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Wednesday 13 November 2013

Stevenson’s “Red Fox”: Colin Campbell of Glenure and the Appin Murder

Robert Louis Stevenson, born on this day in Edinburgh’s New Town in 1850, was inspired by historical events in the Highlands such as the Appin Murder (1752) that gave him the impetus to pen his great novel  Kidnapped. He also begun to write his most famous children’s book Treasure Island in Braemar, one of the most land-locked places in the Highlands. The following short historical anecdote was taken down on the 29th of January, 1951, by Calum Maclean from the recitation of John MacDonald, Highbridge, Brae Lochaber:
Cailean Ghlinn Iubhair a theireadh iad ris an duine seo. Agus ’s e bh’ ann seamarlan, na mar a their iad sa Bheurla factor. Is bha e na fhìor-dhroch-dhuine do na daoine bochda. Is mar sin, bha duine na dhà air an lorg aige airson a thilgeil. Agus an latha a chaidh a thilgeil bha fear air an taobh a-bhos den loch aig Omhanaich is bha e a’ dol seachad air àite ris an abair iad A’ Chrao(bh) Chrom, nuair a chuala e an urachair air an taobh eile. Is thuirt e ris fhèin: “Rinn cuideigin eile coileach dubh dheth.”
Agus bha iad an dùil gur h-e Camaranach à Ceann Loch Mòr a mharbh e, ach chaidh a’ choire a chur air Stiùbhartach, gur h-e a mharbh e. Agus chaidh a ghlac(hc)adh, an Stiùbhartach truagh seo, agus chaidh a chur an àirde air a’ chroich agus a chrochadh. Agus thuirt e:
“Tha mise neo-chiontach. Agus leis an sin bidh iomadh bliadhna mun lion an sloc(hc) thar a bheil a’ chroich.”
Agus ’s ann mar sin a bha.
Tha an sloc(hc) ann gus an latha an-diugh. Agus tha carraig-chuimhne air a chur an àirde air a shon a tha furasd’ fhaicinn, nuair a tha neach a’ dol air adhart aig Baile a’ Chaolais. Agus an uair seo fhuair a chuideachda cothrom air a’ chroich a thoirt a nuas. Thilg iad sa mhuir i agus dh’fhalbh i air adhart. Agus thàinig i air tìr san Apainn. Agus their iad gus an latha an-diugh ris an àite san tàinig i air tìr Port na Crois.
And the translation goes something like this:
Colin [Campbell] of Glenure is what they called him. And he was a factor. He was a horrible man, especially to the poor folk. And because of that there were one or two who wanted to kill him. On the day that he was assassinated, there was a man on his side of the loch at Onich and he was going by a place called A’ Chraobh Chrom when he heard a report of fire on the other side of the loch. He said to himself: “Someone has turned him into a black cock [i.e. murdered him].”
And some reckon that it was a Cameron from Kinlochleven that assassinated him but it was blamed upon a Stewart; it was he that murdered him. And he was arrested, this poor Stewart [James of the Glen] and the gallows were built and he was hanged. And he said:
“I am innocent. And because of that it will take many years before the hollow of the gallows will be filled up.”
And that is how things turned out.
The hollow is there to this day. And a memorial cairn has been erected and it is easy to see when going by Ballachuilish. And when they got the opportunity to take the gallows down they threw them into the sea and they floated off. But they came ashore in Appin. They call the place to this day where they came ashore Port na Crois [Portnacroish, Port of the Cross].
The story is far more complicated than that but there is a general truth to the tale given its emphasis upon a complete injustice had been done through the execution of an innocent man even though he may had been complicit in a murder which he certainly did not commit.
SSS NB 9, pp. 789–90
Robert Louis Stevenson

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