Meet our 12 worst baddies - Scotland depraved

FOR hundreds of years, Scots have taken huge pride in the litany of heroes the nation has given the world, from home-grown freedom fighters William Wallace and Robert the Bruce to inventors and scientists such as John Logie Baird and Alexander Fleming.

But what about Scotland's dark side - the murderers and thieves, the smugglers and traitors?

Not many of their faces feature on the tartan tea-towels on offer to tourists, and the few 'bad yins' who have enjoyed lasting fame also boasted a more romantic side, such as gentleman-thief Deacon Brodie and patriot-rustler Rob Roy.

Last week UK academics named the 10 Worst Britons of the last 1,000 years and, inspired by this, Scotland on Sunday, asked historians to identify the vilest villains to darken Scotland's shores over the centuries.

The British list featured no Scots, though the Duke of Cumberland, who crushed Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite army at Culloden, did get a mention. Others included British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley, Thomas Becket and Thomas Arundel, the former archbishops of Canterbury, and Titus Oates, the anti-Catholic fanatic.

One of the historians who helped compile our list of Scotland's 'Dirty Dozen', Professor Tom Devine, Glucksman Professor of Irish & Scottish Studies at Aberdeen University, said: "Contrary to myth, Scotland does not have to look towards England to find its villains.

"The public tends to dwell on our heroes but part of the purpose of historical inquiry is to expose wrongs. There have always been people here who have shown themselves to have the dreadful qualities that would see them loathed by the public."


Betrayer of William Wallace,

14th century

William Wallace fought to free Scots from the rule of England but was finally betrayed to his enemies by a fellow countryman, Scots knight Sir John Menteith.

Wallace was taken to London where he was tried as a traitor at Westminster Hall before being executed on August 23, 1305. His body was then dismembered before being sent to the four corners of Britain.

Ted Cowan, Professor of Scottish History at Glasgow University, said: "Menteith surrendered William Wallace at Robroyston and then shipped him south where Wallace suffered a terrible death. He should be universally condemned as the worst kind of traitor and worst kind of Scot."


Cannibal, 15th century

Legend has it that Alexander "Sawney" Bean was the head of a family of cannibals. It is claimed that he, his wife and their 46 children and grandchildren killed and ate more than 1,000 people before they were captured and brutally executed.

According to the legend, Sawney Bean was born in East Lothian during the reign of King James I of Scotland. Too lazy to perform honest labour, Bean and his family took up a life of crime based in a Galloway cave now said to be Bennane Cave, in Ballantrae in Ayrshire. Their method was to carefully ambush and kill single people or small groups at night.

But King James I heard about the atrocities and when Bean's last attack was foiled the King headed the hunt himself, leading 400 men and many bloodhounds in a search of the countryside.

The Bean family was captured alive and taken in chains to the Tolbooth Jail in Edinburgh. It is thought that they were transferred to Leith or Glasgow where they were promptly executed without a trial.

There is much debate as to whether the legend is, in fact, true or a fiction made up as a horror story in later times.


Persecutor of Covenanters,

17th century

When Charles I took power in 1625 he was determined to bring the Scottish church into line with England, a move which provoked outrage north of the Border.

The National Covenant was produced on behalf of the Church of Scotland, backed by the nobility and gentry, in 1638, in opposition to the new book of Common prayer introduced by the King. Copies of the Covenant were distributed throughout the country, bringing the Scottish Kirk into direct conflict with the monarch.

Grierson became notorious in southwest Scotland for his persecution, on behalf of Charles II and James VII, of those who refused to give up the Covenant.

In a period known as the Killing Times, it culminated in the death of the Solway Martyrs, Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLachlan, who, on the orders of Grierson, were tied to a stake and drowned in the fast-moving tide of Wigtown Bay, in 1685.

Cowan said: "Grierson was a real baddie. He put condemned covenanters into barrels full of spikes and rolled them down hills. He also had people shot for refusing to give up the covenant."


Persecutor of Gaels, 18th Century

Although he was honoured at the time as a true gentleman, as an officer in the Hanoverian army Scott was responsible for some of the most notorious atrocities in the persecution of the Gaelic people following the Battle of Culloden in 1745.

In the following years as one of the Duke of Cumberland's officers he caused the deaths of countless Scots in the Highlands.

"There is little doubt that he was psychologically imbalanced," said Devine. "There was a psychopathic tendency in his mentality."

Professor Allan Macinnes, of Aberdeen University, and author of Clanship, Commerce and The House of Stuart, said: "Having instigated and encouraged genocide, Cumberland largely left this unsavoury task to enthusiastic underlings.

"His compatriots commanded psychotic Lowlanders like Captain Caroline Scott to run amok on land."


Brutal law lord, 18th century

At the end of the 18th century, Scotland was ruled from London with an electorate of just 3,000 landowners voting for the nation's 30 MPs. Braxfield presided over the fate of "radicals" who sought reform of this political system.

The most famous casualty of his courtroom politics was Thomas Muir, whose trial lasted just one day. Among the key witnesses against Muir was Robert Watt, a government spy who was later executed for planning an insurrection. Muir was sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay in Australia.

The travesty of Muir's trial inspired Robert Burns to write 'Scots Wha Hae'.

Braxfield is said to have told another condemned man brought before his court: "Ye'll be nane the waur o' a hingin ["You'll be none the worse for hanging"]."

Professor Richard Finlay, director of the Scottish History Research Centre at Strathclyde University, said: "He was a particularly vicious sentencer of radicals, which was good for the aristocracy but no one else."

Cowan added: "He was certainly a demon in the eyes of the radicals but he was also a very good lawyer. He thought that the radicals had no right to vote as long as they had no land."


Drug traders,

19th century

Matheson (1796-1878), from Lairg, in Sutherland, and Jardine (1784-1843), from Lochmaben, near Dumfries, were hugely successful business tycoons, whose legacy lives on in companies today.

Jardine Matheson & Co became one of the most influential trading companies in the Far East and in 1834 the pair sent the first private shipments of China tea to England, while another big export to the UK was silk. But Jardine Matheson's early profits were based on the importation of Indian opium into China, at that time legal in Britain. When the Chinese emperor tried to ban the trade, the company called on Britain to compel China to accept the drug, leading to two Opium Wars.

Matheson was knighted and both men returned to Scotland, buying estates from their vast profits.

After Matheson bought Lewis in 1844, Benjamin Disraeli described him as: "One MacDrug who has come from Canton with a million of opium in each pocket." But Matheson's wealth allowed him to support the people of Lewis in the Highlands during the great potato famine in the 1840s.

Cowan said: "Their actions are difficult to excuse. They knew what they were doing. When they came back to Scotland they had a lot of money. Most Scots did not question whether the pound notes were dirty or not. They just took their investment."

Finlay said: "At the time of opium wars they still wanted to sell opium against the Emperor's wishes. In essence, they were drug pushers who destabilised China."


Land grabber, 19th century

Although many Scots are feted for their achievements after leaving the old country, Macleod is an export Scotland might best forget.

On leaving the Highlands for a new life in the newly opened wilderness of Australia, Macleod, a tacksman from Skye, caused the deaths of huge numbers of Aborigines when he annexed their land for sheep farming.

Atrocities against aborigines by the so-called Highland Brigade in Australia culminated in 1843 at Warrigal Creek. More than 100 aboriginal men, women and children were killed.

Eric Richards, Professor of History at Flinders University, in Adelaide, said: "The likes of Macleod were ruthless capitalist colonists who came to Australia and thought they had the right to take over the land.

"They got rid of anyone who was in their way, making it extremely rough for the indigenous people."


Racist, 19th century

Knox was Burke and Hare's most famous "client" but is remembered for more than the purchase of the bodies they supplied.

Born in Edinburgh, he worked in the Medical School of the city's university and became conservator at the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, in 1824. He was forced out of the post in the wake of the Burke and Hare scandal and turned to medical writing and lecturing for a living.

His 1850 work The Races of Men attempted to assess and evaluate the various types of human found in the world. Like other scientists, he used cranial and other measurements to justify his view that whites were racially superior to coloured people, but he also displayed contempt for Jews and the Irish in his work.

He wrote: "I appeal to the Saxon men of all countries whether I am right or not in my estimate of the Celtic character. Furious fanaticism; a love of war and disorder; a hatred for order and patient industry; no accumulative habits; restless, treacherous, uncertain: look at Ireland."


Brutal land factor, 19th century

The infamous factor of the Countess of Sutherland's estate at the time of the Clearances, Sellar moved tenants whose families had farmed there for generations. He showed great enthusiasm and brutality in his ruthless evictions, often destroying their possessions and setting fire to their crofts. He was tried for oppression in 1816, but acquitted. After the trial, he stopped working as a factor but continued to make money from sheep farming in Sutherland. His name is synonymous with the Clearances.

Christopher Smout, emeritus professor of history at the University of St Andrews, said: "Patrick Sellar was incompetent, unscrupulous and a thoroughly nasty piece of work. He was much more self-interested than other factors involved in the Clearances and took advantage of the situation to enrich himself."

Cowan said: "Sellar was a bit extreme by any stretch of the imagination. His methods were questionable even in his own day. He was savage in the way he executed his master's business."



19th century

Burke and Hare are arguably Scotland's best-known villains, gaining infamy as criminals who made a profit from providing dead bodies to the surgeons and anatomy students of 19th century Edinburgh.

Both of them Irish immigrants, they found a bond in a mutual taste for drinking and making easy money. They stumbled across the scheme that would earn them notoriety when an elderly man died before he could repay a 4 debt to Hare, who in a fury stole the body.

Recruiting Burke, he sold it to anatomist Robert Knox (see above) for the sum of 7 and 10 shillings.

The pair liked the money but were not keen on the heavy labour involved in the grave robbing pursued by other body suppliers and turned to murder as an easier way.

A total of 16 murders followed, with victims ranging from sickly neighbours to prostitutes.

Burke and Hare were eventually caught when suspicious lodgers found the body of their last victim, Mary Docherty. When confronted by the police, they blamed each other for selling the corpses and Hare was offered immunity if he testified against Burke. On Christmas Morning 1828, after just 50 minutes' consideration by the jury, Burke was found guilty and was sentenced to death by hanging.

Hare, on the other hand, was released in February 1829 and the last known sighting of him was in Carlisle.

"Their actions speak for themselves," said Professor Smout. "They were thoroughly despicable."