Virtual Vault Rev James Wallace's Description of the Isles of Orkney, 1684 (MS)
Chapter 13

Chapter 13th
The Present government of Orkney

The government of this Countrey is by a Stewart in ye kings bounds and by a Sherriff in the Bishops.  The manner and procedor of the Stewarts Jurisdiction is after the forme of Sherriffship the title only differing.  The Bishops Sherif is Sr Alexander Mckenzie of Broomhill eldest son to our present Bishop, both he and the kings Stewart have one & the same manner of Administration of Justice & punishing of delinquents and that according to the Custome & practise of Other shyres in the kingdom both their seats of Justice is at Kirkwall.

Under the Stewart and sherrif are some Judges of their creation and appointment called Bailzies.  In every parish and Ile there is one.  Their office is to oversee the manners of the inhabitants, to hold Courts & to decern in civill petty matters to the value of ten pound Scots, but if the matter be above that, it is referred to ye Stewart or sherrif

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sherrif or their deputies.  Under & subservient to these Bailzies are sic or seven of the most honest and intelligent persons within the bounds called Larigh-men or Law-right-men which are comonly the kirk session elders of the parish.  These in their respective Bounds have the over sight of ye people in the fashion of Constables and delate to the Bailzie such enormities as accasionally fall out which the Bailzies punish according to ye Importance & Circumstance of the fault.  And if it be above his limits or extent of his power he sends the delinquent to the seat of Justice either to the Stewart or to the Sherrif respective.  These law-righmen have a priviledge inherent in their office be the Custom of the Countrey qch is not usuall elsewhere, and it is this: if yr be at any tyme and suspicion of theft, they take some of their neighbours with them under the silence of the night, & make search for the theft (which is called Ransalling) they search every house they come to & if the fang or theft be found, they seize upon him with whom it is found & bring him to the seat of Justice for punishment.

The Present Comissar is James Murrey of Pennyland.

The Present admirall deputs are William Douglas of Egilesha & Francis Murrey.

He that is Stewart of the Countrey is Collonell, and Sr Archibald Stewart Laird of Burra is Lifetennant Collonell of the Militia.


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