ONE OF 70 ISLES OF ORKNEY
4 MILES LONG AND 1 MILE WIDE
11 MILES OF COASTLINE
6000 YEARS OF INHABITATION
KNAP O HOWAR – THE OLDEST HOUSE IN NORTHERN EUROPE
197 RECORDED ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES
220 ARCTIC TERNS
DOZENS OF SHIPWRECKS
1.5 MINUTE – SHORTEST SCHEDULED FLIGHT IN THE WORLD FROM PAPAY TO WESTRAY
THE PLACE WHERE THE LAST GREAT AUK WAS KILLED IN 1813
THE ISLAND WHICH DREW PICTISH KING HECHTAN TO MADNESS
THE BIRTHPLACE OF JOHN D. MACKAY AND SOME OTHER GREAT ORCADIANS
THE RESTING PLACE OF ROGNVALD BRUSASON (1011-1046) THE GREAT EARL OF ORKNEY
HOUSE OF EXPERIMENTAL FILM, MUSIC AND ART
HOME OF PAPAY GYRO NIGHTS – INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ART, FILM
PAPAY is a local name of the island PAPA WESTRAY – one of the most remote Northern Isles of Orkney, and journey to Papay can be as exiting as journey to the Moon. The Island is 4 miles long and 1 mile wide with lash green treeless hills and stone houses, ruins of great samples of vernacular architecture and historical monuments scattered around and the coastline of sea-cliffs, flat rocks and sandy beaches. NorthernSea meets Atlantic here at the northern tip of the island – Mull Head and North Hill is a busy nesting ground for a variety of sea birds. The first know house on the Island, Knap of Howar, was build 6000 years ago and the history can be traced from there through Neolithic sites (Chambered Cairn on Holm of Papay), numerous ruins of Pictish brochs (Munkerhoose and St.Tredwell), Norse Placenames and Nausts all around the island, 12 century St. Boniface Kirk, St. Tredwell Chapel, Holland Farm, other landmarks and the Island’s Legends
PAPAY is also known as PAPEY IN MEIRIin the Orkneyinga Saga
Knap of Howar – the oldest preserved house in northern Europe
Nechtan and Triduana
in the 8th century, the Pictish King Nechtan visited Papay and attempted to seduce a young woman from the island named Triduana, who in response gouged her own eyes out. Nechtan was known as the King Philosopher. He abdicated in 724 and became a monk. Triduana became saint and chapel St. Tredwell was build in Papay, the place of pilgrimage for many centuries. It seems Nechtan and Triduana could be a nice couple, but the King was a pagan at that time. Triduana was a nun. It looks like ugly sisters couldn’t let it happen and helped a lot in reapping out Triduana’s eyes and presenting in to the King. Since 8th century no other cases of similar self harm were recorded in Papay
Findan, having been captured by a Viking slave-raiding party who had stopped on a small, uninhabited island, escaped to a larger island close by, where he took refuge with a bishop; Thomson has suggested the two islands could be the Holm of Papay and Papay itself (Thomson 1986, 280-3; Lowe 1998, 8-9; Thomson 2001, 50). Lamb has also seen the island as the seat of a ninth- century bishop
Rognvald Brusason (born 1011 – died 1046), son of Brusi Sigurdsson, was Earl of Orkney jointly with Thorfinn Sigurdsson from about 1037 onwards
Rognvald was taken by his father to Norway, to the court of Olaf Haraldsson, when Brusi and Thorfinn went there to have the inheritance of Einar Wry-mouth’s third-share of the Earldom settled. Olaf kept Einar’s share for himself, appointing Brusi to administer it, and kept Rognvald at his court.
The Orkneyinga Saga says of Rognvald: Rognvald was one of the handsomest of men, with a fine head of golden hair, smooth as silk. At an early age he grew to be tall and strong, earning a great reputation for his shrewdness and courtesy…
Rognvald was a supporter of Olaf Haraldsson, later Saint Olaf, sharing his exile in Kievan Rus, and helping his brother Harald Sigurdsson, better known as Harald Hardraade, escape after the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. While Harald went on to Constantinople, Rognvald and other exiles remained in Rus, in the service of Yaroslav the Wise. Rognvald returned to Norway with Olaf’s son Magnus the Good in 1035.
While Rognvald was abroad, his father had died and Thorfinn Sigurdsson was ruling all of the Earldom of Orkney. Rognvald asked King Magnus for his third part of the Earldom, and Magnus agreed, giving him three ships and granting him the stewardship of Magnus’s own third share. When Rognvald arrived in Orkney, he sent to his uncle Thorfinn asking him for the two thirds of the Earldom which Magnus had given him. Thorfinn agreed to give Rognvald his father’s third, and the third which Magnus claimed into the bargain, although he claimed not to recognise Magnus’s claim and presented this as a gift in return for Rognvald’s assistance. and Rognvald worked closely together for eight years, fighting against enemies in the Hebrides and raiding Scotland and England
He was murdered in Papa Stronsey and buried in Papa Westray.
The Orkneyinga Saga offers this assessment of Rognvald:
Everyone agrees that of all the Earls of Orkney he was the most popular and gifted, and his death was mourned by many.
In the twelfth century the ‘great lady’ and ‘wise woman’ called Ragna and her son, Thorstein, ‘a man of fine character’ had an estate in Papa Westray, although they seem to have lived in North Ronaldsay (Orkneyinga Saga, Taylor,218,246). This estate was probably to the south east of Holland, comprising the farms of Backaskaill and Breckaskaill which were believed by Clouston to make up the bu of Ragna and Thorstein,: – the two names perhaps indicating the splitting of an early udal property (probably called originally Skaill) between two heirs (Clouston 1927, 49; Marwick 1952, 45) Although there are now no surface indications, an old settlement site lying between the two extant farms is known to have existed (RCAHMS 1983, 14, no. 12; NMRS no. HY45SE41, OR 787, HY 4862 5085). Backaskail forms the main landing place on the west side of the island (Marwick 1925, 44; Marwick 1952, 45).
Orkney annexed to the Scottish Crown, following the failed payment of a dowry for James III’s bride, Margaret of Denmark
Survivals from one of the Spanish Armada’ ships wrecked near North Ronaldsay established a settlment in Westray and as a legend goes buried a treasure at North Hill in Papay
Sometime prior to 1595, the king’s land in Papay had been feued out to the deceased Gilbert Balfour of Westray (Marwick 1925, 44).
In 1614, the leading families were Leasks and Howisons
Thomas Traill purchased the estate of Holland in Papa Westray and by the eighteenth century Traills were the sole landowners on the island
The last Great Auk being killed by local man William Foulis an Fowl Craig.
John D. Mackay (1909, Maeback, Papa Westray, Orkney), Orcadian school-teacher, taught on Stronsay and North Ronaldsay before working as headmaster of Sanday School between 1946 to 1970.
He is remembered locally for writing to The Times in 1967 suggesting that Orkney and Shetland be returned to Norway after five centuries in pawn to Scotland. His letter brought publicity to Orkney and boosted some residents’ morale, at a time when absorption into the administrative structure of the Scottish Highlands seemed destined to cause a reduction in the powers of the local authorities. A stream of local publicity efforts followed.