Holm and Paplay

   HOLM and PAPLAY, a parish, in the county of Orkney, 8 miles (S. E. by E.) from Kirkwall; containing, with the island of Lambholm and the village of St. Mary, 866 inhabitants. This parish, which is situated on the south-eastern portion of the main land, is bounded on the north by the parishes of Kirkwall and St. Andrew's, on the east by the German Ocean, on the west by Scalpa Flow, and on the south by Holm Sound. It is about six miles in length, and varies from one mile to two miles in breadth. The coast is not very elevated: the principal headlands are, Roseness, on the southern extremity of Paplay, at the eastern entrance of the sound; Howquoy, at the western entrance; and Skeldaquoy Point, stretching for almost a quarter of a mile from the south, and forming the western boundary of Holm Sound bay. The sound, nearly in the centre of which is the small but picturesque island of Lambholm, is an important passage from the eastern to the western coasts, through which vessels pass with greater security, and by a shorter line, than either by the Caledonian canal or Pentland Frith; it affords, also, safe anchorage for vessels which may have to wait for the tide. The surface towards the south is low, but rises gradually towards the north, terminating in a range of hills of sufficient elevation to shelter the lands from the north winds; it is intersected by numerous limpid streams.
   The whole number of acres is 7610, of which 2850 are arable, 830 in constant pasture, and the remainder undivided common. The soil is generally a light black loam, in some places alternated with sand, and in others with clay; and is well adapted for the cultivation of turnips, which frequently attain a large growth, averaging from twelve to fourteen pounds each in weight. The chief crops are oats and bear, with potatoes, turnips, and the various kinds of grasses; flax, also, was formerly cultivated with great success. Very considerable improvements in agriculture have taken place under the auspices of Alexander Sutherland Græme, Esq., the principal, and almost the sole, proprietor of the lands. The common Orkney breed of cattle, formerly prevalent, has been improved by the introduction of the Dunrobin, and also of the Teeswater, or short-horned breed; and a powerful stimulus has been given to the rearing of cattle, by steam navigation, which has opened new markets for the sale of produce. The district of the parish called Paplay has been always remarkable for the fertility of its soil, and the abundance of its crops: it is supposed to have derived its appellation from having been the property of some religious establishment. There is nothing peculiar in the geological features of the parish. Græme's Hall, the seat of the ancient family of the Græmes, descendants of Græme, Bishop of Orkney, is now deserted.
   The site of a fishing village was laid out on the shore of the harbour of Holm Sound when the parish was surveyed in 1828, with a view to encourage the settlement of fishermen by profession at this place, which, from the convenience of its harbour, and its proximity to the German Ocean, is peculiarly adapted to the purpose. The fish found off the coast are, cod, ling, haddock, halibut, flounders, and skate. For the supply of his family, almost every inhabitant has a share in a boat; and most of them are also adventurers in the herring-fishery, which commences in July, and ends in September; but there is no regular fishing establishment, the population being generally agricultural. Fairs for cattle and horses are held quarterly. The grain raised in the parish is sent to the distilleries in Kirkwall, for which, and for the conveyance of other produce, facilities are afforded by steamers, which, since 1833, have continued to ply here for eight months during the year. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Kirkwall and synod of Orkney. The minister's stipend is £157, of which more than one-third is paid from the exchequer, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £4 per annum; patron, the Earl of Zetland. The church, originally dedicated to St. Nicholas, and rebuilt in 1818, is situated at Paplay, in the eastern portion of the parish, and affords sufficient accommodation for the parishioners; the seats are all free. There is a place of worship for members of the United Secession. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £26, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £5 per annum. Mr. Patrick Græme, sheriff-depute of the county in 1770, and proprietor of Græme's Hall, was a great benefactor to the parish; he supplied the inhabitants with linseed gratis, introduced the cultivation of flax, and taught them the art of making it into cloth, of which, for many years prior to his decease, they exported 20,000 yards annually to the English markets. Admiral Alexander Græme, who distinguished himself in the action with the Dutch off the Dogger Bank, in which he lost his right arm, though not resident, was also a great benefactor to his tenants.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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