The story of Betty Corrigall, Hoy, Orkeny Islands

The story of Betty Corrigall is sad and so fitting of Hoy.

Hoy a small wind swept island in the Orkney Islands and is home to a very sad story of love and despair. In the late 1700s a girl, just 27, fell in love with a sailor and became pregnant too him. It was a time when such a thing was shunned, particularly in such a religious place.

Betty was alone for her lover on learning she was pregnant returned to the sea, never to be seen by her again. What was she to do? She would be shunned by all and sundry. She would have no means to support her soon to be born child. For her it was a hopeless situation.

Tragically she felt she had no alternative but to take her own life. She made a failed attempt discovered while she attempted to drown herself. Then just a few days later she took her own life by hanging herself.

If that was not tragic enough, the times dictated that someone who took their life could not be buried in the church graveyard. Worse still the lairds of Hoy and Melsetter would not agree to her body being buried on their lands. She was eventually buried on unconsecrated ground, in an unmarked grave in a peat bog on the boundary of Hoy and Walls.

But for a chance finding of her unmarked grave history would almost certainly have forgotten this tragic tale.

But in 1933, two men digging for peat discovered a wooden box and opened it too find a well preserved young women with the rope that had hanged her alongside.  The local authorities required her body be reburied where it was found. There it remained until it was again discovered during the Second World War, where unfortunately it became an object of macabre fascination with soldiers digging the body up and reburying it on numerous occasions.

Thankfully, orders were given for Betty’s body to be moved a short distance away and a concrete slab placed over it. There was still no headstone to signify her, but at least she could now rest in peace, no longer to be a play thing.

In 1949 an American an American Pastor by the name of Bryant, having heard the story built a small white picket fence and placed a small wooden cross over her grave. Some 30 years later a headstone was made and placed at the grave site and this is how we found it on a cold and wet Autumn day.

Just my favourite person and I at the grave site of this poor young woman’s grave.


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2 Responses to The story of Betty Corrigall, Hoy, Orkeny Islands

  1. Clive says:

    A sad little story but one I guess would have been far from unusual in those days. It’s good that Betty has been shown some respect at last.

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