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Glenbuchat Heritage

39 Attempter Murder of Glenbucket  1724
The Glenbuchat Image Library
39 Attempter Murder of Glenbucket 1724

National Archives of Scotland Reference GD44/28/14

1710 no month or day
George Innes, Fochabers, to [Lord Huntly].
Gives details of a scuffle the previous night in which writer and an insolent fellow, claiming to be recipient's servant, were involed; a drunken soldier pulled off writer's wig; further disturbances, involving Glenbucket and Auchenasie.
1720 February 6
Letter from John Gordon of Glenbucket, Gordon Hall, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Refers to threatening letter from Glenkindy; stolen cattle; suggests that if the duke flatters his mother she might be persuaded to sell him the land.

Backgroud and details of attack on Gordon of Glenbucket 1724

An anecdote of this old hero, not generally known, is told by the gossiping Captain Burt, as an instance of clan jealousy. He had acquired a right, by the sort of security called a wadset, to some lands in the Macpherson country. The tenants troubled not themselves about parchment rights, but, knowing he was no Macpherson, declined to pay him any rent or service. " This refusal," says Burt, " put him upon the means to eject them by law ; whereupon the tenants came to a resolution to put an end to his suit and new settlement in the manner following : — Five or six of them, young fellows, the sons of gentlemen, entered the door of his hut, and in fawning words told him they were sorry any dispute had happened ; that they were then resolved to acknowledge him as their immediate landlord, and would regularly pay him their rent ; at the same time they begged he would withdraw his process, and they hoped they should be agreeable to him in the future. All this while they were almost imperceptibly drawing nearer and nearer to his bedside, on which he was sitting, in order to prevent his defending himself, (as they knew him to be a man of distinguished courage,) and then fell suddenly on him with their dirks and others, plunging them into his body. This was perpetrated within sight of the barrack of Ruthven." The conclusion of the adventure was, that the old warrior got hold of his broadsword and put the ruffians to flight. “

The young men, above named, being believed to be the perpetrators of this crime, were soon after outlawed for failing to attend the summons of the Court of Justiciary. They were so far under terror of the law, that they found it necessary to take to the bent, but they, nevertheless, continued with arms in their hands and in company with others who had joined them lived tolerably well by spulyie committed on the Duke of Gordon's tenants in Badenoch.

In November 1725, General Wade is found sending a circular to the officers commanding the six Highland companies ordering them in compliance with a request from the Duke, to use diligence in discovering and taking these outlaws and any who might harbour them in order to their being brought to justice. This effort however seems to have been attended with no good effect and in the ensuing July the Duke wrote to the General expressing his free consent, that application be made for taking off the sentence of fugitation against six associates of the assassins namely John Macphcrson in Bellachroan, Elias Macpherson in Coraldie, Alexander Macpherson nephew to Killihuntly, William Macpherson son to Essick ,Donald Macpherson son to John Oig Macpherson in Muccoul and Lachlan Macpherson of Laggan, provided they delivered up their arms and promised to live as obedient subjects to King George in future. His Grace at the same time expressed his opinion that it was absolutely necessary for the peace of Badenoch that the three principals in the attack on Glenbucket should be brought to justice. The General accordingly ordered fresh and vigorous efforts to be made for the apprehension of these persons We learn from Burt that they were ultimately forced to take refuge in foreign countries.

More details of the attack from Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social(Second Series) Inverness-Shire

After the death of William Mackintosh of Borlum in 1717, long the Gordon Chamberlain of Badenoch, the Gordons resolved to appoint a stranger and one of their own name as most likely to be depended on. Accordingly that gallant warrior John Gordon of Glenbucket, born in 1672, was appointed, (as Chamberlain to the Duke of Gordon) and getting a wadset (pledge or mortgage)of Strone(place), made it his residence. This step greatly increased the irritation of the Macphersons, who had chafed under the rule of the Borlums. Steps were taken to poison the Duke of Gordon's ears, but being ineffective, bolder courses were resolved upon—nothing less than slaying Glenbucket. The circumstances are narrated by Burt; always on the alert to pick up anything unpleasant about Highlanders of note ; by the Lord Advocate on the trial of Stuart of Acharn; and by the Dowager Lady Mackintosh in her very curious memoirs of events in her life.

Burt's account briefly is in these terms—

Whereupon the tenants came to a resolution to put an end to his suit and new settlement in the manner following. Five or six of them, young fellows, the sons of gentlemen, entered the door of his hut; and in fawning words told him they were sorry any dispute had happened. That they were then resolved to acknowledge him as their immediate landlord, and would regularly pay him their rent. At the same time they begged he would withdraw his process, and they hoped they should be agreeable to him for the future. All this while they were almost imperceptibly drawing nearer and nearer to his bedside, on which he was sitting, in order to prevent his defending himself (as they knew him to be a man of distinguished courage), and then fell suddenly on him ; some cutting him with their dirks, and others plunging them into his body. This was perpetrated within sight of the Barrack of Ruthven. I can't forbear to tell you how this butchery ended, with respect both to him and those treacherous villains.

"He with a multitude of wounds upon him, made shift in the bustle to reach down his broad sword from the tester of his bed, which was very low, and with it he drove all the assassins before him. And afterwards, from the Duke's abhorrence of so vile a fact, and with the assistance of the troops, they were driven out of the country and forced to flee to foreign parts."

Old Glenbucket, born as just stated in 1672, had been out in 1715, took part in the Rising of 1745, and his appearance, from the effects of the savage attack nearly 30 years before, is described as incapacitating him to sit erect on horseback. The gallant veteran escaped, first to Norway, then to France, and lived comfortably, until June, 1750, on a pension of 1200 livres. I possess certain papers signed by him while Chamberlain of Badenoch, and also some relative to his posterity, the latest referring to John Charles Gordon, residing at Tomintoul in 1812.

As the Glenbuckets intermarried with the Glengarrys, I may publish these papers some day, including the appearance made, early in the 'Forty-five, by the people of Badenoch at the request of Lord Lewis Gordon.

The Duke of Gordon was naturally furious at the attack on his chamberlain, and not only threatened vengeance and extirpation on the Macphersons, who held their whole lands of him, but took some active steps in the matter. In their distress, the Macphersons, under their new chief, Lachlan, whose mother was daughter of Lachlan Mackintosh of Kinrara, bethought themselves of a reconciliation with Mackintosh, and becoming independent to a certain degree of the Gordons. Mackintosh fell into the snare, foolishly thinking that the Macphersons, who had deceived his predecessors so often, had changed their skin and spots, while his wife in her memoirs appears to have seen clearly the folly of having any dealings with them. Mackintosh's desires for the consolidation and unification of Clan Chattan were highly praiseworthy. To make the Macphersons quasi independent, and particularly of the Gordons, Mackintosh granted them Gallovie and Aberarder, upwards of 40,000 acres, under certain conditions, of which the forfeiture of Evan Macpherson of Cluny and the passing of the Jurisdiction Acts deprived him, and of the equivalents stipulated.

Alexander Pennecuik of Edinburgh has a poem entitled “A Curse on the Clan MacPhersons, occasioned by the News of Glenbucket being murdered by them”

May that cursed clan up by the roots be plucked
Whose impious hands have killed the good Glenbucket
Villains far worse than Infidel or Turk
To slash his body with your bloody durk
A fatal way to make his physic work
Rob Roy and you fight ‘gainst the noblest names
The generous Gordons and the gallant Grahams
Perpetual clouds through your black clan shall reign
Traitors ‘gainst God and rebels ‘gainst your king
Until yon feel the law's severest rigour
And be extinguished like the base Macgregor

Title: Attack by Macphersons on Glenbucket: Papers relating to Gordon of Glenbucket, mainly to attempted murder of John Gordon of Glenbucket in 1724

1724 March 19.
Draft, Alexander, duke of Gordon, Gordon Castle, to Hugh Somervell, WS, Edinburgh.
Attempted murder of Glenbucket by the Macphersons in Badenoch
1724 March 19.
Earl of Aberdeen, Kelly, to [Alexander, duke of Gordon].
Condolences [premature actually] on death of Glenbucket; need to act against his [would be] murderers.
1724 March 27.
Lt. Nathaniel Pilkington, Ruthven of Badenoch, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Has written to his commanding officers at Perth to explain that the reason Glenbucket needs arms is to defend his house and family from being burnt, and not in opposition to the king and government.
1724 March 30
Letter from, duke of Atholl, Huntingtower, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
`I assure your Grace none can have a great abhorrence than I have to such a barbarous action; & you may depend on it, that no influence whatsoever shall make me give any countenance or shelter to such villains'
1724 April 3.
J. Gordon of Glenbucket, Gordon Hall, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Refers to an enclosure [wanting] from the Duke of Atholl, who has written in writer's favour to Lord Justice Clerk and Brigadier Preston; writer's wounds are healing well but the loss of blood keeps him might weak.
undated
Letter from John Gordon of Glenbucket to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Is weak with loss of blood, but now on the way to recovery; has had a kind letter from the duke of Atholl; thanks for meal.
1724 April 4.
Lachlan MacPherson, Cluny, to the Duchess of Gordon, at her lodging in the Canongate, Edinburgh.
Hope that the duke will answer recipient's promise on his behalf; indignation at attempt made on Glenbucket; `but its hard that his Graces designed favour towards our clann should be debarred from the innocent, upon the account of a bad thing done (as is said) by a few'; writer has only one brother, William, and he was not among those concerned.
1724 April 9
Letter from, duke of Atholl, Huntingtower, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Promises that 50-60 armed men will be at Drumochter on 30th with writer's orders to apprehend the villains who attacked Glenbucket, in case they come to Atholl or any part of the shire of Perth,
1724 April 10
Letter from Brigadier Preston, Valliefield, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Offers troops to apprehend the villains.
Undated. Copy reply of the Lord Justice Clerk, addressed `my lord'.
Writer's efforts to catch the assassins, apparently Macphersons in Badenoch.
With two more draft letters on this topic.
no year 1724? April 16
Letter from Carpenter, London, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Apprehension of those concerned in designed murder; everything proper will be done to take them; has written to Brigadier Preston desiring him to reinforce party at Ruthven barracks and give all reasonable protection to Glenbucket.
highlanders; writer does not expect to be sent to Scotland that summer.
1724 April 16.
George Monro of Colraine, Cullen, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Acknowledges receipt of letter intimating that barbarous attempt against honest Glenbucket.
1724 April 21 or 24.
John Gordon, of Glenbucket, Gordon Hall, to [Alexander, duke of Gordon].
Refers to an enclosure from the Duke of Atholl [wanting]; feels that recipient has the power to crush his enemies.
1724 April 26.
Alexander Abercrombie of Glasshaugh to [Alexander, duke of Gordon].
Writer's attempts to pursue the attackers of Glenbucket.
1724 April 28.
Brigadier Preston, Edinburgh Castle, to [Alexander, duke of Gordon].
Encloses order [wanting] for reinforcing barrack at Badenoch, to be sent to the commanding officer at Inverness.
1724 May 5.
Jos. Sabine, London, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Congratulates Glenbucket on his escape and recovery; hopes to bring the villains to punishment; difficulty in catching the would be assassins who are too well acquainted with the hills to be taken by the regular forces, unless first surrounded by other highlanders; writer does not expect to be sent to Scotland that summer.
1724 May 28-30
Incomplete copy of the Flying Post or Post-Master, no. 4889.
Contains two paragraphs relating to Alexander, duke of Gordon, and the Macphersons
in Badenoch.
1724 June 13
Letter from John Grant of Delrachny, Inverlaidnan, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Has met old Breakachie and he sent his son to take writer to the Hill of Craigow where the villains were; they do not repent and only regret they did not manage to murder Glenbucket and threaten to do so; `they also did bloodily swear, that they wou'd not leave a cock to crow with any one tennant in his interest and that without loss of time'; they expect support from the neighbouring clans; `I told them in the event they and their whole clan would be ruin'd. They answer'd, They were easie if they got Glenbucket & his family first dispatcht, and that they did not doubt of success'.
Endorsed by recipient: `Dalraines letter about the murdering minded Mcphersons in Badanach (1724) to be carried to London'
1724 June 20, July 4
Letters [2] from lord Carpenter, London, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Count Bothmer is to speak to the Duke of Roxburghe and the king about the proclamation; need to outlaw the persons accused first.
1724 June 30
Printed signet letters against those concerned in attempt on Glenbucket's life [lists them], giving details of the attempt.
1724 July 29.
[Incomplete] to [Alexander, duke of Gordon].
Glenbucket's process; the fugitation eventually unanimously gone into; petition then presented in Glenbucket's name; dispute between Lords Dun and Royston; `My Lord Advocat is now very keen for Glenbucket and assures him of his freindship in this matter but tho he has been offered more gold severall times he would never accept of it'; arrival of General Wade and Colonel Guest; Glenbucket is to meet the latter.
1724 August 2 or 11.
James Gordon, Keirnmeanach, to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
A stolen mare, taken from George Dumbreck in Fochabers; General Wade has been staying with Glenbucket; he is to view all the barracks and garrisons in the north; Glenbucket is with him; expects Wade will visit recipient, tho he refused an invitation from Killiehuntly; cows.
undated
Letter from John Gordon of Glenbucket to Alexander, duke of Gordon.
Attempt on writer's life; suggests that recipient should acquaint Brigadier Preston with the case and ask for protection from Ruthven barracks.
undated
Draft letters [perhaps from Alexander, duke of Gordon, to Lord Carpenter or General Wade].
Attempt on Glenbucket's life.
undated
Copy petition to the king of Alexander, duke of Gordon, asking that Macphersons involved in attempt on Glenbucket may be excepted from any proposed general pardon and act of grace.
1725
Petition to Alexander, duke of Gordon, of Alexander, John, Donald, Angus, Lachlan, Elias, William, Alexander and John Macphersons, late possessors and inhabitants in recipient's country of Badenoch, now fugitives, asking him to consent to their getting a pardon by means of General Wade.
1725 October 4.
Alexander, Duke of Gordon, Gordon Castle, to [General Wade]. Draft.
A formal and respectful letter; writer surprised by finding that some unspecified people have so much influence as to hope for royal favour; recipient is a friend to Scotland; writer cannot imagine that he will interest himself to get murderers pardoned [for attempting to murder Glenbucket]; writer is positive that these men would have murdered writer if they could to gain their ends; wishes the letter to remain secret, except to Colonel Guest.
1725 November 12
Petition of Alexander, duke of Gordon, to General Wade, asking that those guilty of attempt on Glenbucket's life may be brought to trial.
1727 December 28.
John Gordon [of Glenbucket], Edinburgh, to [Alexander, duke of Gordon].
Gives names of the McPhersons who came to writer's house with intention of murdering him; wishes to be upsides with them; Locheil's letter; expresses doubts about Bailie Chalmers; `your Grace may depend if I thought my weak endeavour could have been of any use at this juncture I would [have] wentred the old corps to London or elsewhere I could be of use & iff I fell by the way it were possible look back I should be so farr from groudging my fate that I should be proud of the honour of my waike indeavours.'
1728 January 15.
John Gordon of Glenbucket, Edinburgh, to [Alexander, duke of Gordon].
Gives an account of the assassination attempt on Friday 13 March 1724.
Very incomplete, unfortunately; only half the letter.
1728 September 17.
Duncan Forbes of Culloden, Culloden, to [Alexander, duke of Gordon].
Has taken deposition of Alexander McPherson concerning attempt upon Glenbucket's life.


Picture added on 22 February 2010 at 23:04
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History Texts

126 Cattle Rustling in the Glen88 1696 Poll Book Belnacraig87 Original 1696 Poll Book91 Wandering in the Highlands 188185 Sketch of 'Old Glenbucket' about 174575 Peatfold70 New Statistical Account of Strathdon 184571 Descendants of the Great Glenbucket69 My First Detachment -The Glenbucket Inn4 St Margarets Chronicle Free afternoon Glenbuchat