This bibliography came about after my attempts to buy literature written by Flottarians or featuring content on Flotta. I discovered it was a bit of a hit and miss affair. For instance, it was complete coincidence that I bought a copy of Thomas Groat’s Thirty Years a Colporteur as I had no idea that he was connected to Flotta and so easily could never have known. In relation to books on Orkney the copy of The Islands of Orkney by Liv Kjørsvik Schei had a very good chapter on Flotta but Orkney the Magnetic North by J Gunn was disappointing, featuring only a brief mention of the island. I felt that fellow researchers must be having the same problem and this led me to think that it would be a good idea to put a list of books on the web, thus making it easier for those interested in Flotta to find the relevant material.

For ease of use, I have split this subject into three sections: Books by Flottarian Authors, Writings by Flottarians featured in newspapers or magazines, and Books of Flottarian Interest. Please comment below or contact me if you have found any literature that can be added to any of these lists. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Books by Flottarian authors


The Flottarian published Sep 1931, 40 pages. Articles by unnamed islanders and visitors to the island. Intended as a regular publication only one issue was ever produced. It features a description of some of the landmarks of Flotta, a conversation in the local dialect, an article by a fisherman about when he worked on the boat “The Scotch Lassies” in 1881, an amusing story about two Flotta men worse for alcohol carrying home a three toed pot, salvaging of German ships at Scapa Flow, stanger head army camp from 1914-1916, the producing of ham and eggs, a story about a soldier on the Western Front, and the unofficial 1839 census.


(Note: If anyone knows who wrote any of the articles, please contact me)

Thomas Groat

Thirty Years a Colporteur published 1939, 86 pages. Describes the travels and work of Westray born Thomas Groat in his occupation as Colporteur (seller of religious texts and bibles.) around Orkney . He married a Flotta born woman Elizabeth Flett and settled on Flotta at Blackwall. (Note: His book makes little mention of Flotta itself.)

Arthur C Hay

An Introduction to History for Scottish Schools published in 1925, 1943. Family Rumor goes that this was the first book ever produced that was specifically written for Scottish Schools about Scottish History. Whether this is actually true is unknown. His book covers Early christianity through to the coming of the Railways and the League of Nations. Although written in the 1920s it’s still very readable due to its unpretentious style. Arthur grew up on Flotta but left the island in his teens to continue his education in Aberdeen. In his later years he was a teacher at Keith Grammar School then headmaster of Aberlour Secondary School in Banffshire.


Ignatius a Lay of Modern Russia published in 1916. Poem about Russian resistance to the German army. Based on an article titled ‘Guerilla Bands in the Poliesie’ which appeared in the Scotsman of 18 Dec 1915.


The Zebra Zeppelin a short story published in the 1917 Christmas edition of ‘The Sketch’ magazine. Tells the fantastical tale of Count Donnerblitz and his trusty bloodhound’s daring mission to drop breadtickets from their zeppelin over the city of London.


Nelson’s History Practice Parts 1,2 & 3 Three Textbooks with questions for pupils.


Nelson’s History Practice Parts 3a & 4a Two Textbooks with questions for pupils.

James Hay (aka Jamie Hay)

Poems published in 1926. Collection of poems relating to James’ life on Flotta, such as: The Ram, Annie May, Peggy, In Kirks the Noo and Twa Steamers. Features a picture of Cantick Head lighthouse on the front cover. Born on Flotta James Hay lived his whole life on the island at the ‘Old School’. He married Jessie Robertson then Jeannie Falconer and worked as Inspector of Poor and Crofter. Was known to have been a bit of a dreamer.

Poems published in 1928. Includes all the poems from the above, but also features 24 new poems such as The Knot First, The Hindenburg, The Longhope Lifeboat, In Switha’s Isle and Sailor Men. Also includes two articles written about his service in the army during WW1 taken from the local newspapers. The first, titled ‘A Transport Horse an incident of the great war’ describes his defense of a horse from an abusive transport man; the second ‘The Conscript’ tells of his traveling down from Flotta to a camp at Norwich. Front cover sports a small portrait photograph of the moustached author.

Also published the following under the name Jamie Hay


Sacred Poems

(If anyone has any copies of James Hay’s work I’d love to hear from them. Please get in touch.)

David Sinclair

Willick o’Pirliebraes, published 1981. Humorous tales of a ficticious Flottarian written in the local dialect. Stories of Willick first appeared in the Orkney newspaper ‘The Orcadian’. David still lives on Flotta and amongst other occupations is Flotta’s Registrar.


Willick and the Black, Black Oil, first published in 1994. Tales of Willick set during the coming of the oil terminal, interspersed with the author’s own experiences, difficulties and views of the terminal during its construction. Excellent firsthand account of a turbulent period in Flotta’s history.

James Sinclair

The Satires of Juvenal, was written by the Roman author Juvenal critising the morals of his time, James published a translation of the work in 1814 with appended notes. James was born in Kincardine and moved to Flotta in the 1840s to work as a minister.

He also published works on classical and mathematical subjects.

Sutherland Simpson

Elementary Human Physiology, published in 1924. Flotta born Professor Sutherland left the island aged 19, attended classes at Edinburgh University and then emigrated to America where he became professor of Physiology at Cornell University in 1908. It was said that he was nowhere so happy as on Flotta and had an ambition to build a home on the island when he retired but never did. His last visit to Flotta was less than three years before his death in 1923.

Capt. R.L. Sutherland

Will Your Anchor Hold? – The Story of an Orkney Seafaring Family 1850-2000, first published in 2002 by the Dalhanna Press, 164 pages. Excellent family history by a Flottarian descendant. Includes an eighteen page chapter on the Sutherland family of Little Lurdy, an eight page chapter on the Sutherlands of Windbrake, six chapters on the author and his brothers and sisters (with accounts of their experiences of the Second World War), a chapter on the Axinite and its Sutherland Captain, a postscript on Captain Cook and mention of Forby Sutherland, as well as a family tree. Capt RL Sutherland was born in Stromness and served in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.

Also published the following:


Writings by Flottarians featured in Newspapers and Magazines

HAY, Arthur C – Apparently was a regular letter writer to newspapers in the area of Aberdeen and Banffshire, also published the short story ‘The Zebra Zeppelin’ illustrated by Heath Robinson in the 1917 christmas edition of ‘The Sketch’ magazine.

, James – Published a couple of pieces about his wartime experiances in the local papers: ‘A Transport Horse’ and ‘The Conscript’. Both of these pieces can be found in one of his poetry books.

, Margaret Ann – Author of the poem ‘Wreck of the Dinnington on Switha – Feb 16th 1906’ in ‘The Orcadian’ of 1975.

HAY, William – Father of James, Margaret Ann, and William Simpson Hay, who are also listed on this page, he was an occasional correspondent to the Orcadian and Orkney Herald and also contributed to the Southern Newspapers. He also had two articles in a leading magazine, one dealing with an early maritime experience (published circa 1906-1907?), the other contrasting Orkney as it was fifty years ago with the Orkney of today. (If anyone has an idea which well known literary publication this might have been, please email me.)

HAY, William Simpson – Known to have been correspondent to the ‘Orkney Herald’, wrote weekly notes chronicling the happenings on Flotta. He wrote the poem ‘Ada’s Lovers‘ which appeared in the Orcadian, 26 January 1901. Apparently wrote several other poems including: Fair and False, The Bonnie Draperess, Delightful Switha’s Isle, and Ha, Ha, the Lawin’ O’t. (If anyone is able to track down any of his writings or poetry please let me know.)

SIMPSON, John – Author of the article ‘Clootie Dumplings, Fattie Cutties and Duff’, published in the OFHS newsletterSib Folk News in December 2001.

SUTHERLAND, Stanley – Flottarian descendant and writer of the article: ‘A Thames Riverside Family with Origins in Orkney‘. Published in the OFHS newsletter Sib Folk News in October 1998.


Books/Articles of Flottarian Interest

Scapa Flow by Malcolm Brown and Patricia Meehan
Published 2002 (First published 1968). 264 pages. Story of Scapa Flow during the two wars, told through the accounts of those involved. Some very good (but small) sections about Flotta during the war years. WW1: p.52 Flotta correspondent’s account of the arrival of destroyers in Scapa Flow, p.75 poor conditions at the Signal Station in 1915, p.85-87, 89 recreation on Flotta, p.101 return of the Fleet from Jutland, p.110, 112 explosion of the Vanguard. WW2: p.141 building of defenses on Flotta, p.173 a day out on Flotta, p.199 Flotta’s contribution to Orkneyitis, p.229 the Fleet canteen, p.232 leaving Flotta on the M.F.V.s, p.235 mention of a Unit concert-party, p.237 mention of the Flotta Island Orchestra.

The Claymore Story by The Occidental Public Affairs Department
36 pages. Story of the Claymore Oil Field in the North Sea. A thorough account of the construction of the Claymore Oil Platform. Features a two page spread about the island of Flotta’s role in the project with the linking of Claymore’s pipeline to that of the existing Piper pipeline.

The Flotta Story – The Development of an Oil Handling Terminal
 by The Occidental Public Affairs Department
Fourth edition published in 1981. 20 pages. Includes a: brief overview of the industrial history of Flotta, reasons for siting the terminal on the island, environmental and social impact to Orkney, blending the terminal into the landscape, and construction and operation of the terminal.

The Islands of Orkney by Liv Kjørsvik Schei (photos by Gunnie Moberg)
Published 2000. Excellent 5 page chapter on the history of Flotta. Describes some of the features of Flotta’s landscape (Winster’s Well, Peerie Gloup, Panhope etc.), mentions the weather prophet Mammie Scott, talks of the Flotta stone, past ownership of the island, Sir James Steuart of Burray’s indiscretion at Panhouse with Christina Ritch, includes excerpts from George Lows description of Flotta in 1774, gives a description of some of the landmarks from the two world wars, and the coming of the oil terminal.

The Orcadian Book of the 20th Century compiled by Howard Hazell.
Published by The Orcadian Limited (Kirkwall Press) in 2000. 366 pages. Collection of news items taken from the Orcadian and its sister publications. From the index there are 61 references to Flotta, these are of varying breadth and interest. Subject matter includes: Professor Sutherland Simpson, some Flotta men wounded in the Boer War and the Great War, a Flotta correspondent’s eyewitness account of the destruction of the Vanguard, a list of men who died in WW1, voting on prohibition, the sinking of the motor vesselTomega, those men who died in WW2, James Simpson of the American Douglas Aircraft Company, 5 pages on the opening of the oil terminal, Margaret Thatcher visiting Flotta, a photo of the Linhav, a visit to Flotta by the Queen Mother and Sir Matt Busby’s wartime links to Flotta. (Flotta names mentioned: Simpson, Flett, Thomson, Taylor, Ross, Barnett, Work, Sutherland, Sinclair, Rosie).

The Orkney Chronicles – 1900 & 1989 by Anne Buxton & Jacqueline McEwan
Published by The Jamieson Library, Newmill in 1992. 113 pages. Excellent book the majority of which is specifically about Flotta. First half of the book is from the dairy of Brenda Murray and is her account of staying at the Manse in 1900. Includes detailed descriptions of daily life including: sailing around the island, visiting islanders in their crofts, visits to the kirk and the school, and activities such as sheep shearing on Flotta Calf, singling turnips, fishing, etc. (Names mentioned: Mitchell, Simpson, Sabieson, Hill, Sutherland, Haye, Tomison, Easson, Robertson, Wyllie, Thomson, Work, Hett, Norquay, Sandieson, Stuart). Second half is from the perspective of the authors, walking in Brenda’s footsteps and describing present day Flotta. (Present day names mentioned: Sinclair, Fortnum, Barnett, Flett, Rosie, Ross, Monteith, Gee, Sutherland, Crichton).

The Scots Magazine – Flotta to the Fore Again
 by Maurice Fleming
February 1976. 8 page article. Excellent piece about Flotta in 1976. Talks about the islanders’ hopes for Flotta’s future with the coming of the oil terminal, employees thoughts about the terminal, excerpts from Rev. George Barry’s description of Flotta in 1805, changes to the islanders’ lives and a description of the present state of Flotta School. Surnames mentioned: Rosie, Robertson, Sutherland, Russell.

The Scots Magazine – Life is good on Flotta
 by Maurice Fleming
April 1967. 11 page article. Excellent piece about the authors visit to the island. Gives a detailed account of his visit, he describes the island, visits the household of Windbrake and gives an account of said croft, mentions The Gale, talks about pre war farming practices, planting of trees during World War II, includes authors thoughts about soldiers once stationed on the island, Halloween traditions, population decline, the Cinema, making a living, previous visits to the island by royalty, description of the croft of Windbrake, mention of Plymouth Brethren, and plantikreus (walled cabbage patches). Names mentioned: Rosie, Sinclair, Robertson and Sutherland.

Note the following May issue of the Scots magazine contains a general article about the rest of Orkney.

Who was Who in Orkney compiled by W. S. Hewison
First published in 1998. 187 pages. List of 700 Orcadians with brief details of their lives. Those mentioned with specific Flotta connections are: Rev James Bremner b1740 minister of Walls and Flotta (7 lines), Lieut Col. Fred Buchanan served on Flotta during World War1 and again in 1939-1942 (16 lines), Magnus Halcro feued lands in Flotta in 1566 (18 lines), Dr Armand Hammer owner of Oxy (8 lines), Prof. Sutherland Simpson born Flotta (14 lines) and Forby Sutherland born Flotta (5 lines).

Books featuring little or no Flotta specific material

Orkney the Magnetic North by J Gunn
Published 1932,1941, etc… 286 pages. Little about Flotta apart from a brief paragraph on p.177 mentioning Pan Hope, Rone Head and Stanger Head. Only other information given is Flotta’s location within Orkney and the meaning of it’s name.


Please contact me if you can add to these lists in any way. Click here for further details. I’d be particularly interested to hear of any Flottarian writers, past or present. 

2 thoughts on “Bibliography

  1. Good morning,

    I write to ask if you can help me please?

    I was interested to read the article by Stanley Sutherland & was wondering if the article was still in print please?

    SUTHERLAND, Stanley – Flottarian descendant and writer of the article: ‘A Thames Riverside Family with Origins in Orkney‘. Published in the OFHS newsletter Sib Folk News in October 1998.

    Thanking you

    Very best wishes


  2. Hello Karen

    If you ask the Orkney Family History Society Email: I think they might be able to send you a copy.
    I will have the article somewhere but I cannot find it at the moment so I hope you will be lucky with the family history society

    best wishes

Leave a Reply to Sheena Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *