- NORTHMAVINE, a parish, in the Mainland district, county of Shetland, 30 miles (N. W. by N.) from Lerwick; containing, with the hamlet of Hillswick, 2504 inhabitants. This is a peninsula of nearly triangular form, joined to the remaining portion of the Mainland, and to the parish of Delting, by an isthmus called Mavine, only 100 yards wide, and which is almost covered by the sea at spring tides. It is thought to take its name from its situation being northward from the isthmus, though some suppose it has been designated North Main, or Northmavine, from its relative bearing to the rest of the Mainland. The parish is about sixteen miles in length from north to south, and eight in breadth, and is computed to contain 60,000 acres, 6000 of which are under cultivation. The surface of the interior is uneven, rugged, and hilly, and for the most part covered with short coarse grass or heather; while the shores, which are surrounded with islands, holms, and rocks, are lofty and precipitous, and deeply indented with numerous fissures, forming excellent creeks and bays, and frequented at all seasons of the year by wild geese, ducks, and a variety of other waterfowl. The most spacious and celebrated of these harbours is St. Magnus' Bay, on the west, from which several voes run into the land, affording commodious and safe retreats for shipping in stormy weather: that of Hillswick is most resorted to, on account of its greater security. On the south and east of the bay is Sullom voe, eight miles long; and on the north, Ronan's voe, a narrow channel six miles in length, and Hamna voe, especially the latter, are considered superior harbours. At the back of Hillswick Ness is an immense rock called the Drongs, which rises perpendicularly to the height of 100 feet; and not far distant is the rock named Dorholm, rising about seventy-six feet, and distinguished by an arch, whence it takes its name, and the height of which is fifty-four feet. A few miles north-westward is another rock, called Osse-Skerry, forming a conspicuous object from a great distance, and also entered by a very spacious arch; and between the two last-named rocks is a third, Maiden-Skerry, rising from the sea, at a small distance from the shore, and on which, tradition asserts, no person has ever trodden. Near Fetheland, in the north of the parish, is a range of lofty rocks, called the Romna stacks, which, with the adjacent holms and promontories, invest the locality with a picturesque appearance, and have long been well known as landmarks by mariners. The numerous islands and holms around the shore, the chief of which are Eagleshay, Nibon, Stenness, Gluss, Gunister, and Lamba, are all at present uninhabited, but afford excellent pasturage for sheep and cattle, which graze in summer and winter alike, without shelter or fodder, and are remarkable for the fine flavour of their flesh.None of the hills are of great height, except that of Rona, which is 1500 feet above the level of the sea, and is the most lofty elevation in Shetland, commanding from its summit, on a fine clear day, which however is here very unusual, extensive and beautiful views. Not far from the top are some powerful springs, sending forth, in a short space of time, a large supply of water, and which, with the numerous springs in other parts, are amply sufficient for the use of the district. The parish contains upwards of 100 lochs, and many of them are of considerable size, and well stocked with trout, which are taken in small numbers. The soil is of various kinds, but generally very thin and wet; a circumstance which, in connexion with the tenacious impenetrable subsoil, greatly impedes the operations of agriculture. The rocky parts are mostly covered with peat-moss, affording to the inhabitants an inexhaustible supply of good fuel; while along the shore, in some places the earth is light and sandy, and in others clayey and loamy, producing usually very good crops. Several sorts of grain are cultivated, to the yearly value together of about £3000; meadow hay to the amount of £100; and potatoes, turnips, and cabbages, to the value of £1000. Some of the native sheep yet remain, but the sheep are in general a cross between these and the Cheviot or black-faced; and large numbers of the native cattle and ponies are annually reared. The state of farming, however, is very low. The scarcity of money, and the want of roads, but especially the absence of the men for a large part of the year in fishing, when agricultural pursuits are left to women and boys, and the tenure on which the inhabitants hold their farms, mostly as tenants at will, form great obstacles to any extensive improvements in husbandry. Ploughs are occasionally seen; but this implement has in general yielded to the spade since the distribution of the farms into smaller allotments for the convenience of the tenants, and the selection of many portions from the common ground for cultivation. The draining and recovering of waste land have received some attention, but only to a very limited extent; and the fences, principally of turf, are but little security against the ravages of the sheep, from which the crops sustain much damage every year, as well as from the severity of the storms that frequently visit the locality, and destroy not only the fruits of the ground, but unroof houses, and carry havoc in every direction. The rateable annual value of Northmavine is only £256. The rocks comprise old red sandstone and coarse limestone, and chromate of iron of inferior quality has been found, with Scotch pebbles and garnets; the higher grounds comprise chiefly granite, gneiss, porphyry, sienite, and sienitic greenstone. The only mansions are Ollaberry, a very neat modern structure, and Tangwick.The parish is entirely destitute of roads; but there is a communication, by post, with Lerwick twice every week. The trade consists partly in the sale of cattle and horses, which are sent by steamers to the southern markets, but principally in curing fish, of which the cod is chiefly sent to Spain, and the ling and tusk to Leith, Liverpool, and Ireland. The former of these fisheries, however, is nearly given up, on account of its almost total failure for several years past. The latter, for which there are three stations, Stennies, Hamna voe, and Fetheland, is carried on from May till August, at the distance of forty or fifty miles from the shore. The herring-fishery has been completely relinquished, both curers and fishermen having sustained great losses of late years by it. Besides the above, the inhabitants take sea-trout, haddock, whiting, codlings, and piltocks, for their own subsistence; and they are tolerably well supplied with muscles, cockles, oysters, lobsters, and other shell-fish. In May, every year, there is a sale or fair for milch-cows, cattle, and horses; in November is one for fat-cattle and horses; and at several others of an inferior kind, many persons attend, and much business is done. The parish is in the presbytery of Burravoe and synod of Shetland, and in the patronage of the Earl of Zetland: the minister's stipend is £150 per annum, with a manse, and a glebe distributed in four different parts of the parish, and valued at £15 per annum. The church is a plain building, situated inconveniently for the population, at no great distance from the sea, and accommodates 583 persons with sittings, of which seventy are appropriated to the poor; it was built in 1733, repaired in 1764, and renovated in the interior in 1822. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans, and another for Independents. The parochial school affords instruction in reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, book-keeping, and navigation; the master has a salary of £25. 3. 4., with about £4 fees. There is also a school supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge; the same branches are taught. The principal antiquities are, an immense stone of granite, raised on the top of a hill encircled at the base by smaller stones; the remains of a large Picts' house; a watch-tower on the summit of Rona's hill; and the ruins of a church at Ollaberry, and of one at North Roe; with those of several other religious houses.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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