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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Clan Colquhoun of North America Newsletter
2002 Newsletter


An Article From The 2002 Newsletter

Almost every clan member has seen the painting of the Colquhoun in trews (tartan “trousers”) holding his hazel adorned bonnet to his head. The image has been reproduced on everything from post-it notes to drink coasters. The artist is Robert Ronald McIan (1803-1856). In 1845 McIan was commissioned by the Highland Society of London to illustrate the clans and their dress to commemorate the centenary of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart, “The Young Pretender” (to the English throne). The Stuart family had ruled England and Scotland from 1603 to 1714. “Jacobite” meant “a follower of James [II]” who was Charles’ grandfather, the deposed and exiled King who ruled from 1685 to 1688. “Bonnie Prince Charlie” had some victories but the Rebellion was finally crushed at Culloden on 16 April 1746. The larger English army was better equipped with weapons and provisions. They also had a superior battle position, the “high ground”, at Culloden. When Prince Charles saw the battle was lost he escaped back to the mainland of Europe where he died in 1788. Some people don’t realize that the man who has influenced so many songs and stories about Scotland never lived there. By the time he was born in 1720, his father James (the “Old Pretender”) was already exiled to the mainland. English was Charles’ second language and he spoke it with a heavy Italian accent. The wounded Jacobites on Drumossie Moor at Culloden were murdered where they lay. Others who had or had not participated in the rebellion were hunted down and executed. Scots felt retribution from the ruling House Of Hanover for many years after.

By 1845 Victoria was Queen and she loved all things Scottish. The 72 paintings by McIan were published in a privately financed book by Ackermann and Co. in London. The Clans Of The Scottish Highlands was dedicated to the Queen. A text added by James Logan (c1794-1872) from Aberdeen briefly described each clan’s history and factual information to accompany the paintings. Logan had been collecting samples of tartan and stories from local people as early as 1826, and had published a book in 1831 from his research. McIan and Logan’s book was quite popular when it was first published, and one need only look at the vendor tables at our own US Scottish Games to see how well the paintings have endured. However, Clans Of The Scottish Highlands has had its critics. The illustrations have been described as “stylized and romantic”. A six page article was found on the internet written by Kass McGann of Reconstructing History faulting the historical authenticity of what certain clansmen in the paintings are wearing and some of Logan’s research.

Several times during US festivals we have been asked the same two questions at the Colquhoun tent: Why is the man in our McIan painting the only Highlander of the series wearing trews, and what did the Colquhouns do in the 1745 rebellion? 

First question: trews are not really trousers. They were more like tights or leotards that went all the way down your legs and encompassed your feet. Trews kept you warm and were useful when riding horse back. Peter Fry in History Of Scotland states the Celts introduced trousers into Europe. A few Scottish military regiments like Royal Scots or Seaforth Highlanders are said to be wearing trews, but they’re really just trousers made from tartan material. Apparently McIan was trying to show many examples of historic Celtic dress, even if some examples aren’t completely accurate (according to critics like McGann), and the Colquhouns drew the example of the trews simply by chance. In the paintings for MacArthur and Ferguson there is no tartan represented at all. These clans may have drawn McIan’s examples of a pre-tartan time in Scotland’s history.

Second question: According to No Quarter Given: The Muster Roll Of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army, 1745-46 (2001) there were some participants bearing the name Colquhoun in the rebellion. This was not known to us when this article first appeared in 2002 and is hereby gladly corrected. Charles Colquhoun, a “Wright” from “St. Cuthberts”, and Archibald Colquhoun, a “Farmer” from “Appin” were both on the Prince’s General Staff. Cavalryman Lt. Duncan Colquhoun was in the Ecossais Royale. Lt. Colquhoun was captured and executed in 1746. A “writer” named “Colquhoun Grant” from Edinburgh was in “John Roy Stuart’s” regiment. He was pardoned. There is other evidence of clan members sympathetic to the Jacobean cause. By Yon Bonnie Banks and The Clan Colquhoun was written specially for this newsletter in 1993 by Stephen L. Calhoun. This article concerns one of the most famous songs associated with Scotland. The author of the song has never been identified but the five “Loch” clans Colquhoun, Gregor, MacFarlane, Buchanan, and Graham have all claimed to be the source of the gentleman and his “true love” who “will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond!” As Stephen points out, we have probably the best claim to the authorship. In that article the two characters of the song were with the Jacobite army in 1745 and had been separated from the main body near Preston. The two starving Colquhouns are caught stealing a sheep near Carlise. The penalty for this crime is death, but the mayor of Carlise is a Jacobite and figures a way to spare one of the men. Only one Colquhoun will be put to death and the other will be set free to go back and tell other Colquhouns what happens to thieving Jacobites in Carlise. That night the condemned man tells the free man to “take the high road” (by walking) while he’ll “take the low road” (his spirit ferried back underground by the “wee folk”-the “leprechauns”-the “brownies”, etc) and “I’ll be in Scotland before ye”. According to some this is also the basis for piping at funerals. The pipes call the wee folk to carry our spirits back to rest in the old country no matter where in the world we die.

All of this may not at first seem relevant to the Colquhouns and the Rebellion. It is in fact highly ironic, because our chief at the time was a Royalist. Sir James was 23rd of Colquhoun, 25th of Luss, 8th Baronet of Nova Scotia, and 1st Baronet of Great Britain (1732-1786).


Illustration courtesy of
Stephen L. Calhoun

Sir James had sufficient reason to support King George II and the House of Hanover since he was one of the first officers of the newly formed Black Watch of the British Army. According to Col. W. D. Arbuthnott in Soldiers Of Scotland the Black Watch origins lie in “companies of men loyal to the king raised to police the Highlands of Scotland.” The name was “given to this armed police force because of the contrast of the dark tartan with the brighter uniform of the regular troops.” In the early 1740’s Sir James’ regiment was in Flanders fighting against the French army “…to assist the Queen of Hungary…and join the Austrians, Hessians, and Hanoverians in supporting her” (this quote from The Chiefs of Colquhoun and Their Country by William Fraser 1869 and the following quotes). Promoted to Major during this campaign, Sir James became so sick he was sent home to Rossdhu in 1745 to convalesce. By the end of the year and through April 1746, Major Sir James recuperated enough to play a significant role in “rounding up the rebels” of the western Highlands. After it was clear the Rebellion was crushed, Sir James pressed for “merciful measures” in dealing with the rebels and “gaining them over to loyalty to the reigning family.” Sir James’ friend and fellow advocate of “lenient treatment” of the rebels was Andrew Fletcher, Lord Milton, Lord Justice-Clerk. Many letters exist of Lord Milton and Sir James pleading for clemency of prisoners, Sir James even offering “bail…for any summ” for a Robert Colquhoun, prisoner in Dumbarton Castle. Many rebels including MacGregors surrendered themselves to him because Sir James had the reputation of being a fair man. One may speculate that our chief could use his status as a wounded combat veteran of the Black Watch as leverage for his actions during this time. He lobbied to get as many prisoners as he could pardoned including Rob Roy’s son James Drummond. When Sir James was a young man he was friends with the older Rob Roy meeting him secretly on the island of Inch-Lonaig in Loch Lomond and “they were ever after on the best terms.”  


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