Few Dundonians are as well remembered for their contributions to battle than Admiral Adam Duncan, yet many of us may not even know who he is, despite there being a statue dedicated to him in the centre of town.  The lands now known to us as Camperdown Park were gifted to him because of his decisive naval victory over a Dutch Navy fleet, whom outnumbered them in battle.  That battle was called the Battle of Camperdown, and was fought on 11th October 1797 in waters just outside Haarlem (unsurprisingly called Camperduin)

The son of Lord Provost Alexander Duncan, Adam Duncan was a well-educated and handsome man who married into good connections. Women were said to follow him everywhere and swoon at just how attractive he was – and tall, at 6’4.  Born in the Seagate in July 1731, his naval experience began at 15.  He became a lieutenant less than 10 years later, and ranked as commander after a further 4 years, by 1759. He continued to climb the ranks, making Admiral and commander-in-chief in the North Sea in 1795.

Despite his stellar career already guaranteeing him a place in the history books, it wasn’t until 2 years after his Admiralty that the Battle of Camperdown was fought.  In addition to the lands at Camperdown, he received a very generous pension as well as Camperdown house, a beautiful building that is still standing within the grounds. 1797 really was Adam Duncan’s year, as he was created Viscount Duncan of Camperdown, Baron Duncan of Lundie and also was the guest of honour at a Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral.  It was attended by King George III and many lords and noblemen, who were all genuinely grateful and thankful to him for his services to his King and country.

He retired in 1800, aged 68, having been appointed Admiral of the white the previous year (which was the 2nd highest senior ranking in the Navy). Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see too much of his retirement, as ill-health in 1804 saw him rapidly decline, killing him before the year was out.  His eldest son was granted earldom (it’s believed his wife was fairly miffed that he didn’t receive it immediately after the Battle of Camperdown).

There is a marble statue in St Paul’s Cathedral of Admiral Duncan, as well as a bronze statue in the centre of town.  Not bad for a Dundee lad, we’re sure you’ll agree.  Admiral Nelson personally penned a letter to Admiral Duncan’s son Henry (a naval officer by this time) in October 1804, in which he wrote, “There is no man who more sincerely laments the heavy loss you have sustained than myself; but the name of Duncan will never be forgot by Britain, and in particular by its navy, in which service the remembrance of your worthy father will, I am sure, grow up in you. I am sorry not to have a good sloop to give you, but still an opening offers which I think will insure your confirmation as a commander”

To read more on the Battle of Camperdown (which, in case you didn’t read earlier, didn’t happen in Dundee), click here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Camperdown


The Rough Wooing was a very tumultuous time in Dundee’s history, during which almost the entire town was destroyed.  In 1543 England was feeling trapped and surrounded by Catholic powers. Scotland was still part of the ‘auld alliance’ with France and Catholicism still reigned here, so the English worried about the potential for invasion from France via Scotland.

The Treaty of Greenwich laid out a plan for peace between England and Scotland, including a marriage between the then infant Mary, Queen of Scots, and Edward, Henry VIII’s son. The Regent Arran, acting on behalf of Mary, initially agreed to the treaty. But after meeting with Cardinal Beaton and upon pressure from Scots who didn’t want the marriage or alliance to go ahead, rejected the treaty and all of its terms. This caused the fury of Henry VIII to be aimed squarely at Scotland. Five days later, war was declared in Edinburgh.

The war began with an attack on Edinburgh on 3 May 1544, led by the Earl of Hertford. Hertford had instructions to burn Edinburgh and issue Henry’s proclamation which laid the blame on Cardinal Beaton’s “sinister enticement” of Regent Arran. Henry’s instructions for the invasion force were to;

“Put all to fire and sword, burn Edinburgh, so razed and defaced when you have sacked and gotten what ye can of it, as there may remain forever a perpetual memory of the vengeance of God lightened upon (them) for their falsehood and disloyalty.”

This was the last big conflict between Scotland and England, and with the two countries at war Dundee suffered greatly. While the name for the conflict might be a little whimsical, there was an awful lot of rough, and not very much wooing going on. The name ‘Rough Wooing’ was first introduced many years later, the war itself was too bloody and savage a for such a name at the time. Historian William Ferguson points out the juxtaposition of the name with the violence of the conflict:

“English policy was simply to pulverise Scotland, to beat her either into acquiescence or out of existence, and Hertford’s campaigns resemble nothing so much as Nazi total warfare, “blitzkrieg”, reign of terror, extermination of all resisters, the encouragement of collaborators, and so on.

There was also a great deal of propaganda during the war, as the idea of an alliance with England had some wavering support – some didn’t like the French interference with Scottish affairs, and others wanted to use the alliance to further reformation of religion towards Protestantism. To this end, George Wishart was sent from England along with a group returning from negotiations, as he had been a preacher in Montrose and was to return and continue spreading the protestant faith.

Just after the war began, in 1544, Dundee was ravaged by plague, and it swept through the town with a fatal severity. So many of the townspeople died that the next year when a call was put out across Scotland to gather an army to defend against Henry VIII’s forces, no one from Dundee was able to join. While Dundee was under the blanket of plague, in its darkest hour, George Wishart preached to the Dundonians afflicted with plague, banished from the town and left to die outside the gates. He was loved by the people, and it is his influence that is said to have caused the change in religion in the city which led to the destruction of the old monasteries of the Friars.

Henry VIII had also asked Hertford to destroy St Andrews, the home of Cardinal Beaton, but the distance proved too far with so many of their resources in the war further south. Henry was too distracted with his troubles with France, so any attacks north of Edinburgh were shelved for now.

After a victory at the Battle of Ancrum Moor, the Scots were included in a treaty which had also brought the end to the Italian War of 1542-6. This brought peace between Scotland and England for 18 months. However, in 1546 Fife Lairds had murdered Cardinal Beaton at St Andrews Castle, and held up at the castle hoping for support from the English Military. After the death of Henry VIII, Hertford, now Protector Somerset wanted to continue the war and it was to be even bloodier than before, still determined to force the marriage between Edward and Mary. He fought and won at the Battle of Pinkie, crushing the Scots, gaining control of the whole of southern Scotland.

It wasn’t until 1547 that the war came to Dundee. The English fleet sailed up the Tay, led by Andrew Dudley. Instead of attacking Broughty Castle with force, they only fired a few parting shots as the castle had already been given up by the traitor Lord Gray. The English then garrisoned the castle, then a place of great strength in a commanding position to defend against invaders.

The Regent Arran and then the Earl of Argyll tried to capture the castle on 22 November 1547 and then in January 1548, without success. But again treason was to be Dundee’s downfall, when Argyll made a truce with the English it gave them the opportunity to reinforce their garrison by sea. He then ‘retired’, having received a bribe of one thousand crowns of money from Lord Gray, given to him by the enemy. This left Dundee in a very vulnerable position.

An account of the invasion of the town is given by a French gentleman who took part in the attack. He says that the English, after being strengthened:

“seized upon a little hill distant from Broughty nine hundred paces, and here they built a very fine fortress, and spared no cost to render it admirable, and to furnish it with men and ammunition of all sorts.” From this position, “they sent betwixt sixteen and seventeen hundred lances, both foot and horse, to Dundee, which they entered without opposition: For although this last is one of the most beautiful, rich, and populous towns in the kingdom, and though ’twere easy to render it impregnable, yet, as the Scots have ever been careless to fortify their country, those in Dundee had no other defence than the walls of their private houses.”

Although an army was raised at Edinburgh to march north to surprise the English and take back the town, news of this reached the English, who then abandoned all of the fortifications they were building in the town, and during eight days looted all the could from the town and its houses, set the town on fire, and then retreated to Broughty Castle. When the Scots army got to Dundee they found nobody around, just a few peasants left to try and put out the fires, the town razed to the ground.

Dundee lay in ruin for a long time after the rough wooing, the destruction left behind decimated the whole area – St Mary’s Church, the tolbooth, steeple, alms house and many other common places were completely ruined, along with the history of the town in its most ancient texts and records, which burned along with the tolbooth. Because the English could aid Broughty Castle by sea, they managed to hold possession of the castle for another 2 years. Finally, in February 1550 a fleet of French and Scots ships and armies managed to siege and retake the Castle.

During this time, the young Mary was taken to safety and betrothed to the Dauphin in France in August 1548. This made it clear, even to the English, that any marriage between Mary and Edward was not going to happen. Internal strife in England caused the Downfall of Somerset, and he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. His successor, Warwick, was more concerned with his own position than continuing the war with Scotland. The Treat of Norham in 1551 formally ended the war, and the English Military withdrew from Scotland. After the war ended many Scots were accused of assurance or collaboration as a crime; 192 citizens of Dundee were acquitted in 1553 and the whole town of Dumfries received a pardon.

But, for a time at least, there was peace. Dundee did eventually rebuild and up until the mid 17th century was one of the most prosperous burghs of Scotland, second only to Edinburgh. They had certainly learned their lesson about defending the town, and a wall surrounding the town was complete by 1592. While this made the job of invaders more difficult, it was certainly not the last time war would reign down on Dundee’s streets.


The History of Old Dundee, Maxwell – p 26-27

Rough Wooing: James V Trilogy 3, Tranter


Wikipedia page on Rough Wooing

WW2 was the deadliest conflict in the history of the human race, with an estimated 50 to 85 million casualties. Whilst China and Japan had already been at war over Japan’s aggressive domination of Asia, things didn’t heat up to a global level until Germany invaded Poland on 1st September 1939. Tensions continued to heat up as more countries found themselves caught up Germany’s invasions. So many lives were lost to war and genocide on an unprecedented scale that it was impossible to keep count amidst all of the horror. Nuclear weaponry was used, with devastating consequences to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an attempt to end a seemingly unstoppable war.

During WW2, as Nazi Germany desperately tried to take over Britain, our RAF took to the skies to valiantly defend our country with their lives. During the summer of 1940, a battle within the War had formed, with Winston Churchill declaring it The Battle of Britain:

“What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle, depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour”.”.

Hitler had a plan to besiege Britain by land and by water, in a fierce double-pronged attack dubbed Operation Sea Lion. On September 15th 1940, thanks to our RAF troops in the air, we took control of the skies, shooting down 56 of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, forcing him to abandon his plans for invasion. During a period aptly named The Blitz, Hitler’s air forces bombarded air bases, factories, manufacturing plants and anywhere else they felt was critical to Britain’s continued success in battle. On 25th October, 21 year old, Dundee-born Pilot Officer William Pattullo lost his life whilst defending us from Hitler’s army in the skies over Kent. Whilst the Battle of Britain officially ended on 31st October, having been fought and aerial superiority won by Britain, the Blitz continued to rage on until 21st May 1941.

London was the worst affected by the Blitz, being bombed by the German forces for 57 consecutive nights. Ports in places such as Plymouth, Southampton and Glasgow, to name only a few, came under heavy bombing. Despite perpetuating a myth that Hitler’s own granny came from the city (a story the people used to explain why we had escaped largely unscathed) it seemed that not even Dundee remained entirely without its war wounds.

On 5th November 1940, 8 bombs were dropped in Dundee – Farington Terrace; the gardens of Fernbrae Nursing Home; a home in Briarwood Terrace; a home at the junction of Marchfield Road and Middlebank Crescent; the back courtyard at 258 Blackness Road; the tenements at 19 Rosefield Street; near the power station on Forest Park Place and finally, one in Queen Victoria Works on Brook Street. There were three fatalities that evening as a result of the bombings; Elizabeth Cooper, a housekeeper, died in the bombing at Briarwood Terrace, and 2 others died during the collapse of the tenement building at 19 Rosefield Street.

Charles Toshney tells us that the bombings were perhaps part of an aborted air attack on the Tay Bridge, which could have been devastating to this part of the country. The civilian areas were not the intentended targets that night, but after the RAF chased off the German bombers, the pilots had to unload their bombs in an effort to facilitate a speedier escape. Unfortunately the citizens of Dundee were collateral damage for this aborted attempt to take out the bridge.

We found an online account from a lady called Lily R Fox, who kindly contributed her story to Dundee Central Library:

That night, my young sister, who was 10½ years old, myself (12), and my two cousins, Nancy (10½) and Bobby (7), went to the pictures at the Forest Park picture house with Mr and Mrs Gracie, who lived up my close and were friends with my Mum and Dad. In those days we didn’t say were going to see a film – it was “going to the pictures”. Well, in we went to the cheap seats, 4d for adults and 2d for children, because it was during the week and we only went to the dear seats (6d and 4d) on a Saturday night. We got settled down and sat engrossed watching the pictures. It must have been about 8 p.m. when we heard four loud bangs. That did not upset us, because there were two out-facing double doors on Forest Park Road and boys used to kick on the doors with their boots. That was what it sounded like, but the lights went out and the film stopped and then someone started to scream. Mr. Gracie stood up on a seat, shouted for order and told everyone to line up against the walls, because he said if the walls fell down, they would not hurt us if we were leaning against the walls. A silence then came over everyone, and the cinema manager came on stage and spoke to everyone. The emergency generator came on, and we had lights again. He asked everyone if they wanted to see the rest of the show. Of course, we said we wanted to stay and see the rest of the picture, so we sat down again and the picture came back on.

We must have been watching for about another 15 minutes, when the usherette came down shining her torch on all the people. My Mum was looking for her bairns, so we had to go out with her. Also we had Nancy and Bobby, whom we took up to Rosefield Street and handed over to my Auntie Nan. They lived in number 7 Rosefield Street and one bomb had gone through number 9. When we came out of the pictures, that was when shock set in. Of course everything was in darkness, but the streets were littered with debris. Slates, stones, bricks, wood, chimneys, walls and glass covered the roads and pavements. There was not a clear space to put your feet down. Everything was covered with muck and all the shop windows were blown in.

We got home to Miss Kerr’s house: she had a low door and when an air raid was on during the night, my Mum lifted the three of us and we slept, covered with blankets, on Miss Kerr’s floor underneath her big table, until the “all clear” went. Next day, when we went off to school (I was at Logie School), we had to stand in our lines all morning in the playground, because all the classrooms were littered with glass. All the windows had been blown in because of the blast, and there was a huge hole in the roof where a huge piece of wall had gone through the big hall roof. We were finally sent home at 12 o’clock and told not to come back until further notice. It took months and months for the repairs to be done, as it was such a big job. So we lost almost a full year of schooling, because all the men were away to the war and it was only the old men who could get on with the work. Also it was very difficult to get materials to complete the work needing done.

The havoc one string of bombs caused in Dundee that evening! Luckily, only one person was killed. We were very lucky that night, because a bomb fell on the electricity generator for Dundee, which was next door to the picture house. 20 yards nearer and it would have been on us, and there would have been a lot of deaths and injuries. God was looking over us that night.
Lily R. Fox. via Dundee Central Library

The evening telegraph also ran a story detailing another Dundee resident’s account of the bombings. George Wilmott’s interview can be read on the evening telegraph’s website by clicking this link.

WW2 eventually ended with the unconditional surrender of the Axis forces (detailed on the chart below). The Nazi concentration and extermination camps which claimed around 11 million innocent lives, were neutralised. The Italian dictator, Mussolini was captured on 27th April and executed the following day; his body being taken to the Piazzle Loreto of Milan and hung up for all to see. Two days following Mussolini’s execution, Adolf Hitler and his recently wedded wife, Ava Braun, committed suicide. Germany soon fell to the might of the opposition and had fully surrendered by 8th May 1945, hence why we celebrate VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) on 8th May.

Japan had other ideas, however, and was still having its Pacific War with China (which predated WW2). Fearing another huge escalation, allied forces prepared for an invasion of Japan’s mainland. By late July of 1945, Japan was told to surrender or expect “prompt and utter destruction”. With no sign of relenting from the Japanese side, President Truman of the United States of America ordered an atomic bomb known as Little Boy to be dropped on Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands of people instantly, with the effects of radiation continuing to slowly kill thousands more people as time went on. Truman again called for Japan’s surrender, telling them that their failure to do so would result in “rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth”. Three days after his threat, Truman stood by his threat and dropped a Fat Man bomb on Nagasaki. Within a second of impact, the North of Nagasaki had been completely destroyed, and approximately a fifth of the population wiped out. This was the last time in history, to date, that nuclear weapons have been used in war.

WW2 death statistics
WW2 Deaths statistic: “World War II Casualties” by TheShadowed at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:World_War_II_Casualties.svg#/media/File:World_War_II_Casualties.svg
Bomb damage image courtesy of evening telegraph. http://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/2015/07/10/dundee-angus-and-fife-hit-by-german-bombs-in-battle-of-britain/

Long before the city of Dundee arose, the land around the Tay estuary was the site of many a battle and skirmish. There is evidence showing the Law being used as a fort back to the Iron Age, and remains from Roman times can also be found…but evidence of any long-ago fought battles is lost to us.

The earliest referenced battle fought on these lands was the “Great Battle” where Alpin lost his head to the Picts in 836. The Battle of Pitalpin was fought in the Liff area, to the west of what was the village of Pitalpin; a small village named because it was the resting place or ‘pit’ of Alpin.

This story of King Alpin battling the Picts is something of a legend in Dundee’s history, with conflicting accounts on the exact date, and even the location of the battle. Many records and important details of Scottish history were lost in the many wars of independence as well as invasions, particularly from Edward I, as though seeking to quash any ideas of an independent Scotland by erasing its history.

We’ll choose to go with the account taken from ‘The History of Dundee’ by James Thompson, published in 1847 and available here (http://archive.org/stream/historyofdundeeb00thomuoft/historyofdundeeb00thomuoft_djvu.txt) in full text.

In 836, Scotland was not the united nation we know today, and was divided roughly into the Scots, who were Gaelic people on the west, the Picts who claimed the land from the firth of Forth northwards, the Scots of Dál Riata (the west coast), the Britons of Alt Clut (Strathclyde) and the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia (southern Scotland and Northern England).


Alpin was King of the Scots, but was also the grandson to Hungus, King of Pictland, and thus he laid claim to their kingdom. The Picts themselves chose another King, Brude, after King Alpin had invaded their land, laying waste and exercising great cruelty to the Pictish people, ‘spairing sex nor age’ in his bloodshed while invading the Lothian region.

Brude gathered a great army, and crossed the river Tay at the castle of Caledonia (Dunkeld) marching towards Angus to meet Alpin in battle. He met Alpin who had a force of 20,000 scots in the fields where Liff and Camperdown now sit. Initially Alpin witnessed the forces meeting from the top of the Law. It was recorded that ‘With much blood was it fought for many hours together’ till Alpin joined his army, and with great force gave a fresh charge on his enemies. It was this final charge which was to be his undoing.

The story goes that, seeing defeat, the King fled towards the coast to escape, while the Scots escaped into the mountains, leaving the Picts victorious that day. As Brude was determined to capture Alpin, he raced after him. When enquiring in which direction the king fled, he was pointed towards the coast, and this direction became known as the Kingsway, which is now of course a dual carriageway running through Dundee. The Picts did indeed capture the king and beheaded him, leaving the body behind and carrying his head to their city of Camelon where they mounted his head upon a pole in the middle of their city. These were gruesome days indeed.


It has been suggested that the site of the beheading was on the very stone where Alpin raised the standard, a stone which can still be found today in the grounds of Camperdown. However some have speculated that this would have been an unsuitable place to easily behead someone.

While excavating the land around Dryburgh, a mound was excavated and found to contain a skeleton which was thought to be King Alpin’s body – minus the head of course. There is some evidence to suggest the graves found here were the resting places of important individuals as only the great and powerful were buried with much care and using material such as flagstone slabs for interment.

In the ninth century the Scots and Picts combined under the House of Alpin to form a single Kingdom of Alba, with a Pictish base and dominated by Gaelic culture. Brude had been killed by a Viking invasion, and in the confusion of succession, and no doubt through several more battles and conquests, Alpin’s son Kenneth, became the King of Alba (though not referred to as such until later), and his legacy was being the forebearer of a dynasty of rulers who ruled Scotland for much of the medieval period.

Dundee was certainly a pivotal city in the life of William Wallace, he was certainly educated here and did reclaim the city from the English during the wars of independence. But did he in fact, strike his first blow in the war that was to shape his life, here in Dundee? The story starts in 1288, when Wallace was finishing his education in Dundee. It was in this year that Edward I, and English King, seized control of Scotland and took over many of the cities castles, including the Castle of Dundee.

These events must have affected the young Wallace, as we know he fought against the English and that he had a temper. Unfortunately much of what we know about Wallace’s deed come from poems and folklore, written many decades or centuries after. Blind Harry, also known as Henry the Minstrel, is renowned as the author of The Wallace. This was a lengthy poem recounting the life of William Wallace, written around 1477, or 172 years after Wallace’s death. Here’s the section on Wallace’s first kill.

And with disdain, said, “Scot, I pray thee stay; what devil clad thee in a suit so gay? A horse’s mantle was thy king to wear, And a Scots whittle at thy belt to bear, Rough roullion shoes, or any common trash, Did serve such whore’s sons through the dubs to plash; Give me that knife under thy girdle hings.” “Nay, pardon me, sir, I know better things; Therefore forbear, I earnestly entreat; It both defends me, and it cuts my meat.” Selby assaults him, and would take it by force, And so the plea went on from bad to worse. Fast by the collar Wallace did him take, Made the young squire tremble there and shake, His dagger with the other hand drew out, In spite of all his men so throng about, And boldly without fear or dread Upon the spot he stick’d young Selby dead

Fleeing the scene, Wallace set off from the Hawkhill, where the incident supposedly took place, and followed the Perth Road and eventually arrived in Longforgan where he rested upon a stone outside a cottage. The stone was preserved by the farmer’s descendants for nearly six hundred years, and is how housed in the McManus Galleries.

So clearly there are many believers in the story, since the stone has been kept, and a plaque bears the site of Wallace’s first blow for independence at the former location of Dundee castle. But did it really happen? As with so many stories from so long ago, we’ll never know the full truth. Do you believe?

Bonnie Dundee, or John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee (c. 21 July 1648 – 27 July 1689), known as the 7th Laird of Claverhouse until raised to the viscountcy in 1688, was a Scottish soldier and nobleman, a Tory and an Episcopalian. Claverhouse was responsible for policing south-west Scotland during and after the religious unrest and rebellion of the 1670s and 80s. After his death, Presbyterian historians dubbed him “Bluidy Clavers”. Contemporary evidence for the fairness of this soubriquet in the Covenanting tradition is mixed. Tales of the Covenanters and Covenanter monuments hold Claverhouse directly responsible for the deaths of adherents of that movement. However, Claverhouse’s own letters frequently recommended lenient treatment of Covenanters, and in 1684 he married into a prominent Covenanter family. Later, as a general in the Scottish army, Claverhouse remained loyal to King James VII of Scotland after the Revolution of 1688. He rallied those Highland clans loyal to the Jacobite cause and, although he lost his life in the battle, led them to victory at Killiecrankie. This first Jacobite rising was unsuccessful, but Claverhouse became a Jacobite hero, acquiring his second soubriquet “Bonnie Dundee”.

The Graham family was descended from King Robert III, through his second daughter Princess Mary. John Graham was born of a junior branch of the family that had acquired the estate of Claverhouse near Dundee. He was the elder son of Sir William Graham and Lady Madeline Carnegie, 5th daughter of the Earl of Southesk. He had a younger brother, David, and two sisters. Both John and David were educated at the University of St Andrews, graduating in 1661.

William Graham died in around 1652 and the brothers became the responsibility of their uncles and other relatives. In 1660 they were listed as burgesses of Dundee, probably at the instigation of their paternal uncle George Graham. John Graham inherited the Claverhouse estate when he came of age in about 1667. The Claverhouse properties included a house in Glen Ogilvie in the Sidlaw Hills to the north of Dundee (since demolished), Claypotts Castle, and a house at Mill of Mains. In 1669 Graham’s maternal uncle, David Carnegie, Lord Lour, secured him an appointment as a Commissioner of Excise and Justice of the Peace for Angus.

He began his military career in 1672, as a junior Lieutenant in Sir William Lockhart’s Scots Regiment. This regiment was under the command of the Duke of Monmouth, in the service of the French King, Louis XIV. By 1674, Graham was a Cornet in William of Orange’s guards. It is claimed that he was present at the Battle of Seneffe that year, and that he rescued the young Prince when his horse fell on marshy ground although there is little evidence to support or disprove this claim. It has been conjectured that, as a reward for his actions, Claverhouse received a Captain’s commission in the same troop. Two years later, following an unsuccessful siege of Maastricht, Graham resigned his commission and returned to Scotland. William wrote a letter to James, Duke of York (later James VII), who was both his uncle and father-in-law, recommending John Graham as a soldier.

After leaving Holland, Graham was appointed captain by Charles II and sent to south-west Scotland in 1678, with orders to suppress conventicles (illegal outdoor Presbyterian meetings).

On 1 June 1679 he stumbled upon a field conventicle, “little to our advantage; for, when we came in sight of them, we found them drawn up in batell, upon a most advantagious ground, to which there was no coming but through mosses and lakes. They were not preaching… They consisted of four battalions of foot, and all well armed with fusils and pitchforks, and three squadrons of horse.

Estimates vary, but it is certain that Claverhouse was outnumbered by at least four to one. He gave battle as his duty required him to. Despite the early success of his skirmishers he and his troopers had to beat a very hasty retreat from the Battle of Drumclog. Claverhouse returned to Glasgow, successfully defending it until his party left on 3 June and headed towards Stirling. In a letter about Drumclog, Claverhouse concludes by stating “This may be counted the beginning of the Rebellion in my opinion.”


Joined later by the Duke of Monmouth, the whole of the militia and two regiments of dragoons, both sides met again at the Battle of Bothwell Brig, on 22 June, and the Covenanters were routed. In 1680, he was dispatched to London to influence the King against the indulgent method adopted by the Duke of Monmouth towards the extreme Covenanting party. The King seems to have been fascinated by his loyal supporter, and from that moment onwards Graham was destined to rise in rank and honours. Early in 1680 he obtained a royal grant of the barony of the outlawed Macdougal of Freuch, and the grant was confirmed after some delay by subsequent orders upon the exchequer in Scotland.

In January 1681, he was appointed to the sheriffships of Wigtown, Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Annandale. In December 1682, he was appointed colonel of a new regiment to be raised in Scotland. He had still greater honours in view. In January 1683, the case of the Earl of Lauderdale was debated in the House of Lords. Lauderdale was proprietor of the lands and lordship of Dundee and Dudhope, and the decree of the Lords against him was issued in March 1683 for the sum of 72,000 pounds. Graham succeeded in having the Castle of Dudhope (part of the property of the defaulter) and Lauderdale’s title of Constable of Dundee transferred to him by royal grant in 1684. In May 1683, he was nominated as a member of the privy council of Scotland.

He married Lady Jean Cochrane, a daughter of a fiercely Covenanting family in 1684. Shortly after the death of Charles II in 1685, Graham incurred a temporary disgrace – he stood up for the rights of ordinary soldiers who were being poorly treated – by his deposition from the office of privy councillor; but he was reinstated in May, although his commission of justiciary, which had expired, was not renewed. In 1686, he was promoted to the rank of major-general, and given the additional position of Constable, the dignity of Lord Provost of Dundee. One of his first acts as Provost was to abolish the death penalty for theft under his jurisdiction. In 1688, he was second-in-command to General Douglas in the army which had been ordered to England to aid the falling dynasty of the Stuarts. In the same year, however, he was created Viscount Dundee by James VII while with the Scots army in England. He was also given military command of all the King’s forces in Scotland.

Dundee returned to Scotland in anticipation of the meeting of the Convention of Estates in Edinburgh, and at once exerted himself to bolster the waning resolution of the Duke of Gordon, the governor of Edinburgh Castle, with regard to holding it for the King. The Convention proving hostile, he conceived the idea of forming a rival convention at Stirling to sit in the name of James VII, but the hesitancy of his associates rendered the design futile, and it was given up. Prior to this, on 18 March 1689, he had left Edinburgh at the head of a company of fifty loyal dragoons, who were strongly attached to his leadership. He was not long gone before the news was brought to the alarmed convention that he had been spotted clambering up the castle rock and holding a conference with Gordon. In excitement and confusion order after order was dispatched regarding the fugitive. Dundee retired to Dudhope. On 30 March, despite a letter to the Convention stating that he was not in arms and that he was living peacefully at home awaiting the birth of his first child, he was publicly denounced as a traitor. He had offered to give a bond or parole to no avail and in the latter half of April attempts were made to apprehend him at Dudhope, and at his residence in Glen Ogilvy; but the secrecy and speed of his movements outwitted his pursuers, and he retreated to the north.


In 1689, after the overthrow of King James VII, he continued to support the Stuart dynasty in his capacity as commander-in-chief of all Scottish forces. Dundee raised the Scottish Royal Standard on Dundee Law in support of his king, country and the Jacobite cause. However, in spite of his subsequent association with the city of Dundee, he was to face what the historian of Jacobitism, Bruce Lenman, has described as a “stony faced” reception from its townsfolk. It is claimed that Claverhouse’s association with Dundee was brief and unpopular as he was seen as the representative of an arbitrary authoritarian monarchy that was eroding the self-autonomy the burgh had enjoyed. Indeed, when he returned to Dundee with a small troop of horse (Dundee Law at that time lay outside the burgh walls) he was to find the walls guarded and the gates firmly shut.[8] In fact, the city was heavily garrisoned by Williamite forces at the time which may better explain why the gates were barred to him. The fact that the large force in Dundee made no attempt to give battle or capture him may actually suggest they were to some degree sympathetic to his cause. Later events show that cavalry based in Dundee at the time later attempted to defect and join his forces. For four months he rallied support in the hope that King James would return from Ireland. Modern biographers, particularly Andrew Murray Scott consider that his skill as a diplomat was as great as his inspiration as a leader.

His greatest victory was won at the Battle of Killiecrankie later that year against much greater Williamite forces led by General Hugh Mackay. Scott believes that Claverhouse’s death in victory as he led the Jacobite charge down the hill at sunset was the final desperate act of a man who was aware that he had been betrayed by Melfort, the King’s adviser, and was trying to overcompensate for their lack of support. The Highlanders were completely victorious, but Dundee, in the act of encouraging his men, was pierced beneath the breastplate by a musket ball of the enemy and fell dying from his horse.

Graham reputedly asked a soldier “How goes the day?”, to which the man replied, “Well for King James, but I am sorry for your lordship.” The dying Graham then replied, “If it goes well for him, it matters the less for me.” A short letter describing the engagement to King James was later produced which purported to be from Graham but is now believed to be spurious. The battle, disastrous as it was to the government forces, was in reality the end of the insurrection, for the controlling and commanding genius of the rebellion was no more.

The death of Dundee, in the midst of the confusion of a cavalry charge, became the subject of numerous legends, the best known of which was the long prevalent but of course entirely false tale that he was invulnerable to lead (due to having made a pact with the Devil) and was killed by being penetrated by a silver button from his own coat. He died on the battlefield and was carried the few miles to the nearby parish church of St Bride, above Blair Castle, where he was buried. The stone which commemorates him at the crypt gives his age (erroneously) as 46, when he was actually 41. Dundee’s helmet and breastplate, removed from the vault below the church in the 19th century, are preserved in Blair Castle,

The tune under the title of “Bonnie Dundee” (or “Bonny Dundee”) predated Claverhouse’s appointment as Viscount Dundee, and several 18th century songs under that title refer to the city of Dundee and not Claverhouse. With Walter Scott’s publication around 1828 of his poem adapting the old tune to praise Claverhouse, the phrase “bonnie Dundee” became generally associated with the Viscount rather than the town, though the older ballads were still published.

It might be worthy to note that, although Dundee’s helmet and breastplate are now in Blair Castle, this wasn’t always the case.  A century after his burial, his vault was opened and his armour removed, which was then sold to merchants, but eventually recovered.

most of the above text appears courtesy of wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons Attributtion-Share-Alike Licence

Claypotts Castle is a late medieval castle in the West Ferry area of Dundee, Scotland. It is one of the best-preserved examples of a 16th-century ‘Z-plan’ tower house in Scotland. The castle is now maintained as an Ancient Monument by Historic Scotland and is open to the public for only a few days a year. Originally built by John Strachan, work commenced sometime in 1569 and was eventually completed in 1588, nearly 20 years later. The land the castle was built on was owned by Lindores Abbey in Fife, and was rented to the Strachans for a cost of £11 16s 8d and twelve cockerels. Yes, that’s right – twelve cockerels!

The spirit of a ‘white lady’ has been seen on numerous occasions at the castle. She has been mainly seen at one of the upper windows and witnesses have also said that, at times, she seems to be waving. She is largely believed to be that of Marion Ogilvie. In the 16th century Marion Ogilvie was the mistress of Cardinal Beaton – who was murdered in St. Andrews on 29th May, 1546. However, it’s unclear why the ‘white lady’ ghost is said to be that of Marion as Claypotts didn’t exist until much later in that century. It’s possible that another lady by the name of ‘Marion’ haunts the castle, and it may be that she is connected to another ghost that haunts the area – John Graham of Claverhouse. In 1601 Claypotts Castle was bought by the Grahams and later owned by John Graham of Claverhouse, more famous for the moniker ‘Bonnie Dundee’ or ‘Bloody Clavers’.

The castle was the focus of rumours about diabolic rituals and demonic orgies lead by John Graham. He had apparently made a pact with the devil during these satanic rituals, bestowing upon him the gift of invulnerability. Bloody Clavers was killed at the battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 and his spirit is also said to return to the castle on 29th May – the same date Cardinal Beaton was murdered in 1546. Tales tell of demonic screaming, “hell-fire”, lascivious orgies and the sounds of the horses of Hell stomping over the land.  Red, glowing eyes, cackling laughter and the devil himself have also all been reported…but never validated.  Ever. So widely believed were the rumours of devil worship that it was recorded that he had died by a either silver bullet or the silver button on his jacket as a bullet hit him, as he could not be felled by lead whilst under the protection of the devil himself.


Completed around 1495, Broughty Castle had been earlier fortified in 1454 when George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus received permission to build on the site. His son Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus was coerced into ceding the castle to the crown. The main tower house forming the centre of the castle with four floors was built by Andrew, 2nd Lord Gray who was granted the castle in 1490. Broughty Castle has been party to a little excitement over the years; more notably the “Nine Year War” or “Rough Wooing”, classed by many as the first ‘modern’ battle on the British Isles. The battle was a monumental defeat for Scotland, and the date of 10th September 1547 was known as “Black Saturday”. Soon after taking possession, the English garrison further fortified Broughty Castle from intrusion by building a ditch across the landward side of the castle’s promontory. Edward Clinton began the re-fortification, with the advice of an Italian engineer, Master John Rossetti, and left 100 men guarded by three ships. The garrison was first led by Sir Andrew Dudley. The Constable of Dundee, John Scrimgeour, the Baillies and the Council signed the agreement, although under duress.

The Earl of Argyll tried to capture the castle on 22 November 1547 and again in January 1548 with 150 men lead by the soldier Duncan Dundas, without success. Thomas Wyndham brought two more ships in December 1547 and burnt Balmerino Abbey on Christmas Day in an outrage. On Christmas Day 1549, Mary of Guise held a warfare meeting at Stirling Castle with her guests, and they agreed that more French guns could be brought to besiege Broughty. Twelve English ships arrived to support the defenders and it was 12 February 1550 before the French and Scots managed to recapture Broughty. Mary of Guise watched the successful assault on Wednesday 6 February 1550 from a vantage point across the Tay.

Broughty Castle was attacked again in 1651 by General Monck during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, at the same time as the people of Dundee were slaughtered by his garrison. Needless to say, the defending Royalists hastily fled the scene, knowing full well the extent of Moncks’ brutality. The castle was under the ownership of the Gray family when it was sold in 1666, and over time began to show advanced signs of disrepair. In 1846 the castle was bought by the Edinburgh and Northern Railway Company in order to build an adjacent harbour for their railway ferry.

In 1855 the castle was acquired by the War Office with the intention of using it to defend the harbour from the Russians. In 1860 renewed fears of a French invasion led the War Office to rebuild and fortify the site. The castle remained in military use until 1932, and again between 1939 and 1949. The last defence-related alteration was made in the Second World War when a defence post was built within the top of the main tower, and in 1969, operated by Dundee City Council, the castle opened it’s doors to the public as a museum.


On 1st of September 1651, the storming of Dundee and the siege of General Monck began. General George Monck, Commander-in-chief to Oliver Cromwell, stormed the town of Dundee and captured its townsfolk. A bloody battle and siege ensued, provoked by Cromwell’s outrage at the Royalist stance of it’s people. Dundee was completely walled-in at that time – viewed by many as one of the safest towns in the country – and was a rich, thriving community. Dundee was home to the largest gold depository in Scotland and the majority of the wealth of many viscounts and earls lay nestled within its confines. A previous warning from General Monck to the people of Dundee for their surrender was met with refusal, and he was greatly angered by this.

Legend says children from Dundee knew a secret way in and out of the town and had revealed to Moncks’ troops that the Dundee garrison had a habit of being drunk by lunchtime, so Monck attacked sometime in the morning of 1st September. A different theory offers that it may not have been a local child who helped Monck, but, in fact a short, child-like man employed by the bloodthirsty General to infiltrate the games of the town’s children in an attempt to glean vital information without arousing suspicion. Upon forcing entry, Monck promised his troops 24 hours free licence to loot and pillage the besieged town. Monck quickly lost control of his troops, and, as a result, the killing and looting went on for 3 days or more.

The town’s defenders were rounded up and massacred without mercy. The town was pillaged, set on fire, women raped and men, women and children put to the sword in a killing frenzy. The Governor of Dundee, Robert Lumsden was executed, beheaded and then had his head placed on a spike, which was then displayed from the parapets of the Steeple.
The streets literally ran with blood for 3 days, and it was said that it took the sight of a dead woman with a baby still feeding at her breast to move Monck to pity and call off his men. The troops pillaged everything of value they could find, and a fleet of 60 ships, many commandeered from the harbours of Dundee was needed to take the vast amounts of treasure back to England. A collection of over 200,000 gold coins, estimated to be worth up to £12 billion is suspected to have been on board, but the full value of the treasure pillaged from Dundee is not known.

When the fleet sailed from Dundee, stories say that a freak storm rose up to swallow all 60 ships to the bottom of the Tay estuary. Other stories refer to a fire on one of the ships, which quickly got out of control and spread to the rest of the fleet, causing the ships to sink. Whatever tragedy befell the vessels, one thing remained clear – the treasure had been lost. Despite many subsequent search efforts, the ships have never been recovered, and the wrecks of the 60-strong fleet laden with treasure remain lost to the sea, eager to be found and returned to land.

Some say the once wealthy and prosperous town never fully recovered. The English Army occupied Dundee for 9 years after the siege, and we still walk today over the bodies of those fallen in this bloodiest of Dundee battles, buried in mass graves underneath the streets of our city centre.

Many have tried to find the loot, but all have failed. Perhaps the strong currents have washed the wrecked ships and treasure with it further away, perhaps the quick moving sands on the sea bed have already buried the treasure far below the surface. Whatever the fate of the fleet who ransacked Dundee, their actions left our city ravaged; forever changed by the deeds of Monck and his terrible army.

The following is a short extract from a diary of proceedings we found at www.generalmonck.com, which gives a small insight into what happened during what could be Dundee’s bloodiest and darkest days:

Sept. 1. About 4 o’clock in the morning our great guns began to play before Dundee round about the line. The enemy for two or three hours answered us gun for gun, besides small shot from their works, til such time as large breaches were made in two of their most considerable forts… Mr. Hane the engineer played the mortar piece…

Three hundred horse and dragoons, being eleven of [each?] troop, were appointed to fall on with the foot with sword and pistol. Our men were drawn forth in ambuscades by daybreak to fall upon when breaches were made, and with them 200 seamen who had their posts assigned, and 400 horse appointed to second them mounted…

Capt. Hart led on the forlorn of Lt. General Monck’s regiment on the west side, Major Robinson the horse, and Col. Ashfield’s regiment went on the east side. Capt. Ely led on the Pioneers [engineer troops] who made way for the horse [through the breaches], and the Lt. General went in person. Our word was “God with us,” and the sign a white cloth or shirt hanging out behind.

About 11 o’clock the signal was given, and breaches being made into the enemy’s forts on the east and west sides of the town, our men entered, and after about half an hour of hot dispute, diverse of the enemy retreated to the church and steeple, and amongst the rest the Governor, who was killed with between four and five hundred soldiers and townsmen…

There was killed of ours Capt. Hart and about 20 soldiers, and as many wounded.

When our men got to the marketplace they gave quarter, and took about 500 prisoners, and amongst the rest Col. Coningham, Governor of Sterling, who was in the town with many of his soldiers which marched thence [after their surrender August 14].

The soldiers had the plunder of the town for all that day and night, and had very large prize, many inhabitants of Edinburgh and other places having sent their ware and gear thither.

There were about 60 [or 190] sail of ships in the harbor of 10, 6, and 4 guns, which were all prize; about 40 pieces of ordnance, many arms and store of ammunition…

By the best testimony we could get, the townspeople were most obstinate against a rendition on terms, being confident of their own works and strength, having formerly beat out Montrose, but they have now most suffered for it, and paid dearly for their contempt.

Sept. 2. Proclamation was made by the Lt. General that the soldiers should forbear further plundering or rifling of the houses in Dundee, and order given to the inhabitants to bury the dead.

The following text is the Act of Parliament for additional voluntary contributions to help with rebuilding the town from the aftermath:

Act of parliament, in favour of the Burgh of Dundee, for a voluntary contribution, in respect of the loss incurred at the Storming of the Town and destruction of the Walls, dated 23rd December, 1669
At Edinburgh the twentie-third day of December, one thousand six hundreth threescore nyne years: The King’s Majestie and Estates of Parliament takeing to their consideration the loyaltie, affection, and fidelitie of the Burgh of Dundie to His Majestie’s service, and that in September 1651 the samen was stormed and taken violently by the Usurpers, and their town plundered, with the loss of many lyves; and the great loss latelie sustained by the said Burgh & inhabitants thereof through the breaches made upon their Walls from their hospitall to the seagateport, and upon the harbour & bulwark to the utter demolishing thereof and loss of several of their ships, goods, and vessels, occassioned by the great storm and tempest of wether in the month of October lastly past, so that besides their losses sustained by them in their private fortunes, one hundreth thousand pund Scots will not repair their publick losses, Whereby the said Burgh and Inhabitants thairof are rendered unable to repair the said harbour without some supplie be granted to them for that effect. Therefore his King’s Majestie, with advice and consent of his Estates of Parliament, doe seriously Recommend the condition of the said burgh of Dundie to the archbishops, Bishops, and Ministers of the gospel, and all incorporations within the kingdome, for a free and voluntary contribution, to be gathered for the help and supplie of the said Burgh towards the reparation of their harbours and bulwark; And Recommends to them to order and direct the fittest and best way of contributing thairof, and that the samen may be delivered to any person who shall be entrusted by the Provost, Baillies, and Councill of the said burgh of Dundie having their Commission to receive the said contribution. – Extracted furth of the Records of Parliament by me, Sir Archibald Primrose of Thestor, Knight & Barronet, Clerk of his Majestie’s Councill Registers and Rolls.
A. Primrose, Clk. Reg