Sandsting and Aithsting

Sandsting and Aithsting
   SANDSTING and AITHSTING, a parish, in the county of Shetland, 12 miles (W. N. W.) from Lerwick; containing, with the islands of Little Papa and Vementry, 2478 inhabitants. These ancient parishes, now united, are said to derive their names respectively from two necks of land called Ting or Taing, on which courts of justice were formerly held; the one situated near Sand, and originating the name of Sand's-ting; and the other near Aith, giving the name of Aith's-ting. The parish lies in about the middle of the Mainland, and is bounded on the south and south-west by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the north by the Minn, or Swarbach's Minn, a large arm of the sea by which it is separated from the island of Muckle Roe. It is about ten miles in length and eight in breadth, comprising 1000 acres of cultivated land, exclusive of large tracts of pasture and peat-moss. The shore of that part washed by the ocean is bold and rugged, and marked by several curious natural caves, frequented by seals and wild-fowl; and the land in every part, both on the north and south, is intersected with voes, forming numerous well-secured natural harbours, of which those of Gruting, Olla, and Airs of Selivoe are the principal, and afford excellent anchorage for vessels of heavy burthen. On the south of the parish are the two voes of Skeld; and at a little distance, in the same direction, are the entrances into Selivoe and Sandvoe. Selivoe is remarkable for the unruffled tranquillity of its waters, and the firmness of its anchorage, consisting of a strong, blue, tenacious clay; but Sandvoe, being much exposed, and having only a very loose bottom, is considered an insecure and dangerous station. In addition to these, are Sandsound voe, which runs for upwards of five miles inland; West Burrafirth, on the north of Aithsting; and Brindister voe, all, with the exception of Burrafirth, commodious harbours having good anchorage; and there are several others, of which Aith's voe is the chief, an inland harbour of great extent, and affording tolerable accommodation for shipping. Among the various islands and holms belonging to the parish, the smaller of which are used only for the grazing of a few cows or sheep in summer time, Vementry and Little Papa, both inhabited, hold the most conspicuous place. The former is of considerable extent, covered partly with heather and partly with verdant sward, and is depastured by about 400 sheep chiefly of the white-faced breed, besides numerous black-cattle; Little Papa, which is of smaller size, and its pasture of inferior quality, is also grazed by several head of black-cattle and by about 200 sheep, which are a cross of the white and black faced kinds.
   The surface of the interior, of which no part is distant more than a mile from the sea, is chiefly marked by a succession of knolls or inconsiderable elevations, there being no remarkable hills, nor any lengthened tract of low ground. These eminences are covered with heather, interspersed with green patches; and there are numerous springs and lochs, the latter amounting to no less than 140, and some of them large, and containing a good stock of very fine trout. The land under cultivation is in general contiguous to the shore. In some places the soil is sandy, in some clayey, and in others a light brown earth; but its prominent character is that of moss, which runs very deep, and affords the inhabitants a never-failing supply of excellent fuel, and in which are often found imbedded, at a great depth, fragments of birch and other wood. The ordinary crops are, bear, oats, and potatoes; the last are the leading article, and occupy about one-fourth of the ground under tillage. Cabbages, turnips, and carrots thrive very well, especially the last; and in the horticultural department, gooseberries and currants, strawberries, rhubarb, mint, and all kinds of culinary vegetables and herbs, arrive at perfection. The farms are generally of about three or four acres only, and are under spade husbandry, but two or three ploughs being in use; and the harrows, which are entirely of wood, and of the most simple construction, are each drawn over the ground by a man or woman by means of ropes. The land, as in most of those Shetland parishes where agriculture is in a rude state, consists of in-field and out-field, and is, as it is here called, run-rig, being but very scantily protected in any part by fences. Manure formed of sea-weed, earth, and a mixture of cows' dung, is applied to all the lands with the exception of those appropriated to the growth of potatoes, the inhabitants supposing it to be injurious to this root. The cottages of the tenants are of the meanest possible description; but the inmates appear to be reconciled to them by use. Large numbers of sheep are reared, mostly of the native breed, but now frequently crossed with the black and white faced; the black-cattle and ponies are numerous; and there is a small, bristly, yet excellent breed of pigs, one or two of which are generally kept by each family. The parish contains about fifty mills turned by water, and an almost unlimited number of hand-mills.
   The rocks comprehend gneiss, limestone, blue and red granite, felspar, and several other varieties; and at a small distance from Tresta, a layer of porcelain earth of a whitish hue is found. Near Innersand, chromate of iron was quarried some years since; but the profit not being sufficient, the operations have been discontinued. There are a few trees which thrive well in favoured situations, such as the alder and mountain-ash; and the holms in some of the fresh-water lochs exhibit good specimens of the hazel, brier, honeysuckle, and willow; but the excessive moisture of the climate, together with the sea-spray, the long-continued rains and storms, and the depredations of the cattle when pressed for forage, forbid the hope of any thing like a regular plantation in the locality. There are three good mansions; Sand House, built in 1754; Garder House, built about 1760; and Reawick, a plain structure of recent date. Fishing here, as in the rest of the islands, engages much attention: the taking of ling commences in May or June; that of cod, beginning about the same time, is carried on in sloops of from twenty to forty tons' burthen; and the herring-fishing generally succeeds the others, and continues six weeks. Besides these kinds, tusk, saith, and other varieties are taken; and in most of the friths, haddock, whiting, flounder, halibut, skate, and mackerel are plentiful, with sillocks and piltocks; also shell-fish of every description. A fair is held at Whitsuntide, and another at Martinmas, for cattle and horses; the fish cured in the parish is sent by some to Leith, and by others further south.
   ECCLESIASTICALLY the parish is in the presbytery of Lerwick and synod of Shetland, and in the patronage of the Earl of Zetland. The minister's stipend is £158, of which a fourth is received from the exchequer; with a manse, built in 1817, which is in a very dilapidated state, and a glebe valued at £9 per annum. The church was built in 1780, and reseated in 1824, and contains sittings for 437 persons. Previously to its erection there was a church in each of the two districts; and the present edifice was raised in a central situation, for the more regular performance of divine service; but it is found inconvenient for general attendance, many of the inhabitants being separated by a marshy tract seven miles across, and others by two arms of the sea. There is a meeting-house for Independents, and another for Wesleyans. The parochial school, the premises for which were built in 1803, at the cost of £105, affords instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, and book-keeping; the master has a salary of £26, with a dwelling, and the fees. There are also two schools supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, who grant the teachers salaries of £15 each; and one Assembly's school, of which the master has a salary of £21. An institution called "the Shetland Fishermen's Fund," was established in 1810, for the relief of aged and decayed fishermen, and the widows of fishermen; it is managed by twelve directors, and has been of much benefit to the parish among the objects for whom the charity was designed. The parish contains numerous barrows or tumuli, the supposed places of sepulture of the ancient Scandinavians; and several forts built on high ground for watch-towers and other purposes. There are also five burying-places, at one of which, situated at Sand, a mile distant from Kirk-holm, is still the chancel of a church which tradition reports to have been constructed by the crew of one of the ships of the Spanish Armada that was wrecked here in 1588, out of gratitude for the kindness of the inhabitants. The sufferers had at first taken refuge and fortified themselves in Kirk-holm; and remains of their works are yet visible on the isle.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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