James IRVINE  IRVINE David LINKLATER Helen Wylie LINKLATER James Stevens LINKLATER Jannet Halcrow LINKLATER Barbara Watt LINKLATER Catherine JOHNSTON tree

Janet IRVINE 1825-1902

Also known locally as Jennie o Aith

19th Aug 1825

Born in Sandwick, Orkney

15th Oct 1826


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

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

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 When I first came across this image I got very excited, thinking that it might show Janet Linklater née Irvine seated at centre but it pretty soon became clear that it could not be. There were, and remain 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 was more wishful thinking! But if the woman shown is not Janet Linklater, who could it have been?

The answer is to be found in a booklet by Arthur Hourie called ‘A Labour of Love; working on the land’ which I think he published himself in about 2008. The image above appears on page 1 of his booklet with these remarks.
I was born at Mount Pleasant in the parish of Sandwick on 12th September, 1925. The house was better known as the Post Office, and my mother was the postmistress there for thirty years. She was Margaret Allan, born in 1886 at Aith, Sandwick, and who died at Heathfield in 1954, aged 68. The ‘telegraph boy’ standing at left was known as ‘Boozie’; the author never knew ‘Boozie's’ proper name, but the rest of the information tallies well census and other data cited below.

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;

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
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
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;


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 with everlasting torment for her parents for the sin of fornication, but on the other hand, by recording the sins of the father and mother Janet was branded for life and carried the stain even to her grave, her illegitemacy being noted on her death certificate.

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.

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