In anticipation of the exciting Fire & Folklore, Heroes & Villains street theatre event in March, we thought you may be interested in the history which inspired this.
In 1707, under the terms of the Treaty of Union, England and Scotland became a single state – the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The Parliaments of Edinburgh and Westminster were replaced by a single ‘Parliament of Great Britain.’ By the time the Act of Union was passed the Edinburgh Parliament included 302 people, however, the number of Scottish representatives in the new Parliament was considerably less at only 61! Hardly surprising then that this lead to a deep resentment and division in Scotland and to civil war.
Crieff and Strathearn was right in the middle of this unrest. To the north were supporters of the Stuarts, also known as the Jacobites. To the South were the supporters of the Hanoverians, the imported German Monarchy.
In 1714 George I was proclaimed as King of Great Britain and Ireland, John Erskine, Earl of Mar, began to raise a Jacobite army in an attempt to return James Francis Edward Stuart to the throne. In response a combined government force of Scottish and English regiments commanded by the Duke of Argyle was dispatched to confront the rebels.
The two armies finally met each other on the 13th November 1715 at Sheriff Muir, to the east of Dunblane, about 16 miles south of Crieff. The Jacobites outnumbered the government troops but were not as well trained as them and Mar was not an experienced military commander. In the inconclusive battle both sides left the field claiming victory.
On the same day another Jacobite army was being defeated at Preston and the government began to send reinforcements north. The Jacobite forces based in Perth realised that the government army were heading their way and posed a significant threat.
On the 24th January 1716, six hundred Highlanders were sent to Auchterarder. Their orders were to destroy everything in the town so that the government troops would not have any access to food, shelter or supplies and the town was set alight. They then made their way to Blackford and set fire to the houses there.
On the 26th January, three hundred and fifty men arrived in Crieff. The locals knew what had happened in the other towns and were terrified. However, they were reassured by an officer and local factor who told them them that he had no orders to burn Crieff. A Captain, named Cameron and his men were quartered in a house owned by a man called Caw. This house is believed to have been located roughly where The Crieff Food Company is today. Caw and Cameron sat up late drinking and talking whilst Cameron’s men slept. Suddenly, at an apparently pre allocated time, Cameron finished his drink and woke his men with the words “ Torch the Place!” The men set to the task with enthusiasm and soon the whole of Crieff was ablaze. Before they left they also largely demolished the bridge across the River Earn.
Two nights later the nearby villages of Dunning and Muthill were destroyed. Many Jacobite battles continued to be fought until the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 which was the last pitched battle fought on British soil and ended the rebellions and backing for the Stuart cause.