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Feas of Clestrain \ James I \ James II \ James III \ Patrick Fea I of Whitehall \ James Fea II of Whitehall

Dr James Fea
(James Fea VIII of Clestrain)

James Fea was left an orphan in his teens.  His curators, Patrick Fea of Airy and a Mr Manson (probably an uncle as his mother was Jean Manson), placed him as an apprentice to a surgeon.  While he appears to have discontinued his studies, he did complete them in later life.

He does not appear to have been entirely happy with the handling of his affairs.

No notice was taken of my affairs till the year I chused my curators, who put me an apprentice  to a chirurgean , and in pursuit of my employment I was advised to go abroad and leave my affairs to the management of my curators.

Petition to the Sheriff Substitute of Orkney  26th October 1749

The petition referred to a disposition by his father, James Fea II of Whitehall, to his sister Barbara to his prejudice as male heir.

James served as an ensign under the Earl of Effingham and was present at the seize of Minorca in the early stages of the Seven Years War (1756-1763). He transferred to the 73rd Regiment of Foot, serving as a lieutenant. The Regiment was sent to Carrickfergus in Ireland.

He met and married Ann Corbet, the marriage being at St. Clement Danes Church, London on 21st July 1759. She seems to have had a lively temperament. Shortly afterwards, the  Regiment was sent to France.

James inherited the estate of Clestrain from John VII of Clestrain on John’s death in 1760.  While this had been increased by the lands brought by James Fea VI of Clestrain’s marriage to Janet Buchanan , the litigation including the Pundlar Process and the Burning of the house of Sound in  Shapinsay in reprisal for James Fea VI’s Jacobite sympathies had much reduced this.  John Fea VII had inherited the estate upon his brother’s death and having no legitimate heir, the estate passed to John Fea as a second cousin.  This was burdened with debt. James had and continued to have financial problems.

John Fea and Ann Corbet had a son born in 1762 as evidenced by the Matriculation Book for Trinity College, Dublin.

John Fea , sizar, aged 22 years, son of James, centaur [officer or lieutenant], native of Limerick, 2nd place at entrance, educated by Dr. Craig, tutor Mr Young.

Matriculation Book, Trinity College, Dublin (1784)
From “The Real Captain Cleveland” (1912), Allan Fea - p222

With the scaling down of the forces at the end of the war, James apparently retired from service and took his wife home to Orkney for the first time in 1764.  Strangely, she found this dull and made a run for it without telling anyone, getting The Alarm cutter from Kirkwall to Belfast.  Captain Gordon was the commander of the vessel and was in no hurry to get to Belfast and anchored for a few days in Dunvegan Bay.  Anne Corbet spent lavishly the money which she had brought with her, having borrowed from trusting people in Orkney.  She left the captain’s company in Belfast.

Ann Corbet seems to have been a particularly colourful character.  She and James Fea divorced on 18th July 1770.

On James’ return to Orkney following  apparent retiral from the army in 1764, at the end of the Seven Years War, he seems to have entered the navy as a surgeon.  A letter from Rev David Covingtree of Newark, Sanday to the sisters, at Stove in Sanday, of James VI and John VII of Clestrain refers to funds due to James Fea VIII out of the funds due to him out of the lands of Sanday “belonging to your brothers, formerly, and now Mr James Fea, surgeon in Kirkwall.”

James Fea had throughout continued to have financial problems.  The will of John Fea VII of Clestrain provided for the sisters to have a life rent of part of the estates.  They permitted him to stay at Carrick in Eday, rent free.

Various objections were made including the money which had to be paid to the illegitimate sons John Fea VII of Clestrain, Henry and Alexander Fea .  Answers to some of these objections from the sisters at Stove give some indication of what happened to the property.

The lands in Shapinsay, including the ruins of the house of Sound, were taken over by Andrew Ross.  This included the arrears of rent on that property.

In 1771, objections were finally overcome to allow the sale of Carrick in Eday and this was sold to Robert Laing and some of the proceeds of this were used by James Fea to purchase a house in Kirkwall in 1772.

James had married Grizel Ross on 26th December 1771, some eighteen months after his divorce from Ann Corbet.  The children which they had is not known for certain however:
  • James Fea is said to have been a son and apprenticed to Dr Hugh Sutherland of Kirkwall.  He left Orkney in his teens
  • Henrietta Fea , married William Sutherland, the son of Dr Hugh Sutherland of Kirkwall.
In 1775 James Fea published a book or dissertation entitled The Present State of the Orkney Islands Considered, and an Account of the New Method of Fishing on the Coasts of Shetland. This was published at Holy-Rood House, Edinburgh. As the place was at the time a sanctuary for debtors, this  may say something of the state of his finances and perhaps indicate that the sale of his properties may have been insufficient to cover the debts inherited in with the property in 1760.

In March of 1775, the Treasurer of Holy-Rood House started proceedings against him.  In a letter to James Spence of Kirkwall, the instructions were to “poynd all Mr James Fea’s moveables and household furniture and the caption against him to be put to immediate execution.”

Mr Spence is also informed that any delay in following these instructions and it will be taken for granted that he is conniving with the debtor.  One does wonder if the Mr Spence is related to William Spence, who married Margaret Fea, the sister of James Fea VI of Clestrain, and who had managed the affairs of the Feas for so long.

James’ fortunes may have improved. He certainly embarked upon another book with his Considerations on the Fisheries in the Scotch Islands being published in London in 1787. This was printed for the author in Dover where he was living at the time.

His name appears in December 1793 in the first list of surgeons to be published in “Steels Navy List”.  It last appears in that list as at April 1796.

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