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January 31st 1746

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Escape from Doune Castle

Doune Castle was seized by the Jacobites early in 1745 and garrisoned by Macgregor of Glengyle and his followers. It was used mainly to house prisoners taken by the rebels.

After the battle of Falkirk in 1746 the Jacobites rounded up a number of stragglers from General Hawley’s army and brought them back to Doune. Among them was John Home who later achieved some prominence as the author of the tragedy Douglas, and five other members of the Edinburgh Volunteers. From the very beginning the Volunteers began to plan an escape from the castle.

They started to make a rope from their blankets by which they might descend from the west side of the castle where there were no sentinels. Though a guard was posted close to their cell doors he made no objection to their passing on to the battlements at nights as there was a seventy foot drop to the ground below which was considered sufficient disincentive to potential escapees.

The night of January 31st was chosen for the escape and at about one in the morning the party of six men made their way to the west wall with the blanket rope. Captain Macghie descended first followed by John Home. All went well until the fifth man, an Aberdonian who was somewhat tall and stout, caused the rope to break just as he reached the ground. The break occurred some twenty feet above the ground but even so the sixth man, Thomas Barrow, an English student of medicine at Edinburgh University insisted on descending. Macghie and Home stood below him attempting to break his fall but without much success. He succeeded in dislocating his ankle and breaking several of his ribs. In spite of his accident Barrow insisted on continuing with the escape.

To begin with, Home carried him on his back but soon became exhausted. Then two of the others each took an arm and Barrow hopped along on one leg. Progress was very slow and it became obvious that they would not get very far in this fashion so it was resolved to stop at the first door they reached and ask for assistance. Fortunately for them it belonged to a Government supporter. He ordered his son to bring out one of the horses from the stable and ride with Barrow behind him as far as was necessary.

In this fashion the party reached Tulliallan, a small village beside the Forth. Here they were able to hire a boat and make their way to the sloop-of-war Vulture which was lying in the Firth of Forth and were later taken to Queensferry and back to Edinburgh and freedom.

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