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VISIT TO THE ORKNEY ISLANDS.*
In the preceding pages will be found a very interesting. account of a journey to the Shetland Isles, undertaken for the purpose of ascertaining the practicability of establishing a mission in those distant regions. From authentic sources we learn that a mission was soon after established, which, while under the superintendence of the late Dr. A. Clarke, greatly prospered, and still continues to prosper. same spirit which actuated the pioneers in that enterprise has influenced others to make a similar attempt in the Orkneys; an account of which, we make no doubt, will be pleasing to the reader.-EDS.
[From the London Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.]
THE last conference directed the preachers stationed in Shetland to visit the Orkney islands in the course of the present year, for the purpose, especially, of ascertaining the state of the people in regard to religious instruction. In compliance with this direction the Rev. Messrs. Catton and Breare, of the Lerwick circuit, repaired to those islands in February last. The follow
* Orkneys, or Orkney Islands, the ancient Orcades, a cluster of islands north of Scotland, from which they are separated by the Pentland Frith. They lie between 57 deg. 35 min. and 49 deg. 16 min. N. lat., and they are upward of thirty in number, the principal of which is called Pomona, and is sometimes known by the appellation of Mainland. The currents and tides which flow between these islands are rapid and dangerous; and near the small isle of Swinna are two whirlpools, very dangerous to mariners, especially in a calm. The seacoast swarms with seals and otters, and is visited by
ing is an extract from a letter addressed to the president of the conference, relating the particulars of their visit:
TO THE REV. JOSEPH TAYLOR.
Lerwick, March 24th, 1835. Soon after I wrote my last, an opportunity offered for visiting Orkney. On the 28th of January a steamer arrived in Bressay Sound, (the second of the kind ever seen here,) for the purpose of carrying the poll-books from Shetland to Orkney. It remained until the 6th of February. The sheriff kindly gave us a note to the captain to give us a passage, to which he consented. We left Lerwick harbour at ten P. M., with the expectation of a fine passage; but we were
whales, cod, ling, haddocks, and herrings; and on the shores are found oysters, muscles, cockles, &c. The islands are visited by eagles, falcons, wild geese, ducks, in great variety, herons, hawks, gulls, &c. The heath on the mountains shelters grouse, plovers, snipes, &c.; and there are great numbers of small sheep and cattle. The coasts afford numerous bays and harbours for the fisheries; and the chief exports are linen, and woollen yarn, stockings, butter, dried fish, herrings, oil, feathers, skins of various kinds, and kelp. The inhabitants have the general character of being frugal, sagacious, circumspect, religious, and hospitable. The islands of Orkney and Shetland constitute one of the counties of Scotland. The climate in summer is moist and cold, but in winter there is very little snow, and that lies only a short time. Preceding the autumnal equinox, dreadful storms of wind, rain, and thunder occur. For about three weeks in midsummer these islands enjoy the rays of the sun almost without intermission; but for the same space in winter that luminary hardly rises above the horizon, and is commonly obscured by clouds and mists. In this gloomy season the absence of day is supplied partly by moonlight and partly by the radiance of the aurora borealis, which here gives a light nearly equal to that of a full moon.
disappointed, as, shortly after we started, the wind blew a gale from the south-west right ahead. The paddles worked very irregularly, and sometimes not at all; and during the greater part of the voyage the sea broke over the vessel, and swept the decks; so that we were twenty-two hours in going one hundred and fifteen miles. We cast anchor at eight the next evening, in Kirkwall roads; but as there was no boat at hand, we did not get on shore to an inn till ten.
Sunday, Feb. 8th, was such a cold, stormy day, that we could do nothing in the open air, and there appeared to be no open door. I requested the use of the Independent chapel for the week night; but the minister could not let us have it without consulting the trustees, to do which would take some days. In the morning we attended the cathedral of St. Magnus, the most perfect relic of episcopacy in the whole of Scotland, the east end of which is used as a parish kirk. The congregation was large, and a stranger preached a plain, evangelical sermon. There are three other places of worship, that of the Antiburgers, the United Secession, and the Independents.
Finding that little could be done in Kirkwall, especially as it was the time of chairing the parliamentary candidate, on Tuesday, the 10th, we strove to get a boat for Stronsay, one of the north isles, about twenty miles from Kirkwall. We met a gentleman on the quay, who told us a sloop was going for Stronsay with the voters. We went on board about five o'clock P.M., and shortly after weighed anchor. We had a fine run for about three hours and a half, when we anchored in Linga Sound. We found a small inn near the shore, the master of which came with us in the sloop. Here we took up our abode for the night.
Stronsay is about six miles by three, and contains eleven hundred inhabitants. There are two places of worship: one belonging to the Establishment, and the other to the Secession. There are two schools on the island; a parochial and a society school: but they are so near together, that in many parts of the island the children are not able to go; consequently they have but few scholars. The island formerly had three churches, and was divided into three parishes. The churches were situated, one at each extremity, and one in the middle. There are two things which would make this place important as the head of a circuit: 1. It is the great fishing station for herrings and lobsters; and during the fishing season there is an influx of several thousands of men and women from the different islands and from the north of Scotland. 2. It I will be a key to several adjacent islands, which might easily be visited from Stronsay. Sanday, a much larger island than this, is about three miles distant. Eday and Shapenshay, two smaller islands, are about the same distance. As there was some prospect of usefulness in Stronsay, we thought it best to confine our energies to it.
I will now give you a few extracts from our journal. Thursday, February 12th.-Several of the Fair Isle men, who had heard of our arrival, waited upon us. They informed us that there were nine or ten families from the Fair Isle residing here; that three or four persons were formerly members of our society, and that they had all sat under our ministry, and were well affected toward us; and that a considerable number of others were waiting to receive us. They said there was at the fishing station a large empty house, which Mr. Smith, of Whitehall, had given us leave to occupy,
which would hold upward of one hundred and fifty people; and they would go and prepare it for us.
as the school-house in this corner of the island was offered us, we consented to preach in it at four o'clock; and on the morrow proceed three miles to the station, and preach in the evening. Brother Breare preached in the school-house to a small congregation. The congregation was evidently interested and affected. About an hour after the service we received a note from the schoolmaster, expressing his satisfaction and gratitude for our visit. He was sorry that he could not lend us the kirk to preach in; but offered us the school-room for the sabbath; and assured us, if the weather were favourable, we should have a good congregation.
Friday, 13th. The morning was fine, with a strong wind from the south-west. We started early for the station; our host accompanied us; and the people received us affectionately. The empty house was fitted up with deal boards for forms, and well filled with people. I preached from John v, 4. Many of the people were in tears. Several of the most respectable people in the neighbourhood attended. I gave out for Mr. Breare to preach there the next day.
Saturday, 14th.-Mr. Beare preached at the station. The congregation was interested, and many were in distress. I went to the schoolmaster to seek some place to preach in at the extremity of the island. I visited seven cottages, talked and prayed with the people, and got the promise of a barn to preach in at Rousholm next week.
Sunday, 15th.--Mr. Breare preached twice and held two prayer meetings at the station. I preached in Mr. Sketheway's school-room. It was a day of weeping and awakening. God is truly beginning a great work.