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Shetland: Descriptive and Historical
Part II: Chapter 32


Melby House—Holm of Collaster.

ADVANCING westwards, 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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