Over forty members and guests attended the 2015 Annual Gathering which was centered in Connel Ferry, Argyll at the Falls of Lora Hotel.
A Personal Reflection on the Annual Gathering September 2015
“Ma tha mi neochiontach cha’n fhás feur ar m’uaigh”
“If I am innocent, grass will not grow on my grave”
Prophecy of Seumas a’ Ghlinne, (James of the Glen) before he was hanged on 8th November 1752.
The delightful Falls of Lora Hotel in Connel Ferry, Argyll, was the location of the annual Gathering
of The 1745 Association from Thursday September 3rd to Sunday September 6th 2015. Situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, it provided members with superb accommodation. The hotel manager Michael MacPhee (apart from regaling us with stories of his ancestors, which were both amusing and informative) and his staff could not have been more welcoming and friendly. The cuisine was high class and the service the height of efficiency. The 1745 Association wishes to convey thanks to all those who assisted in our comfort and welfare, it was very much appreciated.
This year’s attendance was significantly higher than previous Gatherings, since Derby in 2012 in fact, with over 40 members and guests participating either for the whole or part of the programme. As always one of the highlights is to renew friendships, and indeed make first attenders welcome. This social interaction always assists making any Gathering successful.
The Gathering this year was organised by our President Brigadier John Macfarlane, ably assisted by Glen MacDonald. While, it is certain, they cannot take credit for the fact that the “weather gods” smiled upon us with sunshine enhancing the beauty of the Highlands remarkably well, they can take a considerable amount for the organisation of a Gathering that should live long in the memory. The President impressed us with his knowledge of local history and events with wonderful enthusiasm, when we were being transported form location to location, and his rich dulcet tones were very easy on the ear. We thank both our President and Glen for the success of the event.
The central theme of this year’s Gathering was “The Appin Murder,” an event that has always fascinated me and I am sure many others. To have this opportunity of seeing the places where these infamous events took place was just too good to miss.
For those readers who are unfamiliar with the events that took place in Appin during 1752, here is a very brief synopsis.
The social and political history of 18th century Scotland was varied and complex. There had always existed a certain amount of antipathy between the Stewarts of Appin and the Clan Campbell, and this was exacerbated by the 1745 Rising. The Stewarts of Appin sided with the Jacobites, with the Campbells staying loyal to the Hanoverian Government. Following the disaster at Culloden in 1746, the Stewart lands were either taken or given to the Campbells by an act of Parliament. The two principal players in this unfolding drama were James Stewart of the Glen and Colin Campbell of Glenure (The Red Fox). While it is relatively certain they were acquainted with each other and may even have been friends, the time came for Colin, who was Factor (Manager) for the Campbell estates, to remove James from his lands.
What happened next has always been open for debate and remains a contentious issue to this day. Colin was murdered, by whom no one really knows, on his way to seize Stewart’s lands. The authorities charged James with the crime. What followed the arrest, resulted in one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in Scotland’s legal history. Everyone knew, even the Campbells that provided the jury, that the evidence of James’ guilt was weak, yet James was convicted and sentenced to hang in November 1752, for a crime he almost certainly did not commit.
For those wishing a better understanding of The Appin Murder, let me recommend the following literature: James Hunter’s “Culloden and the Last Clansman,” and Mary McGrigor’s “Grass will not grow on my Grave.” Both books are informative and a delight to read.
Copies of Mary’s book can be obtained in the U.K. from Steve Lord at a cost of £6.00 plus £1.50 p&p. (A total of £8.00 by PayPal to
email@example.com will also do it and save you a postage stamp.) If you live overseas, please e-mail to the same address for postage rates. Steve’s details are on the inside cover of the Journal.
Evening (Thursday September 3rd)
Following dinner, our President gave us a very detailed briefing of the itinerary we were to follow over the next two days,
including the political and social situation in Appin during 1752. Thereafter two short talks were given. The first by Roderick Campbell (16th of Barcaldine and 9th of Glenure Baronet) gave us some insight into the character of Colin Campbell of Glenure. His interesting conclusion that Colin may have had Jacobite sympathies, raised a few eyebrows. (full transcript of Roderick’s talk) The second given by a local historian Mhairi Ross, projected the motivation of James of the Glen (Seumas a’ Ghlinne) and the relationship between the two protagonists.
Day One (Friday September 4th)
We commenced our travels early for what was going to be an extremely busy day, with visits to Barcaldine, Glen Creran, Glen Ure, Appin, Duror and finally Ballachulish. The coach had the luxury of a toilet much to members' “relief” and Lynn our driver was both capable and accommodating, endeavouring to get us as close as possible to some most difficult locations. (I perhaps should state former Chairman Dr. Emsley Nimmo, had made his Land Rover available to those members whose halcyon days were perhaps behind them, as a form of mountain taxi, when the going got tough.) So our thanks go to both Lynn and Emsley for a sterling effort.
I shall give a very brief summation of certain visits, as I wish to concentrate on “the main event,” if I may use such a term, so my apologies to those wishing a full chronological account of the day.
The Church of the Holy Cross, Portnacrois, is a small stone building dating from 1809. Its significance today is that it houses a replica of the banner carried by The Appin Regiment at Culloden. The original is now housed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The silken banner was saved from falling into Hanoverian hands by one Donald Livingstone (Dumhnull Molach, “Hairy Donald”) by wrapping it around his body after the defeat. It is interesting to note that the banner is also the same design as that of St. Alban, the first English martyr, so perhaps the national flag of England, it could be argued, should not be that of St George, but of St. Alban.
Barcaldine Castle, is known locally as the Black Castle and was built by Sir Duncan Campbell between 1601 and 1609. It is said to be as good an example of a Laird’s home as can be seen. Significantly it stands overlooking what were the frontier lands between the Campbells and the Stewarts of Appin.
Following the assassination of Colin Campbell in 1752, his body was eventually taken to his home Glen Ure House, where Campbell had resided since 1730. Perhaps not so imposing as one would imagine, it is nevertheless a stout and robust looking white-washed house. The significance of the building is, of course, very clear. We were taken to the bedroom to which Colin was carried, and saw the original furniture is still in situ, although the bed has long since been removed. (Glen Ure House is now a hunting lodge) It is very easy to appreciate the chaos within that small room on that day, with his distraught wife Mary MacKay, 10-12 servants and clansmen milling about in shock and confusion over what had occurred earlier. One can only imagine the miasma that permeated around that small room, the odour of blood, perspiration and horse must have been strong to put it politely. This was a most memorable visit and if one is tempted to spend a night in the room where Colin Campbell had lain, then that can be arranged.
Cnap a’ Chaolis, the execution site. When I visit historical sites of some significance, I confess my emotions usually get the better of me, and witnessing the place of James’ execution was no different. The Hanoverian authorities had decided on a prominent, grass topped knoll, just south of Ballachulish, known locally as Cnap a’ Chaolis (Knoll of the Narrows) to be the place of execution. It was a carefully selected spot, chosen because of its proximity to the murder site as well as making sure the maximum number of travellers and local inhabitants could see the gibbet and swinging body. The old wooden structure was plated in iron to prevent James’ friends from cutting him down.
It is not difficult to imagine the wet and windy day in November 1752, as a small number of James’ family and friends gathered to witness the gruesome spectacle. The monument that now stands in that quiet, leafy place, was erected by the Stewart Society in 1911, topped with the boulder said to have been the one James used to sit upon when supervising his workers in the fields. As we gathered around it, the sun shining warmly upon us, the silence was only broken by Emsley reading out James’ final heartfelt prayer and poignant speech.
Following the oration, the Gentleman Piper of the 1745 Association, Archie McIntyre, played “The King’s Taxes,” the sad notes reverberating around the place of execution, and it wasn’t the sunshine that made my eyes water.
James’ body hung there for 18 months, soldiers guarding it to prevent it from being taken down. But that was not the final humiliation of James of the Glen. When the cadaver eventually fell to the ground, the bones were ordered to be re-connected with wire clips and the skeleton rehung. Such is man’s inhumanity to man. James was finally interred with his wife at the church at Keil, where the Stewarts of Ardshiel are buried.
St. John’s, Ballachulish and the Appin Chalice. Located in a superb natural setting, the small Episcopalian church of St. John’s was next on our itinerary. On appearance it looks very much like a cathedral in miniature. The main purpose of this visit was to celebrate an Episcopalian Communion/ Requiem Mass, officiated by Emsley in all his splendid vestments. A significant feature of this Mass was that the Appin chalice and paten were to be used.
These priceless artefacts are said to have been used at a Eucharist, prior to the Battle of Culloden. They had been taken with the Jacobite army, by the Reverend John McLauchlan, priest at Appin at the time of the Rising. Rescued from the battlefield, they were eventually returned to Ballachulish, where they remain in safekeeping at the Episcopalian Church of St. John where we were now congregated.
The service was taken from the prayer book with the same Eucharist that was said at Culloden. While I do not profess to be religious, it was a very moving experience, and not feeling able to take the Host, I was certainly in communion with those men who had stood together on that “dreich” day in 1746.
Members were then given the privilege of being able to view and touch the chalice and paten following the service, an experience not to be forgotten.
Coille an Leitir Mhoir (Lettermore Wood).Onward to our next destination, the site of the murder of Colin Campbell. It was certainly a trek to reach the location in question, but again such a quiet and tranquil place, that it was hard to comprehend such a crime took place. Campbell was on his way to evict Stewart tenants when he was shot at around 5.30 in the evening of May 14th 1752. While the track remains more or less unchanged, the trees on the higher ground to the right, mask what was in situ at the time. There is a small cairn and plaque, marking the events that took place.
Old Keil Churchyard. The final visit of the day was to the burial site of James of the Glen and his wife in Old Keil Churchyard. The exact location is unknown, but it is believed the floor of the interior of the church is a probable spot. The building is now a ruin, but the graveyard is surrounded by a wall two feet above ground level on the inside and five feet or so on the outside, suggesting a possible lower layer of internments. An interesting feature is that while there is a modern entrance, the original slate paved steps remain, with a large slate slab atop of the junction of the south and west walls. This slab was used for resting the coffin, before sliding it over into the churchyard.
As stated earlier, though the exact spot of James’ burial is unknown, a plaque has been set into the wall in a corner of the roofless church. Again we gathered round to pray and Archie played, “Lochaber No More,” beautifully, another spine tingling moment.
So we completed a fascinating if tiring day and despite logistical problems that had prevented visits to Annat Church,
Kinlochlaich and Castle Stalker (Caistel Stalcaire) I believe everyone was more than content with the day. Returning to the hotel, we prepared for dinner and the A.G.M.
Day Two (Saturday September 5th)
Following our busy but rewarding itinerary of the previous day, today was going to be a relatively leisurely affair. We drove through the stunning area of Lorne, beside Loch Fyne, Scotland’s longest sea loch. The weather was again smiling on us, with warm sunshine flooding through the coach windows.
The location for our forthcoming visit was the picturesque town of Inveraray, with the primary objectives being the castle and the jail. Alighting from the coach we divided into two groups prior to entering
Inveraray Castle, with the first group visiting the Castle Archive, and the second
the castle itself. The castle has been the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of the Clan Campbell since the 17th century. As I was among the first group I shall concentrate on the Archive initially.
Greeted by the curator Ishmul McKinnon at what originally had been the stable block, we were given details of how this had been modernised at considerable expense, with state of the art equipment inside the building to protect the archive itself. It should be stated that the two previous Dukes had allowed the archive, which had originally been housed in the main castle building, to degenerate into a somewhat chaotic state. The present Duke has taken things in hand and endeavoured to restore some semblance of order with the new conversion, but it is going to take a good many years to rectify completely. Inside, numerous documents of interest awaited our perusal, but Ishmul had concentrated on the actual Jacobite Risings, with many letters, maps and other papers of that period, spread out on several tables.
This archive could provide an ideal opportunity for some intrepid researcher to delve into the documents of 1752 and who knows, perhaps the secrets of The Appin Murder may be uncovered. We all enjoyed a most stimulating visit for which we thank Ishmul.
Onward to the castle itself, built of an odd coloured stone called schist, it is of neo-gothic design built mostly in the mid 18th century. and took 43 years to complete. A devastating fire in 1975 caused considerable damage to the building, so much so that the 12th Duke and his family lived in the castle’s basement while restoration work, which required a worldwide fund raising drive, was carried out.
Inveraray Castle is a Category A listed building (featuring in the TV drama
Downton Abbey's Christmas special), surrounded by a 16 acre garden and an estate of 60,000 acres.
Our guide, a most knowledgeable chap by the name of Kenneth, showed us around, again just concentrating on the Jacobite period. Many significant artefacts were on view, including a cluster of supposedly Scottish broadswords
(for more information [including pictures and New York Times link] on these go here), taken from the battlefield of Culloden and transported to Twickenham House, London, home of the then Secretary of State for Scotland, John Hay, 4th Marquis of Tweeddale and Earl Clifford who made them into a fence! These items, when cleaned recently by an arms expert, were discovered to be of standard Hanoverian issue, so one has to make the assumption that the soldiery collecting the swords, exchanged the Jacobite weapons with their own. One of the many fascinating anecdotes one comes across when dealing with Jacobite history. We thank his Grace the Duke of Argyll and his staff for a most enjoyable and informative visit.
Lunch was taken at the nearby George Hotel in a most convivial atmosphere of bonhomie.
The afternoon was spent exploring Inveraray Jail. While not exactly contemporary, the jail is perhaps the finest and best preserved Georgian jail and court house in the world. It opened in 1820, designed with separate prisons for male, female and debtors. The two storey building has walls three feet thick made of massive rough-hewn red stone. Following the Prisons (Scotland) Act in 1839, a second jail was built on spare ground in 1848. The prisoners themselves were not allowed to fraternize, the system designed to give them an opportunity to reflect on their sins. Despite further changes to the prison system, the court continued to sit until 1954.
Wandering around this rather foreboding place, it made us thankful that we did not live at that time, as conditions were primitive to say the least, with many extra punishments the norm. There was in fact a re-enactor “incarcerated” in one of the cells, who was put through “intense interrogation” by our Chairman and Treasurer, but he took it all in good part.
I found the courtroom itself particularly interesting as one could sit in the Public Gallery and listen to cases of the time through the headset with which we had been provided at the entrance to the building. Mannequins had been placed in the position of the Judge, prosecutors and defendants etc. giving a more realistic scene. As stated earlier not a good time to be in the prison system. A thought provoking conclusion to another day packed with historical interest.
We returned to the hotel to prepare ourselves for the annual formal dinner, which this year ran to a splendid seven courses. Our piper, Archie, led in the President, his charming wife Valerie, Chairman and honoured guests into the dining room. Among the guests this year was Clan Chief Donald MacLaren of MacLaren, who is one of our Patrons, a thoroughly pleasant gentleman, to whom I had the pleasure of being introduced prior to the proceedings.
At the conclusion of the dinner, Archie gave us advice on how we should perhaps listen to the pibroch “The Massacre of Glen Coe.” so as to gain full appreciation of the piece. He played it superbly and we could well imagine those tragic events of 1692 listening to that haunting music.
The guest speaker was Professor Allan MacInnes, Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at Strathclyde University. The Professor gave us a fascinating insight into current research into the Appin murder, with a theory that it may have been an “inside job,” with Mungo Campbell the prime suspect. I did ask Professor MacInnes for his transcript, but unfortunately he had already promised it to another periodical. Nevertheless we thank the Professor for his contribution to our Gathering.
The by now familiar rendition of Jacobite songs took place in the bar afterwards by those of us who still had the stamina. This was a fine conclusion to a memorable Gathering.
On Sunday morning, members departed to various parts of the world, with the promise of another Gathering in Cumbria in 2016.
Brian A. Whiting, Editor.