The Name of the Island

Over the last 500 years the name of this small island has had a variety of spellings, a condition by no means unique to this location. Several descriptions of Orkney written in the 16th and 17th centuries exist; in these the island is most often referred to as “Faray” or "Fara.” In the 18th century these spellings continue to be found, but also “Faira” and “Fairay” have been noted. “Pharay” appears in the OPR in 1812 and the census records, the earliest of which are from 1841.

In some cases the name, however it was spelled, was preceded by the word “North.” This was in an effort to distinguish the island from another Orkney island of similar name in the parish of Walls and Flotta, which was then called “South Faray” or “Fara.”

Further, the spelling of “Faray” or “Fara” sometimes caused confusion with a group of islands between Iceland and Norway to the north west of Scotland called the Faroe Islands. To alleviate this problem it was suggested, perhaps by the postal authorities, to use the spelling “Pharay.”

Most residents of the island in the 20th century called the island "Faray” and it is referred to as such in Ordinance Survey maps and other official government and legal documents.

Within this website, unless quoted sources have it otherwise, the island is spelled “Pharay,” as it was written in many genealogical source records when most who are the subject of this site, were in residence.