Introduction / The Island
An early traveller, generally given the name Jo Ben, had a favourable impression of Pharay away back around 1529: “This island is very good for beasts, especially cows which crop the thickets there with great melody, and the children here sing to the brutes. The whole island is full of grain and fish.”
The description from Johan Blaeu in his first atlas of Scotland, published in 1654 says little about life and merely the briefest of descriptions: “……in a very savage and boundingly rising sea, lies North Fara, about three miles long, but restricted with few buildings, and not unfortunate in commodities, for the custom of the country; there are two grassy holms between it and the island of Westray.”
Rev John Anderson, the minister for the united parish of Stronsay and Eday, in the “First Statistical Account of Scotland” (1790s) speaks of Pharay lying “west from Eday, at a distance of a mile and a half, the west side of which is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, which rushes with great rapidity through [the] Westray Firth: This inlet of sea separates the islands of Westray on the North and Rousay on the South: From this cause, the island of Fairay is much exposed to having its crops damaged by the spray of the sea. This island, and two holmes pertaining to it, are well adapted to the pasture of cattle and sheep; and tang grows on some of its shores, for the manufacture of kelp.”
The land on Pharay itself is indeed good for farming. However its geography, with small size, numerous small geos and the sea cutting communication with Eday and Westray for periods contributed to its isolation.