This week started off with a Sheep Court meeting. What's a Sheep Court?!
The Sheep Court was formed in 1839 and comprised of 11 men. There were 5 toonships on the island: Nesbusta in the South East (actually two toonships of Nesstoun and Bustatoun); Hollandstoun in the South West; Linklet (Linklestoon) in the centre; East North Yard township in the North East; and Ancumtoun in the North West. Each toonship elected 2 "sheepmen" for the Court, who were to carry out and enforce the Sheep regulations. The 11th man on the Sheep Court was a vet.
"New Sheepmen are to be sworn-in before a Magistrate, or Justice of Peace. The keeper of the Sheep Register shall for his services be allowed to keep 15 sheep over and above any other allocation he may have, and each Sheepman is likewise allowed an extra 10 above the normal allocation.”
According to a survey in 1999 the wall was painted with red marks to indicate the limits of each section maintained by the different toonships, though I haven't seen any evidence of this still surviving. Originally each croft on the island had an allocated number of sheep, which ranged from 10 to 60 sheep, according to the size of their holding. Nowadays, there are so few sheep owners on the island that "sheepmen" are no longer elected, every sheep owner is able to be on the Sheep Court if they desire. As part of my role I also attend the Sheep Court to report on my dyke building and to discuss priorities for the repairs.
On Wednesday I was interviewed by Huw Williams at BBC Radio Orkney. The recording is no longer available (probably for the best!) but here's the article.
On Thursday morning I was off out to check the dyke in the South West with Olly when we were greeted with a PrOOblem when we stepped outside - a blocked sewerage pipe which resulted in a poo puddle, which bubbled when the toilet was flushed! We called for help and escaped to the coast. When we returned Ian and Mark were elbow deep in.... you get the idea. Problem fixed, the heroes of the day were welcomed inside (boots left outside!) for some beers.
The island is overrun with rabbits, tunneling under the dyke and consuming vegetable patches. When we happened upon a fresh roadkill this week we took it home for a budget-friendly dinner.
🕓 1.5-2 hours 👤 Serves 2
1 rabbit, skinned and jointed (2 back legs, saddle cut into 2)
salt and pepper
1 tbp plain flour
1/2 ring of chorizo , chopped into bite sized chunks
1 onion, diced
75ml of white wine
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/2 jar roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1 tbsp smoked paprika
300ml chicken stock
Worcestershire sauce, dash
10 pitted olives
1/2 tbsp of capers
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g of mushrooms, sliced
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Soak the rabbit in mild brine, which draws all the excess blood out. Pat dry. Season with salt and pepper, dust with flour
Fry the chorizo chunks in a little oil until crispy. Remove from the pan.
Add the rabbit to the same pan and fry the rabbit until golden. Remove from the pan
Fry off the onion until soft. Add the wine and reduce down.
Add the chorizo and rabbit back in with the chopped tomatoes, roasted peppers, smoked paprika, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, olives, capers, garlic and mushrooms
Simmer for 1-2 hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bone
Stir in fresh parsley. Serve with crusty bread or mashed potato