Mainland Families

In the 1800s there were numerous Mainland families in Rousay and also in Egilsay and Wyre. At that time most of the Rousay Mainlands lived in the Frotoft district.


Frotoft Mainlands

Most of the Frotoft Mainlands were descended from two brothers, David and Alexander.  David farmed Tratland and was married twice, firstly to Margaret Sinclair by whom he had eight children and secondly to Marion Mainland by whom he had another four.   Alexander and his wife Janet Kirkness lived at the nearby croft of Cruseday where they raised five children, including a set of triplets.  This was the only case of triplets known of in Rousay.  All three lived to an advanced age. David and Alexander Mainland had another brother, William, of whom  little is known except that he served in the Royal Navy and was awarded the Navy Medal with Trafalgar bar in 1848.  For many years the medal was in New Zealand where it had been taken by one of William's relatives after its owner's death.  In recent times it was returned to Orkney to another relative who had the tattered ribbon replaced.  It is now back in Rousay in the care of John Mainland, a great-great grand nephew of the man who won it.  Orkney descendants include Robert Mainland and Rhoda Stevenson.

John Mainland and his wife Lydia Mowat. John was a son of David Mainland and Marion Mainland.

Isabella and Betsy Mainland, daughters of John and Lydia opposite

(Photos - Sheila Lyon)

John Mainland of Cott who married Betsy Mainland above.


Mary (Mainland) Robertson and her sister Janet (Mainland) Traill, sistera of  Isabella and Betsy Mainland (above).
Mary married George Robertson and Janet married Tom Traill. Both couples lived in Grand Haven in Michigan, USA
(Photos - Sheila Lyon)



Mary Mainland, b. 1840 in Rousay and d. 1942, age 102, in Kirkwall, a daughter of Nicol Mainland and Margaret Louttit Isabella Mainland, b. 1843 in Rousay and d. 1934, daughter of Nicol Mainland and Margaret Louttit, sister of Mary "Granny" Mainland (left), with her husband James Graham and eldest son William Murray Graham, in 1866/7

Photo from The Orcadian or The Orkney Herald in 1941

Photo by courtesy of Christine Graham, a gg-grandaughter of Isabella Mainland

Four Mainland generations c1920 - Isabella Mainland (above), with eldest son William Murray Graham, grandson John Mainland Graham and g-granddaughter Anne Alicia Graham

Photo by courtesy of Christine Graham, a gg-grandaughter of Isabella Mainland

Sourin Mainlands

There were Mainlands in the farm of Avalsay for several generations.  The last of them were brothers John and Leslie and their families who emigrated to the USA.  Leslie left Rousay in the 1870s and made his home in Wisconsin where there are numerous descendants, including Molly Macdonald  in Milwaukee and Sue Keeran in Illinois.  It is interesting to note that Kenneth Sinclair Mainland, one of Leslie's grandsons, married Madelaine a sister of the famous author Ernest Hemingway.  Another of Leslie's relatives, on his mother's side of the family, married John Updike, another famous American writer.  It has not so far been possible to trace where John Mainland settled in the USA.  Some other Mainlands in Rousay, such as those in Banks, Sourin, were related to the Avalsay family.  Orkney descendants include Russell Marwick, Phebe Lennie, and Fiona Crawford.



Leslie Mainland born at Avalsay, Rousay in 1823 and his wife Ann Mainland born in Westray. They emigrated to Wisconsin in the 1870s.


James Mainland b. 1870 and his brother Sinclair b. 1866, sons of Leslie and Ann above. Both sons left Rousay when they were boys.

(Photos by courtesy of Sue Keeran)


Another Mainland family can be traced back to Cott Mode a small croft which is now part of Avalsay.  The earliest traceable member is Alexander Mainland who married Mary Cooper.  Three of their grandchildren emigrated to Canada, with James going to Saskatchewan and Mary and John settling in Manitoba.  There are many descendants.  Four of James's children perished in the 'flu epidemic which swept through the world in 1918.  There are numerous descendants of the Cott Mode Mainlands living in Orkney, such as Kathleen Bichan, Irene Ritch, Alaster Groat, and Inga Oddie.

Egilsay Mainlands

Almost all the Mainlands in Egilsay were descended from William Mainland, born c1750, and his wife, Marjory Rendall.  The exceptions were the Mainlands of Weyland Farm who were an offshoot of the Frotoft branch.  The descendants of William and Marjory spread out to Cott, Midskaill, Culdigo, Warset and other farms in Egilsay.  Several of them, not all from the same generation, emigrated to Canada and their descendants, among them Dan Mainland and Shirley Fellowes, are to be found in several provinces there.



John Mainland of Weyland, Egilsay 1851-1932 and his wife Sarah Rendall with 3 of their children, thought to be, l to r George, John, and Margaret. At that time it was common for boys to wear girls' clothes until the age of 2/3 years.

George Mainland, son of John and Sarah (left) with his wife Violet Sinclair, his mother Sarah, and daughter Sarah Ann.




Wyre Mainlands

In the mid-1800s there were several Mainland families in Wyre.  It is not known if they had a common ancestry but they were all connected through marriage.  Some of them emigrated either as individuals or as larger family groups.  One of them Nicol Mainland, 1773-1847, married Ann Craigie Mainland, daughter of  Alexander Mainland and Isabella Marwick in 1798.  Two of their sons, John and James, married sisters Mary and Margaret Sinclair, daughters of John Sinclair who was a son of Archie Sinclair of Swandale.

Towards the end of the 1800s eight members of the family of John Mainland and Margaret Mainland of Onzibist Farm on Wyre emigrated, most of them to the USA and others to Canada.  Among the many descendants in the USA are Marie Bainbridge in Tennessee, Hugh Lippitt in Illinois, Mary Mimski in Georgia, and Gordon Mainland in Ohio.

Robert Mainland, b. 1891, son of John and Margaret Mainland of Wyre. He is seen here with his son Robert 1916-1940 who became a RAF pilot during WW2. While flying in tight formation over Caithness another plane collided with his. Robert jumped free but his parachute failed to open.

Jack Merrill, a great, great, grandson of William Mainland and Katherine Craigie of The Bu in Wyre lives in Lodi, California.  Descendants of other Wyre Mainlands are to be found  in Indiana, Florida, and Ontario.



John Mainland, 1815-1892, and his wife Mary Sinclair of Tratland, 1819-1882. See Wyre Mainlands above.
(Photo - T. Gibson)


Rachael (Dun) Mainland with her daughter Isabella, mother of Jack Merrill mentioned above.
(Photo - Jack  Merrill)

In 1878 William Mainland, from Cavit on the island of Wyre, married Jean Gibson from Knarston in Rousay and moved to the farm of Farewell in South Ronaldsay, where they remained for the rest of their lives.  They had three children, Mary Ann b. 1879, William b. 1888, and John.b. 1893.  Mary Ann married Alexander Sinclair in S Ronaldsay and shortly afterwards emigrated to the USA, settling in Salamanca, NY.

Alexander and Mary Ann are seen with the four youngest of their five children, viz John (seated right), and standing l to r, Alex, Mildred, and Raymond

Photo by courtesy of Marilyn Siperek, a grand-daughter of Mildred.