ORCADIA-L ArchivesArchiver > ORCADIA > 2003-10 > 1067119882
From: "Charles Tait" <>
Subject: [<orcadia>] Gairsay - from Charles Tait
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 23:11:22 +0100
Interesting query on Gairsay. My maternal grandfather's (George
Leonard) mother who was an mather originally from Fair Isle lived with
her family on Gairsay for a time, I think at Boray before marrying John
Leonard from Wyre, the founder of the shop in town.
We have visited Gairsay regularly every year ever since I can recall.
It is an exceptionally pleasant little island with fertile land on the
south side and moor on most of the north side. There is no peat to
speak of, although there is a boggy area on the north slope of the hill.
Millburn bay is one of the best natural harbours in the north isles, and
the combination of good south-facing land made for a good Viking base.
There are at least two chambered cairns, two ruinous farms at Boray and
Skelbist as well as other huts and walls which might be dwellings. The
broch was probably below Boray. Langskaill was the site of Sweyn
Asleifson's long house of course.
The school is along the bay from Langskaill. As far as I know no
archaeologist has been interested in the island, but "antiquarians" were
in the 19th century and dug into the conspicuous chambered cairn on the
east ridge and perhaps the most likely burnt mound at Millburn Bay
beside the loch.
Gairsay is a fabulous place for nature lovers with its breeding skuas,
gulls, terns, waders, eiders, tysties, etc., and in autumn Grey seals
and their pups. It is also very good for wild flowers. The island
would have been quite capable of supporting 71 people, as it was
renowned for its grain. No doubt the home brew, and bannocks were
excellent. Whether many sheep were kept in not known, but I suspect
that there would have been quite a few cattle as there are several small
byres among the buildings at Skelbist and Boray. They also had pigs.
Of course sheep would have been kept, but they would have been the
native kind I suspect.
The McGill family lives at Langskaill which they farm. The grazing of
the remainder of the island has been held by Swanbister for many years.
All in all Gairsay is one of the most attractive of the smaller north
isles - but hard to get to without a boat.
|[<orcadia>] Gairsay - from Charles Tait by "Charles Tait" <>|