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Summary Record

Date 6 November 2012

Event ID 931341

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Summary Record


This shipwreck is believed to be that of the Swan, a small warship built in 1641 and lost during Cromwell’s suppression of Royalist support in the Highlands and, in particular, during an attempt to capture Duart Castle (NM73NW 1), the seat of Clan Maclean.

Part of a six strong flotilla, the Swan foundered whilst anchored during a storm on the 13th of September 1653. A further two ships were sunk (‘Martha and Margaret’ NM73NE 8013; ‘Speedwell’ NM73NE 8012) and the others scattered.

Naval diving instructor John Dadd located the wreck in 1979 and material subsequently raised included a Bellarmine flagon. Dadd reported the wreck to the Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) in 1991 and the site was designated the following year. Rescue excavation by Colin Martin and the ADU took place between 1992 and 2003.

The wreck has survived particularly well, and organic items such as leather and wood were among the artefactual assemblage, alongside armaments, coins, and unusual items such as a pocket watch. One of the most important discoveries was carved decoration from the ship’s exterior that included symbols associated with the Stuart monarchy, indicating the ship’s past history, and setting it apart from the other’s lost in the storm.

Finds from the excavation, along with items from John Dadd’s collection, are held at the National Museum of Scotland. RCAHMS holds a number of photographs, manuscripts and drawings.

Information from RCAHMS (HDS and GFG) 6 November 2012

Martin, CJM 1996

Martin, CJM 2004

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