FLITTING - we leave the isles.


The last of my family to be born and bred in Orkney

I don't know exactly when James Stevens Linklater left Orkney to try his luck ‘abroad’ in Scotland. Born in Aith on the 25th October 1850, the 1851 Census noted his 5 month old presence in ‘East Aith’. Come 1861, the last census to record him in Orkney placed him in ‘Aith’. Thereafter he was recorded living in Leith. Records from census returns for him and other close relatives in Orkney up to and including 1911 appear below. For details of James after he left Orkney see James Stevens Linklater.


Above is a detail from the O.S. 1888 showing Aith, a small collection of properties that had once formed the tunship of ‘Aithstown’. Aith is at the eastern end of the Loch of Skaill. The 25” O.S. map shown above shows both West and East Aith, the latter including the Post Office where James was born. After 1861, while James is absent from the Orkney record, his father and mother continued to live in Aith until their deaths in 1874 and 1902 respectively. His father David was born in Kirbister at the northern end of the parish of Stromness, near the border with Sandwick and 2½ miles south of Aith. The town of Stromness is roughly 3½ miles south of Kirbister.

The first census in Scotland was taken in 1821. Not all the records survive, but most of those for Orkney do, including Sandwick and Stromness. Until 1832 the two parishes had been one combined parish. The Sandwick 1821 Census lists ‘area 21’ as Aithstown, Sandwick, and records that Irvines were in possession of property in Aith with no sign of any Linklaters - nor any sign of Janet Irvine, my great-great-grandmother, who was not even a twinkle in her lecherous father's eye at that stage. Before proceeding with the census data, a caveat from the editors of my transcript. “The spelling of house names and surnames etc are often recorded as the enumerator ‘hears’ them and may vary accordingly. The ages of the residents cannot all be accepted as accurate; not everyone knew or wanted to give their true age. Also in 1841 the age of everyone over 15 was rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5, e.g. age 25-29 would be recorded as 25.”

16/6 Eath, Aithstown Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Thomas IRVINE     M 60 Farmer    
2 Sibella IRVINE     F 50 (née Baikie)    
3 James IRVINE     M 19 Strawplaiter    
4 Sibella IRVINE     F 18      
5 Peter IRVINE     M 15      
6 William BELLY     M 10 Servant    

Meanwhile, in Kirbister in the parish of Stromness, my great-great-grandfather David was born two months to the day after the Battle of Waterloo. The Stromness 1821 Census lists ‘area 2’ as Stromness, Kirbister where David and a raft of siblings were recorded as present but precious little else.

2/7 Windywalls Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Peter LINKLATER     M 46 Farmer    
2 Helen TOWERS     F 43      
3 Cath LINKLATER     F 21      
4 Jannet LINKLATER     F 20      
5 Peter LINKLATER     M 16      
6 James LINKLATER     M 14      
7 Thomas LINKLATER     M 10      
8 William LINKLATER     M 8      
9 Robert LINKLATER     M 7      
10 David LINKLATER     M 5      
11 Jacob LINKLATER     M 4      

There was no official census taken in 1831, in which Janet might first have been recorded, born, as she was, on the 19th August 1825 exactly a decade and a day after her future husband. However, the Rev. Charles Cloustonn was evidently a data-fiend and carried out his own sketchy Sandwick census in 1833. [Orkney Archives D3.357] Below are some entries from page 9. D3.357 is mostly a loose list of names without ages and only occasional references to relationships such as ‘wife’ or ‘son’. He sometimes used curly brackets to indicate spouses. There are no names for individual properties and only occasional names of township, Aith being one example. The original page 9 has two main columns, entries in which are sometimes subdivided by additional names with no indication of relationship. This is confusing but relevant to the entries for George Groundwater and James Irvine below. My great-great grandmother, Janet Irvine's parentage is problematic. It follows that my maternal great-greeat-great grandparents are also problematic. The likliest conjecture, supported by information from a member of the Orkney Family History Society [OFHS] is that her father was James Irvine, who subsequently married Margaret Corigal [see below] who was not her mother, and for reasons unknown did not marry Catherine Johnston who was her mother and recorded by Rev. Charles Clouston as resident with George Groundwater, as does the next ‘official’ census in 1841. In 1851 George Groundwater is recorded as a “widower” in a different property but minus Catherine Johnston whose whereabouts then are a mystery. Both James Irvine's and George Groundwater's entries in Rev. Charles Clouston's census have names added alongside those of the principal occupants with no indication of relationship. “Another” is as it appears in the original document.

  Mady [?] IRVINE  
  John her Son    
  George do William
  Catherine JOHNSTON Robert
  Thos. IRVINE}  
  and Wife}    
  Siby IRVINE  
  James IRVINE}  
  Margaret CORIGAL} another
  Janet IRVINE another
  Edwd IRVINE  
  John [Smith?]  

We are back on firmer ground with the next official census for Sandwick taken in 1841 which lists Sandwick area 3 as “composed of the Townships of Yesnaby, Sutherquoy, Unigar, Hartisgarth, Upper Aith, Newgar and Lower Aith.” I have never seen on any map Upper and Lower Aith. Unusually for Orkney, ‘our’ Irvines, including Janet, had a flirtation with -ing as the terminus to their name rather than the more usual -e.

3/56 East Aith Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Sibella IRVING     F 75   Orkney  
2 Sibella IRVING     F 35   Orkney  
3 Janet IRVING     F 15   Orkney  
4 John TAIT     M 12 Herd Orkney  
3/57 Chamber of Aith              
1 James IRVING     M 40 Ag. Lab. Orkney  
2 Margaret IRVING     F 35   Orkney  
3 James IRVING     M 5   Orkney  
4 Matilda IRVING     F 4   Orkney  
5 Jamima [sic] IRVING     F 1   Orkney  

Meanwhile, a considerable dispersal of the Windywalls, sometimes Windywaas, Linklaters had taken place. Peter and Helen, now on their own, continued living at Kirbister. Helen is referred to as ‘Helling’ in my copy of the census. Whether this is an error in the original enumeration or in the transcription from microfilm I do not know. Of David, who would have been about 25, there is no sign. In fact I have found no David Linklaters of any age in the Stromness 1841 Census, and in general David appears not to have been popular as a christian name.

5/19 Kirbister Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Peter LINKLATER     M 65 Ag Lab Orkney  
2 Helling LINKLATER     F 60   Orkney  

The Sandwick 1851 Census splits Aith, placing part in area 3: “consisting of the Townships of Newgar, part of the Township of Aith, Hestwall, Tenston and Wasbuster.” and part in area 4: ”consisting of Skaill, Southerquoy, part of the Township of Aith, Yescanabie, Voy and Lyking.” The aim, for practical survey purposes, seems to have been to arrange each area to contain roughly the same number of people. Janet's father, James Irving [sic], together with his wife Margaret née Corigal and their 7 children Margaret, Isabella, Mareon, James, Matilda, Jamima and Anne all emigrated to Tuckeresmith, Huron, Ontario, in 1842 taking their -ing with them. Ther remaining Sandwick Irvines returned to their senses and henceforth spelled their name with an -e. David Linklater, formerly from Kirbister, having been absent from the Stromness and Sandwick censuses in 1841, pops up again in 1851 with his feet firmly under Janet's table. His birth-place is given for the first time as ‘Stromness’, but this must signify ‘the parish of’ rather than the town. From 1851 marital status was also recorded; here, m = married, um = guess!

3/17 School House Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 James M. AIM Head um M 40 Schoolmaster Kirkwall  
2 William CLARK Nephew;   M 13 Scholar Kirkwall  
3 Janet FLETT Servant um F 26 House servant Rousay  
3/18 East Aith            
1 David HARVEY Head m M 61 Farmer 16 acres Sandwick  
2 Janet SMITH Wife m F 55   Sandwick  
3 Jane STOCKAN Servant um F 16 Outdoor servant Sandwick  
3/19 East Aith            
1 David LINKLATER Head m M 35 Shoemaker Master employing 2 men Stromness  
2 Janet LINKLATER Wife m F 25   Sandwick  
3 Helen LINKLATER Daughter   F 2   Sandwick  
4 James S. LINKLATER Son   M 0 (5 months) Sandwick  
5 Catherine GADIE Servant um F 17 House servant Birsay  
6 John SPENCE Apprentice um M 22 App shoemaker Orkney  
3/20 East Aith            
1 Sibella IRVINE Head Widow F 80 Farmer 14 acres, 1 lab Stromness  
2 Sibella IRVINE Daughter um F 46 Employed on farm  Sandwick  

Again, the Sandwick 1861 Census splits Aith placing part in area 3: “consisting of the Townships of Newgar, part of the Township of Aith and Hestwall, Tenston and Wasbister [sic] including Clumly and Hurtisgarth.” and part in area 4: ”consisting of Skaill, Southerquoy, part of the Township of Aith, Yescanabie, Voy and Lyking.” Only one property in Aith was recorded; the occupants of the school remained roughly the same as in 1851. I am fairly certain that Caroline Linklater, recorded as a servant, must have been the seventh of nine children born to David's half-brother John and his wife Ann Thomson. Caroline was born in 1847, and died in 1893. There is only one Caroline Linklater recorded in the whole of Sandwick for 1851, living at 4/31 Oldvoy with father John, aged 48 farming 10 acres, mother Anne [sic] aged 38, and siblings Margaret aged 15, James aged 12, Jacob aged 9, and William aged 7. The Caroline recorded there however was stated to be aged 4. She would not have been in the 1841 census, but her family were recorded living at 5/15 Kirbister and John, aged 35 described simply as “farmer.” Given that Caroline's birthplace is given as Stromness - again, presumably the parish, I need to check the Stromness 1851 census for other potential Carolines, but I do not currently have a copy. Work in progress etc. but the Kirbister connection is interesting. For now, on with the show. The 1861 Census recorded the highest population in modern times; 32,225. Since then every census has seen a population decline till the nadir of 1971 and a population of 17,077 recorded. Thereafter the numbers have recovered slightly, hovering each side of the 20,000 line.

3/34 Aith Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 David LINKLATER Head m M 45 Merchant Stromness  
2 Jannet LINKLATER Wife m F 35   Sandwick  
3 Helen LINKLATER Daughter   F 12 Scholar Sandwick  
4 James LINKLATER Son   M 10 Scholar Sandwick  
5 Jannet LINKLATER Daughter   F 8 Scholar Sandwick  
6 Barbara LINKLATER Daughter   F 5 Scholar Sandwick  
7 William GARSON Servant um m 16 Ploughman Sandwick  
8 Ann MOAR Servant um F 22 Domestic servant Birsay  
9 Caroline LINKLATER Servant um F 17 Dairymaid Stromness  
3/35 School House              
1 James M. AIM Head um M 53 Schoolmaster Kirkwall  
2 Isabella CLARK Niece   F 13 Boarder Kirkwall  
3 Jannet FLETT Servant um F 35 Housekeeper Rousay  

And that was James Stevens Linklater's last appearance in an Orkney Census. His parents continued to live in Aith. In 1871 the census reunited Aith in area 3 as follows; “consisting of the townships of Newgarth, East and West Aith, Hurtisgarth, Hestwall, Tenston and Wasbuster [sic]” By this time, Helen Linklater was married and living at Howaback which is about 3½ miles north-east of Aith at the northern end of the Loch of Harray in the township of Hourston. I shall include her household as the potential source of our only direct relatives still living in Orkney. James Stevens Linklater had moved to Leith; what became of Jannet is a mystery, leaving just Barbara unfledged. Only one property is recorded in Aith; the School, previously recorded in Aith, is not mentioned, but may be the same as that now recorded 3/5 Schoolhouse as part of Newgarth. Also in Newgarth is 3/9 Cott of Aith. I have not identified this property, but it was occupied by Hugh Harcus, a tailor, and Jane his wife, aged 43 and 50 respectively. As they were ‘furriners’ from Orphir and Firth I omit them.

2/46 Howaback Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Peter WISHART Head m M 33 Farmer of 90 acres of which 50 are arable Sandwick  
2 Hellen WISHART Wife m F 22   Sandwick  
3 James WISHART Son   M 0 (3 weeks) Sandwick  
4 Catherine WISHART Mother Widow F 61 Annuitant Harray  
5 Ann SPENCE Servant um F 18 General domestic servant Sandwick  
6 David FEA Servant um M 14 Farm servant Evie  
3/16 Aith              
1 David LINKLATER Head m M 55 Farmer of 40 acres Stromness  
2 Janet LINKLATER Wife m F 45 (née Irvine) Sandwick  
3 Barbara LINKLATER Daughter   F 15   Sandwick  
4 James HARVIE Servant um M 22 Farm servant Birsay  
5 Jemima TAYLOR Servant um F 28 Farm servant Sandwick  

For 1881 the Sandwick census gives the Parish Details including Aith as follows: “3 - Sandwick. Part of the Civil Parish and School Board District of Sandwick and part of the Quoad [sic] Sacra Parish of Stenness which latter includes the Wasbuster District of the Parish of Sandwick, consisting of the Townships of Newgar, East and West Aith, Hurtisgarth, Hestwall, Tenston and Wasbuster.” Hellen or ‘Ellen’ as she was now recorded, and Peter had been busy. Their home at Howaback remained part of the township of Hourston. By this time Janet was entirely alone. Her husband David had died under somewhat mysterious circumstances just a couple of miles from where he had first drawn breath; “on the evening of Friday the 16th of October [1874] between 6 and 7 p.m. on the Public Road leading from Stromness to Sandwick in the Parish of Stromness and about 1½ miles distant from Stromness.” [Quotation from his death certificate.] ‘1½ miles distant from Stromness’ is about level with the H of Stromness Parish on Thomson's map - see page dealing with Aith. Janet and David's youngest daughter Barbara, the only one of their children recorded as still living at home in the previous census, had sadly died of consumption in Edinburgh. James Stevens Linklater was the informant [witness] on her death certificate. There were now 4 properties recorded in Aith. The Cott of Aith appears to have vanished along with its occupants; there are no records for Harcus in the 1881 Sandwick census.

2/63 Howaback Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Peter WISHART Head m M 43 Farmer Sandwick  
2 Ellen WISHART Wife m F 32   Sandwick  
3 James WISHART Son   M 10 Scholar Sandwick  
4 George WISHART Son   M 8 Scholar Sandwick  
5 Peter WISHART Son   M 6 Scholar Sandwick  
6 John WISHART Son   M 4   Sandwick  
7 William WISHART Son   M 0 (8 months) Sandwick  
8 Cecelia HARPER Servant   F 18 General servant Stenness  
9 William JOHNSTON Servant   M 20 Farm servant Sandwick  
3/23 Aith Post Office              
1 Janet LINKLATER Head Widow F 54 Post Mistress Sandwick  
3/24 Aith              
1 John STOCKAN Head m M 45 Merchant and grocer Sandwick  
2 Janet H. STOCKAN Wife m F 28   Sandwick  
3 Elen J. STOCKAN Daughter Widow F 1   Sandwick  
4 John G. STOCKAN Son Widow M 0 (2 months) Sandwick  
5 Caroline WISHART Daughter   F 18 General domestic servant Sandwick  
3/25 Aith              
1 John CLOUSTON Head m M 53 Farmer Stenness  
2 Christina CLOUSTON Wife m F 65   Stenness  
3 Samuel CLOUSTON Son   M 16 App joiner Stenness  
4 Ann CLOUSTON Son Daughter F 21   Stenness  
5 Mary Ann DICK Visitor   F 20 Farmer's daughter Stenness  
3/26 West Aith              
1 Eliza INKSTER Head Widow F 65 Farmer Sandwick  

In 1891 the Sandwick Parish Details were identical to those above for 1881 save that only East Aith was named, with no mention of West Aith. Hellen continued to drop her aitch as well as her guard with Peter as attentive as ever. Janet acquired an extra ‘n’ in her name but, apart from being ten years older, continued much as before.

2/67 Howaback Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Peter WISHART Head m M 52 Farmer Sandwick  
2 Ellen WISHART Wife m F 42   Sandwick  
3 James WISHART Son   M 20   Sandwick  
4 George WISHART Son   M 18   Sandwick  
5 Peter WISHART Son   M 16   Sandwick  
6 John WISHART Son   M 14 Scholar Sandwick  
7 William WISHART Son   M 10 Scholar Sandwick  
8 David WISHART Son   M 7 Scholar Sandwick  
9 Thomas A. WISHART Son   M 1   Sandwick  
10 Eliza Ann PEACE Servant   F 16 General domestic servant Sandwick  
3/16 Sandwick P.O.              
1 Jannet LINKLATER Head Widow F 65 Postmistress Sandwick  
3/27 Aith              
1 Thomas SPENCE Head WidowER M 36 Farmer Sandwick  
2 George SPENCE Son   M 11 Scholar Birsay  
3 Jacob SPENCE Son   M 9 Scholar Birsay  
4 Thomas SPENCE Son   M 9 Scholar Birsay  
5 Catherine SPENCE Sister um F 40 Housekeeper Sandwick  
6 George SPENCE Brother um M 34 Farmer Sandwick  

Parish Details for Sandwick in 1901 were identical to those for 1891. Some new abbreviations were introduced: M for Married and S for Single; under ‘Occupation’ E = Employer; O = working on Own account; W = Worker [presumably someone employed]; H = working at Home.

2/72 Howaback Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Hellen WISHART Head Widow F 52 Farmer (E) Sandwick  
2 James WISHART Son m M 30   Sandwick  
3 Jane J. WISHART Daughter in Law m F 32   Sandwick  
4 John H. WISHART Son S M 24 House carpenter (W) Sandwick  
5 William H. WISHART Son S M 20 Mason (W) Sandwick  
6 Thomas H. WISHART Son   M 11 Scholar Sandwick  
7 Thomas GARSON Servant S M 43   Birsay  
3/16 Aith Post Office              
1 Janet LINKLATER Head Widow F 75 Post Mistress (W) Sandwick  
2 David WISHART Grandson S M 17 Post Runner (W) Sandwick  
3/17 Aith              
1 William MANSON Head M M 36 Farmer (W) Stromness  
2 Margaret A. MANSON Wife M F 28   Firth  
3 Emmelina MANSON Daughter   F 0 (7 months) Stromness  

Sandwick 1911 Parish Details were simply stated as “Sandwick”. Janet died where she had spent the whole of her life, in Aith, on 17th September 1902 and thus does not feature in the 1911 census. With her death our last direct link to Orkney was severed. Her grandson, David Wishart, one of at least seven of Helen's sons, was the informant on Janet's death certificate but come the 1911 census there is no sign of him in Sandwick. He and his six brothers were my great uncles. In the 1911 census Howaback appears as two properties for the first time. A Howaback Cott had been recorded once in 1871, with a single occupant; Ann Wishart, born in Sandwick 71 years previously was the unmarried ‘head’ of the household and a ‘stocking knitter.’ Thereafter Howaback Cott was not recorded. I include the occupants of both the Howaback properties enumerated in 1911. Some further refinements in census recording were introduced. Each house had the number of rooms with windows recorded e.g. Howaback (3 r/w) had 3 rooms with 1 or more windows. Married women also had the length and ‘output’ of their marriage noted e.g. Jeannie Wishart's marriage of 10 years, with 4 children of whom 3 were surviving to show for it appears as (Mar: 10y,4,3).

2/65 Howaback (3 r/w) Position Status Sex Age Occupation Born  
1 Ellen WISHART Head Widow F 62 Retired farmer Sandwick  
2 John H. WISHART Son S M 34 Real estate agent, own account Sandwick  
3 Thomas A. WISHART Son S M 21 Ironmongers assistant, Worker Sandwick  
2/66 Howaback (3 r/w)              
1 James WISHART Head Mar M 40 Farmer, employer Sandwick  
2 Jeannie WISHART Wife Mar F 42 (Mar: 10y,4,3) Sandwick  
3 Ella WISHART Daughter   F 9 School Sandwick  
4 Jane Jemima WISHART Dauhter   F 6   Sandwick  
5 Mary Lily WISHART Daughter   F 3   Sandwick  
3/16 Aith No 1 (2 r/w)              
1 Georgina FINDLATER Head S F 36 General servant (Domestic) Sandwick  
2 Mary STANGER Mother S F 75 Private Means Kirkwall  
3 William LINKLATER Son in Law M M 26 Cattleman, worker Harray  
4 Mary A. LINKLATER Daughter M F 23 (Mar: 1y,1,1) Stromness  
5 Antonia JOHNSTONE Grand Daughter   F 4   Sandwick  
6 Ruby J. LINKLATER Grand Daughter   F 1   Sandwick  
3/17 Aith No 2 (4 r/w)              
1 John LINKLATER Head M M 38 Labourer, farm Sandwick  
2 Jane LINKLATER Wife M F 32 (Mar: 9y,1,1) Sandwick  
3 John LINKLATER Son   M 8 School Stromness  
3/18 Aith No 3 (4 r/w)              
1 Peter BRASS Head M M 40 Carpenter, own account, at home Sandwick  
2 Mary A. BRASS Wife M F 42 (Mar: 10y,2,2) Sandwick  
3 Adaline J. BRASS Dau   F 8 School Sandwick  
4 James B. BRASS Son   M 6   Sandwick  
5 Margaret LINKLATER Mother in Law Wid F 79 Government pensioner Sandwick  
3/19 Aith No 4 (2 r/w)              
1 William HOURSTON Head M M 25 Joiner and fisherman, own account, at home Evie  
2 Margaret HOURSTON Wife M F 25 (Mar: 2y,2,2) Sandwick  
3 James W. HOURSTON Son   M 2   Sandwick  
4 David HOURSTON Son   M 0 (5 months) Sandwick  

Thereafter we have been “strangers in a strange land”, condemned to the ignominy of being ‘tourists’ or, even worse, ferry-loupers.

© 2018 Duncan Linklater Sennachie.