The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

William Laughton (Skatehorn)

William Laughton

Although this man did not achieve great things in his lifetime, he was a great character and is worthy of a place in People of Note. There are countless stories about him, here is just one.

A long time ago, there was a real character living in Orkney by the name of Skatehorn. The name he was born with was William Laughton, but no one ever called him that.

He had no fixed abode and lived in the ditches by the side of the road and, when the weather was cold, in farmers’ barns. He was treated kindly and was often given food and old clothes.

The food was well accepted, but when he received old clothes that were in a condition he regarded as too good, he would rip them and make them more comfortable.

Now Skatehorn was passing through South Ronaldsay one day when he passed saw some men on a scaffold who were building a house. One of them, a man named Sabiston, jeered at Skatehorn's appearance. He mocked the raggy trousers and the wisps of straw in his hat.

Skatehorn challenged Sabiston to come down and fight, and he agreed. The two men were well matched and they wrestled for a long time. Skatehorn made a point of snatching at the clothes of his opponent and tore it to shreds. He did not stop until Sabiston was left wearing only his "tackety boots".

Sabiston finally escaped to the nearest farm and he later married the daughter of the farmer. Local people said that when he arrived naked at her house, she had refused to give him any clothes until he promised to marry her.