PETITION from the Inhabitants of the Island of Stroma to the Right Hon. Lord NAPIER and ETTRICK, K.T.
My LORD,—We, the undersigned, the inhabitants of the Island of Stroma, pray that you will hear us in the undemoted petition:—
As your Lordship is aware, our Island is situated in a very dangerous part of the sea, where navigation is carried on, at any time, at great risk to life and property.
From the earliest time it has been the custom of the Islanders to burn peats as fuel. There is no turf suitable for such on the Island; and your petitioners have (generally in the month of May) to cross to Duncansby and Gills, a distance of three miles, to cut their fuel, where the moss is some distance from the shore. After it has been cut, we have to cross again and scatter it, so that it may dry. When it is dry we have to take our carts and horses across in boats of 15 feet of keel or thereby, so that we can cart it to the top of the brae, whence we have to carry it to our boats. This having been completed, we take back our horses and carts, and commence to boat the fuel across. There is no harbour at Gills nor at Duncansby, and the landing places here are of the poorest description, the water being shallow at the shore, and the bottom rocky. As soon as the boat touches ground on this side, we have to discharge the fuel at once owing to the nature of the bottom. The fuel has to be left at the top of the beach, and afterwards carried to the top of the brae, whence we drive it home. This is very laborious work, and it has to be done at a season when we could do best at fishing, and when fish would require little attention in drying.
All our live stock, meal, provisions, &c, have to be landed in the same manner.
The herring fishing has increased amongst us of late. Last year one boat of 50 feet of keel was built for the place, and this year four of nearly similar dimensions have been added to the number of large boats, which before was ten, besides small line boats which number forty-five. These boats have to be beached, or rather hauled up on the Cat rocks as soon as they return from the fishing, as there is no place of safety to leave them in, until a suitable opportunity offers itself for beaching them.
From the above particulars your Lordship will see in what need of a harbour we stand. Had we a harbour we could charter a small vessel with a cargo of coals, which would save us from toiling so hard for fuel. Again, we could fish (from which we mainly derive our support) during the time we formerly spent in cutting fuel, all of which would tend to promote our comfort. A harbour could be constructed at very little expense, as there are plenty places around the island, whose natural shape would make it a very easy task to form a harbour where they are. There is abundance of material in the shape of stones and gravel, at hand, that could be used for the purpose of making concrete, &c.
We approach you in hopes that you will do whatever lies in your power to help us in the construction of the proposed harbour.
And your petitioners will ever pray,
ALEXANDER SINCLAIR, Fisherman, Crofter and 113 others.