John R Tudor.

The Orkneys and Shetland; their past and present state online

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feet high, and from eighty to a hundred broad. Inside is a
spacious hall, then a narrow archway on the left, with a large
cupboard as it were on the right side ; then another marine hall,
from which a long narrow passage is said to bring you to a
beach. Cowie speaks of stalactites depending from the roof
of the inner hall, but, when the writer was there in 1878, he
could not see any, though he was struck with the vitrified look
of the roof. This cave to be seen and explored properly re-
quires very brilliant torches, and a very smooth, non-undulating
^ Scott's Life, vol. iii. p. 151.


sea, to enable you to penetrate far in. Shortly after leaving
the cave you come to the Giant's Leg, an arch through which a
boat can be pulled at the foot of the Bard (264 ft.), close to
which is another arch, which, however, is said not always to be
practicable for boats. The cliffs at the Bard are very fine,
thoucjh not half the height of the Ord.



— icojitijiued).

To Scalloway and Back.

" Scalloway was Scalloway when Lerwick was nana ;
And Scalloway will be Scalloway when Lerwick is gane."

Local Saw.

There are two routes from the modern to the ancient capital
of Shetland ; the shortest being the northern one by the bridge
of Fitch, the longer one being the southern, which for about
four miles is along the Dunrossness Road. The best plan is to
go to Scalloway by the southern road and return by Tingwall,
a round altogether about eighteen miles.

Just outside the town you come to the little Loch of Click-
em-in, which takes its name from a change house, or whisky-shop,
which once stood close to it, the motto of which, as of many
similar places on the mainland of Scotland, was Click-em-in, or
Hook them in. The loch is separated from tlie sea by an
ayre or shingle beach over which the road is carried. From a
little to the west of this ayre a causeway 170 ft. in length leads
to a small holm, which, as it measures 150 ft. from N. to S., and
152 ft. from E. to W., may be almost termed circular. The
holm is surrounded by a wall varying in height from i to 3 ft.,
and in places 2 ft. wide. In the centre of this inclosure


stand the remains of a broch,' which has been considerably
altered, internally, at some second occupation, when portions
of the building were, probably, used for making the additions,
the remains of which can still be seen outside the broch
itself. There is, however, a special feature in connection
with this broch, which is thus described by Sir Henrv
Dryden : —

" Between the entrance in the outer wall surrounding the holm
and the tower, is the guard-house, in form a segment of a circle,
43'^' on its convex face, connected with the outer wall by a
passage, in which is a doorway, but not connected with the tower,
at least no connecting walls appear. This outwork is about
\-^- wide at bottom, 19^- at top at the passage through it,
which is near the centre and about 8*^^ high, but it is irregular
in width. There is a chamber on each side of the entrance.
About s*^- from the outer face the entrance passage is diminished
to 2^- II'- by the usual jambs for a door, inside of which the
passage is wider. Holes remain for the fastening bar, and a slit
in the roof, as in the entrance to the tower. The E. chamber
is 9*^- 6'- long. The only access to it is from the space above the
entrance, through the top of the chamber. The W, chamber
is on a higher level, and entered from the same landing on a
level. At the W. end of the guard-house are steps leading to
the top of it, and doubtless there was a parapet, which is now
destroyed. The wall is broken away over the outer end of
the entrance, but was solid. We must suppose the outer wall
and the walls forming the passage to the guard-house were
several feet high, so that the only access to the tower was
through the guard-house. It is doubtful whether this building
is of the date of the original tower, or of the external
chambers, or of some intermediate date. Judging by the
work, it is rather to be attributed to the builders of the tower
than to those of the external chambers. No other example
is known, though so few brochs have been examined by the
spade and pick that we cannot afhrm that no example exists."
1 Arch, Scot. vul. v. p. ic)(j ci so/.


When the broch was cleared in 1861 a good many stone
mortars and pestles were found ; and whilst the excavations were
going on a " goak," of the " Bil Stumps his Mark " kind, was
played on the chief of the local antiquaries : a stone, bearing
what at first sight were supposed to be Runic characters, but
which were afterwards found to be some terse, though decidedly
coarse, Anglo-Saxon sentences, being buried overnight to be
found, as was intended, the next day. The joy of the
Lerwigian illuminati on the discovery of the priceless relic is
said to have far exceeded that of the Pickwick Club on the
well-known memorable occasion.

Shortly after leaving the Loch of Clickemin which, with its
background of barren rugged hill, relieved by the few Shetland
trees which, at the north-western corner, encircle the small
dwelHng-house called Helendale, makes a picturesque little
cabinet scene, you come to the village or hamlet of Sound.
This hamlet consists of a number of small holdings tenanted
by as primitive a lot of inhabitants as are to be found in Shet-
land, and between whom and the Lerwigians a feud has existed
ever since Lerwick was built in the seventeenth century. So
strong is the antipathy to the parveim borough, that the Sound
bairns travel all the way to the school at Gulberwick, some two
miles off, sooner than attend at the Board School in Newtown,
less than half the distance. There is a very steep, and for
carriages nasty bit of road from Sound up to the Sandy Loch,
from which Lenvick is supplied with water so highly charged
with peat, as to resemble in colour the senna-tea of one's
youth more than the pure liquid element.

Just before reaching the loch you have a very good view of
the south-western side of Lerwick, of the Knab, Bressay
Sound, and of the Ward Hill and Ord of Bressay ; and after
winding round the Sandy Loch, and from the crest of the hill,
close to the third mile-post, you get a very fine view of Bressay
with the Noup of Noss showing over the northern shoulder of
the island. A propos of mile-posts, it is somewhat strange, that,
in a country where wood is an exotic, and stone of every kind


to be had for the working, the road trustees nave made all the
mile-posts of wood, with the natural result, that, between the
weathering effect of a moist climate and the mischief-working
propensities of the bairns, hardly a single inscription is legible,
Turning from the Dunrossness road, somewhere about the
fourth mile-post, you soon cross the upper portion of the Burn
of Dales Voe, which, a little distance above the road, issues
out of an underground channel half a mile in length. Above
this tunnel is a loch known as the Flossy or Rushy Loch, which
seems to have puzzled Patrick Neill,^ as he saw soldiers from
Fort Charlotte fishing there for sea-trout, though the loch had
no apparent communication with the sea. Very large sea-
trout, indeed, are killed here late in the season, and there are
several places in the islands, where burns disappear underground
to come to the surface further on. After joining the road from
the bridge of Fitch you soon come to the Scord of Scalloway as
it is called, scord being the term used for a depression or break
in the highest ridge of a line of hills. From this point you
get what is— though in this country of exquisitely blended land-
and sea-scape it is hard to award the palm, unless with the
exception of that of St. Magnus Bay from Sandness Hill — pro-
bably the most exquisite view in the islands. At your feet
lies the village of Scalloway, with its castle standing sentinel,
as it were, over its land-locked harbour. Beyond the harbour,
both north and south, you have islands and islets, holms and
skerries innumerable ; and in the far distance, Foula rearing its
sharp-pointed crest high above the Atlantic, and looking a fit
abode for the storm fiends. With a setting sun the view must be
one of which the remembrance will come back after many days.
Making your way downwards, and round the head of Cliff
Sound, you pass a primitive Shetland mill worked by the
stream, which flows down from the Lochs of Tingwall and
Asta. Your first point is naturally Scalloway Castle. It may
be described as a castellated mansion, four stories in height,
built in the form of a parallelogram, with a square projecting
• Neill's Tour, p. 85.


tower at one angle, and having at three angles of the main
building and three angles of the tower circular turrets corbelled
out in the Scotch fashion. The main building, which runs
N.W. by W. and S.E. by E., compass bearings, measures outside
on its eastern side 58 ft. 8 in., and on its southern side 33 ft.
II in. ; whilst the tower measures on its north side 26 ft. 7 in.,
and on the west side 26 ft. 2 in. Built in the main of the
schistose stone of the country, the jambs, and the steps of the
grand staircase, to the first floor, were of red sandstone from
Eday. Over the one arched doorway, which is at the southern
angle of the tower where it abuts on the main building, and is
6 ft. 8 in. high by 3 ft. 10 in. wide, are the remains of the
inscription which, according to Brand ^ was —

" Patricius Orcadiee et Zetlandias Comes,"

with the distich below,

" Cujus fundamen, saxum est, domus ilia manebit ;
Labilis, e contra, si sit arena perit. A.D. 1600."

and above the inscription seem to have been armorial bearings.
Gifford 2 gives a slightly different reading, making the first part —

"Patricius Stewardus Orcadioe et Zetlandise Comes, I.V.R.S."

which is absurd, as James V. had been dead for fifty-eight years
when Scalloway Castle was built. According to Brand, the
origin of the scriptural paraphrase was this : Mr. Pitcairn, the
then minister of Northmaven,^ when visiting Earl Patrick,
rebuked him for the oppression he had used to the Shetlanders
in compelling them to supply forced labour for the erection of

1 Brand's Orkney and Zetland, p. 90, - Gifford's Zetland, p. 8.

^ According to the Privy Council (Scotland) Register, vol. iv. p. 400,
Pitcairn himself had, on the 2nd of July, 1589, appeared before the Council,
at the instance of his parishioners, and of "Johnne Mowatt, son of Andro
Mowatt, of Hugoland, 'undcrfoudc' of Northmewing," to answer "to the
complaint maid be the saidis pcrsecuaris aganis him, in troubling and
oppressing of thame throw his avaricious and nindecent behaviour, cvill
lyffe and conversatioun."


the building, upon which, Earl Patrick was for the time enraged.
Afterwards, however, cooling down a little, he insisted on
Pitcairn supplying him with a verse, which he did, insinuating
that as the house was built by oppression it would soon fall.
Earl Patrick, on the other hand, construed it as meaning that,
as his father's house at Jarlshof, w^hich was built on a sandy
foundation, was already falHng to pieces, his own building,
which was on a rock, should last. And verily, if it had not
been from neglect and the vandalism of those, who should have
known better, this grand, baronial building, of which Billings does
not seem to have heard, might still be standing intact. Along
the south-western side of the ground-floor of the main building
is a vaulted passage, out of which doors lead into the kitchen,
in which is a w^ell at the north end, and another apartment of
nearly similar size at the southern end, both with vaulted roofs.
The grand staircase, which was regularly laid in masonry, and
the steps of which were of red Eday stone, wound round the
tower over a vaulted chamber on the ground -floor. This led
to the great hall on the first floor, from which a spiral staircase
led to the apartments above. Both the lower staircase and the
upper one are now broken and useless, and the vaulted roof
of the ground floor is showing signs of giving way. Monteith
says courts were held in the castle at Hallowmas and Christmas,
but when Brand ^ visited the isles in 1700, a century after the
building was erected, the slates were even then being allowed
to fall off, and the woodwork in the upper stories to rot in
consequence. Still, the building might have been preserved
had it not been for the vandalism of James, i6th Earl Morton,
to which Edmondston ^ thus refers : " Time has had but little
effect on this building, but the earl of Morton granted leave
to Sir Andrew Mitchell to plunder the gateways and windows
of their ornaments, in order to furnish materials to adorn the
house which he erected at Sand, in the parish of Sansting ;
and thus set the example of that Gothic insensibility to objects

' Brand's Orkney mid Zetland.

- Edmondston's Zetland Islands, vol. i. p. 126.



of antiquity and taste, which has been so successfully followed
in the same neighbourhood."

Close to the castle is the pier of Blackness, alongside
which the Stromness steamer disembarks her luggage and
goods in comfort, a luxury which the visitor from the south,
who has come by the east route, can thoroughly appreciate
after his Lerwick experiences. The pier is said to be built over
the Bulwark from which Katherine Faw was " cassen in the
sey." 1 Half way or so along the beach a very fine spring gushes
out of the limestone, below high-water mark, the water from
which is said to be very good, not a bad thing in this land
of peat and moss, where clear pure drinking water is not always
to be had. At the western end of the village, under the Callow
Hill, where criminals were hung and witches burnt in the good
old days, stands the house of Westshore, surrounded by Shet-
land trees, some of which must be now nearly a century and
a half :old. Westshore was originally the residence of the
Mitchells of that ilk, and afterwards belonged to a branch of
the Scotts of Gibbleston.2 A small inn or hotel was started in
Scalloway last summer, and ought to pay well, as, with decent
accommodation, Scalloway in many respects is a much prefer-
able headquarters to Lerwick, with its close confined streets
and wynds. No end of pleasant boating excursions could be
made from the western village, especially by a naturalist,
amongst the inlets and islands in the early summer months,
but let him take care he is not done by his boatmen, and three
men foisted on him for a few hours' work amongst almost land-
locked waters. Scalloway, from being much frequented by
tourists, seems the headquarters of the cadging fraternity and
sisterhood in the islands, and the cry, " Gi'e me a pen-ny," is
by no means unfrequently heard. The first time the AVTiter was
there, he asked a woman in the street to show him the post-
office, to which came the usual whine, and, on receipt of the
copper, she pointed out a house a few doors off.

^ See ante, p. 117.

- See Nisbet's Heraldry, vol. ii. Appendix, p. 297.


Having had your lunch you are ready for the return journey.
Retracing your steps as far as the mill before mentioned, instead
of heading eastwards for the Scord of Scalloway, you keep on
north up the road, that leads down through the beautiful vale of
Ting^vall, and shortly after passing the loch of Asta see on the
right hand side of the road the monolith of grey granite, which
there is every reason to suppose was erected to commemorate
the death of Malise Sperra in the fight with his kinsman Earl
Henry St. Clair,^ after the Ting meeting, in the latter half of
the fourteenth century. There is no grey granite in Shetland,
so the stone must have been imported to mark some special
event. Round the stone, which is quadrangular in shape, is a
deeply marked groove, which local tradition says was made by
the chain by which victims were bound to it ! In all probability
the mark was caused by the chains, by which it was dragged
from Scalloway, or wherever it was landed. At the head of the
Loch of Tingwall stand the manse and kirk of the parish of
Tingwall. Just under the manse is what was formerly the
holm on which the Althing was -held, but which, when the
level of the lake was lowered some years back, became part of
the adjacent shore. The stones, on which the Foud and other
officials sat, were torn up sometime in the last century in order
to render the holm available for grazing purposes.

Those found guilty, by the Althing, of murder could evade
the penalty, if they could run the gauntlet of the spectators,
and reach the church, which probably stood on the site of the
modern building. According to Munch,- the Althing gave its
name to Scalloway, Skalavegr (the Vagr or Way of the Thing
Skalas or Court-houses). Shetland formerly possessed three
towered churches, that we know of for certain, — one on the point
of Ireland in Dunrossness, another on the isle of Burra, and the
third at Tingwall — of which the old tradition was that they
were erected by three sisters. The one at Ireland was probably
allowed to fall into decay sometime in the last century, as

1 See ante, p. 58.

"^ MSnioires des Antiquaires Jii Nord, 1850 — 1860, p. 123.

H H 2


it appears to have been entire when Brand ^ visited the islands,
but in Low's day only some remains were in existence ; ^ the ones
at Ting\vall and Burra were entire up to nearly the end of the last
century, as Edmondston,^ who wrote in 1809, says: "Both have
been demolished within the last fifteen years, from a principle
of barbarous economy, to supply stones at a cheap rate for
building the plain presbyterian churches which now occupy
their places."

According to Edmondston the steeples, as he calls them, of
both TingAvall and Burra churches were betvveen sixty and
seventy feet in height. Probably the churches may have been
somewhat similar to the one on Egilsay in the Orkneys.

There are some interesting monuments in the churchyard at
Tingwall : on one is this inscription, " Here lies an honest man,
Thomas Boyne, sometime Fowde of Tingwall." The honest
sounds as if the race of Fouds were generally of the unjust
order of judges ; and Boyne, it is said, was as big a knave as
his fellows. The Rev. John Turnbull, the predecessor of the
present minister of the parish of Tingwall, held the living for
nearly as long a period as William the Old did the Bishopric
of Orkney, being presented in 1806 and surviving till 1867.
In the course of his long incumbency he entertained, at the old
manse, almost every visitor of note to the islands during that
period, amongst them being Sir Walter, the poet Tupper, and
the Duke of Edinburgh, the latter when a youngster in the
Raccoo}i,Mn'^&x the command of Count Gleichen. The illustrious
author of what he is pleased to call Proverbial Philosophy is
said to have honoured the Loch of Tingwall by combing it with
an otter. If that otter is still in existence, it ought forthwith
to be despatched to the British Museum for preservation as
a relic of national importance. Mr. Turnbull, many people
affirm, from his zeal for agricultural improvement, gave Sir
Walter the idea of Triptolemus Yellowley. It can only have
been from his love for agricultural improvement, as the minister

^ Brand's Orkney atid Zetland, p. 121. - Low's Tour, p. 188.

^ Edmondston's Zetland Islands, vol. i. p. 124.


from all accounts was hospitality personified, a virtue which,
in Scott's sketch of my Lord of Morton's chamberlain, whose
pedigree might have been described by Canny Yorkshire, out
of Miserly Meanis, was conspicuous by its absence. The
writer has a strong idea that Andrew Ross of e\il memory was
the original from whom the character of the close-fisted,
gripping factor was taken.

The view from the churchyard looking south is very
beautiful. First in the immediate foreground the Loch of
Tingwall nearly divided into two by a holm which stretches
almost from side to side, then a glimpse of the Loch of Asta,
beyond which a still smaller gUmpse of the head of Cliff Sound.
This is set in a framework of hills, which on the eastern side
terminate in the terraced slopes of the northern portion of
Fitful Head.

After leaving the Manse of Tingwall you soon come to the
road leading to Walls, and, turning to your right, pass the farm-
steading of Veensgarth, the late tenant of which is said to have
amassed a fortune not far off 20,000/. during his nineteen
years' lease.

Ascending the hill at the back of Veensgarth, you come
to the scord at the top, which, from its exposed position,
is known as the Windy Grind. This, according to all
accounts, is after nightfall a very uncanny place ; and, if you
should cross it after dark with a boy acting as gillie, it is even
betting he comes cowering up to your side for fear of £>a Trows}
From the Windy Grind the pedestrian, instead of following the
road all round by the bridge of Fitch, may, by striking down
across the mouth of the valley of Dale, and following the
telegraph-posts up the old road, rejoin the new carriage road
about the third mile-post, and so save himself a mile of un-
necessary walking. As he descends Stony Hill to Lerwick, he
will in all probability see a stream of women of all ages — from

^ There was probably some idea that scords [were specially haunted by
Trows, as, close to the Scord of Scalloway, is a small rivulet marked on
the Ordnance sheets as The Troxuie Burn.



the wrinkled old hag, who would not be an unfitting repre-
sentative of the Witch of Endor, down to the fair-haired lassie,
who might sit for a Norse Madonna, so spirihtelle and refined
is the expression of face — returning from the peats. All have
their kyshies {cassies) of peats on their backs, and all, as they
bend fonvard with the stooping gait peculiar to those carrying
burdens, are knit, knit, knitting. A Shetland woman, if you
put the needles in her hands, could probably do a very good
stroke of work in her sleep.

ft^ -^f


From a water-colour drawing by Sir H. Dryden.



Till last year your only chance of getting to Dunrossness,
other than by machine or walking, was by waiting for the
smack, which sails down at very irregular intervals. Last
summer, however, the Earl of Zetland commenced running
down the east coast as far as Boddam regularly once a week,
whilst the west side steamer on her way to Stromness called
once a fortnight at the little creek of Spiggie, just north of
Fitful Head. Unfortunately there is only one very small
lodging-house at present at Boddam ; so it will be as well before
starting to ascertain whether you can get put up. Driving
down to Boddam, the total distance is about twenty-two miles ;
but a pedestrian, by taking short cuts, can shorten the distance
by about four miles. A very beautiful walk it is too, full of
exquisite views, from the largest-sized landscape down to little
cabinet gems, that you would keep, if transferred to water-
colours, for your own sanctum. Somewhere about the second
mile-post the pedestrian, instead of following the carriage
road round the head of the valley, had better cross the bottom
of the valley of Gulber Wick, and rejoin the road somewhere
beyond the fourth mile-post. In Gulber Wick the Fi'fa {The
Arrow, so called from her swiftness) and the Hjilp {The
Whelp), the two beautiful long ships given by King Ingi to


Jarl Rognvald, were wrecked/ and that cheery, lovable Mark
Tapley of a Jarl was no sooner on shore, than he went carolling
about like a skylark in spring time, one of his rhymes being an
address to the mistress of the house, who offered him a fur
coat to put on, in place of his own bedraggled garment.

" Here I shake a shrunken fur coat ;
Surely 'tis not ornamental.
All our clothes are in the ship-field,
And it is too wide to seek them.
Lately, all the young sea-horses
Left we dressed in splendid garments,
As we drove the steeds of mast-heads
To the ci-ags, across the surges."

Beyond Gulber Wick, at Brenista Ness, on the narrow neck
leading to the head, are the remains of the Broch of Burland,
which occupies by far the strongest natural position of any
broch the writer has seen. It is about a mile or so from the

Online LibraryJohn R TudorThe Orkneys and Shetland; their past and present state → online text (page 39 of 59)