"Deerness, a parish of Orkney, comprising a peninsula in the extreme E of Pomona and the islands of Copenshay, Cornholm, and Horse. Its kirktown stands on the E coast of the peninsula, 12 miles ESE of Kirkwall, under which it has a post office. Extending from Moul Head south-westward to the isthmus that connects it with St Andrews parish, and measuring 5 miles in length by 3 in extreme breadth, the said peninsula is bounded W and NW by Deer Sound, E by the North Sea, and SE by Newark Bay; the islands lie from 1⅓ mile to 3 miles to the E. From the shores, which are haunted by myriads of sea-birds, the surface of the peninsula rises to a somewhat tabular summit. The soil consists mostly of loam, resting on red clay, and is highly susceptible of improvements, such as draining and a liberal application of shell sand, of which there is an inexhaustible supply. From 50 to 60 boats are employed in the herring fishery; kelp is manufactured; and very strong ropes, fitted for various economic pur poses of the farmer, are made from the shoots of Empetrum nigrum, from the roots of Arundo arenaria, and from the herbage of Holcus lanatus. Several tumuli are on the higher grounds; and remains of a huge Pict's house, called Dingy's howe or Duncan's height, stand near the end of the isthmus. The parish is united quoad civilia to St Andrews, from which, however, it was separated quoad sacra in 1845; Deerness itself being a living in the presbytery of Kirkwall and synod of Orkney, with stipend of £120, a manse, and 3 acres of glebe. The church was originally a parliamentary one. There is also a Free church; and three public schools, Deerness, St Andrews, and Thankerness with respective accommodation for 155, 55, and 83 children, had (1891) an average attendance of 122, 31, and 49, and grants of £1 60, 16s., £31, 7s. 6d., and £58, 5s. Valuation (1892) £2001) 4s. Pop. of q. s. parish (1891) 844."

From Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1896



Almost an Island - The Story of an Orkney Parish, Deerness by Deerness Social History Group. Published in 2005.

Schools and Education in Deerness (1703-1967): by Jane Skea. Published in 1994 in Orkney Heritage Society Newsletter pp7-12.

St. Andrews and Deerness 1877-1977: Edited by Jeanette MS Forsythe. Published 1977. 68pp.
Anthology of recollections to commemorate centenary of primary school.



Presbyterian / Unitarian
St Ninian, Deerness, Church of Scotland

Church Records

Old Parish Registers

  • Baptisms, 1754-1854. No entries (except one) for Nov 1765-June 1767.
  • Marriages, 1703-1811. No entries 1715-53 and 1765-71.
  • Burials, 1703-1794. No entries 1715-87.

Other church records (held at Orkney Archives in Kirkwall).

  • Ref: OCR/FC/6: West Kirk baptisms 1873-1931, Communion Roll 1875-1931.
  • Ref: OCR/KC/8: St. Ninian's Kirk baptisms 1860-1931, Communion Roll 1906-1976, Proclamations of marriage banns 1830-1860 and 1931-1977.

Civil Registration

The Registrar of births, deaths, and marriages for the parish of Deerness.
The Registrar's records extend back only as far as 1st January 1855 when registration became compulsory in Scotland.


Description & Travel

You can see pictures of Deerness which are provided by:



The transcription of the section for Deerness from the National Gazetteer (1868).



You can see maps centred on OS grid reference HY578052 (Lat/Lon: 58.932386, -2.735608), Deerness which are provided by: