Place Names of the Week - Craigsaets
Published: 17 December 2020
Craigsaets, also called craigstanes or craigs, are rocks along the foreshore used for line fishing and associated with the term ‘gyaain ta da craigs.’ From an early period, line fishing with a wand (rod) for piltocks, codlin or sillocks was a common practice, but today it is more for pleasure than a necessity.
The word is Scots in origin, but another term bergset or berset from Old Norse (ON) bergsæti shows that these rocks have been identifiable through their names throughout history. Recorded names include Krabbabergsodi and Tokkabergsodi (Unst), Bergsodi and Bergsodians (Northmavine) and Bergset(s) in Yell and Whalsay. Other names take the form Berrick – Runna Berrick, Djuba Berrick, Girsendi Berrick and Dee Berrick are all in Papa Stour. Names like Sotaberg (Unst), Sjeberg (Fetlar) and Shawberrick (Mousa) come from ON setberg or Faerose seiðiberg, also meaning angling rock.
Several named craigsaets refer to people, such as Lowrie Sinclair, Andrew, Twatty and Robert. A map and list record nine craigseats on South Havra, last inhabited in 1923, but the precise location of Trowie Craig, Holladolla, Scult and Taviecudda was forgotten at time of recording. Fair Isle craigsaets include Da Hens Box, Sinkyar, Skoethin and Heelataing, whilst in Papa Stour you find the Runnick o Rasmie, Dumpers, Barnie’s Heelick, Lowrie Yell’s Hol and Robin Hood.
Unst names include Red Stane, Riffars, Stool o da Taings, Keila Skerry, Ebb Saets, Fugradaal, Heilier Nort Saet, Fluetaing, Salt Water Wells and Hamar o Snarravoe; whilst in Cunningsburgh you find Da Craigstane, The Baggey, Orkney’s Geo, Mare, Helya and Pilaberg.
John Stewart recorded many craigsaets, but often they are just in a list and not plotted on a map. Interesting examples from Yell include: Johnnie Bruce Stone, The Eenians, Rudda, Olaf’s Stone, Point a Cleatna, Da Flaugie, and Da Aggie Geos (Cullivoe); Stules, Pallants, Skercens, Quarrel, Kurdiscair, Da Birn and Dauniel’s Hol (East Yell); Saet Nanshage, Stoutie Craigstane, Paetna Shaga and Da Auld Hoose (Burravoe); Burgataing, Sinclair Hols, Tivvacuddi, Flocuddas, Trumbie, Bress Pin, Sobulls and Da Slang (Westandwick); and Red Steen, Heedrig, Feetle, Poita, Hamar, Yellow Heelick and Bessit (Da Herra).
Sometimes fishing from craigsaets was by using poak nets as pictured. A net was held open by an iron ring and suspended from a long pole, which was lowered into the water. Other craigsaets are identifiable by soepots - the small cup-shaped hollows in the rocks used for crushing limpets used for bait. I am keen to hear from folk who still go to the craigs or can help pinpoint any craigsaets, particularly those listed by John Stewart and the pictured rock at Levenwick. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any information.
Eileen Brooke-Freeman, Shetland Place Names Expert
We hope you have enjoyed this blog. We rely on the generous support of our funders and supporters to continue our work on behalf of Shetland. Everything we do is about caring for Shetland's outstanding natural and cultural heritage on behalf of the community and for future generations. Donations are welcomed and are essential to our work.