Pomona, Orkney Islands
POMONA, ORKNEY ISLANDS, or MAINLAND, the 'central and' largest island of the Orkneys, Scotland. Pop. (1901), 16,235. It is 2 S m - l n g from N.W. to S.E. and 15 m. broad from E. to W.; area, IQO sq. m.; but where the coast is cut into, on the N. by Kirkwall Bay and on the S. by Scapa Flow, the land is less than 2 m. across. Consequently, the portion of the island to the west of the waist of Pomona is sometimes described as the West Island, and the portion to the East as the East Island. The west coast is almost unbroken, the bays of Birsay and SkaiH being the only bays of any importance. The east and south shores, on the other hand, are extensively carved out. Thus on the east side are found Eynhallow Sound, Wood Wick, the bays of Isbister, Firth, Kirkwall, and Inganess and Dee Sound, and on the south Holm Sound, Scapa Bay, Swanbister Bay and Bay of Ireland. The highest points of the watershed from Costa Head to the Scapa shore are Milldoe (734 ft.) to the north-east of Isbister and Wideford Hill (740 ft.) to the west of Kirkwall. There are also a few eminences towards the south-west, Ward Hill (880 ft.) in the parish of Orphir being the highest peak in the island. There are numerous lakes, some of considerable size and most of them abounding with trout. Loch Harray is 4j m. long by from 5 m. to about 2 m. wide, and Loch Stenness 3 1 m. long by from | to 2j m. wide. Lochs Swannay, Boardhouse and Hundland are situated in the extreme north, while Loch Kirbister lies near the south coast and Loch Tankerness adjoins Deer Sound. Off the east coast lie the islands of Rousay, Egilshay, Viera, Eynhallow, Gairsay and Shapinshay, and off the south Copinshay and Lamb Holm. The hilly country is mostly moorland, and peat-mosses are met with in some of the low-lying land, but many of the valleys contain fertile soil, and there are productive tracts on the eastern and northern seaboard. Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkneys, and Stromness are the only towns.
In Harray, the only parish in the Orkneys not trenched at some point by the sea, Norse customs have survived longer than elsewhere in the group save in North Ronaldshay. In Deerness the most easterly parish in Pomona, were buried 200 Covenanters, taken prisoners at the battle of Bothwell Brig. They were carried to Barbados, to be sold as slaves for the plantations, when the ship foundered in Deer Sound, and all were drowned. In Sandside Bay, in the same parish, the fleet of Malcolm Canmore was defeated by that of Jarl Thorfinn; and at Summersdale, towards the northern base of the hills of Orphir, Sir James Sinclair, governor of Kirkwall, vanquished Lord Sinclair and 500 Caithness men in 1529.
The antiquities of Pomona are of great interest. The examples of Pictish remains include brocks or round towers, chambered mounds, or buildings of stone covered in with earth, and weems, or underground dwellings afterwards roofed in. At Saverock, on the west wing of Kirkwall Bay, a good specimen of an earthhouse will be found, and at Quanterness, i m. to the west of it, a chambered mound, containing seven rooms with beehive roofs. Farther west and 5 m. by road north-east of Stromness, and within a mile of the stone circles of Stenness, stands the great barrow or chambered mound of Maeshowe. The tumulus has the form of a blunted cone, is 36 ft. high, 300 ft. in circumference and 92 ft. in diameter, and at a distance of 90 ft. from its base is encircled by a moat 40 ft. wide and from 4 ft. to 8 ft. deep. The ground-plan shows that it was entered from the west by a passage, 54 ft. long, from 2 ft. to 3 ft. wide and from 2| ft. to 4$ ft. high, which led to a central apartment about 15 ft. square, the walls of which ended in a beehive roof, the spring of which began at a height of 13 ft. from the floor. This room and the passage are built of undressed blocks and slabs of sandstone. About the middle of each side of the chamber, at a height of 3 ft. from the floor, there is an entrance to a small cell, 3 ft. high, 4$ ft. wide and from 5! ft. to 7 ft. long. Mr James Farrer explored the mound in 1861, and discovered on the walls and certain stones rude drawings of crosses, a winged dragon, and a serpent curled round a pole, besides a variety of Runic inscriptions. One of these inscriptions stated that the tumulus had been rifled by Norse pilgrims (possibly crusaders) on their way to Jerusalem under Jarl Rognvald in the 12th century. There can be little doubt but that it was a sepulchral chamber. Joseph Anderson ascribes it to the Stone Age (tnat is, to the Picts), and James Fergusson to Norsemen of the 10th century.
The most interesting of all those links with a remote past are the stone circles forming the Ring of Brogar and the Ring of Stenness, often inaccurately described as the Stones of Stenness. The Ring of Brogar is situated to the north-west and the Ring of Stenness to the south-east of the Bridge of Brogar, as the narrow causeway of stone slabs is called which separates Loch Harray from Loch Stenness. The district lies some 4^ m. north-east of Stromness. The Ring of Brogar, once known as the Temple of the Sun, stands on a raised circular platform of turf, 340 ft. in diameter, surrounded by a- moat about 6 ft. deep, which in turn is invested by a grassy rampart. The ring originally comprised 60 stones, set up at intervals of 17 ft. Only 13 are now erect. Ten, still entire, lie prostrate, while the stumps of 13 others can yet be recognized. The height of the stones varies from 9 ft. to 14 ft. The Ring of Stenness the Temple of the Moon of local tradition is of similar construction to the larger circle, except that its round platform is only 104 ft. in diameter. The stones are believed to have numbered 12, varying in height from 15 ft. to 17 ft. but only two remain upright. In the middle of the ring may be seen the relic of what was probably the sacrificial altar. The Stone of Odin, the great monolith, pierced by a hole at a height of 5 ft. from the ground, which figures so prominently in Scott's Pirate, stood i so yds. to the north of the Ring of Stenness. The stones of both rings are of the native Old Red Sandstone.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)