54°53′42″N 2°56′02″W / 54.895°N 2.934°W / 54.895; -2.934

Appin Murder
Part of the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745

Memorial to James Stewart of the Glens who was wrongly convicted and executed for the Appin murder
Date14 May 1752
Wood of Lettermore near Duror, Appin, Scotland
Result Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure killed
James Stewart executed
Allan Stewart exiled
Kingdom of Great Britain British Government Jacobites
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure Allan Breck Stewart
Casualties and losses
Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure killed James Stewart executed
Allan Stewart exiled

The Appin Murder (Scottish Gaelic: Murt na h-Apainn[1]) was the assassination, in retaliation for his role in the Highland Clearances, of Colin Roy Campbell, the Clan Campbell tacksman of Glenure, on 14 May 1752 near Appin in the west of Scotland. The murder occurred in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rising of 1745 and led to the execution of James Stewart of the Glens, often characterized as a notorious miscarriage of justice.[2] The murder inspired events in Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel Kidnapped and its sequel Catriona. [2]

Victim edit

Statue of Allan Stewart (left) and the fictional David Balfour (right), from Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, on Corstorphine Rd in Edinburgh

Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure (1708-1752), nicknamed "The Red Fox", was the government-appointed factor to the forfeited lands of the Clan Stewart of Appin in north Argyllshire. During the Highland Clearances in the aftermath of the rising of 1745 and in violation of dùthchas, the principle that clan members had an inalienable right to live in their clan's territory, Campbell had ordered several mass evictions of members of Clan Stewart and their replacement by members of Clan Campbell.[3] On 14 May 1752, while on the way to enforce another mass eviction, Campbell was shot in the back by a marksman in the wood of Lettermore near Duror.[2]

While fictional versions of the Appin Murder have Campbell accompanied by a body of regular soldiers, contemporary accounts refer only to three mounted companions. One of these was his nephew Mungo Campbell, a lawyer. While a single shot was heard by these witnesses two wounds were reportedly found in Colin Campbell's body. Slouching on his horse Colin Campbell cried out “Oh, I am dead - take care of yourselves". Mungo Campbell close by the victim, sighted a figure on a hill at some distance, in dark clothing and carrying a musket.

Shortly before his murder, Colin Roy Campbell was mentioned by Jacobite poet Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair in his Anti-Whig satire An Airce. In the poem, the ghost of a beheaded Jacobite prophesies that his Campbell clansmen will soon be punished for committing high treason against their lawful king. Ironically, Colin is one of the few Whigs for whom the ghost confesses a certain respect:

Ge toil leam Cailean Glinn Iubhair
B' fheàrr leam gu 'm b' iubhar 's nach b' fheàrna;
Bho 'n a threig e nàdur a mhuinntreach,
'S gann a dh' fhaodar cuim thoirt dà-san.
Cuir boiseid de ionmhas Righ Deorsa,
De smior an òir mu theis-meadhon;
'S ìobair e 'Neptun ge searbh e,
Mur grad-ainmich e 'n righ dlighneach.
"Though Colin of Glenure I much esteem,
Would that he was not alder but true yew;
Since he forsook the allegiance of his sires,
To be reprieved is not his due.
"A girdle of the treasure of King George
Of finest gold around his middle fling,
And to Neptune offer him, though hard,
Unless at once he name the rightful King".[4]

Trial edit

The search for the killer targeted the Clan Stewart. The chief suspect, Alan Breck Stewart having fled, James Stewart of the Glens, the tanist of the Stewarts, was arrested for the crime and tried for the murder[2] in a trial dominated by the pro-Hanoverian Clan Campbell: the chief (Scottish Gaelic: MacCailein Mòr) Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll was the presiding judge and the 15-man jury contained Campbell clansmen.[2] Although the trial showed that James had a solid alibi, he was found guilty "in airts and pairts" (as an accessory before the fact; or an aider and abetter).[5]

James Stewart was hanged on 8 November 1752 on a specially commissioned gibbet above the narrows at Ballachulish, now near the south entrance to the Ballachulish Bridge. He died protesting his innocence, lamenting that people of the ages may think him capable of a horrid and barbarous murder. Before mounting the scaffold, James of the Glens drew upon the tradition of Reformed worship in the Gàidhealtachd and sang the Metrical version of the 35th Psalm in Scottish Gaelic:

"False witnesses rose; to my charge things I not knew they laid. They, to the spoiling of my soul, me ill for good repaid." ~Psalm 35

To this day in the Highlands, it remains known as "The Psalm of James of the Glens".

Similarly to the usual practice after the hanging of pirates, James of the Glens' corpse was left hanging at what is now the south end of the Ballachulish Ferry for eighteen months as a warning to other Clans with rebellious intentions. Over those months, it was beaten and battered by winds and rain. As it deteriorated, his skeletal remains were held together with chains and wire.[6][7][8]

Recent scholarship edit

In Walking With Murder: On The Kidnapped Trail (2005), Ian Nimmo has addressed the mystery of who shot Colin Campbell, applying modern police methods to the documents in the case, including two post-mortem reports. According to Nimmo, Alan Stewart did not pull the trigger, and the secret of who did has been handed down through the Stewart family for 250 years. Nimmo chose not to reveal it, stating that "it is not mine to give away".[9]

In 2001, Amanda Penman, an 89-year-old descendant of the Clan Chiefs of the Stewarts of Appin, alleged the murder had been planned by four young Stewart tacksmen without the sanction of James of the Glens. There was a shooting contest among them and the assassination was committed by the best marksman among the four, Donald Stewart of Ballachulish.[6][10] According to some accounts, Donald desperately wanted to turn himself in rather than allow James to hang and had to be physically held down to prevent this. Several years after James's execution, when the body was finally returned to the Stewart Clan for burial, Donald Stewart of Ballachulish was responsible for washing the bones before the Reformed funeral.[6]

In his 2004 examination of the evidence, Lee Holcombe also concluded that Donald Stewart of Ballachulish, rather than Allan Breck Stewart, is far more likely to have been the actual shooter.[6][10] However, he also concluded that James of the Glens, despite his eloquent denials, was indeed guilty of ordering the murder of Colin Campbell.[11]

Recent legal developments edit

There is a movement afoot to gain a pardon for James of the Glens. In 2008, Glasgow lawyer John Macaulay asked the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to reconsider the case on the grounds his study of the trial transcripts shows there was "not a shred of evidence" against Stewart.[2] but was denied due to the case being so old it was not in the interest of justice.[12] As of 2010, the application lies with the Scottish government.[2]

Notes edit

  1. ^ MacIlleathain, Ruairidh (2015). An Creanaiche: myself, Lee Oswald and the murder of JFK. NicEachairne, Màiri (Fictitious character). Dingwall, Ross-shire: Lasag Books. ISBN 978-1-910124-78-9. OCLC 944312200.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Auslan Cramb (14 November 2008). "18th Century murder conviction 'should be quashed'". The Daily Telegraph.
  3. ^ Hunter, James; Kennedy, Kate (3 September 2013). "The Appin Murder – Historical Context" (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. The Royal Society of Edinburgh 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  4. ^ MacDonald, Rev. A (1924). The Poems of Alexander MacDonald (Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair). Inverness: Northern Counties Newspaper and Print and Pub. Co. pp. 258–261.
  5. ^ Mackay, David N., ed. (1905–1915). Notable Scottish trials. James Stewart The Appin Murder. Glasgow and Edinburgh: William Hodge & Co. p. 288. OCLC 563059557. Archived from the original on 8 July 2021. Retrieved 14 August 2020. Alt URL
  6. ^ a b c d Lundy 2005.
  7. ^ "Scotland: Murder in Appin". The Independent. 2 June 2002. Archived from the original on 8 May 2022. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  8. ^ "The Appin Murder 1752". thesonsofscotland.co.uk. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  9. ^ Boztas 2005.
  10. ^ a b McMee 2004.
  11. ^ Holcombe 2004.
  12. ^ Commission rules against 18th century murder review, The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 9 December 2008

References edit

Further reading edit

See also edit

External links edit