In Print

Newsprint – 1891

1891 January 28 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – COLLECTION IN AID OF BALFOUR HOSPITAL, KIRKWALL. – On Sunday evening a special sermon on “Christian Politics, or the Opium Trade of Great Britain Indefensible,” was preached in the Parish Church here, by the Rev. Alexander Spark, in the interests of the Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall, the special collection taken during divine service being devoted as a subscription towards the funds of the hospital.

1891 February 19 Aberdeen Free Press

TELEGRAPH EXTENSION TO ORKNEY. – Following up the recommendation of Lord Lothian’s Committee’s report, the Government telegraph engineers are busily engaged in surveying the different districts where the Commission have recommended the telegraph to be extended. It is expected that the cable will be laid this year to Westray, one of the most important islands of the northern group, where a large business is being done in fish. The other districts are Rousay, Eday, Birsay, Evie, and Dounby.

1891 February 25 Orkney Herald

THE LOCAL CENSUS ARRANGEMENTS. – The arrangements for taking the census throughout the county of Orkney, on the 5th of April next, have now been completed, the schedules and plans of divisions having been compiled, examined, and passed by the Sheriff-Substitute, and forwarded to the Registrar-General. The schedules for the receipt of the requited information will be left at every house throughout the county prior to Sunday, the 5th of April, and they will have to be filled up by, or on behalf of every individual tenant, occupant, or lodger, at midnight. On the following day they will be collected by persons appointed for that purpose, and after being checked by the Sheriff Clerk, and certified by the Sheriff, they will be forwarded to the Registrar-General for tabulation.

ROUSAY – PLOUGHING MATCH. – The annual ploughing match, under the auspices of the Rousay and Veira Agricultural Society, was held on Wednesday in a field kindly granted for the occasion by Mr Gibson, Langskaill. The weather being fine, the field during the day was visited by a large number of spectators, including a considerable number of the fair sex. Twenty ploughs entered for competition, including three champions. The ploughmen were liberally supplied with refreshments before and after their work was finished. The judges were – Messrs G. Scarth, Burgar; John Mowat, Schoolhall; and George Garson, Grugar, Evie, whose awards appear to have given general satisfaction. The following is the prize list: –

Champions. – 1 and medal, Charles Corsie, Howe, Egilshay; 2, Malcolm Leonard, Gripps; 3, William Learmonth, Faraclett.
Ordinary. – 1 and Highland Society’s medal, Alex. Learmonth, Faraclett; 2, William Louttit, Stennisgorn; 3, John Kirkness, Nears; 4, David Gibson, Langskaill; 5, James Robertson, Langskaill; 6, William Sabiston, Westness; 7, Alex. Craigie, Savisikaill; 8, John Russell, Brendale; 9, John Gibson, Quoys; 10, John Harrold, Avelshay; 11, James Inkster, Cogar; Youngest ploughman, William Louttit, Stennisgorn. Best feering, Malcolm Leonard, Gripps. Best finish, William Learmonth, Faraclett. Straightest ploughing, Charles Corsie. Best ploughed rig on field, Charles Corsie.
Grooming. – 1, Charles Johnston, Trumland; 2, James Craigie, Scockness; 3, John Cutt, Trumland; 4, John Gibson, Hurtiso.
Harness. – 1, John Cutt, Trumland; 2, James Robertson, Langskaill; 3, Charles Johnston, Trumland; 4, John Kirkness, Ness. Best set of harness on field, Charles Corsie.

A large number of special prizes were distributed according to the wishes of the donors. The medal presented by Mr William B. Firth, merchant, Finstown, having been won twice by Charles Corsie, it now becomes his own property. The Committee would take this opportunity of expressing their thanks to Mr Firth for the two medials he has given the society in succession, and to the merchants in Kirkwall and all others who so liberally aided the prize list. In the evening the judges, some members of the committee, and a number of friends were entertained to an excellent dinner by Mr and Mrs Gibson, Langskaill. The usual loyal and patriotic toasts were given and responded to, and an enjoyable evening was spent.

1891 March 4 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – In your issue of 25th inst., I observe an interesting article on “Shetland, Faroe, and Icelandic Ponies.” The article concludes with a lengthy extract, of some forty lines, stated to be a quotation from an “article” in the Popular Science Monthly for February.

Of the Popular Science Monthly I know, and wish to know nothing, the extract in question being my own composition, word for word, forming part of an article entitled “Shetland Ponies” which I contributed to the Cornhill Magazine for January last year. – I am, &c., – GEORGE M. McCRIE Rousay, 26th February 1891.

[At this time George Meikle McCrie was an unmarried 43-year-old from Edinburgh. Living at Curquoy, Sourin, on ‘private means,’ he was employed as the island’s Inspector of Poor.]

1891 March 25 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


The following correspondence has been forwarded to us for publication: –

Curquoy, Rousay, 3rd March, 1891.

SIR, – I have the honour to solicit the favour of your counsel on the following point which lately arose in this pariah. This parish being assessed, the collection of School Rates falls upon the Parochial Board. For the financial year 1889-90 the Parochial Board, owing to the receipt of Probate Duties Grant, &c., found their coffers were full enough for the expected necessities of Relief and Management of the poor, and resolved, therefore, to levy no Poor Rate. No registration funds were needed. The School Board had notified, during previous June, a deficiency of £ – [left blank!]. Now, was it proper or legal, to levy in November 1889, for School Rate alone, seeing that the estimated deficiency of School Board is “to be added to and levied with next assessment for the poor, when such poor assessment is levied and assessed,” according to the Education Act? In other words, is an assessment for School Rate alone, without a Poor Rate, a legal one? Your answer will much oblige. – I have, &c., – (Signed) G. M. McCRIE. Inspector & Collector.
To the Secretary, Board of Supervision, Edinburgh.


Board of Supervision, Edinburgh, 17th March, 1891.

SIR, – I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated the 3rd instant, and have to refer you in reply, to the 44th section of the Education Act, which, inter alia provides that should there be no assessment for the poor, the School Board shall be entitled and bound, directly to assess for and levy the said School Rate in the same manner, as if it were poor’s assessment. – I am, etc., – (Signed) – JOHN SKELTON, Secretary.
To Mr McCrie, Inspector of Poor, Rousay.

1891 April 1 Orkney Herald

A ROUSAY CROFTER CASE. – Some time ago General Burroughs, proprietor of the island of Rousay, raised an action of ejectment in the Sheriff Court, against Malcolm Leonard, Upper Gripps, Sourin, Rousay, whereupon the defender applied to the Crofters Commission to have it declared that he is a crofter. The facts of the case are these – Malcolm Leonard, crofter, Gripps, died in September 1890. His eldest son, Alexander Leonard, who resides in New Zealand, was communicated with, and wrote a letter renouncing his right to the tenancy of Gripps. Meantime the second son, Malcolm, who has for long worked the croft, continued to occupy it. When General Burroughs raised the action for ejectment, Malcolm Leonard applied to the Crofters Commission to find that he was a crofter, and answers were lodged by the proprietor. The Crofters Commission have now issued their interlocutor, finding that applicant is a crofter within the meaning and scope of the Act.


Letters to the Editor


SIR, – No school rate was levied in this parish last year, but a very high rate has been imposed this year. Mr McCrie, collector of rates, published in last week’s Orkney Herald a correspondence he has had with the Secretary to the Board of Supervision, professedly bearing on the subject. He evidently desires to blame the School Board for the omission of the rate, and has got an opinion from the Secretary in his favour, simply by keeping the leading facts out of his reference to him. If the Parochial Board levy no rate for the relief of the poor and intimate that to the School Board, then it is the duty of the School Board to impose its own rate. But Mr McCrie undertook to raise the School rate, and he gave us no intimation that he was not to levy a poor-rate. He moreover indicated in his letters to the School Board that the rate was simply postponed, and he paid the whole money requirements for the year. The School Board, therefore, had no power and no necessity to levy a school assessment. The following letters will explain the position both of the collector and of the School Board, and show where the blame for the non-assessment lies.

On 11th June 1889 the School Board intimated by letter to the collector the amount required by assessment to meet the deficiency in the school fund. Mr McCrie acknowledged receipt of our letter as follows: –


Curquoy, Rousay, 11th June 1889.

To Mr James G. Craigie, Clerk and Treasurer, School Board.

SIR, – I am in receipt of your letter of this day’s date, intimating that you have fixed the amount of deficiency in school fund to be levied in forthcoming assessments at £40, and the said intimation is hereby duly acknowledged. – I am, sir, your obedient servant, – (Signed) G. Meikle McCrie, Collector.


In this letter Mr McCrie says the assessments are forthcoming and undertakes to raise the school requirement. No further communication passed between the collector and the School Board until the following February, when the Clerk of the School Board received the following letter from Mr McCrie: –


Curquoy, Rousay, 22nd February 1890.

To Mr James G. Craigie, Treasurer, Rousay School Board.

SIR, – Enclosed I beg to hand you a cheque for £7 stg., as payment on account of School Board requirement for 1889-90. Please do the needful to the accompanying receipt and return in course of post. It would be a favour if you could inform me, for the guidance of my Board, at what time the School Board is likely to be in need of funds. As you are aware, no rate has been levied, and, perhaps, owing to the altered state of matters as regards fees the whole of the estimated requirement may not now be needed. Any information on these points with which you may favour me shall be laid before my Board. I shall be able, in all likelihood, to give you a further payment of a few pounds shortly. – Your obedient servant, – (signed) G. Meikle McCrie, Collector.


In this letter the Collector makes part payment of the school requirement and asks for information because “no rate has yet been levied.” He promises to lay the information before the Parochial Board and retains the power to levy the school rate. He gives no intimation about the poor rate and thus the School Board has no power to take the matter into its own hands.

On the 18th March 1890 it sent to him this extract from its minute of meeting: – “Read letter from Mr McCrie, Inspector of Poor, making inquiry as to the Board’s need of funds. The Board resolved to intimate to Mr McCrie that the full amount of £10 stg., as notified in the month of June last, will be required as soon as possible.” On receipt of this letter from the Clerk of the School Board it was then his duty if he did not intend to levy a poor rate, to make intimation of that decision to the School Board so that it might take steps to raise its own rate. Instead of sending that information to the School Board he sent the following letter with enclosed cheque: –


Curquoy, Rousay, 24th March 1890.

To Mr James G. Craigie, Treasurer, School Board.

SIR, – In reply to your duly received favour of the 18th March, I beg to enclose a cheque for £50 stg., to account of School Board requirement for the current year. I hope soon to be able to make a further payment and to complete the year’s requirement after consulting my Board at their statutory meeting, which will probably be held in little more than a month. I enclose the usual receipt form, which please favour with the needful, and oblige – Your obedient servant, (Signed) G. M. McCrie, Collector.


Mr McCrie promises in this letter to complete the year’s requirement after consulting his Board. No intimation was sent to the School Board giving the result of that consultation. He completed the year’s requirement, and then levied a high rate to make up for the sum he had paid. When his notices of assessment were issued last month, some dissatisfaction was expressed at lumping two years’ rates into one. He then thought of blaming the Chairman of the School Board for the mistake. He made out about a month ago the account current or balance sheet for 1889-90, and inserted it in some strange statements. In his letter of 24th March, he says to the Clerk of the School Board – “In reply to your duly received favour of 18th March, I beg to enclose cheque for £50 stg.;” but in the balance sheet he writes that he paid the mosey at the request of the Chairman of School Board “because funds were urgently required.” In his letter he says he pays the money on the demand of the Clerk, and as a debt due to the School Board. In his balance sheet he says he pays it at the request of the Chairman, and as a loan granted to the School Board upon which interest may be charged. A balance sheet is usually understood to set forth the exact money transactions of the year. To make the payment of a debt on demand appear as the granting of a loan on special request is surely a new way of making up a balance sheet. – Yours, &c., – A. IRVINE PIRIE. Rousay, 25th March 1891.

1891 April 8 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – I observe, in your last issue, a letter with the above title signed A. Irvine Pirie, containing such wild and inaccurate statements regarding myself as inspector and collector of this parish that I feel bound, in self-defence, to correct them. In the first place, how does the rev. gentleman take upon himself to publish official correspondence without his own or my Board’s sanction? He has no more right to do so than I have to publish the minutes of my Board. However, for that lack of common sense and etiquette, he may be called to account sooner than he thinks.

I correct in order the rev. gentleman’s misstatements. He has often written me privately, much to the same effect. Of late I have disregarded his letters. Anyone curious to know the tenour of his communications may consult the columns of your contemporary of Saturday last, in which I point out, and am quite willing to prove, that the so-called proceedings of the School Board as regards myself are but Mr Pirie’s own sentences, word for word, contained in letters from him to me several weeks before the date of the meeting. I refrain from characterising this procedure! The Inspector of Poor of a parish has been legally defined as the hand of the Parochial Board, but I have yet to learn that the Chairman of the School Board is more than a private individual outside the sessions of his Board.

The juncture, which I asked the Board of Supervision to give me an opinion upon, never actually happened in this parish, though the question of its possibility has been discussed by Mr Pirie himself in his letters to me. In the note in which I forwarded the opinion to you for publication, I stated that it might be of value to other parishes. Had the question really arisen here I might have sought opinion, but my Board never did or had to face the question. It is, however, a stunning blow to Mr Pirie, because it destroys the ground upon which he so confidently builds. Accordingly, he says I have got the opinion, in my favour, from the Secretary by keeping the leading facts out of my reference to him. Will Mr Pirie kindly state in what respect? I repeat the circumstances did not need to be detailed, because the juncture never happened. Point out, however, any misstatement in my letter to the Board of Supervision, and I will admit it when proved, until then Mr Pirie simply assails me without foundation.

The next point is so simple that it regulates itself. A collector cannot in June, unless under his Board’s orders, undertake to do anything. It is in November that our Parochial Board fixes the assessments.

Mr Pirie suppresses the private interviews with me on the roadside in autumn 1889 and February 1890, when he acted as deliberately for his Board as he is doing now. He may deny any such communications upon financial matters just at these dates, but that he has been in the habit of discharging such duties, even in advance of his own Board’s meeting, is undeniable. In a letter to me as collector, dated 28th February 1891, he deliberately says: – “That information [viz, as to when the School Board was likely to be in need of funds] you got in a few days thereafter from me, when I told you we required the full sum” (my [McCrie’s] italics). In the following lines he indicates that this official communication on his part to me was before the meeting of the School Board. When am I to accept Mr Pirie’s communications as official and when not? One more point or two and I have done. Mr Pirie insinuates that ”I then thought of blaming the Chairman for the mistake,” viz., after complaint had reached me of double assessment. If by this Mr Pirie means his complaint then the statement is contradicted by dates. My so-called “balance sheet” – really “account current” – was dated and posted to the Chairman of my Board in London on 12th February of this year. Mr Pirie’s first letter of complaint to me, and I have had no other, is dated 18th February. Will Mr Pirie retract this insinuation of his or not?

The “account current,” which Mr Pirie calls a “balance sheet.” is made up in the regular fashion. I decline to accept Mr Pirie as an authority on such matters. It may be to him a novel way of making up a balance sheet; perhaps so, but every entry of my account current is absolutely correct.

The truth is, Mr Pirie and his colleagues were working on lines of imperfect knowledge all along, as any expert can see. I am bound to take no active part in School Board elections, so I forbear commenting on the rev. gentleman’s motives in continuing this correspondence. They are, however, plain enough! – I am, &c., GEORGE M. McCRIE. Curquoy. Rousay, 3rd April 1891.

1891 April 15 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – Your last week’s issue contained a letter from Mr McCrie purporting to be a correction of some statements I made in reference to his action as collector of rates in this parish. His letter contains no correction of my stalements, nor any defence of his own action. He indulges in some very desultory skirmishing, under cover of which he retreats from positions he found to be untenable. The admissions he makes are interesting. I make a note of a few of them.

First admission. – Mr McCrie says in his letter – “The Inspector of poor of a parish has been legally defined as the hand of the Parochial Board.” This is just what I have been anxious to get from him ail along. The letter we received from him undertaking to raise the school rate was therefore written by the hand of the Rating Authority, and it did not matter to us when the rates might be imposed. The hand of the rating power took the responsibility and the Education Act settles the rest. To be legally defined as the hand, is surely quite sufficient for any servant’s ambition, but I rather think Mr McCrie is inclined to claim more. Our clerk returned the account current for correction, to the Rating Authority, and Mr McCrie sent it back, saying, “I cannot accept of its return and herewith re-inclose it.” A document sent to the Rating Authority he considers as sent to himself and rejects it. He has surely a legal definition that he is not merely the hand, but the whole body of the Rating Authority.

Second admission. – Mr McCrie says in his letter – “I have yet to learn that the Chairman of School Board is more than a private individual outside the sessions of his own Board.” This is just what I have been contending for. What a pity he forgot this when he sat down to draw up the balance sheet. If he had just kept this in his mind, all this palaver about roadside gossip would have been avoided, and the account current would have contained no scribbles about a private individual’s words. He asks “When am I to accept Mr Pirie’s communications as official and when not?” He could have nothing better to guide him than his own written opinion. Outside the sessions of my Board I am a private individual. If he will keep this in mind for the future, then it will be possible for me, and for any member of the Board to speak to him on the roadside on current topics without running the risk of seeing a garbled report of the same set forth, a twelvemonth afterwards, in an official document.

Third admission. – Mr McCrie says in his letter – “The juncture which I asked the Board of Supervision to give me an opinion upon, never actually happened in this parish.” This is just what I contended for. Although Mr McCrie put, as he called it, a Rousay case before the Board of Supervision and triumphantly published the opinion he got, and declared that it would cause confusion to the Rousay School Board, he now says that it had no reference to Rousay at all. It was just a generous act on the part of Mr McCrie for the benefit of other parishes. Perhaps he was afraid some of them might tumble into the same scrape as he had tumbled into and in the magnanimity of his heart he wished to save them. Perhaps he discovered the opinion he got to be a Trojan horse full of weapons more dangerous to himself than to anyone else, and so he quietly slips it overboard.

Fourth admission. – Mr McCrie says in his letter – “The truth is Mr Pirie and his colleagues were working on lines of imperfect knowledge all along.” This is just what I have been affirming. We received no information from Mr McCrie about this non-assessment business. We do not know to this day whether the rate was omitted or postponed. I will not be astonished to discover some day that the collector made an imperfect calculation of his available funds and advised the Rating Authority to delay the rate for a little, and that all this dispute about the school rate has been put forward by Mr McCrie himself in the furtherance of some little scheme. Of course not an election scheme. Oh dear, no! he would not touch such things with his little finger.

These admissions show that the strife of words makes for progress. The inaccuracy of the account or balance sheet will soon be admitted also. By the way Mr McCrie says I must not call it a balance sheet. There are some people who would not call a spade a spade, but an agricultural implement. So this small account must not be called a balance sheet although it professes to sum up and balance the financial transactions of the year. To sum up the whole matter – Mr McCrie’s statement about the chairman interfering with the levying of the rate is just a concocted story, an idle tale, unsupported by a particle of evidence. The account current is a work of folly; a superfluity; a nuisance, and may now be buried, out of sight and out of mind, in the waste basket. – Yours, &c., – A. IRVINE PIRIE. Rousay, 13th April, 1891.

1891 April 22 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – Your correspondent, the Rev. Mr Pirie, again returns to the charge regarding above. Now, however, he loses his temper, and strikes out blindly. He does not answer the questions directly put to him by me in your issue of 8th inst. I therefore put them again before him in brief. After that I will answer his letter.

Question No. 1. – How, or by what authority, does Mr Pirie take upon himself to publish official correspondence, without joint consent of both Boards?

Question No. 2. – How does it happen that the version of the School Board proceedings, lately printed in the columns of your contemporary, corresponds almost word for word – in so far as this controversy is concerned – with Mr Pirie’s letters to me written before the School Board meeting in question was held?

Question No. 3. – How does it happen that Mr Pirie accuses me of obtaining a decision favourable to myself, from the Board of Supervision, “simply by keeping the leading facts out of my reference.” I have asked Mr Pirie to state what “leading facts” are misstated. Where is his reply? It is not forthcoming. This is no strife of words alone. The accusation against me of misstating my reference has been deliberately made by Mr Pirie. Proof is asked of him, and is not given. This is quite enough. The public will know in what light to view Mr Pirie’s eloquent silence. To give him one more chance, I ask again – In what respect is the reference misstated, or, to put it as be does, “the leading facts kept out?”

Question No. 4. – What answer to this? Mr Pirie insinuated that I thought of blaming the Chairman of the School Board after complaint had reached me of double assessment. I asked, in reply (Herald of 8th April), if Mr Pirie meant his complaint. He does not reply. And his silence is owing to the fact, already disclosed, that the dates of the two matters won’t fit. Does Mr Pirie abandon the wanton insinuation or not? Yes or no?

So long as these questions remain unanswered, Mr Pirie’s blindest partisans will distrust him. Other people will regard his not answering them at once when they were put – for they are vital to the issue – as practically forsaking his guns. No “question-begging epithets,” such as “concocted story,” “idle tale,” &c., &c., will serve in lieu of argument.

I now turn to Mr Pirie’s last letter, and find that he derives much consolation from my so-called “admissions.” Let us see: –

(1) I defined the Inspector as the “hand of the Parochial Board.” Mr Pirie catches at this greedily. Unfortunately for him, the letter which his Board received from me, “undertaking (as he puts it) to raise the school rate,” was signed by the collector. That both offices are conjoined makes no difference. I never said that the collector was the “hand of the Parochial Board.” In the letter I wrote, returning the account current to the treasurer, I certainly signed as inspector and collector. If Mr Pirie reads the original, which he can easily do, through and through, he will see the reason therefore. But he does not want to read it through and through, or quote more than he quotes, for the very next sentence of the letter after the one he quotes shows my reason for returning the account, and that I did not do so on my own responsibility. So much for that.

(2) In reference to my “admission,” No. 3, Mr Pirie says: – “Although Mr McCrie put, as he called it, a Rousay case before the Board of Supervision…..he now says that it had no reference to Rousay at all.” I beg pardon. I never said so. I said in my letter (O.H., April 8th) that “the juncture…..never actually happened in this parish, though the question of its possibility has been discussed by Mr Pirie in his letters to me.” Mr Pirie leaves off quoting my words at a comma, because the completed sentence does not suit him. How eminently fair and impartial this method! It has only one disadvantage. It only lasts for a week, when it goes to powder!

(3) I find I have omitted Mr Pirie’s second paragraph. There is not much in it. I apologise, however, for alluding to it out of order. Mr Pirie finds that he is a private individual outside the sessions of his Board. I felicitate him on the discovery. Only it jars terribly with No. 2 of my unanswered questions, see ante – and with his own written admission to me of 28th February 1891. “I told you we required the full sum,” and “that information you got from me” – and all this before his Board met! I decline, in future, to hold any conversation whatever with Mr Pirie, so I shall never run the risk of talking with a chairman and a private individual, who can be either the one or the other just as he chooses, or as the exigencies of his argument require.

(4) Mr Pirie’s fourth paragraph is really amusing. He says that my admission that he and his colleagues were “working on lines of imperfect knowledge all along” is just what he has been affirming – because “we received no information from Mr McCrie about this non-assessment business.” Well “knowledge” and “information ” are not synonymous, so that argument is halting, and to add that “we do not know to this day whether the rate was omitted or postponed” – is just simply “begging the question” in his own favour. The insinuation that I made any “imperfect calculation” whatever is absolutely false. I leave the formulating of “little schemes” to the coiner of the phrase. The expression as regards myself is at once dishonourable and untrue.

(5) In Mr Pirie’s closing paragraph he descends to more vituperation. I decline to descend to his level. Suffice it to say that the statement that my version of the matter is a “concocted story,” an “idle tale,” is one which rests upon his own assertion only. He that believes it may of course do so, but I am afraid that Mr Pirie has few supporters in this random and valueless assertion. As for evidence, especially when dates are concerned, we must not look for that. We must also remember that Mr Pirie may, at any moment, retreat from the position of a private individual to that of “Chairman” – bound not to reveal the secrets of his Board’s nightly sessions – and vice versa. “Everything by turns and nothing long!” Apologies for length of this letter. – I am, &c., – G. M. McCRIE. Rousay, 17th April 1891.

1891 April 29 Orkney Herald

THE CENSUS. – Though the complete census returns will probably show that the population of Scotland, as a whole, has advanced very considerably since 1881, it is already apparent that in most rural districts the population has declined. Orkney is one of those districts in which the movement has been in a downward direction, the actual number of inhabitants within its bounds on the night of the 6th April last having been 30,171, or 1873 less than when the previous decennial census was taken. Had the natural growth of population been unchecked, the total ought now to have approached 33,500; but to the constant ebb and flow of people there has, during the past ten years, been added a very large and steady emigration to the British colonies and United States. From two of the North Isles, for instance, and these not the most populous, over 400 persons have emigrated during that period. The economic condition of the Orkneys would not, of course, have led one to look for a large, or indeed, for any, increase in the number of their inhabitants, but a decrease of nearly six per cent. from the figures of 1881, reducing the total below what it was fifty years ago, comes as a disappointing surprise, and indicates that so long as agriculture and fishing – the chief means of livelihood of Orcadians – are practised under present methods and conditions, the population of the islands cannot greatly increase, though neither is it likely to decrease much. There may be rise and fall, but no great fluctuation need be anticipated.

[The population of Rousay in 1891 was 774 folk; 313 lived in Sourin; 218 in Wasbister; 130 in Frotoft; 64 in the Brinian; and 49 in Westness and Quandale.]

1891 May 6 Orkney Herald



THE courtship is over, the bashful swain has proposed to his lady love, has been accepted, and all the wedding preparations are going on apace. On the Monthly following the third crying in the Parish Church, Betty and Magnus proceed together in Magnus’s  “cairt” to the “toun” to buy the wedding “gear,” by which is understood, the cake, the whisky, a new suit of clothes for the bridegroom, a new “goun” for the bride, and several other necessaries, all of which are paid for by the bridegroom.

The wedding is to take place on Thursday, the only day which is considered lucky in our islands, and it is also necessary that the moon be waxing, as a waning moon bodes ill-luck to the wedded pair.

On Tuesday evening the bridegroom, accompanied by the best man, proceeds to the manse to secure the minister’s services. On this occasion Magnus is extremely bashful, and the minister, after discoursing on the weather, crops, and other topics till he is exhausted, says, “Well, Magnus, have you come on any partioular business tonight?” “Oh, nothin’ unca partic’lar, sir,” replies the bridegroom, but Jock (the best man), fearing another half-hour’s sederunt, takes the bull by the horns and explains the object of their visit.

The wedding evening arrives, and with it the guests, who are all expected to bring a present with them – the men a bottle of whisky and the women a cake or something of that sort. When all is ready the best man goes to the manse to escort the minister. As soon as he arrives the couple take their places, and are duly joined together with many admonitions and much good advice. The congratulations over, the cake is brought in. This is a huge square of thick shortbread thickly studded with sweeties and orange peel. ln the centre are two hearts united, and at each corner is the emblem of the bridegroom’s trade. If he be a farmer, a plough appears in orange peel; if a sailor, a ship, &c. The minister proceeds to cut the cake in small pieces, first, however, cutting out the hearts and presenting them to the bride, with some suitable speech. The “cog” is then passed round. This is a large wooden bowl containing a goodly quantity of a hot drink, composed of spirits, ale, and spices. Each person receives the “cog” in both hands, says “The bride and bridegroom’s health, I wush likewise the company’s,” and buries his head for a moment in the huge bowl. The “cog” is passed round at intervals during the evening, and its contents very soon produce an elevated and jovial frame of mind in its devotees.

Tea comes next. The tables are laden with cakes and scones, biscuits and cheese, and the guests are expected to help themselves to everything which is offered, however full their plates may be. After tea, the bride and bridegroom, the minister and the nearest relatives of the wedded pair, receive a “hansel,” which is presented by the mother of the bridegroom, and consists of a portion of every kind of food on the table. After tea the company proceeds to the barn, where dancing begins and is kept up till dawn, it being considered necessary to have daylight in order to find the way home, especially for those who have devoted themselves to the “cog.”

1891 May 27 Orkney Herald

AGRICULTURAL PROSPECTS IN ORKNEY. – The severe wintry weather of March was followed by a fine dry April, which enabled farmers to get their cereal and grass seeds sown in capital order. A protracted northerly gale about the middle of this month, accompanied with sleet, snow, and frost checked vegetation, and left both braird and grass quite brown, and owing to the cold northerly wind there has been but slow progress since. Turnips have been done for a week or more, but the heavy crop of last year has been of great service in enabling farmers to hold on to their store stock in hopes of better prices, which, however, do not appear likely to be realised as the south markets still remain dull. There is a keen demand and high prices for horses, especially for good animals – those suitable for tramcars and lorries. The price of pork has also gone up, but owing to the scarcity of potatoes there has been but a dull demand for young pigs. Farmers are at present busy sowing swedes, the land being in fine condition for the purpose.

1891 June 24 Orkney Herald

AN ORKNEY FARMER’S CLAIM. – In the Court of Session last week the record was closed in an action before Lord Low, in which Thomas Sinclair, sometime farmer and miller, Hurtiso, presently residing at Swandale, Rousay, sued Samuel Sinclair, presently residing at 22 Dean Park Street, Edinburgh, and others. The pursuer is one of the next-of-kin and executors of Mrs Christina Inkster, or Sinclair, widow of the late Robert Sinclair, Swandale, Rousay, and the defenders are the next-of-kin of Robert Sinclair and his executors. Pursuer has raised the action to have the defenders ordained to produce an account of their intromissions with the estate, or for payment of £120. Robert Sinclair died in February, 1884, and left a widow and six children, of whom the pursuer is one. One of the children has since died, and another has not been heard of for many years. His father’s estate at the time of his death amounted to at least £830, and he left a settlement in which he expressly excluded his son from any interest therein. No step was taken, he says, to make up a title, or administer the estate under the settlement. Its existence was ighnored by his widow, who transferred the whole estate to her own name, and kept it during her life. She had no legal advice and was not called on to select between the provisions of her husband’s settlement and her legal rights, and  pursuer contends that her right has passed to him for his interest in her succession. He says the moveable estate of his father was subject to division – one-third as jus relictae to his widow, one-third as legitim to his children, and one-third to be disposed of in terms of the settlement. He claims one-sixth of the legitim, and one-sixth share of the jus relictae. Defenders say that pursuer’s father made no provision for him in his settlement; the advances which he made to him in his lifetime were greater than his share of legitim; and they plead that he has no title to sue in connection with his mother’s estate, she having accepted her husband’s settlement, which life-rented his estate to her.

1891 July 18 Aberdeen Free Press

Kirkwall – General Holiday.  – Yesterday was held as the annual holiday, and all places of business were shut. The ss. Orcadia, which intended going to Fair Isle on a pleasure trip, had to abandon the project owing to an easterly sea and foggy weather, going instead to Westray. Trips to Shapinshay, Sanday, and Rousay were well patronised, and every available conveyance was engaged for private parties going to picnics to all parts Orkney. The wind was easterly, and heavy fog came on.

1891 July 20 Aberdeen Free Press

BELATED ORCADIAN EXCURSIONISTS. – Friday, as has already been reported, was observed as the annual holiday in Orkney, and a number of excursions by water took place. A very dense fog, however, set in at night, and it was feared that many of the excursionists would not get home. The s.s. Lizzie Burroughs, from Rousay, and the rest of the sailing boats, got in about ten o’clock; but, owing to the dense fog the s.s. Orcadia, at Westray, and the Star of Bethlehem, at Sanday, could not leave, but both arrived at Kirkwall on Saturday morning with their excursionists. The wind was fresh from the south-east, and it was still foggy.

1891 August 12 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY CATTLE SHOW. –  The annual cattle show in connection with the Rousay and Veira Agricultural Society was held on Wednesday last on the farm of Banks, Sourin. The weather during the day was the best we have had for a considerable time past, and consequently the field was visited by a large number of people, some having come from a considerable distance. Cattle were a good show all over; but we have seen a larger display of horses and sheep. Altogether the show was an exceedingly creditable one and turned out quite a success. The judges were Messrs Marshall, Berstane, and Tait, Papdale, St Ola, whose careful decisions gave entire satisfaction. The following were the prize-winners: –

Bulls. – 1, John Gibson, Hurtiso.
Milk Cows. – 1 and 3, General Burroughs, Trumland Farm; 2, Robert Mainland, Nears; commended, George Gibson, Avelshay.
Two-Year-Old Heifers. – 1, General Burroughs, Trumland Farm; 2, George Stevenson, Scockness; 3, John Gibson, Langskaill; commended, George Stevenson, Scockness.
Two-Year-Old Steers. – 1 and 2, William Learmonth, Faraclett; 3, Hugh Sinclair, Bigland.
One-Year-Old Heifers. – 1 General Burroughs, Trumland Farm; 2, Hugh Sinclair, Bigland; 3, Allan C. Gibson, Myres; 4, Robert Mainland, Nears; commended, General Burroughs, Trumland Farm.
One-Year-Old Steers. – 1 and 3, William Learmonth, Faraclett; 2 and 4, and commended, General Burroughs, Trumland Farm.

Mares with Foal at Foot. – 1 and 3, Hugh Sinclair, Bigland; 2, David Inkster, Innister.
Draught Mares. – 1, George Gibson, Avelshay; 2, General Burroughs, Trumland Farm; 3, Robert Mainland, Nears.
Two-Year-Old Fillies. – 1, John Gibson, Langskaill; 2, William Learmouth, Faraclett; 3, Hugh Sinclair, Bigland; commended, William Mainland, Banks.
Two-Year-Old Colts. – 1, General Burroughs, Trumland Farm; 2, John Gibson, Hurtiso.

Best Tup. – 1, Hugh Sinclair, Bigland.
Best Ewe and Lamb. – 1, Hugh Sinclair, Bigland.

Cock and Hen. – 1, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland Farm.
Chickens. – 1 and 2, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland Farm.
Ducklings. – 1, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland Farm.
Butter, one sample sweet. – 1, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland Farm.
Do., one sample salt. – 1, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland Farm.

In the evening the judges and a number of gentlemen sat down in the Sourin Public School to an excellent dinner prepared by Mrs Simpson and Mrs Blyth, Sourin Public School, and Miss Mary Learmonth, Faraclett. Mr Gibson, Langskaill, ably occupied the chair, and Mr Gordon, Saviskaill, performed the duties of croupier. The principal toasts proposed and responded to were the following: – “Her Majesty the Queen and Royal Family”; “General Burroughs, president of the Society, and Mrs Burroughs,” by the Chairman; “The Judges,” by Mr A. C. Gibson; “The School Board and teachers,” replied to by Mr Gibson, Hurtiso, and Mr Horne, teacher, Wasbister; “The Rousay and Veira Agricultural Society,” &c., &c. A most enjoyable evening was spent, every person seeming pleased with the day’s proceedings.

1891 August 19 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – REGATTA. – The annual regatta of the Rousay Boat Club was held in Trumland Sound on Friday. The day was favourable, and there was a fair turnout of boats. The sailing races passed off very well. In the rowing race there was keen competition; but the boys’ rowing race was the most amusing one of the day. The Committee take this opportunity of returning thanks to General and Mrs Burroughs, Trumland; Colonel and Miss Macpherson, Cluny; Sheriff Armour, and the other contributors towards the prize fund of the Club. The following is the prize-list: –

First race. – 1, Daphine, Sheriff Armour; 2, Sweyn, J. Garrioch; 3, Walrus, A. Leask.
Second race. – 1, Lily, William Corsie.
Third race. – All-Comers – 1, Daphine, Sheriff Armour; 2, Sigurd, General Burroughs; 3, Sweyn, J. Garrioch.
Rowing race. – 1, J. Isbister; 2, John Reid; 3, Isaac Marwick.
Boys’ rowing race. – 1, Pirie and Swanson; 2, Reid and Robertson; 3, Logie and Millar; 4, Harrold and —–; 5, Learmonth and —–.

1891 August 26 Orkney Herald


The following are H.M. Inspector’s reports or the undernoted schools: –

SOURIN PUBLIC SCHOOL – The work in the junior department, which includes infants and the first and second standards, admits of very considerable improvement. Slate writing among the infants, and in the first and second standards, is not more than fair. Spelling in the second standard is somewhat weak, but arithmetic is, on the whole, creditably ready and accurate. A course of object lessons, for which picture cards should be provided, would tend to develop and brighten intelligence at this stage. From the third standard and upwards, reading, while distinct, is very monotonous, and a vigorous effort should be made to infuse into it some measure of taste and expression. Spelling is accurate in the third standards, but somewhat weak in the fourth. Composition in the fifth and sixth standards is very good. Arithmetic all over is accurate, but sum-setting is lacking in neatness. In the class subject of English, parsing and analysis are excellent, and general intelligence has been well developed, but the same faults attach to recitation as to reading. Geography was very well known throughout. The fourth standard made a poor appearance in history. In the other standards, the answering in this subject was good. Singing by note merits special praise. Very good industrial work. Excellent discipline. A set of reading sheets is required for the infant classes. Your attention is requested to article 21 (c). J. Marwick has passed well. She should be informed that she is now qualified under both articles 60 and 70. Average attendance, 52. Grants (inclusive of £10 under article 19 D) £70 16s.

FROTOFT PUBLIC SCHOOL. – A class-room has been added to the school since last year, and the younger classes are now taught under greatly improved conditions of convenience and comfort. The appearance made by them, however, was barely fair. Spelling was very poor in the second standard, and slate- writing both in it and among the infants admits of great improvement. The infants answered well in numbers, and read with very fair fluency. In the third standard reading was very monotonous, spelling poor, and arithmetic slow and inaccurate. Only one pupil was presented in the fourth standard, and he made a fair appearance. In the fifth, a section of the pupils have written very good papers. It says little for the value placed upon education by the parents in the district that out of seven ex-sixth pupils whose names are entered upon the examination schedule only one was present on the day of inspection. In the class subject of English the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth standards were grouped, and professed the same passage for recitation. It might be better to take a less complex passage for the third and fourth standards. Repetition was tasteless and monotonous. Grammar was, on the whole, only fairly well grasped. General intelligence admits of being much more sharply developed. Good work has been done in geography, and a fair appearance was made in history. Singing by note was fair. Good industrial work. The master ought to exercise more direct supervision over the teaching of the younger classes. J. Craigie has passed fairly. Average attendance 45. Grants (inclusive of £15 under article 19 D) £62 15s 6d.

WASBISTER PUBLIC SCHOOL. – The school is taught with marked rigour and skill, and is in a thoroughly efficient condition. In the lower classes, while the general quality of the work is very good, slate-writing among the infants, and notation in the first standard, need attention. Arithmetic was very bright and ready in the second standard, and slate-writing neat and careful. Copywriting from the third upwards shows careful training and supervision. The papers worked on the day of inspection have been worked with exceptional neatness. Spelling in the third and fourth standards is accurate, and composition in the fifth and sixth is of more than average merit. Arithmetic in these standards has been done with very fair success. In the class subject of English it is satisfactory to be able to note that an effort is being made to cultivate taste and expression in the recitation exercises. This was especially noticeable in the case of the first and second standards. A more suitable passage might be selected for recitation in the highest class. Grammar, in the highest class, was very intelligently grasped. Good preparation was shown in history and geography. Sewing and knitting were of excellent quality. Singing is well taught by note. Excellent discipline is maintained. A. Craigie has passed fairly. No payment can be made under Article 19 E for him, as he is not required by Article 32 (C) 1. Mr Horne will shortly receive his certificate. Average attendance, 38. Grants (inclusive of £10 under Article 19 D), £56 1s.

1891 September 2 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – SOURIN SCHOOL. – On Friday week, Mrs Burroughs presented to the pupils attending this school the prizes which she gives for sewing, knitting, and darning, the first and third being awarded to Jeannie Russell and the second to Mary Russell. Mrs Burroughs was accompanied by several visitors presently staying at Trumland, and they treated the children to some refreshments. Several pieces of music were tastefully sung by the children.

[The Russell family lived at Brendale]

1891 September 9 Orkney Herald

DEATH OF THE REV. I. E. MARWICK. U.P.CHURCH, KIRKCALDY. – The announcement was made in Kirkcaldy on Tuesday of the death, on the previous evening, of the Rev. I. E. Marwick, pastor of the Bethelfield United Presbyterian Church, Kirkcaldy. Mr Marwick had been laid aside for ten weeks, but up till within a week ago hopes were entertained of his recovery. A change then set in, however, which dispelled all hopes. Having one of the largest and oldest congregations of the United Presbyterian denomination under his charge, he laboured assiduously and well. It is now thirteen years since he came to Kirkcaldy, being located in Ireland, at a place near Belfast, when the call from Bethelfield United Presbyterian Church was addressed to him. Mr Marwick was a native of Rousay, and was only forty-seven years of age. He was married, and leaves a widow and young family.

[Isaac Elrick Marwick was the son of Isaac Marwick and Betty Yorston, Guidal, Sourin, and was born on June 27th 1844. At Holy Isle, Northumberland, on April 28th 1875, he married Mary Crossman Wilson. They had three children, Mary Elizabeth, born in Antrim, Ireland, and Margaret Douglas and Robert Elrick, who were born in Kirkcaldy.]

ROUSAY – THE schools in this island were closed on Friday for the holidays.

THURSDAY was observed as a fast day in the Free Church. The Rev. R. Bonellie was assisted by the Rev. Mr Anderson, of Harray.

THE two boats from Rousay that have been prosecuting the herring fishing at Stronsay have finished for the season, and were beached on Saturday.

1891 September 16 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – FARMING PROSPECTS. – Bere-cutting was begun on Saturday week at the farm of Hooklet*, and is now general. Oats will not, however, be ready for the sickle for a fortnight, and only then if the weather improves very much. Such a wet summer is not within the memory of the oldest inhabitant. Finger and toe is more prevalent than usual this year. One or two farms are entirely free from it, but on others the damage done to the turnip crop is very great. Potatoes are a very poor crop this year. Garden potatoes. except on very dry soil, are in some cases a complete failure. Disease is very common. Peat-carting has yet to be done by many. Some have got no peats home this season yet. Even were the peats ready for carting, the roads are in an almost impassable condition.
[*alternative spelling of Hunclett, Frotoft]

1891 September 23 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – At a meeting of the Parochial Board, held in the Parish Church on Tuesday last, Mr Hugh Marwick, Guidal, was appointed Inspector of Poor and Collector of Rates for the parish.

[Hugh Marwick was the brother of the previously-mentioned Rev. Isaac Elrick Marwick. As well as running a shop at Guidal, Hugh was a carpenter and boatbuilder, school attendance officer, and registrar of births, marriages, and deaths.]

1891 October 14 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – The members of the Scotch Girls’ Friendly Society were invited to tea on Wednesday afternoon by the ladies of Westness House. After some time had been spent very pleasantly inspecting the gardens and hothouses, an adjournment was made to Westness farm, where the girls were entertained to a concert of vocal and instrumental music. The building was tastefully decorated, and the efforts of the performers seemed to be much appreciated by the audience. At the close of the concert, General Burroughs proposed a vote of thanks to the ladies and gentlemen who had taken part, which was heartily responded to. After the concert a dance took place, which was entered into with great spirit to the inspiriting strains of the bagpipes.

HARVESTING. – Advantage has been taken of the spell of good weather we have been favoured with for the last fortnight. Cutting is finished, and by the end of the week it is expected that the whole of the crop will be in the stack yard. Most of it has been already secured, and is in good condition. The crop is an unusually heavy one, and fodder will be plentiful.

1891 October 28 Orkney Herald

CLAIM FOR COMPENSATION FOR THE LOSS OF A COW. – At the Orkney Sheriff Court, Kirkwall, yesterday, before Sheriff Armour, David Marwick, of Housby, Sourin, Rousay, sued William Craigie, of West Crya, Sourin, Rousay, for the sum of £10 12s 2d claimed as compensation for the loss of his cow which was killed by an ox belonging to the defendant, Craigie. Mr Cowper represented the pursuer, and Mr Thomson appeared for the defender. From the evidence it appeared that while the pursuer was engaged at the herring fishing on the 20th of August last, his son, a lad 14 years of age, took a number of his cows to graze on Crya Hill, with the permission of Mr John Gibson, who is tenant of the hill pasture land, and remained in charge of them. While one of the cows was feeding an ox belonging to the defendant rushed at it and knocked it down, inflicting such serious injuries that it died shortly afterwards, its neck being broken. Two witnesses, named John Russell and John Mainland, who saw the cow shortly after its death, and brought it down to the pursuer’s croft, where they skinned it, said it was a lean animal and had only been calved three months previously. It was a good milch cow, but its flesh was scarcely fit for human food, and the value of the carcase in their estimation was not more than £1. That was the value they placed upon it, and the hide would be worth about 7s 10d, the sum allowed for it by the pursuer. They agreed with the pursuer in estimating the value of the cow before its death at £12, and £1 7s 10d deducted from that sum made the loss sustained by the pursuer £10 12s 2d, which was the amount sued for. The Sheriff gave judgement for the full amount claimed, together with the expenses of witnesses, and the legal agent’s fee.

TEMPERANCE CAMPAIGN IN ORKNEY. – Mr James McVittie, continuing the account of his recent temperance campaign in Orkney, in the last issue of the Scottish Temperance League Journal, states that after finishing his tour in the islands referred to in last week’s Orkney Herald, he sailed from Kirkwall on board the steamer Lizzie Burroughs for the North Isles. He says: – After creeping along the shore of the mainland, and calling at one or two smaller islands, we landed at Egilshay, the Island of the Priests, where we had a good meeting, principally women; for the young men here, as in all the islands, are driven forth to seek their home and living in other lands, and the girls are left behind, and Providence is blamed for a disproportion of the sexes. I had to be chairman, precentor, and orator. There used to be a Templar Lodge here, but immigration has killed it. A society between it and the neighbouring island of Veira is contemplated. I was storm staid here till late on the following day, and enjoyed a walk round the island with my kind host, Mr Glen, the teacher, who knows every point of interest in the island and its history. Two things attracted me, its shelly beach, on which we gathered some pretty and rare shells, “grotto buckies:” the other was the old Church and Tower of St Magnus, supposed to be 700 years old. There is an interesting legend about it which I may give some other time. It is a puzzle among antiquarians to determine whether the tower or church has been built first, for it is evident the one has preceded the other.

In the afternoon, two farmers, who are good boatmen, offered to put me across to the Island of Rousay, or Round Hill Island. To a landsman this was no joke, but I reasoned if it is safe for the boatmen I’m all right if I remain in the ship. The crossing was perilously delightful, which I both enjoyed and feared. I have seen the summer sailors down the Clyde getting their small boats in rear of the large steamers to get a pitch, but pitch is not the term here, blown up is nearer the mark; but we were also safely blown over, and, after a two miles’ walk, which helped to dry the spray upon me, I found myself in the Rev. Mr Pirie’s comfortable manse. My comfort, however, was short-lived, for after tea a boat from Veira landed to take Mr Pirie and myself over to the meeting, which had been intimated the previous Sunday. The wind was down, the sea calm, and the moon was rising, so our crossing both ways was as pleasant as the other crossing had been uncomfortable. We had a nice meeting; fully three-fourths of the islanders were present, which is not saying much numerically, say forty. We got over to the manse before midnight, and enjoyed a night’s well-earned repose.

Next morning was bright, and looked propitious for a promised day’s fishing, but ere breakfast was passed there came such a hurricane, fearful fall or drift of rain, bucketsful altogether, such as you had in the south on that Edinburgh holiday; but, as there were no viaducts, bridges, tall stalks, nor railways to operate upon, the storm here had not such a disastrous record. Yet we had a meeting to attend, and drove eight miles round the north-west side of the island to the schoolhouse:

“But sic’ a nicht to tak’ the road in,
As ne’er puir sinner was abroad in.”

Our coming was not expected, and our meeting was small, still we held forth for over an hour.

The drive home in the moonlight will live in my memory. The dark frowning headlands with their fixed and flashing lights in red and white, lashed by the spray of the great rollers of the Atlantic on the one side, and the choppy crested waves of the North Sea on the other. The scream of the weird petrel, with the painful silence of the almost tenementless, treeless land gave a solemnity to that midnight drive I shall never forget.

I needed neither soothing draught nor rocking chair to procure what is worth going to the Orkneys for, a deep, sweet, dreamless sleep, right round the clock.

On the following evening we walked two miles to hold another meeting in the school. They were mostly young ladies who attended, whom I endeavoured to impress with the dignity and privilege of being associated with the temperance movement as an auxiliary of the Christian Church. My meetings in the islands ended here, and I took leave of my good friends Mr and Mrs Pirie next morning, having spent four pleasant days. I also took an order for a few volumes of temperance books. Surely I might be allowed to suggest that some one either on or interested in these islands might present them with a full set of our temperance library, consisting of fifty volumes, for the low price of £2 5s, or in some other form contribute to the League funds in their efforts to carry true temperance teaching to the remote districts of our country.

On board the Lizzie Burroughs once more at seven in the morning, and reach Kirkwall, a distance of fifteen miles, at 12.40, not very fast, but faster then we could have walked it.

1891 November 11 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – MUSICAL ASSOCIATION. – The business meeting of the Sourin Musical Association was held in the Public School on Friday evening. There was a good attendance of members. After the secretary had given an account of the income and expenditure for last session, which showed the society to be in a flourishing condition, the appointment of office-bearers was proceeded with. Mr George Reid, Wasdale, was elected president, Mr Alexander Learmonth, Faraclett, secretary and treasurer, Mr William Simpson, conductor, and Mrs Maggie Simpson, Schoolhouse, pianist. The Association meets for practice weekly in Sourin Public School.

1891 November 18 Orkney Herald

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON. –  The conditions for viewing the total eclipse of the moon, which took place on Sunday night, were, on the whole, favourable is this locality. The first contact with the penumbra occurred at 9.36 p.m., but it was not tilI fully half-past ten that the true shadow of the earth began to steal over the lunar disc. It took fully an hour to totally eclipse the satellite, and at half-past eleven all that was visible of the moon was a ruddy copper-coloured body, the markings on the surface of which were clearly shown through a telescope. The moon remained obscured till one o’clock on Monday morning. By two o’clock the shadow had passed away, but it was not till three, when the last contact with the penumbra took place, that the orb shone forth with its accustomed brilliancy.

1891 November 18 Orkney Herald


We have extracted the following from an article, entitled “Land Legislation: a Plain Tale and a Warning,” which General Burroughs has contributed to the current number of the National Review: –

After describing the agitation, caused, as General Burroughs states, as a sequence to the Irish Land Act of Mr Gladstone’s Government – an Act he regards as a Landlord Spoliation Act – which led to the passing of the Crofter Holdings (Scotland) Act by the Liberal party, for what he looks upon as “the forcible transference, without compensation, of the property of landlords, to those who hired it from them,” the writer produces arguments from Tory sources – principally from speeches delivered by Lord Salisbury – for the purpose of proving that “the state of affairs which has been thus produced is both unjust and perilous.” In support of his contention that the Crofters Act is a deviation from the paths of justice, he thus proceeds to point out what he styles “the evil effects of the Act in the Orkney Islands”: – It is said that about the time of the introduction of the Education Act into Scotland a high dignitary of the Education Department, who was ordered to inquire into the difficulties there connected with that Act, went in search of the Orkneys among the outer Hebrides! It may therefore be advisable to state that the Orkneys are a group of some sixty-seven islands, of which twenty-nine are inhabited. They measure from N.E. to S.W. about seventy miles, and from E. to W. about forty miles. They are separated from one another by arms of the sea from half a mile to five miles in width, and are dotted with harbours which afford shipping safe shelter from every wind, and render this archipelago a favoured resort for fishermen, for yachtsmen, and for wild-fowlers. To the westward the islands are hilly and picturesque. To the east-ward they are flat, and their scenery, as seen from the sea, is tame. They are situated in the North Sea, off the extreme north coast of Scotland, and some nine miles off the coast of Caithness, from which they are divided by the Pentland Firth. They are grouped around the spot where the degrees 59 of north latitude and 3 of west longitude from the meridian of Greenwich cross each other. Their population is 30,438. The valuation of the county of Orkney in 1890-91 was £78,960. The value of fish landed and sold in a year is shown by the Scottish Fishery Statistics to be not far short of the total land rent; and, strange to say, the value of eggs annually exported and consumed in Orkney also amounts to about £75,000. “It may fairly be said,” says one of our Orkney journals, “that the Orkney live-stock market has in no sense suffered to the same extent as the counties and districts in other parts of Scotland. The islands have all along been free from infectious disease, and while other markets have been tabooed theirs has always been open to the southern buyer.” Consequently, good prices for live-stock have been the rule. Orkney is a great cattle-and-sheep-rearing county. Cattle are sold as two-year-old stots, and sheep as wether hogs, to South-country buyers, to be fed and sold to the butcher. There is no better beef than Orkney beef. All who have been to Paris know that the butchers and the restauranteurs of that city of gourmets make an extra charge for what they call “mouton pre sale,” or for mutton raised on pastures sprinkled with sea-spray. All Orkney mutton is “mouton pre sale,” and is much esteemed wherever known. The mildness of the climate of these islands, caused by the Gulf Stream, and the fact that frost and snow seldom last beyond two days at a time, render it unnecessary for farmers to send sheep south for wintering. Orkney agriculturists are thus saved this heavy expense in Highland farming. Seaweed and shell-sand are to be had in abundance around the shores of these islands, and by their use the heavy bills for fertilisers incurred by farmers of inland districts are unknown to small farmers and crofters in the islands. It must be remembered that the two groups of the Orkney and Shetland islands, excepting in being represented in Parliament by the same man, are to all respects two entirely separate counties; and that Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, is about 100 miles to the south of Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, or as far from it as Aberdeen is from Kirkwall. Previously to Mr Gladstone’s revolution in land legislation for Ireland, peace, prosperity, and good-will between landlord and tenant prevailed in the Orkneys. Since the passing of the Crofter Act the whole agricultural community has been set by the ears. The lairds have been traduced and plundered, and the kindly feeling between them and their crofter is at an end. The large farmers now hate the crofters; and the younger sons of small farmers and of the labourers, who looked forward to marrying and settling on crofts, and now see themselves debarred from doing so by the perpetuity of tenure granted to the crofters, simply detest them, and say, “What right have they to the land? They did not buy it. We have just as much right to it as they have.” Thus the condition of the crofters is in many respects worse than before. They know, and their neighbours know, that in justice they have no proprietorial rights to their holdings, and they may now be seen slouching about with the hang-dog look of persons who are ashamed. No class of the community was more astonished at the results of the Crofters Commission than were the men who suddenly found themselves placed in permanent possession, without purchase, of their neighbours’ property.

Before the year 1832 incomes in these islands had been derived from the manufacture of kelp, which consisted mainly in burning in heaps the sea weed thrown upon the shores. The residuum was called “kelp,” which was sold in those days, to be made into glass and iodine, for as much as £40 a ton. The value of the islands depended upon the amount of kelp they produced; but, barilla having been permitted to be imported into Britain free of duty, and taking the place of kelp, the industry ceased. Then landowners turned their attention to the cultivation of the soil. Since that time the agricultural progress of the Orkneys, as recorded in the Annual Agricultural Returns of the Kingdom, has been proportionally greater than that of almost any other county in Scotland. In other counties agricultural improvement has been steadily progressing since the year 1745. In this county it began about 100 years later; and since the introduction of steam communication with these islands, and until the passing of the Crofter Holdings (Scotland) Act, it was advancing by leaps and bounds. In 1845 the price of a good cow was about £3, and that of a sheep 2s 6d. Now good cows cost from £15 to £18, and sheep cost from £1 to £2 and more. Short-horns and polled cattle are now the prevailing breeds of cattle; and crosses between Leicester and Cheviot are the favourite sheep. There are only two flocks of blackfaced sheep; one in the island of Hoy, and one other in the island of Rousay. A few of the old wild sheep are still to be found in North Ronaldshay. Much land has been put into cultivation, either by the landowners themselves or through specified agreements with the tenants. On the island of Shapinsay alone (part of the estate of Colonel Balfour of Balfour), the extent of which is about 7,000 acres, forty years ago there were not 600 acres of cultivated land. Now about 5,000 acres are cultivated, and the remainder is good pasture. Every important island of the group has been similarly treated. Thousands upon thousands of pounds have been spent by landlords on draining, on enclosing, and on building houses and farm steadings.

Referring to the evidence given before Lord Napier’s and Sheriff Brand’s Crofter Commissioners with regard to his own estates of Rousay and Veira, General Burroughs says – Some £40,000 have by my grand-uncle, the late Mr G. W. Traill, and myself, been expended on improvements during 45 years. Some forty years ago there was in Rousay no road, no pier, no post, and no regular means of communication within the island or beyond it. There was hardly a walled enclosure in it; and the run-rig system of cultivation (when the land was cultivated) was in force. The houses generally were very comfortless; few had any fireplace beyond a hearth-stone in the centre of the dwelling, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out. Elderly men have told me that in their young days they hardly ever saw the colour of money. Rent was then paid in kain (kind) only. There was then no doctor on the island, and there was only one (the parish) minister. Now in Rousay there are twenty miles of good macadamised roads; there is a substantial stone pier; and a steamer plies between it and Kirkwall, the county town, regularly. There is daily postal communication with the rest of the world, and a post-gig makes the circuit of the island every week-day. Some thirty miles of stone walls and some nine miles of wire fencing have been erected; thousands of acres of land have been drained; fields have been squared; and the run-rig system of cultivation has been abolished; many new houses and farm steadings have been built; and the old “lum” in the centre of the dwelling is no longer to be seen. Money payments have long ago been substituted for payments in kind. There is now a resident doctor; and, instead of one parish minister, there are four ministers – ministers of the Presbyterian, Established, the United Presbyterian, and the Free Churches, to attend to 1118 souls; and there are in the parish five Board Schools, four schoolmasters, one schoolmistress, and four sewing mistresses, to teach less than 200 children. The stipends and salaries of ministers and teachers amount to about £1000 a year. The gross rental of the parish for the year 1890-91 is £3501. These particulars show that the inhabitants of the islands cannot be described as being in destitute or neglected circumstances.

I may add that for some 20 years of my military career I returned one-third of my rental to my tenants, to be laid out, under the superintendence of my factor, in improvements on their farms and holdings. I did not do this out of purely philanthropic motives. I hoped, whilst bettering their condition, to reap a fair return in my old age for this outlay of capital. Old age has now come upon me; but, by a stroke of the pen, the Crofters Commission has robbed me and my heirs of the fruits of my “prudence,” and has handed them in perpetuity to my tenants and their heirs, who have no just claim to them.

The writer goes on to remark that some tourists arrive for the first time in the Orkneys in the expectation of finding the inhabitants in the state of the ancient Britons, but they soon find out their mistake, and discover that the people are neither what the law describes as “infants” in business ways, nor incapable of taking care of themselves. They require no special Acts of Parliament to help them. The climate of the islands is mild and equable; the soil is good; the seas teem with fish; there is sea-weed and shell-sand around the shores; in many of the islands peat was to be had for the trouble of fetching it; and the inhabitants are well housed, well clothed, and well off. Rents always have been low. Poverty there may be, for we are told that the poor are ever to be amongst us, but want and misery, as experienced in large towns and cities, are unknown. It came out in evidence before Lord Napier of Ettrick’s Crofter Commission, in 1883, that during the Lammas Fair week a draper’s shop in Kirkwall drew £500 in the sale of artificial flowers for bonnets to farmers’, crofters’, and labourers’ wives and daughters! The population of Kirkwall is 4100, and there are many draper’s shops in the town, all doing a roaring trade at that time. It was also stated before the Commission that about half a million of money was lodged in the banks of the county in the names of tenant farmers and crofters. Why, then, was the Crofter Act extended to the Orkney Islands, where the landowners have been so enterprising, and the inhabitants generally are so well-to-do?

After citing some of the reasons advanced by the Liberal party for the passing of the Act, the writer remarks that Dr Clarke, M.P. for Caithness-shire, had expressed his belief that “the landlords must go; it was only a question with him of getting them away under equitable conditions.” Possessing no more land than that resting on his travel-stained person, although land in plenty is to be bought, it is at no personal sacrifice to Dr Clarke that the land is wrenched from the possession of its lawful owners, and is handed over to those who have hired it from them.

Such, says General Burroughs, are the “equitable conditions” provided in the Crofter Holdings (Scotland) Act, and he concludes his article by stating the following three cases, out of many others which he states have occurred on his own estate, as samples of Crofter Commission justice: –

On the estate of Rousay, a house called Redlums, with three rooms, a carpenter’s shop, and a cow-byre, with two acres of arable land and nine of pasture, alongside of the public road, was let to a man named John Louttit, who had married a house-maid who had been some years in the Traill family, at first for £2 a year, which, when his family were grown up and able to help him, was raised to £3 a year. Louttit applied to the Commission for a “fair rent.” His rent, like that of others, was reduced some 30 per cent., and made up £2 a year, and of £3 10s of arrears lately run up by him they cancelled £2 10s. Where else, may I ask, can the accommodation possessed by Louttit, and given to him in the first instance as a favour, be obtained for such a rent?

Another case is the farm of Avalshay, on which there are 95 arable acres and 175 pasture. The farm was occupied by two brothers – Leslie Mainland and John Mainland – whose families lived in the same house. Their wives quarrelled, and the eldest brother and his family went to America. In a few years the other brother and his family also went to America. The brothers had had a nephew, a sister’s son named Craigie, as a farm-servant on the farm, who occupied a detached house on it, and as part payment for his services a portion of the farm – a cow’s grass and potato land – had been allotted to him by his uncles. When the second brother left, at the November term in 1886, Craigie came to me and asked to be permitted to retain possession of the house which he occupied until the May term. That time, he said, would be more convenient for him to remove to another house. The farm had been left in bad order, and it was necessary for me to take it into my own hands before re-letting it, so I permitted Craigie to remain in the house until the May term. As the term drew near my factor went to him to arrange about his departure. Craigie intimated that he did not intend to remove. He had been advised to apply to the Crofter Commission to be declared a crofter, and he had done so. Proceedings of removal against him were sisted by the Commission, and they subsequently decreed him to be a crofter. They apportioned him three acres of the farm of Avalshay for his cow, and put upon it a “fair rent” of £2. This house and land, which were now made over by the Commission to Craigie and his heirs for ever, cut off two fields of the farm of Avalshay from a rivulet which supplied them with water; and instead of £100 a year, which was the rent of the farm, its rent, by reason of Craigie being permitted independently to squat upon it, is reduced to £50 a year.

The third case is that of Knarston, which was rented by two tenants – John Gibson and Simpson Skethaway – but as one farm, at a rent of £60 a year. It has 60 arable acres and 27 pasture. Gibson always paid regularly, but Skethaway was generally in arrears. At this time Skethaway’s arrears amounted to £39. When pressed for payment he applied to the Commission. The Commission decreed that £60 divided between two made £30 (the crofter limit of rent), and that they were both crofters. The rent of the farm was reduced from £60 to £35 12s a year, and of £39 of arrears due by Skethaway £25 was cancelled. The rent of this farm in the year 1854, thirty-seven years ago, was £42 – £12 more than the sum to which it has been reduced. In 1854 there was no road in the island, no pier, and no steamer calling at it! The man who was constantly in arrears is rewarded, and the one who paid regularly is (as it were) punished for having done so.

General Burroughs further says – I took the opinion of counsel on those cases. I was told that the decisions were unjust, but that the Commission had been invested by Parliament with extraordinary powers, over-riding the law of the land, and that they had not exceeded those powers, and that there was no redress possible. Many more cases might be cited; but I will only add that applications to the Commission from the County of Orkney have been held over year after year; that proceedings to recover rent in those cases have been sisted, and that landowners, from their incomes being thus unjustly arrested, have been driven to great and unmerited hardship.

1891 December 2 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – In his article on “Land Legislation” in the National Review, General Burroughs says: – “It came out in evidence before Lord Napier of Ettrick’s Crofters Commission, in 1883, that during the Lammas Fair week a draper’s shop in Kirkwall drew £500 in the sale of artificial flowers for bonnets to farmers’, crofters’, and labourers’, wives and daughters!” The mark of exclamation is the General’s, and I am not surprised that he should have made it. The statement is a most amazing one – so amazing, indeed, that I am inclined to think some error must have been made in the reporting of the evidence – a cipher too many put to the right of the unit, or something of that kind. The artificial flowers sold in Orkney are, as a rule, of the less expensive sorts. How many of the classes enumerated by General Burroughs pay as high as 2s 6d for the flowers which go to decorate their Sunday headgear? Let us take that sum as an average, however, and what do we have? In one week 4000 persons – “farmers’, crofters’, and labourers’ wives and daughters” – purchasing artificial flowers in a single shop in Kirkwall! Amazing! Most amazing!! – Yours, &c.,   D.


ROUSAY – THE YEARLY BUSINESS MEETING OF The Rousay Medical Association was held in Sourin Public School on Saturday last. There was a full attendance of members, the Rev. A. I. Pirie, president of the association, presiding. The Secretary read an account of the income and expenditure of the association, which has now been in existence for twelve months, and has been of great benefit to the community. The meeting discussed the rules of the society, and as some of these were amended new copies were ordered to be printed, and will, in due course, be supplied to the members. The committee and office-bearers were unanimously re-appointed.

1891 December 23 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – EVENING CLASSES for the study of reading, writing, and arithmetic have been opened in Sourin Public School, and will be continued during the winter months. These classes are intended to benefit those who have left school, and it is to be hoped that many will avail themselves of this opportunity of increasing their proficiency in these useful branches of knowledge.


Letters to the Editor

SIR, —It appears from your issue of the 18th ult. that General Burroughs has lately been seeking to find for himself fresh fields and pastures new. He has recently been airing his grievances in a paper called the National Review. Since the General’s method of dealing with his tenantry was first revealed before Her Majesty’s Commissioners, his fame as an exacting landlord has gone forth to the world, and has been exposed both far and near. This latest effusion of which has found its way into the National Review, is only a very plain sample of the old stock. The laird of Rousay, after making some attempts to quote statistics to show the prosperous condition of his tenantry, goes on to say that during his military career he returned one-third of his rent to his tenants to be laid out in improving their holdings. Sayings of this kind look well enough on the surface, unless they are probed, but the facts of the case are these: – The General, after the land was squared, laid on a third, and, in some cases, a double rent, which the tenant was compelled to pay in money, or make improvements up to the maximum value, and after seven years this money payment was compulsory, and was rigorously extorted. This was truly the system that was carried on, and is a sample of what the Rousay laird terms his purely philanthropic motives. It should also be stated that the twenty miles of macadamised roads spoken of were not made at the proprietor’s expense, but the tenants were forced to pay a very heavy assessment for road-making during the road-making period. It is quite true the the Rousay farmers and crofters had a considerable amount of money in the banks of the county at one time, but since the rack-renting system commenced things have materially altered for the worse. I have known farmers in the island who had deposits in the bank of from £200 to £800 being compelled in a few years to draw out every sixpence for the purpose of paying their rents. This hard earned money, which might have been a great support and a blessing to its owners in old age, has been all drawn from them. Since the gallant General left off riding his war-horse in foreign lands, and mounted his Rousay war-steed, he has made some desperate attempts all along the line to invade the territory of his poor helpless tenants, but he has not yet been so successful, I am glad know, as he at one time expected. He had not yet won so many victories over his poor crofters as he accomplished on the shores of the Black Sea and among the Sepoys in India. The General makes reference to the reasons why the two brothers, the men of Avelshay, left their farm. The reason why they left the home wherein they were born was that they were not able to pay the exorbitant rent laid on them by their landlord. As a witness of this, I may state that after John Mainland gave it up, Avelshay remained a good while on the hands of the proprietor unlet, and in the end the proprietor was compelled to let it to the present tenant at a greatly reduced rent, I think about one-third less than the Mainlands were paying. It appears rather strange that General Burroughs, in stating some of the hardships which he has had to endure under the Crofters Act, has, for reasons I suppose best known to himseIf, entirely omitted to mention some of the benefits, if benefits they may be called, which the said Act bestows on landlords of his own principles. It has given him a power which he has not been slow to take advantage of, and which he has exercised on two or three of his crofters. This must surely be a very unjust law, which on the one hand gives a proprietor power to prohibit the tenant taking stones from the land which he occupies to repair houses and for other necessary purposes, and on the other hand, at this same time, it gives the proprietor power to prosecute the same tenant if he allows the property to get into a state of disrepair. Surely such an iniquitous and unjust law cannot remain long on the Statute Book in this nineteenth century. The sooner it is repealed the better, for if every proprietor in Scotland were to act as General Burroughs, every poor crofter would in a very few years be forced to leave his dilapidated holding, and where they could all find a home for themselves I am not able in the meantime to say. But we earnestly hope that the time is not far distant when neither General Burroughs nor any of his minions will have either the authority or the power to say to any of his poor crofters, thou shalt not steal stones, but every one on the property will, without fear or favour, have free liberty to take stones and build themselves houses on the earth which God has given them to live upon.

Apologising for taking up so much of your valuable space, – I am, &c.,