Sunday, 22 July 2012

Alexander “ Snacks ” Taylor (1862 –1954) : Crieff Soldier's Incredible Military Record

Alexander “ Snacks ” Taylor (1862 –1954)

Alexander “ Snacks “ Taylor was often referred to as “The Grand Old man of The Black Watch” This obituary to him appeared in the Perthshire Advertiser on the 31 July 1954.

Mr Alexander Taylor who was the oldest veteran of 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch and the oldest man in the 1939 – 1945 war to wear the King’s uniform, has died in Perth Royal Infirmary at the age of 92. He was a native of Auchterarder and until recently ran a one-man tobacconist’s business in Crieff. He served on Crieff Town Council for seventeen years including a spell as bailie. Mr Taylor who was in the Home Guard in the last war was at he age of 83 was thirty-three years with the Black Watch and attained the rank of Colour Sergeant. He wore ten medals ranging from the Egyptian Campaign Medal of 1885 to the Defence Medal of World War ll and including the M.S.M. Recently he was presented to the Queen Mother at Dundee as a Black Watch veteran. Last year Mr Taylor completed fifty years perfect attendance as an usher of Crieff Highland Gathering. He was pre deceased by his wife and is survived by a daughter and three sons.” **

** in actual fact he had four sons and three daughters !


2148 Alexander Taylor

That picture taken during World War Two is of particular interest. It is part of a group photograph of the Crieff Detachment of the Home Guard, somewhat unkindly referred to as Dad’s Army and became epitomised by Arthur Lowe’s Captain Mainwairing in the oft-repeated TV series of that name. Alexander Taylor was seventy-seven when war broke out. Despite his age he managed to enlist and in doing so succeeded in becoming the oldest person in uniform in the British forces all as mentioned in his obituary in the PA! His Army record is quite incredible and these details have kindly been supplied by the Black Watch Regimental Museum at Balhousie Castle in Perth.
1. Enlisted 20 September 1883; Corporal 1 January 1888; Lance Sergeant 5 November 1889; Sergeant 5 November 1890.

2. Re- engaged At Cape Town, South Africa to complete 21 years service, 19April 1895. To 2nd Battalion.

3.Egypt Medal. Clasps Nile 1884- 1885.

4.Married at Malta 10 September 1887.

The following information was abstracted from the sources under noted

5. Sergeants’ Records: 42nd / 1 BW. 1826-1873 with manuscript additions to 1919. BWRA 0261/2 – page 123.

6. He enlisted in 1883 and would have done his basic training at The Black Watch Depot, Queen’s Barracks, Perth.

7. He served in the Egyptian Campaign, 1884, receiving the Egyptian Medal with bar, the Nile Clasp, 1884-1885 and the Khedive’s Egyptian Star.

8. The Black Watch Medal Roll: 1801 – 1911, page 191 

He continued to serve with the 1st Battalion in Malta  (May 1886), Gibraltar (August 1889), Egypt (January 1893) and Mauritius and South Africa (March 1893). On his re - engagement in 1895, he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, and then stationed in Edinburgh. The Battalion moved to York (September 1896) and Aldershot (1898) before going on active service to South Africa (November 1899) to fight in the Boer War. He is listed as a Colour Sergeant in the Medal Roll (page 243) and received the Queen’s South African Medal with Bars for Paardeberg, Driefontein, Witteberrgen, Cape Colony and Transvaal. He received the King’s South African Medal with Bars for South Africa (1901) and South Africa (1902).

He was posted back to the 1st Battalion after the campaign and returned to Scotland serving at Edinburgh (October 1902) and Fort George (September 1904). He received the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (with gratuity) on 1 July 1905.

He appears to have been discharged from the Regular Army about this time but the exact date is not to hand. He then joined the Volunteer Force as an Instructor on the Staff of the 4th Volunteer Battalion, The Black Watch. In 1908. with the formation of the Territorial Force , this unit became the 6th ( Perthshire ) Battalion , The Black Watch .  

 He served in the First World War, enlisting as a Reservist at Crieff on the 14th September 1914, aged 50. His number was now 3/3927.

Depot Roll Book, 1914 BWRA 0488

He had the rank as CSM (Colour Sergeant Major) and then WO2. He received the Star (1914-1915), The British War Medal (1914- 1920) and the Allied Victory Medal (1914 – 1918) and the Meritorious Service Medal. The records in the Archives are incomplete in parts so it was not possible to trace with certainty the Battalion with which he served. It may have been the 6th Battalion, which went to France in May 1915. The copy held in the Archives of the War Diary of the 6th Battalion, The Black Watch is incomplete lacking entries for 1915 and 1916.

Alexander Taylor’s Decorations and Medals

The decorations and medals of Mr Taylor were donated to the Museum by his Executors in 1954  (ref A2485) and are on display in the First World War Room in the Museum at Balhousie Castle.

2148 Colour Sergeant Alexander Taylor 

Alexander Taylor being introduced to the Queen ( Mother as she became  )  in the early 1950s in Dundee

Not everyone in Crieff realised that the old man in Mitchell Street who daily without fail, made his way towards the Square  to open his wee tobacco shop ( located between Boots and the EWM Shop ), had seen such service in the uniform of his country.  Such was his incredible Army record that it spanned over sixty years starting with the Egyptian Campaign, then the Boer War, the First and finally the Second World War.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

General Sir David Baird ( 1757 to 1829 )

"Oor Davie"

General Sir David Baird (1757 –1829)

David Baird was born at Newbythe in East Lothian, the fifth son of David Baird an Edinburgh merchant on the 26th December 1757. Technically he is not a Strathearn man but such was the impact he made on our community, that it is incumbent on the author to include “ Oor Davie “ in this "Blog". The family were descended from the Bairds of Auchmeddan in Aberdeenshire and moved a few years later to a large house at the top of Castle Hill in Edinburgh .His father died when he was only eight and his mother found herself having to bring up seven boys and seven girls. He purchased a commission in the 2nd Foot (the Queens Regiment) that had been intended for one of his older brothers who had died unexpectedly. He was an ensign and not yet fifteen. After a year at a Military Academy, Baird joined his Regiment at Gibraltar and so began his illustrious military career. What transpires from early on is that Baird was unlike so many of his contemporaries such as Wellington, Moore, Hope and Graham. He did not spend time moving in the social and political circles of the time which were regarded by the others as an essential part of career advancement. Physically Baird had grown to some 6’ 3” and his imposing physique was to stand him in good stead. On returning from Gibraltar, Baird joined the newly formed McLeod’s Highlanders which were essentially Gaelic speaking having a muster of some 850 Highlanders, 236 Lowlanders and a some 36 English and Irish. The regiment marched from Fort George to Portsmouth a distance of 600 miles. Their transportation to India was not available and they move to Jersey to thwart a possible French invasion which did not materialise. Returning to Portsmouth they spent some time awaiting the ships being billeted about the town. The attitude of the southern natives was one of total disregard considering them little better than savages. 

He was sent to India in 1779 with McLeod’s Highladers, who became  the 73rd (afterwards 71st) Highlanders, in which he was a captain. Immediately on his arrival, Baird was attached to the force commanded by Sir Hector Munro which was sent forward to assist the detachment of Colonel Baillie, threatened by HyderAli.  In the action which followed the whole force was destroyed, and Baird, severely wounded, fell into the hands of the Mysore chief. The prisoners remained captive for over four years. Baird's mother, on hearing that her son and other prisoners were in fetters, is said to have remarked, "God help the chiel chained to our Davie." The bullet was not extracted from Baird’s wound until his release.

He was promoted to major in 1787, visited Britain in 1789, and purchased a lieutenant-colonelcy in 1790, returning to India the following year. He held a brigade command in the war against Tippoo Sultan and served under Lord Cornwallis in the Seringapatam operations of 1792. He captured Pondicherry being promoted colonel in 1795. Baird served also at the Cape of Good Hope as a brigadier-general, and he returned to India as a major-general in 1798. In the last war against Tippoo in 1799 Baird was appointed to the senior brigade command in the army. At the successful assault of Seringapatam , Baird led the storming party, and soon took the stronghold where he had previously been a prisoner.

Disappointed that the command of the large contingent of the nizam was given to the then Colonel Arthur Wellesley and that after the capture of the fortress the same officer obtained the governorship, Baird felt he had been treated with injustice and disrespect. He later received the thanks of parliament and of the Honourable East India Company for his gallant bearing on that important day, and a pension was offered him by the Company, which he declined, apparently in the hope of receiving the Order of the Bath from the government. General Baird commanded the Indian army which was sent in 1801 to co-operate with Ralph Abercromby in the expulsion of the French from Egypt.  Wellesley was appointed second in command, but owing to ill-health did not accompany the expedition. Baird landed at Kosseir, conducted his army across the desert to Kena on the Nile and then to Cairo He arrived before Alexandria in time for the final operations.

On his return to India in 1802, he was employed against Sindhia but being irritated at another appointment given to Wellesley he relinquished his command and returned to Europe. In 1804 he was knighted, and in 1805—1806, being by now a lieutenant-general, he commanded the expedition against the Cape of Good Hope with complete success, capturing Cape town and forcing the Dutch general Janssens to surrender. But here again his usual ill luck attended him. Commodore Sir Home Popham persuaded Sir David to lend him troops for an expedition against Buenos Aires the successive failures of operations against this place involved the recall of Baird early in 1807, though on his return home he was quickly re-employed as a divisional general in the Copenhagen expedition of 1807. During the bombardment of Copenhagen Baird was wounded.

Shortly after his return, he was sent out to the Peninsular War in command of a considerable force which was sent to Spain to cooperate with Sir John Moore, to whom he was appointed second in command. It was Baird's misfortune that he was junior by a few days both to Moore and to Lord Cavan, under whom he had served at Alexandria, and thus never had an opportunity of a chief command in the field. At the Battle of Corunna he succeeded to the supreme command after Moore's death, but shortly afterwards his left arm was shattered, and the command passed to Sir John Hope. Once again thanked by parliament for his gallant services, he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath and a baronet in 1809. Sir David married Miss Campbell-Preston, a Perthshire heiress, in 1810. He was not employed again in the field, and personal and political enmities caused him to be neglected and repeatedly passed over.

After losing his arm at the Battle of Corunna in 1809, Baird convalesced in Hertfordshire in southern England. He was awarded a KB and a Baronetcy for his military achievements and a year later met and married Ann Campbell Preston on the 4th of August 1810. She was descended from the Prestons of Culross and Valleyfield in Fife and was niece of Sir Robert Preston of Valleyfield, Bart.  The family had connections to the ancient Bruces and had made their monies from coal and salt panning over the centuries. Lady Campbell Preston owned Ferntower Estate in Crieff. Baird was not given the full rank of general until 1814, and his governorship of Kinsale was given five years later. In 1820 he was appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland and made a Privy Counsellor for Ireland, but the command was soon reduced, and he resigned in 1822. Baird  was made Governor of Fort George near Inverness in 1828 but died at Ferntower the following yerar aged seventy two . He  had no children and the title passed to his nephew .

The sales particulars drawn up for the disposal of  Ferntower in 1911 by Edinburgh solicitors Mesrrs T & RB Ranken WS make fascinating reading. Extending to over 3 300 acres and falling into the parishes of Crieff, Madderty and Monzievaird, they are a fascinating insight into the social structure of the times. The small mansion house of Ferntower sitting on the southern slopes of the Knock is alas all but no more. The vicissitudes and ravishes of time had played their part and the building was partially demolished by the army in the early 1960s leaving only the former stable complex standing. It was not even by local standards a particularly large dwelling having twelve bedrooms, two dressing rooms a double drawing room, two sitting rooms and dining room. When David Baird married Ann Preston a number of improvements and extensions were implemented between 1810 and 1820. The picture below gives some indication of the charm exuded by the old building. Accommodation comprised an entrance hall, dining room, double drawing room. two sitting rooms , twelve bedrooms , two dressing rooms and ample servants’ quarters . This must have the view that Queen Victoria had when she called upon Lady Baird during her trip to Strathearn in 1842. Indeed when the Queen and her consort Prince Albert arrived in Crieff from their sojourn in Taymouth Castle, they passed through the town heading south to Drummond Castle where they were to reside during their visit. The bridge at Bridgend had, according to Porteous, triumphal arches at either end. At the north end was McLaurin of Broich with his tenantry whilst on the south side Lady Baird on horseback had drawn up her tenantry.   

Ferntower itself failed to stand the ravages of time and with rot and decay rampant was eventually partially demolished in the 1960s by the Army. Parts were still utilised as staff accommodation for the owners, Crieff Hydro up until the late 1980s. 

David Baird’s memory will not easily be forgotten. His grieving widow established the small hamlet of St Davids Madderty as a sanctifying gesture to her departed spouse and also erected that impressive pinnacle on top of Tom Na Chastille, the ancient site of one of the many castles of the Earls of Strathearn. As a vociferous member of the Parish Kirk over the years, it is not surprising that a memorial tablet was placed in the old St Michaels in Church Street. This was removed and replaced in the foyer of its successor in Strathearn Terrace.
Sir David Baird was a man whose memory does indeed live on!

Baird's most significant achievement was the defeat of the Indian ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sahib, at Seringapatam in 1799. By this action, British ascendancy in southern India was assured and the influence of France diminished in the sub-continent. Ten years later Baird was with General Sir John Moore in Spain; he was injured at Corunna and lost an arm. Sir David's wife considered that her husband had been insufficiently rewarded. After his death, she commissioned Wilkie to paint a heroic picture in which the general is seen discovering the dead body of Tipu Sahib. The painting now hangs in the Scottish National Gallery. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Story of Ferntower House

There has been considerable  discussion  recently regarding the   state of decrepitude of  many of the older  and better  known  buildings  in Crieff . The Drummond Arms , the old Parish Church in Church Street ( aka the Community Hall ) , the George or Strathearn Hotel and the old Crown Hotel in East High Street . One  does  not  to travel too far back in time  to recall  the  fate of  many other fine buildings in Crieff and indeed in Strathearn on a wider basis .

Although I devoted  a small space  some  months  back to Ferntower House  I find  it  so fascinating that I have  decided  I am going to elaborate further  and  include  more information  about it and  its most  celebrated occupant General Sir  David Baird  whose monument dominates so much of the Strath . It was a building not renowned  for  any great architectural merit  but rather for its part in the overall  tapestry of  life in the Strath over two centuries .

Once the home of the Preston family in the 15th century the lands of Ferntower were forfeited to the Crown .These lands  seemed separate from the main Strathearn lands and changed hands frequently .Moray of Abercairney, Maxtones of Cultoquhey and Murray of Dollerie all held them at various times .Lord John Drummond an uncle of the last Duke of Perth acquired them in 1743.The ’45 proved disastrous to the Perth family and their lands were forfeited  with the Duke dying on board ship attempting to escape to France after Culloden.

Lord John Drummond entertained Bonnie Prince Charlie at Ferntower house on February 2nd 1746  and the bedroom he occupied in the older  part of the  house was very much as it  was  right  up until the eventual demolition of the building in the 1960s .In 1751 Lord John Drummond sold the Estates of Ferntower to Patrick Campbell of Monzie who became Lord Monzie one of the Senators of the Court of Justice in Edinburgh .His daughter Ann Campbell married a Captain Menzies Their daughter Catherine Menzies  succeeded to her mother and married Major Patrick Preston of Valleyfield Fife  .Their daughter Ann Campbell Preston succeeded to Ferntower and married General Sir David Baird one of the most distinguished  Generals under the Duke of Wellington in India and Egypt .

There is an oft told  tale that in the early days  of the war in India  was taken prisoner and the prisoners  were chained in couples .When the news reached his mother , she  exclaimed “ God help the man who is chained  to oor Davie ! ”Sir David and Lady Baird  resided at Ferntower House for many years  and  added a wing and a tower to the mansion house .On Lady Baird’s death she was succeeded  by her sister created Baroness Abercromby , the widow  of Sir Ralph Abercromby , the hero o the Battle of Aboukir .

 Queen Victoria was received  by Lady Baird at Ferntower House on September 12th , 1842 .

The sad remains

The Estate of Ferntower  was sold  in 1911 and the  sale details prepared  by the Agents , Messrs T & RB Rankin of Edinburgh make interesting  reading as it defines what the Bairds  had owned and managed in their time . The  house itself  had  an entrance hall, dining room ,double drawing room ,two sitting rooms , 12 bedrooms , 2 dressing rooms  and ample servants’ accommodation . At one time  Ferntower had  eight gardeners  to tidy the borders and cut the grass ! The area noted  in the sales particulars extended  to some  3300 acres  and with  a number of  lodges dotted  around ( these are still in existence and are now private residences ). A plus point for a sale was the shooting available and the 1911 list would nowadays have the conservation lobby up in arms! Listed were roe deer, black game, capercailzie, pheasant, partridge, snipe, wild duck, golden plover, hares and rabbits!

The Estate  was  not  restricted  to the  lands around the house  but included  many farms and properties  which many of you will recognise .The Crieffvechters, Colony , Greenhead , Peathills , Tomaknock, Laker  and Callum’s Hill Quarry all near  Crieff ,Lochlane to the south west , Knockieston , a pendicle at Dallerie , and various shootings and near Madderty Parkside, Westbank , Muirmouth and the land at what was to become St Davids !

Prior  to the  1911 sale the house had  been rented out  to Dr Meikle who had  built and established the Hydro . It was indeed apposite that the  Hydro should  purchase Ferntower , an act  which has proven beneficial to them and indeed the town as a whole .. Sadly the ravages of time took their toll and  the  old building  was  demolished or  rather  blown up in the early 1960s . The stable   part  with servant’s  accommodation survived and indeed  was used  up until the early  1990s as Hydro staff quarters . Although  not  perhaps  the grandest of  mansions in the style of  the also demolished Abercairney , it was a fine  example of a rural Perthshire “ big hoose  “and its  demise  is lamented ,

I will follow this “ Blog “ later with a synopsis  of the life story of Sir David Baird , who lived  the retirement years of his life in the heart of Strathearn .

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Burning of The Strathearn Towns & Villages : PART TWO

" Bobbing John " - the incredibly two faced  and incompetent Earl of Mar , Jacobite leader at Sheriffmuir


The Chief official in Scotland was the King’s brother  James , Duke of York  and Albany. He was not an Episcopalian but something even worse in the eyes of many Presbyterians , a convert to Catholicism ! In 1685 he succeeded to the throne on Charles’s death . In England opposition was strong and William of Orange , ruler of Holland was invited take over the throne . His wife , Mary was James elder daughter.
James went into exile and William became King . Scotland followed suit and when William guaranteed a Presbyterian ascendancy in Church matters he became King of Scotland .

The struggles continued . Claverhouse whom James had created Viscount Dundee moved north and raised an army of James supporters or Jacobites . He moved south and defeated General MacKay at Killiecrankie but was himself shot . The next battle  was at Dunkeld where a Cameronian regiment ( founded by the original dissenters ) held the town against the Jacobites . William demanded  Clan chiefs take an oath of allegiance . The Massacre of Glencoe resulted . Feelings in the Highlands were made worse by a number of similar type atrocities. A naval force had attacked Eigg and massacred and violated the people . The matter was hushed up. ( Lynch, 1991) . The Darien scheme followed authorisation by the Scottish Parliament. It was a disaster and nearly bankrupted the Country. Lack of support from the forces of King William when under attack caused resentment .The Act of Succession was passed by the English Parliament without consultation and the 1705 English Alien Act restricted severely matters of inheritance especially amongst those Scottish nobles with lands south of the Border . They could not inherit. Such was the turbulent back cloth to the century prior to the first Jacobite Uprising . The 1707 Union of Parliaments had become a fait accompli.

Religious changes locally

To appreciate and understand something of the complexities and attitudes of the times is fundamental to passing judgement on events . Apart from the ever present political intrigue amongst the politically powerful in the land , there had been the religious conflict of the 17th century with the “ killing times “ of the 1680s bringing with it the persecution of the Presbyterians  followed abruptly by what has been termed the  Revolution of 1688 which brought Protestant William of Orange and his Queen Mary to the throne of the the united kingdoms.  Here in  Strathearn , the problems in the parish church had mirrored the situation in the country at large . The minister was David Drummond  an MA of St Andrew’s University and a son of James Drummond , the fifth Laird of Milnab . David was from records an astute individual . He had succeeded to the local lands of Kincardine and Trytoun  and had purchased the lands of Callander near Barvick and with it the benefits of  the teinds ( a form of rent ) which supplemented his stipend . Although Drummond had supported the National Covenant in 1638 with its declaration  of Presbyterian convictions and resistance to Episcopacy , he had supported the Royalist cause during the Civil War for which he was deposed from his ministry  by the General Assembly of the Kirk . In fact their powers were such that Drummond continued to administer to his flock in Crieff as well as draw  his stipend before eventually relinquishing his charge in 1658 .

The local conflict was to continue with the appointment of Gilbert Murray as successor to Drummond . Like Drummond , Murray was from the same background as Drummond being related to the Murrays of Ochtertyre . He was immediately in conflict with the Presbytery when it was averred that he was in collusion with his predecessor Drummond and that the two  were in fact sharing the stipend between them ! Murray refused to appear to be questioned about “ the scandalous action “ and seemed to spend more time adapting his religious affiliations to the mood of the day . From being initially a staunch Presbyterian he became an Episcopalian but was allowed to continue his ministry ! His son William succeeded him in 1682 and quickly nailed his colours to the mast and made no bones the fact that he too was a convinced Episcopalian . No doubt to rub salt into the wounds of the Presbytery he introduced forms of worship which were an anathema to the traditional kirk . The Lord’s Prayer was used in worship, the Apostles’ Creed was repeated at baptisms and the Doxology was sung by the congregation .

Whether or not the somewhat independent views of the ministers in Crieff during the turbulent years of the 17th century indicated a degree of local support we shall probably never know. It is clear that the participating congregation as they worshipped in the old kirk in what is now Church Street were indeed participants in the acts of worship be they “ Piscy “ or not ! With the succession of William and Mary in 1688 , things however changed . Murray was deposed from his ministry for reading part of Psalm 118 after the Jacobite victory at Killiecrankie : “ This is the day God made , in it we’ll joy triumphantly ! ” In 1690 Episcopacy was overthrown and the Presbyterian form of worship was formally re introduced with the Westminster Confession  adopted as the Confession of the Church . For a period of 9 years the turbulent charge of the Crieff Parish Church lay vacant until in 1699 when along came yet another Drummond !

John Drummond unlike his immediate predecessors had been educated at Glasgow University . His was a conformity to the established kirk and despite a flirtation with what was to become the first of the Secessionist groups ( this caused him to be disciplined by the Presbytery) , he stayed in charge in Crieff for some 55 years including the period of the first Jacobite uprising . It was John Drummond who wrote the account of the burning of Crieff . His and local Church attitudes towards the Stewart dynasty can be discerned from the records of the time . Minutes refer to a “ horrid abuse committed by some persons in the town of Crieff , by their drinking King James’ health publicly at the Cross and abusing several inhabitants in the town  .” Mr Drummond was requested to draw up a list of offenders for the attention of the Queen‘s Advocate  The regenerated kirk was determined to exert its authority on one and all . A Session minute is indicative of strict discipline they wished to exert on the local populous particularly in relation to the Sabbath . It notes “ the frequent profanation of the Lord’s Day by unnecessary walking in the fields , idle talking , bearing of water , taking in of kail and the like . ” Elders were asked to “ take strict notice ” of such infringements , with a view to discipline .       

This was the atmosphere that prevailed in this part of Strathearn . During the most part of the 17th century there was clearly a strong local support for the Episcopalian attitude and ipso facto the Jacobite cause .This was no doubt affected somewhat by the “ glorious revolution “ of 1688 and the subsequent clamp downs on attitude and civic discipline by the sentinels of a more Calvinistic kirk  both locally and further afield in Strathearn .  

The 1714 Uprising

Sheriffmuir was fought on the 13th of November 1715. The Jacobite army was led by the Earl of Mar and the Hanoverians by the Duke of Argyll. The Highlanders held Perth and moved onto Auchterarder where the army was assembled. It was nearly 9 000 strong and was more or less all of Highland composition. Argyll was based in Stirling and marched out on the 12 of November. His army was just over 3 000 in strength and comprised English soldiers and groups such as the Glasgow Volunteer Regiment and the Stirling County Militia. . They moved onto the high ground above Dunblane. The Jacobites moved out of Kinbuck  and took the high ground near what is now Whitestone Rifle Range. The battle was hesitant and indecisive . Marr was over cautious . Both armies retreated . The Government troops had losses  of 663 men , the Jacobites 232.  Although a nominal victory for the Jacobites it was the the beginning of the end . He retreated , troops deserted and he embarked on the scorched earth policy of destroying the towns and villages between him and Argyll, namely Crieff, Auchterarder, Dunning, Muthill , Blackford and Dalreoch. The accounts were all written by the Presbyterian Ministers of the various places. These were later collated by the Maitland Club in the 1840s and published . They were transcribed and reprinted in various books of the times such as Porteous and the Annals of Auchterarder. What is not generally reported is the original preface . The Chairman of the Club at that time was the incumbent Duke of Argyll whose ancestor led the Government forces at Sheriffmuir. This in itself reflects in the academic and historical nature of the reporting . The passage of time , some one hundred and twenty five years , since the event ensures that it is a record of the reporting of the day . The preface , which has been greatly ignored in previous accounts,  emphasised the reasoning behind the burnings , the scorched earth policy and the dire need of the Jacobites to prevent supplies in the depth of a cruel winter following into Hanoverian hands. It particularly draws attention to the bias of the contemporary reporters namely that of the local Presbyterian ministers .     


NB The following was copied in 1995  from the transcriptions of the above mentioned Club from documents held in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow .

The following documents relate to a period near the end of the Civil War of 1715 / 16 when the hopes of the Jacobite Army under the Earl of Mar at Perth and attended by the Chevalier in person ( then recently arrived in Scotland ) were limited to making a successful stand for a little time within or in front of that town against the superior forces of the Duke of Argyll who was expected immediately to march against them from Stirling for the purpose of putting an end to the insurrection. The county was covered with deep snow and it was thought necessary by the Jacobite chiefs to add to the difficulties of the Duke’s intended march by burning all the villages destroying as far as possible the grain and other provisions lying between Stirling and Perth .This severe measure was executed by detachment of the Clans and produced of course great misery to the people of the devastated district . These Duncrub papers , the composition apparently of a person friendly to the Government but probably faithful with regard to the facts give minute accounts of the various transactions.

It has been thought proper since the tone of the narratives is so unfavourable to the insurgent party to add for the sake of impartiality a letter addressed by the Chevalier when about to embark at Montrose , to the Duke of Argyll in which not only does the writer express the regret of a benevolent mind for an act which the necessities of war alone could justify but states that he had taken measures to repair as far as he could , the evils there by inflicted on so many innocent persons.

After all hopes of executing the will of the Chevalier had been abandoned by General Gordon and that they were carried abroad in The letter appears to have been left with the commander of the remnant of the insurgent army along with an order empowering him to forward it to the Duke of Argyll and at the same time to deposit a sum of money for the compensation of the sufferers in the hands of the magistrates of some town as might be convenient at the time.

Probably neither was the letter delivered nor the money paid but the fact of the effort by the Chevalier offers a satisfactory view of a character which every successive publication of exerts from the Stuart papers has made the more and more amiable and respectable.

The letter and order have been preserved in the family of Sir Peter Murray Threipland of Fingask, baronet, a circumstance which makes it probable that the design of the Chevalier was never executed. The ancestor of this gentleman, Sir David Threipland was one of the persons in arms and he contrived with one or two others to get to France in a vessel from the Moray Firth.It seems probable that the letter  and order had come into Sir David’s hands the first place and afterwards preserved merely as memorabilia by the head of the House of Stuart .

Copied from the Maitland Club Papers in the Mitchell Library
Glasgow ,1995.

What really happened ?

What actually happened then in the run up and in the aftermath of Sheriffmuir ? James VIII had as his Chief of Staff the Earl of Mar who had originally sworn loyalty to George I but had been snubbed by the monarch thus causing him to switch allegiance to the Stewart cause and the Old Pretender . Mar has been described as many things by  many people but it is clear that when he returned somewhat surreptitiously to Scotland from the Hanoverian Court in London after yet a second rebuttal from George . His  pique no doubt rekindled and inflamed his enthusiasm for James for he set about recruiting influential people to the Jacobite cause as soon as he landed in Fife . The story of the 1714 is long and complex and outwith the scope of this book . Let it suffice to say that immediately prior to the Battle of Sheriffmuir on Sunday the 13th of November 1715 , Mar was billeted at Perth and his rival Argyll at Dunblane . Strathearn stretched out between them . Auchterarder featured as a staging post for Mar . A week earlier the western clans ,approximately 2,500 strong arrived in the town . These comprised the MacDonalds of Sleat , MacDonalds of Clanranald , MacDonald of Glencoe, MacDonald of Glengarry , the MacDougalls , the MacLeans , the Camerons of Lochiel and the Stuarts of Appin . The army  was reviewed on Auchterarder Moor . It now numbered  some 8 ,797 men including Rob Roy and his Macgregors . The  battle was a bit of a non event or in modern parlance , hand bags at fifty paces ! Mar proved indecisive and failed to exert his numerical superiority . Argyll and the Hanoverians who numbered a mere 3, 210 men were let off the hook . Casualties  showed Argyll to have lost  nearly 700 men whilst the Jacobites lost a mere 232 .

What followed thereafter is the real subject of this tale . Mar had retreated to Perth . Argyll had sent out a scouting party of his dragoons from Dunblane and accompanied them himself .Their main intention was to appraise the road system and in doing so they reached as far as Auchterarder. Exaggerated reports of the strength of the party reached Perth . It was thought that some 3 000 men were moving forward and an attack was imminent . The scorched earth policy was put into action to prevent Argyll getting his hands on supplies . The weather at the time ( January 1716 ) was fiendish . There was  thick snow , then a rapid thaw and another heavy fall of snow .

The burnings were carried out by Clan Ranald  whose brother had been killed at Sheriffmuir. His 600 Camerons and MacDonalds fired first Auchterarder, then Blackford and then Crieff. The Crieff conflagration was assisted by Ludovic Drummond who was factor to Lord Drummond who it was alleged was delighted to take revenge on those who had failed to support the Jacobite cause. The feelings were high and it took a long time for compensation to be paid to the unfortunate citizens of the towns and villages destroyed . The ministers’s report praised one Jacobite , one of the local Lairds namely Anthony Murray of Dollerie whose family still reside to the east of Crieff . Murray had implored with compatriots to desist from their orders and save the town . It was to no avail . The Rev Drummond’s account is indeed graphic and obviously was seen by him as the inevitability of being persecuted by
“ wicked men compassing their designs of settling a Popish pretender upon the Throne . 

In conclusion hind sight perhaps draws the conclusion that the whole episode was unnecessary . Mar fluffed his chances at Sheriffmuir and authorised what was really a needles destruction of the towns and villages . Notwithstanding the recorded writings of the Calvanistic ministers with their deep seated hatred of “ papists and their like ”,it was clear that Strathearn was a divided community and not simply a split between Highlander and Lowlander , Episcopalian and Presbyterian , Catholic and Protestant.

The sadness is that geography had placed the Strath in the cockpit of a potentially National conflict between diametrically opposed factions .It stood in the way of the opposing forces and as such it was inevitable in the circumstances the one or other of the parties would employ a scorched earth policy . Historical accuracy and not biased sectarianism should be the accountant .   

Jacobite influence in Strathearn

To date , the accounts of the “ Burnings “ have , as related above been based on the accounts of the local Presbyterian clergy incumbent at the time .  The Kirk of course was at that time beginning to fragment into various seceding groups , all at each others throat over some seemingly relevant matter of Presbyterian government . Despite the various factions , burgher or anti burgher , auld licht or new  licht , they were all violently opposed to the  recently overthrown Episcopalianism or , say it quietly , the Papists of the “ auld faith “ ! Respected  historians such as Reid in his “ Annals of Auchterarder “ and Porteous  in his “ History of Crieff “ both reported but did not analyse the background to the “ burnings “ . What is perhaps not appreciated in this present age is that prior to both Uprisings , Strathearn was firmly owned and managed by the Jacobite faction . Fortunately we have a detailed list of names , places  , rent rolls , stock and crops from  the information collated by the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates and published by the Scottish Record Office in 1973 . In the  interests of historical impartiality the following is an abstract of the Earl of Perth’s confiscated holdings in 1755 .

1.     Barony of Lix ( NB the lands above Glen Ogle , north of

Lochearnhead ) : 4 farms, 28 families , 128 persons .

2. Barony of Balquhidder  : 8 farms , 68 families , 257 persons .

3. Barony of  Comrie  : 21 farms , 182 families , 777 persons .

4. Un named Barony including Findoglen, Achnashellach and the Culnacarries : 4 farms, 21 families and 99 persons .

5. Parish of Muthill : 88 farms or possessors , 391 families , 1639 persons .

6 .Barony of Auchterarder : 32 farms or possessors, 62 families , 261 persons .

7. Barony of Kinbuck : 7 farms , 33 families , 194 persons .

8. Barony of Callendar : 32 farms or possessors , 123 families , 523 persons .

9. Barony of Strath Gartney  : 14 farms , 100 families , 414 persons .

10. Barony of Milnab and the Town of Crieff  : 52 farms or possessors , 207 families , 778 persons .

11.Barony of Stobhall ( un life rented ) : 3 farms , 31 families , 132 persons .

12 . Barony of Stobhall ( life rented ) : 27 farms, 208 families , 990 persons .

What does the above prove ? In Highland , and indeed Scottish society of the time the tenants enjoyed the support and protection of the Laird or Clan chief . The Earls of Perth or the Drummond family could call upon from the above in excess of 6 000 individuals or well in excess of 50 % of the population . It is clear that whilst not everyone amongst his tenants would raise sword , a great many ,such as the Drummonds of Trian in Glen Artney would and did for a cause that their Chief believed to be just .


The purpose of my last two " Blogs " on the " Burnings " is  not to elicit support for an act of political vandalism which caused undoubted sorrow  and distress to the  citizens  of the villages including Crieff . It is not an attempt to give credance  to that incredibly  two faced  incompetant Jacobite general the Earl of Mar who  has the derisory  nick name  of  " Bobbing John " ! It is an attempt  to highlight the biased reporting of  events that  have  survived in numerous  books  and documents  such as Reid's " Annals of Auchterarder " published some 130 years  ago . The key point in this discussion  lies in Montrose's  victory at Tibbermore some 15 miles  from Crieff . The anhilation of the Government forces  made up of  ill trained mainly Presbyterian recruits established a deep hatred  of all things  Highland , Gaelic , Episcopalian and Catholic . Further salt was rubbed into Calvanistic wounds  when the " Highland Host " made up of troops  from Strathearn marched into Ayrshire  to arrest the Covenanters  and disrupt their conventicles ( religious gatherings held in remote moorland locations  between Ayrshire /Renfrewshire and Dumfries . ) The Ayrshire village of Fenwick has a memorial to the captured and slain Coventers  victims of the times . My 4  times great grand father,  on the paternal side,  James Craig was a farmer near the village  and his name is duly recorded on this memorial . The report I have included  from the Maitland Club papers is perhaps  the nub of the  whole matter . The leader of the  Government forces  against the Jacobites  at Sheriffmuir was the Duke of Argyll . It was his grand son who penned the explanatory report some decades later !

Saturday, 14 July 2012


My Personal Point of View

As  someone who has  studied history over a number of decades I have  become acutely aware how important it  is  to present facts and information in a straight unambiguous  fashion  . I had the pleasure a number of years ago to study , through the Open University, a  superb course  on Family and Community History .This disciplined  course  rapidly  instilled  within me how imperative it is to  ensure that  you gather together  the facts  and  the sources  before setting  forth on a dissertation that could  be radically flawed ! Bearing this   in mind I looked at the  report  on  the“ Burning “ of Crieff  as written  by one John Drummond the recumbent Presbyterian Minister . Biased bigotry prevails and as  card carrying member of the “ Kirk “  was suitably  shocked  to read  of the narrow minded parochialism  that Drummond and his ilk projected . Read on with open mind !



Historical background

To properly understand the “ burnings ”, it is necessary to look briefly at the overall history of Scotland prior to the 1715 uprising . The advent of James Vl to the throne of Great Britain on the death of Elizabeth of England was significant in a number of ways to every day life in Scotland . James embraced the English Court and the Episcopal form of worship . He introduced what is referred to as The Five Articles , which were pure anathema to the Presbyterians . These were enjoying private baptism , private communion , confirmation by bishops , observance of holy days and kneeling at communion . The General Assembly, the “ parliament “ of the Kirk rejected these in 1617 but after being passed by the Privy Council , was forced through the following Assembly in 1619 . The Scottish Parliament by a small majority gave these its sanction to the “ Articles “.  James himself stated “ No bishops - no King ! “  He literally governed by the pen issuing his instructions to the Privy Council . When he died in 1625 , his successor was the politically incompetent Charles l . One of his first appointments was Archbishop Spottiswoode as Chancellor . In 1634 the Scottish Parliament presented him with a “ supplication “ in which their grievances were set out . All to no avail as Charles would not budge on his views . In 1637 he demanded that all Scottish Churches use the new prayer book . The immediate response was the production of the National Covenant in 1638. Its signatories swore to “ maintain the form of Church government most in accord with God’s will ”, in other words that of the Presbyterian Kirk . It fomented the Bishop’s War ( 1639 / 1640 ) which was led from the front by many of the Nobles such Loudoun and Montrose. The substantial support of the majority of Scottish Lairds was important .  “ The Wars of the Covenants ” brought  a whole Nation under arms . They demanded the removal of the Bishops from the Privy Council . This threat of action was sufficient to win their case. The “Three Estates ”  now saw the Lairds take over from the Bishops and join the Nobles and the representatives of the Burghs and the Shires.

The English Civil War in 1642 saw the supporters of the Covenant throw in their lot with the Parliamentary forces in return for a guarantee of a Presbyterian form of worship no only in Scotland but in England as well  ( The Solemn League and Covenant ) . Developments in Scotland saw James Graham, Marquis of Montrose , throw in his lot with the Royalists. Although a Presbyterian he wished to safeguard the monarchy. His suspicions had been aroused by the emergence of his arch rival Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll . With the aid of Alasdair Mac Colla  or Alasdair MacDonald , Montrose set about his task . Mac Colla was a Highland warrior of rare military talent who was connected with the McDonnels of Antrim  . Using this family connection he brought fellow clansmen from Ireland to join up in the struggle .

Montrose waged a successful campaign and won battles at Tibbermore , Kilsyth and Inverlochy before coming as cropper at Philiphaugh .  The subsequent defeat of Charles l at Naseby saw the collapse of the war . Charles was executed in January 1649. Tibbermore was in particularly apposite to feelings pertaining in Strathearn and was an indication of the split loyalties of the people of the area.

Tibbermore - a bloody encounter

The Battle of Tibbermore was a victory for Montrose . The Government forces under the Earl of Lothian were to march to Perth and Burleigh was to march there from Fife. All able bodied men between 16 and 60  were called to arms in Perthshire ( fencibles). Lothian was to drive the rebels north into the arms of Argyll . Montrose with the Stewarts and the Robertsons marched via Aberfeldy and down the Sma’ Glen to surprise the opposition. Near Crieff they met a force of 500 Highlanders newly formed by Lord Kilpoint , Sir John Drummond and the Master of Madderty as requested by the regime . All three were obeying orders to join the Covenanters in Perth but had Royalist sympathies . Kilpoint was a Graham , a kinsman of Montrose and Madderty was Montrose’s brother in law . It is though that perhaps there was collusion and that was why Montrose came via the Sma’ Glen and Crieff . The surprise worked as the Highlanders had a core of Irish veterans under MacColla . Despite being fewer in numbers the ferocity of the charge shattered the Covenanters defence . It turned into a massacre . The Highlanders chased them to Perth and slaughtered all . It is reported ( Stevenson , 1980 ) that one Irish officer stated , “ you could not walk the three miles from the battlefield to Perth without once touching the ground and treading on corpses. ”  The local Presbyterian minister said , “The hounds of hell were drawn up before our ports newly bathed in blood and demanding more with hideous cries .”

After Tibbermore

There after followed a period of confusion . The Scots supported  his son Charles ll as legitimate successor on the proviso that he would support the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant . As a result Cromwell invaded Scotland and after a crushing victory at Dunbar quickly took virtual control of the country. Charles was crowned at Scone and Argyll invaded England but was defeated at Worcester. Cromwell was overlord . Both Argyll and his rival Montrose were executed in Edinburgh. 

Cromwell died in 1658 and in 1660 Charles ll was proclaimed King . Despite the sacrifices that had been made, things quickly reverted to the past . The Recissory Act in 1661 declared all legislation passed since 1633 to be null and void . The Covenants were renounced and Episcopacy restored which meant the hierarchy of Bishops, lay patronage (land owners  picked the parish clergy ) and royal supremacy with the King as head of the Church . This was the period of the Covenanters , of “ conventicles “ in Ayrshire and the south west and dissent . Soldiers raised by the Duke of Perth ( an Episcopalian ) were sent from Strathearn to quell the troubles . They were called the Highland Host”. It was a period known in Scottish history as the “ killing times “. Ministers of the Kirk  circulated papers of dissent against the King . It resulted in Presbyterians being executed for treason .