|OS grid reference||ND460963|
|Area and summit|
|Area||903 hectares (3.5 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||80 metres (262 ft)|
|Pop. density||45 people/km2|
|Main settlement||Burray Village|
|Local Authority||Orkney Islands|
Geography and geology
Burray lies between Mainland, Orkney and South Ronaldsay, and is linked to both by the Churchill Barriers. Barriers 1, 2, and 3 connect Burray with Mainland, Orkney via the islets of Glimps Holm and Lamb Holm in Holm Sound to the north east. Barrier 4 links to South Ronaldsay, across Water Sound. To the west is the tidal island of Hunda, also joined by a causeway. Further west, across Scapa Flow, are the islands of Flotta and Calf of Flotta, approximately 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) away.
In 2001, the population of Burray was 357, a total that had grown to 409 by 2011. The main settlement, Burray Village, is a former fishing port on the south west coast. There are also settlements of Northtown, Southtown and Hillside on the island.
Burray is made up of old red sandstone of the Devonian period. The island is indented in the north west by Echnaloch Bay, which takes its name from Echna Loch. Burray Ness and Burray Haas are two headlands in the east.
Sir James Stewart
During the early 18th century, the laird of Burray was one Sir James Stewart. Stewart is said to have been involved with a murder in Kirkwall in 1725, and went on the run for twenty years. A Jacobite sympathiser, he ended up fighting in the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and was one of the few survivors. However, when he returned to Burray after the battle, he happened to chance upon the son of the murder victim, who reported him to the authorities. Stewart was arrested, and ended up dying in a prison cell in London.
WWII and construction of Churchill Barriers
On 14 October 1939, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Royal Oak was sunk at her moorings within the natural harbour of Scapa Flow, by the German U-boat U-47 under the command of Günther Prien. U-47 had entered Scapa Flow through Holm Sound, just to the north of Burray, one of several eastern entrances to Scapa Flow. The eastern passages were protected by measures including sunken block ships, booms and anti-submarine nets, but U-47 entered at night at high tide by navigating between the block ships.
To prevent further attacks, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill ordered the construction of permanent barriers. Work began in May 1940 and the barriers were completed in September 1944, but were not officially opened until 12 May 1945, four days after the end of World War II.
The Churchill Barriers project required a substantial labour force, which peaked in 1943 at over two thousand. Much of the labour was provided by over 1300 Italian prisoners of war, who had been captured in the desert war in North Africa, who were transported to Orkney from early 1942 onwards. As the use of POW labour for War Effort works is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions, the works were justified as 'improvements to communications' to the southern Orkney Islands.
- Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands >20ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
- National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
- Ordnance Survey. Get-a-map (Map). 1:25,000. Leisure. http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/getamap/. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
- Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga Saga. Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9
- Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) Orkneyjar ok Katanes (map) Inverness: Nevis Print
- General Register Office for Scotland (28 November 2003) Scotland's Census 2001 – Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- "The Churchill barriers". Living in Orkney. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- "Orkney Fossil and Heritage". Retrieved 2011-07-03.
- Isabelle Bour: Brunton , Mary... In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004; online e. October 2005). Retrieved 18 November 2010. Subscription required.
- Essential Scotland: The Miracle of Lambholm[dead link]