Just north of Scotland is a group of islands called the Orkney Isles. To this day a monument stands to commemorate a particular event in its history – the Covenanters’ Monument in Scarvataing, Deerness.
On 10th December 1679 the Crown of London set sail, commanded by captain Thomas Teddico (yes, yet another Thomas) with 257 prisoners locked up below deck. Those prisoners were the remnants of a group of religious dissenters called the Covenanters who didn’t recognise the king or bishops’ right to rule their church. In true colonial style, Teddico was supposed to take them to the Caribbean.
DISCREPANCY ALERT: The Caribbean is in the Americas, west of England. Why the raas was Teddico going north to the Orkney Isles?
Teddico docked at Deerness Bay, Scarvataing at 10pm. Note that at that latitude and that time of year the sun barely rises at all, so it was DARK.
The crew made it to shore safely by using the mast as a bridge. One of them had managed to axe a hole through the deck to let the prisoners escape, but only 50 managed it. The rest were sold off.
What’s Scotland’s deal in all this? For centuries Scotland & England had warred over what they called the debatable lands. Think Kashmir to India vs. Pakistan, or Cyprus to Greece vs. Turkey. It was traditionally a haven for the kinds of people they’d have been happy to get rid of; villains, robbers, army deserters, etc. Then in 1617 Star Chamber, the English court of law, set a code to establish peace. The Scottish Privy Council considered it then did this…
Why? The code’s Section 13 specified that all villains were to be rounded up and sold off to plantations, exactly as England had been doing for decades now. And the problem is? Plantations were all English-owned, and the villains would include Scots.
Traditionally whenever Scotland banished people it let them choose where to be banished to! Unfortunately England was pushier than that, they would not take no for an answer. Eventually the Privy Council gave in. Hence why Scotland is still fighting for independence today.
In 1618 King James I imposed new church rituals on Scottish Presbyterians, like bishops conducting confirmations and kneeling in communion. Anyone who didn’t like it was sold off, which is exactly what happened to the Covenanters. Then Jamie-boy died in 1625, Charles I reigned and did absolutely nothing to stop it – despite being Scottish himself.
His loyalties were dubious to say the least. In 1638 he married Henrietta Maria, daughter of France’s king Henry VI. No problem, except that she was a devout Catholic, and since Protestantism was England’s official religion this got a lot of backs up. They signed a covenant to affirm their Calvinist views against Charlie-boy. Meanwhile back in Scotland the general feeling was that only God should lead the kirk (church) and Charlie’s innovations should be resisted at all turns. 8 months after the first covenant signing, the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly voted to boot out Charlie’s bishops (who’d infiltrated the Privy Council). This led to the Bishops’ Wars of 1650 and Charlie-boy losing his head.
During the wars, Cromwell marched 10,000 men to fight Scotland’s 23,000 men – and won! He took 9-10,000 prisoners but freed half of them as they were deemed too injured to be a threat. The rest were planned to be sold off in Virginia, Barbados & Ireland but it seems God was on no-one’s side. During one attempt to sell them off they were marched to Durham – but 2,000 died en route from starvation/ exhaustion/ illness and many of the rest simply wandered off! Of those who made it to Durham, 1,600 died in the prisons from cold & starvation.
During the Battle of Worcester 1651, it was Scots & Royalists (under Charles II’s command) vs. Cromwell’s Parliamentarians. Again Cromwell won, and took 8,000 prisoners. While Charlie the sequel went into hiding, Parliament took the chance to have the prisoners dumped in the colonies.
1660: the Council of State had the Plymouth Castle prisoners (English, Scottish & Irish alike) sent to Barbados, and those in Portpatrick (Scotland) & Knockfergus (Ireland) sent to Jamaica. Once Cromwell died (finally!) Charlie the sequel came out of hiding, and then his true colours showed. Years earlier he’d signed the covenant in support of the Presbyterians and therefore Scottish autonomy, but during the Monarchy Restoration he reinstated the episcopacy (rule of bishops) just like his dad had done.
Like father, like son.
So off to the colonies with the prisoners! London merchant Ralph Williamson petitioned for the right to sell his human cargo to the highest bidder. However, he found that no-one wanted them because sentiment ran in favour of the Covenanters! Churches even raised funds to bring them back to Scotland! Ralph lost out badly.
And this brings us back to the story of Teddico above. It’s likely he’d heard what happened with Ralph and tried to dump his prisoners in the Orkney Isles instead of the Caribbean.
Then in 1681, the provost of Linlithgow made an offer to the Scottish Privy Council. They could still ship the unwanteds to the colonies, not to be ruled over by English planters but to found Scottish-owned colonies! In the same spirit Walter Gibson told them he’d get rid of “all sorners, lusty beggars or gypsies”. Near enough immediately magistrates were ordered to give him all their minor criminals who would’ve otherwise overfilled the gaols.
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