LINKLATER - Aith, Sandwick, Orkney


The people and place in Orkney

Supposing this to be a correct description of their condition at the time, as he had the best opportunities of knowing, I can now testify from my own observation, as well as that of others, that they have already made up their half century of lee-way, in less than twenty years, and have made such strides in the march of improvement, that they are now equal to their neighbours, even with their twenty years additional advantages. The uncivilized state of this parish, noticed above, is ascribed to its junction with Stromness, and wanting a resident clergyman. By a decreet of the Court of Teinds, however, they were disjoined at the death of the incumbent in 1832, and since then it has formed a separate charge, with a resident pastor, etc. The careless observance of the Sabbath is often remarked in double charges, where the people are deprived of the public ordinances of religion every alternate Sabbath, and I lament that some of this carelessness still adheres to a few of the old : yet I have cause to rejoice in the evident improvement of the young, who are generally regular in at tending public worship, and a Sabbath school, -the more advanced being taught in church, immediately after public worship, and the very young in district schools. A portion of these meet in the Secession chapel. In short, the improvement effected here affords every encouragement for disjoining the other united parishes.

Library. A parochial library was instituted immediately after I came to reside here, for the use of which each family pays 6d. a year. It now contains 164 works, chiefly on religious subjects, besides religious periodicals. There are 74 subscribers.

Poor and Parochial Funds. The average number on the poor's roll for three years, is 20, and the average sum allotted to each, 9s. 4d. a year. {Equivalent to 1¼ eggs per day!} The average amount of annual contributions for their relief during the same period, is £ 11, 9s. 7d., which is all derived from church collections, and marriage dues, except 8s., which is the rent of a bit of ground devoted to the poor. Out of this sum, however, there are several salaries to be paid. I have never observed any reluctance to accept of parochial relief.

Fairs, Inns, and Fuel. There is one cattle fair held near the east boundary in June. There are four alehouses, which are too many, and have very bad effects on the morals of the people, inducing habits of intemperance. Sandwick is worse provided with fuel, than any other parish in this neighbourhood, having no good moss from which coal-peats can be procured. By use and wont, however, the people have access to extensive mosses in Harray ; but as these are six miles from the centre of this parish, the labour and expense of carting them home are very great.


Since the time of the last Statistical Account, the greatest improvements that have been introduced in agriculture are, better horses, the common plough instead of the single-stilted, the general introduction of carts, a good made road to Stromness, the commencement of green crop among the cottagers, and of a regular rotation on the glebe. The late plankings have shown the quantity of arable and pasture land to be much more than formerly and the real rents are exceedingly increased. Servants' wages are trebled, but those of tradesmen and labourers are scarcely heightened. The price of malt and eggs is doubled, while that of other provisions is not raised so much; but a good cow, that formerly sold for £2, now costs £4 or more. The disjunction of this parish from Stromness, and the building of two Dissenting chapels, are the most important changes in ecclesiastical affairs. The improvements of which the parish is susceptible, must be evident from the previous observations ; but, again, I briefly state, that proper leases, better houses, a rotation of crops, and encouragement by proprietors, seem calculated to promote the progress of industry, and the happiness and comfort of the labouring classes, as well as the interests of the landlords.

Drawn up May 1839 - Revised July 1841.

  • Brown, George Mackay: Letters From Hamnavoe [Gordon Wright, Edinburgh 1975]
  • Clouston, The Rev. Charles: Parish of Sandwick from The Statistical Account of the Orkney Islands [William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh 1842]
  • Lamb, Gregor: Testimony of the Orkneyingar : the placenames of Orkney [Byrgisey, n.d. c. 1993]
  • Ployen, Christian: Reminiscences of a Voyage to Shetland, Orkney and Scotland in the Summer of 1839. [Lerwick, 1894]
1 2 3 4 5

© 2018 Duncan Linklater Sennachie.