Stronsay and Eday

   STRONSAY and EDAY, two ancient parishes, in the county of Orkney, the one 14 miles (N. E. by E.) and the other 15 miles (N. N. E.) from Kirkwall; containing 2279 inhabitants, of whom 1268 are in Stronsay, and 1011 in Eday. These parishes, which have been united from a very remote period, are named after two of the Orkney Islands, one of which is supposed to have derived its appellation from the rapidity of the tides that sweep along its coasts, and the other from the heathy aspect of its surface. The island of Stronsay, which is situated to the south-east of the Northern Orkneys, is bounded on the east by the German Ocean; on the west by Stronsay Frith, which separates it from the island of Shapinshay; and on the north by the sound of Sanda, which divides it from the island of that name. It is about seven miles in length and five and a half in extreme breadth, and of very irregular form, its coast being indented with spacious and long bays, which almost subdivide it into three separate islands. These three several portions were anciently distinct parishes. The island of Eday, nearly in the centre of the Northern Isles, is bounded on the south-east by Eday sound, which separates it from the island of Stronsay; and is about seven miles and a half in length, and three miles in average breadth.
   The coast of Stronsay is marked by numerous headlands and promontories, of which Linksness and Huipness to the north, Griceness, Odness, and Burrowhead, to the east, and Lambhead, Torness, and Rousholmhead, to the south, are the principal. Of these, Burrowhead and Rousholmhead are lofty and precipitous, and the others comparatively low. The headlands of Eday are, Veness to the south-east, Warness to the south-west, Fersness to the west, and Redhead to the north, the last a boldly projecting rock of red granite. The chief bays in Stronsay are, Mill bay on the east side, the bay of Erigarth on the west, and Hollands bay on the south, each of which has a sandy beach about a mile in length: here are also two excellent harbours, each of which has two entrances, viz. Linga sound on the west, and Papa sound on the north-east. There are likewise several bays in Eday, affording occasional shelter for vessels; and two fine harbours, Fersness on the west, and Calf sound on the north, each of which has two entrances. Numerous smaller islands are connected with the two principal islands. Those belonging to Stronsay are Papa-Stronsay and Lingholm, with the holms of Huip near the northern shore, and Auskerry about three miles to the south. Connected with Eday are, the isle of Pharay, the holm of Pharay on the west, the small holm between it and Redhead, and the Calf island on the north-east, which last protects the harbour of Calf sound.
   The surface is of very moderate elevation both in Stronsay and Eday, with the exception of an elevated ridge which extends through the centre of both, in a direction from north to south, and rising in the latter to the greater height. There are several fresh-water lakes; one in Stronsay is nearly of circular form, and about a mile in diameter. The whole number of acres is estimated at 16,000, of which 8960 are in Stronsay and 7040 in Eday. Of the former area about one-third is arable, one-third pasture and meadow, and the remainder undivided common, generally heath; of the land in Eday, about 1000 acres are arable, 720 pasture and meadow, and the rest heath. The soil is various, consisting of clay, sand, gravel, loam, and moss, which last is very prevalent in Eday; marl is occasionally found in Stronsay, and has been used successfully as manure. The chief crops are oats and bear, grown alternately, and for which the great quantity of seaweed prepares the land; potatoes, peas, and turnips are also raised in considerable quantities, as well as different artificial grasses. On the lands belonging to Mr. Laing, of Papdale, barley has been cultivated with success; and under the auspices of that gentleman, considerable progress has been made in the reclamation of waste lands. The greater number of the horses and cattle are of the small Orkney breed, but several of a superior kind have been introduced from Angus-shire and the southern counties; and the sheep, of which the prevailing breed is naturally small, have been considerably improved by a cross with the Cheviot and Merino, introduced by Mr. Laing, and which thrive well. The farm buildings and offices are progressively improving; inclosures have taken place on several of the farms, and the system of husbandry generally is advancing. The lands of Eday, being chiefly moss, afford great abundance of excellent fuel, of which considerable quantities are sent to the adjacent islands.
   The village of Papa-Sound was built by Mr. Laing, for the accommodation of the numerous fishermen that reside in this part; it contains about 200 inhabitants, who, since the decrease of the kelp manufacture, have paid more attention to the fisheries, for which the convenient and spacious harbours of these islands present the most extensive accommodation. The fish principally taken here are, cod, lobsters, and herrings, with the young of the coal-fish, which last afford an abundant supply of nutritious food for nearly threequarters of the year. The cod-fishery employs fifty boats, and about 200 tons of cod are annually cured for exportation. The lobster-fishery commences in April, and continues till the end of June; it is conducted in boats having two men each, and the fish when caught are preserved in floating chests, and sent weekly during the season to the London markets by smacks which call here for the purpose. The herringfishery commences in July, and is continued for six or eight weeks: the number of Orkney vessels assembled here during that time is seldom less than 400, managed by four or five men each; and in general, during the season, from fifteen to twenty-five sloops and brigs from the south-west of Scotland anchor in the harbour of Papa sound. A convenient pier has been erected for the loading of the fish, in curing which several hundreds of females are employed: on the average about 20,000 barrels of herrings are cured annually. Shoals of small whales are occasionally seen off the coast, and are driven on shore by the boats; one of these shoals, containing 300 whales, was driven ashore on the western side of Eday, and the proceeds amounted to nearly £400.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of North Isles and synod of Orkney; patron, the Earl of Zetland. The minister's stipend is £210, including £10 for communion elements; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £14.10. per annum. There are two churches; the church at Stronsay, erected in 1821, is a neat structure containing 500 sittings, and that of Eday, erected in 1816, contains 300. Divine service was formerly performed at each, on fixed Sabbaths, by the minister of the parish, who resides at Stronsay; but in 1834 a missionary was appointed by the General Assembly, with a stipend of £50, to officiate at Eday, where he has a manse, erected by subscription. There are also places of worship for members of the United Secession at Stronsay and Eday, and at the former a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. The parochial school, at Stronsay, and a school supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, are both well attended: the master of the former has a salary of £25. 13. 3., with a house and garden, and school fees averaging £5; and the master of the latter, a salary of £15, with fees amounting to £1. 10. There is also a school at Eday supported by the General Assembly, who pay a salary of £25 to the master, whose fees average about £5 per annum. Remains exist of several ancient chapels, and likewise numerous graves, of which one, at Housebay, in Stronsay, contains a number of bodies separated from each other at the head and feet by thin stones, placed edgewise, and at the head supporting a slab which covers the face only. In the north of Eday is a large upright stone, seventeen feet in height above the ground; and there are several Picts' houses scattered through both districts, one of which, of greater dimensions than the others, is situated at the peninsula of Lambhead, to the south-east of Stronsay. It contains several apartments; and below it are the remains of an ancient pier of loose stones, in a state of dilapidation, about ninety feet broad and nearly 800 feet in length.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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