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Selections from the Family Papers of the MacKays of Bighouse
From the Transactions of Gaelic Society of Inverness


Consisting Mainly of Letters Addressed to John Campbell of Barcaldine, some time one of the Government Factors on the Forfeited Estates after the ’45.

Mr Colin Campbell Mackay, the present representative of the Bighouse family, having kindly consented to the publication of various letters and a few other miscellaneous papers now in his possession, an offer of copies of them is made to the Gaelic Society of Inverness for insertion in their Transactions by instalments. The greater portion consists of letters written to John Campbell of Barcaldine, descended from Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy, and long factor on part of the Breadalbane estates, by various correspondents, including John, Lord Glenorchy, afterwards third Earl of Breadalbane; different members of the Barcaldine family, one of whom was the ill-fated Colin Campbell of Glenure; Baron Maule, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, who for some time managed and controlled the accounts of the forfeited estates; Mr Charles Areskine of Alva and Tinwald, Lord Justice-Clerk; the Hon. Hugh Mackay of Bighouse; the Hon. George Mackay of Skibo ; and Colonel John Crawford, who commanded at Fort-William at the time of Glenure’s murder. Among the miscellaneous letters and papers are one from John, first Earl of Breadalbane, denying all complicity with, or knowledge of, the massacre of Glencoe until after the event; this letter is addressed to Alexander Campbell of Barcaldine, grandfather of John of Barcaldine, and is dated 26th May, 1692; a notarial copy of a Decreet of the Court of Justiciary, dated Inverness, December, 1695, against John Macdonald, the eldest, and Alexander, one of the younger sons of Maclan of Glencoe, for a raid committed on the farm of Dalshangie, in Glen-Urquhart, in 1689; an Inventory of Writs and Evidents of the Estate of Kilmun, delivered by Patrick Campbell of Barcaldine (father of John), for himself and in name of his spouse, Agnes Campbell, only lawful daughter to the deceased James Campbell of Kilmun, to Col. Alex. Campbell of Finab, dated Edinburgh, 9th May, 1705; an anonymous letter, dated 1753, anent Allan Breck, bearing internal evidence of being the production of James Mor Drummond or MacGregor ; and a copy of the Oath of Allegiance to George II., and of abjuration of James VIII., in Gaelic, of date 1754 ; and also two •curious communications of much later date, 1809, relative to one mermaid seen near Thurso, and another apparently near Reay Manse. Lord Glenorchy’s letters are of general interest, referring, as they do, to various topics of the day between 1745 and 1757. These include public events at the commencement of the Jacobite rising, and the appointment of the Duke of Cumberland to the command of the Royal army; the movements of the Highland army, their campaign in the North of England and retirement northwards; the raising of the militia and granting of commissions; the sending of Highland prisoners from Edinburgh to Carlisle; Lord Lo vat’s trial; the abolition of heritable jurisdictions; the forfeited estates, and opinions as to the education of the sons of the Jacobite lairds ; the search for the Prince after Culloden, and speculations whether he had escaped abroad ; the success of Ardsheal, Ludovick Cameron, and Cluny in remaining in hiding ; the trials and executions of Jacobites, and, in particular, Tirindrish; an alleged visit of emissaries from the Prince to Cluny in his hiding-place; the prosecution of Gleuure’s murderers, and references to James Mor Drummond or Macgregor, and to Admiral Byng’s trial. The letters from members of Barcaldine’s family, several of whom were soldiers, serving in regiments of the British army, are full of interest, relating personal incidents during the campaign, 1745 46, in the American war, at the assault on Ticonderoga, &c,; at the attack on Pondicherry in India; and at the capture of the French man-of-war, the Foudroyant, by the British ship Monmouth, on board of which the writer of the letter, a young officer in command of a small party of General Whitmore’s regiment from Gibraltar, only thirty men, took part. Many letters relate to the murder of Colin Campbell of Glenure, and the trial and execution of James Stewart of Acharn; to the attempts to effect the arrest of Allan Breck, and the suspicion attaching to Fasnacloich and others; some letters refer to the trial and execution of Dr Archibald Cameron, and some to the arrest of Cameron of Fassifern.

It will probably be most convenient to give the correspondence arranged chronologically, as in many cases letters from one person help to explain allusions in letters from others.

I beg to draw attention to a long and carefully prepared “Memorial” (as it is called) drawn up by Lord Glenorchy with a view to clear John Campbell of Barcaldine and his half-brother, Colin of Glenure, from the suspicion of having any Jacobite tendencies while engaged as Factors on forfeited estates; it is undated, but probably belongs to the year 1750, and contains interesting information about his two kinsmen and protegees, whose grandfather, Alexander, had been Chamberlain on the Breadalbane estates at the time of the Glencoe massacre.

I shall commence by giving a short account of the Barcaldine family, as without this it is often difficult to understand the allusions, and to know who the writer of a given letter is: many of the writers were members of the Clan Campbell, but pretty widely connected by marriage, e.g., with the Camerons of Lochiel, Mackays of Bighouse, Sinclairs of Ulbster, and Sinclairs Earls of Caithness. I shall also show briefly the connection between the Lochiel family and that of Glenorchy and its cadet Barcaldine, aud also that of Achalader.

D. W.

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