The March from Callum’s Hill in Crieff to Tibbermore

An Account Of One Of The Most Bloody Political/Religious Battles Fought In This Part Of Scotland  

The Battle of Tibbermore /Tibbermure 

Victory by the Back Door

The surge in the amount of violence and mayhem in the Middle East and in targeted European (including British) locations has caused  much grief and sadness to innocent families and individuals . Atrocities carried  out in the name of  religion are not something that has  suddenly occurred .They have  been part of society  for longer than we might  imagine .

The period of the 1640s in Scotland  was one of violent confrontation between the Royalists faction supporting the Stewart monarch Charles 1 and the fiercely Presbyterian adherents known as Covenanters . Despite the efforts of James VI to introduce Bishops into the Kirk , the Covenanters  with their  power base in the  south and south west of Scotland were vociferous and militant in pursuit of their cause . In 1644 they marched  south into England  to lend support to the English Parliamentarians in the Civil War Battle of Marston Moor in North Yorkshire .
It was at this stage the formidable Earl (later Marquis) of Montrose, the head of the redoubtable Graham family enters the scene. A strong Royalist, Montrose had been involved in the North of England against both the Covenanters and the Parliamentarians at Morpeth and Newcastle. The defeat of the Royalists at Marston Moor saw him withdraw from the conflict . In disguise and with two companions he crossed back into Scotland on the 18th August 1644  . realising the impracticalities of attempting to attack the Covenanters in the south west , he turned his attention to the Highlands and the northern Lowlands where clans had little  liking  for Presbyterian zealots and many  of the citizens of  areas  such as Strathearn still retained a nominal adherence and preference  for the old Episcopalian  and indeed Catholic faith .

Montrose learned that a small band of some 1600 Irish Confederates  led  by the renowned Highland warrior Alaisdair MacColla had landed  in Ardnamurchan . MacColla’s troops comprised a company of Hebridean Scots and a body of Irishmen from Ulster, Connacht and Dublin. Amongst these men were a number of veterans of the Spanish army of Flanders, a truly experienced and hardened band of professional soldiers. Their first  move  was to capture Mingary Castle which they intended  to use as a base to head east to Aberdeen  to join forces with the Marquis of Huntly .

On 18 August 1644, the Marquis of Montrose crossed the border into Scotland in disguise and accompanied by only two companions. He now accepted that the Covenanters in southern Scotland were too strong for local Royalists to risk an uprising and planned instead to raise the north-east Lowlands and the clans of the Highlands. Montrose was fortunate in that a small band of Irish Confederates led by Alaisdair MacColla had recently landed in the Highlands to fight the Covenanters. When Montrose heard of this, he made his way to Blair Athol in Perthshire where, on 30 August 1644, he raised his standard as the King's deputy in Scotland. Montrose's army consisted of MacColla's 1,600 Irishmen and 800 Highlanders of the Stewart, Robertson and Graham clans who had been called out against MacColla but were persuaded to follow Montrose.

Callum's Hill Crieff

Montrose marched south-west from Blair Atholl towards Perth which was defended by Lord Elcho with a Covenanter army of 6,000 foot and 700 horse. Elcho anticipated that the bold Montrose would head down the ancient equivalent of the A9 highway from Blair to the Fair City. It was not to be as Montrose crossed the Tay at Dunkeld   and headed westwards along the line of the River Brann and down the Sma’Glen .  It was here he met with a band of levies raised by the Covenanters.  Such was the persuasive powers of Montrose that they soon threw in their lot  with him . The enlarged band now headed down Glenalmond , north of Fowlis Wester and  towards Crieff .  At the Hill of Buchanty, his advance guard led by Inchbrakie met with a large group of men numbering in excess of four hundred and led by Lord Kilpoint , eldest son of the Earl of Menteith and Sir John Drummond , eldest son of the Earl of Perth . They had been raised in Menteith by the Committee of Estates to support the Covenanters’ cause and were heading to Perth to liaise with Lord Elcho. Perhaps it was the family ties that were to prove vital when Montrose addressed the commanders of this powerful band. Kilpoint was a Graham and in fact a cousin of Montrose!  This apart, the enthusiasm of both the leaders and their cohorts to the Covenanting cause was found to be in this part of Strathearn, somewhat minimal. They soon threw in their lot with the Royalist band, raising the strength of the small army to near 3 000 men.
Back in Perth, Elcho was receiving confused reports   as the to the whereabouts of the Royalist army and the dreaded MacColla and his Celtic hoards.
Montrose’s army reached the small town of Crieff and it was on the slopes of Callum’s Hill that they made their base. Perth was little more than seventeen miles to the east. Historical recounting of our towns reaction to the arrival of Highlanders in their midst has been somewhat perverted over the years . The town has been right on the border between Highland and Lowland . Although regarded as an English speaking town, one had only to move a few  miles  north west to Monzie and there, Gaelic was the native tongue . Likewise in Comrie , now a douce repository for retired Lowland and southern denizens , Gaelic  was spoken well into the 19th century .  In 1644 Strathearn was Episcopalian as was most of the Northern Lowlands and Southern Highlands. Despite  the proximity of the Covenanting forces in Perth , it is understandable why Montrose pitched  camp in the heart of Strathearn .

The seventeen miles  to Perth was quickly traversed and the two sides  clashed at Tippermuir or Tibbermore as it is now known .

Elcho confronted Montrose on open ground at Tippermuir on the plain of Strathearn to the west of Perth on 1 September 1644. To avoid being outflanked by the much larger Covenanter force, Montrose drew up his troops in a line only three deep over a longer front than Elcho's, with MacColla's Irishmen in the centre. The Covenanter cavalry advanced against the Irish but were unnerved by their bloodcurdling battle cries. Montrose seized on their momentary hesitation to charge. As the Irish bore down upon them, most of Lord Elcho's infantry turned and fled. The cavalry tried to attack Montrose's flank but the Highlanders threw stones at them until they wheeled and fled, colliding with the Covenanter infantry that had stayed on the field and causing a general rout.

Over 1,000 Covenanters were killed in the battle and rout; another 800 were taken prisoner. Montrose claimed to have lost only one man. The town of Perth surrendered immediately and a large quantity of weapons and supplies was captured. It was said that one could  not walk the short  distance  to Perth without treading on the mutilated corpses .

Montrose’s  success  was  comparatively short lived as the infamous Cromwell entered the scene . That , however,  is another story  !


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