The Island of Eynhallow

My thanks to Tommy Gibson, Brinola, Rousay, for allowing me to reproduce
the document above, which contains….”information supplied by the
late David Mainland, Bridge Street Wynd, Kirkwall
– Born Eynhallow, Orkney, June 1827.”

Occupation of the old monastic buildings on Eynhallow by Rousay folk is alluded to in John Mooney’s book Eynhallow The Holy Island of the Orkneys:-

……..In digging a hole in one of the divisions of this building, the chapter-house had been made into two apartments by the erection of a division wall, two skeletons were found. The late Sir Victor Horsley, who was staying at Rousay at the time, regarded these as evidence of burials in the days of the monks; but the opinion was expressed to him that the bones were those of islanders who had died in the fever epidemic in the middle of the 19th century; and, after the examination of a skull, he seems to have thought that might have been so. There are, however, facts which prove the contrary. The remains of those who died of the fever were conveyed from the island for burial elsewhere. The families residing there belonged to, or had most of their relatives living in either Rousay or Evie, chiefly in Rousay; and a portion of the old churchyard in the latter island (opposite Eynhallow) was reserved for and known as the Eynhallow graves. People are still alive who knew the islanders who survived the fever (this was written in 1923), and who remember seeing the coffins conveyed across the sound for burial. Each coffin was placed in a boat which was attached by a long tow-line to another boat, rowed by two or more men……..

The 1851 census of Eynhallow tells us that 54-year-old farmer William Mainland and his 53-year-old wife Jean Sinclair were living in the church, or East House as it was called. With them were their six children; John, who was 25; David, 24; William, 21; Mary, 19; Janet, 16; and Ann, 13. Three of them died when the fever struck, and their bodies were interred in the Westside Kirkyard. The following inscription is on the gravestone:

“To Eynhallow folk Janet Mainland who died 1851 aged sixteen years.
William Mainland died 1851 aged 21years.
Jean Sinclair, mother of the above died Jan. 1852 aged 55 years.
William Mainland her beloved husband died Dec. 1870 aged 75 years.”