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  Jo Ben's 1529 "Descriptions of Orkney"


St Olai parish is the most flowery and pleasant, and in the middle is situated that distinguished city called Kirkwall, where there is a church dedicated to St Magnus which has and retains to a great degree many winding passages....

The abode of the Bishop is in the city here (named the Yards).

The Castle that was built by the Sinclairs is here.

There is also another church here reduced to ashes by the English, named St Olai's Kirk, where malefactors [criminals] are now buried.

The women here are given to excess in luxuries [wantonness]; this is supposed to be caused by the abundance of fish obtainable.

Here on all sides the two parts of the city is exposed to the water of the sea.

Here is a very high mountain, where the whole of Pomonia and all the islands may be seen, named Whisford*; and it is a judgment of war to the Orcadians when a spring on the summit is seen to gush forth**.

The Orcadians carried on war with the English at the city lotus (washing place?), which they call Papdelia, in the year 1502, the 13th of August, in which war the English were defeated and many cut down and drowned along with their commander, Lord John Elder, a soldier. Edward Sinclair was the leader of the Orcadians.

* - Wideford Hill.
** - I wonder if this relates to Wideford's function as a beacon hill, the spring on the summit being the warning bonfires found on all Orkney's Ward/Wart hills.

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