Betty Corrigall

Dates: 
fl. 1700s

Betty Corrigall lived in Greengairs Cottage near Rysa in the Orkney island of Hoy. Her boyfriend was away whaling when, aged 27, she discovered she was pregnant and in her shame she tried to commit suicide by drowning in the sea, but was seen and stopped. She later hanged herself in a barn.
In accordance with Church law at that time, she - as a suicide - had to be buried in unconsecrated ground, but neither the Laird of Melsetter nor the Laird of Hoy would allow her body to be buried on their estates. A place was found on the the border between the parishes of Hoy and Graemsay to the north and Walls and Flotta to the south and a stick placed in the peat to mark her grave. In May 1936, and again in 1941, the grave was opened and her body found in a good state of preservation due to the peat. During the war, it appears that the grave was opened again by soldiers on several occasions. This caused the body to deteriorate and so her grave was moved 50 yards away and a concrete slab placed over it to prevent further raids.
Not until many years later, following a request in 1949 from a visiting American minister, was a gravestone made for the grave by Harry Berry, a local man. Constructed out of fibreglass to prevent it from sinking into the ground, the headstone was put in place and a short service held in Betty Corrigall's memory.

Sources
The Orcadian, 22 August 1985, page five
The article is signed ELW
The Scots Magazine, April 1982, pp.24-6
An article entitled 'Here Lies Betty Corrigall' by Agnes R Liddell.