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Fair Isle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2019.

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Fair Isle (Scand. farr, 'a sheep'), an island of Dunrossness parish, Shetland, 29 miles SSW of Sumburgh Head, and nearly midway between Shetland and Orkney. It measures 3 miles in length, and nearly 2 in breadth; is inaccessible except at one point on the NE; and rises into three lofty promontories. One of these, the Sheep Craig, is nearly insulated, has a conical shape, and rises to the height of 480 feet. The upper grounds are mostly covered with excellent sheep pasture, and the lower are fairly fertile, but the island does not raise grain enough for its inhabitants. These, who dwell chiefly in the middle vale, are engaged—the men in fishing, and the women in hosiery. The art of knitting woollen articles of various colours and curious patterns is said to have been taught the islanders by the 200 Spaniards who escaped from the wreck at Stromceiler Creek of the flagship of the Duke de Medina Sidonia, the admiral of the Spanish Armada, when retreating in 1588 before the English squadron. In 1868 a German emigrant ship went full sail into Sheltie Cave; but this time happily no lives were lost. Canada has from time to time received a good deal of the surplus population, and in 1874 there was serious talk of an emigration en masse to New Zealand. There is an Established mission church; and a public school, with accommodation for 56 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 24, and a grant of £29, 15s. Pop. (1801) 160, (1841) 232, (1861) 380, (1871) 226, (1881) 214.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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