Siol nan Gaidheal
the oldest jacobite
Many people will have read about the Jacobite Rising of 1745 - the victories at Falkirk and Prestonpans, the defeat at Culloden, and its terrible aftermath. Again, many people will be familiar with the names of those who led the Jacobites into battle. But what about the the foot soldiers? The unsung heroes who played their part in the ’45? There is one man who richly deserves his place in history, but very few people know much about him. His name was Peter Grant - the last surviving Jacobite soldier of the ‘45.
Peter was born a crofter's son the year before the 1715 Jacobite Rising in his father's croft at Dubrach (the place on a hillock of wild ferns), near to the village of Braemar. Peter grew up to be a tailor to trade. In 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart arrived on the shores of Glenfinnan on Loch Shiel in an attempt to put a Stuart back on the throne. Many highlanders were sympathetic to the Stuart cause, and Peter Grant was one of them. He joined the Monaltrie's and Balmoral regiment of the Jacobite Army as a Sergeant Major, took part in various engagements and was decorated for bravery at the Battle of Prestonpans. He also took part in the Battle of Culloden, a battle that to this day sends a shiver down the spine, such was the brutality by the British forces under the command of the “Butcher” Cumberland. Peter survived the battle only to be taken prisoner to Carlisle Castle, where his fate could have been hanging, deportation to the colonies (if he survived the journey), or death due to the inhumane conditions that the Jacobites prisoners had to endure.
But Peter managed to somehow escape. He travelled north, back to the highlands of Scotland. This was an incredible feat in itself, as he would have had no food, no money and very little clothing. There was, of course, a price on his head for his capture. The British Hanoverian troops were at that time scouring the towns, villages, hills and glens of the highlands looking for Jacobite soldiers, in their wake murdering families, raping women and inflicting terrible brutality on the people of the Highlands. The British troops committed acts of genocide which have never been forgotten - or forgiven. But Peter was determined to go back, no matter what the cost. He is mentioned in the book "No Quarter Given" which lists all known members of the Jacobite army during the '45', thus: "Sgt Major Grant Peter, Dubrach, Braemar, Taken, escaped, died 1824".
He had to lie low for many years, and there was no record of him being recaptured, even though he had a price on his head. He even managed to return to his former trade as a tailor. This says a lot about the people of the Braemar area, not all of whom had Jacobite sympathies. Whatever side they had supported, they looked after their own. In later years he married a girl, many years his junior, from the village of Braemar. Her name was Mary Cummings, and apparently Peter made her christening bunnet after her birth! She bore him a son and a daughter.
In the summer of 1820 two wealthy gentlemen were walking the Glen Lethnot hills when they met Peter by chance. By then he was known as Auld Dubrach, after the croft he resided in. They were astonished to find out that he had fought in the ’45 Rising, and was in exceptional health for his age. He invited the gentlemen into his cottage and recalled the events and experiences of being a soldier in the Jacobite army for them. He even showed them how to use the broadsword! The two men were so taken aback at the exploits of Auld Dubrach they decided to do something to comfort him in his advancing years. A petion was raised and he was presented to King George II in Edinburgh. When he was introduced to King George, the ruling Monarch exclaimed "Ah, Grant, you are my oldest friend", to which Auld Dubrach replied: "Na, na, your majesty, I'm your auldest enemy". He was also asked if he still felt loyal to the Stuart Cause, he replied, "Yes, Sir, and I would be ready to give my support again, if needs be".
Auld Dubrach was awarded a life pension of 50 Guineas a year. He returned to Braemar where he lived for a short time until he died on 11th February, 1824 at the incredible age of 110 years - the last surviving Jacobite of the 1745 Rising. Over three hundred people attended his funeral, and three highland pipers played the Jacobite tune "Wha Widna Fecht Fer Charlie" as his funeral proceeded to the cemetery of Invercauld beside the ancient Braemar Castle. A stone tablet was erected over his resting place and is suitably inscribed; “The old, loyal Jacobite was at peace. He had kept faith with those whom he thought were his rightful Monarchs all of his life, a hero and man of honour to the last.”
A carved stone also stands in the kirkyard of Lethnot and Navar, commemorating Auld Dubrach, and the lives of his wife Mary and their daughter Anne, who never married. Mary herself is buried in Lethnot kirkyard.
Peter Grant was indeed a man who held to his beliefs all his life even though it was a dangerous thing to do. But he believed in the Stuart cause and was a man of honour. People like Auld Dubrach should not be forgotten by history. Stories like this bring history alive, and illustrate the lives of the common man (or woman) more vividly than those of the more popular heroes of those times. If ever you are near Braemar, visit the kirkyard and pay your respects to Auld Dubrach. Here lies a man who is worthy of our respect.
On the Information board in Braemar kirkyard is the following story:
Immediately in front of the Invercauld Vault is a flat tombstone in memory of Peter Grant, who was born in 1724 at the croft of Dubrach in Glen Dee and gained fame as the oldest surviving Jacobite. Peter was taken prisoner at the Battle of Culloden but made a remarkable escape from Carlisle Castle whilst awaiting trial. He returned home on foot to resume his trade as a weaver and tailor in Auchendryne, where he married Mary Cumming and had six children. In later years Peter, known as Auld Dubrach, and his wife went to live with their daughter in Glen Lethnot and there he celebrated his 100th birthday in 1814. When George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822 he heard the story of Auld Dubrach, "his oldest subject and oldest rebel", and granted him a pension of a guinea a week.
Auld Dubrach died in his son's home at Auchendryne on 11 February 1824 aged 110 years. His funeral was attended by over 300 people and it is said that an anker (about 4 gallons) of whisky was consumed before the coffin was lifted. At the graveside a piper played the Jacobite tune, "Wha widna fecht for Charlie's richt?".
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