"Sanday, one of the most considerable of the North Isles of Orkney. It contains a post office station of its own name. It lies 2¼ miles N of Stronsay, 1⅜ mile E of Eday, 7 miles E of Westray, and 2½ S of North Ronaldshay. Its form is exceedingly irregular, and may, in a general view, be regarded as three large peninsulas and two small ones radiating from a common centre. Its length, from NE to SW, is 13⅛ miles; and its breadth varies between ½ mile and 5 miles. ...

Excepting a hillocky ridge of 116 to 173 feet in altitude on its W side, the island is extremely flat. Its soil is everywhere light and sandy, and, when well manured with seaweed, produces as good crops as any which are raised in Orkney. The principal harbours are Kettletoft on the SE side of the island, and Otterswick Bay on the NE, both commodious and pretty safe. Eleven small lakes, the largest about 2¼ miles in circumference, and two or three others not much inferior to this, occur in various parts of the island, particularly in the N. On the promontory of Els Ness, which projects to the S, and commands an extensive sea view, are upwards of twenty vitrified cairns, supposed by Dr Hibbert to have been signal stations of the Norsemen for communicating with their fleets in the sound. The other antiquities of the island are the ruins of one or two ancient chapels, and of some considerable Picts' houses. Sanday is ecclesiastically divided into Lady parish on the E, and the united parish of Cross and Burness on the W. Five public schools, Burness, Cross, Lady, North Ronaldshay, and Sellibister, with respective accommodation for 80, 60, 140, 96, and 132 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 56, 49, 85, 55, and 79, and grants of £49, 18s., £52, 4s. 6d., £81, 7s. 6d., £36, 1s., and £90, 19s. 6d. Pop. (1831) 1839, (1861) 2145, (1871) 2053, (1881) 2082, of whom 1137 were in Cross and Burness, and 945 in Lady."

From Francis Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1882-4



  • Some Accounts of Sanday: Edited by Eddie Sinclair, 2003. Reprints of 1529,1791,1841 and 1957 statistical accounts of the island, plus a similar account for 2000.
  • The Burness Crofters: by B. W. Tulloch. "In the Making of Orkney" series. 1996.
  • Island Images: Memories of Sanday: by Bessie Skea. Published 1982 by Stromness Orkney Press Ltd.
    Recollections of people and places in the North end of Sanday.
  • Sanday Church History: by Rev. Alexander Goodfellow. Published 1912, reprinted as A Visit to the Sanday: 1978, with political Introduction.
  • Faraway Island: by William Towrie Cutt. Published by Andrew Deutch. 1977.
    Account of a childhood spent in Sanday.
  • Orkney Folklore and Sea Legends: by Walter Traill Dennison. Published by The Orkney Press.
    Stories and legends written in old Orcadian dialect.

Church Records

Old Parish Registers - Cross & Burness

  • Baptisms, 1758-1854. The entries specify the division of the united parish in which the births occurred. Carefully kept prior to 1803. Irregular and defective 1803-20.
  • Marriages, 1828-1854. No entries 1822-37, except four entries for 1827 entered in the index to the baptisms.
  • Burials. No entries.

Old Parish Registers - Lady

  • Baptisms, 1735-1854. No entries 1785-90. Incomplete 1793-98.
  • Marriages, 1818-1854.
  • Burials, 1831-41.

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

  • Ref: OCR/KC/7: Cross and Burness Kirk, Sanday: Baptisms 1704-1707, Proclamations of marriage banns 1899-1958, Marriages 1711-1733, Communion Roll 1943-1956.
  • Ref: OCR/FC/24: Sanday Free Kirk/West Kirk: Baptisms 1921-1959.
  • Ref: OCR/FC/25: Sanday United Presb. Kirk/East Kirk: Baptisms 1814-1818, Communion Roll 1909-1959.
  • Ref: OCR/KC/15: Sanday (formerly Lady) Kirk: Baptisms 1892-1901, Marriages 1895, Proclamations of marriage banns 1865-1932 (included in first volume are loose pages listing marriages 1812-1818), Roll of Communicants 1959-1997.

Civil Registration

The Registrar of births, deaths, and marriages for the island of Sanday.
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 Sanday which are provided by:





You can see maps centred on OS grid reference HY652403 (Lat/Lon: 59.247415, -2.611968), Sanday which are provided by: