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"Orkney Islands," from Encyclopaedia Britannica (1797), III

{496} ORKNEY Islands, called Orcades by the ancients, certain islands on the north of Scotland (1), from which they are separated by a frith 20 miles in length and 10 in breadth.

As writing seems to have been unknown in the northern islands, during those periods which the antiquarian would call the most curious and important, the {497} chief part of our information respecting the ancient state of the Orkneys must be derived from tradition and conjecture. Their mountainous situation, and natural jealousy of strangers, obstructed the progress both of knowledge and religion: for instead of receiving either from their southern neighbours, we are certain that they derived their knowledge of Christianity from Norway, during the expeditions undertaken by that nation (in the end of the 10th or beginning of the 11th century) to make settlements in the Orkneys and on the coast of Caithness (2). The best (because it is in all probability the most authentic) account that we have of this early part of the history of the Orkneys, seem to be in Torsæus. See TORSÆUS. His history must, doubtless, have been compiled chiefly from tradition, which is far being the surest mode of information. During the time of Gregory the Great, when by his policy the Picts were driven from other parts of Scotland, they came to the Orcades as an asylum; but it does not appear, and is far from being probable, that they received a favourable reception, for many of them migrated to Shetland, and from thence to the opposite coasts of Norway. A particular history of these islands during those early ages would afford little entertainment, because its authenticity is at least doubtful. These islands were at various times harassed and plundered by adventurers from Scandinavia; and the Norwegian princes frequently laid the inhabitants under tribute.

We have said that the Christian religion was transported to the Orkneys from Norway, and that this happened in the beginning of the 11th century. About which time Sigurdis possessed the entire dominion of those iles, and for many years exercised all the powers of a monarch in the north. At the same time Christianity had dawned on Scandinavia, and had become the established religion in the seat of government in Norway. Its doctrines interwove themselves with the policy of the nation: its principles, so nearly interesting to human happiness, made their farther publication an object of much moment to the adventurous princes, and gave a new law to their enterprizes. While the power of these principles was acting with original force upon the minds of the people, and their zeal rendered them ambitious of any exploit, whereby they could diffuse their influence: Olaus prince of Norway equipped a squadron destined to carry the knowledge of the gospel to other shores. On this pious adventure he was accompanied not only by numbers of all ranks, whom, as usual, a love of enterprise invited; but by many persons of distinguished knowledge and abilities, men of sincere piety, who had become particularly well acquainted with the Christian doctrines, and entertained a deep sense of their infinite importance. These entered into the fleet, joyful in the prospect of spreading the truths which they revered through yet unenlightened countries; and the squadron soon appeared off the Orcades. Olaus got Sigurdis on board of his fleet, with his son, and but a few attendants, and, as the heir of Harold, he claimed all the provinces over which Sigurdis reigned; and at the same time he ordered him to renounce and abjure the religion of his fathers, and to embrace Christianity. Delay was not permitted; Christianity was forced upon him and his subjects; and, on the departure of Olaus, he carried the son of Sigurdis as an hostage for what he had engaged; which was to give honourable protection to all those holy men who might choose to reside in those parts for the purpose of instructing the people in the nature of the Christian doctrines; for many of the more intelligent {498} and religious men who had come from Norway with Olaus, remained in the Orcades and in the north of Scotland, to fulfil their pious resolution of spreading the light of the gospel there. Olaus, with the rest of his followers, sailed on another expedition towards the frith of Moray. The death of Kindius his son, which happened soon after Olaus's return to Norway, released Sigurdis from his engagements with him; and he entered into one with Malcolm II. one of whose daughters he had in marriage, and by whom he had a son, Torphinus. Torphinus's bravery, magnificence, generosity, and hospitality, endeared him to the inhabitants; and he ruled without controul for many years, till Ronald, a grandson of Sigurdis, who had lived in Norway, and who was esteemed the rightful heir of the earldom of Orkney, made a successful descent upon it. Torphinus wished to give him battle; and in a sea-fight, with the assistance of some ships from Arminus, a man who had filled some of the first places in Norway, he totally defeated him. By courting the friendship of that court, his dominions remained quiet for the greater part of his life; the latter part of which was no less eminent for establishing salutary laws, and encouraging the arts of industry, than the former had been distinguished for military fame and success in the exploits of war. He lived to an advanced age, until after Malcolm III. had ascended the throne of Scotland. Torphinus had built a sumptuous church in Byrfa, where the first bishops of Orkney resided. In the decline of life he retired to that island, and, finishing his days with exemplary piety, was with much solemnity interred in the temple which he had raised. His country long lamented the loss of so celebrated a ruler, who had established security in it, through the influence of his laws, and had taught it to enjoy the arts and blessings of peace. He left two sons, Paul and Erland, who through the whole of their lives amicably shared both in the honours and administration of their father's extensive domain. During this period, the northern countries are said to have arrived at a very superiour degree of cultivation and improvement, which became equally conspicuous in the richness of their lands, and in the mildness of their dispositions. Their sons, however, did not both inherit their father's virtues. Magnus, the son of Erland, was pious and peaceable; a great promoter of religion, and anxious in patronising the Romish missionaries, and in protecting the establishments of Christianity: but Hacon, the heir of Paul, was vehement, wild, and impatient of restraint. He saw how Magnus was revered, and envy drove him to revenge; for, by the most deliberate and deceitful villainy, he got Magnus into his power, and murdered him without mercy. The latter part of his life was spent in penance, and in improving his dominions.

Magnus's singular piety, and the manner of his unfortunate death, were so well represented at the court of Rome, that he was canonized. Hacon left two sons, Paul the Silent, and Harold the Orator. Caithness came to Harold, and the Orkneys were governed by Paul.

Ronald, a defendant of St Magnus, an elegant and accomplished youth, appeared at the court of Norway, and was supported in a claim upon the Orkneys, as the heir of the canonized martyr. He sent messengers to Paul, and offered to share the government with him; but this proposal was refused, and the ambassadors were treated with great contempt. They, however, found persons of power disposed to second their master's views; who soon after their return set out, and vowed, if he succeeded, to build a magnificent church, and to dedicate it to St Magnus. All seemed satisfied with the enterprise; and, full of hope, the fleet set sail. Paul in the mean time put himself in a state of defence. By very artful manouevres, however, Ronald obtained his purpose, and willingly shared his sovereignty with Harold, the legal heir of Paul. They lived amicably together; and on the assassination of Ronald, which was accomplished by a proud chieftain, who thought himself insulted, he was buried with great pomp. Harold now fully possessed the unrivaled sovereignty of the north, and lived long to enjoy it. We find that in 1196 he was able to bring 7000 men to the field, and a body of cavalry, against the army of William king of Scotland, but was immediately defeated. In the next year, the Caithnesians rebelled again, headed by one Roderick, and Torphinus, son to Harold. The king met and defeated them near Inverness. Roderick was slain; and William, seizing on Harold in the extremity of Caithness, detained him till Torphinus surrendered himself as an hostage; but on some new treasons of the father, the king according to the barbarity of the times, caused the eyes of the unhappy youth to be put out; and had him emasculated, of which he soon perished in prison. Harold died in the 73d year of his age; and with him ended, in its earls, the independent sovereignty of the north of Scotland. The Norwegians seem to have been in possession of these isles as late as 1266; for then Magnus IV. king of Norway, being worsted in war with the Scots, yielded them to Alexander III. king of Scotland by treaty, and Haquin king of Norway confirmed the possession of them to Robert Bruce in the year 1312. Lastly, in 1464, Christian I. king of Norway and Denmark, when he gave his daughter in marriage to James III. king of Scotland, transferred all his right to them to his son-in-law and his successors; to make which more binding the Pope's confirmation was obtained. We are told by some, that Magnus sold them to Alexander for the sum of 4000 merks Sterling, and a yearly acknowledgment of 100 merks.

They are about 30 in number; but many of them are uninhabited, the greater part being small, and producing only pasturage for cattle. The principal islands are denominated by the names Mainland, South Rolandsha, Swinna, Flotta, Copinsha, Strupensha, Stronsa, Sanda, &c. the terminations in a, or ha, being generally given in the Teutonic to such places as are surrounded by water. The currents and tides flowing between the islands are extremely rapid and dangerous. Near an island called Swinna are two great whirlpools, called the wells of Swinna, which are counted dangerous by mariners, especially in a calm. When sailors find themselves sucked into the vortex, it is said they throw out a barrel, or some bulky substance, which smooths the water till it is sucked down and thrown up at a considerable distance, during which time the ship passes over in safety. But when there is a breeze of wind, these whirlpools may {499} be crossed without any danger. The largest of these islands is called Pomona, in length 33, and in breadth 9 miles, containing 9 parish-churches, and 4 excellent harbours.

The air of these islands in moist, on account of the neighbourhood of the sea; and frost and snow do not continue long. In some places the soil is bare and mountainous, and in others sandy and barren; however, many of the islands produce large crops of barley and oats, but no wheat or other grain excepting what is inclosed in gardens. These, when duly cultivated, produce all kinds of kitchen herbs and roots, bringing even fruit-trees to maturity; but out of them, in the open country, there is scarce a tree or shrub to be seen, except juniper, wild myrtle, heath, and the cyur-hodon: yet this deficiency cannot be imputed to the poverty of the soil, or the nature of the climate; for the trunks of large oaks are frequently dug up in the marshes. This is likewise the case in the most barren parts of the Highlands of Scotland, where not a shrub is to be seen above the surface of the earth: nay, the inhabitants frequently find, deep in the earth, the roots of large trees, evidently exhibiting marks of the ax by which they were felled; so that these northern parts must have undergone some strange revolutions. The Orkneys produce great variety of herbs and berries, grass and corn, which last is exported as far as Edinburgh. In some of the islands, the natives have discovered mines of tin, lead, and silver, though none of them are wrought to any advantage; in others, we find abundance of marl, grey and red slate, quarries of freestone, and even of marble and alabaster. When the wind rages to any violence, the sea throws in plenty of timber, torn from other countries; and, not unfrequently, the people find large pieces of ambergrease. The fresh water in these islands is very pure and limpid; and, though there are no large rivers in the Orkneys, the ground is well watered with lakes and pleasant rivulets, that not only serve to turn their mills, but also abound with trout of the most delicate flavour.

Besides the abundance of little horses, black cattle, sheep, swine, and rabbits, the inhabitants of the Orkneys rear all sorts of domestic animals and tame poultry. Their heaths and commons yield plenty of red deer, and all sorts of game; partridges, growse, heath-cocks, plover, duck, teal, and widgeon: the sea-coast teems with seals and otters; and are visited by whales, cod, ling, turk, herrings, and all manner of fish: on the shore they find spermaceti, os sepiæ, and a great variety of oysters, remarkably large muscles, crabs, and cockles. The rocks are covered with sea-fowl, wild geese, solan geese, barnacles, eagles, hawks, and kites. With respect to the barnacles, or, as the natives call them, the cleck geese, they are said to be found in shells sticking by the bills to trees, in several islands. Martin affirms he has seen them in this situation, but could not perceive them alive; and indeed the whole account of their generation and production, exhibited by the northern naturalists, is absurd and unphilosophical. The Orkney eagles are so strong, that, according to the reports of the country, they have been known to carry away young children in their talons. Certain it is, they make such havock among the lambs, that he who kills an eagle is intitled by law to a hen from every house in the parish where it was killed. The king's falconer visits these islands every year, in order to fetch away the young hawks and falcons from their nests among the precipices: he enjoys a yearly salary of twenty pounds, and may claim a hen or a dog from every house in the country, except those that are expressly exempted from this imposition.

The gentry of the Orkneys are civilized, polite, and hospitable; and live like those of Scotland, from whom they are chiefly descended. They live comfortably, are remarkably courteous to strangers, and drink a great quantity of wine, with which their cellars are generally well stored. Indeed the inhabitants of the Orkneys may be now justly deemed a Scotch colony. They speak the language, profess the religion, follow the fashions, and are subject to the laws, of that people. They are frugal, sagacious, circumspect, religious, and hospitable. Their mariners are remarkably bold, active, dexterous, and hardy. Many surprising instances of longevity occur here, as well as in Shetland, of persons living to the age of 140. The Orkney women are generally handsome and well shaped, and bring forth children at a very advanced age. In the Orkneys, some particular lands are held by a tenure called Udal Right, from Ulcius, or Olaus, king of Norway, who farmed the lands, on condition of receiving one-third of the produce; and this right devolved in succession, without any charter granted by the sovereign. The inhabitants of Orkney, instead of measuring their corn, weigh it in pismores or pundlers. Their least denomination is a mark, consisting of 18 ounces, and 24 marks make a lispound, which is a Danish quantity. The poorer sort of people in the Orkneys appear very meanly habited, with a piece of seal-skin instead of shoes; and living chiefly on salt-fish, are subject to the scurvy. They are much addicted to superstitious rites; in particular, interpreting dreams and omens, and believing in the force of idle charms. The islands of Orkney, we have already observed, produce very bold, able, and hardy mariners. The common people, in general, are inured to fatigue, and remarkably adventurous, both in fishing during rough weather, and in climbing the rocks for the flesh, eggs, and down of sea-fowl. Formerly, while they were exposed to the invasions of the Norwegians, or western islanders, every village was obliged to equip a large boat well manned; and all the fencible men appeared in arms, when the alarm was given by the beacons lighted on the tops of the rocks and highest mountains. These beacons, known by the name of ward-bills, are still to be seen in every island. Their corn land, they inclose with mud or stone walls, to preserve it from the ravages of their sheep, swine, and cattle, which wander about at random, without being attended by herdsmen: their ordinary manure, especially near the sea-coast, is sea-weed, which they carefully gather and divide into equal portions. Their sheep are marked on the ears and nose; but so wild that when they have occasion to shear them in the month of May, they are obliged to hunt every individual, with dogs trained for the purpose. Their manner of catching sea-fowl is curious and particular. Under {500} the rock where these fowls build, they row their boat, provided with a large net, to the upper corners of which are fastened two ropes, lowered down from the top of the mountain by men placed in that station. These hoisting up the net, until it be spread opposite to the cliffs in which the fowls are fitting, the boatmen below make a noise with a rattle, by which the fowls being frightened, fly forwards into the bosom of the net, in which they are immediately enclosed and lowered down into the boat; others practise the method used in Iceland and Norway, and are lowered down by a single rope from the summit of the mountain; this is the constant way of robbing the hawk's nest. See Bird-catching. In these islands some strange effects are produced by thunder and lightning. In the year 1680, the lightning entered a cow-house, in which 12 cows stood in a row, and killed every second beast as she stood, and left the rest untouched. The distempers that prevail mostly in the Orkneys are agues, consumptions, scurvy, and itch. The agues, which abound in the spring, the natives cure with a diet drink of bitters and antiscorbutics infused in ale: for phthisical complaints they use the plant arby, and the caryophyllus marinus boiled with sweet milk.

The isles of Orkney and Shetland compose one stewarty, and send one member to the British parliament. The right of superiority to the Orkneys was dismembered from the crown by the union parliament, and granted for a certain yearly consideration to the earl of Morton, by Queen Anne, who appointed him hereditary steward and judiciary. This nobleman possesses the power of creating certain judges, called bailiffs. There is one of these established in every island and parish, with power to superintend the manners of the inhabitants, to hold courts and determine civil causes, according to the laws of Scotland, to the value of ten pounds Scots money, amounting to 16s. 8d: but all contests of higher import are referred to the decision of the steward or his deputy, who resides at Kirkwall, which is the seat of justice. Subservient to the bailiffs are six or seven of the most reputable and intelligent inhabitants, who oversee the conduct of their fellows, acting as constables, and make report of all enormities to the bailiff; who causes the delinquent to be apprehended and punished, if the crime be within the extent of his judicial power; otherwise he transmits him to Kirkwall, where he is tried by the steward. The Protestant religion prevails in the isles of Orkney, according to the rites and discipline of the kirk; these, and the isles of Shetland, constituting one presbytery, which assembles at Kirkwall. The country is divided into 18 parishes, containing 31 churches, and above 100 chapels.

The trade of the Orkneys is not at present very considerable, though it might be extended to great advantage. They supply with fresh provisions, for ready money, the ships and vessels that touch upon the coast in the course of northern voyages, or in their passage from the East Indies, when they go north about Ireland and Scotland, in time of war, to avoid the privateers of the enemy. They are also visited by those engaged in the herring-fishery, though there is not such a resort on this account to these islands as to the isles of Shetland. Nevertheless, a good number of boats from the western parts of Scotland, as well as from Londonderry, Belfast, and other parts of Ireland, fish for herring as far north as the Leuze, and supply the Orkneys with tobacco, wine, brandy and other spiritous liquors, cloths, and divers manufactures. These they exchange for fish, and oil extracted from porpoises, seals, and other sea-animals. The people of Orkney export annually great numbers of black cattle, swine, and sheep; together with large quantities of corn, butter, tallow, salt, and stuffs made in the country, over and above the skins of seals, otters, lambs, and rabbits, down, feathers, writing-quills, hams, and wool; yet all these articles would, in point of profit, fall infinitely short of their herring-fishery, were it prosecuted with industry, economy, and vigour. As there are no merchants in the Orkneys at present who export fish on their own account, what herrings are taken, they sell to the Dutch or Scotch dealers in and about Inverness. They generally fish for herring on the west side of the Orkneys; and are therefore more remote from markets than those who are employed in the same manner on the coast of Shetland. In the Orkney islands they see to read at midnight in June and July; and during four of the summer months they have frequent communications, both for business and curiosity, with each other, and with the continent: the rest of the year, however, they are almost inaccessible, through fogs, darkness, and storms. It is a certain fact, that a Scotch fisherman was imprisoned in May, for publishing the account of the prince and princess of Orange being raised to the throne of England the preceding November; and he would probably have been hanged, had not the news been confirmed by the arrival of a ship.

We may reckon among the curiosities of the Orkneys, the Phaseoli, commonly known by the name of Molucca beans, and sometimes they are called Orkney beans. They are a sort of fruit found on the shore of the Orkney islands, being thrown on them by storms of westerly wind. They are of several distinct species, and are none of them the produce of those islands, nor of any places thereabout, but are probably of American origin, many of them being plainly natives of Jamaica, and other islands of the Indies.

They are found principally on those coasts which are most exposed to the waves of the great ocean, and are on these so plentiful, that they might be gathered in large quantities, if of any value; but the only use they are put to is the making of snuff boxes out of them. Sir Robert Sibbald, and Mr Wallace, in their accounts of Scotland, have both named them Mollucca Beans. Many strange fishes and curious shells are also frequently cast up by the ocean; of these last a vast variety are preserved for adorning the cabinets of modern naturalists. Sometimes exotic fowls are driven upon the Orkneys by tempestuous weather: fish, as large as whitings, have been thrown ashore to a considerable distance within the land. At Cantick head, in the island Waes, and some other places, huge stones are often heaved up by the violence of the sea and wind, and cast over high rocks upon the land. A single Laplander has been seen more than once on this coast, in his slender canoe, covered with skins, being driven hither by adverse winds and storms. The Orkneys are {501} are not altogether destitute of ancient monuments and curiosities of art. In Hoy we find an entire stone, 36 feet long, 18 in breadth, and 9 in thickness, lying between two hills, and known by the name of dwarfic stone. It is hollowed within by the tools of a mason, the marks of which are still apparent. The entrance is a square hole about two feet high, with a stone, by way of door, standing before it. Within we find a bed with a pillow cut out of the stone; at the other end is a couch of the same kind; and in the middle a hearth, above which there is a hole or vent for the exit of the smoke. This curiosity is found in the midst of a desolate heath, and is supposed to have been the residence of a hermit: in the very neighbourhood of this stone there is a very high and steep mountain, called the wart hill of Hoy, near the summit of which, in the months of May, June, and July, something at noon-day is seen to shine and sparkle with remarkable lustre, supposed by the common people to be an inchanted carbuncle: many persons have clambered up the hill in quest of it, but found nothing. Perhaps this splendour is produced by the reflection of the sun on a small stream of water sliding over the face of a smooth rock. At Stennis, in the main land, there is a causeway of stones over a loch or lake, at the fourth end of which we observe a circle of stones rising about 20 feet above ground, each being six feet in breadth, and from one to two feet in thickness: between this circle and the causeway two stones of the same dimensions stand by themselves, and one of them is perforated in the middle. At the distance of half a mile from the other end of the causeway appears a larger circle of the same kind of stones, the diameter of which may amount to 110 paces; some of these stones are fallen; and to the east and west of the larger circle are two artificial green mounts. Both rounds are surrounded with a ditch; and one cannot view them without admiration, considering the art that must have been used to bring such unwieldy masses together in this order. They were probably temples and places of sacrifice used in times of pagan superstition; and seem to bear a great affinity with the celebrated monument called Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in England. In one of the mounts, at the north end of the causeway, the natives found nine fibulæ, or clasps of silver, formed into a circle, and resembling a horse-shoe. In many different places of the Orkneys we find rude obelisks or single stones of a great height, set up either as memorials of battles, treaties, or the decease of remarkable personages. In Rousay, between two high mountains, there is a place which the natives distinguish by the appellation of the camp of Jupiter Fring: but the meaning of this name, handed down by tradition, is not known. At the west end of the main land, near Skeal, we find a surprising causeway, above a quarter of a mile in length, on the summit of high hills, composed of reddish stones of different magnitudes impressed with various figures both on the upper and under surface. Some gentlemen in the neighbourhood have carried off the most beautiful of these stones, to be set in their chimneys by way of ornament, like the painted tiles of Holland. This country produces many sepulchres of different nations. In the plains or links of Skeal, the sand being blown away from the surface of the ground, several square catacombs appear built of stones well cemented together, containing some parcels of black earth, and each secured by a large stone at the mouth. Sepulchres of the same kind are found at Rousum in Stronsa; which is likewise remarkable for a different kind of monument, consisting of one entire stone cylinder hollowed, with a bottom like that of a barrel, and a round stone to fill up the entrance: above, the stone was sharpened into an edge; within which were found some burned bones and red clay; and over it was placed a large flat stone for the preservation of the whole. These, in all probability, were Roman catacombs. In Westra divers Danish graves have been discovered: in one of these appeared the skeleton of a man, with a sword on one side and a Danish ax on the other. Some have been found buried with dogs, combs, knives, and other utensils. In many places of the country we find round hillocks or barrows, here known by the name of brogh, signifying, in the Teutonic language, buring place, supposed to have been the cemeteries of the ancient Saxons. In different parts of these islands we see the remains of great buildings, believed to have been fortresses erected by the Danes or Norwegians when they possessed the country. One of these in the ilse of Wyre, called the Castle of Coppi-row, signifying a town of security, is surrounded by a fossé, and the first floor still remains above ground, a perfect square of stone wall, very thick, strongly built, and cemented with lime, the area within not exceeding ten feet in length. Of this coppi-row the common people relate many idle fables. In the chapel of Clet, in the isle of Sandra, there is a grave 19 feet long, in which was found part of a man's back bone, larger than that of a horse. Human ones, of nearly the same size, have been dug up in Westra; and indeed this country is remarkable for producing men of a gigantic stature. Within the ancient fabric of Lady Kirk in South Ronalshaw, there is a stone four feet long and two feet broad, on which the print of two feet are engraven, supposed to be the place where, in times of popery, penitents stood to do public penance. The cathedral of Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkneys, is a fine Gothic building, dedicated to St Magnus but now converted into a parish church. Its roof is supported by 14 pillars on each side; and its steeple, in which is a good ring of bells, by four large pillars. The three gates of the church are chequered with red and white polished stones, embossed and elegantly flowered.

Campbell, in his Political Survey, suggests two improvements in the Orkneys: 1. The erecting an university; of which he recapitulates the probable advantages arising from their centrical situation: And, 2. Allowing the East India company to erect a spacious magazine in one of these islands; where also a collector, and a sufficient number of king's officers, should reside, to receive the duties of such East India commodities as might be taken off by British subjects. These he proposes for the Orkneys in particular, and in addition to improvements proposed for the whole islands in general. We are told that the Orkneys contain 30,000 inhabitants, and are equal in extent to the county of Huntington.


1. The northern isles of Scotland have been often mentioned by ancient authors, and called by different names from those they now go by; so that it is sometimes difficult to know which of them are meant. The ancient name, however, of these islands, which are the subject of this article, has never been disputed. The Ebudæ, it is agreed, are the modern Hebrides; and there is no doubt of the ancient Orcades being the same with the Orkneys. Of Thule, however, we are not so certain; and whether it means the Shetland isles, or Iceland, remains undetermined. Pythias, a Massilian, pretends to have visited these islands, and particularly Thule; but he does not mention the Orcades. The geographer Mela, who was contemporary with the emperor Claudius, is the next writer who describes the northern islands. Of the Orkneys he gives a remarkably just account, and says they were thirty in number, with narrow channels between them; but he is less accurate with respect to the rest. Pliny the Elder is the third who mentions the northern islands. He makes the number of the Orkneys to be forty, and of the Hebrides to be thirty. Solinus, the supposed contemporary with Agricola, who first sailed round Britain, discovered the Orcades till then unknown, and subdued them 3 Claudius was so far from reducing them (as is directed by Jerome in his Chronicle), that Juvenal has these lines in Hadrian's time:
                                    Arma quid ultra
Littora Juverne promovimus et modo captas Orcades, et minima
contentos nocte Britannos. SAT. II. 160.

In vain, O Rome, thou dost this conquest boast
Beyond the Orcades' short-nighted coast. DRYDEN.

Tacitus informs us, that, before the completion of the first century, the Roman fleets sailed round Scotland, and landed in the Orcades to refresh.

2. It has been asserted, that the Orkneys, as well as the hills of Shetland, were originally peopled from Norway, in the ninth, tenth, or eleventh century. Others again imagine, with as much probability, that the Picts were the original inhabitants, and call Orkney the ancient kingdom of the Picts. Certain singular houses, now overgrown with earth, are called Picts houses; and the Pentland frith (formerly Pightland or Pictland) is supposed to retain their name. Claudian's lines, cited by Mr Camden, prove, that the Picts, with some other German colony, particularly the Saxons, were at that time in possession of these isles; and so Ninnius expressly says. Many of the present inhabitants use the Norse language, which differs but little from the Teutonic or Pictish language, and was in general use to the last century; but except in Foula, where a few words are still known by the aged people, it is quite lost. The English tongue, with a Norwegian accent, is that of these islands; but the appearance of the people, in their manners and genius, evidently show their northern origin. Ninnius, c. 5. puts their arrival at Orkney not less than 900 years after the coming of Brutus into Britain, which he says was in the time of Eli the Jewish high priest. the ancient surnames are of German original. Some date the first settlement of the Picts here A.M. 4867; when, emigrating from their native country, they planted a colony in Orkney, and thence crossing Pictland frith, and traversing Caithness, Ross, Murray, Marr, and Angus, settled in Fife and Lothian; thence called by our writers Pictlandia. Others think they did not settle here till the time of Reuther king of Scotland, when the Picts, joining with a party of the Scots, were repulsed, with the loss of their king Gethus, and many of the Picts and Scottish nobility, with great slaughter; but the invasions of the Britons, at the same time, constrained the Picts to fly to Orkney, where they chose for king Gothus their deceased sovereign's brother, till they were able to return to Lothian, and drive out the Britons. After this they flourished here, and were governed by kings of their own. There still remains a place called Cunningsgar, the dwelling place of the minister of Sandwick, whose name and form bespeak it the residence of some of them. But no traces of their history remain, except the name of Belus, in ancient characters, on a stone in the church of Birsa, where still is to be seen one of the principal palaces. This government probably subsisted till the subversion of the Pictish kingdom in Scotland, A.D. 839, by Kenneth II. king of Scotland. On the whole, however, the time of the discovery and population of the Orkneys is certainly unknown. Probably it was very early; for we are told that they owe their names to the Greeks:

Orcades has memorant dictas a nomine Græco. CLAUDIAN.
3. The Romans, never that we know, visited these islands again but once, which was probably after Honorius had defeated the Saxons in the seas of Orkney.