Duror youngsters go off in search of James of the Glen

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Field archaeologists are shining new light on the life of James Stewart, hanged as an accessory to the murder of Colin Campbell of Glenure in 1752.

Known as James of the Glen, Stewart went to his death protesting his innocence. The event became known as the Appin Murder and was immortalised in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped.

A walkers’ bothy in Glen Duror, Appin, has long been said to be James of the Glen’s birthplace but the building in its present form is too young to have been occupied in the mid 1700s. Now, field archaeologists have recorded the remains of a longhouse on the slopes above the bothy, dating to the time when Stewart was herding cattle in Glen Duror.

Members of the Association of Certificated Field Archaeologists surveyed the foundations of the house with its associated byre and barn with the help of children from Duror Primary School.

The survey team worked closely with Duror local historian Neill Malcolm and Hon Lord Stewart QC. Lord Stewart is currently reviewing 18th century state papers which might reveal more about James Stewart’s life in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden.

A document from 1746 records a James Stewart, ‘natural brother’ of Charles Stewart of Ardsheal, on the same prison ship as Flora MacDonald, famous for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape Scotland. Another suggests the same man was one of six Jacobite prisoners held at New Gaol, Southwark, who requested to have their leg irons removed.

The gaoler demanded a price of 6 Guineas, an enormous sum at the time. Was this prisoner none other than James of the Glen?

‘Much ink has been spilt on the Appin Murder,’ said Elaine Black, Survey Director. ‘It is interesting that even now we can still learn more about James Stewart and his remarkable life’.

Colin Campbell was a government agent responsible for carrying out evictions in the Jacobite stronghold of Appin. He was shot as he made his way through the Wood of Lettermore, near Ballachulish, on the 14 May, 1752. The prime suspect at the time was James Stewart’s foster son and Jacobite courier Allan Breck Stewart but he escaped to France. More recently, suspicion has fallen on a group of young Stewart lairds who held a shooting party prior to the murder or Campbell’s nephew Mungo Campbell who was with him at the time of the assassination.

It is said that to this day leading members of the Stewart family know the name of the true culprit.

The research results are available in a short publication called Glen Duror, In Search of James of the Glen, at a cost of £7.50. Contact elainemsblack@gmail.com