Viera Lodge

Viera Lodge, close to the water’s edge of Eynhallow Sound, was a former residence of George William Traill. Having retired from the Bengal Civil Service in 1836 he used his wealth to buy property in Rousay as it came on the market. His ultimate achievement was the purchase of Westness [but not Westness House, it being the property of William Trail and later his widow], including Inner and Outer Westness, Quandale, and parts of Wasbister. He was to be remembered as the tyrannical laird of Rousay, who effected the most thoroughgoing clearance to take place on any Orkney estate – whole communities being evicted to make way for sheep after the harvest of 1845.

In 1842 Viera Lodge was occupied by William Graham, who paid rent of £10 and later the Reverend George Ritchie lived there, in 1844, when he paid a lower rate of £5.

Viera Lodge c1930
[Photo: Tommy Gibson Collection]

Westness Farm extended to about 2,800 acres, of which about 220 acres were arable and a further 1,000 acres consisted of low ground pasture. While in George William Traill’s own hands, it generally provided full-time employment for nine to eleven people and casual work for a great many more.

The most important of the full-time employees was the farm manager, or ‘overseer’ as he was commonly called. His duties were more extensive than merely the management of the farm.

Since the factor lived in Kirkwall, the overseer was the estate’s resident agent, undertaking such duties as supervising the construction of the island’s roads and inspecting improvement on tenant farms on which a rent reduction was claimed. The first overseer was George Lyall, who was engaged when Traill purchased Westness. He was paid a salary of £25 per half-year, later reduced to £20, and occupied Viera Lodge rent-free with additional benefits such as free coal.

In November 1847 Traill died of a heart attack in London at the age of fifty-four, his nephew Frederick William Traill-Burroughs inheriting the estate.

Viera Lodge, overlooking the crystal clear waters of Eynhallow Sound

The 1851 census refers to George Lyall as being a 53-year-old land steward, born in Garvald, Haddingtonshire [East Lothian]. His wife Elizabeth was 50 years old, and at that time they had six children in the house; 24-year-old Ann was employed at home; George (14), Elizabeth (12), Agnes (10), and Alice (6), were all school pupils, and their second oldest daughter Mary Stewart was paying them a visit from Edinburgh with her one-year-old son Charles.

In 1861 the only occupants of Viera Lodge was Andrew Hislop, a 49-year-old gamekeeper, and his 39-year-old wife Jennet, both from Crawfordjohn, Lanarkshire.

In 1863 Alexander Marwick paid rent of £15, at the same time as he was paying £18 for the farm of Corse.

Another view of Viera Lodge, just above the old Hullion phone box

At the time of the 1871 census the lodge was unoccupied. 59-year-old George Murrison and his 53-year-old wife Mary Johnston were in residence according to the census of 1881. Staying with them was their 24-year-old niece Ann McKay from Reay, Caithness, and 19-year-old Mary Heddle from Sanday, who was employed as a domestic servant. George Murrison, from Old Deer, Aberdeenshire, had been employed by General Burroughs as a full-time resident factor, or manager, of his estate.

In 1891, a blacksmith/fisherman lived at Viera Lodge, for which he paid an annual rent of £15.0.0. He was Paterson Craigie, the son of James Craigie and Betty Marwick of Claybank, and he was born in January 10th 1832.

In 1858 he married 21-year-old Mary Craigie, daughter of Alexander Craigie and Ann Murray of Whoam, later Feolquoy. They had four children; James, who was born on February 12th 1860, but died in infancy; James Paterson, born on February 16th 1862; Robert, on March 26th 1866; and Ann Elizabeth, born on January 5th 1879.

Paterson and Mary Craigie, with their daughter Ann

[Photo: Orkney Library & Archive]

Ann had a son by Hugh Sinclair, born on January 19th 1903 and christened James. Hugh was the son of James Hugh Sinclair of Newhouse and Margaret McKinlay of Sound, Egilsay, and was born in December 1882. He later emigrated to America.

Mary Craigie was 77 when she died on March 1st 1915. Her husband Paterson died at Viera Lodge on August 12th 1916 aged 81. They were interred in the same grave in the Wasbister kirkyard – “Asleep in Jesus” inscribed on their headstone. Their daughter Ann was interred nearby, having passed away at Viera Lodge on April 30th 1958.

Viera Lodge today, in this view across Eynhallow Sound from the Broch of Gurness.