"Westray, island, Westray and Papa Westray par., Orkney, separated from Rousay island by Westray Firth, 23 miles by sea N. of Kirkwall, pop. 2200; P.O.; is 10 miles long and from ½ mile to 6½ miles broad. "

From John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887

"Papa Westray, an island of Westray parish, Orkney, 1½ mile E of the northern part of Westray island, and 22½ miles in a direct line N by E of Kirkwall, but 25 by the shortest sea-route. Its utmost length, from N by E to S by W, is 4⅜ miles; and its breadth varies between ½ and 1⅛ mile. The surface culminates in North Hill (156 feet), beyond which the northern extremity forms a bold and lofty headland, the Mull of Papa, well known to mariners, and pierced with a cavern, from 48 to 60 feet wide, and upwards of 70 feet high. ...

The southern half is partly occupied by a freshwater lake, the Loch of St Tredwall (7 x 3½ furl.), on an islet in which are ruins of a pre-Reformation chapel. The soil, to the extent of some 1000 acres, is very fertile, and under regular cultivation. Midway along the E coast is a pastoral islet, the Holm of Papa, which is denizened by myriads of sea-fowl. The whole island of Papa Westray, with the exception of a small glebe, belongs to a single proprietor, Thomas Traill (b. 1822; suc. 1840), who holds 5780 acres, valued at £1629 per annum. His mansion, Holland, stands near the middle of the island, in which are also a remarkably large Picts' house and three vitrified cairns, and which was the scene of the death of Ronald, Earl of Orkney, by the hand of Thorfinn, Earl of Caithness. Anciently a separate and independent parish, Papa Westray, though now annexed to Westray, has still its own parish church, besides a Free church and a public school. Pop. (1838) 335, (1861) 392, (1871) 370, (1881) 345."

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



Papay: A Guide to Places of Interest: by Jocelyn Rendall. Published by Papay Publications 1992. 46pp.
Comprehensive guide which includes Traill family tree.

Memories of Westray and the Rapness Estate: by Robert Leslie. Published: Orcadian 25 July 1991.

Settlement Patterns in Tuquoy, Westray, Orkney: by William P. L. Thomson. Published 1990.

Papay's Heritage: by Edith Sinclair. Published 1988: Orkney Heritage Society Newsletter pp11-15. Orkney Archives.



Mike Bostwick has indexed the Westray censuses for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891.


Church Records

Old Parish Registers - Westray

  • Baptisms, 1733-1854. From 1808-28 inclusive, there are separate records for the East and North Parishes of Westray; in 1829 they are again united. Irregular record of the births of children of Baptists in Westray, 1807-44. Also a certified copy embracing the baptismal registers for the various divisions of the united parish, in which the entries, often irregular in the original, appear to be inserted in chronological order.
  • Marriages, 1805-1854. A certified copy, 1805-19.
  • Burials. No entries.

Old Parish Registers - Papa-Westray

  • Baptisms, 1784-1854.
  • Marriages, 1805-1854.
  • Burials. No entries.

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

  • Ref: OCR/KC/30: Westray Kirk Session: Communion Roll 1909-1951, Proclamations of marriage banns 1890-1977, Records of contracts of marriage Westray and Papa Westray 1855-1874.

Civil Registration

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





You can see maps centred on OS grid reference HY458472 (Lat/Lon: 59.307979, -2.953949), Westray which are provided by: