Consisting of 60 acres, Brecks is part of a larger farm of 300 acres spread over six units on South Ronaldsay.
Though currently 60 acres, Brecks was once the home of a larger estate with the lands of Grimness split into two estates of Brecks & Cara.
One historical figure in Orkney’s colourful & sometimes violent past owned Brecks. “Sir James Sinclair of Brecks” came to fame in the early half of the 1500s.
Orkney at that time operated under the Norse Udal law though both Orkney and Shetland were now under Scottish rule. James Sinclair and his followers refused to pay taxes for 3 years fearing the encroachment of Scottish Feudal law.
James Sinclair led an uprising and seized the Kirkwall Castle, ousting the Justice Depute of Orkney who fled and sought refuge in Caithness. Once there he appealed to the King of Scotland for assistance to quell the uprising in Orkney. A year later the King demanded that the rebels hand back the Castle which they refused to do. With Royal authority an army of 500 men was raised with the Earl of Caithness’s help to invade Orkney.
So in 1529 the Battle of Summerdale occurred between the Earl of Caithness’ forces and an Orkney band of rebels led by James Sinclair of Brecks.
The Earls forces were routed and not a single Orcadian lost their life in the battle though legend has it that one young Orcadian decided to don some clothes of the Caithness forces. On returning home was killed by his mother with a makeshift weapon of a stone in a sock as she thought him to be one of the invaders!
James Sinclair was later pardoned for his defiance of the crown, knighted and gifted the feudal grant to the Islands of Sanday & Stronsay. Probably to appease the Islanders and not drive them back into the arms of the King of Norway.