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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland


H, Page 66. John Dhu Cameron, or Sergeant Mor

This man had been a sergeant in the French service, and came over to Scotland in the year 1745. From his large size he was called Sergeant Mor. Having no settled abode, and dreading the consequence of having served in the army of France, and of being afterwards engaged in the Rebellion, he formed a party of outlaws, and took up his residence among the mountains between the counties of Perth, Inverness, and Argyle. While he plundered the cattle of those whom he called his enemies, he protected the property of his friends, and frequently made people on the borders of the Lowlands purchase his forbearance by the payment of Black Mail. Many stories are told of this man. On one occasion he met with an officer of the garrison of Fort-William on the mountains of Lochaber. The officer told him that he suspected he had lost his way, and, having a large sum of money for the garrison, was afraid of meeting the Sergeant Mor; he, therefore, requested that the stranger would accompany him on his road. The other agreed ; and, while they walked on, they talked much of the Sergeant and his feats, the officer using much freedom with his name, calling him robber, murderer.—"Stop there," interrupted his companion, "he does indeed take the cattle of the Whigs and Sassanachs, but neither he nor his kearnachs ever shed innocent blood; except once," added he, "that I was unfortunate at Braemar, when a man was killed, but I immediately ordered the creach (the spoil) to be abandoned, and left to the owners, retreating as fast as we could after such a misfortune." "You," says the officer, "what had you to do with the affair?" "I am John Dhu Cameron—I am the Sergeant Mor; there is the road to Inverlochay —you cannot now mistake it. You and your money are safe. Tell your governor to send in future a more wary messenger for his gold. Tell him also, that, although an outlaw, and forced to live on the public, I am a soldier as well as himself, and would despise taking his gold from a defenceless man who confided in me." The officer lost no time in reaching the garrison, and never forgot the adventure, which he frequently related.

Some time after this, the Sergeant Mor was betrayed by a treacherous friend, and taken by a party under the command of Lieutenant (afterwards Sir Hector) Munro. This happened at the farm of Dunan, in Rannoch, where he was in the habit of sleeping in safety, till that night, when it is said that his landlord sent notice to Lieutenant Munro, who was stationed two miles distant. Cameron slept in a barn, his arms having, as was supposed, been secretly removed, by his false friend. He was found asleep, and the soldiers rushed in and seized him; but, being a powerful man, he shook them all off, and made his way to the door, where he was overpowered by those on the outside. He threw off one of the soldiers with such force against the wall of the barn, that he was long disabled by the bruises. Cameron was carried to Perth, and tried before the Court of Justiciary for the murder in Braemar, and various acts of theft and cattle stealing. One of these acts of theft was stealing from the Duke of Atholl's parks at Blair two wedders, which the party killed for food, on their retreat from Braemar. Cameron was executed at Perth on the 23d of November 1753, and hurg in chains.

It was then the practice, in the Court of Justiciary, to call the Doomster (an officer so called) into Court after sentence of death was passed, to place his hand on the head of the criminal, as a token that he was in future to be under his care. A friend of mine, who was present at this trial, informed me, that when the Doomster approached the Sergeant Mor, he exclaimed, "Keep the caitiff off, let him not touch me;" and stretching his arms as if to strike, the Doomster was so terrified by his look, action, and voice, that he shrunk back, and retired from the Court, without going through the usual ceremony.

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