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St Andrews, Orkney

Historical Description

ANDREW'S ST., a parish, in the county of ORKNEY; containing, exclusively of the former quoad sacra parish of Deerness, 926 inhabitants. This parish is situated on the eastern coast of the mainland, and is bounded on the north by the Firth of Shapinshay; on the east by Deer Sound, which separates it from Deerness; and on the west by the bay of Inganess. It is about six miles in extreme length and two in average breadth, and is connected with the peninsula of Deerness by a narrow isthmus less than a quarter of a mile in length. The coast is so singularly indented with bays and inlets from the sea, that the form of the parish cannot be well defined or its extent accurately ascertained; it is generally estimated at thirteen square miles, and the length of the line of coast at about eighteen miles. The surface, though generally low, is intersected by three nearly parallel and equidistant ridges of inconsiderable height, and diversified with hills of gentle acclivity, the highest of which has an elevation of 350 feet above the sea, and, towards the north-east, terminates in precipitous rocks, of strikingly romantic appearance. In one of these is a remarkable cavern, sixty feet in length and about thirty feet wide, communicating with the sea by a passage, through which a boat may pass at certain times of the tide. Deer Sound forms an excellent roadstead for vessels in boisterous weather; it is about four miles long and two miles broad, has a depth of six or seven fathoms at the entrance, with a sandy bottom, and affords good anchorage for vessels of any size. Inganess bay, on the north-west coast, about two miles and a half in length and more than a mile in breadth, varies in depth from three to twelve fathoms, and affords good anchorage and shelter from all winds. Neither of these bays, however, is at present much frequented.

The SOIL is extremely various in different parts of the parish, consisting of sand, loam, clay, and moss, alternating, and frequently found in combination. The number of acres under tillage is about 2200; the chief crops are oats and bear, with a small proportion of potatoes and turnips. The farming is in a very unimproved state; some attempts have been made to drain the lands, but very little progress has hitherto been effected in the general system of agriculture. Little attention has been paid to the improvement of the breeds of live stock: the horses most in use are of the Norwegian kind called the Garron, strong and hardy, but seldom exceeding fourteen hands in height; the black-cattle are small, thin, and ill-conditioned, from the scantiness of the pastures; and the sheep, inferior to those of the Shetland breed, are also of a coarser texture of wool, though the wool is of a much finer quality than that of the sheep of the southern counties. The farm-buildings are generally of stones and clay, roofed with thatch; and the few inclosures that are to be seen, are made by mounds of turf. The rocks are argillaceous sandstone and flag, apparently of the old red sandstone formation, alternated with trap; and traces of calc-spar and pyrites of iron are found occasionally: slates of inferior quality, and also freestone, are obtained in some parts.

The manufacture of kelp, formerly carried on here to a great extent, has of late greatly diminished; and that of straw-plat, which was also extensive, has been almost discontinued. Fairs for cattle are held at Candlemas, Midsummer, and Martinmas. The fish generally found off the coast are, cod, haddocks, flounders, skate, thornbacks, and coal-fish; and crabs, lobsters, cockles, and other shell-fish are found on the shores; but no regular fishery of these has been established. The herring-fishery was commenced in 1833, and is carried on to a very considerable extent; curing-houses have been erected, and there is every prospect of the formation of an extensive and lucrative herring station at this place. Communication with Kirkwall, and with other parts of the mainland, is maintained by good roads, of which that to Kirkwall is one of the best in the county. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Kirkwall and synod of Orkney: the minister's stipend is about £208, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £14 per annum; patron, the Earl of Zetland. The church, built in 1801, and enlarged in 1827, is a neat structure, conveniently situated, and containing 400 sittings. A Free Church place of worship has been erected here. The parochial school affords the general course of instruction; the master has a salary of £27, with a house and garden, and the fees average £9. There are some slight vestiges of ancient chapels; and on the point of Inganess are traces of an old circular fort of stones and earth, commanding the entrance of Deer Sound. Several tumuli also remain, one of which, on the glebe land, is about 140 yards in circumference at the base, and twelve feet high; another, nearly in the centre of the parish, is ninety yards in circumference and sixteen feet high, and a third, of much larger dimensions, is situated on the isthmus at the southern extremity of the parish.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis