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Kincaldrum House and the Bower Family - An Incident of “The Forty-five”

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A copy of a booklet that was put together by my great grandfather's Uncle, Lt. Col. John Bower who was born in Kincaldrum, Mim.
Meathie can be found as Methie, Methy, etc. and became part of the joint parish of Inverarity & Methy.  Forfarshire or Angus was the county name at different times.

An Incident of “The Forty-five”

This incident of “The Forty-five” describes a tragedy, which occurred at my paternal home in Forfarshire (Angus), and appeared in the Parthenon some years ago, and was reproduced in a Dundee paper, The People’s Journal, in 1889, on the occasion of the death of my brother, the late Admiral James Paterson Bower.  I have been asked by several friends to have the tragic story reproduced for distribution, and in compliance with this request, here it is.

I have however added to it another version of the same story written by my father.  It differs in some details from the story reprinted by the Dundee paper but is probably more accurate.

J. Bower


The recent death of Admiral James Patterson Bower has revived recollections of the family of Bower, who were long connected with Forfarshire, and especially with Dundee.  The estates of Meathie, Kincaldrum were in their possession for several centuries, and became the property in 1796 of the late Graham Bower, father of the deceased Admiral.  That gentleman did not purchase, but succeeded to the estates as his fathers’ heir, inheriting there with some heavy family burdens-common to landed property where large families are concerned-and, in addition some debts of his father’s which he honourably undertook to defray.  For this reason the estates of Meathie and Kinnettles were parted with, and all went well at Kincaldrum till 1817, when it transpired that Mr. Bower had become victim of misplaced confidence in a dishonest friend.  Kincaldrum had to be sold, and sair, sair were the hearts of the family at parting frae their hame.

In 1818 the Bowers moved to Fife, and Mr. Graham Bower died in 1844.  At Woodburn near Ceres, his residency in that county, and now the property of a member of the old family of Dalgleish of Scotscraig.  The Scottish Bowers derive their surname from a valiant knight of the Middle Ages, who in the third crusade distinguished himself under the “Coeur de Lion” in repelling a sortie of the Saracens in 1191.  From him has descended the distinct families of the Archers and the Bowers, the latter bearing the Arms to this day of two bows and three quivers of arrows with a significant motto- “Ad Metam”.

The part the family in the cause of Charles Edward and the tragic events of “the ‘Forty-five” is shown in the accompanying extract from an article which appeared in the Parthenon, a London journal of Romish predilections, on January 10th 1863, under the initials of “M.L.”

The stirring events there described may even now interest some of the Forfarshire people.

There yet survives one of the family who was born at Kincaldrum-viz, John Bower, a retired Colonel of the Indian Army, and now residing in Hampshire, (England).

In the year 1744 Alexander Bower, the Laird of Kincaldrum and Meathie, in Forfarshire, returned from Spain to his native country, partly to look after his estates and partly to watch in secret for the landing of Prince Charles Edward.

After the retreat of the Prince’s army from England, Mr. Bower retired to his residence at Kincaldrum, where he lost his life in a most cruel manner.

George II, being at that time pressed for soldiers, called to his assistance some troops from Germany, and the County of Angus was given up to the tender mercies of the Hessians.  During the day he lurked among the hills to avoid capture, returning at night to the house where his wife (Margaret St.Clair, of Roslin) was with supper and provisions for the following day.

One evening, coming home somewhat earlier than usual, he was detected by a patrol.  The house was instantly attacked, the soldiers rushed into the dining room where Mr. Bower was sitting with his wife.  Being a very powerful man, he soon blocked the door with the bodies of several dragoons, sprang from a window and in safety regained the hills, where he remained several days.

In the meantime his wife went on a mission to the Duke of Cumberland to sue for her husband’s life.

Forced by hunger and fatigue, he revisited the house, then in charge of his sister-in-law, Sarah St.Clair, who, unwilling to disturb him in sleep, allowed the day to dawn before awakening him, when, to their dismay, a sentinel was found posted at every outlet.

Escape being impossible, he retreated to a secret room, where he might have found safety had his valet not betrayed him.  This man at first refused to give any information either about the master or the plate; so he was taken to a tree and a rope put around his neck.  Still persisting in silence, he was suspended for a few seconds, and when let down the love of life prevailed over his devotion to his master, and he led the troopers to Mr. Bower’s place of concealment.  Thence he was dragged, one of the dragoons wantonly wounding the defenceless man with his sabre.  He was then pinioned and tied by his hair (which he wore long, Spanish fashion) to the tail of a horse, and in this manner drawn as far as Findrik Farm, where the farmer rushed out and offered the commander all the money he possessed if he would set his Laird on the horse.  This was done, but the injuries already received proved fatal, and he died almost immediately after being lodged in the jail at Perth.

The body was scarcely cold when his widow entered the cell.  She had returned from Stirling Castle after an audience with the Duke of Cumberland, and had heard on the way of the capture of her husband, with the probability of his having been taken to Perth; whither she hastened provided with the necessary passports for leaving the country and expecting his immediate release.  So great was the shock that the broken-hearted lady fell dead on her husband’s corpse, and their bodies, placed in one coffin were conveyed to Kincaldrum.

In the library the double coffin was placed by the chaplain.  The only child (a child of eight years old) and his nurse, Betsy Maxwell, were praying besides the bodies, when the tramp of horses was heard and soldiers burst into the house.  The nurse therefore seized the child and hid herself and him under the bier.  This she did in consequence of having heard that a distant relative of the family had offered the Hessians a reward to get the boy out of the way, hoping then to assert himself heir and so prevent confiscation, he having embraced Protestantism and taken no part in the rising for Prince Charles.

The Bowers were an old Catholic family.  Finding merely a priest at his devotions beside the coffin, the soldiers retired, saying in their own vernacular, “There is no work for us here.”

But they amused themselves slashing with their swords some of the family portraits which they had over-looked in their former raid, on which occasion they had done much mischief, destroying the pictures and other valuables, ancient charters and other papers.

The good chaplain, perceiving that the boy was no longer safe, and firmly believing the report the nurse had heard, fled from the house that night with him, accompanied by Miss St.Clair and the nurse, leaving the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Bower to the care of the servants and tenantry, by whom they were carried to the chapel at Meathie next morning, and there they were buried.  The chaplain and his youthful charge spent the night at the house of Mr. Graham, of Fintry, whose daughter Margaret was about the boy’s own age.  So the children played together in the drawing room, and the nurse observed to Mr. Graham “When the days of trouble pass away, and our little Lairdie returns to his native land, he would marry his playmate.”  Her remark proved prophetic, for when young Bower returned from France he became the husband of Margaret Graham.  On the following day the fugitives reached Broughty Ferry, then a small fishing village, where a Jacobite fisherman took them to the sea in his coble.  They fell in with a Dutch vessel, on board of which they were taken and safely landed in Dunkirk, whence they proceeded to St. Germains.  In the following year (1747) Miss Sarah St.Clair left St.Germains for Scotland to procure funds from the family at Roslin for the education of the nephew.  On her way the diligence in which she travelled was attacked by robbers.  She was murdered and even her body was never found.  In the meanwhile through, the kindness of the king and many friends, young Bower was receiving the best instruction that Paris could afford, and was then attached to the court as page of honour to Louis XV.  Whether he was in attendance at the time of the Monarch’s death is unknown, but he was seized with smallpox, to which disease Louis XV fell victim.  Shortly thereafter he was invited to return to Scotland, as a measure had been taken by the Government for restoring confiscated properties to the heirs of the persons who had been implicated in the rising, providing they were of tender years when the event took place.  On his arrival he found the estate in the possession of that James Bower, who was alleged to have attempted his destruction before he escaped to the Continent.

A commission was appointed to inquire into his case, for the said James Bower, finding the young gentleman disfigured by smallpox, and having the appearance and manners rather of a Frenchman than a Scot, did all he could to prove that the claimant was not the person who he represented himself to be.  However, the heir was speedily recognised by the tenants, whom he knew perfectly again addressing them by their proper names in the presence of the Commissioners, and referring to many localities which he had remembered in his boyhood.  A blacksmith who from curiosity had left his work to see the proceedings, and who had pointed with iron the boy’s arrows, was fully as much surprised as the Commissioners, when the elegant and accomplished stranger ran to the grimy son of Vulcan, and folding him in his arms, in the French fashion, and calling him by his name.  This was conclusive.  The gentleman in possession was ordered to quit, and to render an account of the revenues of the estates during his unauthorised tenure.

Graham Bower, the last Laird, married Emily, daughter of the Reverend Doctor J. Paterson, D.D., Episcopal Clergyman at Dunkeld, and subsequently at Aberdeen, where he died in 1781.  His wife was Emelie Guthrie, of Craigie [possibly Craigo] (Forfarshire).  Their son, James Guthrie Paterson, was killed at Seringapatam [India] on the 15th May 1791.  He fell in the action between the British troops and those of Tippo Sahib while leading the charge of his troop of the 19th Light Dragoons.

Graham Bower’s son, Alexander was, in 1852, served lawful descendant of William St.Clair, the last of the Roslin Family, and with it the name so well known in the chivalric history of Scotland and France, as well as in “the Craft,” and of whose “barons bold” the minstrel of Abbotsford has sung.


In the year 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, when the Duke of Cumberland’s Troops were scouring the Country, Mr. Bower of Meathie, and his cousin Colonel Ker of Gradeen (Henry Ker(r) of Graden see note) took shelter at Kincaldrum.  One evening a party, finding no person but ladies told them he did not wish to make a search, but he knew well from information that Colonel Ker and Mr. Bower were both secreted in the mansion.

The Ladies gave the officer and his party a hearty supper.  On his taking leave he expressed himself by saying “the Hessian Troops are also scouring the Country, for God's sake request of your friends to get out of the way, for I cannot answer for their conduct.”

The two gentlemen thinking themselves secure did not take the hint given by the above-mentioned kind-hearted Officer.

A few days afterwards a party of Hanoverian or Hessian Dragoons came up, the first of their operations were to hamstring all the cows, cattle, and horses, they could lay their hands upon, even the little Shetland pony kept for my father’s use did not escape.  On entering the house they amused themselves slashing the family pictures with their sabres - those pictures are still in my possession.  All the windows in the lower storey had what they call upright iron stanchion.  Colonel Ker hearing the uproar betook himself for escaping from one of the windows where he knew there was a false stanchion.  On getting out he found two soldiers placed, who immediately made him a prisoner.  The sergeant of the party went into a bedroom.  On removing an old black cabinet they found a hole where my poor old grandfather was concealed (this cabinet is also in my possession).  On the officer commanding the party demanded fifty pounds from my grandfather to let him off he told him he had no money, on which the officer struck Mr. Bower a blow on the back with the flat of his sword which was returned by Mr. Bower taking up a poker knocking down the officer and two or three of his men, however he was soon overpowered by numbers, his hands tied behind his back (and, having a fine head of hair) they knotted it to one of their horses tails and dragged him in this way for about two miles to a place called Cothiewards near Fendrick when a poor man of the name Saunders Kinnear was holling broom, who on his bended knees interceded for his master, saying "If you will only put the gentleman on a horse I will gie you a’ the siller I hae" - which amounted to ten pounds.  This relief seems to have come too late, however he was mounted behind a trooper, carried to Dundee, from that to Perth Prison where it soon pleased God to relieve him from his tormentors - having expired from the brutal treatment he had received.

I must now return to the house of Kincaldrum to inform you what was going on there.  In the first place I must inform you on Colonel Ker producing his commission of being an Officer in the Spanish service the Hanoverian officer did not think it prudent to keep him a prisoner.  Colonel Ker had a commission, as a Colonel in Prince Edward’s service, Dated Linlithgow, 15th September 1745 - he was the person that led the Highlanders over the marsh to attack Johnny Cope at the Battle of Preston Pans [near Edinburgh]. Some years ago, in making alterations, this commission was found.  It was supposed he had put it into a hole in the wall before making his escape.  The above commission is now in my possession.  While all this business was going on there was a lady’s corpse laid out in one of the bedrooms.  Betty Maxwell who kept my father (then a little boy) got him in her arms and secreting herself - with her charge - behind the bed containing the dead body to prevent of his being taken hold of by the Hessian soldiers.

Some days after the body was enclosed in the grave, a consultation took place what was to be done.  Miss St.Clair of Roslin, aunt to my father, started with the little boy wandering over the Scadly Hills and found her way to Borrasteness, where she found a small sloop on the point of sailing for Hull, on board of which vessel she got, from that she made her way to a port in Holland, from Holland she reached Paris with her little charge where she found Lord Ogilvy,-,then Colonel in the French service,-,by his advice with other friends, my father was placed in the Scottish College.  Miss St.Clair after getting clear of her charge left Paris.  On her way home the Diligence is supposed to have been attacked in the Forest of Cressy.  From that day to this she has never been heard of.

My poor Grandmother during these troublesome times was at Traquhair House in Peeblesshire entreating for her husband with the Duke of Cumberland.  The only charge could be brought against him was wearing a white cockade in his bonnet and shaking hands with Prince Edward at an Inn, which is called the Salutation to this day, in the town of Perth.  In those days there seems to have been a warm friendship between Perth and our family.  I have found on some of the books in my library some curious notes written by the Duke and signed Perth.

My Grandmother finding she could make nothing in favour of her husband from the Duke of Cumberland, returned home.  On her arrival in Dundee she of course asked the news, on being informed of her husband’s fate and the disasters at Kincaldrum - her boy being obliged to fly with his aunt - on entering the Red Lion Inn she requested the landlady to show her into a bedroom; the moment she entered it complained of being a little sick, dropped down and never spoke more.  The hearse that brought the remains of my Grandfather from Perth took up the body of my Grandmother in Dundee, carried them to the family burying ground at Meathie, where they were laid side by side.

During the years my father had been in Paris at the Scottish College he took the natural smallpox and being much marked by that dreadful disease made a great change in his features.  On his return to Scotland to be put in possession of his property the next heir raised an objection by saying this young man from France was an impostor and not the son of their late Alexander Bower and Margaret St.Clair.  Of course a number of witnesses were examined in the Court in Forfar - all declaring that they could not identify the young man as the son of their late Laird and Lady.  When Mr. Wedderburn of Percy got up saying, "You have had your way of getting at the truth, I shall tak my way of it noo."  On a man being brought into court, Percy asked my father if he knew who that person was, "Yes!" answered my father, "it is William Maxwell, the Miller of Kincaldrum." The next person brought in - about his own age - my father went up to him saying (and taking him by the hand) "Jamie man, dinna you mind when you and I, lang syne, took puddocks [frogs] wi’ a girn in the Barn Hill Dub?"  Percy rose saying, "Gentleman, I fancy you are a’ satisfied noo."  J. Bower, the person who disputed my father’s rights, on hearing the decision of the jury, walked out of Court and never more heard of.


·   I am in possession of a letter from Colonel Francis St.Clair to my father, Dated Naples 1764, congratulating on his having succeeded in recovering his property.  The above Colonel St.Clair seems to have been uncle to my father.

·   Alexander and his brother Henry were sons of Archibald Ker(r) of Graden and Helenor St. Clair, daughter of Sir James St. Clair of Roslin.  The boys' father died when they were still young children.  Their mother raised them as Roman Catholics.  Henry, the eldest, may or may not have participated in the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion.  However, Henry was not captured as a Jacobite until the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion near Forfar, Scotland.  Henry pleaded he was taken as an officer of the Spanish Army, which he was and had been for 23 years.  Henry was sentenced to "transport" and died a Lieutenant Colonel in the Spanish Army at San Lucar, Spain on 22 December 1751.


Lately in France, in the 32nd year of her age, Mrs. Margaret Johnston, wife of Lord Ogilvy, leaving issue one son and two daughters.  This lady’s husband is the lineal heir of the family of Airlie, became attainted in 1746 (VIII. 269) and is Colonel of a regiment in the French service.

Scots Magazine MDCCLVII. Vol XIX. Page 165. [as slightly amended]


Several letters have appeared in The Standard on the subject of “Old Age and Memory,” and having been asked to contribute I have done so, and it occurs to me that my note might interest the living descendants of some of the Old Angus Families, and with this object I have added it to this reprint of the “Incident of the ‘Forty-Five,”- and I am inclined to think that if old Sandy Boath could today rise from his grave, what with evil designing Socialist, their misguided dupes, and noisy riotous females called Suffragettes, whose desire seemingly is to be permitted to take the field in political breeches, he would find his topsy-turvy prediction of seventy-four years ago well nigh come to pass, blindly steering for the whirlpool of “national decay”:-

“A friend has called my attention to a letter in The Standard of October 2nd on a ‘Question of Memory,’ and I write, in compliance with writer’s desire, to ‘cap it.’

“The Blessings of health and memory in old age are not a subject for boasting, but of thankfulness, and under this feeling I hesitate to take up my pen.  But, since the subject has been stated, and I am asked to say something, here goes!  In my boyhood I knew a man called Sandy Boath, who hailed from Douglastown (a nearby village in Forfarshire), and, when between nine and ten years old, was an eye-witness of some of the tragic events at my paternal home (Kincaldrum), in the cause of Prince Charles Edward in 1745, and in after years he often recurred to the subject.

“Sandy Boath’s calling in life when he reached manhood was that of a gillie and gamekeeper, and he was never more in his element than when carrying the bag to the shooters, who, among others, were Graham of Fintry and Graham of Balgowan.  The latter, with an eye to Bonaparte’s evil designs, took up the sword, raised a regiment of Highlanders for service in Spain, and came back a decorated general and a peer, Lord Lynedoch.

“Sandy Boath was a wonderful pedestrian.  He thought nothing of a tramp of fifty miles on an errand before the days of post carts and telegraph, and never objected to a dram of whisky.  When past work he retired to Douglastown, and when in his ‘nineties,’ found his way to Dundee, crossed over to Fife, and walked thirteen miles to come and see me on my return on leave from India in 1832.  He was with us at the Reform election, when Colonel The Hon. Donald Ogilvy of Clova, the Conservative candidate, was defeated, and the old man exclaimed, ‘The heels of the world are uppermost!’  Two years later, when on his way home from the mill with his quarter’s allowance of meal on his back, being deaf, he did not hear the guard’s horn, and the Tally Ho coach came round the corner.  The leaders knocked him over and killed him.  He was born in 1737.


“Droxford, Hants, 5th October 1906”

Inscribed on a plaque outside of the Salutation Hotel in Perth, Scotland:

"The Oldest Established Hotel in Scotland 1699" - Chambers’s Journal” May 1st 1911.

Extract from Article “Bridging the time - 1745 - 1910”

Trial of Colonel Bower of Kincaldrum, Forfarshire at York.  The only charge that could be brought against him was that he worn a white cockade in his bonnet and had been seen shaking hands with Prince Charles Edward at the Salutation Inn in Perth."

Salutation Hotel, Perth, Scotland

You can read another version of the Bower legend as it appears in the "Kinnettles Kist", published by the Kinnettles Heritage Group. Copies of the book available from the KHG Website, from bookshops, or read it at,%20Kincreich%20Farm%20and%20Meathie.pdf ) 



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