Ask most Scots about
what happened A after the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and they
will tell you about Bonnie Prince Charlie's narrow escapes
hiding in the heather and the romance of Flora MacDonald
Many will talk of
the savagery of `Butcher’ Cumberland after the battle
of Culloden, of the people murdered, the glens laid waste,
and the cottages in ruins. Some - but rather fewer - will
also know about how the law was wielded against the- defeated
to end Jacobitism once and for all °, and of how tartan
and bagpipes were - banned: but not always mentioned is
the cruel fate of those who had courageously borne arms
for their Prince and who were later arrested.
There was no Geneva Convention in those days to protect
them and the result was a crude, makeshift but ruthless
victors' justice. '
had show trials before their peers - but died just the same
way as the foot soldiers. There were 120 executions: yet
many of these did not involve Scotsmen, The biggest single
group condemned were the Manchester Regiment. To emphasise
their treachery, all its captured officers and sergeants
were hanged. But many prisoners never even made it to the
scaffold as hunger and disease in filthy, overcrowded jails
and prison hulks moored in the Thames killed around 700.
Another 1200 were transported to the colonies as slaves.
There was no shortage
of informers. Some gave evidence because they genuinely
thought it their patriotic duty; some were paying off old
scores; some wanted the reward; and some were simply trying
to save their own skins. One of the latter was the infamous
Sir John Murray of Broughton; and this year is the 225th
anniversary of his death. It was he who betrayed Lord Lovat
and many others, his shame being all the greater because
Charles Stewart had trusted him completely. No wonder Murray
became notorious as `the Jacobite Judas'.
Born in Broughton,
Peebleshire, in 1715 (the year of another failed Jacobite
Rising), he studied at Edinburgh University: but quickly
became caught up in the ferment of the times surrounding
the possible return of the Young Pretender.
He made contact with the exiled Stewart Court 'in Rome,
visiting it in 1742 and 1744; and was made a trusted agent
for their cause in Scotland. He soon became a close confidante
of Prince Charles Edward himself and there was absolutely
nothing about this fawning enthusiast to suggest a future
Charles was impatient
to land in Britain and Murray probably encouraged him (though
of course he later denied this).
According to a statement Murray made in prison, he claimed
he met Charles in Paris shortly before the rebellion and
warned him of the dangers: but that the Prince defiantly
declared he was determined to come to his kingdom even if
he brought only a single footman. Once the gamble had been
taken, Murray raced to Kinlochmoidart to be with Charles
and the gathering clans. A few days later, the Prince's
standard was raised and the great adventure had begun in
Murray seemed a real
find. He was an expert organiser, something the ramshackle
Jacobite forces desperately needed. A dream requires hard-headed
folk to make it into a reality. Murray had that practical
knack allied to his zeal. He became Charles' private secretary,
drafting the official proclamations, battle orders and voluminous
correspondence - and thus knew exactly what was going on.
He was also put in charge of the army's commissariat and
efficiently organised all the essential food supplies.
During the initial
successes, he was a loyal, hardworking and extremely able
official, playing a decisive role in the Jacobites' unexpected
triumphs against the odds. Although he disliked him personally,
his namesake Lord George Murray, the rebels' leading commander,
praised Murray's organisational skills and claimed that
if only he had been available at the time then the Highlanders
would not have charged into battle - and defeat - on empty
bellies at Culloden.
But on that crucial day Murray had been away on sick leave
and was sadly missed.
The battle lost, Murray
fled to Lochaber for, apart from seeking his own safety,
he still had one last job to do for his vanquished Prince.
A delivery of gold had arrived by ship from the Continent
to help fund the Rising, too late as usual.
Murray probably buried it around Loch Arkaig, possibly even
in the depths of the 12-mile-long stretch of water itself
(the treasure has never been found). Then he hid out in
the mountains: but the neighbourhood was becoming far too
dangerous. Government redcoats were everywhere and the nearby
castle of Achnaharry was burned down.
Murray eluded the
troops and made his way home to stay with his brother-in-law,
Hunter of Polmood, on the banks of the Tweed; then, on June
28th, 1746, he was discovered by some dragoons and dragged
off to the dungeons of Edinburgh Castle. It looked like
his end was nigh. The authorities, though, realised they
had a prize on their hands, someone central to the workings
of the Rising and thus far more useful to them alive - if
only he would turn King's Evidence.
It is not known how
much pressure was put on him but soon Murray was singing
like a lintie -names, places, dates, contacts - with his
life as the reward. His incriminating statements were littered
with formerly illustrious names like the Laird of MacLeod,
Lord Traquair, Lord Tullibardine, the Paris banker MacDonald,
Drummond of Balhaldie, Sir Hector Maclean, Mr. Cockburn,
an Edinburgh merchant, and Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat.
Many were already
known to the government forces and some were out of reach
through death or having fled abroad. But Simon Fraser in
particular interested them. The Hanoverians badly wanted
this old fox. He had been a thorn in their side for years;
and, although he had not been present at Culloden (craftily
he had sent his son instead), they still wanted vengeance
for his lifetime of Jacobite scheming and plotting. They
had already burned his house, Castle Dournie, after stripping
it of books, malt, oatmeal and a thousand bottles of wine.
Redcoats had picnicked on his precious salmon, as well,
before smashing up his weirs.
On the run (or rather,
being helped around by loyal clansmen since he was hopelessly
overweight and crippled with gout), Lovat was eventually
captured on Loch Morar. The authorities were overjoyed but
knew he would be a slippery customer to deal with. After
all, he had already talked his way out of one death sentence
a few years previously. Now hard evidence was needed - so
Murray duly obliged.
He blabbed away -
people, times, events - and the authorities got exactly
what they wanted. On April 9th, 1747, the 80-year¬old
chieftain finally laid his weary, bloated old head on the
block, having the dubious distinction of being the last
person in Britain to be publicly beheaded. Fraser had not
been loved much in life: but to many he was now a martyr.
People turned on Murray, cursing him in the street. He was
loathed wherever he went and became an outcast. Understandably,
his financial affairs were in a mess and the black stain
of treachery followed him everywhere. Even succeeding to
his father's baronetcy of Stanhope in the Borders and getting
a small government pension could not save him from social
Eventually, he retreated
to the safer pastures of England where died, unmourned,
in 1777. Broughton House was sold and one day, through a
servant's carelessness, it burned to the ground. Some of
its stones were commandeered to build a nearby street: but,
apart from them, nothing remains of the original house and
the baronetcy has also vanished.
The ancient family stones being trodden underfoot by heedless
pedestrians seems a fitting end to this despised Murray
Article by Steve McGrail