The Appin murder

The murder of Colin Campbell of Glenure in the woods above Ballachullish, known as the Appin murder; aroused much anger and suspicion in the locality.

Glenure was one of the most influential and well liked landowners in the area. The house and lands of Glenure had been left to him by his father Patrick, fourth of Barcaldine, in 1738. During the 1745 Jacobite rebellion he served with a government regiment but was not at Culloden. On leaving the army he was appointed factor on some of the estates forfeited from known Jacobites in Appin and Lochaber.

Perhaps surprisingly one of the leading Stewarts in the district, James Stewart, was on friendly terms with Glenure. These cordial relations began to cool when Glenure dispossessed Stewart of Glenduror, a particularly profitable farm. The decision to take Glenduror from James was made in Edinburgh and Glenure was acting under instructions, but his subsequent decision to pass it straight to Campbell of Ballieveolan, his cousin, was not well received.

Questions had been raised in Edinburgh as to how loyal Glenure was to the government cause fuelled by the fact his mother was a sister of Cameron of Lochiel, a staunch Jacobite. Early in 1752 as if to prove these doubters wrong, Glenure set about evicting some tenants who were known to be Jacobites and this act led to public disagreement between Glenure and James.

At this time Allan Breck Stewart , a deserter from the British army who had fought with the Jacobites, arrived in Appin seeking to collect rents from tenants for their exiled master Stewart of Ardshiel. Glenure had been collecting from these same tenants on behalf of the government. Allan Breck Stewart was quick to spread disparaging and untrue stories about Glenure, including accusations about brutal behaviour administered to the wounded highlanders after the battle of Culloden. These rumours had the desired effect of stirring the passions of the local hot heads.

Glenure set out for Fort William May 11th in order to collect an eviction order against the Jacobite tenants. Despite having been warned to be careful , on his journey back from Fort William he sent a message ahead asking the landlord of the Kentallen inn (one of those marked down for eviction) to expect him and others on Thursday evening. By Wednesday, inevitably, it was widely known that he would be returning the next day. Not long after departing from the Ballachullish ferry back into Appin, Glenure was shot.

The quantities of time and money spent on trying to find the murderer were huge. The total cost of the trial was £1,334:9:2.5d with a large proportion of the expense being borne by John Campbell of Barcaldine.

Allan Breck was considered likely to know something about the murder but he quickly disappeared and the unfortunate James Stewart who, as Allan Breck’s foster father had been providing him with accommodation during his stay in Appin, found himself in the absence of a prime suspect being viewed as an accessory before and after the fact. His public outburst against Glenure over his attempted eviction of the tenants contributed to him eventually being charged with being art and part in the murder. He was tried in Inveraray in front of the Duke of Argyll, the Lord Justice General and chief of the clan Campbell, and a jury of fifteen, twelve of whom were Campbells.

During the trial every sort of evidence, good and bad, was used in order to secure the inevitable conviction. An example of such evidence concerned a supposed visit by James to Edinburgh Tollbooth to see a son of Rob Roy MacGregor who was serving time for a crime. According to the story, James tried to induce him to write to his brother (another son of Rob Roy) asking him to murder Glenure.  James allegedly undertook to provide the brother with a good gun in order to carry out the act. The evidence was overwhelming. James was found guilty and hanged above Ballachulish on November 8th 1752 for a crime of which he was certainly not guilty.

Although the actual murderer was probably incited to commit the crime by Allan Breck, it is thought by many that the shot was fired by Donald MacDonald (Stewart) a nephew of Ballachulish, assisted by James Stewart the elder son of the Laird if Fasnacloich.

 

 

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