January 18th 1715
Burning of AuchterarderThough the Earl of Mar claimed victory at the Battle of Sheriffmuir his own forces retreated after the battle back to Perth. There he remained until January when news came that the Duke of Argyll was about to march against him. He therefore issued an order to Colonel Patrick Graham, commander of the forces stationed at Auchterarder,
“Whereas it is absolutely necessary for our service and the public safety that the enemy should be as much incommoded as possible, especially upon theire march towards us …..(we are) therefore ordering and requiring you …..to burn and destroy the village of Auchterarder, and all the houses corn and forage whatsoever within the said town, so that they might be rendered entirely useless to the enemy.”
The orders were carried out with pitiless efficiency. “Clanranald now seeing every house on fire and many of theire best fallen down, rode along the streets, conveened his men and marched. All the way he prayed the people whom he saw weeping to forgive him, but was answered with silence and so departed to do the like in other places.”
The other places included Blackford, Dunning, Dalreoch (near Gleneagles), Muthill and Crieff. The account from Blackford concludes “It would be endless to give account of all the hardships and acts of barbarous cruelty done. It may easily be imagined, considering the season of the year, the vaste load of snow that then lay upon the ground, the poor people, man, wife and child without the shelter of a house, without cloathes, meat, drink or anything to support them…when they saw with theire own eyes, from the high ground to which they were retired for shelter, a second burning at Auchterarder, they were reduced to the utmost degree of distraction and despair.”
From Dunning. “What a dolefull prospect it was to see the whole village in a moment put in a flame, while men and women were exposed to the injury of the weather and the rigour of that severe and stormy season.”
From Crieff. “It could not miss to produce ane utter abhorrence of a Popish pretender in the heart of any thinking man who countenanced, yea even ordered, the execution of such cruelties…”
There seems little doubt that the orders were carried out with such thoroughness and severity because most of the people had been at best lukewarm towards the rebellion. But even in those ferocious times it was recognised as being a major political blunder and a declaration was made that the orders were given “with the greatest reluctancy and unwillingness.”
Promises were made that “suitable reparation for the damages they have sustained on this occasion” would be made. For families without homes or food this was, literally, cold comfort.
The Jacobites by their actions won few friends in Auchterarder and the surrounding villages.