Return of John Gow to Orkney

Gow gave instructions to the crew, on returning to Stromness, that they were to make out that they were a vessel bound for Stockholm from Cadiz, driven too far north and had taken the opportunity to take on water and provisions.

One of the few documents subsequently found on the Revenge was the following orders which Gow had posted up:

(1) That every man shall obey his commander in all respects, as if the ship was his own, and be under monthly pay
(2) That no man shall give or dispose of the ship's provisions, whereby may be given reason of suspicion that every one hath not an equal share
(3) That no man shall open or declare to any person or persons what we are, or what design we are upon; the offender shall be punished with death on the spot
(4) That no man shall go on shore till the ship is off the ground and in readiness to put to sea
(5) That everyman shall keep his watch night and day, and precisely at the hour of eight, leave off gaming and drinking, everyone repair to leave their respective stations
(6) Whoever offends shall be punish'd with death; or otherwise, as we shall find proper for our interest

The Real Captain Cleveland (1912), Allan Fea, p50

In these unsecured times, it was not uncommon for respectable traders to be heavily armed. There was rejoicing in Stromness that the son of a prominent merchant had returned home apparently having done well. There are stories of festivities in his honour.

Gow appears to have had an attachment to a Miss Gordon, while in Stromness. This may have been the daughter of James Gordon, the son and heir of Francis Baillie of Stromness who had in 1699 sold some land to Gow's father.

There were numerous parties but rumours of events began to surface. Details of the Revenge and the activities which had taken place had, by this time reached Leith. A captain of a merchant vessel in Stromness recognised the ship as the Caroline, the name which the ship had before being called the George (and subsequently the Revenge). Captain Watt had seen her in Amsterdam in the previous June. Someone told him that they recognised two of his apprentices who had deserted in Amsterdam and who were now onboard Gow's ship.

Captain Watt went on board and saw a ship in fighting form and that there appeared to be little order among the crew. One of the Watt's old hands, Jamieson, subsequently found his old master ashore and told him the story. He was persuaded to desert.

Robert Reid, who had been forced into the piracy then managed to escape and made his way to Kirkwall, where he surrendered himself to the Justices of the Peace. The alarm was then raised in the County. Details emerged of property to be raided.

The crew were in any case getting restless. A party went to sack the Hall of Clestrain in Orphir, belonging to Robert Honeyman of Graemsay on 10th February 1725.

Gow set sail from Stromness, later that night or early next day, and arrived at Eday on 13th February 1725 having plundered the Hall of Clestrain and carried off a great deal of Plate and things of value.

The reason for heading to Eday was to plunder the home of James Fea VI of Clestrain. Gow thought that the alarm now raised by the presence of the pirates would have drawn the Gentlemen of the county towards where he was at Cairston, near Stromness. In the event, James' wife was indisposed and they were both present at Carrick House in Calfsound on Eday.

John Gow and James Fea were in fact old acquaintances having been to school together as children.