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Annals of Auchterarder and Memorials of Srathearn
The Burning of Blackford


ACCORDING to our best information, a party of the Clans, consisting of Sir Donald M'Donald's, Clanranald's, Lochiell's, Appin's, M'Clean's, Glengerry's, and Kepoch's men, commanded by Clanranald, brother to him who was killed att Dunbiain, to the number of five or six hundred, marched from Perth, Tuesday, the 24th of January, 1716, about nine of the clock at night, and tho' the night was exceeding stormy and the snow lying very deep on the ground, they came to Auchterarder, a country town lying almost straight west from Perth ten miles, and on the road betwixt Stirling and it, at four in the morning, Wednesday, the 25th of the said moneth. After they had lodged themselves in that place, about nine of the clock in the forenoon of the said day they detached a party of betwixt two and three hundred foot and some few horsemen towards Blackfoord, ane other countrey town, lying as aforsaid on the road betwixt Stirling and Perth, two miles to the westward of Auchterarder and about eight miles from Stirling.

This party had not marched much more than half a mile from Auchterarder, when by a violent blowing and exceeding deepness of the snow they found themselves oblidged to force a guide, tho' they had William Maitland, son to James Maitland, innkeeper at Blackfoord, alongst with them, who knew that countrey perfectly well, and as both he and his father were bigotted Jacobites and Rebells, was both instrumental! in the ruine and burning of the countrey.

The guide's name was John Rebron, farmer of a countrey place called Greerwalls, where several of those clans had quartered before and some dayes after the battle of Dumblain, and, as he informed, they came with no small difficulty to the said James Maitland's house at Blackfoord betwixt twelve and one. When they came, one of the horsemen told James of the order they had from the Pretender for burning of the countrey, and desired him if he had any friends in that place he would acquaint them with it, that they might save their cattle and throw their household plenishing (or furniture) out of doors.

When they came to that part of the road which is about half a mile to the northward of Gleneagles, some of the clans who had quartered there about the time of the battle of Dumblain, proposed to go to it, but the storm blew so strong and the snow was so deep that the rest did not agree to it; so they went on their way to Blackfoord.

When they came to James Maitland's house, they halted, fed their horses, and then they sent out parties to all the houses of this town or village A considerable party of them, with one or two of the horsemen at their head, went to the house of Jane Edie, a widow woman, which lyes in the middle of that town, and is one of the largest in it. She seeing them a-coming shut her door and called to see what they wanted, telling them that if they would not plunder and destroy what she had, she would willingly allow them to come in. To this they gave her no return, but threatened to shoot in at the windowes, and fell a breaking of the door, and very soon forced it open, and immediately after takeing what was most valuable and portable, sett the house on fire by sheaves of corn brought from the barn-yard, and being a lofted house and much wood in it, was very soon reduced to ashes. While this was a-doing, they sent about 100 men to the west end of the town to the house of James Brice, one of the men of most distinction of this place, and who had from the very beginning of the Rebellion stayed with the King's Army at Stirling. His wife, tho' at that time very tender and sickly, seeing them a-comeing, left the house, and, by the help of ane of her servants, made the best of her way towards the mountains throw the snow, that was exceeding deep. When they came into the house they caused put on a very great fire, pretending they were cold, and two or three of the horsemen rode round the house and yard, which, as it is the westmost of that town, lyes nearest to Stirling, and one of them was heard say, "What a pity that such a bonny farm and houses should be destroyed, as it is really by much the best in that place"; however, they sett all immediately on fire, and burnt down houses, corns, and everything to the ground.

There was a poor widow woman called Isobell Brice, who had a little house hard by, and some young children with her; she not believing they would be so cruel as to sett fire to her house whilst she and the poor children were in it, kept her door shutt, but to that they had no regard, but sett fire to it, so that when the flames reacht her she and the children had much to do to get out.

At the same time they sett fire to the house of David Holmes, and all the other houses of the town that they intended to burn.

When they were a-burning the house of Alexr. Gibsone, mertt, one of the horsemen came up and said, "I perceive this is a merchant's house, save his shop"; but to this the Highlanders gave no ear. They beat himself, rob'd him of what money was about him, took what was usefull for them in the shop, and burnt the rest. His wife seeing the bad usage of her husband fell down in a swoon, and the horseman who had called to save the shop, seeing a little child weltering in the snow, took it up and carryed it before him on the horse's neck to James Maitland's, to whose house, when they saw all the houses and corns quite burnt down, the whole party returned. We do not know who that horseman was. but he was heard to say that for no king in Christendom would he ever have a hand or be concerned in executing so cruell and barbarous ane order. And so great ane effect had the sight of the children's lying upon the snow and the women's crying and tearing themselves, that some even of the barbarous Highlanders were seen to weep.

When they came to James Maitland's, tho' he had been told in the beginning that his house was not to be burnt, yet, to save appearances, they caused his own son, William Maitland, sett fire to one of his corn stacks, a little outhouse or byre at a little distance from the rest of his house, and caused burn a great deal of straw; so that when they left James's house it appeared to all the country to be on fire, but as soon as they were gone, his son William, with the help of some of his Jacobite neighbours, got it extinguished, and stayed in his father's house all the night after. They dealt much after the same manner by James Davidsone, officer or bayliff to a gentleman concerned in the Rebellion; they putt a smoke of straw in his house and left him to extinguish it, which he did

But at their return towards Auchterarder they came to the house of Helen Edie, one of the most considerable inns on that road, and lyes at the east end of the town nearest to Auchterarder, and burnt it down with all that was in it to the ground; so that before they left Blackfoord, they believed all the houses, corns, hay, and everything else to be burnt, except the two houses above mentioned.

The minister's house lyes at half a mile's distance to the westward of this town. He had stayed at home, preached and prayed for King George and success to his arms, till he was threatened, and parties sent to seize him from the garrisons of Tullibardine and Bracko upon which he was forced to retire and shelter himself with some of his well affected friends.

His wife seeing the flames at Blackfoord, and being informed, by some of the poor miserable people who came running to her, of the tragedy that was acted there, called for a trusty servant and, by the force of money and promises, prevailed with him to go to Stirling, which is within seven miles of that place, to give ane account to the Generall and other officers there of what was done and acted at Blackfoord, and of the state of the countrey in generall. This seemed so extraordinary and incredible that there they rather looked on the messenger as a madman than gave any credit to what he related, so that they remained in a sort of suspense till next day, that they had expresses and messengers from all the severall parts of the countrey, giving accounts of the same fatall tragedies being acted in all the other parts of it.

Wee must still make this remark, that tho' the countrey on the south side of the road betwixt Blackfoord and Auchteiarder is very populous, and a great many countrey houses in it, yet none of them was burnt or destroyed, because they for the most part belonged to persons and landlords that were in the Rebellion.

It would be endless to give account of all the hardships and acts of barbarous cruelty done. It may be easily imagined, considering the season of the year, the vast load of snow that lay then on the ground, the poor people, man wife and child, without the shelter of a house, without cloalhs, meat, drink, or anything to support them, and little or no hopes of relief, for within a day or two after, when they saw with their own eyes, from the high grounds to which they were retired for shelter, a second burning at Auchterarder, they were reduced to the utmost degree of distraction and despair.


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