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[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"SOUTH RONALDSAY, a parish and island in the South-Eastern Orkney Isles, county Orkney and Shetland, coast of Scotland, 6 miles N.E. of Duncansby-Head, and 11 S. of Kirkwall. The parish, which is scattered, comprehends, besides the island of South Ronaldshay, the inhabited islands of Burray, Hunda, the Pentland Skerries and Swona, and the uninhabited island of Glimsholm, occupying the south-eastern corner of the Orcadian archipelago.

The principal island of this group is South Ronaldshay, lying between Pentland Frith, on the S., which divides it from Caithness, and Water-Sound on the N., which is about a mile broad, and divides it from Burray. It is about 9 miles in length, and from 2 to 5½ in breadth, covering a superficial area of near 18 square miles. Its surface is generally level, or slightly hilly, the highest point not exceeding 300 feet above sea-level. The coast is bold, especially towards the E. and W., where it is protected by several headlands, as Brough-head, near Barsick, or Barwick ferry to Houna, in Caithness, Halero and Stores, or Souse, heads; on the E. Grimness, Hoxa, Barth, and other promontories.

On the northern side of the island is St. Margaret's Hope, one of the best harbours for small craft anywhere on this coast, also Water-Sound ferry to Burray; and on the western side is Widewall Bay, with good anchorage for vessels of 500 tons. The prevailing rocks are of the red sandstone formation, with clay, sand, and moss scattered over the surface; but a considerable extent of the land is loamy, and presents a much richer and more generally cultivated appearance than in most parts of the Orkney group. Wild fowl are abundant, and the fisheries off the coast are productive chiefly in cod, herrings, and lobsters.

The population of the modern parish of South Ronaldshay and Burray is about 3,100. Three ancient parishes are comprehended in the present parish, viz: St. Mary's, or South Ronaldshay, St. Peter's, or the N. end of South Ronaldshay, and Burray parish, including Hunda and Glimsholm. In the Roman Catholic times the offices of Dean of Orkney and provost of the cathedral were held by the priest of South Ronaldshay, which then contained seven or eight chapels, remains of which still exist. The parish is now in the presbytery of Kirkwall and synod of Orkney. The minister's stipend is £210, with glebe.

There are two parish churches, St. Mary's at the southern, and St. Peter's at the northern, end of the island of South Ronaldshay, the latter built in the 13th century. There is also an United Presbyterian church, built in 1826. There are two schools, founded and partially endowed by Governor Tomison, of the Hudson's Bay Company. Remains of Picts' houses are scattered over the island, and near the manse is a Pictish granary, or tomb, paved with water-worn stones, also three large standing stones, supposed to be Druidical monuments.

"BURWICK, a village in the island of South Ronaldshay, Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is about 7 miles to the N. of Huna, on the coast of Caithness, with which there is communication by ferry."

"HUNDA, one of the South Orkney Islands, coast of Scotland. It lies in Scalpa Floe, 10 miles S. of Kirkwall, and belongs to the parish of South Rondalshay."

"NORTH, two parishes of this name in the Orkney Islands, coast of Scotland. See Ladykirk, Westray Island, and St. Peter's, South Ronaldshay."

"PENTLAND SKERRIES, a group of islets in the parish of South Ronaldshay, Orkney Islands, coast of Scotland, 6 miles S. of South Ronaldshay, and 4 N.E. of Duncansby Head. The group lie at the eastern entrance of the Pentland Frith, and the Great Skerry, which is the only one inhabited, is about a mile in length by half a mile broad. It is wholly appropriated to the pasturage of sheep and cattle, and has on it two fixed lights, put up in 1794 and visible at sea for 17 miles. The other islets are mere barren rocks."

"ST. MARGARET'S HOPE, a village in the island and parish of South Ronaldshay, Orkney Islands, coast of Scotland, 11 miles S. of Kirkwall. The village, which is chiefly inhabited by fishermen, is situated at Water Sound Ferry, 1 mile across to Burray, and has a good fishing harbour.

"ST. MARY, a parish in the island of South Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands. See Ronaldshay.

"ST. PETER'S, a parish on the N. side of South Ronaldshay Island, Orkney Islands, coast of Scotland. It comprises St. Margaret's, Hope, with Burray and Huuda Islands, which see.

"SWANNAY, (or Swona), an island in the parish of St. Mary, Orkney and Shetland Isles, coast of Scotland, 1¾ mile W. of Barth Head, in South Ronaldshay, and 6 miles N. of Camsbay. It is situated on the N. side of the Pentland Frith, near the Wells of Swannay whirlpools, and extends 1 mile in length by half a mile in breadth. The inhabitants are chiefly fishermen and pilots.

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]