UK Genealogy Archives logo
DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.

Dunrossness, Shetland

Historical Description

DUNROSSNESS, a parish, in the county of Shetland; including Fair Isle, the island of Mousa, and the quoad sacra district of Sandwick and Cunningsburgh; and containing 4494 inhabitants. This parish is situated on the southern extremity of the Mainland, and forms the principal part of a peninsula, washed on the east, south, and west by the sea. The shore, though not so deeply indented with inlets as that of most other parts of the Shetland Isles, is still very irregular in its outline, and contains several voes, the chief of them being Grutness and West voe: both these, with Quendale bay, are near Sumburgh head, the most southern point of the Mainland, rendered classical by Sir Walter Scott's Pirate, and on which an excellent lighthouse was erected a few years since, at an expense of about £40,000. Among the islands in the parish are those of Colsay, Mousa, St. Ninian's, and Fair Isle; they are used chiefly for the pasturage of sheep and cattle, and, with the exception of the last, are inconsiderable. The exposure of Dunrossness is remarkably bleak and stormy; farms have been destrpyed by the drifting of sand, and there is an inlet now filling up which before was used as a creek or harbour: on the whole, however, the district yields to very few, if any, in Shetland, in the fertility of its soil and the quality of the crops. The lochs of Braw and Spiggie are the resort in winter of wild swans; and eagles, ravens, and hawks, with a great variety of wildfowl, frequent the shores. At this time of the year, the stormy seas, and the dreary tracts of peat-moss, invest the locality with a wild and uninviting appearance; but at other periods the scene is greatly altered, and especially during the operations of harvest and fishing every thing wears a pleasing aspect.

The SOIL of the lands under cultivation is various, comprehending sand, loam, and clay; the crops consist principally of bear, black oats, potatoes, and turnips. Ploughs, drawn by horses, are used in some parts; but most of the small farms are turned by the spade, and husbandry, as in all other districts of Shetland, is made entirely subordinate to the occupation of fishing. The annual value of real property in the parish is £1665. At a place called Fitfill, copper-ore was wrought some years since; and shafts were also sunk at Sand Lodge, in Sandwick, but the operations, proving unsuccessful, were shortly abandoned. The inhabitants are engaged in the ordinary kinds of fishing, and three or four vessels come annually to Levenwick bay, from Rothesay, to receive the herrings immediately after they are taken. In addition to the trade in fish, considerable quantities of potatoes of very good quality, as well as of oats and bear, are sent to Lerwick for sale; and a small profit is derived from the manufacture of kelp. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Lerwick, synod of Shetland, and in the patronage of the Earl of Zetland. The minister's stipend is £208, exclusive of a vicarage-tithe on a certain number of lambs and quantities of butter and wool; the manse and glebe are valued at £20 per annum. The church was built in 1790, and contains 858 sittings. On Fair Isle is another church, a substantial edifice, erected many years ago by the then proprietor of the island; it affords accommodation to about 150 persons. There are meeting-houses for Baptists and Methodists. The parochial school is situated in the Sandwick district; and in Dunrossness, and also at Cunningsburgh, is a school supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge: in each of the three places a library has likewise been instituted.

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