Glenmoriston has seen many tragic events during the course of history but the most memorable is the heroic death of Roderick Mackenzie in 1746. His grave is right at the roadside (A87) not far away from Dalreichart burial ground on the other side of Caochan a’ Cheannaich, the river that was named after Roderick Mackenzie, the merchantman from Edinburgh, the Gaelic name means “small stream of the merchantman” or even the “small stream of the head” since it is here, Roderick Mackenzie lost his.
He had fought with his prince at Culloden, Mackenzie actually had been the bodyguard of the Prince. In the aftermath of the fatal battle, Roderick Mackenzie was trying to escape the deadly government troops of the Duke of Cumberland and so did Charles Edward Stuart.
Somehow word had got round that the Prince was hiding near Loch Ness, where Mackenzie was trying to make his way West, most likely in the hope of finding shelter there or a ship that would take hin to safety. For no Scotsman that had fought at Culloden was safe anymore. There was a ransom of £30.000 on the Prince’s head. Money any soldier was keen to earn.
And there they were, a group of government soldiers discovering a man that looked like Bonnie Prince Charlie next to the small river in Glenmoriston. Mackenzie knew they mistook him for the Prince, after all, they did look very much alike. Certain of his inescapable death he seized his sword to attack the English soldiers and was shot down, riddled with bullets. With his dying breath he called out “You have shot your Prince!”
This way, the soldiers looked no further for the royal fugitive and the Prince had more chances to escape. Roderick Mackenzie probably saved the Prince’s life.
The soldiers cut off his head and left the body of Roderick Mackenzie where they killed him and made haste to Fort Augustus. In a bag, the bloody proof they needed to collect the money. But no convincing witness could be found to identify the head as that of the Prince. So Cumberland took the head with him when he left for London. Somebody there would be able to identify the young Pretender.
By the time he reached London though, identification proved impossible. Roderick Mackenzie’s head must have been several weeks old and badly decomposed.
The Prince escaped and died years later in exile. The people of Genmoriston buried the headless corps by the side of the river. A cairn marks the spot where the brave bodyguard was killed, protecting his Prince and paying for it with his own life.
source and further reading:
William Mackay: Urquhart and Glenmoriston. Olden Times in a Highland Parish. Inverness; The Northern Counties Newspaper and Printing and Publishing Company; 1914, p. 296 ff
Liked the read? There’s more here...
Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years.
Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.