Remembering The Covenanters

By Bernie Bell

Pics by B&M Bell

Sunday  9th of August 2020, and a beautiful Orkney day. Clear blue sky, sunshine, a gentle breeze so it’s not too hot.  Perfect. But – I’d gone a bit mad in the garden and got over-tired, and so we were thinking of a short, gentle walk, and bethought ourselves of the Covenanters Memorial, in Deerness.

Covenanters Memorial credit Bell

The tale of the Covenanters is a sad one, and one of those tales which make you think that people are horrible – and – they can be – they can also be kind and selfless, and a lot of other good things, too. The people in charge of the ship the Covenanters  were incarcerated in, were not kind – I don’t know what they were, or what they thought they were doing,  but they did a very wrong thing.  Here’s the tale, told better than I can, by Sigurd Towrie in his invaluable ‘Orkneyjar’….

So, we thought we’d go to the Memorial, and gives some thought to the poor souls who perished in the seas off the cliffs there.

From the car park, you follow a gentle, grassy track, looking across to Tankerness on Mainland Orkney, and the islands of Shapinsay, Eday, Stronsay, Auskerry and Rousay  ……

Covenanters Memorial credit: Bell

Looking over to Mull Head on your right, with the lighthouse of Auskerry in the distance…

View from Covenanters Memorial towards Auskerry credit Bell

The path takes you to the Memorial….

…which  has a plaque, explaining how it was raised by public subscription….

Covenanters Memorial Credit Bell

Some members of  the public have also seen fit to make their mark, with graffiti – the bane of monuments everywhere.

Covenanters Memorial graffiti Credit Bell

There are Covenanters graves near the Memorial ,  and also across the sea, near Craig of Ness, in Tankerness.

View from Covenanters Memorial credit: Bell

Just down from the Memorial, through a gap in the fence and turning right, to walk along the cliff top – looking down to our left, we saw some shags, sunning themselves on the rocks,

Shags at the Covenanters Memorial credit Bell

And the geology forming some interesting shapes along the line of the cliff-edge – does anyone know what caused this?……

coast at Covenanters Memorial credit Bell

On the way back up the track, a late summer Orkney landscape…

harvest Covenanters Memorial credit Bell

Years ago, we  carried on along the coast path. It was heavy going – very up and downy.  At a convenient point along the cliff-top – a map really is a good idea so that you can tell where you are, along the way – we turned back inland, then onto the road and back to the car.  For the fit and soople, it’s a grand walk along the cliffs, and you could carry on, right round Mull Head, past The Gloup , and back – that is a long walk!

Related article: Graves By the Ocean Where the Cattle May Tread

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3 replies »

  1. After I’d sent off my article to TON, it occurred to me that I might have suggested that the graves could be marked again. On Canmore – it says that they were marked by some upright stones, which have now disappeared.

    Having your burial place acknowledged and marked, matters to a lot of people – especially religious people. The Covenanters died for their beliefs.

    I’m thinking of those graves, from not all that long ago, there, under the field. I’m not sure which organization would take on the task of installing markers – or even one, big stone, with an inscription – but it would be a thought-full thing to do.

  2. I find it ironic ….the Covenanter Memorial is so forbidding yet there is nothing, absolutely nothing here in Orkney, to mark the fate of all the young Orkney men who died fighting (probably unwillingly)on the Royalist side at the Battle of Carbisdale in 1650.

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