Ursula Smith

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During the Napoleonic Wars (1793 - 1815), as many as 3000 Shetlanders served in the Navy. Some voluntarily, but many were forced, (pressed), into service by the dreaded Press Gangs, Shetlanders being a prime target because of their recognised seamanship skills.
One such press gang visit to the isles had an unusual outcome.


On the night of 13th October 1808 a press gang, comprising Lieutenant William Wilson of the Royal Navy and 3 sailors, landed by boat at Leebitton, Sandwick, with the intention of pressing into service John and Malcolm Smith of North Camperdown.
Wilson and two of his men broke into the cottage and after a fight, in which John Smith's sister Ursula took an aggressive part, the two Smith men were taken away.
Lieutenant Wilson, obviously annoyed by the interference of Ursula, returned to the cottage and stunned Ursula with a blow of his pistol. He then held her down and continued to beat her with the pistol, breaking her jaw and teeth, and cutting her eye.
Ursula managed to break free from him and ran to the adjoining barn, but Wilson caught up with her and struck her on the head with his sword.
Next day Ursula was taken to Lerwick where her wounds were tended to, and while there she reported tha assault to the authorities.
As a result Lieutenant Wilson was convicted of her assault, and causing her such severe injury that "her life was put in imminent danger".
Wilson was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment.

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