10 May 1689 The Night Attack on Perth.
On 2 May a thoroughly chastised MacDonald of Keppoch and his 700 warriors headed off to the west leaving Dundee and his wee, small force in occupation at Inverness with General Hugh MacKay drawing up in Elgin.
For a week both parties stood their ground awaiting developments. Dundee’s force was still small and he’d added barely 200 mounted men to that since raising the standard the previous month. And MacKay’s move north of Dundee had confounded the possibility of drawing recruits from that area. In the meantime the good General had been rejoined by Colchester’s horse who he’d had to leave behind in Brechin some days previously as they had been unable to handle the rigours of the ride north.
Then on 8 May Dundee and his men left Inverness to MacKay. They rode south through Stratherrick to Invergarry castle, exactly as Prince Charlie would after the disaster at Culloden. They bedded down for the night at Kilcummin whence Montrose had led his army in that mad march across the hyperborean hell of the Grampian Hills in winter, to fall on and destroy Argyll’s army in February 1645.
The next day they crossed the Corryarrack Pass into the friendlier country of Speyside. And it was from here, at Presmuckerach, that he despatched his summons to the chieftains of all the principal clans of the highlands, bidding them rendezvous under the King’s Standard at Blair Atholl on 18 May.
On the morning of 10 May they were on the road again, riding past Blair Atholl Castle and down through Killiecrankie’s deep defile, with no idea of the portentous events that would be acted out in this very place in just a few short weeks.
They clattered into Dunkeld to find money and arms freshly gathered for the forces of King William’s new government and liberated these in King James’ name. With an officer of the Perthshire militia somewhat roughy handled, it seems.
And that very evening, appropriately refreshed, they rode south once more to strike wholly unexpectedly. They forded the silvery Tay in the dark and made their way cautiously towards the fair city of Perth.
They halted two miles outside and a select force of some twenty men crept up to the slumbering town about two o’clock in then morning. A handful entered by the open gate and secured the watch houses and the remainder then clattered noisily over the cobblestones.
There had been a municipal banquet the night before and the King’s men could only rouse some of the gentry with sharp saber points. The enemy soldiers were placed under guard and all the weapons and horses gathered together at the market cross where, amid some ceremony, the golden oranges, the symbol of the usurping royal house, were cut from the standard of the regiment of the captured men.
And then, as swiftly as they had arrived, the King’s Lieutenant-General and his men and their prisoners were gone. The prisoners were subsequently carried off into the mountains and thence to Cairn na Burgh Castle on the Treshnish Isles, west of Mull before ending up in Duart Castle after Killiecrankie. It would seem they endured many hardships during their imprisonment and that not all of then survived the ordeal.
Dundee rejoined the rest of his army and they rode to Scone where they made ready their next unpredictable move.