Birsay and Harray

   BIRSAY and HARRAY, a parish, in the county of Orkney; containing 2406 inhabitants, of whom 1634 are in Birsay, and 772 in Harray. These two ancient parishes, which were united under the earls of Orkney, originally constituted a province or district called "Bergisherard," signifying, in the Norwegian language, lands appropriated to the diversion of hunting; and previously to the rise of Kirkwall, here was the residence of the earls, and the bishops, of Orkney. There are still considerable remains of the episcopal palace, occupying a beautiful site near the sea; by whom it was originally built, is not distinctly known, but numerous additions were made to it, from time to time, by the Sinclairs, who were styled indifferently princes and counts of Orkney. It was subsequently enlarged and improved by Robert Stuart, brother of Mary, Queen of Scots; and above the principal entrance, was a stone bearing an inscription to that effect, with armorial bearings, and the motto Sic Fuit, Est, et Erit; which stone passed into the possession of the Earl of Morton, to whom the lands were sold, and from whom they were afterwards purchased by Sir Lawrence Dundas, ancestor of the Earl of Zetland, the present proprietor. The parish is about eleven miles in extreme length, and eight miles in extreme breadth, and is bounded on the north and west by the sea; on the north and east, by the parishes of Evie, Rendal, and Firth; and on the south and west, by the parish of Sandwick, and Loch Stenness. The surface, towards the west, is for some distance level, but towards the east more elevated, rising into hills of considerable height. It is diversified with several lakes of great beauty, abounding with trout and other fresh-water fish, and frequented by numerous kinds of aquatic fowl; and the lands are intersected by various rivulets and smaller burns, which, for want of bridges, interrupt the communication.
   The soil is generally fertile, though varying in different parts of the district; that of the lands called the barony of Birsay, is a mixture of clay and sand, producing luxuriant crops of oats and barley; in other parts, a deep black loam prevails, producing grain of good quality, and also potatoes and turnips. Sea-weed, of which abundance is found on the coast, is used for manure; and the system of agriculture, though well adapted to the present state of the farms, might, under a different tenure, be very greatly improved. The substrata are principally limestone and clay-slate, the latter of which is quarried for pavements and roofing; building-stone is also found here, and in some parts of the district marble and alabaster have been discovered. The manufacture of straw-plat is carried on extensively, affording employment to nearly 450 of the female population; the males are employed in agriculture and in the fisheries. There are twenty boats belonging to Birsay, which, during the season, are engaged in the cod and lobster fishery; and five are employed in the herring-fisheries at Stronsay and Wick, whence they generally return with remunerating success. The coast, however, is rocky and precipitous; and the want of a convenient harbour, is unfavourable to the extension of the fisheries of the place. Fairs for cattle and horses are held annually.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Cairston and synod of Orkney; the minister's stipend is £218. 6. 8., including an allowance of £8. 6. 8. for communion elements, with a manse situated at Birsay, and two glebes valued together at £21 per annum; patron, the Earl of Zetland. The church of Birsay is an ancient building, enlarged in 1760, and containing 565 sittings; the church of Harray, a neat plain building, erected in 1836, contains 400 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the Original Seceding Congregation, and Independents. The parochial school of Birsay is well attended; the master has a salary of £26, with a dwelling-house and garden. A school at Harray, also, is supported by the General Assembly, who pay the teacher a salary of £25, with a house and garden, and other perquisites; and there is a parochial library, containing nearly 180 volumes, chiefly on religious subjects. About half a mile from the site of the episcopal palace, is the brough of Birsay, a portion of high land at the north-western extremity of the parish, formed into an island by the action of the sea, and to which access by land is obtained only at low water. From some remains of walls, there appears to have been an ancient fortress on the spot, though when or by whom erected is not known; a chapel dedicated to St. Peter, was subsequently erected on the site, of which the only remains are part of a wall and one of the windows. There are also remains of ancient Picts' houses, and upright stones, in various parts of the parish.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Birsay — (Old Norse: Birgisherað [Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga Saga . Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0 901824 25 9] )is a parish in the north west corner of The… …   Wikipedia

  • Harray —    HARRAY.    See Birsay and Harray …   A Topographical dictionary of Scotland

  • Harray — (Old Norse: Herað cf Harris) is a former parish on Mainland, Orkney, now merged with BirsayWilson, Rev. John The Gazetteer of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1882) Published by W. A.K. Johnstone] . It has the unique distinction of being the only landlocked… …   Wikipedia

  • Evie and Rendall —    EVIE and RENDALL, a parish, in the county of Orkney; containing, with the island of Gairsay, 1518 inhabitants, of whom 907 are in Evie, 18 miles (N. W. by N.) from Kirkwall. These two ancient parishes, which appear to have been united since… …   A Topographical dictionary of Scotland

  • Dounby — OS grid reference HY290207 Council area Orkney Country …   Wikipedia

  • Mainland, Orkney — Location OS grid reference …   Wikipedia

  • Prehistoric Orkney — refers to a period in the human occupation of the Orkney archipelago of Scotland that was the latter part of these islands prehistory. The period of prehistory prior to occupation by the genus Homo is part of the geology of Scotland. Although… …   Wikipedia

  • List of places in Orkney — The List of places in Orkney is a link list for any town, village or hamlet on the Orkney Islands, Scotland.The parishes and inhabited islands are in Bold.compactTOC NOTOC A*Abune the Hill *Aikerness *Aikers *Aith *AncumtounB*Backaland… …   Wikipedia

  • Rendall — (Old Norse: Rennudalr Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) Orkneyjar ok Katanes (map, Inverness, Nevis Print)] or Rennadal [Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga Saga . Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat… …   Wikipedia

  • GB-ORK — Orkney Àrcaibh Flagge von Orkney …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.