The Radical Uprising – 7th April 1820

It is clear from three letters written on this date and held as part of the Murray Archive, that the authorities were still expecting unrest in the Central Scotland area after the battle and arrest of those who regarded as the main instigators of the uprising.

The first letter from John Kincaid and James Davidson at Kilsyth, indicates that it is their view that more militia should be called to the area to quell any further problems.

Letter John Kincaid and James Davidson at Kilsyth to Major William Murray, 7th April 1820

Private Kilsyth April 7th 1820

My Dear Sir

We received Mr Hendersons circular letter of the 5th & we have been and are paying every attention to the peace of this district that is in our power We take the ability to mention that as no confidence can

be imposed on the Constables that have been sworn in and if it suits your views that the immediate calling out of the Campsie Troop unmounted & furnished with arms might be attended with the best of consequences.

We are sir,

Your Most Ob[edient] s[ervan]ts

John Kincaid

James Davidson

Two further letters written by Michael Stewart Nicholson to Major Murray give a very similar impression of the mood at the time. He explains that all the cannon that were previously sited in the Grangemouth area are to be taken to Leith by sea and then suggests that if order cannot be restored, it might be worth considering the institution of martial law. Thankfully, this suggestion was never implemented.

Letters from Michael Stewart Nicolson at Falkirk to Major William Murray, 7th April 1820

Letter 1


April 7th

8 o’clock

My dear Murray

Captain Hainton very kindly & very effectually put into execution your wishes respecting the guns at Grangemouth Mr Hainton will take measures that all the cannon at Grangemouth & in the neighbourhood amounting I believe to near 30 (now that I have caused search to be made) will be shipped this night, or very early tomorrow m[ornin]g on board one of his sloops the Eliza & they will proceed immediately to Leith. Be so good as take measures that proper orders may be put to receive them in the port there – all is quiet here & no chance of any row at present – but I entreat of any evidence comes out at all will testify warrants, let them be sent for the apprehension of some of the worst fellows here & at Camelon. If any thing occurs here before mail time you shall hear

Yours truly

MS Nicolson


My Troop requires 9 pistols please send them by first safe opportunity Purves says the adjutant has

10 Watering Caps belonging to my Troop I wish I had them

Letter 2

Falkirk April 7th


9 o’clock a.m.

My dear Murray

All quiet here. 5 post chaises full of the Edinburgh Police have this moment drove off towards Glasgow.

Old Aitken the messenger has just told me that a great many quantities of ball cartridges have been made in Falkirk this week. Cannot this be stopt at least how stands the law. Ask H. Drummond. It is beyond a doubt  that pikes & ball cartridges have been making during this week here at Camelon at a great extent. I beg you will communicate this to the officially to ____ immediately as it is a fact beyond a doubt & I have no doubt a good vigilant police man would soon be able to lead a part of the whole. But the laws must be made more effectual or we must ere long have a touch of martial law. I make a demand to you for 2 guineas per man for my Troop for service last year & this. Be so good as give me an answer One of Cap[tain] Fraser’s men lost 7 rounds of cartridge of ball in the (infamous) Aitken’s house last night. We have charged him billet. We must have that fellow & 2 or 3 more taken up & we only require a clever police man to have plenty of cause to do so.

Yours very truly

MS Nicolson