Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, Samuel Lewis - 1851
YELL-MID-AND-SOUTH, a parish, in the county of Shetland, 32 miles (N.) from Lerwick; containing, with the islands of Hascussay and Samphrey, 1705 inhabitants. It includes the middle and southern districts of the island of Yell, which belongs to the group usually called the North Isles; and annexed to the parish are the island of Samphrey, on the west, distant about a mile from Yell, and the island of Hascussay, about one mile distant towards the east. It is bounded on the west by Yell sound, which is six miles across, and distinguished from most of the other channels on the north coast of Shetland by the great rapidity of its current; on the east by Colgrave sound, which averages three miles in breadth; and on the south by that of Lunnafirth, about four miles broad. There are 37,000 acres of land in the parish, of which about 4000 are inclosed; and of this latter portion 1500 acres are cultivated. The coast varies in its aspect in different parts, but in general is bold and rocky. It is penetrated by several voes or inlets affording good landing-places, with ample accommodation and security for vessels in any weather. Mid Yell voe, on the east, contains sufficient space and depth of water to moor a large fleet. Near this is Whalefirth voe, on the west, separated from the former only by a tract of land a mile broad, so that, by the construction of a canal, the junction of the two sounds, and consequently of two great seas, might be effected. On the south are the harbours of Burra voe and Hamna voe, which are both secure and convenient retreats, about a mile distant from each other.
In the INTERIOR the surface consists for the most part of hills covered with peat, supplying plenty of good fuel, and of extensive tracts clothed with a short coarse grass, affording tolerably nutritious pasture for sheep and cattle. The cultivated land lies chiefly along the shore. There are two principal ranges of hills in the parish, rising from 200 to 400 feet in height; they stretch nearly from one extremity to the other, and are frequently crossed by subordinate eminences taking a direction from east to west. The soil exhibits various modifications of moss, with admixtures occasionally of clay incorporated with particles of rock and of sand transported by storms from the margin of the island, and scattered over the surface. The chief grain cultivated is bear and oats, the average annual value of which is about £2300; potatoes return upwards of £1000. Meadow- hay and other crops are also raised, but in inferior proportions; and ponies, cattle, and sheep traverse the hills and mountains in large numbers, the occupiers of farms having a common right of pasture according to their respective rents. The spade is in general use, being better suited to the nature of the surface, and to the size of the farms, than is the plough. The small portions of land that are under tillage present in many parts specimens of careful industry. Agriculture, however, is still in its infancy; large tracts of common offer temptations to the successful application of capital by draining, and the tracts already inclosed for pasture are capable, if the tenants possessed the means, of being rendered doubly valuable by being brought under tillage. The prevailing rocks are gneiss, with portions of granite, quartz, whinstone, and some rocks of the micaceous class. Bog-iron ore has been found; and in several places, layers of rich loam, from one to two feet in thickness, have been discovered lying under masses of peat-moss, and incumbent on the prevailing rock; the earth being embedded with birch, oak, &c. The annual value of real property in the parish is £352.
The inhabitants follow fishing as their principal occupation. The profits of ling, tusk, and cod, though variable, may be averaged at £500 per annum; and other fish, caught for domestic consumption, with the oil obtained from them, may be valued at £360. Seatrout are abundant, and salmon have sometimes been taken. The large numbers of cockles, also, are found occasionally of great service to the inhabitants, many of whose lives were saved in the scarcity of 1837 through the sustenance afforded by this fish. Horses and pigs, but especially cattle, sheep, and lambs, constitute an important part of the disposable produce of the parish; numbers of them are sold yearly, and they fetch a much higher price than formerly in consequence of the facilities given by the introduction of steam-vessels. Ecclesiastically this parish is in the presbytery of Burravoe, synod of Shetland, and in the patronage of the Earl of Zetland. The minister's stipend is £158, of which about a tenth is received from the exchequer: he has also from £15 to £20 per annum from the rents of bequeathed lands; with a manse, rebuilt in 1807 and several times repaired, and a glebe valued at £20 a year. The church at Mid Yell, built in 1832, is as conveniently situated as possible, as is also the church lately erected at South Yell; but both, though with every advantage of locality, are necessarily but thinly attended during a considerable portion of the year. Many of the inhabitants reside at great distances, and find it impossible to attend in the winter; there is neither road nor bridge in the parish, and the surface is in that season to a great extent a mossy swamp. A missionary has for several years officiated in South Yell, supported by the Royal Bounty; there is a place of worship there for Wesleyans, and in Mid Yell one for Independents. A parochial school was established in 1822; the salary of the master is £26, with a house, and about £5 fees. The antiquities are inconsiderable, being only a few Picts' houses, and the ruins of tenements once occupied by the natives, where knives, hammers, &c., of stone, have been found.