David LINKLATER 1815-1874

18th Aug 1815

Born in Windywalls, Kirbister, Stromness, Orkney

2nd Sep 1815

Christened in Stromness, Orkney

12th Mar 1846

Married Janet IRVINE in Sandwick, Orkney

16th Apr 1849

Birth of daughter Helen Wylie LINKLATER in Sandwick, Orkney

25th Oct 1850

Birth of son James Stevens LINKLATER in Sandwick, Orkney

13th Jun 1853

Birth of daughter Jannet Halcrow 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

Died near Stromness, Orkney

Decennial censuses were held in Scotland from 1801. The official returns for the first four were destroyed, but the 1821 enumerators’ notes for some parishes survive. Among those to survive were returns for Sandwick and Stromness, the two parishes of most immediate interest for my family. There was no official census taken in 1831. The first universal, archived census was taken on 7 June 1841. Most of what follows will concern Sandwick, although David was born in Stromness.

The 1821 census contained a column encouraging respondents to say where they were born, but no information is recorded for any individual in either Sandwick or Stromness in 1821; presumably because, if everyone was native to Orkney, it was considered unnecessary to reiterate the blindingly obvious. In 1841 the Sandwick census recorded that every individual had been born in ‘Orkney’ apart from 5 others who were born in ‘Scotland’. Subsequent censuses contained more detail, usually identifying in which Orkney parish an individual was born.

David Linklater married Janet Irvine in 1846 and both were recorded in 1851 as living at East Aith [ED 3/19] in the parish of Sandwick with, among others, children named James S. and Barbara. David was 35, born in Stromness and a “Shoemaker Master Employing 2 men”. David's birth certificate states that he was “lawful son to Peter Linklater Carbister and Nelly Towers born the 18th Aug. (1815) and baptized the 2nd (September) by the Revd. Wm. Clouston.” In the nine entries on the same page of the parish register as the above, the father’s names are given as follows;

  • W. Baikie of the Custum (sic) house...
  • John Spence Sailor...
  • Peter Leask Shoemaker...
  • Wm. Brown belonging to the Parish of Birsay...
  • Wm. Sabiston School Master...
  • Peter Linklater Carbister...
  • Magnus and Gordon Flett... (sic - presumably a cockup)
  • Daniel Wilson and Jannet Anderson...

The name ‘Carbister’ is pretty clearly written. No such place now seems to exists in Orkney and it must refer to Kirbister, sometimes spelled Kirbuster, a township about 4 miles north of Stromness, just west of the northern end of Loch of Stenness.

The 1821 Stromness census records (ED 2/7) a Peter Linklater, 46, farmer, living at ‘Windywalls’ (sic) with his fecund (more sic - not second!) wife Helen Towers, 43, and the following Linklaters; Cath 21, Jannet 20, Peter 16, James 14, Thomas 10, William 8, Robert 7, David 5 (my great-great-grandfather), and Jacob 4. Peter and Helen’s household accounts for over 16% of all Linklaters in the Stromness 1821 Census so fecund was pretty apposite. I can find no trace of any of them in either the Stromness or Sandwick 1841 censuses, nor indeed any further reference in the censuses to a property called ‘Windywalls’ [sometimes spelled ‘Windywaas’] save only in connection with Stromness parish and not Sandwick. [The two parishes were not formally separated until around 1832.] The property may well have had ‘windy walls’. Many early Orkney ‘but and ben’ dwellings lacked plaster on their walls; when applied, the ‘plaster’ was often part cow-dung, readily obtainable from beasts living under the same roof. The wind certainly huffs and puffs in Orkney, and ‘Windywalls’ has long since vanished and is not shown on any OS map that I have seen, but a sketch map of the township of Kirbister by J.S. Clouston (OA D23/1/8) shows a ‘Windywas’ at about GR 248 141, roughly a mile west of Kirbister. In the light of information from Brian Chalmers it seems more likely that the grid ref. should be 241 141 at or close to a property called ‘Appiehouse’. There is apparently no trace of it today; it was most likely levelled at the time of the agricultural improvements of the mid 19 C. While Kirkwall should properly be Kirkwaa, deriving its name from the Norse Kirkjuvagr (Church Bay) and later corrupted to Kirkvoe and Kirkwaa before finally settling on the nonsensical Kirkwall, the reverse would seem to be the case with Windywalls; any suggestion of a ‘bay’ by spelling the name Windywaas, is equally non-sensical. The Stromness 1841 census lumped individuals together by township rather than referring to individual properties. As noted above, David surfaced oficially in the Sandwick 1851 census.

  Condition Sex Age Occupation Born  
1851 3/19 East Aith David Linklater Head M M 35 Shoemaker Master - Stromness  
      employing 2 men    
  Janet Linklater Wife M F 25   Sandwick  
  Helen Linklater Daughter   F 2   Sandwick  
  James S Linklater Son   M 0 (5 months) Sandwick  
  Catherine Gadie Servant um F 17 House servant Birsay  
  John Spence Apprentice um M 22 App Shoemaker Orkney  
1861 3/34 Aith David Linklater Head M M 45 Merchant Stromness  
  Janet Linklater Wife M F 35   Sandwick  
  Helen Linklater Daughter   F 12 Scholar Sandwick  
  James Linklater Son   M 10 Scholar Sandwick  
  Jannet Linklater Daughter   F 8 Scholar Sandwick  
  Barbara Linklater Daughter   F 5 Scholar Sandwick  
  William Garson Servant um M 16 Ploughman Sandwick  
  Ann Moar Servant um F 22 Domestic Servant Birsay  
  Caroline Linklater Servant um F 17 Dairymaid Stromness  
1871 3/16 Aith David Linklater Head M M 55 Farmer of 40 acres Stromness  
  Janet Linklater Wife M F 45 (nee Irvine) Sandwick  
  Barbara Linklater Daughter   F 15   Sandwick  
  James Harvey Servant um M 22 Farm servant Birsay  
  Jemima Taylor Servant um F 28 Farm servant Sandwick  

Aith in Sandwick must have been Janet Irvine’s property. While there is no record of David in Sandwick in 1841, Janet was living at Aith aged 15 - see table above - and may have been born there. There is a certain amount of confusion [certainly in my own mind!] as to what exactly is signified by some place names, e.g. Sandwick and Aith. There is now no such place as Sandwick other than the parish, so Sandwick Post Office and Aith Post Office may refer to one and the property. [It was suggested to me by James Irvine [J.I. below] that Aith Post Office was what is now ‘Mount Pleasant’, half way up the hill on the left going from the Loch of Skaill towards Trinnigar, with an old phone box outside. I have an image of the building taken in 2015. Aith is at the eastern end of the Loch of Skaill around which cluster various ‘Aith’ buldings as noted on current and earlier maps. There are now two t-junctions at Aith the more southerly of which is between the north-south B9056 and the B9055 which branches east then south-easterly between the Lochs of Harray and Stenness. The first few hundred yards of the B9055 are fairly straight and go up a slight incline before a distinct kink to the right. A short distance further Mount Pleasant is on the left. The presence of the auld-farrant red phone box is idicative of a possible former post office. I spoke to a passing resident who rembered collecting Child Benefit “years ago” from ‘Mount Pleasant’ which is now a private residence whose owner was out when I was last there in 2015. The kink in the road is clearly indicated on many old maps e.g. various of the O.S. published in the 1880s and roughly contemporary with Janet and David's occupancy of the Post Office, but no building is marked where Mount Pleasant now is. However, clearly marked on the same maps is a Post Office at or near the t-junction by the Loch of Skaill. No map shows any Post Office near or beyond the kink.] There is a theory that there was a township called Sandwick around 900-1300 in what is now the Links of Skaill, by the Bay of Skaill, from which the parish took its name, but it suffered the same fate as Scara Brae and was engulfed in sand. Aith itself seems to signify, to varying degrees, both one or several separate properties as well as a township. [The Aith properties were clustered around the eastern end of the Loch of Skaill, as opposed to the township which extended from Croval to Stockan, away up near the Mill of Rango. J.I.] Townships evolved from clusters of properties resulting from sub-division of a udal property among heritors. [I think not. They are generally larger than udal properties, and often included earldom and/or bishoprick land - originally only about 1/3 of Orkney was udal. J.I.] Orkney land tenure is fiendishly complicated!

Census data shows David progressing from being a “shoemaker employing two men” in 1851 to being a “merchant” in 1861 , before ending as a “farmer of 40 acres” in 1871. The 1861 census states his son “James S” (James Stevens Linklater, my great-grandfather) was aged 10. Come the next census James is absent from the Sandwick record. He ultimately became a merchant on his own account in Leith. See James Stevens Linklater for more about him.

David failed to appear in the 1881 census for the simple reason that he died in 1874. In spite of that, he was named in Peace’s Almanac for 1875 as the Sandwick Postmaster. The almanacs for 1873 and 1874 also named David as postmaster; prior to that a John Linklater was given as Sandwick postmaster. Among six half-siblings from his father's first marriage, David had a half-brother called John’s b. 1802 d. 1887 [see HERE]; whether this John was the Post Master is unclear. From 1876-1902 the Almanac names Mrs Linklater as the Sandwick Postmaster (sic). This was Janet Linklater née Irvine q.v.

The exact circumstances of David’s death are something of a mystery. On the 16th October 1874 he was found dead on the road to Sandwick about a mile and a half from Stromness. Foul play seems not to have been suspected. Certainly the ‘roads’ at the time left a great deal to be desired. Nine years previously, Thomas Davidson walked from Kirwall to Sandwick on the 18th December 1865 when aged about 27 and wrote;

I had quite an interesting walk to Sandwick... I had a good road for seven or eight miles across the plain of Stennis; then I had to leave what they called the “made road” and turn into one which was never made, but, like Topsy, had simply “growed.” It was a cruel, bad road - now spreading away out in tracts innumerable over the heath, as if a hundred carts had crossed the moor abreast - then running suddenly into one gorge, half-a-foot deep of mud and water - as if the carts had all at once fallen in behind each other and tried it in single file. To consumate the joke, it fell dark as I entered on this interesting line of march. You may imagine, then, what fun it must have been. I stood still a dozen times to look up at the stars and laugh aloud; indeed, I was compelled to halt from the fact of my having stuck, and, the work of extrication requiring to be gone about with much caution, as a single impatient jerk might have left the jerked foot shoeless ! [James Brown: The Life of A Scottish Probationer Glasgow, 1889 p. 130]

As he was heading for ‘The Manse’ in Sandwick (which, incidentally, he describes as “a very solitary place”) Davidson would, in all probability, have passed through Aith, where, had he in fact lost a shoe in transit, he could have been supplied by David Linklater, Post Master, general merchant and cobbler. In 1865 I imagine the road to Sandwick from Kirkwall must have been comparable to that from Stromness, the latter being that on which David collapsed on 16th October 1874. David's death certificate reads as follows.

1874. Deaths in the Parish of Stromness in the County of Orkney
  No. 44
Name and Surname: David Linklater
When and Where Died 1874. On the evening of Friday the 16th of October 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.
Age: 59 years
Name, Surname & Rank or Profession of Father: [no entry]
Cause of Death, Duration of Disease, and Medical Attendant by whom certified. Rupture of the heart. Certified by Charles Macpherson. M.B.L.R.C.S.E. Stromness who made a post Mortem examination of the body.
Signature and Qualification of Informant, and Residence, if not of the House in which the Death occurred: Registered on the information of John Macrae, Procurator Fiscal 1840-1888, Ancestor of the present Laird of Breckness.
When and Where Registered, and Signature of Registrar: 1874, October the 29th at Stromness J.H. Velzian Registrar

M.B. signifies Medical Bachelor and L.R.C.S.E. Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.