Burning of Sound in Shapinsay

On the return of William Balfour and some of the Orkney lairds from Caithness in May 1746, John Riddoch (Stewart and Sheriff-Substitute) brought the movement of suspected persons to the attention of the navy.  Both he and Andrew Ross (Chamberlain of the Earldom estates and Sheriff-Depute), as agents for the Earl of Morton, had long been in conflict with the group of lairds and keen to ensure that punishment should be inflicted on them.

The following letter was then issued which led to the burning of the James Fea's house at Sound.

 I have just now received intelligence from John Riddoch, stewart-deputy (sic) of the Orkneys, that twelve persons disguised and masked and in sailors habit did last night cross over from the mainland or Pomona to the island of Shapinshire (sic), supposed to be some chiefs of the rebel army, who are designed to make their escape from the northern  isles of Orkney to some place beyond the sea.  I hereby require and direct you to take under your command the boats belonging to his Majesty's ships, sloops, and armed vessels, Glasgow, Tryall sloop, Salamander and Happy Janet, armed vessels, and to proceed to Alwick (Elwick) in the island of Shapinshire, and to take and destroy any person you can find who have been in rebellion against his Majesty's person or government, or their abettors, and likewise to destroy by fire, etc the house of James Fea of Clesteron in the said Island of Shapinshire, he being a notorious rebel against the present government; and to do all other acts of hostility to annoy any traitorous persons, and to proceed under the direction of Mr Doos (Dow), according to Commodore Smiths' order."

This was said to have been "Addressed to Captain Jeffreys of his Majesty's ship Scarborough" but may well have been written by Captain Jeffreys to Captain Lloyd of HMS Glasgow, his senior officer on the largest of the four ships mentioned.

Robert Forbes, the Jacobite historian, had two comments to make on the letter:

It is quite possible that the report of "the twelve persons disguised and masked in sailor's clothing" might be an exaggeration to bring action against James Fea, yet it was around this time William Balfour and the other lairds returned from Caithness.

The second comment of Forbes is quite contrary to James Fea having met and bargained with Charles Edward Stewart and trying to raise support.  Forbes is also likely to be biased in his views.

Captain Lloyd, the commander of HMS Glasgow, was directed to burn the house of Sound and appears to have taken on this role with zeal.  He was described as cruel, barbarous and unscrupulous by a  French officer who as a prisoner on the ship, later that year.

Below are three accounts of the burning of the house of Sound:

These naturally each put a different slant on the proceedings.  The officers version of events stresses their orders from Commodore Smith and the guilt of James Fea.  They also claim that John Fea, James's brother, had been at the house and got warning of the attack and thus had time to remove some valuables to safety.  They maintain that Janet Buchanan, James's wife, was treated in a courteous manner.

The letter of Captain Lloyd to Commodore Smith claimed that all the officers thought it right to burn the house down.

The complaint of James Fea and his wife maintains that Sound was her property should not have been burned.  It stresses the violence of the occasion and the ill treatment of Janet Buchanan.