In the early 1920s, John GF Ross, my grandfather, took over the tenancy of Wellbraes, Crockness, and moved there in 1921 with his wife, Walterina, and young son Jim. His parents John GH and Ann Ross, also his sister Mary Ann later joined them. The 1921 Census, taken on 19 June, shows that Sarah Ross also lived there. She was the widow of John’s grand-uncle, another John Ross. My father Walter Ross was born at Wellbraes in September 1921.

John GF Ross was a grand-nephew of Walter and John Ross, the earlier tenants; his father John GH was a younger brother of Walter the blacksmith in 1871 Census below. The family left Wellbraes around 1949.

John GF Ross was a joiner and did a lot of work on boats including the Cingalee owned by his wife’s aunt’s husband, JMF Groat, the merchant at Longhope.

Photo of The Cingalee on the beach below Wellbraes, Crckness, Hoy, Orkney
The Cingalee on the beach below Wellbraes, eary 1920s

In the censuses

The name Well Braes is first recorded in the 1901 Census. Before that most places in Crockness were simply recorded as Crockness with nothing else to distinguish them. Looking at the Crofters’ Commission submission (see below) I’m pretty sure Walter and Susanna Ross lived at Wellbraes from when they married in 1862.

Walter Ross46, farmer, 7 ac, b Stroma55, crofter66, farmer
Susanna Ross41, wife50, wife60, wifeWidow, 72, farmer
Susanna Rossdaur, 7, scholardaur, 17, dressmaker27, S, dressmaker(Sutherland), 37, sea captain’s wife
Walterina Rossdaur, 5, scholar daur, 15, scholar 25, S,
Ellen Rossdaur, 2daur, 11, scholar
Walter Rossnephew, 28, blacksmith
William Sutherlandgson, 6, scholar
Nellie Sutherlandgdaur, 6, scholar
John Ross73, Farmer
Sarah Rosswife, 54, b IrelandAunt, 65, b Dublin
John G RossHead, 32, Joiner
Walterina RossWife, 28
James W RossSon, 2
Inhabitants of Wellbraes 1871-1921

All born in Walls unless stated. John Ross (1911) was Walter’s younger brother, Walter, the 28 year old in 1871, was their nephew. Nellie Sutherland – later Mrs Terras, Old Scapa Road, Kirkwall.

Crofters’ Commission / Scottish Land Court

Application to the Crofters’ Commission for rent reduction and cancellation of arrears 1888. I have added a croft name based on evidence from censuses from 1891 onwards, though there is no guarantee that this was where the respective crofters were living in 1888.

Walter Ross, [probably Wellbraes] Crockness, deponed: I have one cow, 1 ox, and 2 calves; but the croft only keeps one cow and an ox with the hill grazing. Arable, 8¼ acres; and outrun ½ an acre. My rent is £4 8s, and arrears, £1 8s. I have been in the place since 1862, and have reclaimed 6 acres; but Mr Heddle gave us the use of a subsoil plough. I built a house and outhouses at an expense of £35, and the proprietor expended £10 1s. I put in 13 chains of ditches. The rent in 1862 was increased to £3, and in 1877 to £4 8s. The average return of grain per acre in our district will be 3 bushels for 1 bushel. We put in from 3 to 4 bushels.

Cross-examined: I fished till within the last three years. My inability to pay the rent is because I do not now go to the fishing.

Decision. The rent was reduced from £4 8s to £3 10s, and the arrears of £1 8s were cancelled. (Source: Mackintosh, W.R. (compiler.) (1889) The Orkney crofters. Kirkwall: James Anderson, Orcadian Office. p 68-69.)

Photograph of Wellbraes before renovations were done, probably in the 1980s/90s.
Wellbraes before renovations in the 1980s(?)

Valuation rolls

  • 1905-1907 – Mrs Susanna Sutherland (name Wellbraes does not appear before 1905 in the online rolls)
  • 1914-1941 – John Ross. Two different men – one the grand-uncle of the other, details below; the older John was also the uncle of Susanna Sutherland.

Melsetter estate records

Rent book with comments by the Ground Officer. (Macrae & Robertson Collection: Melsetter Estate. Rent Books 1899-1946. Wellbraes, Crockness & Rysa. D34/A/6/4/2, pp 101-102. Orkney Archive, Kirkwall, Orkney)

Wellbraes Crockness

John Ross, John Ross Jr
Walter Ross, Mrs Ross, Mrs Sutherland
Rent £3:10/- In 1888 £4: 8/-
Crofter  Rent now £4:18/-

Walter Ross died in May 1898.

Lease granted to Mrs Susanna Ross & Mrs Susanna Sutherland. 19 years. Rent £3:10/-.Entry Martinmas 1899. Mrs Sutherland daughter of late tenant renounces tenancy under Crofter Act + also all claims for compensation. Landlord to build one room to dwelling-house. Tenant to pay interest on cost at 5%. Cost £28 additional rent £1:8/-  Making total rent £4:18/-.

Mrs Susanna Ross died in [blank space] 1903? [actually April 1902] Mrs Sutherland is now tenant under the Lease.

19/5/08 Agreed to Mrs Sutherlands leaving at Marts [Martinmas] she to leave inside woodwork without compensation if farm let to John Ross Doonatoon at same rent.

Lease assigned to John Ross at Marts. 1908.

3/5/17 Allowed tenant to sublet part of his croft to Lieut. Comr Boswell on consideration that his (Ross) remains responsible tenant.

26/11/19 Intimated to John Ross Jr Lyness Point that Proprietor agres to his taking over the Holding from the present tenant his grand-uncle at same rent £4: 18/- and on same terms, he to make the necessary repairs and to allow his grand-uncle to occupy the old house.

22/11/23 Gave tenant permission to take sand and gravel from the foreshore adjacent to his farm for use on the farm.

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