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Appin Murder

Appin Murder

In 1752, forty-four-year-old Colin Campbell of Glenure, the Crown factor (estate manager), was murdered. Though a certain James of the Glen was hanged for the crime, to this day no one knows who really shot the man known as the ‘Red Fox’.

The people of Edinburgh expressed great concern about the organization and conduct of the trial at the time. Held at Inverary, the stonghold of the Campbell clan, with the jury full of Campbells out for revenge, the trial was certainly not a fair one. After the hanging, the removal of James’s bones from the gibbet at Ballachulish to be wired and hung above the ferry brought much protest. The Campbells insisted, however, saying that the sight of the skeleton hanging there for years would serve as a warning to others not to cross clan Campbell.
Over the centuries several different candidates have been proposed as the murderer, including Allan Oig, the son of James of the Glen.

One theory in local folklore is that the Stewarts of
Ballachulish organized a shooting match where the first prize was to be the privilege of shooting the factor. The match was won by Donald Stewart who duly shot Campbell. Other people around Appin believe that a man called Alan Breck Stewart was the murderer. In his novel Kidnapped (1886), Stevenson makes him an accomplice in the murder. Until at least the beginning of the twentieth century the Stewarts claimed to have known the true identity of the killer whose name was handed down under a vow of silence to certain members of the family.

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