At 07:13 14/07/99 -0400, you wrote:
have many Sinclairs and quite a few Bews in my Orkney ancestors.
>This is just a casual enquiry.Here in Melbourne the Bews and
>families fellowship together.Since they're both old
Orcadian names , I was
>curious if the two families have past
historical links that are known to this
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of Bews does not appear in any of the papers in front of me, namely:
J Storer Clouston's Records of Orkneys
St Clairs of the Isles
but I have found references to Bews in another book called "The
Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland"
Fenton from which I quote:
"In Orkney the change from the one-stilted plough to the
(at first the Highland type but
increasingly the lowland Scottish type)
the last decade of the 18th Century and had become
complete by the end of the first quarter of the 19th Century.
Traditions have been recorded about the introduction of the two-stilted
mould-board ploughs with reins. When the first came to
the West Mainland
of Orkney: "The late Hugh Bews, the
grandfather of the present Mr James Bews
of Yesnaby was hired
to show the West Mainland people how to drive horses
plough with reins and also the way to work a cupper or plough with a
mould-board. This man's plough had a wooden board
because the wood was
thought to be warmer for the ground.
I have often heard the late William Allan of Eastbigging tell
of the vast crowd
of people that gathered on the farm of
Skaill the first day that Hugh Bews
yoked his wooden board
plough and to drive the horses from behind with reins"
I have also been in touch with the Orkney archivist who tells me that
it is very difficult to find out anything about the
However, he is going to send me the information he has. He
believes the name stems from beu which is
for beau which simply means good-looking, stylish - a bit
of a dandy. I can't imagine Hugh Bews being
much of a dandy
behind a team of horses but, at the end of the 18th Century, he
must have been at the cutting edge
(no pun intended) of new
The mould-board plough went on to tame the great wheat belts of
middle America. It is still in universal use but I doubt
Hugh Bews would recognise today's steel monsters as being the
'descendant' of his simple wooden mould-board
when men preferred
wood because it was 'warmer' for the soil. I wish we were at
thoughtful about poor Mother Earth today.
Alas, we have soiled and
spoiled and sullied the World we live in.
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Here is what Gregor Lamb in 'Surnames of Orkney' has to say. 'Bews:
William Bews, Laverock, Shapinsay, 1595; (first record of name) an
interesting Orkney surname and one of the most difficult to unravel; we find
the name Bews in Orkney placenames such as Bewshouse, Buhouse, Quoybewmont,
Bewin etc.from some lost Old Norse word meaning 'hobgoblin', related to the
Scottish word 'boo' and the Danish word 'bussemand', both of which mean
'hobgoblin' : clearly a nickname given by the Norse to some of the early
Celtic peoples: a very common surname in Orkney today, Bews lies in in 23rd
place in the list of common Orkney surnames: this name is highly
concentrated in Kirkwall where more than half the Bews live.'
Sinclair is of course the most common surname in Orkney, whereas for all
Scotland it lies in 64th position according to Lamb.