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February 7th 1746

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Jacobite informers

Though it would be fair to say that the generality of the people of Perth did not support Prince Charles there was a sizeable minority of Jacobites in the town and a rather larger proportion in the surrounding countryside.

When Prince Charles was in Perth in 1745 there was no difficulty in securing volunteers to continue to run the affairs of the town, to collect cess (taxes) and to carry out the orders of the occupying army. The rebel forces were in Perth for only a week and by all accounts behaved well during their stay. Provost Crie, writing to the Lord Advocate, admitted, “They are very civil and promise to pay for everything they have occasion for.”  Lord George Murray who commanded the rebel army in Perth said later, with some justification “I believe there were no irregularities committed at Perth.” 

The behaviour of the rebels contrasted favourably with that of Cumberland’s forces who came to Perth in February 1746. On the way, the soldiers had ransacked the houses of the Jacobite gentry around Strathearn and sold the spoils by auction at the Cross in Perth. Bishop Forbes spoke of the orders given for the ransacking of the houses of the Jacobite families in the neighbourhood of Perth. “…and they destroyed such provisions as they could not either consume or carry off with them, breaking the bottles and other vessels, as if they intended the poor ladies, their children and servants, should all be starved to death for want of clothes, meat and drink.” 

There was at this time no legal Town Council, but a self constituted Perth Committee was formed and on February 7th and 8th caused the following proclamation to be published by the Drum. “Any person within the town who shall conceal any rebel, or arms, ammunition, or anything else belonging to the rebels, and shall not immediately bring in the said rebel, or stores or goods to Provost James Crie shall upon proof of disobedience of this order be hanged.” 

Already the Committee was in possession of a list of names of alleged Jacobites compiled by General Hawley. Some were names of men who it was said had served in the rebel army. Some were indicted for having assisted the rebel army while it was in Perth. John Carmichael of Baiglie “collected the Town’s cess for the rebels.”  John Balfour “assisted at digging the trenches and provided baggage horses.”  John Rutherford, writer “a reputed Jacobite, insulted some of the inhabitants on the open street for not bowing to the Pretender as he was passing out of Perth.” 

There were numerous other names on General Hawley’s list who were apprehended, but the Perth Committee with obsequious zeal themselves entered into the role of common informers and compiled new names to add to the list. “Andrew Clark, baker has acted as postmaster in procuring and pressing horses for the rebels.”  or “Andrew Stewart, merchant, said if the rebels won the day there were so many houses in Perth he would plunder.”  or “William Robertson, barber, was a constant agent for the rebels always magnifying their affairs and openly contradicting everybody who spoke in favour of the Government.” 

The behaviour of the Perth Committee was in stark contrast to that of the Presbyterian ministers who were ordered to draw up lists of those within their parishes who had shown sympathy towards the Jacobites. Though they were ardent supporters of the Hanoverians and in some cases suffered on that account during the rebellion, they displayed a very Christian willingness to forgive their past enemies and refused to supply lists of Jacobites to the authorities.

To be branded as a sympathiser of the rebels meant in the first instance incarceration within the Tolbooth while awaiting further examination. The men were kept under the worst possible conditions, and even the Committee was concerned enough to apply for help from the Duke of Cumberland. “…and that these prisoners will starve for want of food, unless his Royal Highness will be pleased to appoint some proper fund for their maintenance.” 

Funds were forthcoming from the Government but even so conditions must have remained appalling with at one period 79 prisoners being herded together within the Tollbooth.

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