Orkney’s Lammas Market

The Lammas market was held in August every year. This great annual event attracted people from all over Orkney into Kirkwall, especially before the age of the Steamship.

Goods of all kinds were available at the Lammas Fair and islanders would meet up reuniting friendships at this ancient traditional festival. There were days of great celebration for the bringing in of the harvest and marked an important time of the year in islands where farming was the chief occupation.

The Lammas Market in Kirkwall was held over several days. Before online shopping goods were shipped in for sale.

In 1868 an auction was held of the goods from the wrecked cargo ship Lessing of Bremen which had become grounded off Fair Isle. The auction was described as ‘unprecedented’ and the goods up for bidders included:

  • 2,000 and 3,000 yards of material: double milled German wool of fine quality
  • 1,000s of pairs of ladies cotton stockings
  • 1,000s of pairs of socks for men and boys
  • gloves in cotton and wool
  • fancy baskets of all sizes
  • toys and china
  • new rigging
  • casks of water, pork and beef
  • wood and cabin fittings

At the 1861 Lammas Fair islanders flocked to see Robert Flett demonstrate the first steam engine made wholly in Orkney.

The Orkney Herald 20th August 1861

There were Fairground booths of all kinds of games of chance and perhaps some skill in which you might be lucky to win a small prize. The shops were buzzing with customers too.

Click on this link for an image of the Lammas Fair in 1923.

The celebration of Lammas was an important traditional festival for Orcadians but no longer celebrated. A part of our farming and Orkney heritage which is no more.

The Mercat cross in Kirkwall
Image credit Christie Grahame

Fiona Grahame

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