The search for the West Indian man who stood alongside the Jacobites at Culloden

Work is underway to trace the identity of a black man who is believed to have been on the field with the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden.

The black man featured in the Battle of Culloden tapestry. PIC: Ewen Weatherspoon/ NTS.

He appears tucked away in the corner of a tapestry of the 1746 battle wearing a blue frock coat and a powdered wig, holding the horse of a Jacobite soldier who is being led away by the Redcoats.

It is believed that the man was a manservant to Captain Thomas McNaughton, from Kiltimurry in Omagh in present-day Northern Ireland, who fought at Culloden with the ‘Wild Geese’ - a regiment of Protestant Irish troops who supported the Jacobite side.

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Research is now underway to find out the identity of the man in the tapestry, which hangs at the Battle of Culloden Visitor Centre, and the story behind his journey to the Highlands.

The manservant features far right in the piece with work now underway to trace his identity. PIC: NTS/Ewen Weatherspoon.

National Trust for Scotland has highlighted the tapestry as it works to illuminate the links between its properties and slave trade in its Facing The Past Project.

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Jennifer Melville, project lead, said: “The McNaughton family had longstanding Jacobite sympathies. Like all the Irish contingent, McNaughton and his companion were released and so were not listed amongst the captured soldiers.

"As serving soldiers of the French king, the Irish were able to surrender formally as a unit after the Battle of Culloden, with a promise of honourable treatment. They were not subjected to the reprisals suffered by the Highland clansmen.

“How did Thomas McNaughton come to have a West Indian man in his service? There are many McNaughtans in Jamaica today, but they are thought to be descended from Scottish, rather than Irish, McNaughtons.

"Thomas McNaughton may have visited or served in the West Indies, or he may have met his companion in London or France. So much more remains to be discovered about this fascinating picture and the unknown man in the blue coat – just like the Battle of Culloden, he and the whole embroidery continue to fascinate and intrigue.”

Ms Melville said that McNaughton family papers may hold the key to the identity of the man with contact with University of West Indies also made.

She added: “We hope that lots of people will come in and further the research. My job with the project is to highlight these stories.”

Ms Melville said that Britain had been “for centuries, if not millennia” a bustling scene of ethnic diversity with it known black people lived in Scotland since at least Roman times.

She said the project wanted to tell a “more rounded history” of NTS properties in an attempt to move away from the “patriachal, masculine, very linear” stories surrounding the charity’s estate.

It is known that properties such as Greenbank House in Glasgow’s southside and Brodie Castle near Forres may have been built on the profits made from slavery.

Meanwhile, a number of objects within the Beckford Collection at Brodick Castle in the Isle of Arran were purchased using the the proceeds of the slave system.

The tapestry now being researched was acquired by National Trust for Scotland to display at Culloden in 2007.

Family tradition suggested that it was probably stiched by women in the household of Charles Edmond Hay (1704–88), 3rd Laird of Hopes in East Lothian.

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