Yell, Mid and South

   YELL, MID and SOUTH, a parish, in the county of Shetland, 32 miles (N.) from Lerwick; containing, with the islands of Hascussay and Samphrey, 1705 inhabitants. This parish includes the middle and southern districts of the island of Yell, which belongs to the group usually called the North Isles; and annexed to it are the island of Samphrey, on the west, distant about a mile and a half from Yell, and the island of Hascussay, about one mile distant towards the east. It is bounded on the west by Yell sound, which is six miles across, and distinguished from most of the other channels on the north coast of Shetland by the great rapidity of its current; on the east by Colgrave sound, which averages three miles in breadth; and on the south by that of Lunnafrith, about four miles broad. There are 37,000 acres, of which 4000 are enclosed, and of this latter portion 1500 acres are cultivated. The coast varies in different parts, but is in general bold and rocky, and penetrated by several voes or inlets affording good landing places, and ample accommodation and security for vessels in any weather; the principal is Mid Yell voe, on the east, containing sufficient space and depth of water to moor a large fleet. Near this is Whalefirth voe, on the west, separated from the former only by a narrow tract of land offering every facility, by the construction of a canal, for the junction of the two sounds, and consequently of two great seas. On the south are the harbours of Burra voe and Hamna voe, which are both secure and convenient retreats, about a mile distant from each other.
   The surface of the interior consists for the most part of hills covered with peat, supplying only plenty of good fuel, and of extensive tracts clothed with a short coarse grass, affording tolerably nutritious pasture for sheep and cattle. The two principal ranges of hills in the parish rise from 200 to 400 feet in height; they stretch nearly from one extremity to the other, and are frequently crossed by subordinate eminences taking a direction from east to west, the cultivated land lying chiefly along the shore. The soil exhibits various modifications of moss, with admixtures occasionally of clay incorporated with particles of rock and of sand transported by storms from the margin of the island, and scattered over the surface. The chief grain cultivated is bear and oats, the average annual value of which is about £2300; potatoes return upwards of £1000. Meadow hay and other crops are also raised, but in inferior proportions; and ponies, cattle, and sheep traverse the hills and mountains in large numbers, the occupiers of farms having a common right of pasture according to their respective rents. The spade is in general use, being better suited to the nature of the surface, and to the size of the farms, than the plough; and the small portions of land under tillage present in many parts specimens of great industry. Agriculture, however, is still in its infancy; large tracts of common offer temptations to the successful application of capital by draining, and those tracts already inclosed for pasture are capable, if the means were at the disposal of the tenants, of being rendered doubly valuable by being brought under tillage. The prevailing rocks are gneiss, with portions of granite, quartz, whinstone, and some rocks of the micaceous class. Bog-iron ore has been found; and in several places, layers of rich loam, from one to two feet in thickness, have been discovered lying under masses of peat-moss, and incumbent on the prevailing rock, the earth being imbedded with birch, oak, &c. The rateable annual value of the parish is £352.
   The inhabitants follow fishing as their principal occupation, and are partly engaged in taking ling, tusk, and cod. The profits of these three sorts, though variable, may be averaged at £500 per annum; those of herrings at £600, and the amount of other fish, caught for domestic consumption, with the oil obtained from it, at £360. Sea-trout are also abundant; salmon have sometimes been taken, and the large numbers of cockles in the vicinity are found occasionally of great service to the inhabitants, many of whose lives were saved in the scarcity of 1837 by this fish. Horses and pigs, but especially cattle, sheep, and lambs, constitute an important part of the disposable produce of the parish; numbers of them are sold yearly, and they fetch a much higher price than formerly in consequence of the introduction of steam-vessels. The parish is in the presbytery of Burravoe, synod of Shetland, and in the patronage of the Earl of Zetland. The minister's stipend is £158., of which about a tenth is received from the exchequer; with a manse, rebuilt in 1807 and repaired in 1833, and a glebe valued at £20. The church at Mid Yell, built in 1832, is as conveniently situated as possible, as is also the church lately erected at South Yell; but both, though with every advantage of locality, are but thinly attended during a considerable portion of the year. Many of the inhabitants reside at great distances, and find it impossible to attend in the winter; there is neither road nor bridge in the parish, and the surface in that season is to a great extent a mossy swamp. A missionary has for several years officiated in South Yell, being supported by the Royal Bounty; there is a place of worship there for Wesleyans, and in Mid Yell one for Independents. A parochial school was established in 1822; the salary of the master is £26, with a house, and about £5 fees. The antiquities are inconsiderable, comprehending only a few Pictish houses, and the ruins of tenements once occupied by the native inhabitants, where have been found knives, drinking cups, lamps, hammers, and adzes, all constructed of stone.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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