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Wednesday 2 September 2009

Croft houses

Yesterday a friend visited (she's from "south" but now lives on Shapinsay - one of the islands north of Orkney Mainland). Her Grandfather was born on Graemsay in the 1800s and she wanted to visit the croft where he was born, known as "Crookshouse" which used to be the home of the Johnston family during the 19th Century. So after I'd given her a "whistle-stop" tour of the island and a short walk on both Sandside beaches, Mick from the lighthouse very kindly took us up to the croft in his jeep. His family work the croft with sheep, though the houses are long derelict with fallen in roofs. However S was delighted to visit the home of her forebears and, with dry weather and the sun in the sky, she could wander among the old stone buildings.

It seems to be quite traditional for the old crofts to be built close together with a small "lane" running between them. The building would provide some shelter for the crofter to leave the house and tend to the beasts in the byres. Though I bet the wind could whistle down the lanes, and rattle about the houses.

Scarratain is a house by the shore on Graemsay and still has a traditional turf roof (the turf would have been laid on top of stone slabs, acting as extra insulation). With continued coastal erosion it is probably yards closer to the shore than when it was first built.

The view above looks across to another wee croft house in the middle distance, with the Hoy cliffs across the water.


  1. I well remember my first visit to see these crofts. Any romantic illusions I had up to then were quickly dispersed in a dissapointing sigh of the wind.

  2. LOL! A sigh of the wind I could probably cope with, it's the screaming banshee variety that knocks you off your feet that I find a challenge...

  3. Sian, my family were the Johnston's do you have any information on them you would share

  4. Greetings, Sian! My maiden name is Johnston, and yes, my dear daddy was one of the many Johnstons who were born and raised in Crookshouse. Daddy always simply pronounced it "Kyooks"! He was one of 13 who were born to James and Jane in the late 1890's and very early 2000's. Daddy was born in 1903. I just thought you might like an additional tidbit of info about our dear 'Kyooks"! I'm hoping to visit Graemsay next year, Lord willing. Sian, I would dearly love a response from you. My email would be easiest. You'll find me at Many thanks.