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Orkney Mainland


(Pomona, Hrossey, Mainland)

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, 2002-2020.

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Pomona or Mainland, the chief and much the largest of the Orkney islands. It lies southward of the centre of the Orkney archipelago; is washed, on the W and the N, by the Atlantic Ocean; is separated, on the NE, by narrow sounds from Rousay, Gairsay, Shapinshay, and some smaller adjacent islands, and by Westray Firth and Stronsay Firth from the entire group of the North Isles; is washed, on the E, with exception of two or three intervening islets, by the German Ocean; and is separated, on the S, by Holm Sound, Scapa Flow, and Hoy Sound from Burray, South Ronaldshay, Flotta, Hoy, and some smaller islands. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 24¼ miles; its utmost breadth, from N to S, is 16½ miles; and its area, in consequence of great and numerous indentations on its outline, is probably not more than 150 square miles. Its western district, to the extent of about 16 miles by 11, is fairly compact, and has a somewhat ellipsoidal outline; but its eastern district is mostly cut by intersections of the sea into a series of peninsulas and isthmuses, and ranges in breadth from a maximum of 8½ miles to a minimum of 2 or 3 furlongs. Safe harbourage and places of anchorage occur at brief intervals on all the north-eastern, the eastern, and the southern coasts; and are particularly good at Kirkwall Bay, Deer Sound, Holm Sound, and Stromness. Several fresh-water lakes-Stenness, Kirbister, Skaill, Boardhouse, Hundland, Swannay, and others-lie in the interior; abound in various kinds of trout; and emit considerable water power; but there are no streams larger or longer than mere burns; and salmon waters of any kind are entirely wanting. No spot is further than 4½ miles from the sea; and by far the larger part of the area is not more than 2 miles. The western coasts, in general, are bold and precipitous, and often rise in mural cliffs, pierced with caves and natural arches, or torn and shattered into detached masses and isolated pinnacles; the western district, though nowhere mountainous or wildly upland, comprises a considerable extent of hill and moor; and the other districts, though all comparatively low, likewise include many breadths and patches of moorish land; but some large fertile valleys, possessing the double advantage of a sheltered position and a loamy soil, lie among the hills; and an extensive aggregate of good arable land lies round the moors or along the shores. The parishes into which Pomona is divided are Birsay, Sandwick, Stromness, Evie, Rendall, Harray, Firth, Stenness, Orphir, Kirkwall, St Andrews, Deerness, and Holm; but Birsay and Harray, Evie and Rendall, Firth and Stenness, and St Andrews and Deerness, are each pair mutually united. Pop. (1801) 13, 929, (1831) 15, 787, (1861) 17, 240, (1871) 16,541, (1881) 17,165. See Orkney.

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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