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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 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. Sinith, 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. But 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 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.
After preaching we put down near thirty names of persons to be examined preparatory to becoming members of society. We preached in different parts of the island on the 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 21st.
Sunday, 22d.---I preached three times at the station, and baptized two children. The place was crowded with about two hundred people, and nearly all the respectable families in that part of the island were there. When I met the society, nine persons came forward to unite with I finished my work about half past nine in the evening.
We continued preaching every day in the week, when it was possible, and five or six times on the sabbath. Most of the respectable farmers sent for us, or gave us invitations to their houses; and in the evening we preached in their barns. When we left we had upward of forty persons in society; and many more said they will unite with us when we send them a minister. A young man came to me in Stronsay, and offered me a piece of ground in a most eligible situation, for the erection of a chapel, which he would sell at a low price. Several promised to assist us. One offered £6 toward building a chapel. Many of the fishermen told me, though they could do but little, they would do what they could, and assist us by labour. The people were very importunate for me to send Mr. Breare again, during the fishing season; which I promised, if possible, to do.
The last day we spent in the island was Sunday, March 15th. I preached in the morning at Huip, in Mr. Drever's barn; and in the afternoon walked four miles to the school-room, and preached to a large and respectable congregation. Mr. Breare preached in the morning and afternoon at the station, and in the even
ing at Huip. The men called us up at two o'clock on the Monday morning to go to the Fair Isle, in an open boat. It was a great risk, the distance being fortyeight miles, over one of the worst parts of sea in the world. Several endeavoured to dissuade us from it. One gentleman, who had travelled a great deal, said he would sooner cross the Bay of Biscay in an open boat than between Stronsay and the Fair Isle. But we could not get a sloop for less than ten pounds; and we thought we would sooner run the risk than be at the expense. When we were about to set sail, the beach was crowded with men, women, and children, who wept sore when we left them. As soon as we got up the foresail, and began to make a little way we sung the verses beginning,
"The God that rules on high,
That all the earth surveys,
This awful God is ours,
Our Father and our love;
He will send down his heavenly powers
The men joined us, so that the shores echoed as we left them for the main sea. The wind and tide were both in our favour, and the sea much smoother for the first four hours than I expected; but the tide turned upon us when we were about three or four miles west of the Fair Isle. The sea rolled mountains high, and we had serious apprehensions that we should not make the island. A small boat with seven men came out to meet us, and to tell us we could not land where we intended, and that we must keep more to the east ; when one of the seas broke over them, and they were for some seconds immersed beneath the wave. At this
moment there was a simultaneous shriek from all in the boat, "They are lost!" and what made it the more distressing was, three or four of them were brothers of the men in our boat. After a little while their boat emerged, completely full of water. We pulled down our sails, and endeavoured to rescue them; but for some time we saw no hope. They succeeded in throwing out the water with their hats; and by a wonderful providence were kept from sinking till they came up with us. We took their men into our boat, and their boat in tow, till we got into smooth water, and were able to land. It was on this island that the flag ship of the Spanish armada was wrecked; and the duke de Medina and the crew were saved. The island is between two and three miles long, and one broad, and contains nearly three hundred inhabitants. Mr. Breare preached here on Monday evening; I on Tuesday morning, and baptized seven children. We dined with the taxman, Mr. Strong, and at two got into a boat for Lerwick. By a good providence we anchored in Quendel Bay, and felt thankful, though we had nearly thirty miles to walk home.
I hope, Rev. Sir, you will see from this that there is such an opening in Orkney as we never had before. The time to remember Orkney is fully come. O that God would lay Orkney on your heart, as he did Shetland on that of Dr. Clarke! I pray that every thing requisite may be done, and that speedily; as it is my firm opinion, that one or two preachers should be appointed there next conference, as the difficulties and expenses connected with visiting Orkney from Shetland are very great. There is no connection between the islands whatever. JAMES CATTON.