This page looks at the detail of who was recorded in North Walls and Brims in the 1861 census, taken on the night of 7 April 1861: birthplace, surname, occupation and age. (Parish of Walls and Flotta, RD32/1, ED1 and 2, excluding the island of Fara.)
The population was 597, 330 female and 267 male, a higher proportion of female to male than Orkney generally which in turn was higher than for Scotland as a whole.1 This could be a result of males being at sea or having died at sea.
Where were they born?
499 were born in Orkney, 449 of them in Walls itself.
|County of birth||Number & %
|Ross & Cromarty||3||0.5|
Across Orkney as a whole, just under 92% of the population was born in the county, a figure which is broadly comparable to Caithness and Ross and Cromarty but slightly higher than Sutherland.2 The percentage in our area is closer to Aberdeen, Argyll, Fife and Inverness. North Walls and Brims were much closer to Caithness than to many parts of Orkney and migration from there seems to be a key reason for this difference. Of the 77 born in Caithness, 29 were from the parish of Canisbay which included the island of Stroma. The two shepherds (see below) and their families account for all the Ross & Cromarty, five Caithness and all but one of the Sutherland births.
The top ten surnames were as follows, with the Orkney figures for comparison. The full surname list is here.
|Robeson/ Robson||43 (52 inc Robertson)||71 (443 inc Robertson)|
|Johnston||23||488 (inc Johnstone)|
|Swanson||19 (25 inc Swanston)||81|
Quite different from the Orkney top ten: Sinclair, Flett, Spence, Muir, Thomson, Rendall, Scott, Johnston, Miller and Smith.
320 people gave an occupation, including 99 scholars (school pupils). Two described themselves as retired miller’s wife and seaman’s wife. Here is a summary of the occupations of the remaining 219.
|Farm work – all types||46|
Farm work includes those who described themselves as agricultural labourers, farm servants, ploughmen (10) and dairymaids (2). Estate work includes gardeners (2), shepherds (2) and a gamekeeper. The land agent also worked for the Melsetter estate. 19 fishermen said that they also farmed while two farmers were also fishermen.
Life expectancy for a child born in 1861 was 40.3 years (male) and 43.9 years (female), though this increased by at least five years for those who survived the first year of life.4 But did people really live to their 80s and 90s? From an initial check of baptism and death records for the seven oldest residents, five were accurate to within three or four years, two of them exactly right. In the 1861 Scotland census population, less than 1% of women and just over 0.5% of men were in the age group 80-100.5 The comparative figures in North Walls and Brims were 3.64% of women and 1.87% of men.
1 General Register Office (Scotland) Census of Scotland 1861: population tables and report (1862-1864). 2 vols. Edinburgh: HMSO. vol 1 p.xx. Also online
2 Brock, Jeanette F (1999) The Mobile Scot: a study of emigration and migration 1861-1911. Edinburgh: John Donald. p.62.
3 Orkney Family History Society Top 10 Orkney surnames 1841-1911
4 National Records of Scotland (2015) Life Expectancy at Scotland Level – Scottish National Life Tables (previously Scottish Interim Life Tables). Table 1: Expectation of life, by sex and selected age, Scotland, 1861 to 2014. Online
5 0.86 of women in Scotland were in age group 80-100+ and 0.58 % of men. General Register Office (Scotland) Census of Scotland 1861: population tables and report (1862-1864). 2 vols. Edinburgh: HMSO. vol. II p.xii. Also online