The Radical Uprising – 8th April 1820

This is the last blog post commemorating the Radical Uprising for now. There will be more commemorations in September when we remember the sacrifice of John Baird and Andrew Hardie on the anniversary of their executions.

The last few letters we are posting were written on the 8th and 9th of April 1820. The represent the winding down of the military effort against the rebels as unrest settled down and people returned to their usual activities.

The first letter is from J. Davidson at Kilsyth, to Major William Murray telling him that he feels things are settling down in the area:

Letter J.J. Davidson at Kilsyth to Major William Murray, 8th April 1820

Kilsyth Inn 8 April 1820

Dear Sir

I think from all accounts I can learn this radical business is drawing to a close. We had a grand search for arms yesterday by order of the S[ai]d Advocate but were not very successful having only get 2 muskets some pike shafts and about 150 bullets I would take it kind were you to write me a few lines how the wounded prisoners are and if the Crown Lawyers have as yet taken any steps in regard to bringing them to trial.

Yours most respectfully J. J. Davidson

The next is an anonymous letter written to Major Murray, indicating that there was still anxiety around what the rebels might be planning:

Anonymous letter ‘Information for Major Murray’ 8th April 1820

Information for Major Murray that John and William Lambe residing at the north end of Cambusbarron had military musket in their possession and was heard say (just as John Downie a private in Stirling Troop was going into Stirling on Friday morning) that dam the Cavalry for they could work the pike and gun they had better than the Kilsyth weavers and that they were making up ball cattriges for the battle and they would make Downies blood run this said in presence of James Neilson Cambusbarron I think this should not be allowed to sleep I dare not put my name here for my life but Neilson heard them say so and they were heard say this day that they were ready for the Cavalry now for they have plenty of ball cattriges made now.

The next two letters are from our old friend Michael Stewart Nicholson, and give full reports from Falkirk about what is going on in the area:

Letters Michael Stewart Nicolson at Falkirk to Major William Murray, 8th April 1820

Falkirk 1 o’clock

April 8

My dear Murray

I have a regular report from the Committee appointed at the meeting of the inhabitants of Falkirk which among other things says “ the Committee among the great number of inhabitants ever willing to bear arms suggest the following to whom fifty stand of arms may be safely instructed – sixty names here follow – The 10 good men as to send fifty hand of arms with Ball Cartridge under as escort. I wish you could send the escorts all the way as I there are some Colliers to be taken up at Park Kirk & we may be wanted if however you wish s escort from my Troop to meet you send an express here & I will send out one to wherever you appoint. My men are all at their Bridles I do wish for particular instructions from Drummond as to searching for arms here That absurd act lately passed tempers the case completely without that act there would be no difficulty 3 parties might grant a warrant but now look at what is required by the act. I have undoubted information of fifty pikes having been made at Camelon on Wed[nesda]y are we not to search although we do not find one. I mean to have James Aitken Bruce the Weaver Committee man & another taken up tomorrow m[ornin]g at 6 & send them to Stirling unless I hear to the contrary from Stirling. It will be attended with the best effort & the inhabitants here have deposed strong facts against them. I write in great haste as Cap[tain] Lewis is impatient. But do let Birning or Drummond send here some instructions how to act or not.

Yours MS Nicolson


Falkirk April 8th


10 o’clock p. m.

My dear Murray,

I have received 9 troops & it is perhaps quite as well that the arms do not come till Monday but I hope there is not a doubt that on that day they will be sent. Were any delay in the delivery of them to the inhabitants now taken place it would be attended with the worst effect in my opinion. They are still sore about their services having been refused & I got over the coolness hurt that rejection had occasioned & saw they are heart & hand in the business I do hope & entreat therefore that no further delay than Monday will occur. I read them the following part of Binning’s letter . “Have been allowed by Major Murray to offer the inhabitants of Stirling from 40 to 50 muskets & a few rounds of ball cartridges upon then writing a letter requiring that number which they have accordingly done and they will be issued in the course of this day, great care being of course taken in whose hands they are use to be placed. Major Murray has also allowed me to say that he will give the same number of arms to the town of Falkirk if the respectable inhabitants of Falkirk are perfectly satisfied with the persons into whose hands they may be placed & I hasten to communicate this to you” After this it will be impossible I should think to hesitate about giving the 50 muskets to then & I make no doubt but that tomorrow I shall receive orders from you at what time I am to send an escort on Monday to Torwood Toll to meet the muskets I shall not have James Aitken & Bruce taken up at present but the Fiscal has got depositions upon oath of five notorious radicals in Camelon having been seen making pikes on Wedneday m[ornin]g. A warrant has been granted for their apprehendsion & tomorrow m[ornin]g at 6 o’clock I mean to go with a party & assist in putting it in force & I shall have the nuisances conveyed directly to Stirling Castle in two Post Chaises I have also received information of The Villain that was wounded on Bonny Moor & that was taken out of a house at Bonny Bridge being now at Larbert The Fiscal & I mean to search for him & If found convey him to Stirling Castle The escort will arrive at Stirling before 8 o’clock & the post boy has promised to deliver this to you a little after 6 in the m[ornin]g I hope therefore you will have ample time to give notice of their approach at the Castle & to make the necessary preparations I hope when you get instructions to search for actions from the advocate (if you do get such) you will let me have the satisfaction of going through that most necessary & loudly called for ceremony hereabouts the pike was brought to the Fiscal today by a weaver of this town who trembled from head to foot while he delivered it he told some rigmarole about it but the simple fact is it was his own & he was terrified to keep a march being expected. All quiet & great consternation is spread here & at Camelon by even the two arrests – already made.

I remain

Yours very truly

MS Nicolson

The last letters are from Captain Peter Speirs at Culcreuk, indicating that the streets are quiet once more.

Letter, Captain Peter Speirs at Culcreuch to Major William Murray, 8th & 9th April 1820

My D[ea]r Major

I got yours Friday evening from James Couan, and have the satisfaction to inform you that everything remains here, and at Balfron perfectly quiet Lieu[tenan]t Finlayson informs me that the Ringleaders of the Radicals have absconded as they had heard from Stirling that they were likely to be apprehended & carried to Stirling Jail I marched through Balfron yesterday, the Yeomanry in high spirits with the idea of meeting with the Radicals had they offered us the smallest insult I am persuaded that it would have been dear bought insolence, we hardly saw the face of a man while parading the streets; Should I have seen my Lieu[tenan]t previous to the departure of the Port, I shall add a P.S. I ever am,

Sincerely yours

Peter Speirs

Culcreuch 8th April 1820


To Major Murray Stirling,

With this you will receive my Lieu[tenan]t’s report which you may give to the Sheriff if you think it advisable I understand Mr McDonald has been at the mess I have sent our latest to him to know if he is willing to give us his Aid as an I.P. if he does all he would require from the Civil Power is an Action Constable or Sheriff Officer, I am clearly of opinion that we should apprehend all those classed vagabonds my Troop is adequate to the task I suppose that they are mainly in hiding. The Sheriff should issue his warrant for us to act upon

9th April 1820