Longhope, South Walls
Longhope sits on the north shore of South Walls and lies alongside a sheltered anchorage. A number of brochs around the coast testify that this area was inhabited before the Vikings named it Longhope (old Norse 'Long Bay').
The village is surrounded by fertile farmland and the bay of Longhope has been a refusge for shipping and a haven for fisher folk.
Early in the 19th century, during the Napoleonic wars, Britain lived in fear of invasion. When French privateers harassed merchant shipping to destroy Britain's overseas trade, Longhope became a very important and busy harbour.
All summer long, as many as 100 vessels gathered at a time, awaiting the protection of naval convoys across the North Sea to the ports of the Baltic nations. They were laden with salt, raisins, rum, porter, tobacco, coffee, cheese and other produce of Britain and her colonies. They returned many a brimful of the produce of the northern countries, hemp, pitch and timber, all of which were essential for the building and repair of naval ships.
Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812 failed to stop Britain's Baltic trade and seriously weakened his own strength at sea. But a new threat loomed. The United States of America, tired of Britain blockading their European trade and pilfering the crews of their merchantmen for the Royal Navy, declared war. Soon British waters swarmed with American privateers. Many merchant vessels were taken and destroyed.
On 1 April 1813 the Scourge of New York, patrolling off Cape Wrath, captured and burned three merchant vessels bound from Liverpool for Longhope. By July of that year, in fear of an American attack on the undefended anchorage, the Royal Engineers began the building of a gun battery and Martello towers to guard the entrance of Longhope.
The wars with France and America were soon over, and Longhope's guns were never fired in anger, but the inn at the North Ness continued to flourish. Young men found employment on merchant and fishing vessels, and aboard the ships that called each spring on their way to the Arctic whaling.
© Bryce Wilson