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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Captain McKenzie, of Red Castle


The small estate bearing this name is situated in the neighbourhood of Montrose. The old castle, now in ruins, on the banks of the Lunan, is supposed to have been built by William the Lion.

This gentleman was an officer in Seaforth's regiment of Highlanders at the time of their revolt in 1778. The regiment had for some time been quartered in the Castle of Edinburgh; but, contrary to expectation, they were at length ordered to embark for Guernsey. Previous to this, a difference existed between the officers and men—the latter declaring that neither their bounty nor the arrears of their pay had been fully paid up, and that they had otherwise been ill-used. On the day appointed for embarkation (Tuesday, the 22nd September), the regiment marched for Leith; but farther than the Links the soldiers refused to move a single step. A scene of great confusion ensued; the officers endeavoured to soothe the men by promising to rectify every abuse. About five hundred were prevailed on to embark, but as many more were deaf to all entreaty; and, being in possession of powder and ball, any attempt to force them would have proved both ineffectual and dangerous. The mutineers then moved back to Arthur Seat, where they took up a position, and in which they continued encamped more than ten days. They were supplied plentifully with provisions by the inhabitants of Edinburgh, and were daily visited by crowds of people of all ranks. In the meantime, troops were brought into the city with the view of compelling the mutineers to submission, but no intimidation had any effect. General Skene (then second in command in Scotland), together with the Earl of Dunmore, and other noblemen and gentlemen, visited the mutineers; and at last, after a great many messages had passed between the parties, a compromise was effected. The terms were—a pardon for past offences; all bye money and arrears to be paid before embarkation, and a special understanding that they should not be sent to the East Indies—a report having prevailed among the soldiers that they had been sold to the East India Company. So cautious were the mutineers, a bond had to be given confirming the agreement, signed by the Duke of Buccleuch, the Earl of Dunmore, Sir Adolphus Oughton, K.B., Commander-in-Chief, and General Skene, second in command in Scotland. After this arrangement, the Highlanders cheerfully proceeded to Leith and embarked.

Kay relates an anecdote of Captain M'Kenzie, which occurred during the prevalence of the mutiny, highly characteristic of his fortitude and determined disposition. One day while he was in command over the Canongate Jail, where a few of the mutineers were confined, a party from Arthur Seat came to demand their liberation. The Captain sternly refused—the soldiers threatened to take his life, and pointed their bayonets at him; but he bared his breast, and telling them to strike, at the same time declared that not a single man should be liberated. The effect of this resolute conduct was instantaneous—the men recovered arms, and retired to their encampment.

Captain M'Kenzie afterwards incurred an unfortunate celebrity from a circumstance which reflected less credit upon him than the above act of heroism; and for which abuse of power he was tried at the Old Bailey, London, on the 11th December, 1784.

He had been sent out in 1782, as captain of an independent company, to act against the Dutch on the coast of Africa; and was there appointed to the command of a small fortification, called Fort Morea. Among the prisoners of the fort was a person of the name of Murray Kenneth M'Kenzie alias Jefferson, who had been confined for desertion. Jefferson, possessing more than common address, prevailed on the sentry to let him escape; upon learning which, Captain M'Kenzie was in a violent passion. He caused the sentinel to be punished with more than fifteen hundred lashes, and immediately despatched a party of soldiers in search of the runaway. The men returned, however, without success; upon which he ordered the guns to be charged and directed against a small village in the neighbourhood, named Black Town, where he supposed the prisoner had taken refuge, and he gave notice that, if Jefferson was not instantly delivered up, he would blow the town to atoms. A shot or two soon had the desired effect. About three thousand of the natives were seen approaching towards the fort, with Jefferson in the centre. No sooner had the prisoner been brought into the court than the Captain gave him to understand that he had not a moment to live. Then ordering one of the cannons to be prepared, had him instantly lashed to the muzzle of the piece. The prisoner bade one of his comrades beg for one half hour to say his prayers; but the answer the Captain returned was— "No, you rascal; if any man speaks a word in his favour I will blow out his brains;" at the same time brandishiug the pistol which he held in his hand. A portion of the burial-service being read to the prisoner, the Captain ordered the prayer-book to be pulled out of his hands. Jefferson then hastily took leave of his comrades; and, after upbraiding the tyrant, as he called the Captain, gave the signal. In a moment the match was applied, and the next the prisoner was blown over the wall. His remains were afterwards picked up by the men and interred.

In defence of such an extraordinary and savage stretch of power, Captain M'Kenzie endeavoured to prove that his company were mutinous—that Jefferson had been a ringleader, and had been repeatedly heard to threaten the life of the Captain. The evidence was by no means conclusive as to this allegation; and the implicit obedience displayed by the men in the execution of an illegal and shocking sentence does not strengthen his assertion. It appeared, however, from unquestionable authority, that he had a very worthless set of characters under his command—the garrison being mostly composed of convicts; and, besides, he had not the means of forming a court-martial for the trial of the prisoner. The unfortunate Murray M'Kenzie alias Jefferson had been a drummer in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards; but, unluckily, about twelve years previous to his death, he fell in with a gang of shop-lifters. He had been ten times tried, and four times sentenced to be hanged; but always found friends to obtain a mitigation of his sentence.

The jury found M'Kenzie guilty of wilful murder; but, in consideration of the "desperate crew he had to command," they recommended him to mercy. During the trial and passing of sentence, the Captain behaved with the utmost composure. His execution was first stayed for a week—then he was respited—and ultimately pardoned.

After obtaining his liberty, the Captain returned to his native country; and, during his stay in Edinburgh, afforded Kay an opportunity of taking his likeness as one of "The Bucks." On observing the print in the booksellers' windows, the Captain was offended at being classed, as he said, "with fiddlers and madmen." He called on the artist, and offered a guinea to have it altered; but, finding his entreaty vain, he insisted on leaving half-a-guinea, for which he soon after got a miniature painting of himself.

Although M'Kenzie had incapacitated himself for the British service, yet being still "intent on war," he resolved to try his hand against the Turks. With this view, he entered the ranks of the Russian army, and served in the war against the Turks. He was at last killed in a duel with a fellow-officer not far from Constantinople.


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