Majesty's Office of Works, Edinburgh ; T. Mainland, Bressay ; P Moar, Lerwick ;
J. Mooney, J.P., Kirkwall ; W. Ratter, Lerwick; D. J. Robertson, Kirkwall ; G.
Russell, Lerwick ; H. W. Scarth of Breckness ; L. Scott, Lerwick ; J. Stewart,
Whalsay ; E.S. Reid Tait, Lerwick ; W. Traill, C.E., J.P., of Holland ; and G. Mackie
Watson, F.R.I.B.A.
Orkney and Shetland are well known for the number, variety and interest of
their prehistoric remains. Such monuments as Maes Howe, the Rings of Brodgar and
of Stenness, and the Broch of Mousa, have long been famous. The present survey has
afforded an opportunity, not only for reviewing earlier knowledge of all the prehistoric
monuments found in the islands, but also for assembling the results of some very
important discoveries which have been made during the past few years, while, in
addition, much completely new matter is now published for the first time. It may be
mentioned further that this Inventory practically completes our survey of the areas
in which brochs are found in any numbers, and that in consequence the present
volumes, together with those dealing with Caithness, Sutherland, and the Outer
Hebrides and Skye, may be taken as containing nearly all the material likely to be
helpful to students of these structures without further excavation. The records of the
early domestic sites, again, as well as the evidence of Celtic Christianity provided by
ogham inscriptions and symbol carvings, are also of considerable interest.
In view of the fact that these islands were for centuries the seat of a Norwgian
Earldom, the number of monuments attributable to the Norse régime is disappoint-
ingly small. However, the mere grouping together of all the available matter, some of
it new, does something to facilitate the study of this period. In particular, the runic
inscriptions in Maes Howe have been given very full treatment. Architectural remains
of the Norse and succeeding periods, such as the series of early churches which have
survived without material alteration, are in general of much interest in their anti-
quarian aspect though not very distinguished artistically. But at least three of the
buildings here recorded - St. Magnus Cathedral and the Earl's Palace in Kirkwall, and
Muness Castle in Unst - are amongst the finest examples of their types in Scotland.
The present description of St. Magnus Cathedral is much more fully detailed than any
which has previously appeared.
The general condition of the monuments is unsatisfactory, and those which are
not under the protection of Your Majesty's Office of Works are deteriorating rapidly.
The advance of dilapidation was noted by our officers even during the eight years
occupied by the present survey. In the case of buildings of the historic periods the
cause appears to be lack of attention suffered for a long period in the past, the effects of
which are now becoming patent. The decay of the prehistoric structures, on the other
hand, seems rather to be due to a secular process of attrition whether at the hands of
farmers and builders, or of careless persons of all sorts. We note, however, that the
work of the Orkney Antiquarian Society and the visits made by our own officers in the
course of the survey have resulted in a gratifying increase in the interest taken in, and
the respect felt for; their heritage by the people of the islands.
We desire to record that a full description of the post-Reformation tombstones in
the Cathedral Churchyard at St. Andrews, which was inadvertently omitted from the
Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Fife, has
been duly prepared and published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of
Scotland, Volume lxx (1935-6), pages 40 to 121.


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