Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Written by Dr Marc Chivers
On an eerily foggy September morning I explored the deserted ruins at Gronataing in Waas. As well as the ruin of the croft house, with its noost lying just outside the door, there is also a relatively modern ruin of a two storey house. Near to this house there is a dry stone constructed pier with the remains of a bød close by. As I explored I began to wonder who lived and worked here and what were they like? What stories lay hidden amongst these ruins?
On my return home I posted these photos on our social media pages and other local pages, asking if anyone had any information about this place. We had some really useful leads and the next day Billy Mail, who lives at Bridge of Walls, messaged me with this information provided by Jim Tait.
"Gronataing was a herring station. The pier and salt store on the right of the photo was used for that purpose. The old house on the left was the original croft house and funnily enough was the last occupied house. Last person living there was Walter Jamieson, or as we knew him Walter o Gronataing. He used to work his peats on Vaila and would row up the voe ta da shop ta get his errands. The more modern house was built before the second world war, and I can't remember the peoples names who built it. A mine came ashore on the back of the point during the war and exploded and broke some if not all the windows in the house. The wife in the house did not like that and wanted to leave, and eventually they did; building a small cottage where my brother Andrew now lives" (personal correspondence between Tait and Mail, 15.09.20).
So, where to begin searching? I had a look at the Shetland valuation roll, which is available online at https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/. Sure enough Gronataing was listed in the 1855 valuation roll as a fishing station, leased by Robert Scott of Melby for an annual fee of £5 to Garriock & Co. merchants, Reawick. The fishing station it seems predates the farm (croft) house, as this was not listed until 1875. The farm was owned by Robert Scott of Melby who leased the house and land to James Garriock, who in turn leased the farm to Robert Reid. This farm house is listed in the Shetland Ordnance Survey Name Book for 1877-1878. The listing for this house is as follows:
" ... a thatched dwelling with outhouses attached, situated about 1/2 mile S.W. of the hamlet of Whitesness and immediately S.E. of the Heathery Taing the property of Robert Scott of Melby." (Shetland OS Names Books 1877-1878 vol 21, OS/31/21/280).
Gronataing fishing station was again listed in the 1894-1895 valuation roll. By this time landownership had changed, and it was Herbert Foster Anderton who leased Gronataing to the Vaila Fishing Company, and the farm (now referred to as a croft) was leased to 67 year old John Jamieson. John a crofter, fisherman, and fishcurer was born in Breck, Walls. In 1863 John, who was 36 years old, married 25 year old Lillias Anderson, who was from Scarvester, Wester Skeld in the parish of Sandsting. John and Lillias spent the rest of their lives at Gronataing where they raised eight children. Lillias died in July 1912 aged 74. John died in October that year aged 85. Their youngest child, Walter, who never married, continued to work the croft and lived at Gronataing until he died in 1968 aged 84. (Bayanne online 22.09.2020).
If you have any further information, and you would like to help us build a more complete picture of life in Gronataing then please get in touch. We'd be delighted to hear from you.
Bayanne North Isles Family History <https://www.bayanne.info/Shetland> [22.09.2020]
Ordnance Survey map of Walls and Sandness. National Library of Scotland available from <https://maps.nls.uk/view/74430945> [22.09.2020]
Shetland OS Names Books 1877-1878 vol 21, OS/31/21/280 available from <https://scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/ordnance-survey-name-books/shetland-os-name-books-1877-1878> [22.09.2020].
Shetland Valuation Roll 1855 available from <https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ >[22.09.2020]
Shetland Valuation Roll 1877-1878 https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ [22.09.2020]
Shetland Valuation Roll 1894-1895 https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ [22.09.2020]