The Skirmish of Tongue

In March 1746, less than a month before the Battle of Culloden, a number of those belonging to the two conflicting sides met at Tongue, a coastal village in the Highlands; there, those loyal to the Jacobite cause were captured, and their ship, Le Prince Charles Stuart, was plundered.

The ship in question had been the British HMS Hazard, but had been stolen by some Jacobites a few months earlier in Montrose, before being sailed to Dunkirk and given its new name. Louis XV of France sent it back up to Scotland, filled with around 160 French, Spanish, Irish and Scottish men. Up until this point, the Jacobites had been disappointed in King Louis’ underwhelming acts of assistance. However, along with some supplies, Louis sent £13,000 in gold, which translates to a little over £1.5 million in today’s money.

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King Louis XV of France

The sailing over to Scotland was not simple though as it experienced trouble not long after leaving Dunkirk and was forced ashore by a couple of English privateers on the coast of Belgium. It suffered some damage, but not enough to stop Captain Talbot from wanting to continue the voyage to Scotland. The intention had been to disembark at Portsoy, a harbour town located about 50 miles from Aberdeen, but soon it became clear to Talbot that Le Prince Charles Stuart was being chased.

Four Government ships pursued Le Prince. Talbot, desperate and acknowledging his lack of knowledge of the area, took aboard two local fishermen to help him escape the enemy. Eventually on ship, the 24-gunned HMS Sheerness, broke off from the other Government ships and tailed Talbot, getting closer and closer. Talbot sailed into the Kyle of Tongue, where he hoped that the larger Sheerness would not be able to fully enter, but he ended up beaching his ship on a sandbank, trapping it as the Sheerness was still close enough to shoot.

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Kyle of Tongue

After several hours of continual shots being fired between the two ships, Talbot gave the orders to unload the goods. The plan was now for the crew to carry the gold and supplies to Prince Charles’ base in Inverness. As daylight broke the men began their trek to Inverness but the captain of the Sheerness had by this point realised that Le Prince was what had been known as HMS Hazard, and sent out a group to look for Government supporters to help to capture the Jacobite soldiers.

Before long the Jacobites were surrounded by Government men, and after several deaths and the arrival of further opposition headed by Captain George Mackay, the Jacobites surrendered, but not before reportedly throwing the gold into the water.

The surviving Le Prince men were captured and imprisoned aboard the Sheerness which prevented them from being able to fight at the Battle of Culloden. Le Prince became known as HMS Hazard again, and after some repairs, it was put back into the Government navy. As for the gold, it was largely recovered and shared among the Government leaders and their men as a reward for taking it from the Jacobites.

It makes for an interesting what if? The Bellona and the Mars arrived once the Battle of Culloden had been lost, but if the gold and soldiers of Le Prince had got to Charles in time, it is difficult to say how much of an impact it would have had, how much it could have changed things for the Jacobites. Not only would Charles have had money to properly feed, equip and pay the troops he already had, as well as hire new ones, but it would also have been a morale boost for the Jacobites to feel that they had such support and that the confidence of the leader they had been following was not unfounded.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post. As always please like, share, tweet and comment.

All the best, The Culloden Team

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Lost Jacobite Gold

Time to hit another Jacobite legend and unravel some of the mysteries of its tales. This time we’re looking at the legend of Prince Charles Edward Stuarts’ Jacobite gold.

The legend tells of up to seven casks of gold coins being landed on the west coast of Scotland by two French frigates, the Bellona and Mars, in late April 1746. The ships had not heard of the recent defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden and were rushing to help the Jacobites. As the French ships landed they were spotted by Government warships and they hastily unloaded their cargo so they could head out to meet the incoming warships. After some tense fighting the French apparently damaged one of the British warships and were able to make their escape back to France leaving their precious cargo behind.

It is said the money was unloaded at Loch nan Uamh in Arisaig and the caskets then brought up to Loch Arkaig, near Fort William, and hidden. Many believe the locations secret was entrusted to Murray of Broughton, one of the Jacobite fugitives. Murray began the distribution to clan chiefs, but when he was arrested by the government, and turned King’s evidence against the Jacobites, the treasure was entrusted first to Donald Cameron of Lochiel, and then to Ewen Macpherson of Cluny, Chief of Clan Macpherson, who was hiding in a cave at Ben Alder. Over the months that followed it is believed the god was reburied multiple times to prevent the Government from finding it and making it tricky to follow its path.

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Loch Arkaig – suspected hiding spot of the Jacobite gold

 

Cluny is believed to have held onto the gold’s location for many years and supposedly used it to help fugitive Jacobite men where he could. Some of the money seems to have got back to Charles in the 1750’s, but the total amount of gold was never recovered. Cluny was never able to account for all of the money and years later Prince Charles is said to have accused Cluny of embezzling it.

The whereabouts of the missing gold caused quite a stir amongst the surviving Jacobites and in 1753, Dr Archibald Cameron, the brother of Cameron of Lochiel was sent to locate the missing money. While in Scotland he was unfortunately captured after his location was betrayed and was charged for his part in the ’45 Rising. He was sentenced to death and was executed in London on 7th June 1753.

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Dr Archibald Cameron who was sent to search for the missing gold

 

After Cameron was killed the trail then goes cold. Many still believed the gold was hidden, most likely buried, somewhere near Loch Arkaig but none could ever find the stash. In the 1850’s there were apparently some French and Spanish gold coins found in the right area but nothing substantial that could be claimed as the missing Jacobite gold.

Today it is still a mystery as to where the treasure may be hidden. Some believe it must be hidden near Cluny’s Cage where Cluny lived in hiding for years after the defeat at Culloden. Small hints have been found over the years with references to the gold appearing in the Clan Cameron archives which suggest before Dr Cameron was arrested he hid the gold at Callich burn and there was also a letter found in 2003 in a second hand shop which recorded the deathbed confession of Neill Iain Ruairi.

Ruairi claimed to have passed Loch Arkaig as the treasure was being buried. The letter claims he was hiding when clansmen buried the gold and when they left he helped himself to a bag of coins. Upon hearing voices he snatched the bag and headed to Arisaig burying the bag on his way. Unfortunately as he made his escape he fell from his horse and was badly injured. On his death bed he gave directions to his buried gold stating it was buried near Arisaig under a black stone with a tree root springing from it. The letter surfaced in 1911 when a doctor in the Arisaig area, Alexander Campbell, was presented with it by a grateful elderly patient. He apparently searched for the gold but found nothing and letter went missing until it was found in 2003.

The treasure has been searched for many times but no one has ever found the missing Jacobite gold so, if any is hidden, then the Jacobites certainly did a good job and who knows how long it will be before it is found.

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Who knows where the missing gold is now?

 

We hope you enjoyed this tale of the Jacobite gold. As always please like, share, comment, tweet and perhaps try your own luck at finding the elusive treasure.

All the best, K & D