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A presentation by Nick Lewis, May 2024

Nick first told us a little of the background to the swashbuckling adventure we were about to hear.

The late 17th century was a Golden Age for information and it was Martin Beckman who left detailed records about the castle, Redoubt and Osborne’s Fort. These included plans, surveys and inventories of arms which did not change until the 20th century. Beckman also investigated the rightful owners of guns purchased by Collingwood from inauspicious sources.

In 1549, Lindisfarne Castle, a fort with a fortified harbour, occupied a strategic position against attempted French invasions. It remained a military site until the 19th century. During that time, it overcame only one attempted siege.

The Glorious Revolution in 1688–89 resulted in the Roman Catholic Stewart King James ll England/Vll Scotland fleeing to exile in France. James’ daughter Mary and her husband William ascended the throne. However they were Protestant and eventually the House of Hanover succeeded, Protestant but German. James ll’s son, James Stewart, initiated the Jacobite rising in Scotland in an attempt to regain the throne for the Stewart line.

It was against this background of conflict between Protestants and Roman Catholics that the Errington Affair happened. Lancelot Errington, a Northumbrian Master Mariner but known smuggler and gun runner, was one of a number of Northumbrians who supported the Jacobites. A plan was hatched to gain access to Lindisfarne and to this end on the 10th October, 1715 ‘The Mary’ anchored in the harbour filled with goods including brandy.

Lancelot Errington had known the Master Gunner in his previous role as a barber, and hoped his past connection would allow easy entry for himself and his nephew Mark. However, he was at lunch, and they were asked to wait. Losing patience they fired guns and proclaimed the castle for the Jacobites. There followed a tale of many skirmishes between the Jacobite invaders and the defenders of Lindisfarne. The Jacobites were disappointed in hoping for reinforcements from the French anchored nearby and with the help of a detachment of men from Berwick the castle was finally reclaimed. The Erringtons fled but were captured and imprisoned. Undeterred, with the help of conspirators, they burrowed out of prison and escaped by boat. Eventually Lancelot Errington was pardoned and became a publican until his death in 1745.

However, the most positive outcome of the Errington Affair was the need for a Review of the defences of Lindisfarne, both the buildings and the armoury, following this attempted invasion.

SYG/ 9.5.24