James IRVINE  IRVINE David LINKLATER Helen Wylie LINKLATER James Stevens LINKLATER Jannet LINKLATER Barbara Watt LINKLATER Catherine JOHNSTON treeI29.gif

Janet IRVINE

also known as Janet LINKLATER

19th Aug 1825 - 17th Sep 1902

Life History

19th Aug 1825

Born in Sandwick, Orkney

15th Oct 1826

Christened

12th Mar 1846

Married David LINKLATER in Sandwick, Orkney

Info from Brian Chalmers, OFHS.

16th Apr 1849

Birth of daughter Helen Wylie LINKLATER in Sandwick, Orkney

25th Oct 1850

Birth of son James Stevens LINKLATER in Sandwick, Orkney

28th Feb 1853

Birth of daughter Jannet LINKLATER in Aith, Sandwick, Orkney

13th Aug 1855

Birth of daughter Barbara Watt LINKLATER in Aith, Sandwick, Orkney

2nd May 1873

Death of daughter Barbara Watt LINKLATER

16th Oct 1874

Death of David LINKLATER in Stromness, Orkney

21st Aug 1899

Death of son James Stevens LINKLATER in St Andrew, Edinburgh, Scotland

17th Sep 1902

Died in Aith, Sandwick, Orkney

postmistress.jpg

Is this Janet Linklater née Irvine, the face that launched a thousand packets? The answer is “probably not.” But then there are a lot of unanswered questions about my great-great-grandmother, Janet Irvine. The date in the caption is probably correct so the woman cannot reasonably be supposed to have been my great-great-grandmother who would have been 74 in 1900. The photographer, Robertson, only moved to West Mainland in the 1890s [New Orkney Antiquarian Journal v, 19, 2011] so it is unlikely the photograph was taken much earlier unless he had made previous trips to the area, which of course he might well have. Were it to be Janet, the young man standing at left in the image could have been her grandson David Wishart, who was her post runner and lived in the same house for a number of years – but that is more wishful thinking! (The image above was taken from ‘Orkney From Old Photographs’ by Gordon Wright, 1981.) And if the woman shown is not Janet Linklater, who could it have been?

Let’s start with the bricks and mortar. The exact location and identity of the building in the image are not clear. It is possible that the sign read “(some other place), Sandwick. Post. Office.” [The punctuation was the sign-writer’s, not mine.] Sandwick is quite a large parish – see map below – an entity rather than a single place. At various times it has had more than one post office. From census data the only real contender for the above building seems to be in the township of Aith (or Aithstown); ‘Aith P.O.’ and ‘Sandwick P.O.’ probably referring to one and the same property. These are the properties recorded as actual post offices in Sandwick census data from 1891-1911 and those whose occupants were post office workers;

  SANDWICK 1891
1/50 Stove P.O., Jemima Kirkness, head, S, 52, Post Mistress
2/47 Smithfield Inn, John Spence, head, M, 36, Postmaster
3/16 Sandwick P.O., Jannet Linklater, head, W, 65, Postmistress
  SANDWICK 1901
1/25 Iverach, Jane Harvey, daughter, S, 30, Post runner
1/78 Quoyloo P.O., Jemima Kirkness, head, S, 62, Post Mistress
2/52 Smithfield Inn, Williamina McKay, sister-in-law, S, 32, Post Mistress
3/16 Aith P.O., Janet Linklater, head, W, 75, Post Mistress and
    David Wishart, grandson, S, 17, Post Runner
3/42 Doehouse, John Merriman, visitor, S, 32, Sorting clerk, postal service
4/39 Croval, David Brown, head, M, 44, Farmer & post runner
  SANDWICK 1911
1/34 Quoyloo P.O., Jemima Moar, head, M, 38, Sub PostMistress, Post Office
1/49 Esco, William S. Moar, head, M, 36, Auxiallry Postman, Post Office
2/48 Post Office House, Wilhemina McKay, head, S, 39, Postmistress
3/23 Mount Pleasant, Margaret Allan, daughter, S, 25, P. O. Assistant, At Home and
    John Allan, son, S, 23, Postman and
    Robert Allan, son, S, 20 Postman
 

Map references for properties identified above as P.Os or having Post Masters or Post Mistresses resident are as follows;

  • Aith / Sandwick:   249 178
  • Croval:   246 170
  • Esco:   249 210 [?]
  • Iverach:   245 211 [?]
  • Mount Pleasant:   25? 15? [south-east of Aith]
  • Stove:   247 207
  • Smithfield:   294 208
  • Quoyloo: 247 207

[Note to myself: Margaret Wishart 1857-1920 married David Allan 1841-1925 who died at Mount Pleasant (St Peters 1F68). JI]

Janet Irvine was born the 19th August 1825. Her birth is recorded thus;

b_janet_1826.jpg

Janet’s is the fourth of six births recorded on that page of the parish baptismal register. The entries follow a set pattern; name of child, date of birth, lawful son or daughter to name of father, name of mother, residents of, baptized on such and such a date by, in all but one instance on this page, the Revd. Mr Charles Clouston.

However, as will be seen from the image, Janet’s introduction was not smooth. Hailed initially as “Lawful” that word is crossed out [could one add “furiously”?] and the word “natural” written above. It could have been worse; the term ‘bastardus’ was precisely defined for Scottish lawyers by John Skene at the end of the sixteenth century as; “Ane bairne vnlauchfully gotten outwith the bande of mariage”. (‘De Verborum Significatione’) So flustered by this was the Revd. Mr Charles Clouston, or whoever was recording the happy event, that the mother’s name, Catherine Johnston, was initially inscribed before that of the father, James Irvine. But that would never do; so Catherine was scratched out and put in her proper place behind James Irvine, having already spent too much time, presumably, in front of him. Thus was Janet introduced to Christian charity, with the promise, on the one hand, of eternal salvation for herself while on the other hand everlasting torment for her parents for the sin of fornication.

Further flustery may also be in evidence. The first year recorded at the head of the page is September 20th 1826 succeeded by births on September 22nd 1826 and September 25th 1826 then under Janet’s birth is recorded as ocurring on August 19th 1825 after which two more births are recorded on September 20th 1826 and October 12th 1826 the exact date of which appears to have been corrected from the 15th. Was 1825 an error caused by the recorder being distracted at having to enter a birth from the preceeding month? or was it, even worse, an event that had ocurred more than a year previously? If Janet was really born in 1825, her birth may have been ‘concealed’ for some reason. There is some confirmation 1825 was the actual year of her birth from her death certificate which states that when she died on September 17th 1902 she was 77.

Things do not appear to have improved much after this inauspicious start. Fast forward to 1902 when Janet Irvine’s death is recorded as occurring on 17th September as follows.

d_janet_1902.jpg

In case you can’t make it out, at the bottom of the first column, below her married name, Janet Linklater, is this throw-away line; (widow of David Linklater, Farmer) Illegitimate No parentheses there to cover the stigma of being ‘vnlauchfully gotten outwith the bande of mariage’. Born to sustain thy mother's shame,
A hapless fate, a bastard's name.
Lady Bothwell's Lament
The question therefore arises; why was Janet’s birth never legitimized? The key to answering that lies in identifying exactly who her mother and father were and what their circumstances.

The first census following Janet’s birth should have been held in 1831 but sadly there was no official census taken till 1841. While there was no official census in 1831, the Rev. C. Clouston undertook a private census in 1833 or ‘34 (OA D3/357), in which he recorded for Aith: Thomas Irvine and his wife Sibby; James Irvine and his wife Margaret Corigal with ‘their’ daughter Janet, and 3 others; Samuel Rolland and Janat Moar, servants; and Thomas Inkster, his wife, and their children Isabela, David, Mary and George.

However there was a census shortly before Janet’s birth in 1821 from which the records for Sandwick and Stromness survive. In the parish of Sandwick there are 3 records of a James Irvine. [There were no Irvings recorded till 1841 and then they were all originally Irvines who chose to become Irvings – for a while at any rate – our James being the one going for the g spot.] But in 1821 there were records for James Irvine as follows;

10/13 at Skaebreck, North Dyke, an 18 year old, apparently un-married
13/21 at Quarrybank, Housegarth, a 35 year old, married farmer
16/6 at Eath, Aithstown, a 19 year old, un-married, strawplaiter.
  At the same address; Thomas Irvine, 60, farmer; his wife Sibella, née Baikie, 50;
  another Sibella, aged 18; Peter aged 15; and William Belly, aged 10, a servant.

[O.S. refs: Skaebreck 238 215; Quarrybank ca. 251 201; Eath 250 178]

There is only 1 record of a Catherine Johnston in the parish of Sandwick in 1821;

11/9 at Vola, Skebra, a 7 year old attending school

For this Catherine at Vola to have been my great-great-great-grandmother would mean her being led down the primrose path of dalliance aged only 11 – pretty unlikely one would hope. Which suggests that on the day the census was taken Janet’s mother-to-be was not within the parish of Sandwick whereas her probable father almost certainly was. However, the Stromness 1821 census also has a Catherine Johnston;

1/375 : 251 Catherine Johnston, 25, Strawplaiting

She is the only person recorded for that property, with no indication of parents or siblings, nor any other Johnstons in contiguous records, which tend to reflect adjacent properties. The nearest other Johnston is Betty, in the Fraser household 1/378 : 252. Betty was also recorded as 25 and a strawplaiter. They may have been unrelated; they may have been twins; or their ages could have been rounded up or down as was common in early censuses. I am not sure what property exactly is indicated by 1/375:251 other than that it is within rather than outwith the town itself. More work!

So, nota bene; at this stage, we have two people about the right age both of whom are straw-plaiters. Straw-plaiting was big business in Orkney for several decades. By 1814, 1,200 to 1,400 people, mostly women, were involved in the work in Orkney. The standard whack was one penny a yard and a woman could earn 10d to 1/6 a day. [Price of a loaf?] Come 1834, according to one of his account books, Robert Mainland of Kirkwall apparently employed 1,707 people. Of these, 628 were employed in Kirkwall, where the streets were clearly paved with gold. The rest were employed elsewhere in Mainland; 33 in Stromness for example, as well as on several other islands. There were other manufacturers based in Kirkwall (e.g. Ramsay), Stromness (e.g. Heddle) and elsewhere, but from starting out as a factory based manufactory, straw-plaiting evolved into a cottage industry with many women working at home or in quasi-communal workshops. “Just as people gathered together for spinning and weaving, so plaiting also became integrated into the community. Townships often set aside a chaamer for plaiting, so that the work could be done cheerfully in company.” [Fenton, ‘The Northern Isles’ 1978]. They commonly worked 30 or 40 to a room.

Ubi mel ibi apes so small wonder that such places were also the haunt of men. That alone could account for the presence of my g-g-g-grandfather but the unmarried, nineteen-year old James Irvine recorded living at Eath, Aithstown in the Sandwick 1821 census was himself a straw-plaiter. Of the 70 odd straw-plaiters recorded in Sandwick in 1821 only 4 were male, and three of those from one household [13/23] whose head was Ann Linklater! although the surname of these three straw-plaiters was Brass. The only other male straw-plaiter was James Irvine. Among the more ‘manly’ occupations were shoemaker, blacksmith, carpenter or labourer, but the figures are somewhat misleading. Apart from heads of households who were farmers, there were comparatively few recorded males between the ages of 15 and 50. Those that are recorded often have no given occupation. Those ‘missing’ are presumed to have been away at the Davis Straight whaling or Hudson’s Bay.

Although more ‘manly’ occupations were recorded such as shoemaker, blacksmith, carpenter or labourer, the figures are somewhat misleading. Firstly the data recorded in the 1821 census is partial. While place of birth is called for, in not one instance is it recorded, as if the answer was so obvious that it did not need stating; that all those resident in Sandwick were born there. Similarly the recorded data for occupations seems incomplete. Straw-plaiting is the commonest cited occupation, suggesting that it was a tick-in-a-box type question. Many able bodied individuals have no occupation recorded; they can’t all have been on Parish Relief. Only one man, a Thomas Johnston as it happens! is recorded as a ‘beggar’. Mary Kirkness, residing at the same address, Wart in the Township of Wart! seems not to have shared Thomas’ calling and has no occupation recorded. [Sandwick 1821: 8/3]

A census records data only for those present on the day the census is taken. The preponderance of able bodied women over able bodied men suggests that many of the latter were absent. One man is recorded as “in the service of the HB Coy” [Hudson’s Bay Company], one man only is noted as a fisherman, and six as “Sailor Straits” - the straits in question being the Davis Straits, the attraction whales. “Each whaler might want twenty to twenty-five men. In 1816, 34 whaling ships were recorded at Stromness, of which 25 came from Hull. Fifty men from Stromness alone were at the straits in 1821.” [Fenton] Men were recruited in such large numbers for the Northern Fisheries and Hudson’s Bay Company that many parishes noted a decrease in population as was remarked in the First Statistical Account of 1790s.

The Hudson’s Bay Co. liked employing Orkney men because they were “free of the taint of rebellion in favour of the exiled Stuarts, no recruits being forthcoming for that cause even when Stromness and Kirkwall was briefly in Jacobite hands in 1746.” [Troup and Eunson ‘Stromness150 Years a Burgh’ 1967] This was not out of misplaced loyalty for the German usurpers but because the Steuarts, as they sometimes spelled themselves, were hated in Orkney, having been for many years oppressive, petty tyrants. Their dynasty, descendants of Robert, bastardus Jacobi quinti, “vnlauchfully gotten outwith the bande of marriage”, was happily ended in 1615 with the execution of the last of the Stewart earls, father and son, not for their tyranny but for vaunting, treasonable ambition proof of which they had foolishly carved in stone over the gateway of their Palace at Birsay. If I can find a scintilla of sympathy for them at all it is because faulty Latin grammar may have cost them their lives. The inscription ROBERTUS STEUARDUS FILIUS JACOBI 5ti REX SCOTTORUM HOC AEDIFICIUM INSTRUXIT implies that Robert rather than James was king of the Scots. What might have saved his life was use of the genitive REGIS to agree with JACOBI rather than the nominative REX agreeing with ROBERTUS – or so I am told. The prosecution cried “treason!” the defence “clerical error” and might have befitted from the later Dr Johnson’s expert testimony; “In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath.” As it was, one was destined for the block the other the hangman’s rope. Back to our mouton.

A more important circumstance favouring Orcadians was, as noted by Troup and Eunson, that they were “very poor and hence starting wages, rising with each re-enlistment…seemed princely.” In addition they were “accustomed to great hardship and thus could endure the rigours of the Arctic.” [Ib.] By the 1790s three-quarters of the Hudson Bay Company’s employees were recruited from Orkney, several rising to senior positions.

“The main competitor of the Company was the merchant navy and the navy itself during times of war.” [Fenton] Nearly 1¼ per cent of the Navy during the War of the American Revolution was recruited or pressed in Orkney, some 1,200 men in all. [The total population in Orkney in 1821 was about 27,000. 1,200 men must have been at least ten per cent of the male population of working age.] The years immediately preceding the 1821 Census were preoccupied with ridding Europe of Napoleon. What proportion of the Navy then was composed of Orcadians I have yet to discover, but it must have been significant. “It has…been estimated that by the time of Trafalgar there were approximately three thousand Shetlanders in the Navy...This figure…represents…half the adult male population of the islands.” [The People of Orkney, Barry 1986].

One way and another, on 28 May 1821 [check date] any number of able bodied men might have been absent from home in Orkney, but not James Irvine, who, unlike many of the other males of working age for whom no occupation is recorded, gave as his occupation straw-plaiter.

“Sandwick was a kind of straw-plaiting centre. Here winter plaiting was complemented by summer work, reaping and preparing the 9 acres of rye that provided the raw material.” [Fenton] At its peak the industry was worth about £30,000 a year and employed a staggering 7,000 women which must have been nearly half of all the women in Orkney. The population of the whole of Orkney in 1851 was around 31,000. Say 10% were children. [Up to the age of 14 children were commonly recorded as ‘scholars’ thereafter they worked; they often worked much younger e.g. “William Belly, aged 10, a servant” as noted above.] Half of the remainder would have been male, leaving a total pool of around 14,000 women. As an industry, straw-plaiting came to an end in Orkney in the 1870s.

The bulk of the work was making straw boaters which, at the time, were very fashionable – until that is, according to popular legend, Queen Victoria put one on her dog and found the effect so hilarious that the demimonde could not face comparison with the Queen’s pug.

Johnston was not an uncommon name in Orkney; in Sandwick in 1821 there are 35 recorded compared with 39 Linklater and 36 Irvine. Figures for the parish of Stromness in 1821 are; Johnston 31, Linklater 60, Irvine 108 - again, no Irving. So, Catherine Johnston and James Irvine, whoever exactly they were, get it together probably some time in November 1824, when there are an accommodating seventeen hours of darkness in Orkney.

You may do in the dark
What the day doth forbid;
Fear not the dogs that bark,
Night will have all hid.    [Thomas Campion: Hark All You Ladies]

They should have harkened less to Campion and more to Ephesians; “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Because, according to Corinthians: Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. [That’s me stuffed then.] Pithier, from a little later, is: “Flee fornication!” Must have been a bad lot, those Corinthians.

Nine months later, on 19 August 1825 to be precise, Catherine gave birth to Janet. (It is possible that Catherine had already born James “a son” in 1819. Just that – “a son, 1819”, and the correct year of Janet’s birth, are noted on the ‘Irvines of Croval’ spreadsheet q.v.) Apart from being recorded in the baptismal register as noted above, Janet does not resurface officially until 1841 apart from the rather mysterious reference to James Irvine and his wife Margaret Corigal with ‘their’ daughter Janet in Rev. C. Clouston’s 1831 census as noted above. But in the 1841 census Janet herself is recorded, in the first of seven censuses, as living at Aith in Sandwick. The same census also records residents named James Irvine at;

1/6 North Dyke, 35, farmer, married to Catherin (sic) aged 30
1/9 North Dyke, 50, farmer, married to Marrian also 50
3/24 at Mount, a 1 year old.

None of these old die-hard Irvine spellers is our man who, for some reason, in the 1841 census, took to spelling his name with a g rather than an e. Thus we have;

3/57 James Irving, Chamber of Aith, 40, agricultural labourer. Married to:
  Margaret Irving aged 35; another James Irving, 5; Matilda Irving, 4;
  and Jamima Irving aged 1.

Living in an adjacent property were Janet with her presumed aunt Sibella, sister to the above James, and their mother, also Sibella who, most tellingly, all follow James’ g-shift and are Irvings to a man – except of course there isn’t one because he’s elsewhere;

3/56 East Aith; Sibella Irving aged 75; Sibella Irving aged 35;
  Janet Irving, 15; John Tait, 12, herd.

The most likely link is that provided by the two Sibellas suggesting that the James Irvine recorded in 1821 [16/6] living with them at Eath, Aithstown was most likely to have been my great-great-great-grandfather, and the older Sibella Janet’s grandmother, the younger Sibella her aunt. If true it also means I acquire two new great-great-great-great-grandparents, Thomas Irvine and his wife Sibella, née Baikie. Hello! [Another Baikie, Marion, aged 48, was recorded married to John Johnston in the Sandwick 1821 census and living at East House, Tenstown. Living with them was, among others, Jannet Johnston, yet another strawplaiter – 4/4. ]

4/4 East House, Tenstown: John Johnston, 59, farmer; Marion Johnston née Baikie, 48;
  Jannet Johnston, 27, strawplaiter; John Johnston, 22, showmaker;
  Isabella Johnston, 11; William Johnston, 5.

Let’s have a picture.

sandwick_stromness_thomson.jpgThe collection of buildings referred to variously as Aith, East Aith, Eath, Aith Post Office, Chamber of Aith etc. cluster around the road junction at the eastern end of the Loch of Skaill and marked on the map at right as Aiths Town. Aficionados of Orkney maps might be amazed at the accuracy of this map, based, as it is, on John Thomson’s 1822 original. That’s because I have corrected several errors in the original; even so, there’s still plenty wrong with it! East House is marked EH and Kierfold as K. So; any straw-plaiter from Stromness wishing to confer with his or her sister straw-plaiter in Tenston would very likely have passed through Aith. Indeed, the Tenston sister might have pursued her craft in a communal setting somewhere in Aith itself where Irvines lurked. The clincher, were one required given the two Sibellas and the Clouston census, is that of all the Irvines in Sandwick in 1821 only James and his immediate family members change the spelling of their name from Irvine to Irving. The truth will out James! Why James married Margaret Corgil rather than making an honest woman of Catherine Johnston I have no idea, unless James took the view “why buy the cow when you can steal milk through the fence?” Nor do I know what became of Catherine Johnston. In 1841 there were 3 recorded in Sandwick;

2/7 1 at Linklater (the place), aged 15
2/10 1 at Scaebrae aged 25, yet another strawplaiter
3/54 1 at Kierfiold aged 40, apparently unmarried but in the same household as George groundwater, 55, farmer; William Groundwater, 15; and Catherine Groundwater, 10.

If this lineage holds true then this last is the only Catherine Johnston whose age tallies. If she was actually born in 1796, as suggested by the 1821 Stromness census, the fact that her age is given as 40 is not a killer-blow as ages in early censuses were often arbitrarily rounded up or down by five or so years. But the connection is tenuous at best.

The mists of time smore Catherine closer than a steekit Orkney haar. A slight breeze swirls the mist, briefly revealing the dim outline of a figure before it vanishes again forever. That was Catherine Johnston for whom I can find no convincing record after 1841. George Groundwater, who, as above, had a Catherine Johnston living under the same roof in 1841, is described in the 1851 census as aged 66, a miller and a widower. There were no other Groundwaters recorded in 1841 other than the two minors William and the another Catherine, so what became of ‘Mrs Groundwater’, and when, is not recorded, the 1841 census taking no note of marital status so George could have been a widower in 1841. It is also possible that George married Catherine Johnston after 1841 who then died before the 1851 Census, to be noted only by her absence. There are, however, no records of a marriage between any Catherine Johnston and a Groundwater between 1841 and 1851, nor any deaths of any convincing Catherine Johnstons between 1841 and 1900.

Nor was there any Irving in Sandwick in 1851; the two Sibellas, aged 80 and 46, reverted to Irvine and were living at East Aith [3/20] whereas Janet, now aged 25, had become Mrs David Linklater and, along with an expanding household, was also living at East Aith [3/19]. Indeed, from 1821 to 1911 there is no Irving recorded in Sandwick other than those noted above in 1841. That said, in Orkney Irving was the more popular spelling in the C18, Irvine in the C19. As for James Irvine/Irving, according to one source he, his wife Margaret and their unnatural children Margaret, Isabella, Mareon, James, Matilda, Jamima and Anne emigrated to Tuckeresmith, Huron, Ontario, in 1842.

There is confusion over the spelling of Janet’s forename as well as her surname. After first appearing as Janet Irving in 1841, the censuses records a JANET Linklater in 1851, a JANNET Linklater in 1861, then Janet Linklater (née Irvine) in 1871, Janet Linklater in 1881, another JANNET Linklater in 1891 before a final Janet Linklater in 1901. ‘Jannet’ was not an aberrant spelling of my ancient ancestor; it was commonly spelled thus by many other individuals.

What is certain is that census records show Janet Linklater née Irvine to have been a postmistress from 1881-1901. She was preceeded in this by her husband David, who became a Postmaster in 1873 according to Peace’s Almanac.

Regular post between Orkney and Edinburgh was established in 1741 followed a few years later by the opening of a post office in Kirkwall in 1747. The need for both was apparent from at least the early 18th C and actively sought by the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall. Amongst the things agitated for in those days [c. 1714] was a post office for Kirkall. And it was needed. When the Magistrates wished a post sent to Edinburgh, what an amount of trouble and expense it entailed! The man who carried the post got twenty-four pounds scots - twelve when he started, and twelve upon his return - and in addition got “half a croun to buy shoes e're he goe of.” [W.R.Mackintosh: Glimpses of Kirkwall and Its People in the Olden Time. Kirkwall, James Anderson, 1887] Moreover, “In the year 1713, it took a letter eight days to reach Kirkwall from Edinburgh, by the quickest route, and sometimes fourteen days, even when it was sent with dispatch.” [Ib.] As early as 1709 the Town Council asked their Commissioner “to do all in his power to have a post-office established in this town upon the public charges of the Government." [Ib.] For many years thereafter, two boats were required to ferry the mail across the Pentland Firth, the mail being passed from ‘sending’ to ‘receiving’ boat at approximately the half way point.

Here are some other observations on Sandwick censuses.

  • 1881    Two other properties were recorded as Aith; ED 3/24 - inhabited by; 4 Stockan, 1 Wishart and ED 3/25 - occupied by; 4 Clouston, 1 Dick; and another as West Aith ED 3/26 – occupied by 1 Inkster. Some of these occupants may have been fairly closely related to David and Janet. E.g. David’s half-sisters married a Sinclair and an Isbister and one full brother also married a Sinclair while another married a Stockan. David and Janet’s own daughter Helen married a Wishart. At a slightly greater remove there were marriages with Brass, Clouston and Inkster.
  • 1891    There was one other property recorded as Aith; ED 3/17 – occupied by 6 Spence.
  • 1901    There was one other property recorded as Aith; ED 3/17 – occupied by 3 Manson.
  • 1911    There are four ‘Aith’ properties recorded; Aith No 1 [ED3/16 – 1 Findlater, 1 Stanger, 3 Linklater, 1 Johnstone,] ; Aith No 2 [3/17 – 3 Linklater]; Aith No 3 [ED3/18 – 4 Brass, 1 Linklater]; Aith No 4 [ED3/19 – 4 Hourston]. In 1911, while there is a sprinkling of Linklaters and others whose surnames often crop up in connection with us, there is no trace of David’s or Janet’s immediate descendants other than their daughter Helen Wishart, mother of David Wishart. I don’t know what became of David Wishart, but his presence in Janet’s household as recorded in the 1901 census is the vital clue as to what became of David and Janet’s eldest child, Helen q.v.

As noted in connection with David Linklater’s death, Peace’s Almanac is not entirely reliable, but published annually it serves to fill in some of the decade long gaps between censuses. Inter alia, the almanac names the postal workers and tradesmen in each parish. In all cases, whether for ‘merchant’ or ‘lodgings’ Janet’s address is given simply as Aith. ‘Mrs’ Linklater, i.e. Janet, is first named in Peace’s Almanac for 1876 as Sandwick Postmaster (sic) as well as being named as a ‘Merchant’. Same again in 1879, but come 1880 Janet apparently ceases to be a merchant but is listed as the only person for Sandwick under ‘lodgings’. Things remain thus until 1903 except that others muscle in on the lodgings business; Wm. Davie at Smithfield Inn in 1882-95. Jn. Spence takes over at Smithfield Inn and Mrs Oag starts at Arrowhouse. 1897-9 has Mrs Linklater, Aith; Jn. Spence, Smithfield Inn; Mrs Oag, Arrowhouse; and David Allan also at Aith, although whether under the same roof as Janet or in another property is unclear. 1900-02 Mrs Linklater was still at Aith; P. Johnston, Smithfield Inn; Mrs Oag, Arrowhouse; David Allan, Aith. Following Janet’s death (in 1902), the 1903 Almanac names D. Allan as Sandwick Postmaster, and Jn. Spence, Smithfield Inn; Mrs Oag, Arrowhouse; David Allan, Aith; and P.Johnston, Smithfield doing lodgings.

I do not know where Janet and David are buried. There seem to be no recorded inscriptions for them in Stromness or Sandwick but that does not preclude the probability of their being buried there. Monumental inscriptions were for the more affluent. So the sins of the parents were visited upon their daughter. Stigmatized at birth, Janet was not absolved even in death, the slur perpetuated in the record of her demise. And yet the terms of her earliest judgement I find reassuringly gentle, humane almost – a natural child. What twisted logic came to arrive at this judgement I cannot begin to understand, but by the same reasoning a legitimate child must be unnatural. A natural child seems a less harsh judgement than an eternity of illegitimacy as sentenced at her death.

In spite of what appears an unpromising start Janet must have had quite a fulfilling life. To be head of household and a post mistress for over a quarter of a century must have meant she was literate, numerate and trustworthy at the very least. At a personal level however, while maybe common enough, out of four children two pre-deceased her and I can find no record of the third, Jannet, born in 1853, who sported two ‘nns’ in the 1861 census as favoured occasionally by her mother. Helen, Janet’s one known daughter to outlive her, married successfully, lived quite nearby and raised a large family.

James, another who died before his mother, also married but after moving away and settling eventually in Leith. He seems to have become quite affluent, sufficiently so to buy his own island but in the Channel Isles rather than Orkney. But James’ quittal of Orkney was symptomatic of the times. Janet’s life arguably spanned a period of greater socio-economic upheaval in Orkney than at any other time since the introduction of metals about 2,000 B.C. ended the Neolithic. “Orkney’s Agricultural Revolution (1848-1880) was a period of compressed and intense change which in a single generation re-drew the landscape, abolished common landand revolutionised the economy.” [People of Orkney, Berry 1986] [stone age diet compared with 19thC diet] Orkney was fortunate in having a greater variety of economy than say the Highlands of mainland Scotland. The cycles of hard times that afflicted many regions of Britain were mediated in Orkney by the development of resources unique to or concentrated in the archipelago.

Kelp…straw-plaiting…whaling…herring…Hudson’s Bay Co… But the greatest upheaval came in the Orcadian Agricultural Revolution which swept through the islands with the irresistible urgency of a tsunami. Property rights for many centuries had been allodial in contrast to the rest of Britain which had early adopted feudatory title. These alloidial rights had been undermined and eroded by many years abuse by the large land owners. Indeed, aspects of udal tenure persist to this day; the Crowns attempt to expropriate revenue from the oil companies for allowing pipeline access across the foreshore was contested successfully and the crown had to forfeit the charges it had sought to levy. Allodial ownership however had its disadvantages, the principle one being the tendency for agricultural holdings to be divided up between heirs into ever smaller and smaller parcels of land.

[ADDITIONAL NOTES]

A search for birth certs 1750-1800 for Peter and Helen in Scotlandspeople produced nil results for either that matched the required ages. [There were no birth certificates in Scotland before 1855. The Scotlandspeople data base pre 1855 is based on the Old Parish Registers for the Church of Scotland. These sometimes included entries for dissenting folk, and there are registers of Free Church baptisms – for Sandwick from 1838 (OA OCR FC26/12, for Stromness from 1843 (OA OCR FC31/6) – but these are only available in the Orkney Archive or on a microfilm in Edinburch (NRS CH3/1100 and 1115 respectively). J.I.]