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An Episode in the 'Fifteen' - A Raid by the MacGregors into the Vale of Leven

Edited by Peter Lawrie, from a summary published in the Glasgow Herald circa 1922
Thereafter follows the original account published by James Dennistoun in 1834 and the correspondence in the Wodrow Manuscript

{Mr Lowe writes in his fearure in The Herald] A description of this affair under the title of "The Loch Lomond Expedition" was published in 1834 by Mr James Dennistoun. The identity of the author is uncertain but he probably took part in the expedition himself as a strong Whiggamore partisan. "The MacGregors", he said, "and the devil are to be dealt with after the same manner".

[The original 1715 account used by Dennistoun's publication in 1834 was a contemporary account of the Rising by Patten and quoted in James Rae's Memoirs of the Insurrection in Scotland.

The text below is largely from the newspaper , but I have interpolated additional text in italics from the original which had been omitted from the Herald article.

Rather than create a composite account it is interesting to see the early 20th century journalist's summary of a 19th century account taken from an early 18th century anti-Jacobite book - which I have added in its entirity.

The Highland scenery and people were not viewed as romantic in 1715

Raid from Inversnaid
The MacGregors were as little friendly to the Stewart as they were to the Hanoverian dynasty, but the Earl of Mar who had raised the standard of James VIII at Braemar, was able to persuade Rob Roy, then at the height of his power, to give a general support to the Jacobite cause. The MacGregors and probably Rob Roy with them, were actually present at Sheriffmuir (November 1715) although they played a very minor part. The affair at Loch Lomond occured about a month previously.

On September 25th, the MacGregors without any warning, hurried down Loch Lomond from Inversnaid, and seized all the available boats on the Endrick Water. They next invaded the island of Inchmurrin, and passed thence to the South side of the Loch, going as far South as Bonhill. The Vale of Leven, thinly populated then compared with today, was thoroughly alarmed.

The various parish bells were violently rung, and this demonstration, seconded by the firing of two "great guns" from Dumbarton Castle, was sufficient to scare the invaders back to Inchmurrin. There they helped themselves to cattle and deer belonging to the Duke of Montrose, with whom they lived in constant feud, returned to Inversnaid, where they beached their captured boats, and made off to join the Earl of Mar, or perhaps lie in their vantage ground in Strathfillan. But they soon returned, and mustered in force above Inversnaid at a spot which has been long familiar with visitors to the Trossachs.

Army and small fleet assembled
The Lowlanders, both North and South of the Clyde were now in a state of mingled fear and indignation, and decided that something more than bell-ringing was required. Nothing less than an army and a small fleet was assembled. Paisley raised 120 men, Lord Kilmarnock's estate - he himself was with Mar - along with Ayr, Kilwinning and Stevenston, supplied another 420. Dumbartonshire produced recruits from Kilpatrick, Cardross, Row, and Rosneath. The little army thus collected was posted at Dumbarton and the large houses in the neighbourhood.

Shipping was the next consideration. No fewer than eleven boats, consisting of four pinnaces, three long boats, three "large boats" of Dumbarton, and a "large boat from Newport-Glasgow with two large screw-guns" were assembled at the quay of Dumbarton. Teams of horses were requisitioned to tow this flotilla up the Leven and soon all were safely afloat on Loch Lomond. [the boats were manned by 100 seamen from the ships of war lying in the Clyde]

As many men as possible were stowed on the boats. The remainder were placed under the command of John Campbell of Mamore, who was attended by "a fine train of the gentlemen of the shire". The whole expedition, both afloat and ashore then moved up the loch.

Thunderous gunfire
No attempt was made to surprise the MacGregors in their fastness. There was a great firing from the boats of small arms and "pateraroes (small guns) and the noise echoing among the mountains produced a lively resemblance to thunder."

Firing promiscuously outwith the presence of the enemy is no guarantee of valour, but the narrator entertained no doubts on this subject. They were, he said, brave men who nothing could dishearten, and he applauds the cheerfulness with which they volunteered for the expedition. "They were not forced to it, as the clans are by their masters and chiefs, who hack and butcher such as refuse to go along with them".

As we know, this was ludicrously untrue of the clans, but the mere statement reveals to us what barriers of superstition and hatred then separated the Highlands and Lowlands. The author himself, however, was quite able to admire the clansmen when they happened to be on the right side, for when the expedition was joined at Luss by Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, [and James Grant of Pluscarden, his son-in-law] the latter's followers were described in terms of admiration as being "40 to 50 stately fellows in their short hose and belted plaids, armed each of 'em with a well fix'd gun on his shoulder, a strong handsome target, with a sharp pointed steel, of more than half an ell in length, a sturdy claymore by his side, and a pistol or two with a dirk and knife on his belt."

The Colquhouns had good reason to dislike the MacGregors, for they had not forgotten the Glen Fruin massacre. But then every man's hand seemed to be against the MacGregors, with the possible exception of the Duke of Argyll, who on account of his enmity with the Duke of Montrose, lent some countenance to Rob Roy.

The Landing at Inversnaid
On October 13th the party reached "Innersnaat, the place of danger." The little fleet stood across the loch, but before a landing was attempted Captain Clark, who was acting as Admiral, fired one of the "screw guns" from the Port Glasgow boat. He made a lucky hit, for the ball went through the roof of a house on the cliff side, although it did nothing more than dislodge one or two old women.

Were the MacGregors concealed in force on the heights above? If so, a landing force would have run the risk at least as great as that incurred by Captain Thornton in "Rob Roy" at a spot no more than 12 miles distant. However, they resolved to risk it.

[The Paisley men and those of Dumbarton and several other companies to the number of 100 men, with the greatest intrepidity leapt upon the Shore] under the command of two military captains and two Dumbarton magistrates landed and climbed the height so aften scaled in later days by the Trossach coaches. Fortunately for them, the "execrable crew" had disappeared. having been frightened off, so the narrator thought, by the thunderous gunfire of the previous day.

[(They) stood a considerable time, beating their drums all the while, but no enemy appearing, they went away in quest of their boats which the Rebels had seized, and having casually lighted on some ropes, anchors and oars hid among the shrubs, at length they found the boats drawn up a good way upon the land, which they hurried down to the loch. Such as were not damaged they carried off with them, and such as were, they sunk or hewed in pieces.]

After an hour of noisy, but bloodless defiance, the little force withdrew, taking with them the boats which the MacGregors had captured. Next day they were all back in Dumbarton, and so ended the Loch Lomond Expedition, which a biographer of Rob Roy grandiloquently called the "Invasion of Craigroyston".

[At this time the MacGregors were 16 miles away in Strath Fillan where they had joined Stewart of Appin with 250 men, Sir John M'Lean with 400, M'Dougal of Lorn with about 50, and a part of Broadalbine's men, in all making up 2400 men. This force marched upon Inveraray and threatened the Campbell stronghold, but finding it strongly garrisoned under the Earl of Hay, the Duke's brother, they withdrew without having effected anything and dispersed."]

Left in Peace
Quite evidently the beauties of the Loch and the mountains made no appeal to the members of this expedition. They can hardly be blamed for this, when Dr Johnson, visiting the Highlands 58 years later, in the spirit of the modern tourist, seemed quite blind to its natural beauty.

Mountains were in fact then regarded not as objects of beauty at all but as ugly excresences on the fair face of nature. Probably we would take less pleasure to-day in the "bonnie banks" if we knew them to be inhabited by a set of men "utterly infamous for thieving, depredation, and murder" for so our Whig author thought them to be.

Loch Lomond was left in peace for the remainder of the campaign. The MacGregors subsequently made an expedition to Inveraray [see above] and and ultimately found their way to the battle ground of Sheriffmuir (November 13) where they played rather a supine part. Such is, at least, the testimony of Robert Patten, who wrote a History of the Rebellion in 1717, after having taken part therein.

More than a month after Sheriffmuir the chevalier himself landed at Peterhead, "a transient and embarassed phantom", soon to leave again for ever. The curse which had fallen on his unfortunate dynasty spared him even less than his father and his son.
Theodore D. Lowe [Glasgow Herald 1922]

The Loch Lomond Expedition of 1715

An Episode in the 'Fifteen' - A Raid by the MacGregors into the Vale of Leven

Edited for my website by Peter Lawrie,
taken from the original book in the Wodrow Collection






The following Account of the Lochlomond expedition, in 1715, has been reprinted from a tract preserved in the collection of the Revd. Robert Wodrow, which is now deposited in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates. Its extreme rarity is attested by the admission of Sir Walter Scott, in his introduction to the last edition of Rob Roy, that he had never seen a copy. That in the Wodrow collection is probably unique, at all events, after considerable inquiry, no other has been found.

The Account is dated from Dunbarton on the 15th of October, three days after the expedition, and on the title page the 19th is noted in Wodrow’s handwriting. Hence the details must have been given from recent impressions, and the raciness of the style renders it probable that they were written by one who had shared in the arduous enterprize which he so glowingly describes. That this narrative might have proceeded from the prolific pen of Mr. John Anderson, minister at Dunbarton, the zealous champion of Presbytery, was a suggestion that naturally offered itself; but several circumstances, and in particular the silence of Mr. Wodrow’s various correspondents,
to many of whom Mr. Anderson was well known, render this improbable. Mr. Wodrow however approved of and assisted in circulating the Account, as appears from a letter of his correspondent D. Erskine, dated the 22d of October, thanking him for a line “ with the Lochlomond Expedition.”

After the liberal use which has been made of this narrative by Peter Rae, the historian of the Rebellion, it may be doubted whether a reprint was required: but a production which Sir Walter Scott has pronounced “ delectable ” may be considered a desirable addition to our notices of Mar’s insurrection; at all events, it is hoped that to those interested in the immediate scene of this expedition, the present publication will be acceptable. In order to render it so, a variety of matter has been appended, of which the greater portion is now for the first time printed from the Wodrow Correspondence in the Advocates’ Library, a valuable mine as yet little explored. These selections
enable the reader to trace the Macgregors, (against whom the Lochlomond expedition was designed) from their first rising in arms, through a campaign in which they evidently engaged less from loyalty than love of plunder. Their repeated menaces and descents upon the Lennox, their rambling attack upon Inverary, and their predatory incursions upon the counties of Fife and Perth, are narrated by eye-witnesses, and are occasionally exhibited in amusing colors. In these transactions Rob Roy bears a conspicuous part, and some particulars regarding him are now for the first time supplied. That his objects were selfish, and his conduct most faithless throughout the insurrection, is proved by his own infamous confession, volunteered to General Wade. Two extracts, at p. 53, relate to that most remarkable feat of this privileged ruffian, the seizure of the factor and rents of the Duke of Montrose. The particulars of that daring act have been fully illustrated by original documents, published in the introduction and postscript to the last edition of Rob Roy.

Other sources as well as the Wodrow letters have been examined, and in particular the records of the county and burgh of Dunbarton. From these, some proceedings of the Commissioners of supply, and several items of Town council expenditure have been given. Most of the gentlemen of Dunbartonshire were at that time of whig principles, and consequently attached to the Hanoverian succession: the preponderance of the Argyll family in the county partly explains this tendency; and in the burgh that noble house had already established an influence which continued paramount for about a century after.
The names subscribed to the minutes of the Commissioners of supply include most of the resident heritors; of these, Mamore was ancestor of the present Duke of Argyll, and Ardoch is mentioned by Rae, pp. 203—229, as an active supporter of the established government. The Cochrans of Kilmaronock and the Dennistouns of Colgrain were perhaps the only county families who then professed episcopalian doctrines, and favored the pretensions of the Stuarts.

Camis Eskan,




Some Short Reflections

ON THE PERTH Manifesto

Ezek. 17. v. 18. Seing he despised the Oath, by breaking the Covenant, When lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, He shall not escape.
Nullane perjuri Capitis, fraudisque nefandae Poenae erit? — Juv, Sat. 13.

GLASGOW Printed 1715.


The Clan-Gregiour is a race of men so utterly infamous for thieving, depredation, and murder, that, after many acts of the councel of Scotland against them, at length, in the reign of King Charles I., the Parliament made a strict Act suppressing the very name. Upon the Restauration, viz. in the year 1661, when the reins were given to all licentiousness, and loyalty, as it was then call'd, was thought sufficient to compound for all wickedness, that act was rescinded. But, upon the late happy Revolution, when the nation began to recover her senses, some horrid barbarities having been committed by that execrable crew, under the leading of one Robert Roy Mc Gregiour, yet living, and at this present in arms against His Majesty K. George. The Parliament under K. William and Q. Mary annulled the said Act rescissory, and revived the former penal Act against them.

This Act is still continuing in force; but upon hopes given them, as ’tis said, by the E. of Mar, of having that brand of infamy taken of ’em, and getting their name restor’d, on condition they would appear for the Pretender; about the end of September last, they broke out into open rebellion under the conduct of Gregor Mc Gregiour of Glengyle, nephew to the above mention’d Rob. Roy Mc Gregiour, and in a considerable body made an excursion upon their neighbours, especially in Buchanan, and about the Heads of Monteith, and, coming upon them unawares, disarmed them.

Afterwards, upon Michaelmass Day, having made themselves masters of the boats on the water of Enrick and Loch-Lomond, about seventy men of ’em possess’d themselves of Inchmurrin, a large isle in the said loch; whence, about midnight, they came a shore on the parish of Bonhill, three miles above Dumbarton. But the country taking the alarm by the ringing of the bells of the several parish churches about, and being frighted by the discharge of two great guns from the castle of Dumbarton to warn the country, they thought fit to scamper off in great haste to their boats, and return’d to the isle; where, not contenting themselves with beef, which they might have had, there being several cows on the isle, they made havock of a great many deer belonging to His
Grace the Duke of Montrose, whose property the isle is, and row’d off' with them towards the head of the loch, taking along with them all the boats they cou’d find, and drew them up upon the land at Innersnaat, about eighteen miles up from the mouth of the loch, and, in a little time after, went off in a body with their fellows towards Mar’s Camp. Upon what consideration, it is not yet commonly known, but so it is, that, in the end of the last week, they returned to their former habitations on Craigroyston, and the parts adjacent on the north-east side of the abovemention’d Loch-Lomond; and upon Monday last, being October 10th, they mustered their forces.

This their return and rendezvouzing, brought the country about under some frightfull apprehensions. The Jacobits were at a great deal of pains to perswade people that there was no harm to be feared from them, that, supposing they shou’d come doun upon the Lowlands, yet they wou’d spoil them of nothing but their arms; that it wou’d be their wisdom peaceably to part with these, because if they shou'd make any resistance, and shed the blood of so much as one Mc Gregiour, they wou’d set no bounds to their fury, but burn and slay without mercy. But the people considered that this was false reasoning, that the quitting of their arms wou’d be just as wise conduct, as when the sheep in the fable,
at the desire of the wolves, parted with their dogs; wherefore they resolved to do their best to defend themselves against those miscreants who neither fear God nor regard man.

For this purpose, and in order to bridle these rebels in their excursions, a strong guard of one hundred and twenty volunteers from Paslay, having been sometime before posted at Dumbarton, and about four hundred voluntiers, partly of the Right Honourable the E. of Kilmarnock's men, partly of the people of Air, Kilwining, Stevenson, &c., having garrison’d the houses of Drumakill, Cardross, and Gartartan, it was resolved to retake, if possible, the boats from them, by which they kept the countrey round in a terrour, not knowing where they might make their descent.

For effecting this, on Tuesday, October 11th, about six a’clock at night, there came to the Key of Dumbarton, from the men of war that are lying in the Firth of Clyde, four pinnaces and three long boats, with four pateraroes, and about one hunder seamen, well hearted and well armed, under the command of Captain Charlton, Captain Field, and Captain Parker, with four lieutenants and two gunners. About two or three hours after, there came up to them a large boat from Newport-Glasgow, with two large screw guns, under the command of Captain Clark. All these being join’d
by three large boats of Dumbarton, upon the morrow about nine in the morning, they all put off from the Key, and, by the strength of horses, were drawn the space of three miles, up the river Levin, which, next to Spey, is reckon’d the most rapid river in Scotland.

When they were got to the mouth of the loch, the Paslay men, and as many more as the boats cou’d conveniently stow, went on board; and, at the same time, the Dumbarton men, the men of Easter and Wester Kilpatrick, of Rosneith, Rew, and Cardross, marched up on foot, along the north-west side of the loch ; and, after them, on horse back the Honourable Master John Campble of Mammore, unckle to His Grace the Duke of Argyle, attended by a fine train of the gentlemen of the shire, viz. Archbald Mc Aulay of Ardncaple, Aulay Mc Aulay, his eldest son, George Naper of Kilmahew, Walter Graham of Kilmardinny, John Colquhoun of Craigtoun, John Stirling of Law, James Hamilton of Barns, with many others, all richly mounted and well armed.

When the pinnaces and boats, being once got in within the mouth of the loch, had spread their sails, and the men on the shore had rang’d themselves in order, marching along the side of the loch, for scouring the coast, they made all together so very fine an appearance, as had never been seen in that place before,
and might have gratified even a curious person. The men on the shore marched with the greatest ardour and alacrity. The pinnaces on the water discharging' their Pateraroes, and the men their small arms, made so very dreadful a noise thro the multiply’d rebounding echoes of the vast mountains on both sides the loch, that perhaps there was never a more lively resemblance of thunder.

Against evening they got to Luss, where they came ashore, and were met and join’d by Sir Humphrey Colquhoun of Luss, Baronet, and chief of the name, and James Grant of Pluscarden, his son in law, and brother german to Brigadier Grant, follow’d by fourty or fifty stately fellows in their short hose and belted plaids, arm’d each of ’em with a well fix’d gun on his shoulder, a strong handsome target, with a sharp pointed steel, of above half an ell in length, screw’d into the navel of it, on his left arm, a sturdy claymore by his side, and a pistol or two with a durk and knife on his belt. Here the whole company rested all night. In the mean time, many reports were brought to them, contrived or at least magnified by the Jacobites, in order to discourage them from the attempt; such as, that Mc Donald of Glengarry, who was indeed lying with his men about Strafillan, sixteen miles from the head of the loch, had reinforced the Mc Gregiours, so that they amounted at least to fifteen hundred men, whereas there were
not full four hundred on the expedition against them. That the loch being narrow at Innersnaat, where the rebels were lying, they might pepper the boats with their shot from the shore without any danger to themselves, being shaded by the rocks and woods. In a word, that it was a desperate project, and would be a throwing away of their lives.

But all this cou’d not dishearten these brave men. They knew that the Mc Gregiours and the Devil are to be dealt with after the same manner, and that if they be resisted they will flee. Wherefore on the morrow morning, being Thursday the 13th, they went on in their expedition, and, about noon, came to Innersnaat, the place of danger. In order to rouse those thieves from their dens, Captain Clark loos’d one of his great guns, and drove a ball thro’ the roof of a house on the face of the mountain, whereupon an old wife or two came crawling out, and scrambled up the hill, but otherwise ther was no appearance of any body of men on the mountains, only some few, standing out of reach, on the craggy rocks looking at them.

Whereupon, the Paslay men under the command of Captain Finlason, assisted by Captain Scot, a half pay officer, of late a Lieutenant in Collonell Kerr’s Regiment of Dragoons, who is indeed an officer wise, stout, and honest; the Dumbarton men, under the command of
David Colquhoun and James Duncanson of Garshaik, Magistrates of the Burgh, with severals of the other Companies, to the number of an hundred men in all, with the greatest intrepidity leapt on shore, got up to the top of the mountain, and drew up in order, and stood about an hour, their drums beating all the while ; but no enemie appearing, they thereupon went in quest of the boats which the rebels had seiz’d, and having causually lighted on some ropes, anchors, and oars, hid among the shrubs, at length they found the boats drawn up a good way on the land, which they hurled doun to the loch; such of ’em as were not dammaged they carried off with them, and such as were, they sunk or hew’d in pieces. And that same night they return’d to Luss, and thence, next day, without the loss or hurt of so much as one man, to Dumbarton, whence they had first set out altogether, bringing along with them the whole boats they found in their way on either side the loch, and in the creeks of the isles, and moor’d them under the cannon of the castle. And thus in a short time, and with little expense, the Mc Greigours were cow’d, and a way pointed how the government may easily keep them in awe.

There are two or three things may be re­marked on this expedition.

First, that tho’ the Mc Greigours deserved extremities, and our men were in a sufficient
capacity to have destroy’d and burnt their whole goods and housing, yet they did not take from them to the value of a shoe latchet, save one fork, which might have been used as a weapon.

Secondly, The Providence of God was very observable, in that tho’, for three days before, it had blown a prodigious storm, yet, in the morning, when our men were to go on board from Dumbarton, it calm’d, and they got a fair wind in their poop the whole way up the loch. When they had done their business, it kindly veer’d about, and brought them safely and speedily down the loch, immediately after which, on the Friday’s evening, it began to blow boisterously as before.

Thirdly, The cheerfulness of the men, who went on this expedition, deserves to be notic’d and applauded. They were not forced to it, as the clans are by their masters and chiefs, who hack and butcher such as refuse to go along with them: witness Duncan Mc Farland in Rowardennin. But they offer’d themselves voluntary to it. No wonder, for men begin now to be convinced that all is at stake.

Great pains had been taken to poison people with false notions; but when once they were inform'd that the E. of Mar, who appears at the head of this rebellion, has sworn the oath of abjuration almost a score of times with the greatest seeming seriousness, they quite renounced all esteem of, and regard for a man, who is so manifestly perjur’d, it being impossible that one can be a man of honour whatever his quality is, who has been deliberately and habitually guilty of perjury, as many others, even of distinction, who have join’d with that Earl, are as well as he himself.

And tho’, in the Perth Manifesto, promise is made to dissolve the Union, yet that is no longer any bait to the people, when they are told that the E. of Mar was the great promoter of it at first, and that, of late years, he treacherously prevented the dissolution of it, when it was projected by a great part of the nobility.

And, it being own’d in the said Manifesto, which perhaps is the only ingenuous thing in it, that the Pretender is still Popish, even the simplest cloun may see, that no one can be in his interest, but who either is a Papist, or at least wou’d be such, if a tentation offer’d. For who can doubt, but that a Popish king, unless he intend to complement his subjects with damning himself, will either make his kingdoms Popish or perish in the attempt, when not one instance to the contrary can be produced in any of the kingdoms of Europe since the Reformation.

What is suggested in the said Manifesto, that there are hopes the Pretender may turn Protestant, thro’ his conversation with their learn’d divines, is so very weak a suggestion, that it is not worthy the E. of Mar, it being’ ten thousand times more probable, that he will make the nations Popish, than that all the clergy of England will make him Protestant. All the world knows what advances Popery made in K. James 7th’s time ; and, that he was stop’d in his career, was owing not to the clergy’s arguments, but to the force they us’d against him in the face of their oun principles. We never read of any king of England who was chang’d in his religion by their clergy ; but oft times we read that the clergy, and all the nation too, have been chang’d by the king so scandalously, that, in the space of twelve years, from the death of K. Henry the 8th to the Reign of Q. Elizabeth, England chang’d from Popish to Protestant, from Protestant to Popish, and from Popish to Protestant again, just as the Prince pleas’d or was inclin’d.

Shou’d a Popish Pretender mount the throne, marry, and get children, adieu for ever to the sight of a Protestant Prince on the British throne ; for who cou’d be so hard hearted as to refuse him the liberty of breeding his children after his oun way.

No Popish kingdom was ever so distracted as to receive a Protestant Prince. What betrayers then of our religion shou’d we be, if we committed the keeping of the Protestant religion to a Papist, who is oblig'd in conscience to extirpat it ?

That arbitary government can be prevented, where passive obedience and nonresistance are taught and practised, is utterly impossible. The ' people now generally know all these things, and therefore will not readily be gull’d by so very senseless a paper as the Manifesto is.

For, with what patience can any man hear the earl of Marr talking, as he does in the first words thereof, of the Pretender’s right of blood, when he has so often declared upon oath, that he believed in his conscience, that he hath not any right or title whatsoever ? What security can he give, that any one of all these things promised in the Manifesto shall be performed, when he has already violated the most solemn security that even infinite wisdom can devise ? Besides, what is that absolute security he talks of; which, in the case of the Pretender’s being advanced to the throne, can be given for the Protestant religion ? Is it Acts of Parliament restraining his power ? What if he shall take a fancy to break through them, as sometimes kings have done ? If he be not resisted, he obtains his purpose. If he be, we incurr damnation according to the Jacobite scheme. But I will not insist further on a paper which is a continued jugle from the one end to the other.
Dumbarton, October 15, 1715.

The Wodrow correspondence which formed an appendix to Dennistoun's publication of 1834 has been placed in a separate webpage.

Link to the Wodrow Correspondence