Introduction / The Island
As in many parts of Orkney the manufacture of kelp provided a significant proportion of income long ago. The price of this was high during the Napoleonic Wars but fell away subsequently. This still gets mentioned in the Account of Produce, &c from the Second Statistical Account (c. 1840).
It was made for many years both at the north and south of the island but by 1867, this had largely come to an end. There was a kelp store in the South End by Ware Geo where the jetty was eventually built.
There is reference to quarrying on Pharay in the 19th century although no individual has this as his occupation in the censuses. There were said to be three quarries on the island and that boats shipped the stone to Kirkwall and elsewhere. Also stone from Pharay was originally used in the building of Kirkwall Pier. (The foundation stone for the original pier at Kirkwall was laid on 11th April 1809). It is noted that the Orkney Herald of 5th June 1880 mentions a boat arriving with a cargo of freestone from the quarry in Pharay. It was this boat, which actually brought news of a drowning on the island to Kirkwall. Yellow freestone was certainly quarried at Ringie Geo, near the Nev, on the east side of the island.
Boat work was carried out at the Ness and the 1871 and 1881 censuses give the occupation of William Drummond as boat carpenter. His nephew, Robert Groat, built the “Mary”, which was involved in the rescue of the crew of the “Hope” in 1908. He had moved from Hill (near Lakequoy) to Calfsound, Eday by that time. Robert had in fact been born at the Ness.
The 1861 census has both Janet Drever at Windywa and Jane Drummond at Holland listed as dressmakers. There were three given that occupation in 1871. This designation may well have been dependent upon the census enumerator for dressmaking was not listed subsequently.
As in all small communities, people had to apply themselves to different activities. Consequently, boot or shoemaking also gets mentioned as the occupation of Robert Groat at Quoy in 1861 and 1871.
Women may be designated as housemaids, domestic servants or general servants. The reality of life was that a lot of the farm work was done by the women of the house.
There is mention of weaving in the 1851 census with the occupation of Thomas Drever at Holland being given as weaver and farmer of 10 acres arable and 45 acres pasture. Spinning and knitting also gets mentioned for the women. In 1802, which was a bad year, some of the rent was made up of hanks of spinning wool from sheep on the Pharay Holm.