“The ghastly figure on the gibbet stood black against the sky. In the high winds, the bones, wired together, rattled as though in a macabre dance of death. Local people, forced by necessity to go to and fro on the Ballachulish ferry, shuddered and looked away. Many of them thought "there but for the grace of God go I."
Government troops guard the corpse of James Stewart, also known as James of the Glens, c. 1698 - November 8, 1752. Stewart was deliberately and wrongfully accused and hanged for being accessory to the murder of Colin Roy Campbell (The Red Fox), a government factor of estates forfeited by pro-Jacobite clans following the Jacobite rising of 1745. After his execution, James' body was left hanging at an elevated and highly visible position at the south end of the Ballachulish Ferry where passers-by were forced to view his rotting corpse. For eighteen months his body remained there as a warning to other clans who may have harboured rebellious intentions. Over those months, Stewart's body was beaten and battered by winds and rain. As it eventually deteriorated, the skeletal remains were held together with chains and wire.
The murder of the Red Fox is famously known as the “Appin Murder” and the real murderer evaded capture and death. His identity remains a mystery to this day but a suspect at the time, one Alan Breck, became the reluctant hero of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel of the period “Kidnapped”.
This image was commissioned as a book cover for “Grass Will Not Grow on My Grave” by Mary McGrigor. The image was also used on a descriptive panel at the site of James’ execution at Ballachulish. If you stop before the bridge (travelling north) and climb up the footpath where the bridge begins, you will see it.