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Annals of Auchterarder and Memorials of Srathearn
The Burning of Auchterarder


SEEING the Jacobites are dayly complaining of the severity of the Government against some of theire party, alledging that they have done nothing worthy either of death or transportation, I thought it my duty to represent to you the treatment wee in the parish of Ochterarder had from them, that thereby you may judge how they behaved in other places, and what they deserve.

Tho' I was for the most part in this place from the taking of Perth and the first breaking out of the Rebellion, and could give you full accounts of the hardships and oppressions wee met with by military executions, by forcing and dragging even the well affected Commons into the Rebellion, by quartering, plundering, and suffering all the calamities a poor people were able to bear, yet I shall confine my selfe onely to that of the burning.

Upon Tuesday, the 24th of January, 1715-16, a detachment of the Clans of betwixt five and six hundred men did, by order of the Pretender and his then Generall, the Earl of Marr, march from Perth about nine a clock at night. This detachment consisted of Sir Donald M'Donald's, Clan Ranald's, Glengarrie's, Lochyell's, Appin's, M'clean's, and Cappoch's men under the respective officers of theire own Clans, but commanded in chiefe by Clan Ranald, brother and successor to him who was kill'd at the Battle of Sherrifmoor.

Andrew Taylor, in Stragaith, serving then at Perth under the Lord Drummond, his master, as soon as he understood upon what design they were marching, took horse in order to come and warn his friends in this place, but was stopt by Loudowick Drummond and James, his son, who charged them not to stirr from them that night, under the pain of death.

Clanranald, coming to Ochterarder upon Wednesday, the 25th of January, about 4 in the morning, found everybody fast asleep. Sentries were placed, and all precautions taken by him that no intelligence might be carry'd to the King's Forces, of whom they falsely supposed a party to be within two miles.

Then partyes were ordered to every house in the town, to let none stirr out of doors, which they broke open without allowing any body time to put on their cloaths; then, crowding in, they lighted candles, and searched every corner of the house for enemyes, as they call'd them, but finding none, broke open chests, and took what they found most convenient for them. The thing that most offended them was that they found plenty of meat, drink, and other liquors, which they said wee had provided for the King's Army, as wee really had, our miserable circumstances having made us look for them with impatience long before they came.

Great was the terrour wee were under when wee were so rudely treated under cloud of night, and detain'd prisoners within our houses by armed men, who could not or would not speak one word of our language. Many were persuaded that Clanranald, who is a violent Papist (as all the Clans are who came along with him), was come with a design to massacre us, because none of this place had joyn.'d them upon the Pretender's Proclamation.

About break of day, understanding by intelligence from theire friends in the country that none of the King's Forces were nearer than Dumblain, they opened the doors and allowed people to go out, who, as soon as they could get access, came to Clanranald to complain of the rudeness and barbarity of his men. He promised redress to all before he shou'd leave the place.

Betwixt nine and ten, a party of about two or three hundred of the Rebells foot with some few horsemen (not of the Clans) march'd by Clan-ranald's order for Blackfoord, a country town two miles to the westward of Ochterarder, on the road to Stirling. They were conducted by William Maitland, one of theire own number, and son to James Maitland, innkeeper at Blackfoord. Wee saw them march, but nobody knew whither, nor upon what designe.

It began, then, to be whisper'd that they were come with a design to burn the town. Upon this severall who were best affected to the Pretender, and thought they had most interest with Clanranald, came to him to know the truth of it. He assured them he had no such design or orders. After that, William Davidson, merchant, who, by reason of his old age and infirmity, had kept his bed for two months, having had his house plundered, his sons and son-in-law beat and wounded, sent to make a complaint to Clanranald, who had quarter'd at his house when he lay at Ochterarder before and after the Battle of Dumblain. On this Clanranald went to his house, assured him the goods should be searcht for and restored, and that he needed never expect any harm where he commanded. With that he kiss'd all the family and went out.

Soon after he left this house he went to the street and order'd his men to draw up. This being done, he gave publick orders in these words:—"Go and burn all the houses in the town. Spare none, except the church arid Mrs Paterson's."

This Mrs Paterson's was the house where the Jacobites kept theire conventicles during the time of the late ministry and before the Rebellion, and is such a house as could accommodate easily more people than any town houses in Oehterarder. [This house was The Abbey, so named from being on the Abbot of Inchaffray's croft. It was a two-storey house erected in 1676. It was taken down in 1842, and rebuilt. Though undoubtedly occupied by the Earl of Mar, there is no ground for saying that the Chevalier was ever there. He did not leave Perth.]

Such as heard these orders run to theire houses to throw out theire goods, but theire houses being almost all at the same time invested and set on fire, it was little they cou'd get thrown to the doors, and what was, was immediately snatched up and plunder'd by the Rebells, being it was with great difficulty they cou'd save theire children and infants.

Janet Miller, spouse to William Graeme, one of the Duke of Montrose's vassals, seeing her house on fire, nothing preserv'd, and her children in danger, run in, where she perished, and was consumed to ashes by the flames.

This morning there had been one of the most terrible blowings and falls of snow that ever man saw, and the snow was so exceeding deep that many aged people, women, and children, who were designing when they saw theire houses burnt to go shelter themselves in the church, were so encumbered with the snow that they cou'd not walk through, but lay sweltering amongst it, where they were stript of their cloaths, and robb'd cf theire money and everything they had about them, and left by the cruel Rebells, who minded nothing but burning and plundering, to perish in the cold.

Clanranald, now seeing every house on fire, and many of the best fallin down, rode along the streets, convecn'd his men, and march'd. All the way he pray'd the people whom he saw weeping to forgive him, but was answered with silence, and so departed to do the like in other places. His men, before they went, seized all the horses they could find to carry off tlieire plunder.

I shall now give account how some particular persons were treated, that thereby you may judge the better of the behaviour of these barbarians.

William Davidson, mentioned before, to whom Clanranald had promised so much kindness, was, after his house was all in flames about his ears, carry'd out, sick and aged as he was, and with much difficulty at last by his daughter and daughter-in-law brought through the depth of the snow to the church, where he lay severall days in a most miserable condition.

James Shearer, son-in-law to William Davidson, for having disobey'u many of the Rebells' orders, was by them carry'd prisoner to the Sheriffmure, where in the time of the battle he made his escape, but durst never after stay at home so as to be seen by them. Being surprised in his house that morning the Rebells came to burn, and knowing the danger he was in, because they had threatened to kill him, hid himself behind a chest, and lay there in his shirt upon the cold ground a whole day, and did not get his escape made till, in the hurry and time of the burning, he was forced, naked as he was, to run through the snow a full mile to a wood to save himself.

Mr William Davidson, schoolmaster, who had been very active all the time of the Rebellion in supporting and encouraging the King's friends in the country, and being upon that account every day threatened to be seized by the garrison of Tullibardine, which is within a mile of that place, was, when he heard noise in the morning, endeavouring to make his escape, but was seized by the Rebells, stript, robb'd of what money was about him, and last with much to do escaped, wading with great difficulty to the wood where Shearer, his brother-in-law, was gone before. After he was gone, the Highlanders broke into his house, where, tho' his wife was bigg with child, they fell a plundering, and when she seem'd but to murmur at it, they knock'!dher down with the butt-end of a gun, and left her lying dead upon the ground, blooding at mouth and nose.

William Friskan, merchant, who, tho' his house and all that was in it was burnt, thought himself happy that he had escaped with some money that he had in a bagg to the church. But in the generall search which the Rebel guard made upon all those that were in the church, they found his money about him, beat him severely, and took it from him.

The church and some few little houses, such as stables and byers, being preserved by the tempestuousness of the day from the first burning, the poor miserable people was begun to shelter themselves in them the best they could, when on Friday, the 27th, in the morning, William Maitland, whom we mentioned before as guide to them that went to Blackfoord, came from Perth, and dispersed amongst us some printed proclamations from the Pretender signifying that, Whereas he was obliged by the circumstances of his affaires to cause burn the villages of Ochterarder and Blackfoord, yet, as a father of his country, he sympathis'd with them in their sufferings, and would make them a full and speedy reparation, and that they might expect all manner of protection from him in time coming, and order'd this his proclamation to be publickly read in the church the next and following Lord's Day.

Notwithstanding, next morning being Saturday, the 20th, about one of the clock, when all was asleep, Coll. Patrick Graeme with the garrison of Tullibardine, by orders from Clanranald and Lowdowick Drummond, factor to the Lord Drummond, came and kindled a little house in the west end of the town, which was the only one there remaining. It is impossible to express the terrour and fright wee were in when the cry rose that the burning was begun again. Wee all concluded that Clanranald with his savages was retum'd to murder and massacre us. Some women, even of the best note in this place, went distracted, and have never recoverd since. Some fled, with theire naked children in theire arms, through the deep snow to the wood. Other sick persons and children, tho' naked, were lay'd out in the snow, where they lay all that night, as well as the day following.

It would have moved pity in any body but that inveterate Jacobite, Patrick Graeme, to see Andrew Miller, a man of good account, going to the country with his wife and five children, some of whom could not walk, without anything to cover them but one blanket, and when he begg'd from Patrick Graeme to preserve as much straw as would support one cow he had left for milk to his children, he caused burn his corns before his eyes.

Collonell Graeme, by reason of his age, not being able to travell through the snow to see all the rest of the corns burnt, left express orders with Robert Meinzies, of the garrison of Tullibardine, to see all burnt down to the ground. Then himself with his two nephews march'd down the town, swearing that the people as well as theire houses and corns ought to be burnt, because none of them would goe to serve theire King. But when he and his two nephews came to that part of the town where the minister's house stands, and perceived some part of it standing after the first burning, would not stirr from the place till he saw it and all the corns neare about it quite consumed.

From that he went to Milntown, a scatter'd village, partly belonging to the Duke of Montrose and partly to the Lord Drummond, and there he took particular care to burn every house that be-long'd to the Duke of Montrose, and to save every one that belong'd to the Lord Drummond.

Here I must do justice to Robert Meinzies, who. tho' he was a stranger to us, and had the Collonll's positive orders before he went to spare nothing, yet he commanded his men and did all he could to preserve some of our poor remains. And I am likewise credibly informed that James Campbell, brother to Glen Lyon, who was Lieutenant of the garrison of Tullibardine, and was there taken with the Pretender's orders for burning in his pocket, did absolutely refuse to obey it, or have any share in so base and barbarous a work.

From the Milntoun the Collonell with his two nephews march'd to Abruthven, a house belonging to a gentleman who with his whole family had been forc'd to leave that country at the breaking out of the Rebellion, and went to Stirling. When the Collonell came to this house, he call'd for the servants, and said he was resolved to show favour to theire master because he was neighbour to his nephew, and therefore bid them go and take the roofe of the house onely, which wou'd answer his end, and render it useless to the enemy, and said he wou'd ak no more. The servants, believing and obeying, set ladders to the house, and were begun to pull off the roof, which he, perceiving, immediately caus'd pluck away the ladders, and set fire to the house below, swearing that he was only sorry that the master and the mistress were not in the same state with the servants. The servants, indeed, jumpt down amongst the rubbish and deep snow, but he stood by the house, and all that was within it was intirely consurn'd by the flames.

Next night, about one in the morning, the Collonell came with the same party of the garrison of Tullibardine and burnt the House of Dsmside, belonging to the Duke of Montrose, where his factor, David Clow, and his aged mother lived, and who had been forced to fly to Stirling in the beginning of the Rebellion. She made earnest applications to William Campbell, one of the party, to save her house and her son's papers, and not only offer'd, but gave him all the money she had, which he had no sooner received, but he bid the party fall or;—*Do your work, and be damn'd"; so that house with all that was in it was burnt as the rest, and the aged woman with her infant grand-children was left to ly on the snow. From thence Robert Meinzies with a party was sent to burn a large barn belonging to Abruthven, which had not been burnt the day before; but he, finding it full of corn, slipt away and did not do it at that time.

As the Collonell, his two nephews, and his party were going off, being then apprehensive of the King's Army, he met with Lord George Murray with another party just returned from the burning of Duning, a town two miles to the south-east of Abruthven. It seems that Lord George was afraid that that gentleman's house shou'd escape, and so was coming to sec it share in the common fate.

The Collonell and he joyn'd their partyes together, the one mostly consisting of Athols, and the other of Broadalbin's men. So they and theire joyr't party, and with them John Stewart, younger of Stenton, and Murray, son of Bailie Murray in Dunkeld, both captains, first set fire to the remaining office-houses and corns at Damside, and then went to Abruthven, which is but hard by, and not only burnt the barn which Meinzies had spared, but all the other houses and corns belonging to that gentleman. They likewise burnt the house and corns of Kirklarid.

Archibald Smith, a farmer under Abruthven, seeing them going to burn his house and corns, begs of Capts- Stewart and Murray, for God's sake, to save but one stack to support his bestial or stock of cattle during the storm. This being refus'd, he entreated them to kill or drive away his horse and cattle, for he cou'd not bear to see them starve. To this they gave him no answer, but set fire to his house and corns, and so left him with forty or fifty horse and cattle and nothing to maintain them, sow his ground, or keep his family from starving. It is visible this was done because he was that gentleman's tenant, for they burnt no houses thereabout belonging to any other body, and were going on burning more of his, when they got a false alarm that the King's Army was approaching, and so they went with great precipitation towards Dalrioch, a large farm belonging to Mr Haldane of Gleneagles, which lyes two miles to the eastward, nearer Perth.

There was burnt in this parish 142 houses, these not included which were set on fire, but partly sav'd, and all theire corns, so that there was nothing left them to preserve theire cattle and sow theire grounds; and besides the starving condition to which the people of all ages were reduced by the frights, cold, and fatigue they endur'd, many dyed soon after, and several lost the use of their limbs.

The Jacobites alledge that what they did in burning was in theire own defence, and done with out distinction of friend or foe. But the contrary is very evident, for Clanranald own'd he had orders to spare Mrs Paterson's house, whom we mentioned before.

It is true Clanranald burnt some Jacobites' houses in Ochterarder, he and his men being strangers, and not knowing to make distinctions; yet even at that time he spared the houses belonging to John Dick, Charles Drummond, and John Balnaves, who had served the Rebells. And it is observable that Lord George Murray and Collonell Greeme did not burn one house betwixt Ahruthven and Dalrioch, which is about two miles, where there are good many country houses and corn yards belonging to persons who either actually joyn'd or were favourers of the Rebells.

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