David Clark’s deposition against Lady Margaret Ogilvy in Coupar Angus
There was a fair bit of commotion upon the mercat cross of Coupar Angus one mid-October day in 1745. Bailie Charles Hay, a locally known clerk and town magistrate, stood at the nexus of George and High Streets with a copy of Charles Edward Stuart’s manifesto and read it aloud to a rapidly assembling crowd. This was an overtly treasonous act by a man widely thought to have been loyal to the British government of George II. But as the ruckus played out, witnesses would allegedly see a number of prominent Jacobite personalities join Hay on the cross and physically compel him to address the busy town centre on behalf of the exiled Stuarts.
According to some of the townspeople who were present, the Lord of Airlie himself, David Ogilvy, stood beside Hay with a sword in his hand, making certain that the bailie got it right and explicitly proclaimed James VIII & III as the rightful ruler of the three kingdoms of Britain. Also there on the cross were two sons of Sir John Ogilvy of Inverquharity, Thomas Ogilvy of East Miln, Charles Rattray of Dunoon, and Airlie’s wife, Margaret Ogilvy. All of them, including Lady Ogilvy, were alleged to have had their swords drawn and either pointed at Hay or held above his head as he hoarsely read out the terms of the Jacobite occupation.
Some names of the Jacobite prisoners taken up by British army troops around the time of Culloden
To effectively quell the martial threat of the last Jacobite rising in 1745-6, Hanoverian government officials and British military personnel worked together to wage a systematic campaign of disarmament, capture, and prosecution against a mercurial enemy. Their goal, of course, was to identify and punish the most notorious and active rebels for sedition and high treason against the Crown. But it quickly became apparent that there was no possibility enough prison space could be requisitioned to hold the sheer number of alleged Jacobites, both soldiers and civilians, who were brought in upon suspicion or in active rebellion during the nine months of the conflict. British gaol keepers were similarly beleaguered in the aftermath of the 1715 Rising, when as many as 2000 prisoners needed space and subsistence while the process of prosecution played out. In 1745-6, the Jacobite army was significantly smaller, yet well over 3500 suspected persons were immured within a prison system that had not been notably improved or expanded in the preceding thirty years.
Embroidered canvas on display at NTS Culloden
Despite the recent, lively debate about the value of the work undertaken by historians, we can agree that many of them generally spend the tenure of their careers involved with research, analysis, and output. Depending upon the era of study and subject matter, dutiful historians will go back to the primary sources when at all possible and critically address the lineage of information as well as its context. Following and challenging that data lineage is something about which I have repeatedly written, and this pursuit represents a significant role in the methodology of my everyday work, as I believe it is necessary in order to produce informed and precise history.
Precise historians will familiarize themselves with as many sources as possible and determine which are most relevant, accurate, and valuable to the arguments which they are asserting. Concurrently, sources that challenge those assertions must also be consulted and may lend valuable perspective to or even transformation of the historian’s original assertions. The honest scholars will admit those changes and influences along the way by showing their work while being as deliberate and precise as possible. Preciseness is not just the end goal, it is absolutely integral to the process. In that way, scholarly history follows a course that rightfully marks it as a social science.