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Fair, Shetland

Historical Description

FAIR, an island, forming part of the parish of Dunrossness, in the county of Shetland; containing 232 inhabitants. It lies between the Orkney and Shetland groups, and is about three miles in length and nearly two in breadth, presenting three lofty promontories, and encompassed with precipitous rocks. The island is every where inaccessible, except upon the south-east, where, lowering itself a little, it affords a safe station for small vessels. One of the promontories, the Sheep Craig, is nearly insulated, rising from the sea in a conical shape to an elevation of 480 feet. The soil is moderately fertile, and the hills are clothed with excellent pasturage for sheep. Fair Isle is thickly peopled, and the inhabitants are chiefly engaged in the taking of saith, about forty tons of which, when dried, are annually sent to the Leith market: the ling and cod fishing formerly prosecuted has been discontinued on account of its distance from the island. The houses are clustered together on the southern shores in the form of small hamlets, or, as they are here called, towns, which are named respectively Seutter, Taing, Shirva, Leogh, Bousta, and Gelah. A substantial church, capable of accommodating 120 persons, was built by the proprietor of the isle many years ago, at a cost of £150, and is distant from the parish church thirty-five miles. There is also a good school. In 1588, the flag-ship of the Duke de Medina-Sidonia, the admiral of the Spanish Armada, was wrecked on this island, and tradition points out the humble residence of the shipwrecked commander.

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