Beyond Orkney’s Fatal Shore: The Wreck of The Croune, 10 December 1679 #History #Scotland

Croune of London 1679

At nine to ten o’clock at night on Wednesday 10 December, 1679, The Croune was shipwrecked near the Mull of Deerness in Orkney. Attempting to shelter from a winter storm, it had rounded the mull and cast its anchor, but the wind and seas drove it onto the rocks near Scarva Taing. What made The Croune one of the most infamous shipwrecks in Scottish History was its cargo of human beings, their ill treatment and how they were abandoned to their fate, locked below the deck …

Map of Scarva Taing

The Croune was carrying 257 prisoners of war that were being banished to the American Plantations. They were all Covenanters who had been captured at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge on 22 June and endured imprisonment in Edinburgh.

The story 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 tale.


Below the Covenanters’ Monument © Derek Mayes and licensed for reuse.

An account of The Croune’s voyage and wreck was gathered from one of the prisoners who survived:

‘The prisoners were all shipped in Leith Roads (15th November) in an English captain’s vessel to be carried to America. He was a profane cruel wretch, and used them barbarously, stowing them up between decks, where they could not get up their heads except to sit or lean, and robbing them of many things their friends sent them for their relief. They never were in such strait and pinch, particularly through scorching drought, as they were allowed little or no drink, and pent up together, till many of them fainted, and were almost suffocated. This was in Leith Roads [i.e., before they sailed] besides what straits they would readily endure in the custody of such a cruel wretch. In this grievous plight, these captives were carried away in much anguish of spirit, pinched bodies, and disquieted conscience, (at least those who had taken the bond.) They were tossed at sea with great ternpest of weather for three weeks, till at last their ship cast anchor, to ride awhile among the Orkney isles, till the storm might calm. But after casting anchor, the ship did drive with great violence upon a rugged shore about the isles, and struck about ten at night on a rock. The cruel captain saw the hazard all were in, and that they might have escaped, as some did; yet, as I heard, he would not open the hatches to let the poor prisoners fend for themselves. He, with his seamen, made their escape by a mast laid over between the ship and the rock ashore. Some leapt on the rock. The ship being strong, endured several strokes ere she bilged. The captain, and all the rest of the seamen, with about fifty prisoners, some of whom had been above deck before, others had broke out some other way, down to the den, and so up again, so that they wan to land with their life in; one or two died ashore. While these were thus escaping, the rest, who had all been closed up between decks, crying most pitifully, and working, as they could, to break forth of their prison, but to little purpose; and all these, near two hundred, with lamentable shrieks of dying men, (as was related to the writer by one who escaped,) did perish. The most part were cast out on the shore dead, and after buried by the country people.

It was found, by some who examined those that escaped, that many of them had refused to take the bond. Yet a few of those who had not taken it were drowned; albeit this is soberly marked because these outward things fall much alike to all. It was, however, a puzzling dispensation like many others.’ (Blackadder, Memoirs, 230-2.)


The Trow’s Kist © Ian Balcombe and licensed for reuse.

There are several sites along that coast where the Covenanters are said to be buried, two at Scarva Taing (and here) and a third near the Trow’s Kist.

Wodrow, who used Blackadder’s manuscripts as a source, also collected letters from James Corson, who drowned in the disaster. Corson recorded his thoughts before departure in letters to his wife near Kirkcudbright. It was Wodrow who added a sectarian dimension to the story:


‘Upon the 15th of November, two hundred and fifty-seven of the prisoners were taken out of the Grayfriars’ church-yard [actually the Inner Yard and Edinburgh Tolbooth], early in the morning, before any of their friends knew of it; and, for any thing I can find, they had no previous intimation given to themselves: yea, such was the cruelty now used, that thirty of them [possibly in Heriot’s School], who were dangerously ill of a flux and other distempers contracted by their hard usage, were hurried away with the rest, and no pity showed them. They were carried down under a guard to Leith, and there put aboard a ship lying in the road; they continued twelve days in Leith road before they sailed. The barbarity exercised upon them in the ship cannot be expressed. They were stowed under deck in so little room, that the most part of them behoved still to stand, to give room to such who were sickly, and seemingly a dying: they were pinned so close, they almost never got themselves moved, and were almost stifled for want of air. Two hundred and fifty seven of them being pent up in the room which could scarce have contained a hundred, many of them frequently fainted, being almost suffocated. The seamen’s rudeness and inhumanity to them was singular: when lying in the road, not only did they hinder their friends to see them, or minister to their necessities, but they narrowed them very much in their bread they ought to have had, and allowed them little or no drink, though the master had contracted to give both; to that pitch were they brought, that divers of them were forced to drink their own urine, to quench the extremity of their thirst. And it may be nauseous to remark, that, when they were about to throw their excrements over board, the seamen were so malicious as to cast them back upon them. It is with much truth then, that I find one of themselves, James Corson, a pious serious person, in some letters of his dated from Leith road, complaining to his wife and friends,‘that all the trouble they met with since Bothwell, was not to be compared to one day in their present circumstances; that their uneasiness was beyond words: yet he owns, in very pathetical terms, that the consolations of God overbalanced all, and expresses his hopes that they are near their port, and heaven is open for them.’

I am told, there was fourteen thousand merks collected for their use by honest people at Edinburgh, and put in the hands of some, to buy clothes and other things for them, and somewhat was to be given to each of them, that might relieve their necessities when in America: but I don’t hear it was so well employed for their behoof as it might have been, and not much of it was ever suffered to come to them by the master and seamen; the most part of them never came to need it.

Upon the 27th of November the ship sailed from Leith, and met with very great storms. Upon the 10th of December they found themselves off Orkney, in as dangerous a sea as perhaps in the world. They then came pretty near the shore, and cast anchor: the prisoners, fearing what came to pass, intreated to be set ashore, and sent to what prison the master pleased; but that could not be granted. Instead of this, the captain [Thomas Teddico], who, by the way, I am told, was a papist, caused chain and lock all the hatches under which the prisoners were.

About 10 at night, the ship was forced from anchor by a most violent tempest, and driven upon a rock, and broke in the middle. The seamen quickly got down the mast, and laying it betwixt the broken ship and the rock, got ashore; yet so barbarous were they, that, upon the cries of the poor men, they would not open the hatches, though it is probable, had this been done, most part would have got ashore. But so far from this was the popish master, and his men, that I have many concurring informations, some of them from persons present, that they hindered them from getting up upon the rock, and struck at them. And yet this villain and his men were never called to an account by the council, though the matter was notourly known; and this was as directly murder, as if their throats had been cut. However, about forty, some say fifty, got hold on boards of the ship, and came ashore, and so about 200 were lost, or rather murdered. (Wodrow, History, III, 130-1.)

covenanters-memorial-orkneyCovenanters’ Memorial © Colin Park and licensed for reuse.

In 1888, the anniversary of the Revolution, a monument was erected near Scarva Taing.

Map of Monument


Inscription on Covenanters’ Monument © Ian Balcombe and licensed for reuse.

Who were the prisoners? And where were they from?
That relies on a list published in Cloud of Witnesses in 1714. It is not clear how that list was obtained or produced, but it does contain the names of the thirty-two prisoners that government records certainly indicate were banished.

The list may be drawn from a manifest of some sort or a record taken of the prisoners at that time, as it does not include the names of Robert Miller or William Richardson, who escaped banishment at the last minute. As it also lists those who drowned/survived the shipwreck, the list was probably produced soon after the event.

Some of those identified as banished in Cloud had previously been ordered to be liberated from Greyfriars by the Council on condition that they swore never rise in arms against the King’s authority as they had signed the bond. Among those listed to be liberated on 30 July were eleven prisoners who were later banished on The Croune:

George Weir in Carmichaell [under Lesmahagow parish in Cloud]
William Millar in Barrony of Glasgow [under Glasgow parishes in Cloud]
Thomas Wylie, tenant to the earl of Lowdoun [under Loudoun parish in Cloud]
George Draphan in Lesmahago [under Lesmahagow in Cloud]
Robert Wallace in Phinnick [under Fenwick parish in Cloud]
George Rutherford in Ancrum [under Ancrum parish in Cloud]
Andrew Snodgrasse in Bridgeend of Glasgow [under Govan parish in Cloud]
Patrick Gilchrist in Kippen [under Gargunnock parish in Cloud]
William McCulloch in Dalie [under Dailey parish in Cloud]
William Younger in Bathgate [under Livingston parish in Cloud]
John Givan, tailor in Neilstoune [under Neilston parish in Cloud] (RPCS, VI, 296-7.)

Those eleven names highlight two issues.

First, that being ordered liberated on conditions did not mean that those individuals were liberated. If the Council’s conditions, swearing to never rise in arms against the King again and acknowledgment of royal authority, were not met, then they were not released. It is possible that those eleven men changed their minds, perhaps after hearing of the opposition of the minister John Blackadder to the oath, or the campaign to resist taking it among the prisoners led by Robert Garnock and others. Blackadder confirms that some of those banished had taken the ‘black bond’.

Second, it indicates that the list of those banished in Cloud of Witnesses may not be as accurate as one might desire. In all of the eleven cases above, Cloud either listed them under the same parish as the council or in a few cases a parish next to the one given by the council. Although the origin of the list in Cloud is obscure, when all of the above is taken into account, it appears to be a relatively accurate list of those banished on The Croune.

The list, below, of the Covenanters wrecked on The Croune is taken from Cloud of Witnesses (1714). I have reordered the list and clarified some names. Those marked “***” are said to have survived the disaster:

Out of Fife:

Ceres parish:
John Kirk
Thomas Miller ***

Largo and Kilconquhar parish:
James Kirk
Andrew Pirie

Newburn parish:
James Beal

Strathmiglo parish:
Robert Boig (‘in Newbigging’, Perhaps on Fugitive Roll of 1684 under St Andrews?)

Out of [Kinross]:

Kinross parish:
James Lilburn

Orwell parish:
Robert Kirk *** (a ‘Robert Kirk in Milnathort is listed on the 1684 Fugitive Roll.)
Robert Sands ***

Robert Kirk, cottar in Burleigh, Orwell parish, is one of the few individuals on The Croune that can be pinned down to a specific location. In his case, he lived in the vicinity of Burleigh Castle, beside Milnathort. A cottar was a landless tenant.

Out of Perthshire:

Glendevon parish:
Andrew Murie
John Murie

Kilmadock parish:
John Christison

Kincardine parish:
John Donaldson
Patrick Keir

Out of Stirlingshire:

Drummond parish:
Daniel Cunningham (aka. ‘David’)

Gargunnock parish:
Thomas Brown
James Buchanan
Patrick Gilchrist (Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)
Thomas Miller
James Sands ***

Kippen parish:
James Galbraith

St Ninians parish:
John McNure
John Neilson
Andrew Thomson*** (‘in Sauchie’)
Thomas Thomson ***

Andrew Thomson probably lived near the seventeenth-century Old Sauchie Tower in St Ninian’s parish.

Map of Old Sauchie

[East Sirlingshire]

Airth parish:
Robert Hendrie.
John Morrison
Andrew Young

Denny parish:
James McKie

Falkirk parish:
Hugh Montgomerie *** (a Hugh Montgomery ‘in Jawcraig’ is listed on 1684 Fugitive Roll)

Montgomerie lived at Jawcraig. He probably knew his immediate neighbours who were forfeited for their part in the rebellion.

Map of Jawcraig

Muiravonside parish:
Thomas Phalp (Philip? A Thomas Philip, in Falkirk, appears on the 1684 Fugitive Roll)

Out of Dunbartonshire:

New Kilpatrick parish:
James Finlayson

Out of Lanarkshire:

Biggar parish:
John Rankin

Bothwell parish:
William Breakenrig
‘—–’ More ***

Calder parish:
William Frame ***

Cambusnethan parish:
William Scular ***

Carnwath parish:
James Couper
Thomas Crichton

Carstairs parish:
Thomas Swan ***

Evandale parish:
Andrew Aiton
Robert Alison
William Alison
Thomas Brownlie
John Cairnduff
John Cochran
Andrew Torrence
John Watson

Glasgow parishes (including Barony parish):
Walter McKechnie (aka. ‘Wallter McDichmaye’?)
William Miller (in Barony parish. Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)
Alexander Pirie
Francis Wodrow

Glassford parish:
John Craig
John Miller

Govan parish:
Andrew Snodgrass (‘in Bridgeend of Glasgow’. Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)

Snodgrass lived at the Bridge-end of Glasgow, which lay directly at the southern end of the bridge across the Clyde at Glasgow, aka The Gorbals.

Kilbride parish:
Robert Auld
James Clark
John Clark
William Rodger
John Struthers

Lesmahagow parish:
George Weir (Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)
Robert Weir
George Drafin *** (Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)

New and Old Monkland parishes:
Thomas Barton
William Grindlay
Thomas Mathie
William Miller
James Waddell
John Wynet
John Gardner *** (a ‘John Gardiner’ in Gartlea, ‘son to John Gardiner there’ is listed on 1684 Fugitive Roll)
William Waddell *** (a ‘William Waddel, in Riding’, is listed on 1684 Fugitive Roll)

Gartlea lay at what is now the junction between Tinto Road and Gartleahill.

Riding was probably Ryden on Condorrat Road.

Quothquan parish:
James Thomson
Thomas Wilson
James Penman ***

Shotts parish:
John Aitkin
Robert Chalmers
John Killen
Peter Lermont
Robert Russell
Alexander Walker
John Thomson *** (‘in Bothwellmuir’)

Bothwellmuir was a barony in the vicinity of Kirk O’Shotts.

Out of Renfrewshire:

Eastwood parish:
James Cunningham

Neilston parish:
John Govan (‘tailor in Neilstoune’. Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)

Paisley parish:
William Auchinclose
William Buchan

Out of Ayrshire:

Auchinleck parish:
Andrew Richmond

Craigie parish:
George Dunbar ***

Cumnock parish (inc. New Cumnock):
John Gemill
James Mirrie

Dalmellington parish:
Walter Humper
Hugh Simpson
Hugh Cameron *** (a ‘Hugh Cameron, in Dalmellington’ appears on the 1684 Fugitive Roll)
Walter Humper, younger ***
Quintin McAdam ***

Dreghorn parish:
James Bouston

Dundonald parish:
Andrew Thomson ***

Fenwick parish:
David Bitchet
William Bitchet
Andrew Buckle
David Currie
James Gray
Robert Tod
John White
John Wylie
Robert Wallace *** (Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)

Galston parish:
George Campbell
James Young

Kilmarnock parish:
James Anderson
Robert Anderson
William Brown
John Cuthbertson
Thomas Finlay
Patrick Watt ***

Loudoun parish:
Thomas Wylie (tenant of the earl of Loudoun. Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)

Mauchline parish (incl Sorn parish):
William Drips
William Reid

Muirkirk parish:
John Campbell
Alexander Paterson.

Ochiltree parish:
Andrew Welsh

Stewarton parish:
Andrew Wylie
Robert Wylie
Thomas Wylie

[Out of Carrick, Ayrshire:]

Barr parish:
Alexander Burden

Colmonell parish:
John McCornock
John McLellan
Thomas McLurg

Dailey parish (Old and New):
David McCubbin
William McCulloch (Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)

Girvan parish:
William Caldwell

Kirkmichael parish:
John Brice
John Douglas
James McConnel
John McTire
Robert Ramsay

Kirkoswald parish:
Thomas Germont
John White

Maybole parish:
Mungo Eccles
Thomas Horn
Robert McGarron
John McHarie
John McWhirter
William Rodger

Straiton parish:
George Hutcheson
Alexander Lamb
James McMurrie

Out of Galloway, i.e., Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire:


Penninghame parish:
John McTaggart
Alexander Murray ***


Balmaclellan parish:
John Edgar ***

Balmaghie parish:
James Houston
Robert Caldow *** (a ‘Robert Cadjow, in Craig’ appears on the 1684 Fugitive Roll)

Borgue parish:
John Brice
Robert Bryce
Andrew Sprot
William Thomson
John Martine ***
John Richardson *** (a ‘John Richardson, there’ appears on the 1684 Fugitive Roll)

Dalry parish:
John Malcolm *** (Captured at Airds Moss and Executed in August, 1680)
John Smith ***

Girthon parish:
Andrew Donaldson

Irongray parish:
Andrew Wallet (aka. ‘Wallace’)

Kelton parish:
James Donaldson

Kirkcudbright parish:
James Corson (aka. Corssane)
John McBraickney *** (aka. ‘Jon mcCleikeraye’?)
John McGie ***
Andrew MacQuhan *** (Possibly kin to Adam MacQuhan)

Kirkmabreck parish:
Samuel Beck
Robert Brown
Samuel Hannay

Lochrutton parish:
Andrew Clark ***

Out of Nithsdale in Dumfriesshire:

Closeburn parish:
John Kennedy
Thomas Milligan

Glencairn parish:

James Colville
John Ferguson
David Mackervail
Robert Milligan
Thomas Rosper
William Ferguson ***
John Milligan ***
John Murdoch ***
John Smith ***


Ettrick Forest:
John Scott

Galashiels parish:
Robert Young
Robert Macgill *** (‘Webster in Gallowshiels’. A Robert Gill, in Galashiels’ appears on the 1684 Fugitive Roll)


Ancrum parish:
George Rutherford (Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)

Ashkirk parish:
William Herd

Bowden parish:
Andrew Newbigging (‘in the Merse’)

Castletown parish:
John Innes
John Pringle
William Scott
Alexander Waddell

Cavers parish:
Samuel Douglas
John Greenshields
James Hopkirk
Richard Young
John Glasgow ***
William Glasgow ***
James Leydon ***
James Young ***

Hobkirk parish:
John Oliver

Jedburgh parish:
John Mather

Kelso parish:
William Hardie

Melrose parish:
Andrew Cook
John Young

Southdean parish:
James Couston
John Elliot
William Swanston ***

Sprouston parish:
Thomas Cairns
Walter Waddell


Nenthorn parish:
John Deans
Samuel Nisbet
James Aitchison ***

Out of Linlithgowshire:

Abercorn parish:
James Gib
John Gib

Bathgate parish:
David Ralton

Bo’ness parish:
Andrew Murdoch

Dalmeny parish:
John Thomson

Kirkliston parish:
John Govan

Linlithgow parish:
Thomas Borthwick (a ‘Thomas Borthwick, servitor to John Grieve cordiner there’ appears on the 1684 Fugitive Roll)

Livingston parish (incl Whitburn parish):
John Bell
Patrick Hamilton
William Henderson
Thomas Inglis
John Steven
Patrick Wilson
William Younger (‘in Bathgate’. Listed to be “liberated” 30 July)

Torphichen parish:
John Addie
John Allan
Alexander Bishop
Andrew Easton
James Easton
John Thomson
John Easton ***
John Pender ***

Out of Edinburghshire:

Cranston parish:
Thomas Williamson (‘in Over-Cranstoun’. A ‘Thomas Williamson, son to James Williamson in Over-Cranston’ appears on 1684 Fugitive Roll)

Over Cranstoun, later a house, lay next to Remote.

Map of Remote/Over Cranstoun

Crichton parish:
James Fork

East Calder parish:
Alexander Bissit
David Samuel *** (aka. Somerville)

Liberton parish:
Thomas Mackenzie ***

Mid Calder parish:
John Brown (a ‘John Brown, smith there’ appears on the 1684 Fugitive Roll)
Alexander Mutray (an Alexander Multerer, in Mid Calder appears on the 1684 Fugitive Roll)

Musselburgh parish:
William Reid

Stow parish:
Thomas Pringle

Temple parish:
James Tinto

West Calder parish:
Thomas Gilchrist
James Graze (aka. ‘Gray’)
John Russell
James Steel

Out of Haddingtonshire:

Dunbar parish:
James Tod

Remember The Croune

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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 10, 2016.

7 Responses to “Beyond Orkney’s Fatal Shore: The Wreck of The Croune, 10 December 1679 #History #Scotland”

  1. […] in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh. They were among those who refused to take the bond of peace and were banished aboard The Croune of London from Leith. The vessel foundered off Orkney on 10 Dece… and 197 of its cargo of prisoners drowned, including the six Maybole men. (Campbell, Standing […]

  2. […] What is not clear is what happened to the other prisoners. In all 257 prisoners were loaded on to and transported by The Croune of London in November, 1679. Wh…. […]

  3. […] Prisoners? There certainly had been “sufferings” in Galston parish. Two Covenanters from it had drowned in the wreck of The Croune in 1679. Mr Matthew Campbell of Waterhaughs was also forfeited for his part in the 1679 Rising. […]

  4. […] 5. James Colvin, i.e., James Colville, Glencairn parish. Drowned Orkney, December, 1679. […]

  5. […] Robert Garnock was one of the most unusual Covenanters executed in the early 1680s because he was a prisoner for over two years before his death. He also led a campaign to reject the peace agreed after the Bothwell Rebellion which was in part responsible for the deaths of two hundred Covenanters… […]

  6. Do we know what kind of ship the The Crown was? All I’ve been able to find is that is was a merchant vessel. The picture in this article is the only depiction I’ve been able to find but I couldn’t say what kind of ship it is.

    Family lore is that I decend from William Waddell, one of the survivors.

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