James VIII, the Old Pretender, was proclaimed as king by James Maule, 4 the Earl of Panmure, at the Market Cross of Brechin in 1715. Panmure went on to lead the Jacobites of Angus through the unsuccessful military campaigns of that year. Among the prominent men in is contingent was David Lindsay, Laird of Edzell, who sold his castle and estate to Panmure in order to finance a group of soldiers. For a while he lived at Newgate, Arbroath. but after the uprising failed he visited Edzell one last, unhappy time. The laird and a single retainer rode up to the house at night. Once inside, they worked until dawn, burning every incriminating document they could find. They rode off again at first light, laden with a few salvaged belongings. Lindsay died in poverty forty years later, aged around eighty, working as an ostler in a public house in Kirkwall, Orkney.
When Panmure's estates were seized by the avenging government, troops occupied Edzell Castle and did much damage. Its destruction was completed after an English company bought the building in 1764. Local people believed that the last laird had failed to remove his secret horde of treasure, which was rumoured to be hidden somewhere within the tumbledown walls. A man from Arnhall who firmly believed this tale set off to find the loot one Saturday evening. High on the north side of the building he spotted an odd coloured stone and gave it a mighty blow with his mattock. Half of the wall and the whole staircase in the turret collapsed, stranding the treasure seeker on a landing. He was rescued by a farmer next morning. Edzell's reputed concealed treasure has still not seen the light of day.
Another noted Jacobite rebel of this period was James Carnegie, 5th Earl of Southesk. A colonel in the Angus Horse, he was a famous plotter and folk-hero, the subject of the song 'The Piper o' Dundee', which recounts a secret rebel meeting in the town:
There was Tullibardine and Burleigh,
and Struan, Keith and Ogilvy,
and brave Carnegie, wha but he,
the Piper o' Dundee.
Like so many others, Southesk fled to France and died there in 1730.
John Lyon, 5th Earl of Strathmore, raised a battalion of foot for the Stuart cause and his bravery is remembered in another anti-Hanoverian ballad:
Strathmore and Clanranald
cried still 'Advance, Donald,'
till both these heroes did fa, man.
There was such hashing,
and broadswords a clashing,
brave Forfar got a claw,man;
And we ran and they ran.
Lyon was wounded and captured at the inconclusive Battle of Sheriffmuir in December 1715. While his captors' backs were turned he managed to seize their colours, but he was slain by a dragoon. When the Earl of Argyll saw Strathmore's richly attired corpse that night he asked a man bending over it, 'Wha's that man there?' The dead man's companion answered soberly,'He was a man yesterday.'
Another unfortunate local Jacobite who was out in the '15 was Lord James MacLartin. A few days before he was captured by English soldiers he had been followed down the road by a phantom black dog. He instantly recognised it as his family's personal omen: sight of the dog foretold death on a dung hill. Sure enough, after being hanged at Arbroath, his body was thrown onto a midden.
By the time the Old Pretender landed at Peterhead in December 1715 he was too late to benefit his cause. After being entertained by Panmure at Brechin, he moved on to Strathmore's home, Glamis Castle. Here he administered his touch to some locals who hoped he could cure them of scrofula, the 'King's Evil'. He also dismayed his supporters by showing a singularly sullen disposition. The Pretender left his watch at the castle and it was lifted by a maid whose great-great-great-grand-daughter returned it to Glamis.
King James proceeded to Dundee and was soon crowned at Scone. But he was soon forced to flee back through Angus when Argyll's troops pursued him. After much persuasion he finally agreed to return to France and boarded a frigate at Montrose in February 1716, never to return.
Even before the fighting commenced in 1715 there was dissent and trouble in the county. Many Jacobites were 'non-juring' Episcopalians who refused to swear allegiance to the Hanoverian monarchy in 1712, unlike more compliant 'qualified' Episcopalians who did pledge their loyalty. The ministers of Lethnot and Monikie were fiery 'non-jurists'. In other places Presbyterian clergymen, loyal to the state, were threatened and sometimes expelled. Newtyle's minister was prevented from preaching by armed men who occupied his manse, obliging him to flee into hiding. The same ting happened at Stracathro, while the Rev. Joseph Ballantyne of Monifieth was violently expelled on the same day as the Battle of Sheriffmuir. An Episcopalian usurper occupied his kirk for several months. The Rev. Anderson of Oathlaw was humiliated one Sunday when a mob of pro-Jacobite women 'pulled him out of the pulpit...and forced him to leave off worship'. His attackers later had to perform public repentance in the kirk, dressed only in sheets.
In the three decades between the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, the county's loyalties continued to be divided. On Thursday 9th May, 1728, Forfar was full of lairds attending the funeral of Carnegie of Lour's daughter. Lour entertained Charles Lyon, 6th Earl of Strathmore, in a tavern, along with the earl's kinsman, Lyon of Brigton, and Lour's own brother, John Carnegie of Finavon Castle. During dinner Brigton grossly insulted John Carnegie, who had gained local notoriety by switching loyalties from the Stuarts to the government after the '15. It was openly said that he had been bought off by an enormous bribe. His infamy had even inspired a satirical Jacobite song entitled 'He Winna Be Guidit By Me'.
Following the meal, Lyon of Brigton drunkenly continued to taunt Carnegie outside in Castle Street. When he was pushed into the gutter, Carneguie flew at his provoker with a drawn sword. At the last minute Strathmore tried to avert the blow and was run through. The earl died on the following Saturday. Carnegie was tried for the earl's murder in Edinburgh but was acquitted. Ironically, James Carnegie switched sides once again and fought for the Jacobites in the '45 uprising. There is some confusion about Carnegies, with some people stating that Carnegie of Finavon was the figure mentioned in 'The Piper o' Dundee.'