Walls and Sandness

   WALLS and SANDNESS, a parish, in the county of Shetland, 19 miles (W. N. W.) from Lerwick; containing, with the islands of Foula, Linga, Papa-Stour, and Vaila, 2449 inhabitants. This parish, consisting of the four districts of Walls, Sandness, Papa-Stour, and Foula, is situated, with the exception of Foula, longitudinally about the centre of the Shetland Isles, and is bounded on the north, south, and west by the sea. Walls and Sandness, to the former of which belongs the islet of Vaila, are separated from each other by a prominent elevation, and form the chief part of a peninsula united to the rest of the Mainland by a narrow isthmus. Papa-Stour, or Great Papa, is on the north of Sandness, about two miles long and one broad, and divided from it by a boisterous and perilous channel a mile broad, called Papa Sound. Foula, another island, is about sixteen miles west of Walls, measuring three miles in length and one and a half in breadth. Exclusive of the latter island, the parish extends about ten miles in length, between the extreme points of Papa and Vaila; it is five miles in breadth, and comprises, besides considerable tracts of mossy and mountain land, 1000 cultivated acres. The surface of the whole is much diversified; that in the Walls district is marked by numerous small eminences, and the other parts comprehend some tracts of level, and much hilly and mountainous ground. The coast is precipitous; the rocks are generally 100 feet high, and those on the western shore of Foula are even much more lofty, attaining an elevation of several hundred feet, and, in one place, of 1200, and are frequented in summer with swarms of sea-fowl. At the little island of Vaila, the residence of John Scott, Esq., of Melby, the principal proprietor of the parish, is a superior harbour having two entrances, called Vaila Sound.
   The inhabitants are chiefly employed in agriculture and fishing. Some of the farms contain six acres; but in general they only comprise about two or three acres of arable land, with a portion of meadow or pasture adjacent, the ground under tillage being rented, on an average, at £1 per acre. The tenants have the privilege of sending as many sheep, cows, and horses as they please to graze upon the high grounds, and of cutting a plentiful supply of good peat. The usual crops are, oats, bear, potatoes, a few turnips, and cabbages; but the ground is generally prepared by the spade, the ploughs in the parish being but three in number, and belonging to landed proprietors. The tenements are for the most part strongly built; but a due regard is not shown to cleanliness, and the family often live in the same apartment with calves, sheep, pigs, and other animals. The inland and higher parts of the parish are covered with a deep mossy soil, bearing a short heathy grass which is eaten off by large numbers of sheep and horses: the latter run wild about the mountains; the former, in the severity of winter, are driven to the more verdant tracts upon the shore to eat the sea-weed. The fisheries produce chiefly cod, ling, and herrings. The first are taken at no great distance from land, and principally by old men and boys; but the ling-fishery is pursued at a greater distance, and with larger boats, giving full occupation in the season to most of the young and middle-aged men. The herring-fishery succeeds to that of ling about the middle of August, and continues for a month or six weeks, affording in general a plentiful supply, and likely, when better understood and more skilfully followed, to be productive of great benefit to the district.
   The prevailing rocks in the Mainland part of the parish are, porphyry, quartz, gneiss, and red sandstone; in the isle of Papa-Stour, porphyry, trap, and red sandstone; and in Foula, old red sandstone, with granite, gneiss, and mica-slate. The only mansions of a superior kind are, one situated at Sandness, and another in the isle of Vaila; both are modern buildings. A cattle-fair is held in May, and another in November; and the disposable part of the produce of the parish is sent to the market-town of Lerwick. The rateable annual value of the parish is £755. It is in the presbytery of Lerwick and synod of Shetland, and in the patronage of the Earl of Zetland: the minister's stipend is £158, of which £62. 10. are received from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £15 per annum. Each of the four districts contains a church, where divine service is performed by the parochial minister, who officiates in Walls once every fortnight, in Sandness and Papa once every month, and sometimes twice a month in summer, and who visits Foula once every year, on which occasion he remains there for two Sundays. In each church, in the absence of the clergyman, a reader, who is usually the schoolmaster of the district, reads a sermon every Sunday, and superintends other parts of divine service. The church at Walls was built in 1743, that at Sandness in 1794, and that at Papa in 1806; the period of the erection of the church at Foula is not known: they contain in the aggregate accommodation for 1064 persons. There are a place of worship for members of the Free Church, three places of worship belonging to Wesleyans, all under the charge of one minister, and two belonging to Independents, having also only one minister. A parochial school is kept in one of the districts, of which the master has a salary of £25. 13., with a house, and £5 fees; and a school in each of the others is supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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