Loch Lomond’s part in the Jacobite Uprising of 1715.
Before the days of good roads, Loch Lomond was an important waterway both for commerce and, later, tourism. Loch Lomond also witnessed some of the turmoil brought on Scotland by the Jacobite uprisings – the attempts to restore the exiled Catholic Stuart monarchy to the throne of Britain by the Jacobites, the supporters of the exiled King James.
In 1715, soon after King George I came to the throne, rebellion flared up in Scotland. The local Macgregors, in Glen Gyle at the head of Loch Katrine, received instructions from the Earl of Mar, the Jacobite leader in the ’15 rebellion. The Macgregor clansfolk were sympathetic to the Jacobite cause, and were instructed to mount a raid along the Highland edge, targeting the Hanoverian government sympathisers – the Whig lairds at the south and west sides of the loch. This was intended to divert government forces, and deny the use of the loch to them. (This was part of a wider strategy to land the exiled King James somewhere in the locality, from a vessel on the River Clyde.)
Clan Gregor – numbering around 300 in three companies - raided the Duke of Montrose’s lands and the Colquhoun lands around Luss, stealing every boat they could find all along the southern shores. They took these boats to the island of Inchmurrin, then raided further, ranging widely by Callander and Aberfoyle and towards Dumbarton. By this time the country around was in uproar, with church bells ringing and guns sounding in warning from Dumbarton Castle. The Macgregors lifted deer and cattle from Inchmurrin (owned by the Duke of Montrose) and – deciding not to range further - retreated by boat to Inversnaid. They then hurried north to join a Jacobite camp in Strathfillan.
Far from popular, the Jacobites were opposed by volunteers from all around the Clyde area. These had assembled as soon as word had spread about Jacobite activity in the Loch Lomond area. Within days, naval ships in Clyde’s waters supplied small boats with guns mounted on them (called ‘pateraroes’). The little armada, of 11 vessels of various kinds, was hauled up the River Leven and assembled on Loch Lomond. Meanwhile elements of the powerful Clan Campbell, taking the government side, plus the volunteers and clansmen from the Clan Colquhoun (with no love for the Macgregors either) pressed on, up the west side of the loch. Ashore and afloat, a formidable expedition was mounted. A contemporary pamphlet tells how the forces fired their guns as they went – probably to intimidate the Jacobites in the hills.
Eventually, the forces – numbering about 700 men - arrived at Inversnaid. They were several days too late. One of the boat-mounted guns was used to shoot at a house on the hillside, in the hope of bringing the Macgregors to battle. But no one appeared. Several of the party came ashore, ready for action but found only some old folk among the Clan Gregor houses. Many of the stolen boats were discovered, drawn up and hidden near Inversnaid. These were retrieved. So, after this show of strength the Hanoverian forces marched or sailed southwards down the loch again.
Later in that year, acting under direct orders from the Earl of Mar, Rob Roy himself took command of another flotilla for more raids along the southern end of Loch Lomond. Incensed, the Duke of Montrose called in the militia and the navy once again, with direct orders to bring in Rob. By the time a force reached Inversnaid, Rob Roy had vanished once more – though he just escaped capture at Crianlarich.
The Loch Lomond Expeditions of 1715 remain unique as the only war operations ever carried out on Scotland’s (or Britain’s) inland waterways.