Saturday 3 July 2010

My Sw-ona

We had a customer a couple of days ago who was investigating his Swona roots.

Swona is an island situated in the Pentland Firth, south of Orkney and to the West of South Ronaldsay. It is often confused with Stroma which is further South and therefore seen as part of Caithness.

This island has been uninhabited since 1974 when batchelor Jim Rosie left and there were only ever about 8 houses on the island. Its position in the Pentland Firth means that it is not easily accessible and therefore it is rarely visited.

People who have made the trip have returned with descriptions of houses left as if the occupants had meant to return moments later. Pictures are still on the walls and the tables are set for tea.

The only inhabitants are a herd of beef cattle which are now feral and have become a seperate species. Apparently, these cattle forage for seaweed and move around the island in one unit like a scary cow gang. As somone who is already scared of cows, I have made a mental note to never visit this island.

Although the archive holds quite a few recorded interviews with former residents, there is very little in the way of written information on Swona. If anyone has any maps showing the positions of houses or other information, it is always welcome here.

Below is a video that was taken by a recent visitor to Swona. You will notice a lack of groovy background music, which I feel is a mistake. I hummed the tune of the Knack's hit 'My Sharona' while I watched it, substituting the words 'my Sharona' with 'my S-wo-na.' But please feel free to choose your own song...

Information taken from:
Feral cattle Of Swona, Orkney islands, by S.J.G. Hall and G. F. Moore.
Return To The Wild, by Andro Linklater

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