In Print

Newsprint – 1892

1892 January 13 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – CONCERT. – The annual concert of the Rousay Mutual Improvement Guild, which was to have been held on Christmas night but was unavoidably postponed, was held in Wasbister Public School on Thursday evening. In spite of the stormy weather, there was a large and appreciative audience. The school was tastefully decorated. Mr Robert Gordon occupied the chair. Every item in the following programme was rendered in a most pleasing manner: –

Quartette, “Christmas Bells,” Misses Craigie and Kirkness, and Messrs Clouston and Leonard; song, “Foremost Aye,” Mr Fred Kirkness; reading, “Spectacles in Church,” Mr Alexander Horne; song, “The Muffin Man,” school children; song, “Annie Rooney,” Mr J. Clouston; recitation, “Johnnie Smith,” Mr Hugh Craigie; song, “Rothesay Bay,” Miss Bella Kirkness; selection, “A Drunkard’s Conceit,” Mr Horne; play, “Distinguished Visitors,” (Wyke) Misses Kirkness, Craigie, and Kirkness, and Messrs Horne, Craigie, Clouston, and Craigie; Interval. Quartette, “A Bright New Year,” Misses Kirkness and Craigie, and Messrs Leonard and Clouston; dialogue, “The Disgusted Dutchman,” Messrs Craigie, Leonard, and Kirkness; song, “Scotland Yet,” Mr M. Leonard; recitation, “A Sailor’s Yarn,” Mr Horne; song, “Clara Nolan’s Ball,” Miss Kirkness; recitation, “The Nancy Bell,” Mr R. Learmonth; song, “Up to Date,”, Mr J. Clouston; n[egro] farce, “16000 Years Ago.”

1892 January 20 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – INFLUENZA has at last made its appearance in the island, and is prevailing to an alarming extent. Few families are escaping; in many cases the whole of the members are laid up with it. We have had no fatal cases yet. The schools have been closed since the New Year, and the malady shows no signs of abating. The churches are deserted. All out-door work except what is absolutely necessary is suspended.

1892 January 27 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY, EVIE AND RENDALL STEAM NAVIGATION COY. (LIMITED). – In connection with the annual meeting of the shareholders of this company on Friday first, the following circular has been issued by Messrs Macrae & Robertson: – ” We consider it right to let you know that at the meeting of shareholders to be held on the 29th inst., we intend to bring under the notice of the shareholders the advisability of selling the steamer, and winding up the company without delay, and to invite an informal discussion on the subject. As it would be well that the views of as many of the shareholders as possible be known before it is decided to take such an important step, we trust you will try to be present, or to be represented at the meeting on the 29th inst.”

1892 February 3 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY, EVIE AND RENDALL STEAM NAVIGATION COY. (LIMITED.) – The annual general meeting of the shareholders of this company was held on Friday in the offices of Messrs Macrae & Robertson, Kirkwall, under the presidency of General Burroughs. There was a good attendance. After the annual report of the manager and directors of the company, and the financial statement had been submitted, a long informal discussion took place as to the advisability of selling the steamer Lizzie Burroughs and winding up the company. It was resolved to continue the running of the steamer for about two months, and that another meeting of shareholders should be called at the end of the present month, at which the financial aspect of affairs and other matters will be further discussed, and the advisability of winding up the company, or otherwise, will be determined.

1892 February 10 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – I have read with great interest the description of the heroic conduct of Wm. Robertson, Wm. Taylor, A. Sutherland, John Groat. R. Malcomson, Edward Fiddler, and Walter Campbell, all belonging Osmandwall, Walls, who, seeing two men who had been blown across the Pentland Firth from Caithness in a small boat, whose strength was exhausted, and who were in imminent peril in the storm of Sunday, the 24th January of this year, manned a pilot boat, and, at the risk of their own lives, saved the lives of these two men, Angus and John Mackay, belonging to Strathy, in Sutherland-shire. I also read, when in London in March 1891, of the still more heroic conduct of Benjamin Stout, Wm. Swanson, James Stout (a boy of 13), George Swanson, J. Dass, sen., J. Dass, jun., Robt. Dass, Wm. Robertson, Wm. Moat, John Swanson, sen., John Swanson, jun., Alex. Gunn, Thomas Gunn, and Alex. Johnston, who seeing the steamer Victoria, of Sunderland, disabled, and in a sinking state in the Pentland Firth, on the 3rd March 1891, courageously manned the lifeboat in Aith Hope and proceeded across the Pentland Firth, in a terrific sea, at the imminent peril of their lives, and saved from a watery grave the crew of the steamer, 22 in number, off Dunnet Head, in Caithness. The coxswains of these two rescuing crews, Benjamin Stout and Wm. Robertson, it is said, are both famed for their daring deeds and for the many lives they have saved at sea.

These occurrences having happened so short a time ago are still fresh in the memory of all in Orkney to-day; but such noble deeds should be never be forgotten! They should be handed down for the admiration and emulation of generations to come. I have waited in the hope that somebody from Walls would take up the cause of these brave men. As no one has done so, to my knowledge, I venture now to do so, and to suggest that some public recognition of their heroism and self-sacrifice should take place; and I would suggest that a subscription be raised throughout Orkney and elsewhere, and that the names of these brave men, with a short account of their deeds, be engraved on two marble slabs, and be fixed in the Town Hall either of Stromness or Kirkwall, and that the surplus of the subscription be divided amongst the two rescuing crews. And I would further suggest to the Provost of Kirkwall, and to the Chief Magistrate of Stromness, that public meetings be convened by them to carry out this object, and to mark the high appreciation of the public of deeds which have reflected honour upon this county. – I am, &c.,      F. TRAILL BURROUGHS.

P.S. – Appeals for help herein might be published in the Shipping Gazettes, and they would, no doubt, be liberally responded to.

1892 February 17 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – SCHOLASTIC. – Mr Alexander Horne, teacher, Wasbister, has resigned, having been appointed headmaster of Orphir Public School.

INFLUENZA, – This fell disease seems to have now run its course in this island. Some are still suffering from its effects, and though able to move about again complain of great weakness. The boisterous and unsettled weather of late has been very unfavourable to their recovery. Sourin and Wasbister schools were opened last week, having been closed for five weeks, but the attendance was very small. Frotoft School was opened this week.

FARMERS are very much in arrears with their work. The fields are so wet just now that ploughing cannot be proceeded with, in many cases.

1892 March 9 Orkney Herald

CONTRAVENTION OF THE PLEURO-PNEUMONIA ORDERS. – At a Justice of the Peace Court held in Kirkwall yesterday, Lieut-General F. W. T. Burroughs of Rousay and Veira, and Peter Swanson, farm manager, Trumland, Rousay, were charged with having on 18th February moved a breeding bull from the pier of Scrabster, within the district of the Local Authority of Caithness, and for the time being free from pleura-pneumonia, by the s.s. Argyll to the pier of Scapa, and then to Rousay, without a license of the Local Authority of the County of Orkney granted on a certificate of a veterinary inspector at the port of shipment, certifying that the bull was, in his opinion, free from pleuro-pneumonia, or a declaration by the owner stating that the bull was not affected with pleuro-pneumonia, and had not been exposed to infection. The offence was admitted, and Swanson was sentenced to pay a modified penalty of 10s, with 16s of expenses. At the same Court the North of Scotland and Orkney and Shetland Steam Navigation Coy. pled guilty to having removed the bull from Scrabster to Scapa without a certificate, and were sentenced to pay a fine of 20s, with a modified penalty of £1 7s 6d of expenses.

1892 April 6 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – CONCERT. – The Sourin Musical Association brought their third session to a close on Thursday evening by a grand secular concert. The schoolroom, which presented a bright and cheerful appearance, was well filled, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather. The Rev. A. I. Pirie occupied the chair, and, in a few appropriate and humorous remarks, introduced the performers to their audience. The rev. gentleman added much to the evening’s enjoyment by the apt and humorous anecdotes with which he introduced or concluded the several items on the programme. The chorus, numbering about thirty voices, contributed largely, by their tasteful and spirited singing, to the success of a concert which is generally acknowledged to have been the best ever given in Rousay. So delighted was the audience with the singing of Root’s “See the Troops Advancing,” that they demanded a repetition. Of the other part-songs, special mention must be made of “Lovely Night” and “Let the Hills Resound,” which afford excellent opportunities for a display of light and shade, and in which the choir showed the result of careful training at the hands of their conductor, Mr William Simpson. The soloists all acquitted themselves with much satisfaction. Mr W. Learmonth gave a touching rendering of “The Anchor’s Weighed,” for which he was deservedly applauded. Mr Allan C. Gibson brought down the house with “John Tamson’s Cairt,” and in response to a recall gave “Love Letters” with equal acceptance. Mr W. Simpson afforded much amusement by his singing of “See me Dance the Polka,” and on being recalled gave “What do you think o’ me noo, kind sirs?” Miss M. Learmonth, who possesses a very sweet voice, sang, with much taste and feeling, “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond,” for which she received a well-merited encore. Mr George Reid sang with fine effect, “When the Kye comes Hame;” and an encore being vigorously demanded, he fairly convulsed his audience by the pawky and humorous manner in which be portrayed the troubles of “John Grumlie.” Miss M. Russell and Mr W. Learmonth gave a good account of themselves in the duet, “No, Sir;” and the latter gentleman and the conductor essayed “Larboard Watch” with much acceptance. The singing of “Dame Durden,” by Messrs Reid, Gibson, and Learmonth, was deservedly encored. It would be invidious to particularise the singing of the quartettes, which was marked by a good deal of taste and expression. A word of praise is due, however, to two of the younger members – Misses A. Munro and A. Sinclair, who made their debut on this occasion, each taking part in several quartettes. The Chairman, at the conclusion, complimented the association on their performance, to which the Conductor briefly replied. The singing of the National Anthem, in which the audience joined, concluded a very enjoyable evening.

1892 April 13 Orkney Herald

AT a meeting of the Rousay, Evie and Rendall Steam Navigation Company (Limited) on Saturday, it was resolved to wind up the company, and to offer the steamer Lizzie Burroughs for sale. Mr Sinclair, of Messrs Macrae & Robertson, was appointed liquidator.

1892 April 20 Orkney Herald

THE WEATHER. – No such severe cold as the present has been experienced in the month of April for many years. The opening days of April were almost the warmest on record for the time of year, though there was generally frost during the night time; but the middle of the month has been about the coldest, having been marked by keen frost and occasional snow showers. Similar weather has been experienced over the whole of northern Europe.

1892 May 3 John o’ Groat Journal

SALE OF THE s.s. LIZZIE BURROUGHS. – lt having been agreed to wind up the Rousay, Evie, and Rendall Steam Navigation Company, the steamer Lizzie Burroughs was offered for sale at Kirkwall on Monday at the upset price of £250. After spirited competition, the vessel was knocked down to Mr Robert Garden, merchant, for £484. Mr T. S. Peace was the auctioneer. One of the conditions of the sale was that the name of the steamer was to be altered within three months. The steamer will therefore be called the Aberdonian, and will continue in the present trade between Kirkwall, Rousay, Evie, Rendall, etc.

1892 May 4 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – In your issue of the 13th ult., the following paragraph appeared in a letter on the Land Purchase Question by a correspondent signed “James Nicolson”: – “Let not the Orkney electors be carried away either by one Government or another. Let them agitate for the restoration of the land to the people, and get rid of the one man landlord. Then would the crofter question be settled and such men as General Burroughs and the Duke of Argyle would be free to benefit their fellowman, instead of snarling like dogs in their kennels at all and sundry.” Now, I am not to criticise Mr Nicolson’s writing generally on the land question, but I certainly undervalue, in a very high degree, the uncourteous remarks on General Burroughs. Mr James Nicolson should keep in mind when he again writes to the public press that although written language is a medium by which men communicate their thoughts one to another, personalities in controversy are always the weapons of a coward; they are so when they are true, but when false they are base as well as cowardly. I know General Burroughs to be genial and large-hearted, and that he would with pleasure recognise his tenant crofters, all and sundry, in a kindly manner if they would but unclothe themselves of that hypocritical bigotry nursed towards him since the passing of the Crofters Act. When General Burroughs in different newspapers, criticised the Crofters Act after the Commissioners decisions, he had good cause for so doing, and was therefore creditably looked upon by all conscientious and wise thinking men.

In a series of articles recently written to a newspaper criticising the working system of the Crofters Act, and the discreditable attitude which many crofters under the wing of that Act had taken towards their proprietors, the writer says: – “Under the system of the Crofters Act, I do not say all the tenants who have taken part therein, and have been benefited thereby, are now using their landlords in the manner I have just left behind as an instance, but it must be quite patent to all that the great majority do not pay the respect due to them that should be shown. The proprietor of the Rousay and Viera estate is being very badly treated in this way. A number of years ago, when I had occasion to visit frequently these isles, the crofters to all appearance were happy and contented with their lot. At that time General and Mrs Burroughs, in consequence of their kindly manners towards the inhabitants, and of their increasing endeavours to encourage amongst them that thrift and cleanliness which have since grown to a creditable degree, were deservedly popular throughout the estate; in fact, in those good old times, peace amongst all classes alike seemed to be the reigning element in these isles; but now the scene is changed. General Burroughs is now hardly honoured and respected as a superior by his crofter tenants, neither are they esteemed by him as loyal subjects. No wonder that, after having first been bitten severely by the Land Commissioners’ decisions, and thereafter so uncourteously used by his own tenantry, the General at the first opportunity showed his displeasure by caving in that weak part or omission of the Act relative to stone quarrying. Immediately when he did so, he was severely criticised in the columns of a number of Scotch newspapers, the editors of which, however, made no comment, because they thought he was wrong. They knew better. They only did so to humour the crofters at the time.” – Yours, &c.,         JUSTICE.

1892 May 11 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


Sir, – In your issue of last week some unknown correspondent, who has a liking to hidden ways, appropriates to himself the grandest word in the English language as his pseudonym, and at once belies it by the unjust statement that the reference made in my previous letter to the Duke of Argyle and the General were personalities. Such an offence as that I have no wish to commit, because calling each other names will never take the place of argument; but the class of men termed landlord’s occupies a peculiar public position, and their words and actions as such are open to fair criticism. Both the “Duke” and the “General” have made themselves (it may be unwittingly) the public exponents of a type of landlords which an ever-increasing portion of the community regard as an anomaly in this latter part of the nineteenth century. The cloven foot of an obsolete ownership of land appears under the whole of “Justice’s” remarks, while my contention is that neither in Civil law nor in the higher law of mankind, is ownership in land as may be claimed in other things. It is this fundamental principle which the “General” seems to overlook. The mere accident of birth or the possession of money does not make a man my superior in the love of wife, children, home, or the land of my birth. Why, then, should any man because of birth or money have the power to break up my home, or force me to leave the land of my nativity, because of impossible exactions enforced upon me by him as a landlord? What moral law have I broken? What injury to my fellow-men have I been guilty of? I think I know my Orcadian fellow men sufficiently well to judge that something has been amiss ere they rise in rebellion against their landlord. The day is long gone by when the “hat in hand” obeisance is possible between landlord and tenant. The one has as good right as the other to the land on which to live his brief existence, and if by selfish means and oppressive actions either the one or the other makes living more difficult and life more a burden, then either fails in his duty as brother-man.

Instead of ”Justice” defending his friend the “General” in the manner of his last effusion, let him confer with him and call a meeting of his tenants, hear their grievances, make himself acquainted with their ideas and aspirations; then set himself to do the duties of one entrusted with a great responsibility, acting in the spirit of a brother. It would be surprising in how short a time his true superiority would be recognised, and Crofters’ Acts would be a dead letter. But let the present method be carried on of a mere rent collector, and never will there be a truce to the warfare, and it requires no prophet to tell us on which side will be the victory. – Yours, &c, JAMES NICOLSON.

1892 May 18 Orkney Herald

IN the island of —–y, Orkney, there was lately held a full-dress party, the cards of invitation to which had appended the usual formula, R.S.V.P. As the inhabitants of the island are not, as a rule, too highly versed in society affairs, these letters were a cause of much conjecture. Many were the interpretations given, but we think the following, given by certain well-educated persons, takes the prize-cake – “Rotten sausages, vile pastry.” It is not reported whether the interpretation was justified or not.

1892 May 25 Orkney Herald

THE WEATHER. – Though, according to the calendar, we are within a month of mid-summer, the thermometer and barometer would rather indicate that we are as near mid-winter. Only last Saturday, the hills were covered with snow, while throughout the whole week cold and stormy weather prevailed. We may surely now hope that we have at last bade good-bye to gloomy winter, and that May will yet make good its tardy promise of genial weather.

1892 May 25 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – A letter which appeared in your issue of the 4th inst., on the defence of General Burroughs, and signed “Justice,” deserves to be noticed. The writer of that epistle, it appears, possesses a very meagre knowledge of the nature of the strained relations which has for so long existed between the laird of Rousay and his tenantry; or perhaps only requires his memory to be a little refreshed on some Incidents which have already happened in that island. I wonder if your correspondent is aware that General Burroughs was the only proprietor in Orkney that refused to give his word of honour to the chairman of H.M. Commission that nothing was ever likely to happen to the delegates on account of the evidence that the crofters had appointed them to give. Of course, it is well enough known that the General refused to give the pledge asked for by Lord Napier, the chairman of the Commission, and he acted honestly enough in one way, so far as his inclinations went, in not making rash promises, for very shortly after he evicted the crofters’ two spokesmen, simply for telling the truth and revealing to the world some incidents of this landlord tyranny. These are facts that cannot be disputed, and are well known both far and near. “Justice” appears to be offended at some criticism which Mr James Nicolson passed on some of General Burroughs’ high-handed dealing which had already been meted out to some of his tenantry. Mr Nicolson’s statements were quite true, every one of them, and I fail to see for what reason your correspondent calls them uncourteous or uncivil either, for facts are said to be “chiels that winna ding,”

“Justice” goes on to say that the proprietor of Rousay and Viera was at one time very popular with his tenants. The gallant General was far more popular with his tenantry when he was farther away from them – away at the head of his regiment in far-off lands. But ever since he took up his abode in Rousay, things have materially altered for the worse – rents have been raised more than one-half, and in many cases poor people have been compelled to pay two-thirds more within the last twenty or thirty years, and when any of the tenants complained of being not able to pay an impossible rent, the same rejoinder was made to serve all and sundry, “If you are not satisfied you can go.” How can poor people in Rousay be loyal and contented, labouring under such difficulties as these? General Burroughs had no cause to find fault with H.M. Commissioners more than any other landlord in Scotland, who meekly bowed to their decisions. When over 30 per cent. was given to some of the crofters on his estate, and a large amount of arrears wiped off, it showed plainly enough that their presence in Rousay was as urgently needed there as in any other place in Scotland. Your correspondent makes what appears to me some unintelligent remarks on the crusade which the laird of Rousay made against some of his crofters for stone-quarrying. He seems to blame the weak points in the law rather than the General’s conduct, but all that need be said on the matter is that the fewer weak points there are in the Crofters Act the better for those in Rousay who are benefited by its provisions. It may interest “Justice” and some of your readers to know that not very long ago one of the crofters in that remote island who found that some of his houses needed repair went to quarry stones below where the sea ebbs and flows, but when the proprietor heard it, he immediately despatched one of his minions to warn the poor crofter that he was committing a breach of the eighth commandment. Of course the crofter had to desist, to avoid prosecution. In conclusion I would like to ask “Justice” one question – Did he ever know or hear of a case in which a landlord prosecuted a tenant before a court of law for quarrying stones from the ground which he occupied and paid rent for? By answering such a question your correspondent would, be doing a favour to, – Yours, &c., A NORTH ISLES MAN.


SIR, – In your last issue I have read Mr Nicolson’s reply to my letter. By it I am pleased to see he has now learned to condemn the use of personal remarks in argument, and I really hope he will abide by this good principle. His attempt to show that General Burroughs was over exact with his tenants previous to the Land Commissioners’ visit is a very futile one. In fact, the tyranny of landlords towards their tenants depicted from time to time in the public print by Mr Nicolson and others has principally been ruthless exaggerations. These and others akin to them I have read so very often and contradicted so many times that in future I shall take no notice of them. Mr Nicolson says: – “Let not the Orkney crofter be carried away either by one Government or another. Let them agitate for the restoration of the land to the people and get rid of the one man landlord. The day is long gone by when the hat-in-hand obeisance is possible between landlord and tenant. The one has as good right as the other to the land on which to live his brief existence.” These statements are nonsense, and the only meaning I can draw therefrom is that he would have the land taken out of the hands of the landlords and divided equally amongst the farming class generally. I presume many people like him are erroneously of opinion that were riches so divided as to place rich and poor on a level all classes would become happy. But this would not be so. The consequences would be that the indolent and extravagant would knock off work and continue idle until their means were gone; while, on the other hand, the thrifty and economical would daily creep into better circumstances. In a short time there would be as great a difference in the people’s wealth as before. There will be superiors and inferiors as long as the world lasts, and we are told that inferiors should respect and even bow to their superiors. But even were such an extraordinary Act of Parliament passed that lands were to be divided equally amongst agriculturists in small allotments, the evil consequences which would accrue therefrom to the financial circumstances of the country would be great. It would at once tend to a backward movement in all agricultural pursuits, and Orkney in course of time would once more become, as it was about seventy years ego, an ancient-style farming county, when most of the farms were small and the working unprofitable.

Since that time, however, the death of primitive articles of husbandry has given birth to those of a more workable kind. The horse and steam thrashing mills have superseded the flail, the horse reaper that of the hook and scythe, the turnip hoe that of hand singling, the iron plough that of the one-sided wooden one, and in a more or less degree have all other implements of farming been improved upon. The breed of animals has also changed for the better. The average prices of horses in those days ranged from £5 to £14 each, whereas the present figures are from £16 to £60. Cattle, too, have risen an average value of £15 per head; and sheep over £1 15s. Further, with an increase of wages, more suitable food, bothies, and bed-clothing, farm servants’ circumstances are now much more satisfactory. The primary cause of this agricultural advancement has been brought about from the fact that the estates of the Earl of Zetland, General Burroughs, Colonel Balfour, Messrs Heddle, Graeme, Baikie, &c., having been open to large farm tenant competition, an influx therein of enterprising agriculturists, possessed of means and a knowledge of the latest methods of farming, was the result. On the other hand, farmers of those parishes or parts of the county that have been divided into lairdships of small dimensions from time immemorial, yet continue to work in a large degree heedless of those examples which modern progress sets forth.

What I want Mr Nicolson to understand from these statements relative to the past and present system of farming is that, were all large farms squared off into small holdings, men only of little or no means would condescend to become holders. The consequences would be that farming would at once take a retrograde move, and ultimately end in an enormous financial loss to the county, for the very good reason that capital alone can produce successful labour. It is clear that a farm must be well wrought before the farmer can make a profit, and it is equally clear that It cannot be wrought successfully without a previous outlay, not only on live stock and other materials, but also on wages to support the labourers while at work upon it.

In closing, I may state that the tenantry of Rousay and Veira are not poverty stricken; in fact, the very opposite. Even during his popular military career, when General Burroughs was returning one-third of his rent to his tenants to enable them to improve their crofts, they were supposed to be amongst the richest in the county, and are so still. To don himself poorly is a peculiar characteristic of a Rousay man, but for all that there are silver mines beneath the “auld claes.” I remember when the large farm of Holland, Stronsay, was last in the market to let, a Rousay crofter (now deceased) was an offerer. This man, as a rule, was very poorly clad, but, notwithstanding, he apparently had sufficient to stock that farm. At the present time, as agriculturists are unable to cope advantageously with the continuing downward march of mercantile depression, rents must needs be reduced. Let that, however, be done in a harmonious, legal method between landlord and tenant, and not under such an unpopular, and I may say unjust, legislation as the present Crofters Act, the most prominent benefit of which is that it feeds a lot of lawyers. – Yours, &c., JUSTICE.

1892 June 1 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – If assertions were proof, then “Justice’s” defence of the Laird of Rousay would not be the utter “nonsense” it is. Let us look at one or two of these assertions.

(1) He claims that all thinking men are on the side of General Burroughs because of his attitude towards the Crofters Act. This implies that all who do not approve of such attitude or action are not “thinking men” – an assumption which carries its own refutation whenever looked at.

(2) That there has always been “superiors and inferiors,” and that the latter are told to be subject to the former. Truly, “Justice” is a veritable Rip Van Winkle, suddenly awakened from the sleep of a thousand years. Such language is worthy only of the ages of Paganism, not of this era of Christianity. The superiority of the birth idea is giving place to the true superiority of merit and character. It is this principle of heredity of position, apart from merit, which is one of the causes of the slow progress of civilisation and a hindrance to the true brotherhood of men and of nations. This idea of landlord superiority is happily one of modern growth, and wilI have to disappear like all other despotisms. If “Justice” was true to his assumed name, he would recognise that the Crofters Act was realty against justice. The ancient laws of both England and Scotland did not give the landlord absolute power over his land and its inhabitants. And does not do so yet, in spite of 160 years of landed power and legislation. But much of that Iegislation must be undone; the Crofters Act is but the beginning. To General Burroughs as a soldier, he will be accorded all praise as a superior. This he has gained by merit and character; but surely this is no reason why he is now to turn a mere rent collector, and if his will is not obeyed, to claim the power of compulsion under threat of expulsion. This is a superiority which will never gain respect or merit praise. And it is well that a tribunal such as the Crofters Commission can be appealed to. Man as man has a right to breathe heaven’s air, and drink heaven’s water, and tread heaven’s earth. This is his birth-right, and any person or any law which seeks to control these essentials of life, or tries to make them more difficult of attainment, must be removed ere the proper development of manhood can be attained. This superior idea of “superior and inferior” must be based on something else than the relation of landlord and tenant.

(3) After quoting a sentence from my former letter, “Justice” draws an inference from it which can only be accounted for by his inability or his wilful ability to misinterpret plain language. The division of the land among the farming class as landlords would only make matters worse. Over and over has my opinion been expressed against the idea of small landlords. If the present system of land tenure under the few has not been satisfactory, the many would only increase the difficulty. It is principle of private ownership in land we are arguing against, and until some means are devised whereby the occupation of land is regulated by the people for the people, never will this land question be settled. This letter is much longer than at first intended; but with your permission I would say that if “Justice” will leave off his general assertion and confine himself to one point at a time, I shall, be most happy to argue this land question with him in all its bearings, either in the press or platform. With General Burroughs, as a man and a gentleman, it is not my province to deal, but if he or any other person so act as he has done as a landlord towards his fellow men, and shows such a rebellious spirit in regard to the laws of the country, then I claim the right to criticise such action on public and national grounds. The manhood within me forbids the laying down of wordy warfare. The sneering and unbrotherly remarks of “Justice” as to the peculiar idiom, and dress, and wealth of his Rousay brethren may be passed by with the contempt it deserves. – Yours, &c., JAMES  NICOLSON.

1892 June 8 Orkney Herald

Letters to the Editor


SIR, – As it seems that your correspondents, “North Isles Man” and Mr James Nicolson, prefer that I should under this discussion confine my remarks to the present Crofters Act, I will do so as far as possible.

In your issue of the 25th ult., the former writes: – “When over 30 per cent. was given to some of the crofters, and a large amount of arrears wiped off, it showed plainly enough that the Land Commissioners’ presence in Rousay was as urgently needed there as any other place in Scotland;” and, in your issue of 1st inst., the latter says: – “If ‘Justice’ was true to his assumed name, he would recognise that the Crofters Act was really against injustice. It is well that a tribunal such as the Crofters Commission can be appealed to.” These statements have an air of plausibility about them only. Everybody well knows that the working system of the Crofters Act is un-methodical, or, in other words, a mere matter of form. It was never expected when the Commissioners began work in the county that the reduction of rents and cancelling of arrears would have been decided so unequally. When these decisions, one after another, were being made public the astonishment amongst the intelligent inhabitants of these isles became great and not much wonder, for there can be no mistake whatever but that many easy-rented crofters received large reductions, whilst a few of those whose rents were high enough got but little encouragement. But how could the Commissioners have come to accurate decisions under the system of such an Act, which surely will have but a short existence. One thing certain: it cannot die too soon. It was absolutely impossible for two valuators walking hand in hand to have competently valued in so short a time as was taken by them the greater number of Orkney crofts, For instance these men only took a day or so to complete their work on about 100 Rousay crofts; but of course they could not in that time have examined the different varieties of soil. They must have simply walked as the crow flies once only through each croft, which doubtless was the shortest way of getting on with their work. But, then, what were the consequences? Just this, that General Burroughs to a great extent was robbed of his just rights from one end of his estate to the other. This applies in a greater or less degree to other proprietors whose lands were tramped over under the same valuating system.

When the legislators who framed this notorious Act must have known that the working thereof could only have been accomplished unsystematically and at great expense, why was there not a more judicious one prepared. Had there been an Act passed that in every five years in each crofting district two valuators with an oversman had to be mutually chosen by landlords and crofters the whole work in Scotland, at little cost and with every satisfaction, could have been finished in about three weeks time. A practical farmer with a smattering of the geological knowledge of the district in which he resides and who keeps his eye open to the points of facilities of markets and so forth, may often approximate very closely to the real value of an estate or any part thereof; therefore such a man would certainly be a more suitable valuator than would a so-called competent land valuator, unacquainted with the district. How could anyone who is ignorant of the mineral qualities of a farm – its limes, clays, marls, shell-sands, phosphates, &c., – possibly be an accurate valuator of it?

Further, under the Crofters Act there has been an amount of animosity engendered between the lairds and their crofters that should not exist. A large number of crofters belonging to different proprietorships are now showing their true nature. So Iong as these were under the power of landlords, almost generally they showed towards them a creditable degree of courtesy and even affection, but that apparently was not genuine, for no sooner had proprietors lost governing power over their crofts than they nursed towards them that hypocritical bigotry which cannot be too highly condemned. No wonder then, as I have already said in a former letter, that after having first been bitten severely by the Commissioners decisions and thereafter so uncourteously used by his crofters, General Burroughs at the first opportunity showed his displeasure by caving in that weak part or omission of the Act relative to stone quarrying. In doing so he at once showed himself to be possessed of an honourable and upright spirit; for a truly honest man, if at all in his power, invariably shows his disapprobation to acts of injustice.

In conclusion, it appears from his last letter that Mr Nicolson prefers in future to argue this question with me on the platform, but I have no intentions for a long time yet to come to make my debut as a public orator. – I am, &c., JUSTICE.

1892 June 15 Orkney Herald

AGRICULTURAL NOTES. – The weather during the first half of May was cold and dry, while the latter half of the month and the first few days of June were extremely wet. Such a long period of wet weather at this season has not occurred for many years past. The 3rd day of this mouth was stormy and very wet, the burns being as big as during a snow thaw in winter. The heavens fortunately appear to have emptied themselves on this day, as the weather has, with the exception of a slight shower or two, been dry ever since, although latterly very cold. Very few swedes were sown when the wet weather set in, and until last week the land was scarcely ever in condition to cultivate. The present dry weather is most favourable for turnip sowing, and although the crop will be rather late laid down this season, still those who had patience to wait until the land was properly dry, are much more likely to have a good sound crop than those who worked their land when wet. The secret of growing a sound turnip crop is to cultivate the land when in a dry state. Grass was very bare when the rain came. This was owing both to the dry, cold weather and to the scarcity of winter keep, compelling farmers to put out their cattle early to grass. There is now a fair bite, but we fear there will not be much of a hay crop this season. Oats were looking well but got a severe battering on the 3rd inst., and the grub has thinned the crop on several fields. There has been a good deal of sickness and death among livestock this spring. Horses have suffered from strangles, influenza, etc. The cold dry weather and short house keep was very trying to cattle, and latterly during the cold wet weather they have suffered from indigestion, but a dose of salts or raw linseed oil usually soon cured them of this trouble. A good number of sheep died during the winter. Owing to the backward state of the grass in the South, store cattle and sheep have been a very dull sale during the spring.


Letters to the Editor


SIR, – The very mild effusion of “Justice” in last week’s Orkney Herald, compared with the flourish of trumpet. with which he began his defence of the General, seems to show that his mind is at last beginning to see the futility of mere assertion unless backed up by argument. There is this also to be further noted – the wearisome reiteration of the “superiority” and “honesty” of General Burroughs in his opposition to the Crofters Act, and the “hypocrisy” of the crofters themselves in taking advantage of it. Such talk is senseless, either regarding the one or the other. That the landlord system hitherto prevalent made “hypocrisy” easy may not be denied in the relation of landlord and tenant, but I fail to see, wherein the General’s conduct makes him honest or just to raise rent at his own sweet will, and when such action was protested against, the protesters were told to go. Conduct such as this is worthy only of the days of Pagan Rome, and will never gain the respect of the civilisation of the nineteenth century. Let it ever be remembered that what is termed legal rights are not always just, and only when “Justice” can prove wherein the Crofters Act is unjust (and as yet he has not done so) will his defence of the General’s conduct stand on sure ground.

The questions put by “North Isles” have never been answered by “Justice.” Until explicit answers are given, and further proof of a definite character advanced that the rents charged by the General were not excessive, will the defence not be accepted. Mere assertion proves nothing.

It was not the Crofters Act I offered to discuss in the press or on the platform, but the land question in all its bearings, and since the latter is declined, I should like, with your permission, to request “Justice” next time he appears in the Herald, to answer this preliminary question – What is land? – Yours, &c., JAMES NICOLSON.

1892 June 22 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY. – Owing to an outbreak of scarlet fever, the schools of Sourin and Wasbister have been closed.

1892 August 24 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – BOAT CLUB REGATTA. – The annual regatta of the Rousay and Veira Boat Club took place in Veira Sound on Thursday. The morning was very wet, which undoubtedly prevented some boats from attending, but about one o’clock five boats had entered and a start was made. The boys’ rowing race was the most amusing part of the day’s proceedings. The Committee take this opportunity of thanking Mr and Mrs Stewart and friends, of Trumland House, for so kindly contributing to the prize fund. The following is the prize list: –

1st Race, for Boats 25 ft. waterline and under.
1. – Annie – John Logie, jr. 34 min. 38 sec.
2. – Sweyn – John Garrioch  35 min. 14 sec.
3. – Sigurd – John Logie, sen. 38 min. 25 sec.

2nd Race, for Boats 25 ft. waterline and under.
1. – Annie – John Logie, jr. 38 min. 50 sec.
2. – Sigurd – John Logie, sen. 41 min. 40 sec.
3. – Fairy – Isaac Marwick, 42 min. 33 sec.

Boys’ Rowing Race. – 1, Miller and Gibson; 2, Reid and Harrold; 3, Logie and Wylie; 4, Swanson and Pirie; 5, Swanson and Robertson.

Mens’ Rowing Race. – 1, J. Marwick and J. Harrold; 2, J. Gibson and J. Harrold; 3, Harrold and Spence.


THE ADVENTURES OF A TOURIST PARTY. – On Friday last the s.s. Curlew with Mr Charles Stewart and party from Trumland House on board went round to Hoy to view the Old Man and the west coast of the mainland. On trying to effect a landing near the Old Man of Hoy, the bow of the boat ran up on a sloping shelf of rock, and a land sea then broke over the stern almost filling the boat. Some of the gentlemen, along with the men in charge of the boat, sprang on to the rock and tried to pull the craft up, but before they could do so another wave came rushing in and swamped the boat, throwing the rest of the party into the water. The scene that followed is not easily described. Those who could swim tried to save those who could not. One young lady, when assistance was offered her, called out “Don’t mind me, try and save my mother.” A yachtsman waded out, and by extending an oar to a young lady who was endeavouring to swim to land with two others clinging to her, brought the three to the rock. At last the whole party were safely landed, and the boat was righted after some trouble and bailed with one of the sailors’ caps. Considerable difficulty was afterwards experienced in getting the party into the boat again owing to the land swell, but this was at last done and all got back to the yacht. With the exception of a few scratches and bruises and the suffering from exposure of one or two of the party, all got back to Trumland House little the worse of their unsought-for bath.

1892 September 7 Orkney Herald

A NUMBER of pitch pine logs and a ship’s hatch were last week washed ashore at Westray and Papa Westray. The wood appeared to have been only a short time in the water. Some heavy fir logs have drifted ashore at North Ronaldsay, Sanday, and Rousay.

ROUSAY – FROTOFT PUBLIC SCHOOL. – On Friday the pupils of this school who had been successful in gaining prizes during the session 1891-92, were presented with them by Mr John Agnew, late teacher, Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire, who is just now taking his annual holiday in the island. At the beginning of an instructive address, he expressed the pleasure he had in being present that day, and at its conclusion strongly impressed on the children the necessity of being regular in attendance, not only that they might receive benefit to themselves, but also that the School Board might be entitled to claim the highest grants from the Education Department. Several songs were sung by the scholars, and the proceedings were brought to a termination by votes of thanks to Mr Agnew and the teachers. The following is the prize-list: –

Prizes given by the teachers – Standard 6, George Marwick, Hugh Gibson. St. 5, James Miller. St. 4, Maggie J. Robertson, Jessie Miller. St. 3, Anna Craigie. St. 2, Isabella Sinclair. St. 1, Anna G. Reid, Adelaide Craigie, Maggie Scollay, James Low, John Craigie. Infants – Maggie Craigie, James Sinclair, William Inkster, Lydia A. Robertson, Rose Ida Gibson, William Swanson. Prizes given by Mrs Burroughs, Trumland House, for industrial work – Sewing – Maggie Reid. Knitting – Maggie J. Robertson. Prize given by Mr Arthur A. Cavaye, Hullion, for penmanship –  Alexander Logie. Orkney and Zetland Association, junior division, first class – R. Learmonth, James Robertson. School board prizes for Religious Knowledge – St. Ex-6, Maggie Reid. St. 6, George Marwick. St. 4 and 5, Maggie J. Robertson, Jessie Miller. St. 3, Mary J. Low. St. 2, Sarah Sinclair. St. 1, Anna G. Reid.

1892 October 3 Glasgow Herald

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM. – Reports to hand from Orkney state that the thunderstorm which was experienced there last week was the most serious for many years. The lightning was very vivid and the thunder very loud, but the radius was not large. The damage to crops was very great. In Rousay the hail was very heavy, and two horses grazing near the high cliffs took fright – one running over, the other wheeling round just at the edge…..

1892 October 5 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – MEDICAL APPOINTMENT. – Dr W. G. Inkster. M.D.C.M. of McGill University, Montreal, and L.R.C.S. and P. Edinburgh and Glasgow, has been appointed Medical Officer of this parish, and will enter on his duties on the 25th inst. Dr Inkster’s father is a native of Rousay, and has many friends here, who will doubtless be very pleased to hear of the appointment. [Orkney Herald]

1892 October 19 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – HARVEST. – A long spell of wet has now been succeeded by bracing harvest weather. As the season is far advanced, the crops are being cut down in a more or less immature condition. Hence, although straw will be plentiful, grain will be only a light crop. Most of the corn has been secured in the stackyard, and the greater part of the oats is in stook. What is still standing is being cut down as fast as possible. We had a sharp shower of hail on Sunday evening.

1892 December 7 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – GENERAL NOTES. – The Sourin Musical Association has again opened for the winter months. This is the fourth year of its existence, and there is a good attendance of members at the weekly practices. The schools have been re-opened for three weeks, and the most of the children are now forward. It is to be hoped, that in these hard times, parents will assist to keeping down the school rate by sending their children regularly to school. Miss Marwick, presently attending the F.C. Training College, Edinburgh, and formerly a pupil teacher in Kirkwall, has been appointed teacher in the Southend Public School, Eday. Our School Board had a meeting on Monday evening last week, and it was decided to advertise locally for a pupil teacher to Sourin School.

1892 December 14 Orkney Herald

CROFTERS COMMISSION. SITTINGS IN KIRKWALL. – Mr Hossack’s division of the Crofters Commission held their first sitting at Kirkwall last Wednesday. [Among the many cases investigated, just two from Rousay received mention in the columns of the newspaper]…..

Frederick Burroughs Kirkness (39), Quoyostray, Rousay. Applicant gave his area as 35 acres arable, 16 outrun, and 95 hill pasture. The estate gave it as 39 arable, 12 outrun, and 130 hill pasture. After some discussion, Mr Robertson said he was willing either to give applicant the 130 acres, or if he only wanted 95, to take the rest off his hands; Mr Thomson agreed to take 130 acres if Mr Robertson would guarantee the quantity.

Examined by Mr THOMSON, applicant said his rent was £30, arrears £53. There was £30 of arrears when he succeeded. His father was joint tenant with applicant’s grandfather and became sole tenant in 1885. Stock – 4 cows, 3 year-olds, 4 calves, 4 sheep, 2 horses and a foal. His father reclaimed 14 acres and put up all the buildings, except the hen-house which was part of an old dwelling-house. Some buildings now required repair and applicant had asked if there was any objection to his quarrying flags for roofing the byre. Mr Robertson replied, most certainly; if I took advantage of the law off General Burroughs he would take advantage of the law off me. He did not get the flags and had done nothing about them since. His father had made some ditches and drains but applicant could not say how many were now working efficiently; some required to be sorted. Applicant constructed a mill-course in 1886. The rent was £12 previous to 1862  about 4 acres arable and 20 outrun were then added and rent became £18; in 1871 £20, and in 1879 £30; but no land was added on these occasions. Some new hill ground was added in 1874 and 1879. For the first four years it was let separately for £4 5s. He had paid £17 yearly towards his rent during last three years.

By Mr ROBERTSON – He was not entirely clear of arrears is 1888. He did not remember if when he first paid rent in 1889 he cleared off the arrears of 1888. The croft belonged to his grandfather, and was sold to General Burroughs about 1840. It was runrig, and present houses were not on it, and he did not know what were. There was now a blacksmith’s house and smithy on the croft, occupied by his brother, who paid no rent. His sister had a house and shop on the croft and paid no rent. Another house was occupied by a woman, Margaret Inkster, who paid no rent to applicant. General Burroughs put her and her mother there when they left Hammer. Applicant and his family, his brother and his wife and family – some grown-up – and his sister, who was a widow with one son, lived on the croft. He could not say if proprietor had paid £15 for drains; he had asked for information but could not get it. He found receipts for £4 9s 6d, and in the following year 4s 6d of interest on that was added to the rent. He did not know the conditions on which his grandfather sold the place, or if it was stipulated that he should be tenant. He had no arrears before 1880.

By Mr THOMSON – His brother and sister were on the croft long before he succeeded. His brother was brought in by the estate as a blacksmith, and built the houses himself, the land for which was taken off the croft.

James Craigie (19), represented his father, James Craigie (69), No. 3 Frotoft. Applicant gave his acreage as 6⅔ arable, 5¼ outrun; and the estate as 8¾ arable and 4½ outrun. It was also stated in the application that he had no common pasture, but in his evidence witness stated that they grazed on Frotoft Hill.

Mr ROBERTSON complained that there was not a word about this in the application, and thought it very unfair that Mr Thomson should come into Court with such loosely prepared cases. This was the third of the kind. It gave the other side no idea of the evidence that would be required.

Mr THOMSON said his cases had been better prepared than Mr Robertson’s. The information was in the application as he got it. It was notorious that in connection with this estate there had been more trouble and harass and exactions than in all the other estates put together.

Witness said all the Frotoft crofters grazed on it.

Mr ROBERTSON stated that it formed part of the Hunclett grazing. The other crofters were under lease and the terms of their leases would show if there was any right of grazing there.

By Mr THOMSON – Applicant’s stock was 2 cows, 2 calves, 1 sheep, 1 horse. He entered in 1880, when he was evicted out of another croft by General Burroughs. He got no compensation for improvements when he was evicted. They had grazed on Frotoft Hill ever since they came to the croft and could not carry their stock otherwise. The other crofters did so also and it was never objected to.

By the COURT – None but the eight Frotoft crofters graze on the land. His father got horses when he entered this croft, and had not reclaimed any land.

By Mr ROBERTSON – Witness’s brother worked the place with his father. They did not go to the fishing. His father was not put out of his other croft because he quarrelled with his neighbours. He was a year without a croft. The case was continued in order that a minute might be lodged with reference to the common pasture…..

THE CROFTERS COMMISSION. – With their sittings at Stronsay and Kirkwall last week the Crofters Commissioners brought to an end the hearing of evidence on the occasion of their present visit to Orkney; and they are now engaged in the preparation of their decisions in those cases which have been brought before them. These include all the Orkney applications except those from South Ronaldshay, Burray, Flotta, and North Ronaldshay, which are left till a more convenient season, for it is the custom of the Commission to adjourn now for a short Christmas vacation during which peace reigns between landlord and crofter, and afterwards spend some time in the preparation of their report to Parliament, in which they set forth in detail all the work of the year. When that has been done they will probably again be in Orkney to deal with those applications which they have been unable to overtake now.

1892 December 15 Dundee Advertiser

AN ORKNEY SHOOTING CASE. – Samuel Craigie. Breckan, Rousay, was on Tuesday apprehended and taken to Kirkwall charged with shooting at his neighbour, David Inkster, Innister. He was brought up before Sheriff Armour yesterday, and, after emitting a declaration, was released on a bond of £5.

1892 December 21 Orkney Herald

ROUSAY – MARY ANN HARROLD, Sourin, headed the list of competitors for the office of pupil teacher in Sourin Public School, at an examination held by the Board on Saturday. Rev. A. I. Pirie, Chairman, and Mr William Simpson, teacher, were examiners. There were four applicants for the post. The successful candidate will enter on duty immediately.

[Born in June 1876 Mary Ann was the daughter of William Harrold, Hammermugly (Blossom), and Elizabeth Marwick, Hanover. In 1897 she married James William Grieve, Whateha’.]