New leads to Murlaggan’s gold?

giant ash tree Murlaggan ©nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland
giant ash tree

Murlagan or Murlaggan, both spellings exist, home of the Chief of the Clan MacMillan, by tradition tacksman to the Cameron of Lochiel, the Clan Cameron Chieftain. A tacksman in the old days managed the estate for its owner. The Gaelic name Murlaggan means “rounded sea inlet” according to Ian Taylor’s Place-Names of Scotland.

Murlaggan ©nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

Murlaggan’s graveyard

There’s not much left of the ancient graveyard, a few stones possibly marker stones in the past, an overgrown stone wall that could have been an enclosure for graves or for sheep, a giant ash tree bearing the sign: And of course, there is the cairn, erected by Canadian descendants of the MacMillans that once live here and emigrated to Canada after the disastrous defeat at Culloden in 1802. 

ancient graveyard Murlaggan ©nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

Jacobite Rising

As with so many places in Scotland, the past plays an important role in Murlaggan. The story goes back to the Jacobite Rising. The MacMillans were strong supporters of the cause and Charles Edward Stuart, as were the Camerons. Two MacMillan brothers fought alongside their Chief Archibald Cameron of Lochiel for the prince. One of them died. The other survived and probably played an important role in the legend of the gold.

gold in the graveyard

Legend has it, the surviving MacMillan brother rescued the prince, and his sons hid the chest of French gold in their graveyard under the loose soil of a newly dug grave. Whatever happened to the gold then, nobody knows. It was never found. It had come to Scotland from France, financial support for the man that never arrived in time.

Hanovarian forces were hard on the heels of the MacMillans and a skirmish, probably the last fought for the cause, happened in this very spot on Loch Arkaig. Was the gold taken somewhere else? And where? Some sources say near a burn on the south side of Loch Arkaig, some believe to Arisaig, others are convinced it is still buried in Murlaggan.

Where is the Jacobite gold?

Dr. Archibald Cameron of Lochiel, a close ally of Chales Edward Stewart, was executed for treason and hung, drawn and quartered, the last Jacobite supporter to suffer that horrible death in 1753. Apparently, Bonnie Prince Charlie had sent him to recover the gold. But Lochiel was captured and killed. He had looked for the treasure near Stirling. But was it there? Or was it still here in Murlaggan? Wouldn’t a Cameron know if it was?

They would and there might be new leads.

Loch Arkaig ©nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

It seems there are good reasons to mark this as a graveyard requiring respect. This is a place steeped in history. It may not look like much, but it is certainly one of the most fascinating graveyards Scotland has to offer, considering the story of the treasure. Today, it would be worth about 10 million Pounds Sterling.

ancient graveyard Murlaggan ©nme Nellie Merthe Erkenbach Graveyards of Scotland

new leads?

I came across your website by accident, as I was looking for a photo or image of Murlagan, the ancestral place of my wife, whose ancestor was the Tachsman “Macmillan of Murlagan”. The whole story is also briefly told in Somerled MacMillan’s book “Bygone Lochaber”. My wife’s 7 times great grandfather was the brother who survivedCulloden and returned to Murlagan with the Jacobite war chest.

The gold was buried at Murlagan and then some years later dug up and the entire clan of that region Murlagan hired 3 ships as a charter party and emigrated en-masse to Canada, except for my wife’s 7 x great grandfather who was the brother who ‘talked like a canary’ when interrogated at Fort William and then joined the Hanoverian British army and thus this brother survived. For which I am grateful as his descendant is my wife.

The gold paid for the hire of the three vessels. Where would existence level peasants get money to hire three ships?

The Canadian descendants from Murlagan returned to Murlagan as a trip called the Great Return in 2002, and raised the memorial cairn. Details of history are lost as folk die, and my wife  and I were very sorry we did not meet the members of “The Great Return” in person, but only knew of it from the hotel where we stayed, as they had stayed there, and the cairn they erected. One of the returnees was in her 90s and was a direct but distant cousin of my wife’s. We saw her photograph in the web page they created. Also they brought a Canadian canoe with them and sailed it down the length of Loch Arkaig, as part of their festivities. We saw it two days later on a   journey to my wife’s ancestral home of Murlagan. My wife is a descendant of the brother who became the government army officer.

The gold was used to allow many folk from Murlagan to start a new life in Canada, a better life than existence level peasant farming.

I hope we have aided you and thank you for remembering Murlagan graveyard.

Yours respectfully
Eion MacDonald

Liked the read? There’s more here…

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available @Amazon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for my blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Find treasure all over Scotland with my latest book. I am Nellie Merthe Erkenbach, journalist and author.

My 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 my 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. 


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