Remembering Dunkeld: Orphan Battle of the Jacobite Wars

When & Where

Saturday, 17 August 2019 - 1:30pm to 3:45pm
Perth Arms Hotel, High Street, Dunkeld, PH8 0AJ

Event Details

On Saturday afternoon, August 17th 2019, The 1745 Association is organising a free commemorative event, open to all, to remember the Battle of Dunkeld fought 330 years ago on August 21st 1689. The event runs from 1pm, with the tour commencing with a talk at the Perth Arms Hotel at Dunkeld.

Dunkeld is the Orphan Battle, unique in the annals of the Jacobite Wars as it was fought in an urban environment with brutal street-to-street fighting between the two sides. By the end of the fight, Dunkeld lay in flames, never to regain its former glory. Only the Cathedral remains today of the buildings that stood before 1689.

The programme:

1:00 pm onwards: Gather at the Perth Arms Hotel, High Street, Dunkeld, PH8 0AJ to meet old friends and new.

1:30 pm: Dunkeld - The Orphan Battle. An illustrated talk by Michael Nevin, Chairman of The 1745 Association.

2:00 pm: A walking tour of the town, taking in key points in the battle, under the guidance of Kevin Smith and John McCulloch, Council Members of The 1745 Association. The tour will include a visit to the Cathedral and a description of tactics and clothing used at the battle, concluding with a brief commemoration of those who fell on both sides of the conflict in Dunkeld Cathedral.

3:30 pm: Return to the Perth Arms Hotel for a re-enactment of the famous Jacobite toast "Tae the King o'er the Water".

Tickets are available at:

Extract from “Dunkeld – The Orphan Battle”, presentation by Michael Nevin: 1:30 PM at the Perth Arms Hotel, Dunkeld, on August 17th 2019.
“There are, as the old song says, more questions than answers. This is certainly true of Dunkeld, the orphan battle - forgotten, neglected, fatherless, not belonging to any family - quite unlike any other battle fought during the Jacobite Wars. Here are just a few of the unanswered questions that we will try to address this afternoon:

Why don't we know, even approximately, how many soldiers fought at the battle?

How can it be that, when we are told the battle ended at 12 o'clock, we don't know whether this means midday or midnight?

The obvious answer is because the records are so poor. Which gives rise to another question - why are there so many gaps in official accounts of the Battle of Dunkeld? Call me cynical, but the suspicion, when official sources provide very little information about an event, is that it may be because officials have something to hide. What could that be?

Why did the Williamites decide to try and halt the Jacobite advance at Dunkeld of all places? Why did they select an exposed town, lacking any defensive wall, in a low-lying valley, so obviously exposed to attack from the surrounding hillsides? Why not choose an elevated position, or even the fastness of Stirling Castle, occupying a position so impregnable that it could not be reduced by a siege lasting several weeks - as the Jacobites discovered in 1746?

And why, having decided to defend Dunkeld, did they then send in an inexperienced militia formed just three months before - the Cameronians? Surely, if they were serious about holding the town, it would have made more sense to deploy a crack regiment of regulars to do the job, not a bunch of amateurs?

Why were the Cameronians not commanded that day by their regimental commander, the Earl of Douglas? Why was he deployed elsewhere, along with a third of his regiment, leaving just 800 men to hold Dunkeld against the might of a battle-hardened Jacobite army, which had a few weeks before scored a stunning victory at Killiecrankie?

Why was command of the Cameronian Regiment delegated to an inexperienced 27-year-old officer?

Why were the 800 men under his command so poorly armed? Being issued, according to contemporary accounts, with just 400 outdated firelocks, 400 pikes, and 40 halberts - just one inadequate weapon for every man defending the town.

And why, two days before the battle on August 19th 1689, were two troops of horse and three troops of dragoons sent to reinforce the Cameronian infantry suddenly withdrawn without explanation?

You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out a possible answer to these questions. The Cameronians were being set up to fail. The Williamites didn't seriously expect them to hold Dunkeld against the advancing Jacobites at all. Their mission was merely to blunt the Jacobite advance, softening them up while the main Williamite army prepared to meet the Highlanders at a more propitious location.

And if the Cameronians were slaughtered during their defence of Dunkeld, that was deemed by those in authority to be a price worth paying.....

Which gives rise to two further questions: why were the Cameronians, uniquely among the Williamite Regiments, deemed to be so expendable? And how did they escape their expected fate?.....”


Michael Nevin



Event Location

Perth Arms Hotel
High Street


Please note that you should check with the event organiser to confirm details of times and location - Scottish Local History Forum is not responsible for the events hosted by Member Societies.