Virtual Vault Rev James Wallace's Description of the Isles of Orkney, 1684 (MS)
Chapter 7

p. 36

Chapter 7th
of the Toun off

The onlie Toun of note in this Countrey is Kirkwall, ane Ancient Burgh long possessed be the Danes by whom itt wes called Cracoviaca built upon a pleasant oyse or in lett of the sea, neer the midle of the Mainland about a mile in length, narrow streeted, haveing a verie saife harbor & Road for ships.  Heer is the seat of Justice, the Bishop, Stewart, Sherrif, Comissar all off them keeping their severall Courts in this place.  Almost all the Houses in itt are sklaited, But the most remarkeable edifices in itt are the St Magnus Kirk & the Bishops Palace, as for the Kings Castle, itt is now demolished, but by the ruins itt appears to have been a strong & statlie fort, & probablie built by some of the Bishops of Orkney: as wold appear from a remarkeable ston sett in the midst of the wall that looks to the street, which hes a Bishops miter & arms engraven on itt.  There is in itt a publick school for the teaching of the Grammer endowed with a Competent salarie and at the north end of the Toun is a place called the Mount, built by the Englishmen            dit

p. 37

ditched about, and on which still in tyme of warr they plant Guns & Cannons for the defence of the harbor against the ships of the enemie.  As itt fell out Anno    when there wer  warrs betueen our king and the Hollanders, a durchman of warr comeing to the Road and Shooting manie shott att the Toun with a designe to take away some ships that wer in ye harbor, wes by some guns from the Mount so bruised that the wes forced to flee away with the loss of manie of his men.

This Toun hed been erected into a royall burgh in ye tyme of the Danes. And Anno 1436, King James the third gave them a charter Confirming their old erection & privledges, specifying their antiquitie & giving them power to hold burrough courts to Carcerate & arreist to make laws and ordinances to elect their oun Magistrats yearlie for the right government of the toun, & to enjoy a weeklie market on Tusday and fryday, And three faires in the year, one about Plam Sunday, the other at Lambas and the third att Martinmas, each to Continew three dayes.  He moreover disponed to them some lands about the toun with the customs & shore dews, & the power off pitt & Gallows and all other privilidges franted to anie other Royall Burgh within the Kingdom, exeeming them from sending Commissioners to parliament unless their oun necessities require it.  This Charter is dated att Edinburgh the last of march 1486.  And in the year 1536 febr 8 king James the fifth ratified the former charter by a new Charter of Confirmation.  And in the year 1661 noble King Carr 2 now reigning after his restauration ratified the former Charters by asignature under his Royall hand, dated att whitehall may 25 whereupon the parliament att Edinburgh 22 of August 1670 confirmed all be their act, yet with ye speciall provison that what wes granted to them be that act might not prejudge the interst of the Bishop of Orkney.  The toun is Governed by a Provost, four Bailzies  aComon Council, as in other Burghs : the present Magistrats being prudent & loyall persons & who have their Militia in good order.

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