In the morning we attended the English Episcopalian Church, and, after service, which was rather of a high church character, we walked into the country until we came in sight of the rough square tower of Scalloway Castle, and on our return we inspected the ruins of a Pictish castle, the first of the kind we had seen, although we were destined to see many others in the course of our journey.
The Picts, we were informed, were a race of people who settled in the north of Scotland in pre-Roman times, and who constructed their dwellings either of earth or stone, but always in a circular form. This old castle was built of stone, and the walls were five or six yards thick; inside these walls rooms had been made for the protection of the owners, while the circular, open space enclosed by the walls had probably been for the safe housing of their cattle. An additional protection had also been formed by the water with which the castle was surrounded, and which gave it the appearance of a small island in the middle of a lake. It was connected with the land by means of a narrow road, across which we walked. The castle did not strike us as having been a very desirable place of residence; the ruins had such a very dismal and deserted appearance that we did not stay there long, but returned to our lodgings for lunch. After this we rested awhile, and then joined the townspeople, who were patrolling every available space outside. The great majority of these were women, healthy and good-looking, and mostly dressed in black, as were also those we afterwards saw in the Orkneys and the extreme north of Scotland, and we thought that some of our disconsolate bachelor friends might have been able to find very desirable partners for life in these northern dominions of Her Majesty the Queen.
The houses in Lerwick had been built in all sorts of positions without any attempt at uniformity, and the rough, flagged passage which did duty for the main street was, to our mind, the greatest curiosity of all, and almost worth going all the way to Shetland to see. It was curved and angled in such an abrupt and zigzag manner that it gave us the impression that the houses had been built first, and the street, where practicable, filled in afterwards.
A gentleman from London was loud in his praise of this wonderful street; he said he felt so much safer there than in "beastly London," as he could stand for hours in that street before the shop windows without being run over by any cab, cart, or omnibus, and without feeling a solitary hand exploring his coat pockets. This was quite true, as we did not see any vehicles in Lerwick, nor could they have passed each other through the crooked streets had they been there, and thieves would have been equally difficult to find.
Formerly, however, Lerwick had an evil reputation in that respect, as it was noted for being the abode of sheep-stealers and pirates, so much so, that, about the year 1700, it had become such a disreputable place that an earnest appeal was made to the "Higher Authorities" to have the place burnt, and for ever made desolate, on account of its great wickedness. Since that time, however, the softening influences of the Christian religion had permeated the hearts of the people, and, at the time of our visit, the town was well supplied with places of worship, and it would have been difficult to have found any thieves there then. We attended evening service in the Wesleyan Chapel, where we found a good congregation, a well-conducted service, and an acceptable preacher, and we reflected that Mr. Wesley himself would have rejoiced to know that even in such a remote place as Lerwick his principles were being promulgated.
|To Next Part|