In the Orkney Archives’ Traill Dennison collection (D14) there are many documents of interest to the LIFTE project and Orkney’s trading history, primarily of the 17th and 18th Centuries.
One of these documents, in folder D14/10/3, is a supplication to Kirkwall’s magistrates, from Alexander Geddes.
On October 5, 1686, David Craigie, Provost of Kirkwall, Orkney, responded to Alexander Geddes’s request for help in protecting the work site where his ship was being constructed at the Aire of Kirkwall.
Daylight was decreasing steadily, which affected not only the hours men could work on the ship’s construction but also the hours when the worksite was deserted. In darkness, thieves could steal the tools workmen left behind.
Geddes wanted a proclamation made that anyone found before the sun rose or after the sun set at the work site could be accused of stealing.
His request was granted.
Geddes appears in Kirkwall in the Orkneys, by Buckham Hugh Hossack, several times concerning both the construction of his new ship and his role in the reconstruction of St Magnus Cathedral.
In 1671 the spire of St Magnus Cathedral burned after being struck by lightning. The bells fell; the largest one cracked. The spire could not be rebuilt, but a “Pyramid” was constructed in its place. The smallest bells were hung there on Friday, April 18, 1879, but the Great Bell was not hung until three years later.
“Augt. 23rd, 1682, bying Wednesday, Alexr. Geddes arrived at Kirkwall from Holland with his vessel or ship quhrin was ye Great Bell of Kirkwall, returned after ye casting yrof at Rotterdam.”
Four years after this, Captain Geddes gave the order for a new vessel, which was so expeditiously built as to surprise the people of Kirkwall:
“23rd Augt. 1687, Tuesday, Alexr. Geddes his new vessel or ship, built upon the air of Kirkwall, was hailed from the shoar to the road there, which ship was begun and entered to be built from the kiell and upward by Thos. Orchard, James Halcro, and other carpenters, 14th Sept. 1686.”
This vessel does not seem to have been very lucky, for within three years of her launching, we find her twice driven ashore in gales – once at Pierowall and again on Ellyerholm.
LIFTE Project, Paleography Group