Orkney's Forgotten War: The Royalist Occupation, 1649-1650

Press/Media: Research


Blog entry for Orkney's Forgotten War

In 1976, George Mackay Brown wrote one of his lesser-known short stories, ‘Soldier From The Wars Returning’. The tale follows the journey of an Orcadian soldier who had enlisted in the marquis of Montrose’s Royalist army in 1649. The unnamed soldier awakes in the aftermath of the fateful Battle of Carbisdale (27 April 1650) to find himself alone on the battlefield. Assuming that Montrose’s forces had emerged victorious, and having no clue as to where the army had gone, the soldier decides to travel back home to Orkney. As he makes the long pilgrimage home, the soldier encounters different figures on the road who seem to shun his company. While crossing the Pentland Firth, he shares a boat with a group of Caithness fishermen and a minister. During the voyage, the soldier is appalled when his fellow companions, whom he describes as ‘regicides’ and ‘traitors’, openly discuss treasonous things in his presence.

Period14 Jul 2022

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleOrkney’s Forgotten War: The Royalist Occupation, 1649-1650
    Degree of recognitionRegional
    Media name/outletThe Orcadian
    Media typePrint
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    DescriptionAfter a decade of civil war and societal strife, Montrose led a final Royalist rising in Scotland, which aimed to topple the Covenanting regime in Edinburgh, avenge the death of Charles I (who had been executed by the English Parliamentarians on 30 January 1649) and restore his son, the newly crowned Charles II, to his British thrones. Orkney was key in this campaign, being occupied by Royalist forces in September 1649 and then acting as Montrose’s base of operations as he launched an invasion of the Scottish mainland in April 1650. At least 1000 Orcadians enlisted (seemingly willingly) in the Royalist army which was utterly routed at Carbisdale, bringing the campaign to an abrupt end.
    PersonsAndrew Lind