Bressay, Burra, and Quarff

   BRESSAY, BURRA, and QUARFF, a parish, in the county of Orkney and Shetland; containing 1798 inhabitants, of whom 904 are in the island of Bressay, and 870 in the late quoad sacra parish of Burra and Quarff. These three ancient parishes, now united, comprehend six islands and a part of the tract called Mainland; the district of Bressay is to the east of the mainland, and consists of the islands of Bressay and Ness, separated from each other by Ness Sound, and from the mainland by Bressay Sound. The island of Bressay, which is nearly six miles long, and varies in breadth from two to three miles, exhibits a highly-diversified surface, especially in the western portion, where the rugged features of the coast, the tracts of arable land stretching from south to north, and sloping to the sea, interspersed with cottages, with lofty hills rising in various directions, contribute to form a scene marked, to a considerable extent, by beauty and grandeur. Among the elevated ridges running in irregular directions through the island, and the spaces between which are covered with a mixture of pasture and peat-moss, is a dorsal eminence, on the eastern side, called St. Andrew's, or Ander hill, upwards of 400 feet in height. At the southern extremity, is a lofty elevation called the Ward; also Beacon hill, rising 724 feet above the level of the sea, and which, being covered with peat-moss and various kinds of short grass and heath, becomes, on account of its sable hue and majestic height, a striking object in the scenery. The coast is everywhere rocky, abounding with fissures, caverns, and headlands, the last chiefly in the southern portion of the island; and there are twelve lochs, which, however, are of very inconsiderable dimensions, only two or three having the extent of half a mile in length or breadth, but some of them are celebrated for their fine trout.
   The parish contains several sounds or channels, formed by, and taking their names respectively from, the islands to which they are adjacent; the chief is Bressay Sound, long known as a superior harbour, which expands into a fine bay towards Quarff, on the south, where its waters deepen, and afford excellent anchorage for vessels in stress of weather. Many hundreds of Dutch boats, in time past, resorted hither, to fish for herrings; but the sound has derived its greatest celebrity from the Earl of Bothwell, who, being pursued in his adversity by Kirkaldy of Grange, with great difficulty escaped, by sailing out at the northern entrance, in which direction his enemy, attempting to follow him, was wrecked on a very dangerous rock, since called the Unicorn, after the name of the ship. The other channels are, Ness Sound, less than a quarter of a mile broad, supposed to be about twenty feet deep, and dangerous to pass with an easterly wind; Cliff Sound, not quite half a mile broad, with about nine or ten fathoms of water, and of difficult navigation in stormy weather; and Stream and Burra Sounds, the latter of which is the safest and most tranquil of the whole, and peculiarly adapted to small vessels. The quantity of land under tillage is small, compared with the waste, and employed chiefly in the cultivation of oats, bear, and potatoes, the two first being sown in alternate years, and potatoes once in four or five years. The grounds are manured with a compost of sea-weed, dung, and mossy earth, and with the garbage of herrings, the last being held in high repute for enriching the soil. Some improvements in agriculture have been made within these few years, chiefly in rebuilding, in a superior manner, the farm-cottages; but various obstacles, the want of leases, the state of the roads, and especially the poverty of the inhabitants, and their extensive occupation in fishing, repress all systematic attempts to establish agriculture on a good footing. The rateable annual value of the parish is £1527. The rocks in Bressay and Ness are the old red sandstone; in Quarff, clayslate and mica-slate; and in the isles of House, Burra, and Halvera, of the primitive formation. At Bressay, flag and slate quarries are in operation, the material of which is shipped to different parts of the country, and sometimes sent to the south; and in Quarff and Burra, several species of limestone of inferior quality are found.
   The lands appear once to have been better wooded than at present, trunks of trees, of some bulk, being found among the mosses. The only plantations recently made are in the vicinity of the mansion-house, and consist of willow and ash, the former the most flourishing; and near these, of older growth, are aspen, elm, laburnum, poplar, and plane trees, which appear to be in a thriving condition. A large proportion of the male population is engaged in the fisheries, the principal of which are those of ling, cod, and herrings; though various other kinds of fish, such as tusk, halibut, skate, whiting, and flounders, are taken at different times; and sillocks, on which the inhabitants live to a considerable extent, are taken throughout the whole year. Oysters, also, are found at Burra, in abundance. The ling-fishing employs about thirty boats, carrying generally six men each; the cod-fishery, beginning about Whitsuntide, occupies numerous sloops of between fifteen and twenty tons' burthen, and at the termination of this fishing, that for herrings commences, usually in the month of August, in which the same boats are employed as those engaged in the ling-fishing, with some of larger size. About thirty women and children are employed in Bressay, during the season, in curing herrings; and the manufacture of herring-nets has recently excited much interest among the inhabitants: nearly every female in Quarff above six years of age, is occupied in knitting woollen-gloves, and those in Burra in knitting stockings. The parish 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. 6. 8., with a manse, rebuilt in 1819, and a glebe valued at £12 per annum. The church, which is conveniently situated, was erected in 1815, and contains 370 sittings. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans; and also a parochial school, the master of which has a salary of £25. 13., and teaches writing, arithmetic, and book-keeping.
   See Burra and Quarff.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Burra and Quarff —    BURRA and QUARFF, late a quoad sacra parish, in the parish of Bressay, county of Orkney and Shetland; containing 870 inhabitants. The district of Burra lies west of the Mainland, from which it is separated by Cliff Sound, and comprehends the… …   A Topographical dictionary of Scotland

  • Quarff —    QUARFF.    See Bressay, Burra, and Quarff, and also Burra and Quarff …   A Topographical dictionary of Scotland

  • Ness —    1) NESS, county of Ross and Cromarty.    See Cross.    2) NESS, an island, forming part of the parish of Bressay, Burra, and Quarff, in the Shetland Isles; and containing 24 inhabitants. This island lies a short distance east of Bressay, is… …   A Topographical dictionary of Scotland

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