Descriptive and Historical Part II: Chapter 32
Melby HouseHolm of
along the coast of Aithsting, and crossing the mouth of Snarra Voe, we
reach the sequestered parish of Sandness, the northern division of the
ministry of Walls. This is an extensive valley, looking northwards. On
the south it is overhung by a great mountain, called Sandness Hill; and
on the north, its low and, in many places, sandy shores are washed by
the agitated waters of Papa Sound. The valley is very fertile, and
somewhat densely populated. A more thriving and industrious peasantry is
not to be found in Shetland than that of Sandness. Their well-tilled
fields, and well-filled bam-yards, testify to their energy and
prosperity; and the superior quality of their cottages, to the
liberality and kindness of their landlord. Besides the cultivation of
their crofts, their chief employment is the haaf-fishing, for the
prosecution of which the shores of Sandness are very favourably
situated. Many of the men, however, sail to Greenland, or from some of
the southern ports, during the summer season. The manufacture of kelp
affords employment to a few females.
Occupying a prominent
position in the western part of the district, is Melby House, the
residence of Robert T. C. Scott, Esq., of Melby, who, with the exception
of the small lairdship of Snarra Yoe, is sole proprietor of Sandness.
The house of Melby is surrounded, on three sides, by fine gardens,
office houses, and luxuriant grass parks; while in front of the
court-yard is a pretty sea-beach. It commands an extensive view, not
only of Sandness, but of Papa Stour, St Magnus Bay, and the many high
hills and bold headlands that surround it. Mr Scott, of Melby, is a
Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets, and after a long
period of distinguished service as a medical officer in the Royal Navy,
he has returned to his native country to reside amongst his people. In
addition to the many pictures which adorn his mansion, the laird has an
extensive museum of eggs, shells, medals, coins, weapons of warfare, and
objects of worship, collected by himself from all parts of the world.
There is, as yet, no road
to Sandness, hence its great hill most effectually separates it from the
rest of the country, and renders the district very secluded. Sandness
Hill is not only high and steep, but very extensive, so that a journey
over it seriously tests the locomotive powers of the best pedestrian.
There are several fresh-water lakes in Sandness. In the largest of
these, termed the Loch of Collaster, is a small holm, the resort and
breeding-place of myriads of gulls. The islet is preserved by the
proprietor, and the eggs removed by his orders, at certain rare
intervals. Some seasons pass without the birds being disturbed. As many
as from eight hundred to one thousand eggs have been collected on one
visit to the holm.
Sandness is provided with
a Society School. Besides the little Parish Church, it has a Free
Church, and a Congregational and a Wesleyan Chapel. The parish is
regularly visited by clergymen of these denominations from Walls, but
none of these gentlemen are resident in it. It contained, in 1861, a
population of 606; which number, in 1871, had increased to 643.
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