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Date 2011

Event ID 920941

Category Documentary Reference

Type Reference


In his Introduction to Low’s Tour, Joseph Anderson quotes from a letter from George Low (1747-1795), minister of Birsay, to the antiquary George Paton (1721-1807) in June 1773, referring to ‘… a place called Summerdale, where there is an account of a battle having been fought between the Counts of Caithness and Orkney; in the latter, the bodies (many of which are found to this day) are thrown down without order or distinction into pitts, without coffin, and few of them with a shroud …’. An accompanying footnote, presumably part of the original letter, adds that ‘Last year a corpse was found in this place wrapt in a cloth, which, by the action of the moss water, was preserved as if in a tan pit; and was probably one of the chiefs’.

The find is also mentioned in another letter from Low to Paton sent in 1775:

‘On the moor where tradition tells us a skirmish happened between the Earls of Caithness and Orkney, called the Battle of Summerdale, a man lately dug up a corpse wrapt in what was judged a linnen cloth, tanned by the moss-water’

The battle took place in 1529: both the Old, XIV, 1795, 135-6 and the New Statistical Account, XV (Orkney), 1845, 68) note the battle but not the body.

T Cowie, J Pickin and C Wallace 2011

Anderson 1879, xxxvii & liii

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