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The Appin Dirk

About two months after the battle of Culloden, about June, 1746, a detachment of Red Coats, in passing through Lochaber and Appin on their way to Inveraray, found amusement in burning and pillaging as they went.
When moving through the Strath of Appin in the evening, one of the soldiers noticed a young woman milking her cows in a field by the roadside. The sergeant in charge of the detachment leapt over the dyke into the field, and shot the cow dead without any explanation or provocation. He then turned his attention to the young woman, who defended herself with great courage. As she retreated towards the Appin shore, she picked up a stone
which she hurled at the sergeant with such accuracy and force that it stunned him, thus allowing her to escape to a boat floating by the shore. Out of reach she rowed to an island, the Gaelic name of which signifies the Island
of the Goats’ Township. There she remained some time, free from further persecution. The heroine’s name to this day is given in Appin as Julia MacCoil.

The stunned sergeant was soon picked up by his men, and borne to the place of halt for that night. In the morning he succumbed to the wound inflicted by the stone. He was buried in the old churchyard of Airds; but the wrathful men of Appin were determined that the corpse should not remain there for long. And so, when the Red Coats had gone their way, they exhumed the body and cast it into the sea, but not before the brother of Julia MacCoil had flayed the right arm of it for the purpose of making a dirk sheath from it. When the dirk sheath was seen in 1870 by the Rev. Alexander Stewart it was dark-brown in colour, limp and soft, with no
ornament except a small piece of brass at the point, and a thin edging of the same metal round the opening, on which were inscribed the date, 1747, and the initials D.M.C.



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