Friday, May 14, 2010

Red Fox Hunted

A murder occurred on May 14, 1752, that inspired the pens of both Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.  The victim, Colin Campbell, was known as the Red Fox.  The murder became famous as the Appin Murder.  It took place in Appin, the region of the forfeited estates of the Stewart clan.

Campbell served as factor for the Stewart estates.  In this position, he had recently evicted the Stewarts of Appin; a Jacobite clan.  Clan leaders naturally came under suspicion, with James Stewart arrested, tried, and convicted.  James protested his innocence, but was hanged at Ballachulish.  His life ended famously with his recitation of Psalm 35 from the Bible, dubbed "The Psalm of James of the Glens" in his memory.

The Appin murder appears in Stevenson's "Kidnapped".  Stevenson is said to have received this inspiration from reading Walter Scott's description of the incident in his introduction to "Rob Roy":

"A remarkable Highland story must be here briefly alluded to. Mr. Campbell of Glenure, who had been named factor for Government on the forfeited estates of Stewart of Ardshiel, was shot dead by an assassin as he passed through the wood of Lettermore, after crossing the ferry of Ballachulish. A gentleman, named James Stewart, a natural brother of Ardshiel, the forfeited person, was tried as being accessory to the murder, and condemned and executed uponvery doubtful evidence; the heaviest part of which only amounted to the accused person having assisted a nephew of his own, called Allan Breck Stewart, with money to escape after the deed was done. Not satisfied with this vengeance, which was obtained in a manner little to the honour of the dispensation of justice at the time, the friends of the deceased Glenure were equally desirous to obtain possession of the person of Allan Breck Stewart, supposed to be the actual homicide. James Mhor Drummond was secretly applied to to trepan Stewart to the sea-coast, and bring him over to Britain, to almost certain death. Drummond MacGregor had kindred connections with the slain Glenure; and, besides, the MacGregors and Campbells had been friends of late, while the former clan and the Stewarts had, as we have seen, been recently at feud; lastly, Robert Oig was now in custody at Edinburgh, and James was desirous to do some service by which his brother might be saved. The joint force of these motives may, in James's estimation of right and wrong, have been some vindication for engaging in such an enterprise, although, as must be necessarily supposed, it could only be executed by treachery of a gross description. MacGregor stipulated for a license to return to England, promising to bring Allan Breck thither along with him. But the intended victim was put upon his guard by two countrymen, who suspected James's intentions towards him. He escaped from his kidnapper, after, as MacGregor alleged, robbing his portmanteau of some clothes and four snuff-boxes. Such a charge, it may be observed, could scarce have been made unless the parties had been living on a footing of intimacy, and had access to each other's baggage..."

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