The legend of Cluny’s Cage where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid

The cliffs of Ben Alder
The cliffs of Ben Alder
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A REMOTE cave on Ben Alder - the highest mountain in a secluded area of the Scottish Highlands between Loch Ericht and Glen Spean - was used for many years after the Battle of Culloden as a hiding place for Jacobites.

In 1746, after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army were notoriously massacred at the Battle of Culloden near Inverness, the British Redcoats searched the Highlands for leaders and members of the Jacobites.

Cluny MacPherson was immortalised in Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped

Cluny MacPherson was immortalised in Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped

After the failed rebellion, one such chief-on-the-run was Ewan MacPherson of Cluny.

Known as Cluny MacPherson - who was also chief of Clan Chattan, he joined the Stewart army with about six hundred men at the beginning of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.

However, they missed the Battle of Culloden itself as they had been sent to guard the passes in the Badenoch.

Following the massacre at Culloden, Cluny’s house was burnt to the ground and all his possessions looted so it became necessary for him to scatter his men and seek refuge.

Bonnie Prince Charlie hid in Cluny's Cage for five months

Bonnie Prince Charlie hid in Cluny's Cage for five months

Cluny, with a small party of men, headed towards Loch Ericht. On the sides of Creag Dubh he took refuge in a small cave.

The cave wasn’t much more than a hole in the ground with a fallen tree forming the roof but it was large enough to accommodate two men reasonably comfortably and has become known as ‘Cluny’s Cage’.

READ MORE - Battle of Culloden: myths debunked

Bonnie Prince Charlie

With his rebellion in tatters, Bonnie Prince Charlie fled before news of his defeat reached France.

On the run for his life, the Prince too ended up on Ben Alder. Here he was able to revel in the relative comfort and safety of the remarkable and cleverly constructed hide-out.

He remained in hiding with his friend Cluny for about five months.

It is said that the Prince asked for Cluny’s plaid because it was thicker than his however Cluny refused to give it up but offered to share and the pair slept under the same plaid.

Many people knew of the duos whereabouts, but despite enormous rewards no one betrayed them.

READ MORE - Battle of Culloden: What happened once the fighting stopped

Drummer Boy

One infamous tale of loyalty came from a little drummer boy, who was aged about ten when he was captured by the British Army.

The lad had been suspected of bringing food supplies to Cluny and was forced to lead them to where he was hiding.

On the way up the mountain the boy was able to beat on the drum as loud as he could and by the time the British reached the cave Cluny had fled.

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Back to France

The Prince left Cluny’s Cage when news came of a French ship on the west coast that could take him to safety.

He told Cluny he was ‘the only person in whim he could repose the greatest confidence’ and asked him to make preparations for his eventual return.

Awaiting his masters return, Cluny spent eight years in his cage waiting fruitlessly for his Prince.

In 1765 Cluny too escaped to France, holding the corpse of the officer who was hunting him, and died soon afterwards of a broken heart said to have been caused by his longing for his homeland of Speyside.

Charles died in Rome on 31 January 1788, aged 67, of a stroke.

Cluny MacPherson was immortalised in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, portrayed by Stevenson as a powerful man who spends his time listening to the grievances of the people and entertaining guests.

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