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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish
Prince Charlie and Highlanders, 1746


A good deal of misapprehension exists regarding the time and circumstances of the visit of the “Heelanmen” to the town in 1746, and we have been at some pains to get the most likely and most correct version of it.

When Charles raised his army in the Highlands he marched southwards, crossing the Forth at the Fords of Frew, and thence to Falkirk, Linlithgow and Edinburgh. In the retreat from Derby he came by Dumfries, and reached Glasgow with his whole army.

On 25th December 1745 a division commanded by Lord George Murray entered that city; next day, straggling parties came in; and on 27th, the Prince came with the main body. On 28th his father was proclaimed King at the Cross ; and a demand was made on the city for 12,000 shirts, 6,000 cloth coats, 6,000 waistcoats, 6,000 pairs hose, 6.000 pairs shoes, and 6,000 bonnets, under pain of military execution. On Sunday 29th there was no sermon in the city. On Monday 30th the rebel army was reviewed on Glasgow Green, being 4,500 strong. Many families had the soldiers quartered on them and there was a good deal of plundering. The Hon. Andrew Cochrane, who was then Lord Provost of Glasgow, wrote: “The Custom-house is shut up, and the officers have absconded, though we have 4.000 hogsheads of tobacco lying in the river undischarged.”

On Friday 3rd January 1746 the Prince marched his army from Glasgow in two divisions; one, consisting of six battalions of the clans, under Lord George Murray, spent the first night at Cumbernauld, and the next at Falkirk, where they fixed their quarters: the other division, commanded by Charles himself, took the road through Kirkintilloch to Kilsyth where it passed the night, and next day took up quarters in Denny, Bannockburn, and St. Ninians.

There is no doubt therefore that Prince Charles himself passed through Kirkintilloch with his division, and tradition as well as history corroborates this. There is as little doubt that the thieving propensities of the Highlanders would be exercised, more especially as they were a retreating army, which is always apt to be demoralised.

A young boy called Miller was herding cows on what is now the canal bank opposite Broomhill, and saw the Prince with the Highlanders marching eastwards. Miller lived to be an old man, and often repeated what he had seen on that occasion.

The late Mr. Stevenson of Beechmount has frequently told the author that he knew in his youth an aged woman who had lived all her life at Bishopbriggs, and remembered clearly when a young girl of seeing the Highlanders descending the hill from Glasgow with the bagpipes playing.

A decent woman in Kirkintilloch, when the Highlanders passed through, had a mare in the plough which the Celts took with them in spite of the owner’s remonstrances. She was determined not to be silenced, however, and followed the army till it halted, when she obtained speech of Prince Charlie, to whom she laid forth the hardship of her case. The Prince ordered the mare to be brought to him, and asked the woman if she was quite sure it was hers. As soon as the mare saw her old mistress she neighed, and this so convinced the chevalier that he allowed them both to depart in peace, and the plucky female rode back on her mare to their own home.

At that time there stood near the Cross, just at the mouth of the “Kiln Close,” a barn, with the gable fronting the street having a “bole” or small aperture for the admission of air. Farther down the close was a kiln for drying grain from which the close took its name.

The Prince with his men had marched away down East High Street but some stragglers remained, no doubt for purposes of plunder. A man called Dawson—from what precise motive was never ascertained, although quite likely he was exasperated at having been robbed—saw a Highlander standing beside the old Cross stone. Dawson went into the barn with his gun and fired at the man through the bole, and the victim being killed or fatally wounded, sunk down at the foot of the Cross stone. Dawson concealed himself among the straw with which the barn was partially filled, and was quickly hunted by five or six enraged Highlanders with drawn swords, who diligently probed all over the straw, in order if possible to prick the assassin. It is said that the sun shone brightly on one half of the barn, and that the other in which Dawson lay was in comparative gloom, but at all events he remained undiscovered.

This is in accordance with probability, and the story of the escape of the assassin down the Kiln Close, and over Campsie hills is not likely, as he would not elude the pursuit of half a dozen nimble-footed Celts on his track, had that been the case.

Meanwhile the alarm reached the Prince who halted his army and threatened to march back and burn the town; but the magistrates who had hurried after him, representing to him that the murder had been committed without the sanction or knowledge of any one but the assassin himself, and beseeching the Prince for mercy, he was pleased to commute the punishment for a fine. It is said that the gentle and brave Lochiel advocated mercy on the town. What was the amount of the fine, how the money was raised, or how it was paid, we have been unable to discover, but Mr. Reid, great-grandfather of the present Mr. Reid of Carlstoun, furnished part of the money.

On the Sunday before or after this event a solitary Highlander intent on plunder, called at a farm-house on Cadder estate, and the family being at church and only a young lad left in charge, Donald began to help himself, paying no attention to the youth’s movements. With spirit beyond his years, however, he went out, loaded a gun, and shot the Highlander dead on the spot.


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