An Orkney Diarist on Infamous Shipwrecks #History #Scotland

The Diary of Thomas Brown in Kirkwall provides a glimpse into how the Presbyterian struggle of the 1680s was viewed at the opposite end of the nation. Brown’s diary mainly records marriages and deaths in Orkney, sometimes hangings, mainly for sheep stealing, and domestic violence. He even recorded a clan battle, but every once in a while something else caught his eye…

Croune of London 1679

Brown rarely recorded the “far-off” events of the day, but his pen recorded three events in 1679:

‘The 3 May 1679, being Saturday, Mr Sharp, ye Arch Bischop of St Androis, was barborslie murdered by some fanacted persones within a myle or two of ye sd. citie.’ (Brown, Diary, 9.)

‘The 22 of June 1679, being ane Sabbath morneing, the Duck of Monmoth hath battell with the wigges in ye wast of Scotland, near Bothwall Briggs, and he with his arme (glorie be to the Almightie) had the victorie yt. day.’ (Brown, Diary, 9.)

The Croune of London, 1679
Later that year, the unexpected happened. The bodies of Whigs at Bothwell washed ashore on Orkney:

‘The 10th Decr. 1679, being Wednisday, at 9 in the evening or yrabout, the vessell or ship callit ye Croun, qrin was 250 or yby of ye Quhiggs takin at Bothwall Brigs to have bein sent to Verginy, paroched at or neirby ye Moull head of Deirness.’ (Brown, Diary, 10.)

It had taken the Croune of London thirteen wintry days to make its way from Leith to be wrecked on the Mull of Deerness. In the spring of 1682, Brown made the same journey, twice, in two or three days. Brown sailed to Leith, where he presumably witnessed the execution of the Covenanter. Robert Gray, and heard news about the wreck of HMS Gloucester on the Lemon or Ower shoal/sandbank off Yarmouth:

‘Munday, 1st May, 1682, I sailled from Kirkwall for Leith, and arryved yr. on Thursday’s morning, the 4th yrof.’

HMS Gloucester, 1682
‘Wednisday, the 3 May, 1682, ther wes a veshell of sixtie guns, belonging to his Matie, qron the Duk of York wes comeing for Leith, parished at that pairt, neir England, called the Limmerbre [Lemon/Ower shoal], or it lyes betwixt England & Holland, ther being tua Scott’s noblemen, viz., Roxbrugh and Hoptoun, parished in the sd. ship, with about tuo or thrie hundreth men more parished.’ (Brown, Diary, 22-23.)

For a wonderful painting of the wreck of the Gloucester, see here.

The wreck of the Gloucester was infamous as the Duke of York, later James VII & II, allegedly saved his beloved dogs rather than the men, including two Scots nobles. The drowning sailors allegedly cried out huzzas to York as the ship sank. 130 drowned. Among those who escaped was John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough.

For an account of the shipwreck, see here.

York arrived in Leith on 6 May, at least according to Lord Fountainhall. After noting a trades riot in which nine were killed, Brown returns to York’s departure after a brief stay:

‘Munday, the 15 Maij 1682, betuixt thrie & fur in the afternoon, the Duk of York, with his Dutchis, sailled from Leith for Londone.’ (Brown, Diary, 23.)

‘19 May 1682, ther wes ane Rot. Gray, a gentlemen qho leived upon the border, was hanged at the Grassmarkit, in Edr., for treasonable acting and speaking against his Matie.
Fryday’s morning, 26 Maij 1682, I sailled from Leith to Orknay, and arryved yr on the Sabbath yrafter.’ (Brown, Diary, 23.)

For York’s account of the same period, see here.

Back home, the Presbyterian struggle once again came to Orkney’s shores by ship:

‘Wednsday, at night, the 6th Maij 1685, tua of Argyl’s srvands, the ane caled Mr William Blakitter and the uyr Mr Wame. Spence, came from a great veshell of his and landit at Smowgrow, and rom thaire came to Kirkwall the sd. night, and being knowen that they wer srvands to a rebell, they wer be the Magistrates [ordered] to remaine in ther quarters as prisoners till farther ordor from the Privie Counsell, and be whois ordor, with Brecknes, they wer sent owt of Kirkwall wth. a pairtie the 29 of the sd. moneth of May to St. Marts. Houp to goe allongst with Skipper Bytter, then bound to Leith.’ (Brown, Diary, 34-5.)

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Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on December 3, 2016.

3 Responses to “An Orkney Diarist on Infamous Shipwrecks #History #Scotland”

  1. one of my ancestors was listed as being a survivor of the Crown shipwreck Thomson from Benhar

  2. […] of the shipwreck’s mass drowning later became a stalwart of Presbyterian history. It was recorded at the time by an Orkney diarist, but what made the disaster notorious was that some of the prisoners survived to tell their […]

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