6. Of Battles and Memorials


On the east wall of the building, you will see a monument to the 42nd Royal Highlanders, the Black Watch – a sculpture by Sir John Steel created in 1872. It represents an officer visiting a battle-field at the close of an engagement to look for a missing comrade.

Next to the Black Watch Memorial, you can also see 2 memorials to one of the bloodiest events in Dunkeld’s history – the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689.

The Jacobite troops, led by Viscount Dundee had defeated the government forces at the Battle of Killiecrankie on 17th July 1689.

Although they had lost the charismatic leadership of Dundee who was killed in the action, the Jacobites continued on towards Dunkeld.

The government in Edinburgh was worried that if Dunkeld fell to the Jacobites, it would open the way to Perth, Stirling and beyond.

They summoned a newly formed regiment called the Cameronians to march on Dunkeld and prevent a Jacobite advance.

Dedicated completely to the Protestant cause, this regiment was named after a covenanter hero and soldier, Robert Cameron.

Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William Cleland, the Cameronians, who numbered between 600 and 700 men, arrived in Dunkeld on Saturday night, August 17th, 1689.

My name is Ian Gordon and I’m a soldier with the recently formed Cameronians. We arrived here in Dunkeld 5 days ago and have spent all our time digging in and creatin strong defences around the Cathedral and Dunkeld House which lies just to the north of the Cathedral. We also have men who have taken up positions in the Cathedral and its Tower.

We are hugely outnumbered; we believe there are about 3,000 Jacobites gathered in the hills above us.

We were up early this Wednesday morning as we expect the attack any minute.

The Jacobites are attacking! We are fighting them off with our halberds, a two handed pole with an axe head top, and pikes, our long thrusting spears. These help maintain distance from the Jacobites but it is hard. They are coming at us with their traditional swords and targes and all around me the lines are breaking down and there is vicious hand to hand fighting.

The Jacobites have torched some of the houses to flush out our men who are defending. We are doing the same where the Jacobites are using the houses as shelter to fire upon us. At this rate, by the end of the battle, there will hardly be any buildings left standing!

Even the Cathedral is sustaining damage! There are chunks of stone flying off the walls where the Jacobite bullets are hitting them!

The Cameronian’s commander, Lieutenant-Colonel William Cleland, was badly injured soon after the battle started but managed to get to shelter in Dunkeld House so that his troops could not see him. Within the first hour of battle he was already lying dead.

The Jacobites did not manage to breach the Cameronian defences around the Cathedral and Dunkeld House. After much bloody fighting, towards the end of the day they retreated and went back to the hills. To this day, we do not know what prompted their retreat.

The Cameronians waited for some time before they were satisfied that no further attack was coming and then victory was declared and a message to that effect was sent to Perth.

Lieutenant-Colonel William Cleland was buried in the nave of the Cathedral and a memorial plaque was erected in 1903. You will also find a memorial to the Cameronians on the wall.

If you walk around the outside of the Cathedral you can still see the bullet holes in the walls that Ian Gordon described.

Dunkeld sustained heavy damage and by the end of the battle only three houses remained standing.

If you move along to the large tomb to your left, you can find another talk.