THE inhabitants of
Shetland have a grievance. It is not that they complain of being badly
governed, of being over-taxed, or of being poor, or of their climate, or
of the shortness of the days in winter; but they say, with justice, that
they are shamefully ill-treated by the map-makers, who place their
well-loved little group of islands out of the way in some corner of the
map, so that not one person in ten of those tolerably well-informed in
geographical matters generally, has a correct notion of their bearing
from the other portions of the British Isles.
Some years ago, however, I made the discovery that they lie due north of
Scotland, Orkney intervening; and as I had a desire to pay them a visit,
I took ship and reached Lerwick, their capital, in safety. The kindness
I there received will never be erased from my memory. I travelled
through all parts of the islands, and visited a number of very
interesting scenes. Curious tales were also told me of deeds done in
bygone days, when the arm of the law was too short to reach ill-doers at
a distance from the centre of government, and when might was looked upon
as constituting right in those far-off islands.
One of the strange legends which I then heard has served as the basis of
the following tale. For years its gossamer threads have been floating
before my eyes, though it is only now that I have caught and woven them
into a tangible form, and connected them with events belonging to
history rather than fiction.
My aim has been to produce in ‘Ronald Morton, or the Fire-ships' a tale
of stirring nautical adventure, and at the same time to introduce
characters who may add to its interest, and make it a work which will be
taken up with pleasure, and not laid down till the end of a winter's
The present new Edition which the public have called for, shows that the
interest in the ‘Fire Ships' is still undiminished.
Ronald Morton, or the Fire-ships