The 18th century was a period of great development for Dumfries and the town's response to two events separated by only 30 years shows how things had changed. These events were the Jacobite rebellions.

In August 1714 Queen Anne died and George, the Elector of Hanover, became king. As a German prince and one who spoke very little English, he was not very popular. The Jacobite supporters of the late James VII saw their chance to restore a Catholic Stuart to the throne. They looked to James's son, who was also called James, to win back the Crown. The Jacobites called him James VIII, his enemies called him the Old Pretender. The Standard of King James was raised in 1715 on the Braes of Mar by the Earl Mar who had been a strong supporter of the Union of the Parliaments, seven years previously, but had been snubbed by George when he went to London to meet the new king. An army of 6,000 men was raised in the Highlands. Perth was captured easily and the way to the Lowlands seemed open to them. Most of the British army were in Flanders fighting the French and there was only one loyal army of 3,000 men under the Duke of Argyll in Scotland. They tried to capture Edinburgh but at the last moment they were driven off by Argyll's men. There was another Jacobite army led by Viscount Kenmure in the Borders, and Dumfries, the principle town of the South, was now at risk. Apart from a few of the local gentry, in particular William Maxwell, the Earl of Nithsdale, the town was anti-Stuart. What was it to do?

Immediately preparations were made in the full mediaeval style. Money for the purchase of arms and ammunition was collection, the town defences were rebuilt and strengthened, citizens practised their drill in the streets, guards were posted at the four ports: the Netherport, the Lochmabengate Port, the Townhead Port and the Brigport, seven companies of men was formed, each company having 60 men and the younger men of the town were formed into a band called the Company of Loyal Bachelors.

On the 13th October, Kenmure was in Moffat and everyone was sure that an attack was coming. The town crier went through the streets warning everyone to be ready. That night all the house lights in the High Street were kept on so that there would be enough light for the muster taking place in the streets and also because people were too nervous to sleep. At 1am all the burgesses who had horses assembled at the Midsteeple in readiness for the coming attack. All the reads were barricaded and the guards were reinforced. Their intelligence was right as the Rebels had moved out of Moffat just after midnight and were heading straight for Dumfries.

There were, however, only 152 of them and they must have been in complete ignorance of the large scale preparations Dumfries had made otherwise they would certainly have come with a larger force. At 2am the Rebels were at Tinwald when they were given a message by a James Robson that Dumfries was armed to the teeth and that they themselves were in danger of being captured. The popular story is that James Robson was a half-wit known as Daft Jamie and he had been bribed by people in Terregles, which was Catholic, to present Viscount Kenmure his blue bonnet. Kenmure realised that there must be more to it than that and immediately cut the bonnet in half and discovered a letter from Lord Nithsdale informing him of the state of readiness of Dumfries.

Kenmure immediately returned to Lochmaben where he arrested a Mr Paterson, one of the baillies of Dumfries, Mr Hunter, a surgeon, and Mr Johnston, the Dumfries postmaster, who had been sent out to reconnoitre the Rebels. The next day they were set free in exchange for three Jacobites imprisoned in Dumfries. The town was so prepared that they even discussed whether they should set out after the Rebels but the concensus of opinion was that a defensive policy was best. In Lochmaben, the Rebels were so nervous of attack from Dumfries that when a local was looking for a dog which was called 'Help', in order to round up some cattle which had strayed into the town, some of the Rebels heard the shouts and in their haste to get dressed cut up their boots to put them on more quickly and others almost fell off their horses in fear.

The problem was not yet over for Dumfries. Kenmure eventually rallied with the Highland Jacobites at Kelso and his thoughts again turned to Dumfries which he was now in a better position to attack. The magistrates appealed for help to the surrounding countryside and over 2,000 well armed men offered their services for the protection of the Burgh. During the next few days there were several attempts by Jacobite sympathisers living in town to burn the place down. The worst was on Wednesday, 26th October when 9 yards of gunpowder were laid in the thatch of a house near the centre of the town. The resulting fire was spotted before it took a strong hold but it encouraged the Town Council to arm every inhabitant fit for service with specially purchased pikes and scythes.

On 30th October the Burgh heard that Kenmure had marched from Hawick to Langholm. Dumfries, however, was ready. In the preceding week the town gates had been rebuilt in stone except the bridge and the Lochmabengate. A wall was built from the river at St Michael's Bridge to the churchyard. It then travelled to Lochmabengate, turning at the Crystal Chapel (St Mary's). A ditch was dug along the length of the Loreburn and another one constructed between the Townhead Port and the river. Although the 30th was a Sunday workmen cut down trees in St Michael's churchyard while the sermon was in progress and used them to dam the Millburn in order to flood the meadow in front of the new defences. Dressed stones were in short supply and the east gable of the Crystal Chapel was demolished for reuse and the back wall was reduced to a convenient height for placing flintlocks on.

On the 31st October an advance party of Jacobites was 8 miles from the town. 320 Presbyterian dissenters at Kirkmahoe under the charge of the Rev. John Hepburn came to Dumfries to assist the town but refused to enter and stationed themselves at Corbelly Hill to watch the proceedings. The town was ready but the Jacobites never came. Some of their friends in town sent them a letter describing the preparations in town and they immediately returned to the main army at Langholm which had just set off for Dumfries. A discussion took place and the army turned and marched into England instead. Dumfries was saved. The mediaeval mechanism had worked. A month later the Rebellion was crushed at Preston and the Earl of Mar was defeated at Sherriffmuir.

After the Rebellion was over the Rebels were tried. The Earl of Nithsdale was arrested and held in the Tower of London under sentence of death. With the help of his wife, however, he was able to trick his guards and escape disguised as a woman. Thirty years after, during the 1745 rebellion, times had changed and the town's response was quite different.

In that year Britain was again at war with France and the French government saw that a Jacobite rebellion in Scotland could force Britain to withdraw her troops. They allowed Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the elder son of the Old Pretender, to sail to Scotland with two French warships. One of the ships, the one carrying the weapons and supplies, was stopped by a British Man 'o' War and forced to turn back. Charles landed at Eriskay on the 23rd July, 1745 with only seven men. Travelling south using General Wade's roads (built to allow government armies to travel quickly and prevent uprisings) he captured Edinburgh with bloodshed, defeated General Cope's army at Prestonpans and marched into England. He got as far as Derby, only 120 miles from London, but by this time his army was in bad shape. A man from Derby described them - "They were in general a crew of shabby, lousy, pitiful looking fellows mixed up with old men and boys dressed in dirty plaids and dirty shoes, without breeches, some without shoes or next to none. They appeared more like a parcel of chimney sweeps than soldiers". There had been wholesale desertions on the road south and on December 5th Charles reluctantly agreed to retreat. The rebels reached Carlisle on the 19th December 1745 and when they crossed the Esk back into Scotland the army split into two. 2,000 men under Lord George Murray went up Annandale and the main force led by Prince Charles marched towards Dumfries.

What had the town done to defend itself? The short answer is nothing. A new generation had grown up since 1715. Business and trade were now the order of the day and the Rebellion was looked on as more of an inconvenience and obstruction to commerce than anything else. There was little support for the Pretender in Nithsdale, only James Maxwell of Kirkconnel, New Abbey was in his army. The Town Council had ordered a review of the town's arms in September but nothing had been done. Charles had sent them a tax demand later in that month. The Council ignored it until a second one turned up in October and they then set up a committee to consider it. No mention is made that it was a rebel demand and it is clear that they were sitting on the fence at this time. Unfortunately for them, when Charles' army had bypassed them on its way south in November, a raiding party of 16 of Dumfries' loyal inhabitants had ambushed some of Charles' troops at Ecclefechan and had stolen their baggage. This was remembered as the rebels approached Dumfries. The town had neither the means nor the will to stop them, the ditches and walls had fallen into neglect, not one of the citizens had come forward to be trained. There were no volunteers from the neighbouring countryside. Charles could enter at will.

On Friday 20th December, the vanguard of his tired army under Lord Elcho marched along the old Annan Road via Bankend and entered Dumfries at dusk by St Michael's Street. Prince Charles spent the night at Annan and arrived the next day. Some of the troops were billeted but most of them had to camp in the fields to the south of Shakespeare Street. Provost Bell was taken hostage to ensure that the army got good treatment and Charles' first act was to fine Dumfries £2,000, 1,000 pairs of shoes and all the public and private arms in the town. All of this had to be paid by 8 o'clock the following evening. His lodgings in town were at the Bluebell Inn which was at the bottom of the Southergate but he used a room in the house of Richard Lowthian, a Jacobite sympathiser, to hold his meetings and conferences. The room still exists after a fashion in Next.

The diary of the Rev. Duncan, minister of Lochrutton, records the Sunday - "A melancholy day - the rebels in Dumfries, about 4,000, with the Pretender's son at the head - in a great rage at the town for carrying off their baggage from Annandale - demanded £2,000 sterling of contributions. They were most rude in the town - pillaged some shops and pulled shoes off gentlemen's feet in the streets". Prince Charles invited Richard Lowthian to supper but Lowthian realised what the inevitable outcome of the rebellion would be and chose to get so completely drunk before he met his guest that he could not be allowed into the Prince's company. Afterwards he claimed ignorance of the whole weekend.

The town was full of tartaned Highlanders and few locals ventured onto the streets. Two exceptions were baillies Carruthers and Graham who had to spend the whole day collecting the money from the townsfolk. Joseph Corrie, the town clerk, paid £218, John Johnstone, the provost of Annan, £100, William McMillan, Caerlaverock, £80, Robert Laurie of Maxwellton, £40. Most of the money collected came in small sums; John Ewart, the late provost, gave £8 2s, James Allan, the Convenor of Trades, £2 2s, Adam Marchbank, deacon of the weavers, £1. Mary Reid, a widow, gave the lowest sum, 5s. By 3 o'clock only £1,195 had been collected together with 255 pairs of shoes. A poor total considering that shoemaking was one of the town's trades. The news was conveyed to the Prince in his room at Mr Lowthian's who ordered that the rest be found as quickly as possible. At midnight he received the news that the Duke of Cumberland had captured Carlisle and was marching on the rebels. Early in the morning of Monday 23rd December the Prince and his entire army left the town on the road to Glasgow, carrying off Provost Crosbie and Walter Riddell of Glenriddell as hostages for the balance of the money. They were only released in Glasgow when the money was paid.

The intelligence Charles had received was wrong. Charles had left a garrison of 300 men in Carlisle Castle and there was a rumour that the Duke of Cumberland was attacking the city. William McGhie, a painter and glazier in Dumfries, heard it and, being a Jacobite supporter, was sent out by the rebels to see if it was true. He stopped at a pub in Annan to have a bite to eat when some joker who had guessed his secret mission told him Cumberland was on the march. McGhie rode back at top speed to report this to the Prince.

Charles, of course, was defeated at Culloden on 16th April, 1746 and finally in September of that year he escaped to France. This was of little concern to the good folk of Dumfries, they wanted their money back. An assessment was levied so that the debt should be apportioned equally. The stentmasters recorded that the value of the property in town was £34,000 and the value of the goods £28,000 making Dumfries worth £62,000 in total. A rate of 3% would clear the debt. The Town Council had a great deal of trouble extracting the cash from the citizens and it took them two years to get all of it. They applied to the King for compensation and finally in 1750 were granted nearly £3,000 from the forefeited estates of Lord Elcho.

Thus the town's response to the two rebellions was quite different and is a good marker that the old ways had changed in Dumfries.

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