The first recorded sighting was in Orkney, in 1682. James Wallace, writing in about 1688, described a Finn-man in his "little Boat" at the south end of Eday being seen by the people of the island from the shore, and then fleeing swiftly when the islanders put out a boat to try and apprehend him. In 1684, a Finn-man seen at Westra was connected with the disappearance of fish from the area. A boat was captured in Orkney, and sent to the Physicians Hall in Edinburgh.
They were originally associated with Finland, although they were in fact Inuit from the Davis Straits, a fact recognised by Wallace. It was considered more probable that they could have travelled from Finland, Lapland, or another part of Europe, so the association persisted.
Wallace's eldest son James added a note to a 1700 publication of his father's account, suggesting they had been driven to Scotland by storms. The most likely reason for their arrival is that they were escaped prisoners, having been taken by European ships as curiosities. Such was the concern about this practice that in 1720 the Staten Generaal of the Netherlands passed a law prohibiting the murder or kidnapping of Inuit.
There are frequently Finmen seen here upon the coasts, as one about a year ago on Stronsa, and another within these few months on Westra, a gentleman with many others in the isle looking on him nigh to the shore, but when any endeavour to apprehend them, they flee away most swiftly; which is very strange, that one man, sitting in his little boat, should come some hundred of leagues from their own coasts, as they reckon Finland to be from Orkney; it may be thought wonderful how they live all that time, and are able to keep the sea so long. His boat is made of seal skins or some kind of leather, he also hath a coat of leather upon him, and he sitteth in the middle of his boat, with a little oar in his hand, fishing with his lines: and when in a storm he sees the high surge of a wave approaching, he hath a way of sinking his boat, till the wave pass over, least thereby he should be overturned. The fishers here observe that these Finmen or Finland-men by their coming drive away the fishes from the coasts. One of their boats is kept as a rarity in the Physicians Hall in Edinburgh.
Kayaks belonging to Finn-men are preserved in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
- Feest 1999, p. 161
- MacRitchie 1912, p. 225
- Feest 1999, p. 162
- MacRitchie 1912, p. 223
- Dr. Andrew Jennings (2010). "The Finnfolk". University of the Highlands and Islands. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- MacRitchie 1912, p. 213
- Sigurd Towrie. "The Origin of the Selkie-folk". orkneyjar.com. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- Feest, Christian F. (1999). Indians and Europe: An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803268975.
- MacRitchie, David (1912). "The Aberdeen Kayak and its Congeners" (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.