Journal of the Clan Chattan Association VOL VIII -- No. 4, 1986,


10 -- Historians of the Macphersons (Part 4)

Sir Aeneas Macpherson (continued)

by Dr Alan G. Macpherson

      During this part of Sir Aeneas' ordeal (viz. his incarceration in the Edinburgh tolbooth, "One of the coarsest and nastiest jailes in Brittan") "the unhappy surprize at Cromdell" (The Battle on the Haughs of Cromdale) occurred, on the 1st May 1690, in which the Clan Mhuirich lost some twenty-five men, including his half-uncle William b&agrace;n McPherson, and Duncan of Clunie was taken prisoner. Neville Payne was also arrested in May, at Dumfries, while contacting Jacobite supporters in the Borders. He was brought into Edinburgh on the 31st May, and was initially housed under guard at Mrs Abigael Gibb's inn on the Canongate, where Sir Aeneas was among several prominent Jacobites held there. He immediately attempted to obtain bail for his friend, and when that failed, tried to arrange for his escape. Payne, however, was moved into strict custody in Edinburgh Castle, where he remained. Two months later, Sir Aeneas was in company with Jacobite gentlemen -- evidently having some license to move about within the city -- when he learned that his old adversary, Sir John Dalrymple, now William's Lord Advocate and one of his Secretaries of State for Scotland, had succeeded in persuading the Scottish Privy Council to authorise the application of torture to Payne the next day, 5th August, at three in the afternoon. Sir Aeneas was Payne's only friend in the city, and he acted promptly and effectively. An anonymous and life-threatening note was found in Sir John's keyhole that morning, accusing him of bringing "men of quality to torture under a Government that justlie values itself upon reforming all abuses of that kind, .... to drive matters to extremity". The letter was seriously considered by the Privy Council, and Payne's ordeal was deferred until the King's will could be known. William's will became known on the 18th November, and Payne was subjected to severe torture in the Castle on the 1Oth and 11th December. In the interval Sir Aeneas was engaged in reassuring correspondents among the English Jacobites that Payne had not betrayed them. After his friend's ordeal Aeneas was "cag'd up" again for fifteen weeks, presumably in the tolbooth.

      This stricter incarceration occurred at a time when he had "scarce recovered of a tedious and dangerous disease whereof my physicians and the churchmen who attended me concluded I should have dyed". Despite repeated attempts on the part of friends in the


city and certificates from his doctors expressing the fear that further imprisonment would endanger his life, he did not obtain what he called his "enlargement" until forced to petition for aliment or his liberty. In April 1691 he was "set at liberty upon sufficient baile" and given a pass which allowed him "to go to my own Country in the Highlands for my Health".

      He was free for two months, during which time his health returned sufficiently to permit him to engage in political activities among the Highlanders which were related somehow to the Earl of Breadalbane's negotiations with the chiefs on behalf of the Williamite government to bribe them into submission. Breadalbane's scheme, which had been ongoing for a year when Sir Aeneas was released, collapsed in the months of his short-lived freedom, largely owing to Breadalbane's political duplicity. The Knight of Invereshie's part in this is obscure, but was evidently suspicious enough to bring about his second arrest in Edinburgh on the 26th May 1691. He was examined by the Privy Council that afternoon, "in respect his pass is one of ane old date, [to discover] if he has acted anything against the government since the granting of his pass". He was then to be returned to the house of Mistress Abigael Gibbs in the Canongate from the Edinburgh guardhouse and placed under a sentinel who was forbidden "to suffer any persone to have access to the said Sir Aeneas except only one phisician for his health's sake, untill he be called before the Counsell or their committee and examined". In fact he remained under close guard in the house of Corporal Robert Broune in the Old Town until the 2nd June, by which time he had been examined again in an attempt to make him incriminate Breadalbane - now under arrest -- by turning evidence against him. This he refused to do, even under threat of torture, to which latter he responded with his splendidly argued Address and Remonstrance against the torture To the Commission and Council of Scotland, penned in the tolbooth. In it he stated that he "was never in armes against the Government, but on the contrarie imployed my interest to reduce those that were". Later, when he was obliged to vindicate himself against Jacobite insinuations concerning his role in the torture of Payne and his transactions with the clans, in which he was alleged to have used his influence "to persuade them to a submission to the present Government", he stated that he "had no accession to the submission of the Clanns, but with evidence abundante, the quite contrary . . .." The "evidence abundante", however, comes from the next phase in his career as a Jacobite, and could have no bearing upon his activities in the spring of 1691. Nevertheless, the two statements are not necessarily contradictory. On the 25th June "the captaines of the guairds of the Canongate or Abbey of Hally-


rudehouse" were ordered "to remove the sentinells from off the said Sir Aeneas McPherson, advocat", he to live peaceably under penalty. On the 16th July he petitioned the Privy Council for permission to leave the country, and received an Act of Banishment.       His first act on regaining his freedom was, apparently, to return to the Highlands. At any rate we find him at Armadale in Skye, the principal seat of the chief of Clan Donald North, in company with Major-General Cannon, one of the Jacobite commanders-in-chief in the Highlands, on the 13th October. On the 19th October he was at Eilandonan in Lochalsh conferring with Col. Colin MacKenzie and Col. Patrick Stewart of Ballechan, and on the 24th he was with Alexander McDonell, chief of the Macdonalds of Glengarry, and Maj. Andrew Scott at Glengarry. November is a blank, but he was at Clunie with his own chief on the 1st December. On that day he drew up the terms of a "Mutual Contract of Friendship betwixt Glengarrie and Clunie" which in essence established a confederacy of the two clans. It was signed by Duncan of Clunie, William McPherson of Nuid, and Sir Aeneas McPherson "as burden bearer for Inveressie (now off the kingdome)". Twelve days later he was back at Glengarry Castle to get Glengarry's signature and to confer with Maj. Gen. Thomas Buchan, the second Jacobite commander-in-chief. As he moved through the Highlands he collected letters for transmission to the Jacobite court at Germain-en-Laye near Paris, many of which gave accreditation to him as a loyal Jacobite and refuted the rumours of his involvement with Breadalbane's scheme. By early January 1692 he was back in Badenoch, where he received a letter from Buchan, addressed to "Mr Williamson at I. " [Invereshie?], intimating that Glengarry was ready to accept a "capitolation" similar to those obtained by Cameron of Lochiel and MacDonell of Keppoch, and that the two major-generals and the other officers were willing to withdraw abroad if allowed to do so by the Government. He adds: "Ther ar stille complents; duming against youe for your coraspondans with my lord Mellville"; a last reference to the background to Breadalbane's negotiations.

      Early in 1692 he seems to have made his way to London, presumably on his way to France, but possibly to await a French landing in England rumoured for the spring. He was immediately apprehended and held for a further seven months in a messenger's house, and eventually obliged to subscribe to a further Act of Banishment similar to the Scottish one. He arrived in France via Harwich, a controversial figure among the bickering factions at the exiled court, and was apparently detained at Dunkirk. Here, or at St Germain, he wrote The Vindication of Sir Aeneas Macpherson .... against the Cavvills of some evile and malicious


accusors in a letter to John Drummond, Earl of Melfort, the Jacobite Secretary of State for Scotland, in which he claimed to have stiffened the resolve of the chiefs, recruited some who had been neutral, and replaced a detachment of Macphersons with a regiment with Clunie as colonel. It resulted in his being placed on the Jacobite establishment with a paltry pension of 400 livres per annum, while -- as he mentioned in his Memorial to the King -- "it sinks me much to see men of no greater character nor capacity have eight, some 1200 livres a year". His wife, son and daughter had been left in Scotland or London "to the mercie and discreation of the Government" to be maintained by his debtors by advances of 50 pounds sterling a year for three years.

      Four years later, in the spring of 1697, when the negotiations for peace between France and the Maritime Powers of England and Holland had begun at Rijswijk, they were living in penury, unsupported and starving, which occasioned his Memorial to the King. They must have joined him shortly thereafter.

      That same year his nephew, Elias [Gillies] McPherson of Invereshie, died while serving as an officer in the army of the States-General of Holland in Flanders, leaving Sir Aeneas head of the family, nominally Laird of the Estate of Invereshie, and leading man of the Sliochd Ghilliosa Macphersons. He was given leave by his liege lord to leave St Germain and return to Scotland to claim the estate, sailing with wife and daughter from Rouen on a Stockton vessel early in 1698. He disembarked at the Tees and sent them on to Edinburgh to petition the Privy Council to rescind the act of banishment, while he himself sailed to London, to await the result of his petition. His eldest surviving son, meantime, remained at St Germain at the behest of the exiled monarchs.

      Months lengthened into years while he lurked in London, living "in great want and miserie", until March 1702 when Queen Anne signed the Act of Grace and General Indemnitie that permitted Jacobites to emerge from hiding and return home. During this interval his mind turned back to his chief and his clan, and he wrote The Loyall Dissuasive, an antiquarian polemic in which he offered "Resolute Advyce. . . to the Laird of Cluny in Badenoch" against his making any agreement with McIntosh on the matter of "the Chieftainrie of the Clanchattan". The treatise, which was completed in London on the 13th July 1701, is addressed to "The Right Honourable The Laird of Cluny McPherson, Chief of the Clanchattan". Besides the antiquarian speculations on the origin of the Clanchattan and the Clann Mhuirich, it contains many items of historical value, some of which have been used in this biography. The Loyall Dissuasive must have become well-known to the younger generation of his clansmen, for in one aspect its advice was


effective: "For the future make no family allyance with the McIntoshes . . . give none of your daughters . . . avoid marrying any of [your] sons to the daughters of that family" [clan]. Bizarre as this might appear today, there were virtually no marriages between Macphersons and Mackintoshes in Badenoch for the next century and a half, although they had been common in the earlier period.

      In 1701, too, he supplied Jeremy Collier with an article on "McPherson" for his Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical and Poetical Dictionary. This, too, owes more to his Farquharson and Shaw mentors than to the traditions of the Macpherson senachies, and it is not surprising under the circumstances in which it and the Loyall Dissuasive were written that they are also inconsistent.

      Although the Act of Grace meant that Sir Aeneas could "with freedom and safety return to his native Countrie", his poverty was such that he was obliged to petition the Queen for help. This we learn from his appeal to the Duke of Buckingham, the Lord Privy Seal, for his support, "so as that something may be ordered for him to fit him for his journey". This he is accomplished later in 1702 or early in 1703. But whether he proceeded immediately to Badenoch is unclear. On the 2nd May 1704 he wrote from Edinburgh to an unnamed cousin, possibly William MacIain Og McPherson in Corriearnisdale, intimating that he had sent a letter of complaint of the same date to the Duke of Gordon, that he intended to see the Duke, either in Edinburgh or at Gordon Castle, by the middle of June, and, if in Edinburgh, that he would then meet his cousin in Badenoch by the end of June. It is probable that none of these intentions became fact. He was in Edinburgh on the 12th September 1704, the day when he completed A Supplement to the former Dissuasive, written in response to critical remarks on The Dissuasive by his son-in-law, Sir John McLean. He was still in Edinburgh on the 10th December, when he finished writing The Patron turned Persecutor, a stinging review of the ill-treatment he and his clan had received from George, the first Duke of Gordon.

      Eventually he made his way to Badenoch, "where at first he recovered his health to admiration; but being denyed the benefite of any of the two best houses of the family [Invereshie and Killihuntly], he was confined to a sad quarters in a farmer's house, both cold and moist to extremitie; which altered the habits of his body and in March 1705 flung him in so many distempers that he shortlie after dyed of them". His last request was "That none be-west Tromie or be-east Feshie -- the marches of his paternal estate and fortune, where none lived but his own poor tennents and farmers -- should be called to his buriall". For, as he explained, "the King his master denyed to be buried but as a gentleman [James II died at St Germain on the 5th September 1701], and it


might very well serve him to be buried as a ploughman". During the few remaining months of good health, however, he had endeavoured to bring his Sliochd nan Triuir Bhraithrean or Genealogy of the McPhersons up-to-date (it includes Lachlan of Nuide's marriage to Jean Cameron of Lochiel in 1704), and it seems unlikely that Badenoch stayed away. He died, aged about sixty-one, on the 28th June 1705, "praying heartily for his enemies and his rightfull Soveraigne's restoration", and was buried in the Kirk of Insh with his ancestors.

      There seems to be nothing further recorded of his wife, Margaret Scrymgeour, whom he described in his Memorial to the King as "a constant and willing sharer of my sufferings for your Majestie", a description which he also applied to his children. The Sliochd nan Triuir Bhraithrean acknowledges that he had had a bastard son prior to marriage called Angus, who would have been about thirty when his father returned to die. It also records three children of the marriage: Duncan, James, and Mary. Of these Mary was probably the eldest, for she returned to St Germain while her father was hiding in London to marry Sir John MacLean of Duart. A daughter Louise was baptised at the exiled court on the 8th November 1702, and a son, the later Sir Hector MacLean, was born at Calais in November 1703, eleven days before the little family crossed in a little boat to Folkestone to return to Scotland. They were late in availing themselves of the Act of Grace, and Sir John was held for some time in the Tower of London. Eventually he obtained a substantial pension from Queen Anne, and the family divided its time between London and Duart.

      Duncan, named by Sir Aeneas to honour his chief, was probably the eldest son who "upon the morrow after he was seased [in London in 1689 sickened (upon the apprehension of his father's danger) and was a moneth buried before he knew his sickness". James, as eldest surviving son, was left at St Germain in the care of King James and his Queen in 1698, probably as a companion to Prince James. He came of age in 1714 and made an attempt to recover the Invereshie estate from his father's cousin, John McPherson of Dalradie. Poverty, however, forced him to drop the case and to accept a commission in the army. It is probable, though not certain, that he was the captain of grenadiers among the Spanish officers who surrendered after Culloden in 1746 and were deported to the continent under parole. John McPherson of Inverhall, his uncle William of Glenfeshie's grandson, in submitting material for Douglas of Glenbervie's Baronage of Scotland, (1766), indicates that Sir Aeneas' "only son died a colonel in Spain, without issue". The representation of the Sliochd Ghilliosa devolved upon John of Inverhall, while the estate was retained by John McPherson of Dalraddie. Admiration of Clann Mhuirich stayed with Sir Aeneas.


Return to the AGM Menu Page