Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Stornoway has got historical links with Holland. Its history as fishing port was given a boost when the Dutch discovered in 1637 that the herring were plentiful in these waters. The Earl of Seaforth, in charge of the island at that time, was more than happy to encourage them. Unfortunately, the King was not happy to see his rivals from across the North Sea gaining a foothold on his back doorstep, so he sent some armed men across to boot them out. Contrarily, at one stage, there was a possibility that the islands could have been ceded to Holland. However, one of the many wars between England and Holland, in 1652, put paid to any further cooperation. The herring fishery was firmly established though and Stornoway never looked back after that.

If you have a look round Stornoway, particularly along Cromwell Street, you'll see evidence of architecture that would not look out of place in Amsterdam. The pink facade of DD Morrison's shop (above), as well as the old Town House (below), now a Chinese restaurant, are both firmly reminiscent.

Further afield, Dutch fishermen were also involved in Lerwick (Shetland), and perhaps a Shetland blogger could pick up on that connection. Another Dutch connection, going back many many years can be found in a small island in Orkney. Papa Westray, famous for having the shortest scheduled airservice in the world (2 minutes to and from Westray) has a very ancient little church dedicated to St Boniface. He was an Englishman, who was charged with spreading Christianity round Northern Europe in the 8th century. He was murdered by robbers at the city of Dokkum, in northern Holland in 754. But not before he had established churches and missionaries all over northern Europe.

I'm aware that my comments about Orkney and Shetland are outside my remit as Lewis blogger, but I spent a month in Orkney and Shetland in September 2004, and found the wee kirk on Papay singularly appealing. Again, perhaps someone in Papa Westray itself could comment further.

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