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The Clan Gregor in the last Jacobite rising of 1745-46

By Peter Lawrie, ©1996


The role of Clan Gregor in the '45 rising is obscure. Despite the wealth of historical and romantic literature on the '45, they are only mentioned in asides and footnotes. Only one account by a member of the clan survives - that is the account by Duncan Macpharrie - piper to Glencarnaig published in "History of The Clan Gregor" by Amelia Murray-MacGregor. Macpharrie’s account was committed to paper forty three years after the event for Major Evan's son - the first Baronet of MacGregor - and has to be considered in that light. By and large the clan can be seen only by its effect on the accounts of others. The apparent enthusiasm of Clan Gregor for the Stewart cause - out in 1689, 1715, 1719 and 1745 - is a paradox. Clan Gregor enjoyed few benefits from the reign of the Stewarts, indeed the Stewart dynasty parallels the long decline and proscription of the clan.

In this paper I have pieced together the events in which parts of the Clan Gregor regiment participated. But the use of the word regiment, signifying a coherent organisation with an undisputed leader and chain of command is misleading. It is improbable that there were ever more than 300 active combatants, but they were split amongst at least two groups, with three "colonels". None of these groups were ever big enough to form a discrete formation in the three set-piece battles of the '45. It appears that there was jealousy, possible animosity between the factions.

In the literature there is contradiction and downright errors. Blackwood stated that Glengyle died in a cottage at the hands of redcoats, though in fact he lived till 1774. "Prisoners of the '45" called Glengyle "John" and labelled him "Taken at Dunrobin". "The Muster Roll of Prince Charles Edward Stewarts Army" (AUP 1984) had "Colonel McGregor-Murray, Gregor John, of Glengyle, Governor of Doune Castle, T 15.4.46." However, the John MacGregor taken at Dunrobin, was a private man - not an officer - in the official prisoner list of Cromarties' regiment. Glengyle's son, who was called John, was imprisoned in Edinburgh castle, in lieu of his father, from early 1745, when he was arrested in lieu of his father before the rising even began, until late 1746. Gregor MacGregor of Glengyle, nicknamed Ghlun dubh, used the alias James Graham - it was the Glencarnaig family which called themselves Murray. To add to the confusion Glengyle, that is Ghlun dubh, had legally transferred his estate to his eldest son (the above-mentioned John) around 1742, to avoid the risk of confiscation in the anticipated rising; hence the imprisoned John, not his father, was actually "of Glengyle". For the purpose of this paper the older man will be referred to as ‘Glengyle’.

Such a catalogue of half-truths and errors is the story of Clan Gregor in the '45.

The Clan before the '45.
It is important to understand the role of the clan in the Scottish Highlands. It has been said that the clan is a matriarchal rather than patriarchal system. It was intimately bound up with the possession of territory within a super-family group, with real or imagined common descent of its members. In many cases the feudal lordship of lands in the highlands coincided with a clan structure. The chief would be in a position to grant territory to his dependents in return for military service. However, the lack of lands to grant did not necessarily destroy the authority of the chief. The problem of Clan Gregor, as with others stemmed from the loss of ancestral lands to powerful neighbours with more influence at court - the fount of the feudal system. Resistance to such losses led to further displeasure from the monarch. The implementation of Royal displeasure would be delegated to the very people responsible for the losses. Clan Gregor, appeared consistently to be on the wrong side, and unable to benefit on the few occasions when national politics put them on the right side! - for instance when the Campbells fell from favour with Mary, or when two consecutive Earls of Argyll were executed for treason in 1660 and 1685.

There were four principal Clan Gregor families in the 17th century, the families of Glenstrae, Glencarnaig, Roro and Glengyle. The Glenstrae line of the Clan Gregor chiefs became extinct with its last representative being Archibald of Kilmanan, who possessed a small estate at Craigrostan. It seems that he took little interest in the leadership of the clan. By 1706 Kilmanan had endowed Rob Roy with the Craigrostan lands, and died not long afterwards.

Rob Roy participated in a "election" in 1714 whereby William MacGregor or Drummond of Balhaldie was elected chief. He was a representative of the Roro family. Neither the elder Balhaldie, nor his son William who was active in the '45, were active military men, but they played a prominent role as Jacobite agents and plotters, frequently traveling to Europe, Balhaldie’s code name of "Mr Malloch" crops up frequently and he may have been the Prince's sole companion when he traveled to Dunkirk and the abortive French invasion of 1744. Balhaldie’s nephew, John of Balnacuick was a Lieut-Colonel in the '45, and commandant at Crieff.

The de facto chief, styled the "Captain" of the clan in the early years of the eighteenth century was Rob Roy MacGregor, (also styled Robert Campbell) of the Glengyle family. He was second son of Donald glas, colonel of the MacGregor contingent in the army of Graham of Claverhouse which fought at Killiecrankie in 1689. Rob Roy's elder brother died in 1700, leaving Gregor ghlun dubh aged ten as senior representative of Glengyle. At this time Rob was becoming prosperous in the cattle trade and added to the estate which he had acquired from Kilmanan. He also was a principal in the purchase (previously they were tenants at will) of the small estate of Glengyle and the building of Glengyle House for his nephew. Later, he was outlawed at the instance of his powerful neighbour, the Duke of Montrose, who happened to head the Scottish legal establishment, and had no compunction at using his position for his personal advantage. Montrose went to the length of using Government money to erect a fort with a garrison at Inversnaid to hold the lands he had obtained. This fort will crop up later in this account. Rob led the clan in the '15, being described as an interested spectator at Sherrifmuir, although I do not want to enter that debate in this paper. In 1719, Rob was "out" again, with a small MacGregor contingent. He returned with his men almost unscathed from the defeat at Glenshiel.

Thereafter the leadership of the Glengyle family passed to his nephew Gregor ghlun dubh. Rob Roy died in 1734, but most of his sons took an active part in the '45. Notably James Mor, father of R L Stevenson's "Catriona" and Murray-Rose's candidate for "Pickle the Spy". Although Andrew Lang considered that Pickle was Young Glengarry, James Mor has been painted in a bad light by most historians and romantic novelists. James Mor lived at Corriearklet, a close neighbour of Glengyle. Four of his brothers are listed as officers in the '45 - Ranald (the eldest), Coll, Duncan and Robin Oig. Ranald farmed at the Kirkton of Balquhidder and I have found it difficult to ascertain whether he followed Glengyle or Glencarnaig as he sometimes occurs in accounts with the Glencarnaig men. Robin Oig had served at Fontenoy and subsequently deserted from the 42nd regiment. He was hanged in 1752, not for desertion or rebellion, but for the abduction of the heiress Jean Key.

The Glencarnaig family, ancestors of the present chief, descend from Duncan Ladasach and a lineage known as "Children of the mist". They used the alias Murray and had tenancy of farms in upper Balquhidder, which were on the Atholl estate. The eldest, Robert was a Lieut-Colonel, at least of his own contingent. His brother Major Evan, was appointed an ADC to the Prince after Gladsmuir. Evan's son eventually became first baronet of MacGregor. A third brother, Duncan also served as a Captain.

The Clan in the '45.
Despite the large number of people bearing the name MacGregor (or an alias) the position of the leadership made it difficult to raise many men. The divisions between the families, the prior claim of the landlords on whose estates many of the clansfolk lived and the changes in the Highland economy all conspired against a united regiment under the command of a recognized leader. The Duke of Perth (in the Jacobite peerage), chief of the Drummond family, had at various times two companies of MacGregors in his regiment, although Blackwood’s Magazine gave it as six companies. MacGregors occur in the muster rolls of other regiments on the Jacobite side.

The Muster
There was a meeting at the Kirkton of Balquhidder on August 30th 1745. According to Macpharrie; Glengyle, Glencarnaig, Stewart of Glenbuckie and Buchanan of Arnprior met with the Duke of Perth to arrange a muster on the 8th September. Glencarnaig and his two brothers with 8 followers mustered at noon on the 8th, and at 3pm, Glenbuckie arrived with 40 Stewarts and Ranald with a further 40 MacGregors. This group of a little under 100 marched for Callander. At Kilmahog, Arnprior joined them with just one follower. When they reached Leny House, Glenbuckie accepted Arnprior's hospitality for the night while the MacGregors stayed at Callander. Glenbuckie apparently shot himself during the night and his men took his body home and took no further part in the rising. In the mean time Glengyle and James Mor had captured Inversnaid fort. They left a garrison of their own there, and James Mor joined Glencarnaig and his brother Ranald at Callander with a further 40 men and 45 prisoners from the Inversnaid garrison. Macpharrie goes on to state that Glencarnaig and James Mor marched through Glenartnay to Comrie and on to Crieff. There they met the Duke of Perth with 300 men. Then Ranald joined them - it is not stated where Ranald went in the meantime or why they separated. Perth's regiment then marched on to Glenalmond where they joined the main Jacobite force and spent the night at Dunblane. The Prince, Lochiel and Glencarnaig stayed with Balhaldie at his house near Dunblane. Throughout this account, though the brothers Ranald and James Mor are mentioned, Glengyle himself is not - it is possible that he remained at Inversnaid and evidence in the Montrose papers suggest that he had been raising more recruits.

When the army passed by Stirling castle, Macpharrie states that the MacGregors marched under their own colours, and that one James Mor Campbell in the castle fired a cannon specifically at them and no other, without causing any injury. These colours are still preserved at Edinchip. (The above James Mor Campbell is later mentioned as leading the militia which devastated Balquhidder after the rising). That night the army camped at Bannockburn. The Prince spent the night with Sir Hugh Paterson and Glencarnaig's men were on guard duty. Sir Hugh's great-niece was Clementina Walkinshaw. It is possible that she met the Prince for the first time then. Later, she became his mistress in a stormy liaison, until he deserted her in 1760. She was the mother of his daughter Charlotte, later Duchess of Albany. Glencarnaig's brother Evan with 40 men, captured 20 guns and 15 broadswords at a house near Falkirk, and then, with some of the Macdonalds found a hundred stand of muskets at Linlithgow which had been provided for the local militia. More were captured at Bo'ness.

Macpharrie then has Glencarnaig and Stewart of Ardshiel joining forces. By the time they camped at the Boroughmuir, outside Edinburgh, they had 200 MacGregors and 70 Appin Stewarts. Macpharrie appeared to indicate that Glencarnaig was responsible for the virtually unopposed entry of the Jacobite army into Edinburgh by the Netherbow Port, and this is also stated in Browne's "Highland Clans". Captain Evan discovered 700 stand of arms, intended for the defence of the town. Following this Evan was made an ADC to the Prince and promoted Major. Macpharrie then stated that Glengyle joined them in Edinburgh with an unknown addition of forces, and that he had not raised all the men he had hoped to. Glengyle and Glencarnaig had a meeting to decide the overall command and disposition of posts in an united regiment. It appeared that this could not be agreed, though it was stated that Glencarnaig had 13 more men than Glengyle. Apparently Glencarnaig conceded the titular Colonelcy to Glengyle, with himself as Lieut-Colonel. The brief account of Macpharrie appears to signify a real struggle for supremacy between the two men.

At Prestonpans, (known as Gladsmuir by the Jacobites) most of the clan, about 200, - mainly of Glencarnaig's and Glengyle's under James Mor and Ranald - appeared to have been with the Stewarts of Appin. A further 40, under Malcolm of Cornour were with Perth's regiment to their right in the line. During the battle the MacGregors and the Appin Stewarts engaged Lascelles’ 47th regiment. The Perth regiment, for some reason, did not attack, allowing the Hanoverians around the flank of the MacGregors. Cornour and his men, mainly armed with scythe blades on poles, left the rest of the Perth regiment and went to the assistance of their friends in the action. James Mor called for assistance from a MacDonald formation to the right of Perth's. Following the battle James Mor, had suffered a broken leg, Cornour was severely injured (and died later) and Glencarnaig's brother Duncan shot in the foot. Malcolm of Craigruidhe was killed and 21 injured in the action. MacPharrie states that the Clan Gregor were specially honoured by the Prince for their part in the brief battle.

In the way of Highland armies there was a severe diminution in the Jacobite ranks after Gladsmuir, as booty was taken home, and considerable effort was put into recovering the lost men and raising additional forces before the march into England about six weeks later. On the 21st September, Glengyle with an unstated, but considerable force of MacGregors accompanied Lord Elcho and Mr James Hay to Glasgow to levy a public contribution of money and clothing on the town.

Glengyle was appointed to be governor of Doune Castle, with 60 men and a further 70 under Ludovic Cameron under his command. His remit was to watch the garrison at Stirling and to raise additional men. Glengyle was descended through his grandmother, a Campbell of Glenorchy from Robert Duke of Albany, who had built Doune as a fortress and palace when all but King of Scotland at the end of the fourteenth century. Glengyle's second son Robert was married to a daughter of Stewart of Balquhidder (see above - Glenbuckie shot himself at Leny) who descended in the male line from the same Duke of Albany. Whether Glengyle knew of this connection or not I have no way of knowing but given the Highlander's pride in descent it seem very likely.

Glencarnaig and his men went with the army into England, Macpharrie dispenses with this in just two sentences. There appears to be virtually no specific reference to Glencarnaig's men during the march to Derby and the return. However, other accounts mention that the MacGregors participated in the skirmish at Clifton.

Glengyles activity - recruiting - Ardno.
There is no actual account of Glengyle's activities from October 18 to January 16, but it is possible to put together a scenario from snippets in various sources. On the 15th October Murray of Broughton signed Glengyle's commission as Colonel and Governor of Doune, Cardross and Balinton. There is a letter from Lord Strathallan dated the 16th warning of Government spies masquerading in highland dress and wearing white cockades. On the 18th he received a letter from Henry Kerr at Alloa advising him to place guards over the fords over the forth and to keep watch on the activities at Stirling Castle.

Raising and Losing recruits
There are documents in the Graham papers at the Scottish Record Office which attested to his activities in raising recruits from Macgregors living on the Graham estates in Buchanan parish on the east bank of Loch Lomond. These documents comprise sworn statements taken after the rising from various tenants of the Montrose estate who were suspected of involvement. Clearly these people would stress their unwillingness to serve, the coercion used against them and their eagerness to desert at the first opportunity. However, it does seem that Glengyle had considerable difficulties in raising men and in keeping them.

At the end of October Glengyle led a party in boats across Loch Lomond and surprised a party of militia at Tarbet who were working on the military road. These were taken back as prisoners to the Inversnaid fort and then to Doune. On November 6th Glengyle led a small force into the "Cantyres" - the Cowal peninsula in Argyll. It is probable that he was hoping to reach Castle Lachlan where he hoped to meet Campbell of Auchinbreck, who might come out for the Jacobites. Instead he was attacked by General Jack Campbell with the Argyll militia. After a skirmish at Ardno on Loch Fyne, opposite Dunderave, Glengyle retreated, leaving two dead and at least eighteen of his men captured, and others according to their own accounts, deserted.

There is a story of a Thomas Cadell, pistol-maker of Doune who suggested to Glengyle that he should quarter his men on those householders of Doune who had no affection for the Stewart cause. Glengyle thanked him cordially and thereafter sent one of his junior officers with a small party to quarter themselves in Master Cadell's household. When Cadell returned to remonstrate with him, Glengyle reminded him of his advice and added that he was willing to try how his own friends might like the experiment before he should extend it to others. An account in the MacGregor papers concerning Glengyle and his time at Doune states "Glengyle was subject to a variety of spirits, but during the time he commanded in Mentieth he conducted himself with such propriety that his name has been always minded with respect by the gentlemen of that district, although of different political principles." It appears that Doune was not idealy suited to be a prison, as a number of prisoners succeeded in escaping from it.

Inversnaid destroyed
At some time between joining the army before the battle of Falkirk and the retreat into the Highlands Glengyle destroyed the little fortress of Inversnaid. James Mor, recuperating from the injuries sustained at Gladsmuir had remained there as commander. Perhaps it was more comfortable than his farm at Corriearklet 3 miles away. On January 9th John Murray at Bannockburn, sent instructions to Glengyle at Doune to send "what troops you can spare from your garrison as the enemy had sent a considerable body of troops aboard the sloops now seen in the river, to seize the cannon at Alloa" - "You are likewise desired to take care of apprehending deserters who may pass the fords".

On their return from England in January 1746, Macpharrie was sent from Kilsyth to Balquhidder and returned with Glencarnaig's wife and 17 recruits. Glengyle and Glencarnaig joined forces again at Cambusbarron near Stirling on January 16th. Glengyle had increased his force by recruitment. Macpharrie states that the Clan were stationed on the extreme right of the first line of the army with the Clan Donald regiments. Most accounts place the four Clan Donald regiments on the right without mentioning the MacGregors. In the action they faced the dragoons on the left of the Hanoverian front line. The dragoons were put to flight by volleys of musket fire, and in their flight did considerable damage to the regular infantry battalions behind them and the 500-strong Glasgow militia, whom they rode through. Macpharrie clearly states that they were involved with the Macdonalds in the pursuit of the broken miltia on the right and did not lose a single man. Macpharrie's account does not agree with other accounts, including Hawley's report to Cumberland, which has the Mackinnon and Macgregor forces as part of the 900 strong Cameron regiment on the left of the Jacobite line. The Jacobite left suffered losses from the three overlapping Hanoverian regiments - Ligonier's, Price's and Barrel's - which did not break when the Royals did and fired on the flank of the advancing Jacobites in their pursuit of the centre. The two accounts are quite clearly contradictory. MacGregors positioned on the right with Clan Donald but also on the left with the Camerons. I seems probable only Glencarnaig's men were brigaded with the Clan Donald while Glengyle had arrived on the battlefield with Ludovic Cameron and formed part of the 450 reinforcements received by Lochiel and therefore were positioned on the left.

Retreat to Inverness
Following the battle Macpharrie states that they were engaged in the fruitless siege of Stirling Castle for 15 days, until Cumberland's army approached, whereupon the Jacobite army retreated by Doune and Dunblane. Macpharrie goes on to mention that he and Ranald were sent to Balquhidder to round up some of their men who had returned home with booty after Falkirk. Thereafter they proceeded by Killin along the North of Loch Tay to Taymouth and joined the rest of the army at Coshieville, West of Aberfeldy. Thereafter the army went North by Tummel bridge, Dalnacardoch and Garvamore to Inverness. Lord Loudoun who had held the town with part of his regiment and various militia companies immediately retreated to Ross. Macpharrie states that they waited eight days in Inverness, for the Prince to arrive with the rest of the army by the East Coast route. Most other accounts state that the Prince was with the force which travelled by Dalnacardoch and Garvamore. Indeed, Lord Loudoun attempted to capture the Prince when he spent the night at Moy Hall on February 16th, but Lady Macintosh's blacksmith and four men succeeded in panicking Loudouns' force into a headlong rout back to Inverness.

The Quest for Loudoun
The MacGregor's were detailed along with Barrisdale and Cromartie to pursue Lord Loudoun's forces. At no time after Falkirk does Macpharrie mention Glengyle; it may be that only Glencarnaig's men went to Ross, but I cannot tell and there is no specific mention of any MacGregors actually present at Culloden. The Scots Magazine does suggest that Glengyle had been in Sutherland. Between February 17th and mid April, contingents of the Jacobite army ranged all round the Highlands, from Atholl to Sutherland and from Inverurie to Fort William. Fort Augustus, at Kilcumein, was taken and destroyed. Fort William, formerly Inverlochy laid under siege. Duke William of Atholl fruitlessly besieged his own castle of Blair while preventing Hanoverian troops penetrating the Pass of Killiecrankie. Throughout this period the Jacobite commanders argued strategy amongst themselves, while the army foraged desperately for food.

Into Sutherland
On March 20th, the Duke of Perth with additional forces, crossed the Dornoch Firth under cover of sea mist. Royal Navy sloops were assiduously patrolling the coast, while Loudoun's militia held the passes between Ross and Sutherland. Macpharrie has Major Evan take the lead in the capture of Dornoch with one of Loudoun's companies. Although the laird of Macintosh was captured, the real prizes - Lord Loudoun, Duncan Forbes, the Earl of Sutherland and the Lairds of Macleod and MacDonald all escaped. Macpharrie stated that their men captured four small provision ships at Little Ferry, on the Fleet south of Golspie, and subsequently lived aboard - he mentions that the Colonel (Glencarnaig) was on one and Major Evan on the other. Perth withdrew most of his men leaving the MacGregors, Cromartie's, Mackinnon’s and Barrisdale's regiments. During a three week long occupation they attempted to raise money and provisions. Expeditions were mounted into Caithness but brought few recruits and little money or food.

The Return to Balquhidder
The Earl of Sutherland's militia had not been dispersed and on the 15th April, after the recall of the northern force, the Sutherland militia attacked Cromartie's regiment between Dunrobin and Little Ferry, killing or capturing most of them. Barrisdale's and the MacGregors were already on the way to Dornoch and reached Kessock on the afternoon of the 16th by which time Culloden had already been fought and lost. Macpharrie states that they marched along the North side of the Ness, shadowed by dragoons on the South side. That night they were at Lovat's Dounie Castle and the next night at Lochgarry's house, were they parted from Barrisdale and Dr Cameron. The next morning they met up with the Duke of Perth at Ruthven in Badenoch who instructed them to disperse. They marched on to Rannoch, ‘colours flying’, said Macpharrie, through Glenlyon and past the Campbell militia in Finlarig castle. Finally they reached Balquhidder and dispersed. A sentence in the "Scots Magazine" for 1746 page 194, has "On the 23rd April, Glengyle with about 120 men well armed, in their retreat from Sutherland, were seen near Finlarig, at the West end of Loch Tay, on their way home to Balquhidder". Also in the Scots Magazine, page 288, "About the end of May, Glengyle, with a party of MacGregors were in the hill between Crieff and Dunkeld; and tis said, attempted to levy the public money. But they were obliged to make off" ... "On the 7th June, a body of 700 men entered Balquhidder and proceeded to the braes of Menteith. But not finding Glengyle and his party, they burnt his house, and all the houses in Craigrostan possessed by the Macgregors, and carried the cattle to Crieff."

The Aftermath.
The government forces carried out widespread and virtually indiscriminate burning and looting of livestock. Indeed the evidence in the Graham papers exist because the Duke of Montrose demanded compensation for the destruction meted out upon his tenants. Glengyle House was burned on June 7th and Glencarnaig's house was also burned. Glengyle, Glencarnaig and Balhaldie were all excepted from the Act of Indemnity. (This was a blanket "pardon" to everyone concerned except those mentioned.) Glencarnaig surrendered himself and was released in 1749. Glengyle appears not to have been captured or surrendered. By 1756, he and John, his son, had been able to rebuild their house which still stands at the head of Loch Katrine. Glengyle's piper was transported. James Mor escaped from Edinburgh castle after his trial for complicity in Robin Oig's abduction of Jean Key. He escaped to France and died there in poverty. None of Glengyle's sons appear to have been involved. John was imprisoned beforehand as has been mentioned. Robert the second (the writer's ancestor) who farmed at Stronachlachar on Loch Katrine, claimed to have been "in no ways involved". The younger sons are not mentioned at all and may have been away at sea.