Macpherson, Ewen (DNB00)

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MACPHERSON, EWEN (d. 1756), of Cluny, Jacobite, was the hereditary chief of the Macphersons, a branch of the ancient clan Chattan. They claimed the chieftaincy of the clan Chattan against the Mackintoshes, tracing their descent to Gillicattan Mor, progenitor of the clan in the eleventh century. Andrew Macpherson of Cluny, in 1609, with others of the clan Chattan, recognised Mackintosh as chief, but in 1665 the Macphersons declined to assist the Mackintoshes against Lochiel except from motives of friendship, and in 1612 Donald Macpherson obtained from the Lyon office the right to have his arms matriculated as laird of Cluny Macpherson and 'the only and true representative of the ancient and honourable family of the Clan Chattan.' On objections raised by the Mackintoshes, the armorial bearings were changed to those of 'cadets of Clan Chattan,' and the claim of Cluny to the chiefship of the Macphersons was also limited so as to extend only to 'those of his name of Macpherson deecendit from his family,' without prejudice to Mackintosh. In consideration of a gift to him from Mackintosh of the Loch Laggan estates, Inverness-shire, Lachlan Macpherson, son of Duncan, who had distinguished himself in the rebellion of 1715, agreed to recognise Mackintosh as chief of the clan Chattan, on the ground of his marriage to a Macpherson, the 'heiress of Clan Chattan,' in 1291. This agreement did not, however, affect the preponderating influence which the Macphersons, through the energy of their chiefs, had already begun to acquire (cf. notice of the clan Cnattan in Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, 1891, xvi. 157-70).

Ewen Macpherson was the son of Lachlan Macpherson, above mentioned, originally of Nuia and afterwards of Cluny, by his wife Jean, daughter of Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel. Before the rebellion in 1745 he seems to have added to his income by levying blackmail on the surrounding districts, on condition of protecting them from inroads of robber clans ('A Brief Account of the Rise and Progress of the Watch undertaken by Ewen Macpherson of Cluny, Esq., in the year 1744. For the Security of several countrys in the North of Scotland from Thifts and Depredations,' in Maitland Club Miscellany, ii. 85-9). At the time of the arrival of Prince Charles in 1745, Macpherson held command of a company in Lord Loudoun's regiment, and, although the clan had fought for the Pretender in 1715, he professed his determination to support the government. To Lord-president Forbes of Culloden he continued to act the part of confidential adviser. He informed him of the sentiment and disposition of the clans in his neighbourhood (18 Aug., Culloden Papers, p. 373), and he wrote to Sir John Cope that by the lord president's desire he had sent a gentleman on a message to the laird of Lochiel 'with his and my serious friendly advice for making him withdraw from the Pretender's party' (ib. p. 374). His own wavering inclinations may, however, be inferred from his warning to Forbes on 19 Aug., that unless the government did not forthwith protect those who remained loyal, 'they must either be burnt or join' (ib. p. 375). The stringent methods which the rebels were prepared to take to secure adherents was manifested in his own case. On 28 Aug. he was seized in his own house during the night by a large party from the Young Pretender's army, and brought a prisoner to their camp (Lady Macpherson to Forbes, 29 Aug., ib. p. 391; 'Account of the Young Pretender's Operations,' in Lockhart Papers, ii. 443). After being detained a prisoner for some time he finally agreed to muster his clan on behalf of the Pretender. 'An angel,' he wrote, 'could not resist the soothing close applications of the rebels' (Letter of Alexander Robertson, 23 Sept., Culloden Papers, p. 412). It is stated that both he and his brother-in-law Lovat, before agreeing to join, 'demanded, and obtained from him security for his estates, lest the expedition should prove a failure ' (Bishop Forbes, Memoirs, p. 22). He joined the prince with his clan after the battle of Prestonpans, and on 13 Oct. kissed the prince's hand in the abbey of Holyrood ('Caledonian Mercury,' quoted in List of Persons concerned in the Rebellion of 1745, Scottish History Society, p. 307).

Once he had joined the rebels, Macpherson, displayed the utmost enthusiasm in the Jacobite cause. During the retreat from Derby he especially distinguished himself at the bridge or Clifton, near Penrith, in an attack on the cavalry of the Duke of Cumberland ('Manuscript Memoirs,' quoted in Appendix to Sir Walter Scott's Waverley; James Maxwell, Narrative of Charles's Expedition, Maitland Club, 1841, p. 86). At the battle of Falkirk, the Macphersons fought in the first line, but they did not arrive north in time to take part in the battle of Culloden which proved fatal to the Jacobite cause. Shortly after the battle Cluny's house was plundered and burnt. He himself, with, Lochiel, took refuge in Badenoch, whither it was finally agreed to bring the prince until opportunity should be found for him to leave the country. Cluny set out to Auchnagarry to meet him, but missing him there returned to Badenoch and found him with Lochiel in a hut at Mellanuir on the side of Ben-Alder. Thence he conducted him to a cunningly constructed refuge in the thickets of Ben-Alder called the 'cage,' where he found safe shelter till a vessel was in readiness to convey him to France.

After the prince's departure Cluny for nine years remained concealed on his estates, notwithstanding a reward of 1,000l. offered for his capture, and the constant presence in his neighbourhood of a large body of troops, who used their utmost endeavours to track him out. His principal place of concealment was a cave dug out in 'front of a woody precipice, the trees and shelving rocks completely concealing the entrance' (General Stewart, Sketches of the Highlanders, p. 68). Occasionally the monotony of his confinement was relieved by a visit to the house of a friend, special precautions being taken to guard against surprise. Latterly when parting from his friends, even from his wife, he declined to inform them as to which hiding-place he intended to go, lest they should inadvertently betray it. On 4 Sept. 1764 the prince wrote him a letter asking him to come as soon as convenient to Paris, and to bring with him all the effects left in his hands, and whatever money he could come at. The chief reference in this letter was to a sum of 27,000l. left in the hands of Cluny, of which a considerable portion had been spent in accordance with the prince's directions. It was probably in compliance with this request of the prince that Cluny in 1755 escaped to France. Before bidding a final farewell to the highlands, he is said to have called on a noted deer-stalker — Macdonald of Tulloch — and killed a deer (Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, xvi. 212). He died at Dunkirk in France in 1756. By his wife Jane, daughter of Simon Fraser, lord Lo vat, he had a son Duncan, and a daughter Margaret, married to Colonel Duncan Macpherson.

The Cluny estates were in 1784, through the good offices of James Macpherson [q. v.], the translator of Ossian, restored to Ewen's son Duncan, who, born in 1750 in a kiln for drying corn, entered the army and became lieutenant-colonel of the 3rd foot-guards. He died 1 Aug. 1817.

Ewen Macpherson (1804-1884), his eldest son, by his wife Catherine, youngest daughter of Sir Evan Cameron, bart., of Fassifern, Argyllshire, was generally known in the highlands as Cluny. Born 24 April 1804, he was in early life a captain in the 42nd highlanders. Subsequently he took a prominent part in starting the volunteer movement in the highlands, and was lieutenant-colonel of the Inverness highland rifle volunteers till 1882. At the volunteer review at Edinburgh in the previous year, Queen Victoria, in recognition of his services, made him a companion of the Bath. Cluny also took an active interest in county matters and held many important public offices, being a governor of the Caledonian Bank, director of the Highland Railway, deputy-lieutenant of Inverness, permanent steward of the northern meeting, and chieftain of the Gaelic Society. While thoroughly loval to the reigning dynasty, he cherished the Jacobite sentiments of his ancestors, and was specially attached to old highland customs and manners. So far as possible he endeavoured to live among his people the life of the old highland chiefs, of whom he was probably the last representative. He died in January 1884. By his wife Sarah, daughter of Henry Davidson of Tulloch, he had four sons and three daughters. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Colonel Duncan Macpherson, C.B., at one time of the 42nd Highlanders.

[Authorities mentioned in the text; Chambers's History of the Rebellion, 1745; Douglas' Baronage of Scotland; Skene's Highlanders of Scotland; Jesse's Pretenders and their Adherents, p. 345; Burke's Landed Gentry.]

T. F. H.