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Stronsay, Lea Shun

Logboat (Possible)

Site Name Stronsay, Lea Shun

Classification Logboat (Possible)

Alternative Name(s) Loch Of Leashun

Canmore ID 3360

Site Number HY62SE 19

NGR HY 660 212

NGR Description HY c. 660 214

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Stronsay
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY62SE 19 c. 660 214

Not to be confused with the (unprovenanced) logboat from 'Orkney', for which see HY41SW 132.

A dug-out canoe, which had had metal fittings and had been patched with square-sectioned metal nails, was found in the sand of Lea Shun (HY 660 214) a loch which had probably formerly been the head of a bay, cut off by the formation of an 'ayre', and partially drained about 1880.

The canoe was found in April 1887 in the wet sand, 130 yds west of the 'ayre' by Mr Stevenson, tenant of Holland farm (HY 661 222), and in 1927 it was in Kirkwall museum.

J W Cursiter 1887; H Marwick 1927.

The canoe was accidentally destroyed during renovations to the museum; otherwise no further information.

Visited by OS (NKB) 17 July 1970.

A dugout wooden canoe, which had twice been patched using square- sectioned iron nails, was found in the sand of Lea Shun by a workman. For many years it lay in Cursiter's garden in Kirkwall and, by then a poor shrivelled object, was accidentally destroyed in the 1960's.

No photographs can be traced in Kirkwall but the two are in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS).

Kirkwall Old Museum Day-Book, No.58; RCAHMS 1984.

In April 1887 what was possibly a logboat was discovered in wet sand about 130 yards (119m) W of the Loch of Leashun, a small coastal loch which is situated near the S tip of Stronsay and is separated from the sea by an ayre. Local tradition recalls that the object was in reality a portion of a shipwreck which was accepted in error after being submitted as a hoax to Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall where it was subsequently 'treated with salt' and displayed under accession number TH58 until it was accidentally destroyed in the 1960's.

When discovered, it measured 13'9" (4.2m) in length over all, and about 7" (175mm) in 'depth'. It had measured about 3'3" (1m) in beam, but the loss of one side (taken to be the starboard) had reduced this figure to 2'5" (0.7m). The timber was 'exceptionally well cut out' and about 1?" (40mm) thick, except at the ends where it was heavily knotted; in these areas it was roughly twice as thick. The sides were straight and the ends formed as rounded points. A photograph in the collections of the Royal Museum of Scotland shows the surviving side to be rounded into the bottom of the boat and its top to be level. The McGrail morphology code of the boat was apparently 322:112:322 and the form that of a canoe variant.

Twelve holes, each measuring between 1?" (40mm) and 1" (25mm) in diameter, pierced the timber of the boat. Seven of them were spaced along the bottom and were said to be 'evidently for holding on the keel', but were more probably thickness-gauge holes as some at least held 'plugs driven from the inside'. There were a further five plugged holes of identical function in the surviving portions of the sides.

The metal fittings of this boat are of particular interest. What was taken to be the bow had been strengthened with a metal 'binder' which was recessed into the inner edge of the timber over a length of 4?" (115mm). Two repair-patches of 'oak' had been inserted into the surviving side and fastened with iron nails to cover large knotted patches. One of them, measuring 9?" (250mm) by 7?" (190mm) had been placed high on the side 5' (1.5m) from the presumed bow. The other measured 10" (250mm) by 7" (175mm) and was lower down and nearer the same end.

J W Cursiter 1887; H Marwick 1927; R J C Mowat 1996; information from Dr RG Lamb and the late Mr E MacGillivray.

Photograph in RMS, NMAS/MISC 370/12.

The discovery of the boat was described in 'The Orcadian' on April 16th 1887. It was said to have been found embedded in sand in the SE corner of Loch Leashon.


Orkney Smr Note

In freshwater loch, perhaps originally an arm of the sea.


Wooden canoe dug up in the sand of Lea Shun by a labourer.

She lay 130yds from the ayre separating the loch from the sea, in

a westerly direction. Length 13ft 9in, width 2ft 5in, present

depth 5in. Had been patched twice, one of the patches being

fixed with square-sectioned iron nails. Removed to Cursiter's

garden in Kirkwall and treated with salt as a preservative.

Copies of 2 photographs sent to SAS. [R1]

Presented by Cursiter to Kirkwall Museum. [R2]

The canoe is listed in the accession register now at

Tankerness House, under no 58. No photographs of the canoe are

known to exist in Kirkwall. [R3]

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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