I Live - Kirbister
The Orcadian placename "Kirbister"
- or "Kirbuster" - derives from the Old Norse "Kirkjubolstaðr",
which literally translates as "church farmstead".
The name seems to indicate that the
rich farmland in the area was once owned by the church, although
it has also been suggested that Orkney's Kirbusters were farms with
prominent early churches.
Early kirk or church land?
The Orcadian antiquarian, Mr Hugh
Marwick, studied the development of Orkney's farm names in great
detail, particularly the Kirbister placenames.
Marwick suggested that the farms
after which the Kirbister/Kirbuster areas were named must have been
in existence well before the "official"
conversion of Orkney to Christianity in AD995.
was that, after the conversion, the spread of Christianity meant
that a settlement incorporating a church, or a chapel, would not be
"unique" enough to make it easily identifiable. In pre-Christian
days, however, the scattering of ten or so Christian farms would
have stood out sufficiently to make the areas recognisable and therefore
warrant the eventual development into a placename.
Although Dr Marwick's
theory is not generally accepted these days, regarding Kirbister,
in Stromness, it is interesting to note a local record that does
indicate an ancient chapel, with a cemetery, in the area.
Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) records declare that, although there was no local tradition,
evidence or knowledge of it, there was once a chapel and graveyard
in an area of the Stromness Kirbister.
ascribed" to the 14th century, all evidence of the chapel
had disappeared by 1880, although RCAHMS records that, according
to the Rentale Orchadie pro Rege et Episcope (Church and
King's rental records), it had fallen into disuse before 1595. The
burial ground was said to be related to it and was supposed to have
fallen into disuse by the end of the 16th century. No remains
were visible in 1928.
chapel would have been much too late to be responsible for the Kirbister
placename, it is tempting to wonder whether there was an earlier
chapel on this marshy site – perhaps not far from the farm of Langskaill.