Battle of Dunkeld

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The Battle of Dunkeld (Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Dhùn Chaillinn) was fought between Jacobite clans supporting the deposed king James VII of Scotland and a government regiment of covenanters supporting William of Orange, King of Scotland, in the streets around Dunkeld Cathedral, Dunkeld, Scotland, on 21 August 1689 and formed part of the Jacobite rising commonly called Dundee's rising in Scotland. The battlefield is currently under research to be inventoried and protected by Historic Scotland under the Scottish Historical Environment Policy of 2009.[1]


Following the death of Viscount Dundee in the Jacobite victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie command of the Jacobites was passed to Colonel Alexander Cannon, leader of the recruits from Ireland, as opposed to the veteran sixty-year-old Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, one of the most formidable Highland chiefs. Cameron was so insulted he left, taking some of his clan with him.[2] With the Scottish Privy council preparing to leave Scotland in the wake of an expected Jacobite onslaught, the council ordered the newly formed Cameronian regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Cleland, to move north from Perth and to hold on to Dunkeld at all costs.[3]


Dunkeld was not protected by a town wall, so Cleland ordered his troops to take up defensive positions in the cathedral, which was surrounded by an enclosing wall, and the nearby mansion of the Marquess of Atholl. The Jacobites, outnumbering the Cameronians by more than four to one, stormed into attack from all sides. They were initially successful, and forced the Cameronians back from all their outlying positions.[4] However, in the narrow, winding streets there was no room for the type of Highland charge that succeeded at Killiecrankie.[2] Thus, for sixteen hours the battle raged, and many who had barricaded themselves into houses were locked in and burned alive.[2]

Gradually the Cameronians were forced back, but at 11pm, depleted of energy and ammunition, the Highlanders decided to call it a day and withdrew, leaving 300 of their men dead or dying in the town.[2] Having exhausted their own munitions, the Cameronians are reported to have stripped lead from the roof of Atholl House to keep up their fire. Holes dating from this battle, caused by the strikes of musket balls, are still visible in the east gable of Dunkeld Cathedral.[3] The battle was over, and the Cameronian Covenanters could claim a war-winning victory.

The Colonel, William Cleland, only 27 years old but already a veteran of the Covenanter cause, died in the first hour of battle by taking one bullet in the liver and another in the head, before dragging himself out of sight so that his men would not see him fall.[2] The Major of the regiment was also wounded so that command fell to Captain George Munro of Auchinbowie who led them to victory.

The Jacobites retreated, having lost around 300 men. Losses on the government side are unclear, but included Colonel Cleland, who is buried in the cathedral.[3]

Cameronian Regiment

The Cameronian regiment takes its name from Richard Cameron, (1648-1680), a Scottish religious reformer and covenanting leader from the Scottish Lowlands, and was raised largely from the tenantry of the Marquess of Douglas, chief of Clan Douglas. The Cameronian regiment subsequently became the 26th (The Cameronian) Regiment of Foot, and then the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

Popular culture

The battle of Dunkeld was a key storyline in The Real Ghostbusters episode "Bustman's Holiday" when the Ghostbusters travel to Scotland to exorcise the spiritual essence of the Battle of Dunkeld.


  1. "Inventory battlefields". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2012-04-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Magnus Magnusson, "Scotland: The Story of a Nation". p. 518 - 520. Harper Collins, 2001.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "The Monros of Auchinbowie". p. 40 - 44 and Cognate Families by John Alexander Inglis. Edinburugh, Privately printed by T and A Constable. Printers to His Majesty. 1911.
  4. P. Hopkins, Glencoe and the End of the Highland War (1986)

External links