Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of George I: 1714 - 1727 Part 5


1721, Jan 4
James Dougal, writing the news of Edinburgh to his friend Wodrow at East Wood, has a sad catalogue to detail. ‘There was four pirates hanged at Leith this day……very hardened. They were a melancholy sight, and there is three to be hanged next Wednesday. Nicol Musbet is to be hanged on Friday . . . . for murdering his wife: he appears to be more concerned than he was before. Ane woman brought from Leith is to die the first Wednesday of February for putting down (destroying) a child. Another man is laid up in prison, that is thought to have murdered his wife. The things failing out now are very humbling.’

He goes on to tell that several persons ‘in trouble of mind’ are frequently prayed for in Edinburgh churches. ‘But they do not name them but after such a manner—A man there is in such trouble (or a woman), and desires the congregation to praise God with them for signal deliverance that the Lord hath given them from great troubles that they have been in.’

The end of the letter is terrible : ‘There is some of the Lord’s people that lives here, that are feared for melancholy days, iniquity doth so abound, and profanity; and if there were not a goodly remnant in this town, it would sink.’

Jan 30
A sperm whale, ‘the richest that has ever been seen in this country,’ was advertised in the Courant as having come ashore in the Firth of Forth near Culross, and to be sold by public roup.

At the end of June 1730, three wounded whales ran ashore at Kilrenny in Fife, on the property of Mr Bethune of Balfour. The produce, consisting of a hundred and forty-six barrels of speck, or blubber, and twenty-three barrels of spermaceti speck, was afterwards advertised for sale.

Oct
With regard to several of the forfeited estates which lay in inaccessible situations in the Highlands, the Commissioners had been up to this time entirely baffled, having never been able even to get surveys of them effected. In this predicament in a special manner lay the immense territory of the Earl of Seaforth, extending from Brahan Castle in Easter Ross across the island to Kintail, and including the large though unfertile island of Lewis. The districts of Lochalsh and Kintail, on the west coast, the scene of the Spanish invasion of 1719, were peculiarly difficult of access, there being no approach from the south, east, or north, except by narrow and difficult paths, while the western access was only assailable to a naval force. To appearance, this tract of ground, the scat of many comparatively opulent ‘tacksmen’ and cattle-farmers, was as much beyond the control of the six Commissioners assembled at their office in Edinburgh, as if it had been amongst the mountains of Tibet or upon the shores of Madagascar.

During several years after the insurrection, the rents of this district were collected, without the slightest difficulty, for the benefit of the exiled earl, and regularly transmitted to him. At one time, a considerable sum was sent to him in Spain, and the descendants of the man who carried it continued for generations to bear ‘the Spanyard’ as an addition to their name.’ The chief agent in the business was Donald Murchison, descendant of a line of faithful adherents of the ‘high chief of Kintail’—the first of whom, named Murcho, had come from Ireland with Colin the son of Kenneth, the founder of the clan Mackenzie in the thirteenth century. The later generations of the family had been intrusted in succession with the keeping of Ellan Donan Castle, a strong­hold dear to the modern artist as a picturesque ruin, but formerly of serious importance as commanding a central point from which radiate Loch Alsh and Loch Duich, in the midst of the best part of the Mackenzie country. Donald was a man worthy of a more prominent place in his country’s annals than he has yet attained; he acted under a sense of right which, though unfortunately defiant of acts of parliament, was still a very pure sense of right; and in the remarkable actions which he performed, he looked solely to the good of those towards whom he had a feeling of duty. A more disinterested hero—and he was one—never lived.

When Lord Seaforth brought his clan to fight for King James in 1715, Donald Murchison and a senior brother, John, went as field-officers of the regiment—Donald as lieutenant-colonel, and John as major. Sir Roderick I. Murchison, the distinguished geologist, great-grandson of John, possesses a large ivory and silver ‘mill,’ which once contained the commission sent from France to Donald, as colonel, bearing the inscription : ‘JAMES REX: FORWARD AND SPARE NOT.’ John fell at Sheriffmuir, in the prime of life; Donald, returning with the remains of the clan, was intrusted by the banished earl with the management of estates no longer legally his, but still virtually so, through the effect of Highland feelings in connection with very peculiar local circumstances. And for this task Donald was in various respects well qualified, for, strange to say, the son of the castellan of Ellan Donan—the Sheriffmuir colonel—had been ‘bred a writer’ in Edinburgh, and was as expert at the business of a factor or estate-agent as in wielding the claymore.’

In bold and avowed insubordination to the government of George the First, the Mackenzie tenants continued for ten years to pay their rents to Donald Murchison, on account of their forfeited and exiled lord, setting at nought all fear of ever being compelled to repeat the payment to the commissioners.

In 1720, these gentlemen made a movement for asserting their claims upon the property. In William Ross of Easterfearn, and Robert Ross, a bailie of Tain, they found two men bold enough to undertake the duty of stewardship in their behalf over the Seaforth property, and also the estates of Grant of Glenmorriston and Chisholm of Strathglass. Little, however, was done that year beyond sending out notices to the tenants, and preparing for strenuous measures to be entered upon next year. The stir they made only produced excitement, not dismay. Some of the duine-wassels from about Loch Carron, coming down with their cattle to the south-country fairs, were heard to declare that the two factors would never get anything but leaden coin from the Seaforth tenantry. Donald was going over the whole country, shewing a letter he had got from the earl, encouraging his people to stand out; at the same time telling them that the old countess was about to come north with a factory for the estate, when she would allow as paid any rents which they might now hand to him. The very first use to be made of this money was, indeed, to bring both the old and the young countesses home immediately to Brahan Castle, where they would live as they used to do. Part of the funds thus acquired, he used in keeping on foot a party of about sixty armed Highlanders, whom, in virtue of his commission as colonel, he proposed to employ in resisting any troops of George the First which might be sent to Kintail. Nor did he wait to be attacked, but, in June 1720, hearing of a party of excisemen passing near Dingwall with a large quantity of aquavita, he fell upon them, and rescued their prize. The collector of the district reported this transaction to the Board of Excise; but no notice was taken of it.

In February 1721, the two factors sent officers of their own into the western districts, to assure the tenants of good usage, if they would make a peaceable submission; but the men were seized, robbed of their papers, money, and arms, and quietly remanded over the Firth of Attadale, though only after giving solemn assurance that they would never attempt to renew their mission. Resenting this procedure, the two factors caused a constable to take a military party from Bernera barracks into Lochalsh, and, if possible, capture those who had been guilty. They made a stealthy night-march, and took two men; but the alarm was given, the two men escaped, and began to fire down upon their captors from a hill-side; then they set fire to the bothy as a signal, and such a coronach went over all Kintail and Lochalsh, as made the soldiers glad to beat a quick retreat.

After some further proceedings, all of them ineffectual, the two factors were enabled, on the 13th of September, to set forth from Inverness with a party of thirty soldiers and some armed servants of their own, with the design of enforcing submission to their legal claims. Let it be remembered there were then no roads in the Highlands, nothing but a few horse-tracks along the principal lines in the country, where not the slightest effort had ever been made to smooth away the natural difficulties of the ground. In two days, the factors had got to Invermorriston; but here they were stopped for three days, waiting for their heavy baggage, which was storm-stayed in Castle Urquhart, and there nearly taken in a night-attack by a partisan warrior bearing the name of Evan Roy Macgillivray. The tenantry of Glenmor­riston at first fled with their bestial; but afterwards a number of them came in and made at least the appearance of submission. The party then moved on towards Strathglass, while Evan Roy respectfully followed, to pick up any man or piece of baggage that might be left behind. At Erchless Castle, and at Invercannich, seats of the Chisholm, they held courts, and received the submis­sion of a number of the tenants, whom, however, they subsequently found to be ‘very deceitful.’

There were now forty or fifty miles of the wildest Highland country before them, where they had reason to believe they should meet groups of murderous Cam erons and Glengarry Macdonalds, and also encounter the redoubted Donald Murchison, with his guard of Macken zies, unless their military force should be of an amount to render all such opposition hopeless. An appointment having been made that they should receive an addition of fifty soldiers from Bernera, with whom to pass through the most diffi­cult part of their journey, it seemed likely that they would appear too strong for resistance; and, indeed, intelligence was already coming to them, that ‘the people of Kintail, being a judicious opulent people, would not expose themselves to the punishments of law,’ and that the Camerons were absolutely determined to give no further provocation to the government. Thus assured, they set out in cheerful mood along the valley of Strathglass, and, soon after passing a place called Knockfin, were reinforced by Lieutenant Brymer, with the expected fifty men from Bernera. There must have now been about a hundred well armed men in the invasive body. They spent the next day (Sunday) together in rest, to gather strength for the ensuing day’s march of about thirty arduous miles, by which they hoped to reach Kintail.

At four in the morning of Monday the 2d October, the party set forward, the Bernera men first, and the factors in the rear. They were as yet far from the height of the country, and from its more difficult passes; but they soon found that all the flatter­ing tales of non-resistance were groundless, and that the Kintail men had come a good way out from their country in order to defend it. The truth was, that Donald Murchison had assembled not only his stated band of Mackenzies, but a levy of the Lewis men under Seaforth’s cousin, Mackenzie of Kildun; also an auxiliary corps of Camerons, Glengarry and Glenmorriston men, and some of those very Strathglass men who had been making appearances of submission. Altogether, he had, if the factors were rightly informed, three hundred and fifty men with long Spanish firelocks, under his command, and all posted in the way most likely to give them an advantage over the invading force.

The rear-guard, with the factors, had scarcely gone a mile, when they received a platoon of seven shots from a rising ground near them to the right, with, however, only the effect of piercing a soldier’s bat. The Bernera company, as we are informed, left the party at eight o’clock, as they were passing Lochanachlee, and from this time is heard of no more: how it made its way out of the country does not appear. The remainder still advancing, Easterfearn, as he rode a little before his men, had eight shots levelled at him from a rude breastwork near by, and was wounded in two places, but was able to appear as if he had not been touched. Then calling out some Highlanders in his service, he desired them to go before the soldiers, and do their best, according to their own mode of warfare, to clear the ground of such lurking parties, so that the troops might advance in safety. They performed this service pretty effectually, skirmishing as they went on, and the main body advanced safely about six miles. They were here arrived at a place called Aa-na-Mullich (Ford of the Mull People), where the waters, descending from the Cralich and the lofty mountains of Kintail, issue eastwards through a narrow gorge into Loch Affaric. It was a place remarkably well adapted for the purposes of a resisting party. A rocky boss, called Tor-an­-Beatich, then densely covered with birch, closes up the glen as with a gate. The black mountain stream, ‘spear-deep,’ sweeps round it. A narrow path wound up the rock, admitting only of passengers in single file. Here lay Donald with the best of his people, while inferior adherents were ready to make demonstra­tions at a little distance. As the invasive party approached, they received a platoon from a wood on the left, but nevertheless went on. When, however, they were all engaged in toiling up the pass, forty men concealed in the heather close by fired with deadly effect, inflicting a mortal wound on Walter Ross, Easterfearn’s son, while Bailie Ross’s son was also hurt by a bullet which swept across his breast. The bailie called to his son to retire, and the order was obeyed; but the two wounded youths and Bailie Ross’s servant were taken prisoners, and carried up the hill, where they were quickly divested of clothes, arms, money, and papers. Young Easterfearn died next morning. The troops faced the ambuscade manfully, and are said to have given their fire thrice, and to have beat the Highlanders from the bushes near by; but, observing at this juncture several parties of the enemy on the neighbouring heights, and being informed of a party of sixty in their rear, Easterfearn deemed it best to temporise.

He sent forward a messenger to ask who they were that opposed the king’s troops, and what they wanted. The answer was that, in the first place, they required to have Ross of Easterfearn delivered up to them. This was pointedly refused; but it was at length arranged that Easterfearn should go forward, and converse with the leader of the opposing party. The meeting took place at Bal-aa-na-Mullich (the Town of the Mull Men’s Ford), and Easterfearn found himself confronted with Donald Murchison.

It ended with Easterfearn giving up his papers, and covenanting, under a penalty of five hundred pounds, not to officiate in his factory any more; after which he gladly departed homewards with his associates, under favour of a guard of Donald’s men, to conduct them safely past the sixty men lurking in the rear. It was alleged afterwards that the commander was much blamed by his own people for letting the factors off with their lives and baggage, particularly by the Camerons, who had been five days at their post with hardly anything to eat; and Murchison only pacified them by sending them a good supply of meat and drink. He had in reality given a very effectual check to the two gentlemen-factors, to one of whom he imparted in conversation that any scheme of a government stewardship in Kintail was hopeless, for he and sixteen others had sworn that, if any person calling himself a factor came there, they would take his life, whether at kirk or at market, and deem it a meritorious action, though they should be cut to pieces for it next minute.

A bloody grave for young Easterfearn in Beauly Cathedral concluded this abortive attempt to take the Seaforth estates within the scope of a law sanctioned by statesmen, but against which the natural feelings of nearly a whole people revolted.

1721, Dec
A newspaper advertisement informed the world that ‘There is a certain gentleman living at Glasgow, who has put forth a problem to the learned—proposing, if no man answer it, to do it himself in a few weeks—viz., Whether or not it is possible so to dispose a ship, either great or small, that, although she, or it, be rent in the bottom, and filled full of water, or however tossed with tempest, she, or it, shall never sink below the water; and also that the same may be reduced to practice.’’

1722, Apr 27
An election of a member of parliament for a Highland county was apt to bring forth somewhat strenuous sentiments, and the scene sometimes partook a good deal of the nature of a local civil war.

A representative of Ross-shire being to be chosen, there came, the night before, to Fortrose, the greatest man of the north, the Earl of Sutherland, heading a large body of armed and mounted retainers, who made a procession round the streets, while an English sloop-of-war, in friendly alliance with him, came up to the town and fired its guns. Hundreds of Highlanders, his lord­ship’s retainers, at the same time lounged about. The reason of all this was, that the opposition interest was in a decided majority, and a defeat to the Whig candidate seemed impending. When the election came on, there were thirty-one barons present, of whom eighteen gave their votes for General Charles Ross of Balna­gowan, the remainder being for Captain Alexander Urquhart of Newhall. Hereupon, Lord Sutherland’s relative and friend, Sir William Gordon of Invergordon, sheriff of the county, retired with the minority, and went through the form of electing their own man, notwithstanding a protest from the other candidate. ‘Immediately after this separation, Colin Graham of Drynie, one of the deputy-lieutenants of the county, came into the court­house, with his sword in his hand, accompanied by Robert Gordon of Haughs and Major John Mackintosh, with some of the armed Highlanders whom they had posted at the door, with drawn swords and cocked firelocks, and did require the majority (who remained to finish the election), in the name of the Earl of Sutherland, to remove out of the house, otherwise they must expect worse treatment. Major Mackintosh said they would be dragged out by the heels. Upon which the barons protested against those violent proceedings, declaring their resolution to remain in the court-house till the election was finished, though at the hazard of their lives; which they accordingly did.’

Apr 29
The Catholics had of late been getting up their heads in the north, especially in districts over which the Gordon family held sway; and the open practice of the Romish rites before large con­gregations in the Banffshire valleys, was become a standing subject of complaint and alarm in the church-courts. When at length the government obtained scent of the Jacobite plot in which Bishop Atterbury was concerned, it sympathised with these groans of the laden spirits in Scotland, and permitted some decided measures of repression to be taken.

Accordingly, this day, being Sunday, as the Duchess-Dowager of Gordon—Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk— was having mass performed at her house in the Canongate, Edinburgh, in the presence of about fifty professors like herself of the Catholic religion, Bailie Hawthorn, a magistrate of the Canongate, broke open the doors, and seized the whole party. The ladies were bailed, and allowed to depart; but the priest, Mr John Wallace, was marched to prison. We are informed by Wodrow that Wallace had been ordained a Protestant minister thirty-five years before.The Lord Advocate would not at first listen to any proposal for his liberation, though several persons of distinction came to plead for it; but at length bail was taken for him to the extent of a thousand merks Scots. Being indicted under the statute of 1700, he failed to stand his trial, and was outlawed.

Before the upbreak of this plot, considerable numbers of gentle­men under attainder daily presented themselves on the streets of Edinburgh, emboldened of course by the mildness of the govern­ment; but, one or two of them having been seized and put up in the Castle, it came to pass, 15th May, that not one was any longer to be seen. Mr Wodrow, who records these circumstances, expresses the feeling of the hour. ‘It ‘s certain we are in a most divided and defenceless state; divisions on the one hand, rancour and malice on the other, and a wretched indolence among too many. But the Lord liveth!’

Aug 8
The Canongate, which had so often, in the sixteenth century, been reddened with the best blood in Scotland, was still occasionally the scene of wild transactions, though arising amongst a different class of persons and from different causes. A. local journalist chronicles a dreadful tragedy as occurring on its pave at this date.

‘In the afternoon, Captain Chiesley and Lieutenant Moodie, both of Cholmly’s Regiment, which lies encamped at Bruntsfield Links, having quarrelled some time before in the camp, meeting on the street of the Canongate, the captain, as we are told, asked Mr Moodie whether he had in a certain company called him a coward? And he owning he had, the captain beat him first with his fist, and then with a cane; whereupon Mr Moodie drew his sword, and, shortening it, run the captain into the great artery. The captain, having his sword drawn at the same time, pushed at Mr Moodie, who was rushing on him with his sword shortened, and thus run him into the lower belly, of which in a few minutes he died, without speaking one word, having had no more strength or life left him than to cross the street, and reach the foot of the stair of his lodgings, where he dropped down dead. The captain lived only to step into a house near by, and to pray shortly that God might have mercy on his soul, without speaking a word more. ‘Tis said Mr Moodie’s lady was looking over the window all the while this bloody tragedy was acting.’

A duel which happened about the same time between Captains Marriot and Scroggs proved fatal to both.

Aug 7
‘Four of those poor deluded people called Quakers, two men and two women, came about noon to the Cross (of Edinburgh), when one of the women, who by her accent seemed to be of Yorkshire, after several violent agitations, said, that she was appointed by God to preach repentance to this sinful city; that a voice of mortality, as she called it, had sounded in her ears, and that desolation and all kinds of miseries would befall the inhabitants if they did not repent. After she had spoke about a quarter of an hour, a party of the city-guard carried her and the other three prisoners to the main guard.’

Some years after, one Thomas Erskine, a brewer, made himself conspicuous as a Quaker preacher in Edinburgh. One Saturday, January 17, 1736, he ‘made a religious peregrination through this city. He made his first station at the Bow-head [reputed as the head-quarters of the saints in Edinburgh], where he pronounced woes and judgments on the inhabitants of the Good Town, if they did not speedily repent Thence he walked to the Cross, where he recapitulated what he had evangelised by the way, and concluded with desiring his auditory to remember well what be had told them. However, he gave them forty days to think on’t.’

One day, in the ensuing July, Erskine sent a notice to the quiet little country town of Musselburgh, to the effect that the Spirit had appointed him to hold forth to them in the market­place at five in the afternoon; and, accordingly, at the appointed hour, he mounted the Cross, and discoursed to a large audience.’

Aug 29
A second attempt was now made to obtain possession of the forfeited Seaforth estates for the government. It was calculated that what the two factors and their attendants, with a small military force, had failed to accomplish in the preceding October, when they were beat back with a fatal loss at Aa-na-Mullich, might now be effected by means of a good military party alone, if they should make their approach through a less critical passage. A hundred and sixty of Colonel Kirk’s regiment left Inverness under Captain M’Neil, who had at one time been commander of the Highland Watch. They proceeded by Dingwall, Strath Garve, and Loch Carron, a route to the north of that adopted by the factors, and an easier, though a longer way. Donald Murchison, nothing daunted, got together his followers, and advanced to the top of Maam Attadale, a high pass from Loch Carron to the head of Loch Long, separating Lochalsh from Kintail. Here a gallant relative named Kenneth Murchison, and a few others, volunteered to go forward and plant themselves in ambush in the defiles of the Choille Van, while the bulk of the party should remain where they were. It would appear that this ambush party consisted of thirteen men, all peculiarly well armed.

On approaching this dangerous place, the captain went forward with a sergeant and eighteen men to clear the wood, while the main body came on slowly in the rear. At a place called Altanbadn, in the Choille Van, he encountered Kenneth and his associates, whose fire wounded himself severely, killed one of his grenadiers, and wounded several others of the party. He persisted in advancing and attacked the handful of natives with sufficient resolution. They slowly withdrew, as unable to resist; but the captain now obtained intelligence that a large body of Mackenzies was posted in the mountain-pass of Attadale. It seemed as if there was a design to draw him into a fatal ambus­cade. His own wounded condition probably warned him that a better opportunity might occur afterwards. He turned his forces about, and made the best of his way back to Inverness. Kenneth Mnrchison quickly rejoined Colonel Donald on Maam Attadale, with the cheering intelligence that one salvo of thirteen guns had repelled the hundred and sixty sidier roy.’ After this, we hear of no renewed attempt to comprise the Seaforth property.

Strange as it may seem, Donald Murchison, two years after this a second time resisting the government troops, came down to Edinburgh with eight hundred pounds of the earl’s rents, that he might get the money sent abroad for his lordship’s use. He remained a fortnight in the city unmolested. He would on this occasion appear in the garb of a Lowland gentleman; be would mingle with old acquaintances, ‘doers’ and writers; and appear at the Cross amongst the crowd of gentlemen who assembled there every day at noon. Scores would know all about his doings at Aa­-na-Mullich and the Choille Van; but thousands might have known, without the chance of one of them betraying him to government.

General Wade, writing a report to the king in 1725, states that the Seaforth tenants, formerly reputed the richest of any in the Highlands, are now become poor, by neglecting their business, and applying themselves to the use of arms. ‘The rents,’ he says, ‘continue to be collected by one Donald Murchison, a servant of the late earl’s, who annually remits or carries the same to his master into France. The tenants, when in a condition, are said to have sent him free gifts in proportion to their several circum­stances, but are now a year and a half in arrear of rent. The receipts he gives to the tenants are as deputy-factor to the Commissioners of the Forfeited Estates, which pretended power he extorted from the factor (appointed by the said commissioners to collect those rents for the use of the public), whom he attacked with above four hundred armed men, as he was going to enter upon the said estate, having with him a party of thirty of your majesty’s troops. The last year this Murchison marched in a public manner to Edinburgh, to remit eight hundred pounds to France for his master’s use, and remained fourteen days there unmolested. I cannot omit observing to your majesty, that this national tenderness the subjects of North Britain have one for the other, is a great encouragement for rebels and attainted persons to return home from their banishment.’’

Donald was again in Edinburgh about the end of August 1725. On the 2d of September, George Lockhart of Carnwath, writing from Edinburgh to the Chevalier St George, states, amongst other matters of information regarding his party in Scotland, that Daniel Murchison (as he calls him) ‘is come to Edinburgh, on his way to France ‘—doubtless charged with a sum of rents for Seaforth. ‘He‘s been in quest of me, and I of him,’ says Lockhart, ‘these two days, and missed each other; but in a day or two he‘s to be at my country-house, where I‘ll get time to talk fully with him. In the meantime, I know from one that saw him, that he has taken up and secured all the arms of value in Seaforth’s estate, which he thought better than to trust them to the care and prudence of the several owners; and the other chieftains, I hear, have done the same.’

The Commissioners on the Forfeited Estates conclude their final report in 1725 by stating that they had not sold the estate of William Earl of Seaforth, ‘not having been able to obtain posses­sion, and consequently to give the same to a purchaser.’

In a Whig poem on the Highland Roads, written in 1737, Donald is characteristically spoken of as a sort of cateran, while, in reality, as every generous person can now well understand, he was a high-minded gentleman. The verses, nevertheless, as well as the appended note, are curious:

‘Keppoch, Rob Roy, and Daniel Murchisan,
Cadets or servants to some chief of clan,
From theft and robberies scarce did ever cease,
Yet ‘scaped the halter each, and died in peace.
This last his exiled master’s rents collected,
Nor unto king or law would be subjected.
Though veteran troops upon the confines lay,
Sufficient to make lord and tribe a prey,
Yet passes strong through which no roads were cut,
Safe-guarded Seaforth’s clan, each in his hut.
Thus in strongholds the rogue securely lay,
Neither could they by force be driven away,
Till his attainted lord and chief of late
By ways and means repurchased his estate.’

‘Donald Murchison, a kinsman and servant to the Earl of Seaforth, bred a writer, a man of small stature, but full of spirit and resolution, fought at Dunblane against the government anno 1715, but continued thereafter to collect Seaforth’s reuts for his lord’s use, and had some pickerings with the king’s forces on that account, till, about five years ago, the government was so tender as to allow Seaforth to re-purchase his estate, when the said Murchison had a principal hand in striking the bargain for his master. How he fell under Seaforth’s displeasure, and died thereafter, is not to the purpose here to mention.’

The end of Donald’s career can scarcely now be passed over in this slighting manner. The story is most painful. The Seaforth of that day—very unlike some of his successors—was unworthy of the devotion which this heroic man had shewn to him. When his lordship took possession of the estates which Donald had in a manner preserved for him, he discountenanced and neglected him. Murchison’s noble spirit pined away under this treatment, and he died in the very prime of his days of a broken heart.’ He lies in a remote little church-yard on Cononside, in the parish of Urray, where, I am happy to say, his worthy relative, Sir Roderick I. Murchison, is at this time preparing to raise a suitable monument over his grave.

When Dr Johnson and James Boswell, in their journey to the Hebrides, 1773, came to the inn at Glenelg, they found the most wretched accommodation, and would have been without any comfort whatever, had not Mr Murchison, factor to Macleod in Glenelg, sent them a bottle of rum and some sugar, ‘with a polite message,’ says Boswell, ‘to acquaint us, that he was very sorry he did not hear of us till we had passed his house, otherwise he should have insisted on our sleeping there that night.’ ‘Such extra­ordinary attention,’ he adds, ‘from this gentleman to entire strangers, deserves the most hononrable commemoration.’ This gentleman, to whom Johnson also alludes with grateful admiration of his courtesy in the Journey to the Westerm Islands, was a near relative of Donald Murchison.

Sep 1
A high wind shook the crops of Lothian, particularly damaging the pease. It was considered ‘a heavy stroke,’ as the people there-abouts lived much on pease-meal. Apropos to this fact, Wodrow speaks of an individual who had much ploughing to execute, and ‘who found it advantageous to feed his horses on pease-bannocks: ‘he finds it a third cheaper (than corn), and his horses fatter and better.’ It is curious that this farmer, ‘abnormis sapiens,’ came to the same point which Baron Liebig has attained in our age, by scientific investigation, as to the nutritive qualities of pease.

The extensive coal-field of East Lothian gave occasion for several efforts in the mechanical arts, which might be regarded as early and before their time, when the general condition of the country is considered. Some years before the Revolution, the Earl of Winton had drained his coal-pits in Tranent parish, by tunnels cut for a long way through solid rock, on such a scale as to attract the attention of George Sinclair, professor of natural philosophy in Glasgow, who, in the preface to his extraordinary work, Satan’s Invisible World Discovered, speaks of them as something paralleling the cutting of the Alps by Hannibal. Such a mode of taking off the water from a coal-mine, where the form of the ground admitted it, was certainly of great use in days when as yet there were no steam-engines to make the driving of pumps easy.

The forfeited estate of the Earl of Winton having been bought in 1719 by the York Buildings Company, a new and equally surprising addition was at this time made to the economy of the coal-works, in the form of a wooden railway, between one and two miles long, connecting the pits with the salt-works at Prestonpans and the harbour at Port-Seton. A work so ingenious, so useful, and foreshewing the iron ways by which, in our age, the industrial prospects of the world have been so much advanced, comes into strong relief when beheld in connection with the many barbarisms amidst which it took its rise. But the oddity of its associations does not end here, for, when a Highland army came down to the Lowlands twenty-three years afterwards, seeking with primitive arms to restore the House of Stuart, the first of its battles was fought on the ground crossed by this railway, and General Cope’s cannon were actually fired against the clouded Camerons’ from a position on the railway itself!

1723, Jan
There was published in Edinburgh a poem, entitled the Mock Senator— pretended to be translated from an Arabian manu­script, wherein, under feigned and disguised names, the author seems to lash some persons in the present administration. The magistrates—whom we have seen exercising a pretty sharp censorship over the newspaper press— committed to prison Mr Alexander Pennecuik, the supposed author of this poem, and discharged the hawkers to sell or disperse the same.”

Mar
At this time, two criminalities of the highest class occurred amongst persons of rank in Scotland.

On the 30th of March, Mrs Elizabeth Murray, ‘lady to Thomas Kincaid, younger, of Gogar-Mains,’ was found dead on the road from Edinburgh to that place, with all the appearance of having been barbarously murdered. It was at once, with good reason, concluded that the horrible act had been perpetrated by her own husband. He succeeded in escaping to Holland.

Pennecuik, the burgess-poet, has a poem on the murder of Mrs Kincaid by her husband, from which it would appear that she had been an amiable and long-suffering woman, and he a coarse and dissolute man. He adds a note at the end, ‘Ensign Hugh Skene engaged in the plot.’’

Only three weeks later (April 22), Sir James Campbell of Lawers was foully murdered at Greenock by his apparent friend, Duncan Campbell of Edramurkle. The facts are thus related in a contemporary letter. Lawers had been in a treaty of marriage with [Campbell of] Finab’s daughter, which Edramuckle was very active to get accomplished, out of a seeming friendship for Lawers. After the marriage articles were agreed upon, they went together to make a visit to the young lady, and, in return, came to Greenock on Friday the 19th last [April], where they remained Saturday and Sunday—Edramurkle all the while shewing the greatest friendship for Lawers, and Lawers confiding in him as his own brother. Upon the Saturday, pretending to Lawers that he had use for a pistol, he got money from him to buy one, which accordingly he did, with ball and powder. The use he made of this artillery was to discharge two balls into Lawers’s head, while he was fast asleep, betwixt three and four on Monday’s morning; and which balls were levelled under his left eye, and went through his head, sloping to the back-bone of his neck . . . . he was found in a sleeping posture, and had not moved cither eye or hand.

‘The fellow went immediately off in a boat for Glasgow, and from thence came here (Edinburgh), the people in the house having no suspicion but that Lawers was asleep, till about eleven o’clock, when they found him as above, swimming in his blood. Upon recollection on several passages which happened with respect to Duncan Campbell, they presently found him to have been the murderer, and caused the magistrates of Greenock write to the magistrates of Glasgow to apprehend him; but he being gone for Edinburgh, the provost wrote in to our provost here, whereupon there was a search here . . . but the villain is not as yet found.

‘The occasion of this execrable murder is said by the murderer’s friends to be to prevent Lawers going back in the marriage, whereof he was then apprehensive; and being a relation of the bride’s, and very active in bringing on that courtship, the devil tempted him to that unparalleled cruelty. But we rather believe that it was to rifle his pockets, for his breeches were from under his head, and nothing but a Carolus and four shillings in them; whereas it is most certain that Lawers always carried a purse of gold with him, and more especially could not but have it when he intended to celebrate his marriage.’’

Campbell was extensively advertised for as ‘a tall thin man, loot-shouldered, pock-pitted, with a pearl or blindness in the right eye,’ dressed in ‘a suit of gray Dnroy clothes, plain-mounted, a big red coat, and a thin light wig, rolled up with a ribbon;’ ‘betwixt 30 and 40 years of age;’and a hundred guineas were offered for his apprehension; but we do not hear of his having ever been brought to justice.

Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope, Peeblesshire, was one of those men who, possessed of some talent and insight, are so little under the government of common prudence and good temper, that they prove rather a trouble than a benefit to their fellow-creatures. In youth, during the life of his father, he married a beautiful and accomplished woman, Grizol Baillie, grand-daughter by her father of the patriot Robert Baillie of Jerviswood, unjustly put to death in 1684, and by her mother of the eminent statesman Patrick Hume, Earl of Marchmont; but after four years of unhappy life, the lady had been separated from him in 1714, after which time she lived for a long series of years in her father’s family, in the enjoyment of universal esteem and respect. Sir Alexander was led by his ardent speculative mind into a series of projects which left him in the middle of life a broken man, and an object of pity to the public. His case is the more deplorable, that many of his ideas were founded upon a just conception of the wants and the capabilities of his country, and only required means and favourable circumstances to have been carried out to his own and the general advantage.

At this date, he bought a great peninsula of Argyleshire terri­tory, named Ardnamurchan, which he desired, by mining and improved methods of agriculture and social economy, to make a model for the redemption of the entire kingdom from barbarism, sloth, and poverty. He believed the mountains throughout much of the West Highlands and Hebrides to be crossed by mineral veins of great value, and that it was possible from these to realise a great amount of wealth. As to improvement of the surface, it was his belief—contrary to the general impression—that the best plan was to commence a course of improvement upon the tops of the hills. He had observed traces of ancient tillage on the high grounds of Peeblesshire, and, pondering on the matter, had come to see that, the high grounds being naturally most liable to humidity, from the clouds settling upon them, it was of import­ance to the low grounds that the higher should be drained first. This being effected, and the surplus water led along the hillsides in trenches or canals, he would have the administration of moisture over the surface in a great measure in his own hands. What the Argyleshire and Inverness chiefs thought of such a plan amidst their semi-diluvial existence, we do not learn, but we may imagine something of it.

Sir Alexander tells us that he found his barony of twenty-four Scots miles long occupied by 1352 persons, among whom there was not one devoted to any mechanic art or trade. He tells us that, in one year, he drained a large tract of hilly and boggy ground, one-fourth part of which next year yielded him a hundred and fifty pounds’ worth of hay at fourpence per stone. He also commenced mining works, in connection with which there rose a village named New York, containing about 500 persons, many of whom were skilled English workmen. These mines, however, he afterwards leased to the York Buildings Company. He was the first person who introduced any kind of trade into the district, and he assures us that, in his efforts at general improvement he spent large sums of his own patrimony. Yet, while benefiting the inhabitants in this way, he was the subject of jealousy amongst the better class of people, who regarded him as an alien, a Low­lander, and a spy upon their actions. His cattle were ham-strung or stolen, and his sheep forced over precipices. The buildings on his property were set on fire. There were even plans formed to murder him, from which it was a wonder that he escaped. Strange to say, ten years of such difficulties did not suffice to disgust him with Arduamurchan, and he is found, first in 1732, and again in 1740, appealing to Walpole and to parliament for assistance to carry out his plans, all that he required being an abolition of the heritable jurisdictions which enslaved the lower classes to their landlords, and a flotilla of gun-boats to maintain law and order in the conutry.

An Edinburgh newspaper notices the death, on the 18th of May 1743, of Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope, baronet, ‘to whom may be justly applied that beautiful passage from Seneca: “Ecce spectaculnm dignum, ad quod respiciat Deus! ecce par Deo dignum, vir fortis eum malâ fortuna compositus!” The writer of the article on Ardnamurchan in the New Statistical Account of Scotland, states that the plough has long passed over the site of New York, and that no trace of it remains in the district, excepting in a few English names scattered among the native population.

It may be remarked as to Sir Alexander’s mining schemes in Ardnamurchan, that in a portion of the district—namely, the valley of Strontian—lead-mines have been successfully worked at intervals since his time, the proprietor occasionally realising from £1000 to £1500 a year. The mineral strontites, from which was deduced the earth strontia, was discovered here, and named from Strontian. There was a prevalent belief in the reign of George II. that many valuable minerals might be obtained amongst the Highland mountains, if there were a possibility of working them. The actual discovery of marble in a few places served to support the notion. A very prosaic poet thus alludes to the matter about 1737:

‘No more with stucco need we vessels lade,
Enough thereof has been at Kelso made.
Nor
need our jamms with foreign marble shine,
There‘s beauteous marble at the Craig of Boin.
Yea, Ross and Sutherland rocks of marble shew,
Which vie
in whiteness with the driven snow,
And black-veined marble is in Perthshire found,
Wherewith Banffhouse
is ribatted around.’

The poet adds by way of explanation: ‘Craig of Boin is a rock of marble, veined and diversified with various colours, now a part of the Earl of Findlater’s estate, but formerly belonging to Mr Ogilvie of Boin, from whom Louis XIV. of France got so much of the said marble as finished one of the finest closets in Versailles.’ Sir James Ramsay of Banff, in Perthshire, after he had built his mansion-house, found out a quarry of jet-black marble, where­upon he pulled the frcestone ribats out of the windows, and put marble ones in their place.’

Soon after this time, we find a society in activity at Edinburgh, ‘for promoting Natural Knowledge,’ which in 1743 invited ‘noblemen, gentlemen, and others, who have discovered or may discover any unusual kinds of earths, stones, bitumens, saline or vitriolic substances, marcasites, ores of metals, and other native fossils, whose uses and properties they may not have an opportunity of inquiring into by themselves, to send sufficient samples of them, with a short account of the places where and the manner in which they are found, directed to Dr Andrew Plummer, one of the secretaries to the Philosophical Society, and the Society undertake, by some of their number, to make the proper trials at their own charge, for discovering the nature and uses of the Minerals, and to return an answer to the person by whom they were sent, if they are judged to be of any use or can be wrought to advantage.’

To return to personal matters connected with the speculative baronet of Stanhope—the beauty, accomplishments, and moral graces of Lady Murray made it the more unfortunate that she should have been united to one who, with whatever merits, was of too unsteady nature to have ever made any woman happy. It is alleged that, on the second day of their wedded life, a ferocious and unsatisfiable jealousy took possession of his mind, in conse­quence of seeing his young wife dancing with a friend of his own named Hamilton. He could not dispossess himself of the idea that she loved another better than him. His behaviour to her would have proved him to have a slight touch of insanity in his composition, even if his ill-calculated projects had not been sufficient to do so. Lady Murray was an admired and popular person in both Scottish and English society. Amongst her friends, the chief authors of the day stood high. Gay introduces her into the group of goodly dames who welcomed Pope back from Greece—that is, congratulated him on his completion of the translation of Homer. After speaking of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, he says:

‘The sweet-tongued Murray near her side attends.’

He here alluded to her fascinating powers as a songstress, which she is said to have exercised with marvellous effect in singing the songs of her native land. Lady Murray wrote in her latter days a memoir of her parents, which was published in 1822, and is one of the most charming pieces of biography in the language.

On the 14th of October 1721, when Lady (then Mrs) Murray was living in her father’s house in Westminster, a footman of her brother-in-law, Lord Binning, named Arthur Gray, a Scotsman, was led by an insane passion to invade her chamber in the middle of the night, armed with a drawn sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. All the rest of the family being asleep, she felt how far removed she was from help and protection, and therefore parleyed with the man in the gentlest terms she could use, to induce him to leave her room; but half an hour was thus spent in vain. At length, watching an opportunity, she pushed him against the wall, seized his pistol with one hand, and with another rang the bell. Gray then ran off. He was tried for the offence, and condemned to death, but reprieved. The affair made of course a great deal of noise, and was variously regarded, according to the feelings of individuals. All persons, good and amiable, like Mrs Murray herself; sympathised with her in the distress and agitation which it gave her, and admired the courage and presence of mind she had displayed. The poor outcast poet Boyse represented this generous view of the case in the verses To Serena, which he wrote in Mrs Murray’s honour:

‘‘Twas night, when mortals to repose incline,
And none but demons could intrude on thine,
When
wild desire durst thy soft peace invade,
And stood insulting at thy spotless bed.
Urged all that rage or passion could inspire,
Death armed the wretch’s hand, his breast was fire.
You more than Briton saw the dreadful scene,
Nor lost the guard that always watched within,’ &c.’

A different class of feelings was represented by Mrs Murray’s friend, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who wrote a ballad on the occasion, full of levity and something worse, which may be found in the work quoted below. This jeu d’esprit Mrs Murray resented in a manner which was felt to be unpleasant by Lady Mary, who with difficulty obtained a reconciliation through the intercession of her sister, the Countess of Mar.


Return to Book Index