hay-making has been employing many active hands in various parts of Orkney. The weather was very favourable for this branch of rural labour, which mingles so pleasantly with the associations of summertide. Thomson of the “Seasons,” who was one of the laziest men that ever breathed, seemed to enjoy the description of hay-making, but if anyone had put a scythe or rake into his hand he would have looked the very image of hopeless despair. Farmers report the hay-crop as lighter than usual this season.

1864 August 9 The Orcadian

ROUSAY. – The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was observed in the U. P. Church here on Sabbath, 24th July, when the Rev. Mr McLellan was assisted by the Rev. Mr Brown, Shapinsay.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was dispensed in the Fee Church here on Sabbath, the 31st ultimo. Mr Rose was ably assisted on the occasion by the Rev. Robert Cowan, of Free St Leonard’s, Perth, who has been on a visit to Orkney. He began the solemn services on the Fast-day, and preached in the forenoon from Phil. III. 8. and at the School of Wasbister in the evening from Rev. VII. 14; on Saturday he choose for his text John X. 6. On Sabbath forenoon Mr Rose preached in his usual impressive style from Ps. LI. 17, Mr Cowan giving the closing table address, and preached the evening sermon from John XI. 25. He brought the services to a close on Monday, having preached from Psalms VIII. 4. The audiences were large on every occasion, but particularly so on Sabbath evening, when the church was very crowded, there being many strangers belonging to the Established and U. P. congregations present. Mr Cowan is a very able and most instructive preacher; we have rarely heard him equalled for eloquence and persuasive power. His services were highly satisfactory to all the people, and his visit was felt to be most refreshing.

HERRING FISHING. – The herring boats from here have been away at Stronsay last week, but in general have done nothing. One boat had 4 crans, and one or two others a cran or so each, but most of them had nothing.

1864 August 16 Orkney Herald

HERRING FISHING. Rousay. – The boats going from here to the herring fishing have not done much this last week; one boat from Frotoft made about 12 crans, and one Sourin boat 4 crans. All the rest have done little or nothing.


BIRTHS: At Scockness, Rousay, on 1st inst., Mrs Geo. Stevenson, of a son.
At Swartifield, Rousay, on 31st inst., Mrs. Robt. Inkster, of a son.
At Vacquoy, Rousay, on 4th inst., Mrs Alex. Gibson, of a daughter.

DEATHS – Suddenly, at Westside, Rousay, on 5th inst., Mr James Leonard, Grain.

[This was George Stevenson’s second wife, Mary Gibson. Robert Inkster was married to Mary Leonard, the son’s name being John. Alexander Gibson’s wife was Margaret Learmonth, and their daughter was christened Barbara. James Leonard, a seaman in the merchant service, was married to Cecilia Inkster, and he was 52 years of age when he passed away.]

THE SHOOTING SEASON. – Several gentlemen have arrived in Orkney for the shooting season, although game is by no means plentiful. Major Burroughs has handed over Rousay for the season to the Colonel of his regiment, who, in company with another military gentleman, has taken up his quarters in the island.

1864 August 23 Orkney Herald

THE ROUSAY SHOOTINGS. – The following are the names of the military gentlemen to whom Major Burroughs has handed over the Rousay shootings for the season: – Colonel Ross, 93d Highlanders, Colonel Donovan, 33d Regiment, and Major Cockburn.

1864 September 6 Orkney Herald

SPLENDID DISPLAY OF AURORA BOREALIS. – On Wednesday night a magnificent and singularly wild display of the Aurora Borealis was witnessed in this quarter. From masses of what resembled blue-white luminous mist in the SW., the Aurora swept in broad, bright, and swift sheets across the heavens to the NE., as if impelled by a furious gust overhead, and then the successive streamers melted away in mazy and eccentric motions. They seemed much nearer to the earth than usual, and emitted a gleam of light as they shot rapidly on their course. At times the streamers, breaking away from the bank of luminous cloud, unrolled themselves like curtains of mist, which quivered and gleamed, contracted and dilated with amazing rapidity. The most fantastic shapes were assumed by the streamers when they passed to the nor’-east. From curtains and wavy wreaths they changed to columns, spires, and domes, shining with a light as soft and clear as that of moonlight upon peaks of snow. Through the thinner wreaths the stars could be seen shining beyond, but their brightness was obscured where the luminous vapour was piled and folded in cloud-like forms. The wind began to blow while the strange phenomenon was yet visible, and during the night it increased to a gale. Although the Aurora remains somewhat of a mystery to meteorologists, there can be little doubt that it is of electro-magnetic origin, as it occasions irregular movements of the magnetic needle. The Aurora on Wednesday night was not accompanied by the noise, resembling the crackling of electricity, which we have occasionally overheard, but it was one of the strangest manifestations of this beautiful phenomenon that we have ever witnessed.

1864 September 20 The Orcadian

ROUSAY – 13th Sept. – The boats going from here to the Herring Fishing have now dropt. They have done nothing this season with the exception of one Weir boat that has a little over 30 crans, and two Frotoft boats, one of which has about fifty crans, and the other about 20 crans. The boats in general will not average 7 or 8 crans each, which will make it a very hard winter on the fishermen and others who were depending on the fishing for money to meet demands.

The fishermen here are very indignant at the remarks which appeared from the editor of the Herald on 6th instant, and consider it a gross insult in him to attribute the failure of the fishing to the inefficiency of the boats and nets, when the weather was such that a fair trial could scarce be made during the season; and his statement concerning last year, when he says that the fish would almost come into the boats themselves, is considered as only a specimen of the reckless statements in which he so frequently indulges. If he experienced the hardships the fishermen have to endure, he would not speak so slightingly of their hazardous avocation.

[To appreciate the content of the above statement, I have added the original assertion made by the editor of the Orkney Herald, and that is followed by a letter to him regarding it. You’ll see he adds a further utterance on the subject after that. No wonder the Rousay fishermen, and indeed Orkney fishermen on the whole, were unhappy with his proclamation]

Orkney Herald. August 30, 1864. THE ORKNEY HERRING FISHING. – The fishing in Orkney has done little good during the last week, and there cannot now be any doubt that the fishing this year has turned out a great failure, which is all the more remarkable as heavy fishings have been made at Wick. We believe that, on average seasons, no other result need be anticipated until the Orkney fishermen are better supplied with nets, and until they can go out to the herring ground in a goodly fleet.

Orkney Herald September 6, 1864 Letter to the Editor.


Sir, – In the Orkney Herald of Tuesday last I observed a paragraph containing some remarks on the failure of the fishing in Orkney this season, and concluding with assigning as the reason the deficiency as regards boats and nets of sufficient dimensions for catching herrings.

Most persons conversant with the improvements that have been going on in Orkney for some years – especially this year – in the increased size and number of nets used for each boat, and also the size of the boats, of which the fleet now mostly consist (being almost equal to those used at Wick and other stations farther south), must acknowledge the unfairness of attributing the failure of the fishing in Orkney this season to any inferiority of the boats and nets used at present at the Orkney fishing stations.

Last season afforded abundant evidence that when the shoal of herrings visited our shores there were boats and nets sufficient, and no want of energy on the part of the fishermen to catch some herrings than there were barrels to hold them; and had the supply of stock at the time been large enough, so as to have allowed the boats to have gone to sea every night during the season, there is good reason for thinking that the average would have been as high, if not higher, than any average reached at Wick for the last ten or fifteen years. – I am, &c., AN OLD FISHERMAN.

[The statement, of which the “Old Fisherman” complains, was made partly from personal observation, and partly from the assertions of others who know something about the herring fishery is Orkney. It is possible that the statement might have admitted of qualification, and we are well aware that the boats and nets are better now than they were some years ago; but will oar correspondent be good enough to favour us with reliable statistics as to the precise numbers of efficient and inefficient boats and nets in Orkney? When it is attempted to disprove any statement, facts or statistics are hotter than assertions. There is little occasion for boasting of the energy of the fishermen during a season when the herrings were so abundant that they would have made their way into the boats themselves even without the assistance of the nets. Moreover, we might ask why the supply of stock was so small if the fishermen are so energetic, and if the boats are so superlatively good. Surely fishcurers are knowing enough to have an eye after their own Interests everywhere. – ED.)

1864 October 25 Orkney Herald

SEA-WARE. – The gale of Thursday last has strewed the shores of the islands with immense quantities of sea-ware, and farmers have been busy carting away loads of this cheap manure. Thus, even devastating storms help an exchange of gifts between sea and land.

1864 November 15 The Orcadian

ROUSAY – 10th Nov. – On Sabbath, 6th inst., the Rev. J. McLellan, U.P. minister, preached a most excellent sermon in the Free Church here, at half-past two o’clock, in the absence of the Rev. Mr Rose, who was assisting the Rev. Mr Stewart, St Andrews, at the Communion…..As the evening was fine, and intimation of the sermon had been given the preceding Sabbath, there was a large attendance of the different denominations, numbers being present from all parts of the island, as also Weir and Egilshay, and throughout the service was listened to with the greatest attention. Such services cannot fail, if accompanied by the Divine blessing, to break down that spirit of sectarianism and party feeling which unhappily prevails so much in our midst.

1864 December 6 The Orcadian

COLONEL BURROUGHS OF ROUSAY. – We were lately much gratified by reading in the Gazette the well-deserved promotion, without purchase, of Major Burroughs, 93rd HighIanders, to be Lieutenant-Colonel of that gallant Regiment. Colonel Burroughs has never been absent from duty, since his entry into the army, except when obliged to be so from wounds received in the service; and all through the Crimean and Indian mutiny wars, and since in the troubles with the hill tribes of India – in fact, wherever his regiment has fought, he has been found foremost in action and wise in conduct. We may hope to see Colonel Burroughs return home in command of this noble regiment in a few years. In the meantime, it is creditable to Orkney to have such a distinguished officer amongst her proprietors. The Colonel’s beautiful islands of Rousay and Veira were long blessed by the residence at Westness of a much-esteemed proprietor, the late Mr Traill of Woodwick, whose individual charities to the poor around far exceeded all that is now contribute towards their support by the working of the miserable Poor Law; and what enforced legal provision can ever compensate for the kind word of advice and the personal interest in all their joys and sorrows which that truly good man was ever ready to bestow. We doubt not that when Colonel Burroughs returns to enjoy his estate and to take up house at Westness, he will be found following the good example of his predecessor.

1864 December 13 The Orcadian

ROUSAY – 6th DECEMBER. THE LATE CAPTAIN MARWICK OF CORKQUOY. – The death of this highly respected individual has caused a wide spread feeling of sorrow throughout the parish among his numerous friends and acquaintances. Captain [William] Marwick, who died at the advanced age of seventy-two years, was in early life engaged in sea-faring business, and though on several occasions exposed to great danger, was, through the Divine blessing, most successful. He retired from active service upwards of thirty years ago, having earned a competency sufficient not only to keep him comfortable, but which also enabled him to distribute to those around him who happened to be in need. He was never married, but lived with his brother-in-law, Mr James Gibson, first in [Flintersquoy] Quandale, at the west side of the island, and latterly in Corkquoy [Curquoy] in Sourin. His urbanity of manners and genial kindliness of nature, together with his genuine integrity and uprightness of character and Christian benevolence, combined to render him a universal favourite in the neighbourhood where he lived; and his death will be long felt as causing a blank among those who took an interest in maintaining and extending evangelical religion. Special services were conducted in the Free Church here, of which the deceased was a member, on Sabbath, the 4th inst. The Rev. Mr Rose, after delivering an appropriate lecture from Job. XIV., took for his text in the afternoon the following words from Rev, XIV. I3 – “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth, saith the Spirit; yea, that they may rest from their labours and their works do follow them.” After giving a very clear, and full exposition of the words in their bearing on the life and death of God’s people, and the light they served to cast on the state of immortality beyond the grave, he paid a warm and most affecting tribute to the memory of the deceased Captain Marwick in the following terms, and during the delivery thereof, we noticed many moved to tears. We scarcely ever witnessed so deep and profound attention as the whole audience manifested as the rev. preacher spoke in a tone of subdued pathos and tender emotion, clearly indicating that he felt what he uttered:- Death, my brethren, has of late been busy among us, and has sadly thinned our ranks as a congregation; and only a few days ago another breach has been made upon us, laying prostrate, I may almost say, one of the foremost of our veteran leaders – a tried men; but, like many others, his worth was not fully known, nor his value fully appreciated, while he lived among us. During the brief period of my ministry here – extending over but little more than five years – nearly fifty of those who, at its commencement, belonged to this flock have been taken away – a very large number in proportion to the size of the congregation. Among those, too, were some who took the liveliest interest in the promotion of Christ’s cause – who were foremost also when the day of trial came upon the Church of our fathers, which rendered it necessary, for the maintenance of sound principle and the resistance of unwarranted encroachments, to sever our connexion with the State. These men, though not ranking among the noble of the earth, were yet among the truly noble of Zion, and, weighed in the sifting balance of those times, were not found wanting; and I have no doubt they greatly helped to cheer and to encourage the trembling heart of the honoured servant of Christ, who was privileged to lead the Exodus. They and he now rest from their labours. The very mention of their names will suffice to call up what must ever remain sacred memories with you, and may also, by the divine blessing, serve to move to more active zeal those younger men who now fill their places. But what shall I say of the sad bereavement which has overtaken us – which has fallen with such a heavy stroke, not only on the more immediate relatives, but also on us all. We had grown so attached to him that we all must feel his removal a heavy loss – a breach not easily repaired. As a member of this congregation, Capt. Marwick was much and deservedly esteemed. There were so many estimable qualities about him that he very soon drew the affection of every one towards him with whom he came into contact. His charity to the poor and needy, I have good reason to believe was in proportion to his means, and many now hearing me can no doubt hear ample testimony to the fact, though in strict and almost literal fulfilment he carried out his Saviour’s injunctions – “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them. But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” It was the same with the whole of his Christian demeanour. Though not gifted by nature for public speaking, he was a man of deep, earnest devotion, specially a man of prayer. Altogether, he was a fine specimen of a quiet, gentle, unobtrusive, unaffected piety. He was among the most liberal supporters of the cause of Christ in the congregation, and always ready for any special call or emergency. Of what priceless value, too, was his example as a cheerful giver, it is not for me to speak. He was one who feared God and sought to keep his Commandments. So far as man was able to judge, he walked closely with his Saviour; and who can doubt that he is now reaping the reward promised to all the faithful followers of the Lamb.

1864 December 13 Orkney Herald

VALUABLE FISH. – A fisherman, belonging to Westray has been singularly fortunate in his watery expeditions of late, and he has coined small sums of money in a way truly novel and astonishing. Pieces of money have occasionally been found in cod and other kinds of fish, but the Westray man has surpassed former experience in this respect. We are informed on authority which there is no reason to doubt, that this fisherman, while recently prosecuting his avocation in the neighbourhood of the Skea Skerries, to the south of Westray, caught a number of cuithes, which are not much larger than sillocks, and in the stomachs of the fish there were pennies, halfpennies, and, in one instance, a threepenny piece – this last being an easy and likely bait to swallow. A few more copper coins were found by the same man in cod caught off the Heads of Rousay – the money thus obtained amounting in all to the sum of two shillings. At the risk of increasing the incredulity of doubters, we shall add this other remarkable circumstance, that six curtain rings were found in cod feeding on the same bank. This last statement has rather a suspicious look about it, and therefore we shall take the precaution of drawing a curtain upon the paragraph.