1902 Encyclopedia > Orkney and Shetland

Orkney and Shetland




ORKNEY AND SHETLAND, a county of Scotland, formed of two separate groups of islands in the North Sea. The Orkneys are situated between 58° 41' and 59° 24' N. lat. and between 2° 22' and 3° 25' W. long., and are separated from the mainland of Scotland by the Pentland Firth, the breadth of which between Brough Ness in South R.onaldshay and Duncansby Head, Caithness, is about 7 miles. The Shetlands lie to the north-east of the Orkneys, between 59° 50' and 60° 52' N. lat. and between 0° 55' and 2° 14' W. long. The distance from Dennis Head in Orkney to Sumburgh Head in Shetland is about 50 miles, but Fair Isle, which is included in Shetland, is situated midway between the two main groups. The total area of the Orkneys and Shetlands is 593,352 acres or about 927 square miles, the area of the Orkneys being 240,476 acres, and that of the Shetlands 352,876 acres.

In the Orkney group there are fifty-six islands and islets, of which twenty-nine are inhabited, the others, which are called "holms," being frequently made use of for pasture. Besides Pomona or the Mainland, which has an area equal to all the others combined, the principal islands are, to the north, Rousay, Westray, Papa-Westray, North Ronaldshay, Sanday, Eday, Stronsay, and Shapinshay, and to the south, Hoy, North Walls, South Walls, Flotta, South Ronaldshay, and Burray. The members of the Shetland group are more ORKNEY-SHETLAND numerous than the Orkneys, consisting of about a hundred islands and islets; besides the Mainland, the more important are Yell, Unst, and Fetlar to the north, Whalsay and Bressay to the east, and East and West Burra, Papa-Stour, Muckle Roe, and Foula to the west. Except towards the west the surface of the Orkneys is comparatively flat, and in some cases, as in Sanday, the coast is so low as to be a frequent cause of shipwreck. The island of by consists principally of lofty black barren rocks, of which the Ward Hill attains a height of 1564 feet. In the southern part of the Mainland, to the west of Kirkwall, the hills also reach a considerable elevation, the highest summits being Wideford Hill near Kirkwall (740 feet) and the Ward Hill of Orphir (880 feet) ; and there is another hilly region in the northwest of the Mainland, opposite the island of Rousay. The centre of Rousay is occupied by hills of considerable height. On the west of Hoy perpendicular precipices of great height descend sheer to the Atlantic. The outline of the islands is very irregular, and through the numerous firths and sounds the tides rush with great rapidity, forming occasionally whirlpools called roosts, which in stormy weather frequently suck in fishing-boats and prove dangerous even to large vessels.

The coast-scenery of the Shetland group is strikingly picturesque. The islands present an irregular rocky surface generally rising into hills of considerable elevation, the highest summit being Roeness Hill (1475 feet) in the Mainland. By the action of the waves the rocks have been worn into numerous fantastic shapes, and the coast-line is also deeply indented by bays and " voes " or sea-lochs, caused partly by denudation and partly by glacial action. The greater part of the coast is stern and precipitous, but Sumburgh Head, the Noup of Noss, Fitful Head, the island of Papa-Stour with its surrounding rocks, Foula (especially on its western side), the Drongs and adjoining rocks of the parish of Northmavine with the coast-line from Roeness Yoe to Haevdadal Head, and Unst the most northern of the group may be singled out for their picturesque beauty or impressive grandeur. The action of the sea has formed numerous caves, the more remarkable of which are the immense Orkneyman's Cave near the Bard of Bressay, and the fantastic caves of Papa-Stour.

Geology. - The geological formation of the Orkneys is very similar to that of the adjoining mainland, and consists almost entirely of the lower Old Red Sandstone of the flagstone series. A red and yellow sandstone series occupies part of Sanday, Eday, Burray, Flotta, and South Ronaldshay, and a long narrow strip of the Mainland to the south of Kirkwall. The mountainous district of Hoy belongs to the upper Old Red Sandstone, in which are interbedded volcanic rocks consisting of amygdaloidal lavas and ashes, and forming the terraces of the northern slopes of the Hoy hills. These rocks rest unconformably on the lower Old Red Sandstone. North-west from Stromness Bay to Inga Ness there is an outcrop of crystalline rocks consisting of granite and micaceous gneiss. The flagstone series, especiallyin the neighbourhood of Stromness, contains numerous fossils, - ichthyolites, crustaceans, and plants being all represented. From the character of the striated surfaces of the rocks, and the presence of foreign rocks in the boulder-clay, it has been concluded that the Orkneys were subjected to a glacial action crossing from the North Sea to the Atlantic ; and there are also traces of local glaciers, especially at Hoy.

The geological formation of the Shetlands, like that of the Orkneys, belongs principally to the lower Old Red Sandstone and the metamorphic rocks on which they rest unconformably; but the proportion between the two species of rocks is reversed, the metamorphic rocks cropping to the surface throughout the greater part of the Shetland group. The central portion of the islands, including the northwestern half of the Mainland and its eastern seaboard in the parish of Northmavine, Whalsay, Yell, and the western seaboard of Unst, is occupied chiefly by micaceous and hornblendic gneiss with limestones and quartzites. In the southern portion of the Mainland the clay-slate series, with associated limestones and quartzites, prevails. In Unst and Fetlar there are large masses of serpentine and gabbro, and diorite occupies a large area in the districts of Delting and Northmavine. The lower Old Red Sandstone occupies the islands of Foula and Bressay, skirts the eastern seaboard of the Mainland from Lerwick southwards, and includes the greater part of Walls. It is associated with a series of igneous rocks, especially in the western district of Northmavine, and there is also an intrusive series. Even more striking evidence of glacial action exists in Shetland than in Orkney. The metamorphic rocks are very rich in beautiful minerals, especially along the coast of Northmavine, among the varieties being felsite, epidote, actinolite, serpentine, anthophyllite, fluor-spar, steatite, magnetite, and cyanite. Both in Orkney and Shetland there are large deposits of peat.

Climate and Agriculture. - The temperature, both of the Orkneys and of the Shetlands, presents smaller variations. than that of Scotland or England. The yearly average is a little over 45° Fahr., the average for the coldest months - ive, but it is higher in Shetland than in Orkney. As the point. The soil of Orkney varies in different islands, but generally it is either a sandy loam or a strong but friable clay, and remarkably fertile. Large quantities of seaweed, as well as lime and marl, are available for manure. Since the opening up of more constant communication with the south, and the construction of a complete system of roads, begun in 1857, the system of cultivation has undergone a complete transformation. Many of the holdings in Orkney are now occupied by farmers from Scotland.

Between 1875 and 1880 the number of holdings in Orkney increased from 3147 to 3319, and their area from 93,618 acres to 104,958. In 1880 2873 holdings, or more than two-thirds of the total number, did not exceed 50 acres each, while 279 ranged from 50 to 100 acres, 131 from 100 to 300, and 36 were above 300. The total number of acres under cultivation in 1883 was 112,148, of which 38,459 were under corn crops, 32,051 rotation grasses, 22,755 permanent pasture, and 1031 fallow. Of the corn crops, 32 781 acres were under oats and 5641 under barley or here, while 14,387 of the green crops were under turnips and 3104 under potatoes Horses, which are for the most part a small and active breed, numbered 6092 in 1883, of which 4884 were used solely for agricultural purposes. Cattle numbered 25,624, of which 9405 were cows and heifers in milk or in calf. Shorthorned and polled Angus are now the most common breeds, cattle-feeding being largely practised. Sheep, which in 1883 numbered 31,548, are now chiefly Cheviots and a cross between them and Leicesters, but the native sheep (identical with those of Shetland) are still kept in considerable numbers in Hoy and South Ronaldshay. Pigs numbered 4745.

In Shetland there has been no agricultural progress corresponding to that in operation in Orkney, the principal reason being insufficiency of soil, which in many cases has to be made or increased by collecting turf. Between 1875 and 1880 the number of holdings decreased from 3839 to 3604, but the area under cultivation increased from 52,256 to 58,357 acres. In 1830 3529 holdings did not exceed 50 acres each, while 36 ranged from 50 to 100 acres, 30 from 100 to 300, and 11 were above 300. Although there are some good arable farms in a few favoured districts, the majority are small crofts held on a yearly tenancy by the fishermen along with their cottages. For the most part the cottages are only slightly improved specimens of the original cabin, the fireplace of at least the "but" end being in the centre of the apartment, which was formerly shared with calves, pigs, and other young animals. The cows are now for the most part housed in separate buildings. Originally the rent was paid in kind, and it was a general custom for the landlord or tacksman to compel the crofter to barter a considerable portion of the fruits of his industry for provisions and clothing, and the practice is not yet quite obsolete ID certain districts. The cottages are generally grouped together in small hamlets called " touns." The size of a croft varies from 5 to 10 acres ; but the old Norwegian measurement by rnerks is still retained. Originally the land was held on the " runrig" system - that is, different owners held alternate ridges - but now in most cases each holding is separate. The implement anciently used for turning over the soil was the Norwegian plough drawn by four oxen abreast, but as the holdings became subdivided and distinctly separated from each other it was superseded by the small sharp spade now in almost universal use Until lately implements with wheels were scarcely known, and even yet the crofters generally carry out even the manure for the land in straw baskets slung over the shoulders. A system of roads was constructed during the potato famine of 1846-49, and wheeled vehicles are in general use in the neighbourhood of Lerwick and various other places. According to the agricultural returns of 1883 there were 53,393 acres under cultivation, of which 10,528 were under corn crops, 4511 green crops, and 41,628 permanent pasture. No system of rotation is practised. Of the corn crops 8050 acres were under oats and 2478 under here; and of the green crops 3357 acres were under potatoes and 943 under turnips. Originally the grain supplies were obtained almost wholly from the Orkneys, and for a long period grey and black oats and bare or bigg were the only species grown, but now white oath are quite common. Frequently the grain does not ripen till the end of October or beginning of November. The culture of the cabbage is said to have been introduced by a detachment of Cromwell's soldiers, potatoes in 1730, and turnips in 1807. Black and red currants ripen in sheltered situations. Horses in 1883 numbered 5305, of which only 908 were used solely for agricultural purposes ; cattle numbered 21,345, of which 8132 were cows and heifers in milk or in calf; sheep numbered 81,163, and pigs 3788. The small ponies peculiar to the islands are now becoming scarce, though entire ponies are greatly in demand for working underground in collieries. The native cattle are a diminutive breed with small horns and short legs. They are said to possess many of the points of the best breeds. The beef is remarkable for tenderness and flavour ; and, when well fed, the cows yield a large supply of rich milk. In some districts crosses have been introduced The native sheep of Shetland possess many of the characteristics of goats. The ewes, as well as the rams, have generally short horns, and the wool is long and of very fine quality. White, black, speckled grey, and a peculiar russet brown called " moorat " are the prevailing colours It is the common custom to tear out the wool from the roots by the hand, as this is said to ensure a finer second crop. A few black-faced and Cheviot sheep are kept in some places. The Shetland pigs, which are very inferior, are often fed on fish. Large numbers of geese and poultry are kept.' According to the Valuation Roll, 1883-84, Orkney was divided among 1149 proprietors, possessing 220,873 acres, with an annual value of about £82,416, or 7s 5d per acre. According to the Parliamentary Return of 1873 546 of the proprietors, or about 42 per cent. at that date, possessed less than 1 acre, and the following 10 possessed upwards of 5000 acres each i - J. G. M. Heddle, 50,410 ; earl of Zetland, 29,846 ; D. Balfour, 29,054 ; R. Baikie, 7846 ; H. C. Hebden, 7500 ; F. T. Burroughs, 6693 ; A. S. Graenee, 6444; trustees of late J. Stuart of Brugh, 6243 ; T. Traill, 5780 ; trustees of the late G. Traill, 5031. Shetland in 1883-84 was divided among 575 proprietors, possessing 352,876 acres, with a total value of £44,108, or nearly 2s 6d per acre. In 1873 240 of the proprietors, or about 45 per cent., possessed less than 1 acre, 15 possessed upwards of 5000 acres, 13 above 10,000, and the following 5 above 20,000 acres each s - trustees of Busta estate, 29,820 ; curators of W. A. Bruce, 25,180 ; Lady Nicolson, 24,785; T. M. Cameron, 24,363; A. G. Grierson, 22,006.





Fauna. - The faunas of the two groups of islands are very similar. Remains of deer have been found in the Orkneys, although few, if any, remained in the time of the Norse jarls. For some centuries hares were extinct, but they were reintroduced about 1830. Rabbits are very numerous in some districts. The otter and walrus are met with. Seals may occasionally be observed basking on the rocks, especially in the neighbourhood of the Ye Skerrics off the western coast of the Mainland (Shetlands) ; and whales, both large and small, are frequently captured in the bays and sounds. The common porpoise is abundant, and the grampus also haunts the coasts. Nearly all the Falconidx found anywhere else in Britain at one time frequented the Orkneys, and the hen-harrier, the merlin, the peregrine, and the sparrow-hawk are still numerous. The short-eared owl is common, and various other species occasionally haunt the islands. The raven, the Royston crow, the rook, and the jackdaw are all met with. The red grouse, the golden plover, the dotterel plover, and the grey plover are abundant in some districts. The snipe, the woodcock, the common heron, the curlew, the little bittern, the white stork, the white spoonbill, the knot, the ruff, and the common coot frequent the more remote regions. There is an immense variety of water-fowl. Most of the singing birds found in Scotland are either natives or occasional visitants. The great skua gull still breeds in the island of Foula, where its eggs are carefully preserved.

Flora. - Although the Orkneys contain some plants which are rare in the British Isles, the flora of the group is much smaller in variety than that of the more mountainous Shetlands. For lists the reader is referred to the paper on the flora of the Orkneys by W. Irvine Fortescue, and that on the flora of Shetland by Dr Peter White, both contained in Tudor's Orkneys and Shetland, 1883.

Manufactures. - According to Barry the woollen manufacture was at one time of some importance in the Orkneys, but by the end of last century had been superseded by that of linen, introduced about 1747. For the manufacture flax was at one time largely grown. After the introduction of machinery in the south it was no longer possible to continue the manufacture with profit, and, although straw-plaiting for a time took its place, it also succumbed to southern competition. Next to the linen trade the most important industry in the 18th century was the manufactureof kelp, introduced in 1722. With the abolition of the duty on Spanish barilla the manufacture for a time suffered severely, but of late years it has revived and now yields about £1500 annually. It is, however, chiefly on agriculture that the Orkneys depend, and their rapid progress in this respect has been greatly facilitated by the very ample steam communication by three different routes with Scotland. Since 1871 telegraphic communication has extended to Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland group. Straw-plaiting was at one time practised in Shetland, but kelp-making is no longer practised. The staple manufacture is knitted goods. According to Edmonston, stockings to the value of about £17,000 were annually exported from Shetland about the beginning of the present century. The manufacture of gloves was introduced about 1800, of shawls about 1340, and of veils about 1850. Fair Island has long been famous for its coloured hosiery, into the art of knitting which the inhabitants are said to have been initiated by the wrecked mariners of one of the ships of the Spanish Armada. The various dyes employed are extracted from the plants and lichens of the island.

Fisheries. - For some centuries the neighbourhood of the Orkneys and Shetlands was frequented by the fleet of Dutch vessels connected with the great herring fishery, but Barry states that fishing in his time was almost wholly neglected by the inhabitants of the Orkneys. The principal herring-stations are at Papa-Stronsay, Deersound, Holm, and South Ronaldshay. The greater part of the catch of spring herrings is despatched direct to Hamburg. The cod and ling fishing is prosecuted chiefly by the inhabitants of the north isles, both in open boats and in smacks, at the Faroes and near Iceland. Fishing is almost the sole occupation of the Shetland men, the women doing nearly all the farm-work and occupying also every spare moment in knitting both in the house and when carrying their burdens. The Shetland herring fishery has lately (1884) made rapid strides, but the increase in the take of herrings is partly due to boats from the south. As the herring fishery has increased, the deep-sea ling and cod fishing, formerly the mainstay of the islands, has proportionately diminished. The whole of the fisheries were originally in the hands of the Dutchmen, but in 1712 their supremacy was destroyed by the imposition of the duty on salt. Until within recent years the boats chiefly used were the old " sixerns " built in the islands after the model of the Norwegian yawl, but whole or half-decked boats are now rapidly taking their place. The total number of persons now employed in the fisheries of the Orkneys and Shetlands together is about 11,000, Shetland employing over 7430. The number of smacks belonging to the Orkneys is about 30, employing over 300 men ; Shetland possesses about double this number, and the Shetland smacks are much more successful than those of Orkney, as more of them frequent the distant fishing-grounds. Shetland possesses, in addition to these, 2S5 decked first-class and 15 second-class fishing boats.

Administration, and Population. - The islands of Orkney and of Shetland form one sheriffdom or stewartry, but the sheriff has a substitute in Orkney and another in Shetland. The county of Orkney and Shetland returns one member to parliament, and Kirkwall is included in the Wick district of burghs, which returns one member. Orkney includes 18 parishes and Shetland 12. From 24,445 in 1801 the population of Orkney had in 1831 increased to 28,847, and in 1861 to 32,395, but in 1881 was only 32,044, of whom 14,982 were males and 17,062 females. The population of Shetland in 1801 was 22,379, which had increased in 1831 to 29,392, and in 1861 to 31,670, but by 1881 had diminished to 29,705, of whom 12,656 were males and 17,049 females. In Orkney there were 113.88 females to every 100 males, but in Shetland the proportion is 134.71, by far the largest in any county of Scotland. The number of inhabited islands in Orkney was 29, the Mainland numbering 17,165 persons, while 5 other islands had a population of over 1000 each, viz., South Ronaldshay 2557, Westray 2200, Sanday 2082, Hoy 1380, and Stronsay 1274. Shetland comprised 30 inhabited islands, of which the Mainland contained 20,821, Yell 2529, and Unst 2173. In the Orkneys the only town is Kirkwall (3947), a royal and parliamentary burgh, and the villages are Stromness (1705) and St Margaret's Hope (412). Stromness, which received an independent charter in 1817, has risen within the last century from a mere fishing hamlet to a port of some importance. It possesses a fine natural harbour, with.a pier accessible to vessels of large tonnage at high tides, and a patent slip. It is the rendezvous of vessels for the whale fishery at Davis Straits and Greenland. In the Shetlands Lerwick (4045) is the principal town, distant 272 miles from Edinburgh and 95 from Kirkwall. It dates from the beginning of the 17th century. Its harbour can afford safe accommodation for au immense fleet. Scalloway (648), the only village of the Shetlands, and the original capital, is situated on a fine bay about 6 miles west of Lerwick. It possesses the ruins of an ancient castle, and is the seat of a herring fishery.





History and Antiquities. - Scarcely any information is obtainable from Roman writers regarding the Orkneys, and none regarding the Shetlands, but there is abundant evidence that both groups of islands were originally inhabited by a Pictish population. Of the two forms of Picts' houses - chambered mounds and underground habitations or weems - mauy are still so entire as to afford an accurate notion of the character of the buildings ; and of the barrows or burial-mounds, which number over 2000, the majority belong to the Pictish period. The rings of Brogar and Stenness are the only stone circles in the Orkneys, and there are only five groups in Shetland, three being in Unst and two in Fetlar. It has been disputed whether the fortresses known as bongs or broths are to be attributed to the Picts or the Norsemen, but the balance of probability seems to indicate that they were erected before the Norse invasion, and in defence against the Northmen. Orkney possessed 70 and Shetland 75, the most perfect of existing specimens being the tower of Mousa in Shetland. Although few implements, and those of the rudest kind, hare been discovered in the Picts' houses, the broths contain handmills used for grinding corn, stone whorls and bone combs employed in woollen manufactures, and examples of a rude kind of pottery. Various scattered notices occur of early expeditious to the Orkneys, the most important being those of the Dal riadie Scots about the beginning of the 6th century ; but the Picts soon regained their power, and the islands remained in their possession lentil the Norse invasions of the 9th century.

The earliest notice regarding the Christianization of the islands is that of a visit of Corneae and other companions of St Columba to the Orkneys about 565. The Irish monk Dicuil, writing about 825, states that a "certain honest .monk had visited" certain islands "in the northern British seas," which are evidently identical with the Shetland Islands. Other proofs of the early Christianization of the Orkneys and Shetlands are the dedications to St Columba, St Bridget, St Ninian, and St Tredwell ; the designation Papa applied to several of the islands, that being the Norse name for the Irish missionaries ; monumental stones like those on the mainland of Scotland bearing the Ogham inscription, four having, been found in Shetland and one in the broth of Burrian in North Ronaldshay in Orkney ; the discovery of square-sided bells peculiar to the early ages of the church ; and the occurrence of the crescent symbol on various sculptured slabs.

About the end of the 8th century the Orkneys and Shetlands became the rendezvous of the northern Vikings, who sailed thence to ravage the coasts of Norway and the western coasts and islands ofScotland. About 872 the Norse settlement in the islands became perpetual by the flight to it of the jails, dispossessed of their authority by Harold Haarfager. As the jails began a retaliatory warfare on the coasts of Norway, Harold fitted out a great expedition against them, and placed the Orkneys and Shetlands under the government of Rognvald, earl of .111mri, who, with the permission of Harold, handed it over to his brother Sigurd. Gut-form succeeded his father Sigurd, but, dying childless about a year afterwards, was succeeded by Hallad, son of Rognvald, who, being unable to cope with the likings, returned to Norway, Einar, another son of Roguvald, taking his place. He thoroughly subdued the vikings, and also taught the inhabitants to use peat for fuel, from which he received the name of Torf Einar. The two eldest sons of Einar were slain in 'battle in England, and the third, Thorfinn Hausaklinf, who succeeded in 950, having married Grelauga, daughter of Duncan, earl of Duncansby, became joint-earl of Orkney and Caithness. Thorfinn had five sons, all of whom were shortly afterwards slain, except the youngest, Hlodrer. He was succeeded, about 980, by Sigurd the Stout, who fought against the Scots, but ultimately came to an agreement with Malcolm, king of the Scots, whose daughter he obtained in marriage. Sigurd was slain in a great battle at Clontarf against Brian Boooime, king of Munster, in 1014, upon which King Malcolm of Scotland bestowed the earldom of Caithness on Thorfinn, a son of Sigurd by his daughter, the earldom of the islands being divided among Somerled, Brusi, and Einar, Sigurd's sons by a former marriage. After the death of Somerled and Einar the claim of Brusi to the earldom of the islands was disputed by Thorfinn. An arrangement was finally made that Thorfinn should receive two-thirds of the islands ; but on the death of Brusi he took possession of all the islands ; he came to an agreement, however, with Rognvald Brusison which lasted for eight years, when Thorfinn, having defeated Rognvald in a sea-fight in the Pentland Firth, took possession of the earldom also. Finally he obtained recognition from the king of Norway, and, after making a pilgrimage to Rome, built Christ's Church in Birsay, where he established a bishop's see. Thorfinn was succeeded, about 1064, by his two sons Paul and Erlend, whom King Magnus (Barefoot) of Norway subsequently replaced by his son Sigurd. He, on his father's death, became king of Norway, and was succeeded in the earldom of the Orkneys by Hakon, Paul's son, and Magnus, Erlend's son, the latter of whom was murdered by the former in 1115. Hakon was succeeded by his two sons Harold and Paul, the former of whom shortly afterwards died, when Kali, a nobleman of Norway, receiving from King Sigurd the gift of half of the Orkneys, surprised Paul and induced him to consent to this arrangement, whereupon, in accordance with a vow he had made, he built a "stone minster " at Kirkwall. Paul was carried off by the Vikings, and his place as joint-earl was taken by Harold, the son of Maddad, earl of Athole. King Eystein superseded Harold by Erlend, son of Harold the son of Hakon. Erlend fortified himself against Harold in the broth of Mousa in Shetland, until Harold came to an agreement with him. Afterwards Erlend was slain in a battle with Harold and Rognvahl, who then reigned jointly till the death of Rognvald in 1158. On account of Harold's support of Sigurd, some of Tfagmins Ellingson, against King Sverri of Norway, he was deprived of the whole of Shetland. He was succeeded in 1206 by his sons John and David, the former of whom, on the death of his brother seven years afterwards, became sole ruler. He was slain in an inn in Thurso in 1231, and, as the line of Norse earls became with him extinct, the earldom of Caithness was granted to Magnus, second son of Gilbride, earl of Angus, who was apparently confirmed in the earldom by the king of Norway. About 1321 the earldom passed from the Angus to the Strathearn line, and about 1379 to Henry St Clair, who erected the castle of Kirkwall. In 1468 the Orkneys and Shetlands were pledged by Christian I. of Denmark for the payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III. of Scotland, and, as the money was never paid, their connexion with the crown of Scotland became perpetual. In 1471 King James III. bestowed the castle and lands of Ravenscraig in Fife on William, earl of Orkney, in exchange for all his rights to the earldom of Orkney, and an Act of Parliament was passed 20th February of the same year annexing the earldom of Orkney and Shetland to the Scottish crown, In 1540 Kirkwall was visited by James V. In 1564 Lord Robert Stewart, natural son of James V., was made sheriff of the Orkneys and Shetlands, and received possession of the estates of the odallers; in 1581 he was created earl of Orkney by James VI., the charter being ratified in 1591 to his son Patrick. In 1615 the earldom was again annexed to the crown. The islands were made the rendezvous of the disastrous expedition of Montrose in 1650. During the Protectorate the Orkneys were visited by a detachment of Cromwell's troops, who initiated the inhabitants into various industrial arts and new methods of agriculture. In 1707 the islands were granted to James, twelfth earl, in mortgage, redeemable by the crown on payment of £30,000, and subject to an annual feu-duty of £500 ; but in 1766 his estates were sold to Sir Lawrence Dundas of the family of the earls of Zetland.

Among the relics of the Norse settlement in the islands the most remarkable are the inscriptions on the great sepulchral cairn of Maeshow, the Orkahaug of the saga, which was, however, itself of Pictish origin. The topography, both of Orkney and of Shetland, is altogether Norse, and, although the influx of Scottish settlers gradually extinguished the old Norse .tongue, many of the Norse names still linger, and even a form of the old odal succession and mode of land tenure still survives. Norse was generally spoken in the islands in the 16th century ; and, according to Barry, in Orkney as late as the end of the 17th century it continued to be spoken in four parishes in the Mainland by the people in their own houses ; but within his rebollection it was almost entirely extinct, except in one parish in the heart of the Mainland. In Shetland it continued to be spoken much longer, and Low, during his tour in 1774, found the Norse language in Foula, "but much worn out." He states that it was the language of the last age, and. lie gives several specimens, including the Lord's Prayer and an old. ballad. (Low's Tour, pp. 105-112). The Shetlanders arc still of almost unmixed Norse lineage, and words and phrases of Norse origin still tinge their dialect. Low describes a monument with Runk inscriptions in the churchyard of Crosskiik, Northmavine ; and a Runic fragment found at Mail's Voe, Cunningsburgh, Shetland, is now in the museum of the (Scottish) Society of Antiquaries. Broken swords and fragments of shield-bosses have been dug up in many places, and also many of the peculiar brooches buried. as relics in the graves of the Norse women during the Pagan period. At Birsay are remains of an old palace of the jarls.

In early times both the archbishop of Hamburg and the archbishop of York disputed with the Norwegians ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Orkneys and the right of consecrating bishops ; but ultimately the Norwegian bishops, the first of whom was William the Old, consecrated in 1102, continued the canonical succession. The see remained vacant from 1580 to 1606, and from 1638 till the Restoration ; and, after the accession of William III., episcopacy was in 1697 finally abolished, although many of the clergy refused to conform. Besides the cathedral-church of KIRKWALL (q.v.), the most interesting of the old churches are Egilshay church, built about the beginning of the 12th century, and possessing a round tower ; the ruins of the circular church at Orphir ; the remains of Christ Church, Birsay, built by Earl Thorfinn in the 11th century ; the chapel of Weir, supposed to have been built in the 12th century ; St Peter's Church, Birsay ; and the remains of a chapel on the brough of Deerness. In Shetland there were at one time three towered churches - St Lawrence in Blum, St Magnus at Tingwall, and Ireland Head ; but of these there are now no remains. There are ruins of an old cruciform church at Culbinsbrough, of an old Norse church dedicated to St Olaf at Papil, and of various chapels in several of the islands.

[Further Reading] --The earliest written record on the Orkneys and Shetlands is The Orkneyinga .Saga, an edition of which, with notes by Joseph Anderson, was published in 1S73. Next to the saga in antiquity is Jo Ben's Descriptio Insularum Orchadiarum, 1529. Several works on both groups were written during last century, or about the beginning of the present, including Wallace, Account of the Islands of Orkney, 1700 ; Brand, Brief Description of Orkney, Zetland, dc., 1701 ; Gifford, Description of the Zetland Islands in 1733, published in 1879 ; Low, Tour through the Islands of Orkney and Shetland in 1774, published in 1879 ; Barry, History of the Orkney Islands, 1805; Edmonston, Zetland Islands, 1809; and Shirreff, General View of the Agriculture of the Orkney and Shetland Islands, 1814. On the natural history there have been published - Low, Fauna Orcadensis, 1813 ; Haikie and Heddle, Historia Naturalis Orcadensis, part i., 1848; and Crichton, A Naturalist's Ramble to the arcades, 1866. See also Gorrie, Summers and Irinters in the Orkneys, 1808; Hibbert, Description of the Shetland Isles, 1862; Reid, Art Rambles in Shetland, 1SIS ; Cowie, Shetland, 1874-80; Tudor, Orkneys and Shetland; their Past and Present State, 18S3; and Rampini, Shetland and the Shetlanders, 1884. (T. F. H.)



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