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Friday, 15 March 2013

The Tyrant of Orkney and Shetland

On the remote islands of Orkney and Shetland, Earl Patrick Stewart’s ruined mansions bear witness to his wealth and power.  But nothing could save Patrick when his rapacity brought him into conflict with church and king…

Royal blood ran in Patrick’s veins.  He was the son of Robert Stewart (1533–1593), an illegitimate son of James V and Euphemia Elphinstone. When Robert died in 1593 his son Patrick (1566–1615) took over the earldom.  This haughty tyrant ruled the isles with great cruelty.  The earl used the people of Orkney and Shetland as slave labour ‘without meat, or drink, or hire’ (pay).  They were forced to man Patrick’s boats and ships and were treated like galley slaves. 

Patrick’s splendid castle at Scalloway (1599) was funded by a tax on every ox and sheep in Shetland.  The islanders worked stone in his quarries, carried stone and lime to construct his castles, palaces and park walls, and undertook whatever other jobs he wanted doing. You can find out more about the rule of  'Black Pate' and his downfall in my new feature for Highlander magazine.


Scalloway Castle, Shetland.  Local tradition says that the mortar for its walls was mixed using human hair, blood and eggs.  © Sue Wilkes.

St Magnus’s Cathedral, Kirkwall. The cathedral steeple was fortified by Patrick Stewart’s son Robert during his rebellion. Black’s Picturesque Tourist of Scotland, (Adam & Charles Black, 188). Nigel Wilkes Collection.


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