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Introduction / The Island


The “Account of Produce, &c” contained in the account of the parish of Stronsay and Eday given by Rev John Simpson in the “Second Statistical Account of Scotland” gives a glimpse of the economy of Pharay and the importance of farming and fishing when it was written sometime between 1834 and 1845.

The old run-rig system of agriculture was practiced up until the 1840s when the planking took place. The runs of each house were scattered over the island. The planking created boundaries between the farms, which could be of forty or fifty acres. The Ness was created at this time. A dyke was built around the north end of the island to prevent the sheep coming over from the Pharay Holm. There was consequently less need for sheep herding.

The Holm was common land and the folk had the right to tether cows or sheep there.

The land on Pharay was fairly fertile but exposed to the sea. The main crops were bere and oats Potatoes (tatties) and turnips (neeps) were grown with the rest of the land put down to grass. This was very much the rotation adopted in the latter years.

In Pharay in 1933, only one house had the fields fenced. The rest had the animals tethered. This began to change with others gradually fencing those fields in grass. There were a number of field names, including where the old house of Mounthoolie stood.

Horses or oxen were the usual work animals. Holland at the end of the time had two horses. Some of the bigger farms sometimes used a horse and an ox or a horse and a cow. Sometimes there might be a pair of oxen. Harnesses for the work animals would consist of a straw collar and chains and rope.

A younger oxen would be trained every year and the older was usually sold off after the Spring work when it was about four years old. They might average some fifteen hundred weight. Not many oxen were in use by the 1930s.

The first tractor was owned by Jeemo Seator o’ Holland in the mid 1940s.

The cattle were usually sold as young stores to farmers on Westray or Eday. The shipping of animals could be problematic. The jetty only went on in 1935.

Each house was likely to have a pig in the past, which was kept until it was round sixteen to eighteen stone. It would then be killed for food.

There were hens and ducks but not geese (1930s).

Ploughing took place early in the year following by sowing and planting of tatties. Neeps would have to be “singled”.

Harvest was a busy time of the year. The crop would have been cut by scythe, sheaves made by hand and stooks erected. Tatties would have had to be lifted. There were the harvest holidays from the school and quite often children would be kept off school outwith the holidays to work as all hands were needed at this time.

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