Shetland, or Zetland, Islands

   SHETLAND, or ZETLAND, ISLANDS, forming, with Orkney, a maritime county, in the northern extremity of Scotland, bounded on the north by the North Sea, on the east by the German Ocean, and on the west by the Atlantic. They lie between 59° 51' and 60° 52' (N. Lat.) and 52' and 1° 57' (W. Long.), and extend for about seventy miles from north to south, and fifty-four miles from east to west; comprising an area of about 855 square miles, or 547,200 acres; 5530 houses, of which 5388 are inhabited; and containing a population of 30,558, of whom 13,176 are males, and 17,382 females. These islands, like those of Orkney, with which in their history they are closely identified, appear to have been visited by the Romans, though they effected no permanent settlement in either. They were at a very early period inhabited by the Picts, of Scandinavian origin, who, long after their defeat by Kenneth II., and the consequent union of the two kingdoms, continued, under his successors, to maintain in these distant territories a kind of independent sovereignty. As closely connected with the Orkneys, the islands were governed by a succession of petty kings till they were subdued by Harold Harfager, who attached them as appendages to the crown of Norway, and placed them under the government of a succession of Norwegian earls. On the marriage of James III., however, with the Princess Margaret of Norway, they became, and they have ever since remained, part of the kingdom of Scotland. After various grants to different individuals by succeeding monarchs, and their subsequent reversion to the crown, as detailed under the head of Orkney, the Shetlands became partly the property of Sir Lawrence Dundas, ancestor of the present superior, the Earl of Zetland, to whom they give that title.
   Previously to the Reformation, Shetland formed part of the diocese of Orkney; at present it constitutes the synod of Shetland, and comprises the presbyteries of Lerwick and Burravoe, and twelve parishes. For civil purposes the islands are united with those of Orkney, forming one county under the jurisdiction of a sheriff-depute, who appoints two sheriffs-substitute, one for each of the districts. By the provisions of the act of the 2nd of William IV., Shetland is also associated with Orkney in returning a member to the imperial parliament. The only town of any importance is Lerwick, besides which there are merely the small town of Scalloway, with some villages and small hamlets on the coasts.
   Shetland comprises a cluster of ninety islands, of which twenty-five are inhabited, and the remainder small holms principally appropriated to pasture. They are nearly contiguous to each other, and separated only by narrow sounds or friths, with the exception of Foula and Fair isle, of which the former is about twenty-five miles to the west, and the latter twenty miles to the south, of Mainland. Of the inhabited islands the principal is Mainland, above fifty-five miles in length and twenty-five miles in breadth. To the north of Mainland, from which it is separated by Yell Sound, is the island of Yell, twenty miles long and seven miles in average breadth, to the north of which, again, is the island of Unst, about twelve miles in length and from three to four in breadth. These three are the most important of the group. Of the other islands the largest is Fetlar, to the east of Yell, about four and a half miles in length and three and a half miles in breadth; and to the south of this, and opposite to Lerwick, is the island of Bressay, about four miles long and two miles in breadth. Of the two distant islands, Foula, supposed to be the Ultima Thule of the ancients, is three miles in length and a mile and a half in breadth; while Fair isle is about the same in length and two miles broad. Among the remaining inhabited islands are, Whalsay, Trondray, and the Out Skerries; and in addition to these are numerous small isles, holms affording pasturage to cattle, skerries covered by the tide at high water, and rocky islets, which it would be tedious to enumerate.
   The general surface is diversified with hills, of which the highest, named Rona, has an elevation of 1476 feet above the level of the sea, but of the others few attain a height of 500 feet. Between these hills are valleys of pleasing appearance, of which those near the coasts have a wildly romantic character; but the great scarcity of trees detracts much from the beauty of the scenery. There are numerous springs of good water, and some of them send forth streams of moderate extent, none of which, however, can claim the appellation of rivers. The surface is also enlivened with lakes, many of picturesque character, and some of considerable size; most of them abound with trout, and in several are small islands on which are the remains of Pictish castles. On an island in Loch Strom are the ruins of a castle once inhabited by a son of one of the earls of Orkney.
   Of the large number of acres, not more than 25,000 are arable and in cultivation; more than 500,000 of the remainder are hilly moorland pasture, water, and waste; and there are several fertile meadows, and wide tracts of moss affording an abundant supply of fuel. The soil is generally a light sand intermixed with clay and gravel, but in some parts a clayey loam; the most fertile lands are those near the coasts. The chief crops are, oats, bear, potatoes, and turnips. The system of husbandry is in a comparatively low state; but from the institution of agricultural associations, which award premiums for the breaking up of waste lands and for other improvements, there is every prospect of its advancing. The principal manure is sea-weed, of which great abundance is found upon the coasts, with dung, ashes of peat, and mould mixed together. Spade husbandry is still much in vogue; little has been done in the draining and inclosure of lands; and the want of good roads is a great obstacle to improvement. The cattle and sheep are both of the native breed, strong and hardy, though small in stature; of the former about 45,000, and of the latter about 80,000, are generally fed on the different pastures. Poultry are largely kept on the several farms, and swine are fed in great numbers. The horses, of which about 20,000 are pastured on the hills, are of the native breed, small, hardy, and sure-footed; they are well known as Shetland ponies or shelties, and not a few are reared for the supply of the southern markets.
   The principal substrata are limestone and sandstone. The former is used for mortar, for which purpose it is burnt with peat, but it is not employed for agricultural purposes; sandstone-slate is also found, and quarried for roofing. The prevailing rocks are of granite, gneiss, mica and clay slate, limestone, and serpentine; copper and iron ores are found, and also chromate of iron, of which great quantities have been quarried from the serpentine rocks in Unst. From the remains of ancient trees found in the mosses, there is every reason to conclude that the islands formerly abounded with wood, though at present, except in one or two gardens, in which are a few sycamores, there is scarcely a tree of any kind to be seen. The residences of the proprietors of land are, Gloup, Midbrake, Busta, Greenbank, Buness, Reawick, Belmont, Hammer, Lund, Uyeasound, Uyea, Brough Lodge, Smithfield, Reafirth, West Sandwick, Burravoe, Symbister, Gardie House, Ollaberry, and others.
   The chief manufactures are, the knitting of wool into stockings, gloves, and shawls, and the weaving of coarse woollen-cloth; the fleece of the Shetland sheep is remarkably soft, and has been wrought into stockings of so fine a quality as to sell for forty shillings per pair. The manufacture of kelp, for which the coasts do not afford so ample a supply of material, is not carried on to so great an extent as in the Orkneys. The main dependence of the population is the cod, ling, and herring fisheries, for which convenient stations have been established on the coasts, at Unst, Delting, Yell, Fetlar, Bressay, Scalloway, Northmavine, Papa-Stour, and other places. Among the fish taken are, tusk, haddock, skate, halibut, flounders, and oysters of very large size; the shores also teem with saith, or coal-fish, which form part of the food of the inhabitants, and, according to their size, are called sillocks and piltocks. The trade embraces the exportation of dried fish, herrings, oil, butter, beef, cattle, sheep, Shetland ponies, hosiery, and shawls; and the importation of almost every requisite for the use of the fisheries, clothing, manufactured goods of all kinds, groceries, and numerous other articles for the supply of the inhabitants. The port is Lerwick, where is the custom-house; and exclusively of the sloops employed in the fisheries, the number of vessels registered as belonging to the place is seventy, of the aggregate burthen of above 2000 tons. Vessels on their voyage to the Greenland whale-fisheries, and to those of Davis' Straits, touch at this port, where they take in a considerable number of men, who are much esteemed for their skill and intrepidity. On Sumburgh Head, the southern extremity of Mainland, is a substantial and elegant lighthouse, erected at a cost of £40,000, displaying a fixed light visible at a distance of twenty-two nautical miles. The annual value of the Shetland Isles, as assessed to the income-tax, is £19,929. The remains of antiquity are, Pictish castles, which are found in profusion, in many instances on islands in the lakes; tumuli, which were found to contain human bones inclosed with square stones; the ruins of churches and religious houses, among which are those of St. Hilary's kirk; Druidical pillars; old forts, of which one consists of two concentric circular mounds of earth and stone; numerous barrows; and various other relics, which are noticed under the heads of the islands and parishes in which they occur.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Shetland Islands — Shetland Islander. /shet leuhnd/ an island group NE of the Orkney Islands: northernmost part of Great Britain. 18,494; 550 sq. mi. (1425 sq. km). Also called Shetland, Zetland. * * * or Zetland Islands Island group (pop., 2001: 21,988), Scotland …   Universalium

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  • Shetland — I. noun Date: 1836 1. a. Shetland pony b. Shetland sheepdog 2. often not capitalized a. a lightweight loosely twisted yarn of Shetland wool used for knitting and weaving b. a fabric or a garment made from Shetland wool II …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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  • Shetland — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Shetland (homonymie). Shetland Sealtainn (gd) …   Wikipédia en Français

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