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Down Memory Lane: Grant clansmen of Glenmoriston and Glenurquhart who had fought for the Jacobite cause at Culloden were tricked into surrender by a treacherous clan chief Ludovic Grant

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Loch Ness.
Loch Ness.

Bill McAllister on how a group of Jacobite fighters were transported halfway around the world after they proved too trusting.

They were marched in chains from the town centre to the harbour to set sail for a life of slavery in the West Indies, victims of a gross act of betrayal 275 years ago last week.

The Grant clansmen of Glenmoriston and Glenurquhart were lured to Inverness on a false promise from their own clan chief, Ludovic Grant of Castle Grant on Speyside.

More than a fortnight earlier, these men of Loch Ness-side had fought for the Jacobite cause at Culloden.

Ludovic Grant, aspiring to be a baron at the Scottish exchequer court, had urged his clan to stay out of the battle. But fight they did, with 30 of them dying on Drumossie Moor.

After the defeat the fugitive clansmen feared retribution and were thus relieved to receive a message from Ludovic Grant, who said he had been in touch with the Duke of Cumberland who had given him an assurance. They were instructed to congregate at Inverness on May 4 and, on handing over their weapons, would be allowed to return home.

In all, 84 men responded to their chief’s proposal and arrived in Inverness.

They were surrounded by troops, disarmed and marched down to Citadel Quay, where they were put on board The Dolphin, no cute mammal-spotting cruise off Chanonry Point but a prison transport vessel of the kind in which 400 Jacobite prisoners would die en route.

The Loch Ness men arrived at Tilbury Docks, were convicted of treason and transferred to another ship, the Primula, which took them to Barbados and a grim existence toiling in the baking sun.

Within three years of setting sail, only 18 Loch Ness men still survived, with just seven getting to see Scotland again.

They thought that “Butcher” Cumberland had betrayed them. Instead, their clan chief had written to Cumberland saying the group had surrendered without any terms and his Highness could dispose of them “as he saw fit”.

One of the unfortunate band was Donald Mackay, who escaped from Barbados by stowing away on a ship to Jamaica, working as a planter there for several years while saving for the journey home to Glenurquhart where he was eventually reunited with his wife and family who had feared him dead.

Another escapee was Alexander Grant who would make it back to Glenmoriston in 1748, followed two years later by his brother Donald.

Following the betrayal of the Grants, Kingston’s Light Horse regiment ravaged Glenurquhart, carrying out reprisals for Culloden.

After escaping from Skye, Prince Charles Edward Stuart was discovered in the Loch Ness hills by what became known as The Seven Men of Glenmoriston. Their land and property burned by Hanoverian troops, they were outlaws led by “Black Peter” Grant.

The Stuart prince had not eaten in 48 hours but they took him to their cave and fed him mutton, cheese and whisky and he spent several weeks as their guest until a messenger brought the news that a French ship was in Loch Arkaig to rescue him. On leaving, Charles shook the seven men by the hand – and one, Hugh Chisholm, always gave a left handed handshake in future, as his right hand had touched the Prince.

Charles’s farewell tribute: “Kings and Princes must be ruled by their privy council, but I believe there is not in all the world a more absolute privy council than what I have at present.”

These seven men never regained their land and, ironically, “Black Peter” served in the British Army in America and ended up as a Chelsea Pensioner. Ludovic Grant died in bed 27 years after his treachery.

• Sponsored by Ness Castle Lodges.

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