The Story Of Roderick MacKenzie or a little known hero of the 1745

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The River Moriston - 2 x click to enlarge

Young Roderick MacKenzie was the son of an Edinburgh jeweller, and was an ardent and courageous Jacobite. It happened that he had a superficial resemblance to Prince Charles Edward, and this amused the Prince, who appointed Roderick as one of his personal bodyguards.

In the terrible aftermath of Culloden when Government troops were searching the hills looking for Prince Charlie with the promise of a 30,000 reward being offered for his capture, the garrison at Fort Augustus became suspicious that Charles was somewhere in the district.  Patrols and search parties were constantly out combing the area.  Certainly the Prince  was at large in the hills around Glen Moriston for weeks, staying for part of the time in a cave at Corridoe, protected by the eight men of Glen Moriston.

One of the government patrols came across young Roderick, himself a fugitive and like many of those who had fled the carnage at Culloden striving to get to the west.  There lay a modicum of safety, and the possibility of a ship to the continent if necessary.  On being challenged, , instead of running with a good chance of escape into the hills, young Roderick turned to fight. The redcoats opened fire and young  Roderick fell fatally wounded.  BUT with his last vestiges of breath displaying a courage and quickness of thought amazing for a dying man he called out  'You have killed your Prince.'

The patrol, deceived by the words and the resemblance, were sure that they had killed the Prince, and no doubt were already thinking of how they would spend that 30,000 reward. They cut the head off the body, and carried it proudly back to Fort Augustus. It happened that Cumberland, the Butcher in command of the Hanoverian forces, was there.  Cumberland was uncertain about the head.  It certainly looked like the Prince.  He had the head sent of to London to be identified but there was no one in London able to do that. Only one man, it was thought, could be certain, and that was Peter Morrison, the Prince's batman, and he was lying in Carlisle Castle, awaiting execution. So Peter Morrison was sent for, but by this time it was too late, the head was far too decayed for identification. Something good did come out of it, for Peter Morrison's sentence was commuted, and eventually he was freed.

Cumberland himself was however convinced enough by the severed head, to leave Scotland and return to London and the "high society" he so sorely missed. With the Butcher gone, the vigilance and enthusiasm of the troops was lessened, and Prince Charles Edward was able to break through and win to the west.

Roderick Mackenzie, meanwhile, as lies in a quiet grave just off the A887 two miles or so past its junction with the A87 on the road to Invermoriston. There is a memorial to this very gallant young man by the side of the road and over the road down by the banks of the River Moriston a simple wooden cross marks the grave.  The day we visited there were white cockades by the grave, the sun shone, and the river sang its quiet song.  It seemed a fitting  last resting place for a hero.

Photos of the site - 1996 - click on any image to enlarge

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The memorial Stone in the roadside cairn

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The Grave down by the River

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The Grave down by the River - note the Cockades round the foot of the cross

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The River Moriston by the grave site

So the next time you go to Kyle of Lochalsh en route for Skye or the north west take a little detour and visit the site of one of the more genuinely brave and unselfish acts of the 1745.  It probably had as much to do with the eventual successful escape of Prince Charles as Flora MacDonald's deeds of daring, but is much less well known.

If you are heading up Glen Moriston on the A887 from Invermoriston you will find the site marked by a large cairn on the left hand side of the road about two miles before you get to the junction with the main A87 from Invergarry\Fort William.  If, as is likely, you are coming up the A87 from Invergarry\Fort William you will need to make a short detour back down the A887 towards Invermoriston.  It is no more than a couple of miles and you may decide whether it is worth it when you have read the story of Roderick MacKenzie.


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