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  Jo Ben's 1529 "Descriptions of Orkney"


Stenhouse is another parish where there is a large lake, 24 miles in circuit.

There, on a little hill near to the lake, in a tomb, was found the bones of a man, which indeed were connected together, in length fourteen feet as the author affirmed, and money was found under the head of the dead man; and indeed I viewed the tomb.**

There at the lake are stones high and broad, in height equal to a spear, and in an equal circle of half a mile***.

In the year 1527 war arose between the Caithness men and the Orcadians****.

The Caithness-men, with all splendid show, invaded Orkney, with spears, arrows, darts, and sounding trumpets. But the men of Pomona were, whilst these things were going on, making ready to oppose them, and meeting at a place on a mountain in that parish near Bexwell [Bigswell], the armies joined battle.

All the Caithness men were scattered in flight and slain, so that indeed not one remained.

The grave of the Earl until now remains in the place; he was the ancestor of the Earl now living. The Orcadians, elated with joy at their victory, returned to the city with Jacob Sinclair, their leader, of whom it has been previously mentioned.

The place where the battle was fought is called Symmerdale.

* - It was, and still is, common for Scottish visitors to Orkney to equate Stenness with their nearest familiar Scottish name - in this case Stenhouse.
** - Probably Maeshowe. These giant remains are echosed in reports circulating at the time of the nineteenth century excavation.
*** - Ring of Brodgar.
**** - This section relates to the Battle of Summerdale in 1529.

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