From Moriston Matters, Issue 23, February 1981.
THE RODERICK MACKENZIE CAIRN.
This cairn stands near to the confluence of the Doe with the Moriston, on the left hand side of the Invermoriston/Kyle road (A887) some 13 miles south west of the village of Invermoriston. It is about 9 foot high, but seems higher since it is situated on a little knoll. The cairn is approached by 5 firmly set concrete steps followed by two more of cemented pebbles which enable one to read the inscription on the stone slab set into the side without craning one's neck too much.
AT THIS SPOT IN 1746 DIED
AN OFFICER IN THE ARMY OF PRINCE CHARLES EDWARD STUART OF THE SAME SIZE AND SIMILAR RESEMBLANCE TO HIS ROYAL PRINCE WHEN SURPRISED AND OVERPOWERED BY THE TROOPS OF THE DUKE OF CUMBERLAND. GALLANTLY DIED IN ATTEMPTING TO SAVE HIS FUGITIVE LEADER FROM FURTHER PURSUIT.
The cairn is mainly constructed in dry-stane fashion - and there have been many stones added over the years by tourists - but there has been an attempt in more recent times to render the construction more permanent by cementing the larger, more crucial stones into place. It has been on site no doubt since MacKenzie's actual death but has been constantly falling into disrepair, although saved from complete ruin through the efforts of local roadmen.
At present the memorial is technically the responsibility of the Forestry Commission since it stands right on the eastern corner of their Achlain block. This was purchased in 1950 and planted in 1952 - at which times and since, the Commission's workmen have tidied up the area round the cairn.
More major repairs to the cairn, including the improvement of access by the addition of steps, were carried out in the mid-fifties when the A887 was being improved by the contractors W.J. Watson Ltd, but the biggest and most important effort was made in 1967. The spark for this action seems to have been an American woman tourist of MacKenzie descent who visited Glenmoriston in 1966 and was appalled at the state of the cairn. She wrote to the late lain Cameron Taylor, historian to the National Trust for Scotland, offering to help financially in a scheme for restoration. Mr Taylor was able to contact several interested parties and, with donations from the 1745 Association and the National Trust, a restoration programme was set in hand. Permission was obtained from the Forestry Commission and in March 1967, members of the Clan MacKenzie Association from Inverness opened the campaign with a reconnaissance trip. By the end of that month the task of rebuilding the cairn had been completed. The grave lies on the other side of the road, near the river, and is reached by a little path. There is a little wooden cross at its head with the legend R.M. - 1746. This cross has been replaced by Inverness Field Club.
It is interesting to note that Father Odo Blundell of Fort Augustus Abbey, writing in 1913 (in "Glen Albyn" - which he published anonymously in 1914 -printed by the Abbey Press) states that "quite recently a sword, doubtless MacKenzie's, was dug up beside it (i.e. the cairn)".
The Clan MacKenzie Association maintain the balance of the subscribed monies as a Memorial Fund for further maintenance to the cairn.
Roderick MacKenzie is described as a young gentleman of a respectable family possibly related to the MacKenzies of Ardloch. He was brought up in Edinburgh where his father had a jeweller's business. Records suggest that he was apprenticed to a different craft and indeed he may not have finished his apprentice-ship before the Jacobite army occupied Edinburgh in September 1745. MacKenzie volunteered and became an officer in Lord Elcho's Troop of the Prince's Life Guards. He was present at Culloden, taking part in the heroic covering action which permitted much of the right wing of the Jacobite army to retire in safety.
After Culloden MacKenzie took to the hills and lived on the run for 3 months, fearing to return to Edinburgh where his widowed mother and two sisters lived, because his presence might prejudice their lives.
One tale has it that while on the run, MacKenzie, who knew about his physical similarity to the Prince, showed himself several times to parties of Redcoats, counting on his fitness and agility to survive. Whatever happened, he was cornered and shot in Glenmoriston and with his dying breath told rhe soldiers, "You have killed your Prince!" The soldiers cut off his head and took it back to Fort Augustus to claim the reward of £30,000.
MacDonald of Kingsburgh, the future father-in-law of Flora MacDonald, who was then a prisoner at the Fort refused to identify the head of the Prince unless it was "alive and on his shoulders".
Another story is that the Jacobite prisoners at the Fort deliberately misled the military authorities by falsely identifying the head and the head had to be taken to London before the trick was discovered. Whichever tale is true, the death of Roderick MacKenzie in the last days of July 1746 caused a slackening in the intensity of the military search for the fugitive Prince and provided an essential link in the chain of circumstances which allowed the Prince to make his escape.
One interesting puzzle still remains with respect to this cairn and that concerns the identity of the person who added to the original cairn the inscribed stone slab.
According to the late Iain Cameron Taylor in a private communication to the author, this stone was placed in the cairn by the Rev. John Anthony Macrae, B.A. at some date just prior to 1914. A graduate of Oxford, Rev. Macrae held various charges in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow before being translated to Redgorton in Perthshire in 1946 where he died some 8 years later in October 1954. Rev. Macrae's son was well known for many years in the Inverness area as the journalist and author Kenneth A. Macrae (Coinneach Mor) who wrote Highland Doorstep and a number of other books of local history.
The author would be grateful to any native of Glenmoriston who would be able to confirm or otherwise whether the Rev. Macrae did place the stone in the cairn and, more interestingly, what his connection with the cairn of Roderick MacKenzie was.
H.FRASER MACKENZIE, DRUMNADROCHIT.