The History of Leith

May 17, 2012

Old Brigadier Mackintosh

The insurrection of 1715, under the Earl of
Mar, made Leith the arena of some exciting scenes.
The Earl declined to leave the vicinity of Perth
with his army, and could not co-operate with the
petty insurrection under Forster in the north of
England, as a fleet under Sir John Jennings, Admiral
of the White, including the Royal Anne, Pearl,
Phoexnix, Dover Castle, and other frigates, held the
Firth of Forth, and the King’s troops under Argyle
were gathering in the southern Lowlands. But, as
it was essential that a detachment from Mar’s army
should join General Forster, it was arranged that
2,500 Highlanders, under old Brigadier Mackintosh
of Borlum—one of the most gallant and resolute
spirits of the age—should attempt to elude the fleet
and reach the Lothians.

on the coast of East Lothian, from whence the way
to England was open and free.
But the daring Mackintosh suddenly conceived
a very different enterprise. The troops under him
were all picked men, drawn from the regiments of
the Earls of Mar and Strathmore, of Lord Nairn,
Lord Charles Murray, and Logie-Drummond, with
his own clan the Mackintoshes. With these he
conceived the idea of capturing Edinburgh, then
only seventeen miles distant, and storming the
Castle. But the Provost mustered the citizens,
placed the City Guard, the Trained Bands, and
the Volunteers, at all vulnerable points, and sent to
Argyle, then at Stirling, on the i4th October, for
At ten that night the Duke, at the head of only
300 dragoons mounted on farm horses, and 200
infantry, passed through the city just as the Highlanders,
then well-nigh worn out, halted at Jock’s
Hearing of the Duke’s arrival, and ignorant of
what his forces might be, the brigadier wheeled off
to Leith, where his approach excited the most ludicrous
consternation, as it had done in Edinburgh,
where, Campbell says in his History, ” the approach
of 50,000 cannibals ” could not have discomposed
the burgesses more. Mackintosh entered Leith
late at night, released forty Jacobite prisoners from
the Tolbooth, and took possession of the citadel,
the main fortifications of which were all intact, and
now enclosed several commodious dwellings, used
as bathing quarters by the citizens of Edinburgh.
How Argyle had neglected to garrison this strong
post it is impossible to conjecture; but ” Old
Borlum “—as he was always called—as gates were
wanting, made barricades in their place, took eight
pieces of cannon from ships in the harbour, provisioned
himself from the Custom House, and by
daybreak next morning was in readiness to receive
the Duke of Argyle, commander of all the forces
in Scotland.
At the head of 1,000 men of all arms the latter
approached Leith, losing on the way many volunteers,
who ” silently slipped out of the ranks and
returned to their own homes.” He sent a message
to the citadel, demanding a surrender on one hand,
and threatening no quarter on the other. To
answer this, the Laird of Kynachin appeared on
the ramparts, and returned a scornful defiance.
” As to surrendering, they laughed at it; and as to
assaulting them, they were ready for him ; they
would neither give nor take quarter ; and if he
thought he was able to force them, he might try his
Argyle carefully reconnoitred the citadel, and,
with the concurrence of his officers, retired with
the intention of attacking in strength next day ;
but Borlum was too wary to wait for him. Resolving
to acquaint Mar with his movements, he
sent a boat across the Firth, causing shots to be
fired as it left Leith to deceive the Hanoverian
fleet, which allowed it to pass in the belief that it
contained friends of the Government; and at nine
that night, taking advantage of a cloudy sky, he
quitted the citadel with all his troops, and, keeping
along the beach, passed round the head of the pier
at low water, and set out on his march for England.
Yet, though the darkness favoured him, it led toone
or two tragic occurrences. Near Musselburgh
some mounted gentlemen, having fired upon the
Highlanders, led the latter to believe that all horsemen
were enemies; thus, when a mounted man
approached them alone, on being challenged in
Gaelic, and unable to reply in the same language,
he was shot dead.
The slain man proved to be Alexander Malloch.
of Moultray’s Hill, who was coming to join them.
” The brigadier was extremely sorry for what had
taken place, but he was unable even to testify the
common respect of a friend by burying the deceased.
He had only time to possess himself of the money
found on the corpse—about sixty guineas—and then
leave it to the enemy.”
The advance of Mar rendered Argyle unable to
pursue Borlum, who eventually joined Forster,
shared in his defeat, and would have been hanged
and quartered at Tyburn, had he not broken out
of Newgate and escaped to France.
A few days after his departure from Leith, the
Trained Bands there were ordered to muster on the
Links, to attend their colours and mount guard,,
” at tuck of drumme, at what hour their own officers
shall appoint, and to bring their best armes along
with them.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh
The brigadier took possession of all the boats
belonging to the numerous fisher villages on the
Fife coast, and as the gathering of such a fleet as
these, with the bustle of mooring and provisioning
them, was sure to reveal the object in view, a
clever trick was adopted to put all scouts on a false
All the boats not required by the brigadier he
sent to the neighbourhood of Burntisland, as if he
only waited to cross the Firth there, on which the
fleet left its anchorage and rather wantonly began
to cannonade the fort and craft in the harbour.
While the ships were thus fully occupied, Mackintosh,
dividing his troops in two columns, crossed the
water from Elie,Pittenweem,and Crail, twenty miles
eastward, on the nights of the 12th and 13th October,
without the loss of a single boat, and landed

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