The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

The vanishing ship

In 1758, William Honeyman, The Laird of Graemsay, was making plans to travel to the Hebridean Islands with a large boat full of meal.

This was a trip he made every year but, this time, he decided to bring his young son Mungo along. His wife, Mary, was anxious as she believed their son was too young to travel so far away from home. The Laird ignored her fears and it wasn’t long before his son, servant and crew, set sail and were far away from Orkney.

The weeks slipped by and there was no word from the ship.

Mary grew more despondent and we can only wonder at the relief she must have felt when at last, three months after her husband and son had set sail, the laird’s boat could be seen sailing homewards through Clestrain Sound. Three people could be seen standing on the deck, the Laird, his son and his servant.

The servants ran down to the landing slip to assist with the unloading of the cargo. The ship became larger and larger as it neared the shore.

Just as it reached its anchorage, the ship faded away. For a short time afterwards, a ghostly-faint shape remained.

The shore below Clestrain at low tide

The loss of the ship had a devastating effect on Mrs Honeyman and she perished just a few days later. Eventually, news arrived that the ship had sunk in the Pentland Firth and that all hands had drowned.

Soon rumours circulated that the Laird had hidden some treasure in the hillside near his house for safekeeping before embarking on his journey. It was said he had instructed his wife to keep a careful watch over it while he was away.

Of course many men visited the hill in the dead of night with their spades, but none of them could find the treasure.

One night, a young man set off to the hill to try his luck. Whilst digging he happened to look up and, to his horror, saw a figure dressed in black coming towards him. His need for wealth was stronger than his fear, however, and he continued to dig. The next time he looked up he saw a sad, sweet-looking lady standing close to him.

It is not known if he found the treasure. Perhaps it is still hidden, just waiting to be found...