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Battle of Inverurie - 1745

Cairn Marking the Site of the Battle of Inverurie

23rd December 1745 when 1100 Jacobites defeated 500 Hanoverian troops in what was to be the third-last battle to be fought on British soil.

Lord Lewis Gordon had been raising Jacobite forces and had managed to create two battalions. James Moir of Stoneywood commanded one battalion and Gordon of Abbachy commanded the other. Lord Lewis Gordon had also raised a considerable sum of money, although his views were thwarted by his brother, the Duke of Gordon who then supported the British Government.

The Laird of Grant fearing for his own territory decided to return home with all of his forces and George Munro of Culcairn held post at a safe place called Old Meldrum.  Laird MacLeod however thought otherwise, he advanced and occupied the town of Inverurie 16 miles north-west of Aberdeen.  Lord Lewis Gordon on hearing of MacLeod's incautious movement was determined to attack his opponent.  Lord Lewis Gordon moved from Aberdeen on 23 December with 1,100 men and 5 pieces of cannon which had been taken off a ship in the harbour. With the main body of his army he crossed the Brig o’ Balgownie and took the route by  Fintray up the left bank of the river, while he sent a detachment of 300 men, French and others, by the Tyrebagger Road, the main road to Inverurie, so as to deceive the Macleods with their real intentions.  At about four o'clock in the afternoon the French party, who had marched by the right bank of the River Don dashed into the river and waded across. They then attacked the Macleods on the south-west side of Inverurie.  Lord Lewis Gordon then immediately crossed the River Urie on the east side of the town near Inverurie Parish Church, (The Auld Kirk of Inverurie) now known as St Andrew's Parish Church, Inverurie, and attacked the town from there where the Macleods were taken completely by surprise.  The MacLeods opened fire from the ditches and from behind walls, but were outnumbered, and being vigorously pressed, they gave way and retreated, and were pushed back to Elgin.  The chief of the MacLeods gathered his men, and while retreating, fought by the moonlight.

MacCruiminMany of MacLeod's men were killed, and about fifty were taken prisoner, including two of his main allies who were a Gordon, the younger son of Gordon of Ardoch and Forbes of Echt. Also taken prisoner was John Chalmers, formerly Principal and Professor of King's College, Aberdeen. Most of the MacLeods including their chief retreated safely back to their own country.  Another man taken prisoner by the Jacobites was Duncan Ban MacCrimmon who was said to be the greatest of all Highland Pipers. As a mark of respect the Jacobite Pipers refused to play until he was released. The silence of the Jacobite pipers ensured his release and Duncan Ban rejoined the Government Hanoverians.

DONALD BAN MacCRIMMON of Borreraig, born c.1710.  According to a family tradition he was an ardent supporter of the Stuart cause and, just before the MacLeod clansmen were raised, he secretly composed a salute to hail the coming of Prince Charles Edward.  the story of MacCrimmon's Lament is recorded in a manuscript which belonged to the late Mr. Brodie Innes of Forres and was published in the London Scottish Regimental Gazette of Apr. 1911. The MacCrimmon's remarkable gift of second sight was also possessed by Patrick MacCaskill, a farmer of Scandinavian descent and a friend of MacCrimmon.  On 16 Feb. 1746 he met Donald Ban, a tall and finely built man, in the street of Inverness a few hours before the latter's death at the Route of Moy.  As they parted MacCaskill saw the piper all at once contracted to the bigness of a boy of five or six years old, and immediately, with the next look, resume his former size.  Donald Ban, who was presumably a widower at the time of the Route of May, had a daughter who married a MacDonald from the mainland.

From a sodden hilltop in a remote corner of one of the most remote areas in western Europe - the Isle of Skye, the MacCrimmon pipers brought the world their enduring legacy, Piobaireachd.  The classical music of the Highland bagpipe was most likely developed by this family of musical geniuses who served the MacLeods of Dunvegan for over three hundred years in unbroken succession.  The curse of the MacCrimmons was Dupuytrens Contracture.

Reverend John Bisset's Diary 1745
The writer of this Diary was one of the ministers of St. Nicholas Church in Aberdeen from 1728 to 1756.  He had previously been minister of the Parish of New Machar from 1717 till the time of his removal to Aberdeen.  During the rising in 1745-46, he wrote down, in the shape of a Diary, whatever public occurrences happened under his own eye, together with the reports of events in other quarters, as they reached him. He also made extracts of considerable length from the newspapers of the day, but although he transmitted the Diary to his friend, the Reverend Robert Willox, minister of Echt, yet, from the repeated intimations to that gentleman which occur throughout the Diary, that he would require the whole correspondence to be returned to him, it is evident that his principal design was to preserve an account of those troubled times for his own use.


In 1715, the Chevalier de St George was proclaimed at Aberdeen by the Earl Marischal, and soon after the Earl of Mar sent to demand a contribution of £2000 from the town, for the support of the Pretender's army, but of this only about 1/2 was paid. In December of the same year, the Pretender having landed at Peterhead, passed through Aberdeen on his way to Fetteresso, where he was met by several of the nobles attached to his cause. Although the magistrates at this time were on his side, the town's people generally seem to have been afraid to commit themselves, and he received no effectual aid from Aberdeen.

In 1745, Prince Charles having landed in the West Highlands, Sir John Cope marched with the Royal Army to Inverness to oppose him, but he having gone southward, Sir John returned and came to Aberdeen in September, from whence he took shipping; and in November Lord Lewis Gordon, the Prince's Lord Lieutenant for Aberdeen and Banff, came to Aberdeen, and took possession of the town. Soon after, the Laird of Macleod was sent by the Earl of Loudon with about 200 men to drive the rebels from the town, but he was defeated in a skirmish near Inverurie, and the town continued to be occupied by the rebels until February 1746, when it was evacuated on the approach of the Royal Army under the Duke of Cumberland. His Royal Highness reached Aberdeen on the 27th February, and remained in the town till the 8th April. [The Duke during his stay in Aberdeen resided in Provost Skene's house which was later used as the House of Refuge (Victoria Lodge).] A part of the Royal Army returned to Aberdeen after the battle of Culloden; and the citizens not being so alert in illuminating their houses as some of the officers thought they should have been, they ordered the soldiers to break the windows, which was accordingly done; but the magistrates resented this aggression, and imprisoned 1 or 2 of the officers. Ultimately the matter was accommodated by the officers paying about £60 for the damage done.

Engraving of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, by William Hogarth, 25 August 1746.

This engraving of Simon Fraser is taken from a live sketch drawing by the famous satirist William Hogarth. In the summer of 1746 Hogarth was allowed to visit Fraser, who was being held prisoner at the White Hart Inn at St Albans just outside London. Fraser was on the final leg of his long journey to the capital to await his trial for treason.

King's College also provided a haven for Jacobitism, though some figures associated with the college were less than consistent in their political principles. Simon Fraser of Lovat, who graduated with a MA from King's in 1683, was universally perceived to be an untrustworthy rogue. An opportunistic supporter of the Hanoverians in 1715, he sided with the Jacobites in 1745-6. Executed for treason in 1747, aged 80, he was the last person to be publicly beheaded in Britain.

Robert Paterson, Principal of Marischal College, was another Jacobite who nurtured loyalty to the Stuarts through patronage of the local arts and an ambitious refurbishment of the college.  George Peacock at Marischal College sometime between 1706 and 1708. Peacock's Jacobite sympathies resulted in his dismissal during the purge of college professors that followed in the wake of the failed 1715 rising. One of William of Orange's most prominent advisers, Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, was a graduate of Marischal. In 1711 Burnet fostered the college's loyalty to the Protestant and British constitution by awarding a number of bursaries to ensure students received the correct training in political and religious principles.

Despite these attempts to generate loyalty to the Union, neither King's nor Marischal enjoyed a favourable reputation with the British authorities. Both were considered to be ideological and intellectual centres of Jacobitism; so much so that in the aftermath of the 1715 rising there were suggestions that the 2 institutions should be forcibly united.

Burnet graduated from Marischal College in 1657. A generous benefactor to its library, he also sought to enhance his alma mater's loyalty to the Union by cultivating learning and the arts. His portrait formed part of the rehabilitation of Marischal College after the 1715 rising. King's College alumnus James Fraser (MA 1664) achieved renown in London as a procurer of books for the libraries of the aristocracy and the Royal family. A political pragmatist, his service to the monarchy continued unbroken through the period of transition from the Stuarts to William & Mary, and then to Queen Anne. Fraser's acceptance of the 1707 Union and the Hanoverian regime was to bring an intellectual dividend to King's College, particularly in the wake of the 1715 rising. King's commemorated Fraser's donation of rare books and funding for buildings, including reconstruction of the library, by awarding him an honorary Doctorate and commissioning a portrait, which was painted in London.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013