« AnteriorContinuar »
who derive only collateral and indirect advantage from a of national law and the artificial subdivisions of society. particular branch of trade, they did not afford to it that the principal proprietor received in the military and other strenuous encouragement which it demanded, and which services of his tenants compensation for the privilege the ignorance, inertness, and poverty of the inhabitants which they virtually enjoyed of participating the income rendered absolutely necessary; The superintendence of arising from his estate. Both good and evil resulted from the fisheries has now passed chiefly into the hands of the the system. It tended generally to promote through every proprietor of the island. His interest is more immediately class of the community, from the superior landlord to the identified with those who gain their living by this mode inferior tenant, reciprocal good-will ; whilst the education of employment, and the increased prosperity of this of the intermediate tenants, their constant residence branch of economy may be anticipated. The failure of among their subordinate dependants, and attention to their kelp has directed his attention, as well as that of other wants and conduct, contributed to diffuse comfort, morality, island and coast proprietors, beneficially to the fisheries. and self-respect, through every degree of the community. He has launched the first cod-smack furnished by Lewis, On the other hand, it was liable to the usual abuse, and supplied the London market with a cargo of fresh fish. grinding rents, and, as the old patriarchal feeling declined,
The natives of Lewis, though the island is well oppression of the tenantry, as may be seen in many parts adapted to the prosecution of the herring and whale of the Highlands and Íslands. Doubtless, these consefisheries, have confined their fishing to their own coasts. quences might have been partly checked by the timely An obstacle to participation in the deep sea-fisheries prevention and imperative stipulations of the landlord: but affects alike the Western Isles and Orkneys, and that is they too inveterately adhere to the system to be eradicateil, the superior advantage enjoyed by the English or Dutch except with the root from which they spring. They have in being able to control the market to which the fish are augmented, moreover, proportionably to the increasing diffidestined, and in being formed into companies to combine culties by which agriculture is burdened. And the conoperations. The observations on the character of the sideration of these at once brings us to that inevitable and fishermen of Lewis will apply to those of South Uist and summary view of the question, which, setting aside the Benbicula, whilst those of Barra, a rock which leaves option between conflicting disadvantages, compels us to them without any other resources, and furnishes no pre- regard the necessity of the course to be pursued. texts for idleness, are celebrated for enterprise and Rent being a certain surplusage of profit which land success; carrying on an extensive ling-fishery, solely affords above the ordinary rate of profit realized in other by their own exertions, and conveying their fish to the branches of trade, it is obvious, that though, where the Clyde markets through the Crinan Canal. The laird of price of agricultural produce is much higher than that of Coll found much difficulty in inducing the fishermen of other produce, the surplusage might be sufficient for two that island to avail themselves of a vessel employed for sets of landlords, the superior and the middle-man, its the express purpose of carrying their fish to market, which depreciation would render such subdivision impracticable: left their whole time applicable to fishing.
and this is precisely the situation of the landlords. The The coast of Lewis is frequented by whales. A short landlord, therefore, must change the system, whatever may time ago sixty of these fish were driven into the harbour be his reluctance to sever ancient ties. of Stornaway. A scene ensued, of which an animating No general plan for the distribution of property can be description was given to me by an eye-witness. All the laid down in the Highlands and Islands, where the local boats in the harbour darted on their prey, and the crews subdivisions and value of land vary so materially. But showed the utmost activity, boldness, and enterprise in one general principle might be adopted wherever it may driving them ashore and killing them, whilst the bellow- be found practicable, of letting the land in large portions, ing of the wounded animals drowned in its horrible din so as to secure a respectable yeomanry, essential tó the clamour of the destroyers. The average length of the agricultural, as well as to moral purposes, in regions which fish was about twenty feet. One of them brought forth a must be necessarily in a great measure destitute of the cub during the fray; the young animal immediately personal attention of the landlord. Where the portion of dashed ashore and was taken; it measured six feet. This arable land is very limited or detached, or the plough can was considered by no means a numerous shoal.
be scarcely brought to bear upon it, it might be consigned There is but one sheep-farm in Lewis. The principal to tenants of an inferior class. The labourers, according produce of the island are cattle, small in size, and very ill to the admirable system now gradually pervading Engshaperl, black and brown in colour, but yielding excellent land, might rent small portions of land, just sufficient beet. The proprietor has directed much of his attention to occupy their leisure hours, and to supply them with a to the increase of the cultivation of the soil, which is con certain amount of provisions and comfort, without renfined chietly to the strips of land along the coasts of the dering them independent of the landlord's employment: sea and shores of lakes. The produce consists of barley, bear, and the entire system should be placed under the constant the black oat, and a little wheat, and chiefly potatoes. Lewis supervision of a landlord, or of a suitable representative. has been long considered, comparatively speaking, a grain The benefits of it are already apparent wherever it has island. A peat-moss, recently reclaimed near Stornaway, been introduced, in promoting the improvement
of agriculnow yields a rich and productive soil; and there is little ture, as well as of the habits of the people. The sheepdoubt, that the arable resources of the island will be mate- farming will come more properly under consideration rially augmented, and that its wealth and population will hereafter, as also the fisheries, –a vast field of enterprise increase. The harvest usually commences in August, and and opulence, closely interwoven with the change in seldom fails, as the winter rains, which set in in Septem- question. ber, are commonly preceded by a few days of hot weather, The great importance of a well-arranged system would accompanied with strong drying winds. After this season be nowhere more manifest than in that chain of islands, of the curse of St. Swithin rages with remorseless fury. The which Lewis is the most northern. Formerly, and at no island suffered much formerly from occasional dearths. distant period, the great proprietors to whom it belonged, Such an event occurred some years ago, during the resi- | Macneills, Macdonalds, Macleods, or Mackenzies, resided dence of two of my friends in this island on a shooting each upon his own island, a monarch whose right there excursion. On returning from a good day's sport, they was none to dispute. Now, through transfers of property, were informed that the last measure of grain which the or the attraction of towns and parts of the country more island afforded had been consumed, and were strongly ad-congenial to modern habits, the Long Island has been vised to take ship immediately for a more fortunate region, deserted by all its landlords, excepting the temporary counsel which they did not neglect.
residence of the proprietor of Lewis, at Stornaway. The The proprietor of Lewis is adopting the change of system best substitute for their personal superintendence, would which the times have rendered necessary, in removing that be the system recommended. Whilst the extension of class of tacksmen corresponding with the middle-men of steam-navigation will facilitate the efforts of those lan:Ilorils Ireland. Under the ancient Highland system, the land disposed to visit their estates, and render the southern was rented of the principal proprietors under a long, and markets more accessible to their produce. often perpetually-renewed hereditary lease by tenants, Near the Butt of Lewis exists a small colony of Danes, whose birth, consanguinity, wealth, influence, or achieve- retaining the characteristics of the race from which they ments, constituted them a second class of gentry; and by sprung, fair complexions, blue eyes, and matted hair; but them underlet to cottars and small renters, whó regarded their language has entirely mergeil in the Gaelic. There them as their landlords. This method was bencficial in is no proof but that they may have settled on the islanıl, the securing, by a well-graduated subordination of rank, pro- communication with Denmark being easy, at a period subperty, and authority, a virtual substitute for the control sequent to that of the long-continued sway of the Scandi
navians. It is probable that the Danes and Norwegians, by whom it is sometimes little known, the entrance pre who made their first descents on the western isles about sents the appearance of a rough and inaccessible coast, A.D. 800, and finally surrendered the government of them and they see no alternative before them but going ashore. to the crown of Scotland, in A. D. 1263, after the defeat of The want of a lighthouse on the Cape is another main Haco, at the battle of Largs, established no colonies in those cause of danger; the deficiency will soon be supplied, as islands. The only traces of their sway, which appears to one is in progress. have been mild, and has drawn forth the panegyric of Mr. We reached this far-farned norta-western headland of Tytler, in the opening of his History of Scotland, are such the mainland of Great Britain, Cape Wrath or Rath, soon as might have been expected from a maritime people, to after sunset: and could just descry through mist and spray whom the headlands and principal landınarks were of more its dusky form, the terror of seamen, emerging from a sea importance than to the natives. Several of these spots have now violently agitated by the contest of the south-west received their designation from them. It is calculated that wind with the ebb-tide, which, passing rapidly from east to the names of places in the Hebrides are in equal propor- west along the northern, and descending along the westem tions of Gaelic and of Scandinavian extraction. Some of coast of Scotland, meets at the angle its adversary, the the families, Macleods and others, were originally North- tyrant of the Minsh. The convulsive motions of our good men.
ship afforded palpable indications of the fury of the
encounter. Darkness concealed from view the formidable HARBOUR OF STORNAWAY; THE MINSI; CAPE WRATH;
northern coast of Scotland. SCRABSTER ROADS; COD-PISIIERY; THURSO
We reached Thurso Bay at sunrise, having performed a
distance of 140 miles, notwithstanding the temporary oppoA merchant vessel of Stornaway, in which I had engaged sition of a strong tide, in about eighteen hours. The my passage to Thurso, was, happily, prevented sailing on
anchorage at Scrabster Roads, under high cliffs in the the day at first proposed, by the increasing symptoms of a gale, which raged violently' during the following Sunday. westerly winds. The bay is protected on the eastern side
western corner, is good and sufficiently screened from The harbour, which had been for some time receiving a continual accession of vessels, becaine now completely choked by Dunnet Head, and on the western by Holburn Head,
two of the boldest headlands of the Pentland Frith. The up; and several brigs and sloops, the latter principally laden lown of Thurso lies on the eastern shore at the mouth with fish, were aground opposite the houses of the town.
of a small river of the same name, and on a bank opposite Vessels came in successively much damaged. Such an assemblage of vessels, chiefly engaged in the Baltic trade, of Ulbster. At Thurso there is a respectable and com
appears Thurso Castle, the residence of Sir John Sinclair several of them Russian and Norwegian, afforded a display fortable inn, the first which I had seen since leaving of bustle and opulence, strangely contrasting, with the Glasgow. generally desolate appearance of the Hebrides. The
My next object was a visit to the Orkneys. The only minister of Stornaway alluded in his sermon to the pre- regulor communication between Caithness-shire and the vailing tempest; and availed himself of other circumstances Orkneys is by means of the mail-boat, which passes three of recent occurrence, to preach impressively on the duty of times a week, when the weather permits,across the preparation for a future state. The style of address was narrowest part of the Pentland Frith, where the channel more familiar than that which we are accustomed to in does not exceed twelve miles in breadth. The men England; the minister directing his exhortations pointedly employed in this navigation are so well acquainted with to the clergymen, whom the funeral already mentioned the tides, that, availing themselves of the favourable had brought to the island, and indicating with his finger moment for starting, they shoot across with little risk; and particular seats, whilst he exclaimed, “ You that sit below, it is remarkable, that there is but one instance of the loss you that sit in the galleries, and you, and you, and you of a mail-boat having occurred during seventy years, so females," addressing himself to a seat which contained only completely has skill converted that chief source of danger auditors of that sex, you must all appear before the
in the Frith, the rapidity of the currents, to its own adjudgment-seat." The loss of his other vessel, a ship of 250 tons, had vantage ; and, such is the steady bearing of the little bark,
that, increased the reluctance of the master of the vessel in which I had taken my passage to sail. It had been lately
.... The waves bound beneath her as a horse wrecked on the coast of Orkney. The safety of himself
That knows his rider. and his crew were owing, under Providence, to the resolu- The fishing-smacks, however, promised the best and safest tion of a boy of eighteen years of age, son of the innkeeper conveyance from Thurso, and meeting the skipper of one at Stornaway, who grasping a rope, sprung overboard, and of these vessels, which lay in the roads, walking in the climbing the face of a rock apparently precipitous, secured town, I made him an offer which I thought would satisfy it, and enabled them to escape. His conduct deserved him. He was a true John Bull, from Greenwich, fat and a compliment from the Humane Society. On the 12th rosy, strutting along in supreme independence, with his there was promise of more moderate weather, and we put hands in his waistcoat-pockets, gruff, and speaking the to sca as soon as we could disengage ourselves from the purest Cockney. His temper had been probably soured shipping in the harbour, an undertaking which, as not a by the long continuance of the S.W. winds, which had vessel had yet quitted its moorings, we should never have prevented the usual despatch of cargoes of live fish to the accomplished, but for the civility of the commander of a London market; and, on receiving my proposition for a Revenue Cutter, who came on board, and took charge of the cast to Orkney, either to Kirkwall or Stromness, he talked vessel till we got to sea.. A brig of war belonging to the very sullenly of the possibility of detention aud the waste Revenue Service, perceiving our intention, instantly, with a of time. Tempted, however, by the price offered, he at rapidity magical when compared with the tardy operations length consented, but afterwards broke his engagement as of a half-manned merchantman, hoisted sail, and was soon sulkily as he had entered into it. out of sight.
The cod-smacks are capital sailing vessels, well manned, We stuod across the Minsh, now turbulent from the and well appointed; they vary in size, from 50 to 60 tons, and effects of the late gale, before a strong and favourable are rigged as sloops, and the crew are well accommodated breeze, to the opposite coast, a few miles to the northward on board. Each vessel contains a well for the reception of of the Storr Head, a bold and far-projecting promontory of live fislı, of which the cargo sometimes amounts to 90 score. Assynt, a mountainous district, distinguished by its sugar- To secure a current of water for the preservation of the fish, loaf peaks, and steered along it to the northward. The the vessel keeps the sea as much as possible, and eren coast is not very lofty, but is backed by a long and noble when in harbour, is usually under sail, the large Lochs range of picturesque mountains. It diminishes pro- of Eribol and Laxford affording ample room for cruising. gressively to the Cape, and hence arises the great danger The character of the skippers of these smacks, as seamen, of wrecks. Vessels steering from the southward to the stands very high in the estimation of the coasters. They Cape, with a westerly wind, are apt to suppose, when the are said to be better acquainted with the headlands and weather is hazy, that they have rounded the point as landmarks than any other
navigators, and yield to none soon as they have passed the rocky harbours of Lochs in skill and intrepidity. They are universally respected, Laxford and Inchard, shape their course accordingly, and as their conduct is good. They sometimes indemnify do not discover their error till they approach too near to themselves by excess on shore for the total abstinence recover their lee-way. To persons acquainted with the from spirits required of them whilst on board, but in this coast, the excellent harbour of Loch Inchard might, under respect they have improved ; some of them abstain from these circumstances, afford a refuge; but to foreigners, fishing on Sundays, and attend Divine Service. Their
crews, also, are much less ignorant and disorderly than | majestically bounding the horizon. The red sand-stone, of formerly. The number of their hands contributes as much which Dunnet Head and the cliffs of Hoy are composed, as the superiority of their vessels to their reputation as glowed richly in the beams of a brilliant setting sun, and seamen, amounting to eleven, men and boys; the latter the harvest enlivened the scene. The task of gathering it are very useful in the fishing. Their costume is picturesque, devolves upon the women: the men are said to be here, as consisting of a white flannel dress with pearl buttons, elsewhere in these regions, very indolent. Wages are very slouch hat, and jack-boots. The fish in the well, notwith high in this country, amounting to two shillings per day, standing all the care employed in the preservation of them, including provisions. A high spirit of independence perdie in great numbers until the cold weather sets in: as vades the peasantry, yet beggars are numerous, and it soon as they are observed to sicken, they are taken out, is the practice here, as elsewhere, to license them, giving crimped, and salted. As several smacks belong to the them distinguishing badges. This has a good effect; same company, one of them is despatched, as soon as a partly as their number is known by the magistrates, and cargo of live fish is completed, to the London market. partly as the degree of degradation attached to wearing The line is always used in fishing, and the fishing com- the badge would deter any persons but those who were immences with the flood-tide.
pelled by real necessity from applying for it. The licensed It is owing to the enterprising spirit of the Thames mendicants are chiefly old women. Company, no less than to the advantages already stated, that the cod-fishing on this coast is principally in their
PENTLAND FRITH; ORKNEYS; SOUND OF HOY. hands. Stornaway furnishes a single vessel, and Thurso Ar eleven at night the atmosphere was perfectly serene, another. It is somewhat remarkable, that Leith takes and there seemed no prospect of sailing next morning. little share in the trade. The white fish, cod, ling, and Between three and four the skipper summoned me, extusk, abound on the banks of the northern coast of Scot-cusing his not having done so before, as a gale had been land, the Orkney and Shetland Isles, and principally blowing. Such are the sudden changes of weather in this
etween those two groups of islands. The Dutch engage climate. The weather had moderated, but it was still in it. The Hollanders, according to Edmonstone, did not blowing hard. The hue of the sky was inky black, and fish for cod separately, with the exception of those caught threatened squalls, and the Frith was boiling and foaming during the summer-season with long lines, and as an article beneath the dark horizon. An old seaman who came on of daily food, until 1811; since that time small vessels, board advised me, in a whisper, not to sail, predicting that carrying about eight men, have been occupied annually, a gale would infallibly spring up; but as he was evidently during the summer-months, in fishing cod on different groggy, his admonition was unheeded, and at half-past neighbouring banks.
four we bounded forth with the rapidity of an arrow, for The alternative of crossing the Frith in an open boat the vessel was light, unballasted, and an excellent sailer. was fortunately prevented by the arrival of a small mer- The crew consisted of the skipper, formerly in the king's chant vessel, formerly a yacht, the master of which agreed service, who had fought at Camperdown, another man, and to convey me, and I passed the evening with a gentleman a wretched half-clad urchin, the son of a weaver of Inverresiding near Thurso. The mouth of the Thurso river is accessible only to age, having spent just three weeks at sea. Heavy waves
ness, thirteen years of age, who was making his first voysmall vessels. The river is celebrated for its salmon- rolled before a strong western breeze into the bays of fishery, which is valued at £1000 per annum; it had just Thurso and Dunnet, which are separated by a narrow ridge, terminated* The house of my host commanded an exten- scaling and dashing against the bold headland of Dunnet, sive view of the treeless surface of Caithness-shire; and which well merits the significant appellation of Windy northward of the windings of the river flowing between high Knap, bestowed on it by seamen; we passed it at daybreak, banks, the town of Thurso, the bay, the opposite headlands, and bent our course across the Frith to Cantick Head. The and the lofty precipices of Hoy, one of the Orkney Islands, shorter and more direct passage to Stromness is by the Head
In 1736, 2560 salmon were taken in the course of a day, upon and Sound of Hoy, and was now rendered impracticable to one pool of this river.-Statistical Survey.
our yessel by the sea setting upon that island.
The perils of the Pentland Frith are allowed by the most | long and deep harbour of Long Hope, affording secure experienced mariners to be formidable, though much ex- anchorage for any number of vessels of the largest size, aggerated. The length of the passage from Dunnet the best in the Orkneys, being superior in one respect to Head, on the west, to Pentland Skerries, on the east, may Stromness, as large vessels can clear out of it more easily. amount to about fifteen miles. The tide varies in rate The navigation between the bold and precipitous coast of between nine and three miles in the hour, according to the Hoy, and the many islands which obstruct the passage, is spring or neap: the spring-tide rises eight feet, on extra- | intricate. ordinary occasions fourteen; the neap is from 3 to 6. The ebb-tide, rapid as a torrent, hurried us along; and The tlood flows from west to east, proceeding northwards as the water was comparatively smooth, we sailed as along the western coast of Scotland, directing its course along a broad, majestic river. But violent squalls now through the Frith, and then southward along the eastern burst upon our unballasted vessel through the gullies and coast. But some degree of intricacy, and of consequent | inlets of the coast of Hoy, the severest of which befell difficulty to navigators, arises from the counter-currents, us as passing under the highest mountain of this island, which are as rapid as the tide itself; by the strong eddies pro- called the Wart, or Ward Hill of lloy, we entered the duced by the intervention of headlands, islands, rocks and Sound which separates that island from Pomona, a channel shoals, and by the whirlpools, sometimes formed by the con- several miles in length, noted for the turbulence of its fluence of currents, oceasioned by such obstacles, which, waters, which even in calm weather is agitated at its when raised by gales, are dangerous even to large vessels. western entrance, as if by a storm, by the mere contlict The stream tlows along the coasts of the Frith, in a direc- of the currents. The skipper, fearing lest the vessel should tion opposite to that of the central and main current, and be laid on its beam-ends, ran from the helm which he left the change of tide is perceptible between two and three in my charge, and lowered the fore-sail, whilst his helpmate hours later on the shores than in the mid-channel. The was employed in taking in a second reef in the main-sail. encounter of such rapid tides with violent gales occasions Having thus provided for our safety, he lost no time in tremendous conflicts: the awful magnificence of the sea, ordering the unfortunate boy to come on deck and hold to when the ebb-tide is met by a storm trom the north-west, a rope, not that he could be in any degree useful, but that baffles all description.
he might be accustomed to dangers to which his life was The greatest danger apprehended in the navigation of doomed. The little half-naked wretch obeyed; and after the Frith arises from calms, especially during a thick fog: standing, shivering, and drenched with spray for a few Vessels piloted by foreigners, or persons unacquainted minutes, slunk back into his hole. Rapidly crossing the with the tides, have been known to drift along at the rapid Sound, between the small island of Gremsa and the mainrate of nine miles in the hour, while those on board sup | land of Orkney, we approached every moment its formidable posed the vessel to be stationary, and did not discover their lee-shore, lying level beneath a heavy surf. The skipper, error till on the point of striking on the coast,-a disaster, perceiving that our present sail was perfectly incapable under such circumstances, apparently inevitable, but often of making head against the gale, and that wreck was in warded off by some friendly counter-current which sud-evitable unless every rag was spread, ordered the fore-sail denly diverts their course, and hurries them away into the to be unfurled, the main-sail to be loosed, and put about, mid-channel. A different result must happen when vessels having no alternative but to face the tremendous smell of are drifted into bays, which afford no anchorage, or driven the Sound, and to beat up against it, making several upon sandy beaches. In this manner a large ship entered tacks, whilst the vessel lay almost on her beam-ends, and Dunnet Bay lately, during a mist, and was wrecked, whilst the waves rolled over her. At length, we were cheered the crew supposed themselves becalmed in the Frith. The with the sight of the masts of the vessels lying in Stromback-current, seconded by the breeze, which gradually ness Roads, and soon reached the harbour, which was filled increased, bore us rapidly along, till the ebb-tide, now by merchantmen detained by adverse winds, very thankful flowing at the rate of seven miles in the hour, became to Providence for our preservation, after a passage of about apparent by the great increase of the swell. We steered 35 miles. “A very coarse day, Sir," was the first greeting towards the small island of Stroma,
which reached my ear, as I stepped on shore, drenched The coast of Caithness-shire, to the eastward of Dunnet with rain and spray; an expression to which it was imHead, is low. Near the shore stands Mey Castle, the seat possible to refuse a hearty assent. of the Earl of Caithness, in the midst of some rising plantations; whilst beyond Stroma appears Duncansby ORKNEY; STROMNESS ; STONES OF STENNIS; KIRKWALL ; Head, the N.E. promontory of Scotland. The principal
HISTORY. headlands of Hoy, in Orkney, the farthest of which is the Head, rose in fine perspective on our left. The waves were
The harbour of Stromness forms part of an extensive majestically high, and seemed to form a wall, traversing bay; it is long and narrow, lying north and south, sheltered the Frith from coast to coast. Excepting a fishing-smack, from the west by a high ridge, along the sloping sides of off Dunnet Head, making for the harbour, and a large which the town is built, and guarded at its entrance by a three-masted merchant vessel, beating up the Frith to low mound, called the Holms, outside of which the larger windward, which passed close to us as she lay on one of vessels ride to avoid the difficult task of clearing the her tacks, we saw no sail.
harbour. Two large three-masted ships, bound for LiverThe waving of the corn-fields and green pastures of the pool from Russian ports, now lay at anchor in these roads, coast of Hoy, between Red Head and Cantick Head, form and there were about thirty merchantmen westward-bound a cheerful contrast to the lofty and dreaded precipices of in the harbour. Stromness, originally a small village, has the western face of the island. Swona, a small island, gradually become enlarged by the resort of vessels and famed for the whirlpool produced by the agitation of the trade; but its streets, of which one bisects its whole length, conflicting currents which surround it, called the Wells of are still wretched lanes, and the pavement is so rough that Swona, appeared in sight*. This island contains seventy
a horse can scarcely pass over it in safety. Carts, according inhabitants, who live by smuggling and illicit distillation, to the Statistical Survey, were first used in this parish less --persons of desperate character, whom the Excisemen than a century ago. dare not molest. We reached Cantick Head, well pleased to Few English sea-ports can boast of an inn more enter smoother water, as the skipper confessed afterwards, agreeably situated, or better accommodated for the reception that he observed, with no little anxiety, the continual in- of guests, than that which stands on the side of the crease of the swell and rise of the waves, for the breeze harbour. A hearty breakfast, well-earned by the voyage, had matured into a gale. The southern approach to the prepared me for a ride to Kirkwall. The landlord hired main land of Orkney, the island of Pomona, is by a two capital ponies, and provided a guide, who, though much channel, several miles in breadth, interspersed with small more respectable than persons of this class usually are, had islands, dividing Hoy from South Ronaldsha, two principal | unfortunately scarcely ever mounted a horse before, and islands of the Orkney group.
The southern coast of was for a long time securing his seat. Pomona is indented by two bays, one of which supplies an The road to Kirkwall is very good. It crosses a dreary excellent roadstead for large vessels, and contains the lar moor of great extent, passing, by a bridge, a narrow stream bour of Stromness, one of the safest in the British isles. communicating between the bay and a large salt-water On the left of the channel opens, in its full extent, the Loch. A natural embankment separates this Loch from * Dr. Barry denies the existence of the Wells of Swona, meaning, I well-known Stone Circles. Their situation, so similar to
Loch Stennis, a broad sheet of water. It is the site of the I presume, (for there can be no doubt of the existence of the whirlpool formed in the manner stated, that, according to the literal inter. that of the Circles of Calernish in Lewis, was probably pretation of the word well, its depth and perils are much exaggerated. chosen with reference to the vicinity of the water, necessary,
perhaps, to the ceremonies or the safety of the people by Henry Sinclair (or St. Clair,) and continued in his family whom they were erected. Their number is also the same. till a period subsequent to the transfer of Orkney to the Of one of them there are four stones remaining, of which King of Scotland. This remarkable event in the history three are standing. They are about 18 or 20 feet in length; of Orkney occurred A.D. 1468. The Western Isles had they would have been all long ago shivered into frag- been for some time subject to the Scottish sway; and in ments by a neighbouring farmer, who was beginning to this year Christian the First, King of Denmark, who employ the materials in building his house, had not the governed Sweden, Norway, and Holstein, mortgaged the sheriffs interposition put a stop to the sacrilege. The Isles of Orkney and Shetland to the King of Scotland, in principal Circle is very large; its diameter, extending to the pledge for the payment of a considerable debt. The claim outside of the fosse is 360 feet; and it is surrounded by a to these possessions may be deemed virtually, though not fosse 20 feet broad and 12 feet deep: the stones of which formally, abandoned by the Danish monarch. The Kings it is composed are from 12 to 14 feet in height. There are of Scotland did not retain peaceable possession of this several tumuli in the neighbourhood of the circles, and remote province of their empire. In the year 1470, the detached stones of the same description are found in all second subsequently to the transfer, Sinclair, Earl of the Orkney Islands. The banks of Loch Stennis are Orkney, resigned his earldom to the King of Scotland. well cultivated, and the dreary prospect of moor and water His son by a first marriage became Lord Sinclair, whilst his is diversified by considerable tracts of arable land. We son by a second was created Earl of Caithness, the ancestor of met on the road the Royal Mail carried by a bare-legged the present earl. During the minority of James the Fifth boy, who was trotting along to Stromness. At length, as of Scotland, the two brothers, deeming the opportunity for we descended a steep hill to the flat shore of Scarpa Bay, ręcovering the surrendered inheritance favourable, invaded we perceived the tower of the Cathedral of Kirkwall
, sur- Orkney: they were supported by Sinclair, governor of rounded by the houses of the town on the northern side of Kirkwall, a natural son of their family, and were defeated the isthmus, which is about three miles in breadth. A town in a pitched battle near the Stones of Stennis; the earl so extensive on the northern shore of Orkney is an object was killed and Lord Sinclair made prisoner. The feuds of much interest; and there is something peculiarly striking and troubles which continued to disturb the islands, were and imposing on such a spot, in the appearance of the allayed by the arrival of James the Fifth in person, who massy pile and lofty towers of a Cathedral, and the more so resided as guest to the bishop in his palace, A.D. 1536, and when it is viewed as almost the only unimpaired specimen settled his government. Grants of the earldom were of those stately monuments of ecclesiastical grandeur which several times made and revoked; the dukedom was conadorned Scotland previous to the Reformation. On one stituted and conferred by Mary on her favourite Both well. side of the Cathedral rise the venerable ruins of the ancient During this period of uncertain rule, the bishops are castle of the Earls of Orkney, and on the other those of the described as having exercised a mild and beneficent jurispalace of the bishops; whilst the masts of the vessels diction in spiritual matters. Robert Reid enjoyed the clustered together in the harbour, indicate the present mitre A.D. 1540: he filled the high office of President of commercial importance of Kirkwall. The metropolis of the the Court of Session at Edinburgh, and negotiated and northern isles is situated, like that of Corinthi, between celebrated the marriage between Mary and the Dauphin two seas.
Its tranquil dignity exhibits a striking contrast of France. He enlarged and adorned the cathedral; his to the turbulence of the waves, which beat the northern effigy with his name subjoined is represented in relief on and the southern shores of the isthmus on which it stands. the tower of the bishops' palace. The earldom was granted
The principal street of Kirkwall is a narrow ill-paved to the Stewarts, Robert and his son Patrick, A.D. 1600; to lane of about a mile in length. A square, containing the these personages Orkney and Shetland are indebted for Cathedral and other of the chief buildings, opens into it. the principal remaining monuments former grandeur. There is a respectable show of shops, and two inns afford Robert enlarged and embellished the palace of Birsa, fair accommodation. I was amused by a characteristic which had been inhabited, if not built by the Earl Sinclair trait of national curiosity: a child of five years of age, who his son Patrick erected the present palace of Kirkwall. was standing at the door of a house as we entered the But to defray the expense of these structures, and of the town, asked, with all imaginable gravity, whence we came magnificence which they indulged, the Stewarts levied and whither we were going. The guide, though we were arbitrary and oppressive taxes, and at length produced by trotting along, thought proper to reply to the best of his their tyrannical conduct a revocation of the Royal Grant. knowledge to both these questions.
The government of the islands was intrusted to the bishop.; It will be necessary, previously to giving some description On the abolition of the prelacy, the leases of the episcopal of Kirkwall, to take a brief view of the principal events in lands were granted to the city of Edinburgh. “These, the history of Orkney. The ancient inhabitants were the together with the earldom of Orkney and the lord ship of, Picts, to whom are ascribed the conical towers found on Shetland, were, A. 1). 1642, conferred in virtue of former, various parts of the coast of Scotland, one of which exists grants on the Earl of Morton by King Charles the First. near Kirkwall. In the ninth century, the Norwegians, led During the usurpation, Cromwell's soldiers were quar. by Harold Harfager, reduced the Orkney, Shetland, and tered in the island. In 1669, the earldom was annexed to Western Isles, and in 920, resigned these possessions to the crown, and erected into a stewardry. In 1669, the his brother Sigund the Elder, who became the first Earl of bishopric, having been temporarily restored, was finally Orkney. Sigund and his successors extended their sway abolished. The Earl of Morton having mismanaged his over the neighbouring counties of Caithness, Sutherland, property, oppressed by the vexation which it occasioned and Ross-shire, but were occasionally defeated and deprived him, sold it in 1766 to Lord Dundas, whose representative, of a portion of their conquests by the Kings of Scotland, and the present lord, receives the feu duties. The church sometimes deposed by the Kings of Norway, of whom they lands reverted to the crown, and are subject to the control held their possessions on the terms of feudal homage. The of the Exchequer*. succession to the earldom was at length contested by two The Cathedral, standing in an open square, is freed cousins, Hacon and Magnus. Hacon finally determined their from those encumbrances which too frequently not only dispute by murdering his rival, A.D. 1110. This deed was obstruct the view, but deface the fronts of several of the perpetrated in the Isle of Eagleshay: the body of Magnus English Minsters: its architecture is a respectable specimen was removed to Christ's Church in Birsa, where it irradiated of the style of the twelfth century, and the plan on which celestial light and wrought divers miracles, in virtue of the it is constructed is uniform, as with the exception of the canonization which the holy martyr had received. Hacon, eastern window and some other minor parts, it was the seized by compunctions, endeavoured to atone for his guilt work of one period. The small size of the windows and by making a pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem, and by heavy character of the building are characteristic of the washing himself in the river Jordan. About this period age in which it was built. The length of the Cathedral the Bishops of Orkney, who probably exercised a spiritual from east to west is 236 feet; its breadth 56: the arms of jurisdiction in these islands long previous, are authentically the cross or transept are 30 feet in breadth; the height of mentioned.
the roof is 71 feet, that of the steeple 140. The roof of Ronald, nephew of St. Magnus, became Earl of Orkney, the nave is vaulted by Gothic arches, supported on each and in fulfilment of a vow built the Cathedral of Kirkwall
, side by a triple row of columns; the lowest tier consists in honour of the saint, and removed his bones to this of fourteen, each measuring fifteen feet in circumference. sacred asylum. The present edifice, with some additions The tower is supported by four, measuring each twenty-four made to it by the bishops, is the same which was then feet in circumference. The effect of the massy and erected. The earldom became vacant A.D. 1379, and was * The above sketch of the history of Orkney is abridged chielly granted, on hard conditions, by the King of Norway to from Dr. Barry's work,