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The Locharkaig Treasure
by Marion F. Hamilton
from Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vol. 7, 1941


Recent researches in the Stuart Papers at Windsor* have brought to light vital documents regarding the mystery of the French Treasure buried on the shores of Locharkaig in 1746.

This hoard of gold was originally sent by Louis XV in aid of the Jacobite cause, but did not reach Scotland until after the battle of Culloden (16th April 1746).  Contemporary accounts of its secret burial were published by Andrew Lang in his Companions of Pickle, but no satisfactory statement has ever been given as to its ultimate disposal, nor have the characters of Dr. Archibald Cameron1 and Macpherson of Cluny2 been fully cleared of charges of embezzling the louis d'or.  It is on these two points that unpublished documents in the Archives at Windsor furnish fresh information.  These papers consist of:-

1. The account by Dr. Archibald Cameron of his own and Cluny's transactions regarding the treasure; this is addressed to James Francis Edward, and was written at Rome in the spring of 1750.

2. Cluny's Account of the expenditure of the treasure up to the time of his departure from Scotland in 1755.

3. A Paper headed: 'State of the effects which are presently in Scotland ye 27 Augt. 1754.'

4. A Copy of a confession made at Rome in 1750 concerning the treasure, by Alexander Macdonell, of Glengarry, alias 'Pickle the Spy.'

Andrew Lang in his chapter 'Cluny's Treasure,' in The Companions of Pickle, relied on the reports of government spies and informers, and took great pains by this means to establish the innocence of Dr. Archibald Cameron and Cluny.  But the character of his evidence cannot be regarded as entirely reliable or in any way conclusive.  These informers were small fry, whom he himself describes as being 'persons of no historical importance, whose names it is unnecessary to reveal.'  He is forced to reject part of the testimony of the most favourable witness for Dr. Cameron, as it incriminated Cluny.  He quotes3 'A State of Clunie McPherson's Intromissions' given by this informer, and places the first item in italics thus: 'By Cash given Dr. Cameron and Fassifern,4 secured with Fassfern for use of young Lochiel5 6,000.'  He then comments6 that 'according to this statement, said to be produced as Cluny's, Dr. Cameron did not receive 6,000 L for himself.'  Yet in a footnote7 he says, '"The State of Clunie McPherson's Intromissions," in short, is a fraudulent document.  It bears traces of confused manipulation in various interests.'  Of what value is it, then, as evidence for or against Dr. Archibald Cameron?  In any case, it seems hardly likely that insignificant persons would have been able to discover accurate information about a secret which, though rumour was busy with it, those principally concerned endeavoured to guard with such care.  It seems incredible that Dr. Cameron should have confided in Lang's insignificant informer as is stated.8  Conclusions drawn from sources of this unsatisfactory nature cannot, therefore, be regarded as final.

Moreover, Grant Francis, a later writer on this subject, discovered in the Cluny Archives a serious piece of conflicting evidence, and had reluctantly to admit that the Doctor was not completely cleared of the accusation of embezzlement, having given a receipt to Cluny for 6,000 L, and he maintained that 'we shall never know the truth of what he did with the 6,000 L.'9  This contradicts Lang's informer, who says he 'saw Dr. Cameron...who denied either he or Fassfern had got any money...that the Doctor was off to Rome...with only 100 for expenses.'10

It is generally acknowledged that Archibald Cameron's character was irreproachable apart from the scandal of the French Treasure; his honesty is further attested by the fact that he undertook the long and dangerous journey to Rome solely to ask permission from James Francis Edward to use the French gold for the distressed Camerons.  His own testimony should, therefore, be more reliable than that of any informer or of his primary accuser Pickle (i.e. Glengarry11), whom Lang showed up as a traitor and 'double-crosser' of the greatest magnitude.  Hitherto Dr. Cameron's own copy of Cluny's account of the expenditure of the treasure up to his (Cameron's) departure from Scotland in 1749, together with his own explanation (unsigned but unquestionably in his handwriting) of his conduct in the affair, has lain unnoticed among the vast collection of Jacobite papers in the Royal Archives.12

Many points of interest arise out of this account, but the cardinal fact which emerges is, that we have Archibald Cameron's own word for it that he never touched the 6,000 L, except 800 L for the expenses of his journey, although he gave Cluny a pro forma receipt for it, in order to relieve the latter of the responsibility which was evidently proving an intolerable burden and causing him to be 'torn to pieces by the Countrey' at this time.  Thus the problem of Grant Francis is solved, his evidence no longer stands in the way, and we are at last able to discharge this man, who has stood so long in the historical dock, with a verdict of 'Not Guilty.'

Cluny, however, is not so easily exonerated, though there is fresh evidence too of value for his share in the transaction.  When he went over to France at Charles's orders in 1755, he sent a full account of his expenditure both to Charles and James,13 which with the covering letters, all signed and written in his own hand, are still extant in the Stuart Papers. There is a disturbing item14 regarding Dr. Archibald Cameron's conduct which reads as follows:-

'Taken by Archibald Cameron from the place he and I agreed upon at the time he left Scotland along with his R.H., the mony shou'd be hide, when first he came to Scotland thereafter, for which he said he had an authority from H.R.H., and that he did it for the account of the support of the ruined Family of Locheil, and it has been told me that the money was applyed for that purpose, he afterwards sent me a receipt for the sume, mentioning that he had a better tittle to the management of that money than I had meaning, as is supposed, that he was the person who gave me the charge of it, as before observ'd .6,000.'

It is obvious that Cluny's and Dr. Archibald's statements do not tally, and therefore we are faced with the fact that one of them is lying, but both probability and some further evidence in the Stuart Papers are on Dr. Cameron's side.  From the common-sense standpoint it is illogical to suppose that Dr. Cameron took the trouble to go to Rome to get permission to use the money for Lochiel's family if he intended to put it into a business for himself at Dunkirk, of which Pickle accused him.  If, on the other hand, he did receive the money, as Cluny says, and applied it for the benefit of his late brother's family, then what had he to gain by denying at Rome that he had ever touched the money?  The Doctor's journey to Rome can only be explained by a genuine desire to obtain authority to use the treasure in the way proposed.  Another point is that if, as Cluny states and Cameron denies, the latter had Charles's authority, then what need was there to go to Rome?

Whereas Cluny had good reasons for shelving the responsibility on to Dr. Cameron's shoulders, according to Dr. Cameron's account, 'Cluny brought Fasfern north to receive the 5,700 Louis.'15  Now, if Cluny admitted giving John Cameron of Fassifem the 5,700 L, even though it was still for the Lochiel Family's support, he ran the risk of incurring Charles's displeasure for giving away louis to an unauthorised person.  Hence he is careful to mention that Archie 'said he had an authority from H.R.H.'  He may, too, have preferred to put the onus on Archibald, who was by then dead and could not suffer thereby, than to involve the unfortunate Fassifem, who had only lately been let out of prison.  Cluny may well have regarded his inaccurate statement as a white lie, since it did not alter the final disposition of the money, which was his chief concern in rendering his account, and after all Dr. Cameron himself had consented that he should 'show it (the receipt) to the King if needfull.'16  Cluny need not then be too severely censured, provided his inaccurate statements do not lead us into accusing honest Archibald of misrepresentation of the facts.

There is, however, further evidence that it was Fassifern and not Dr. Cameron who dealt with the 5,700 L.  The document headed 'State of the effects which are presently in Scotland ye 27 Augt. 1754' (which is annotated in Charles Edward's hand) contains an item which runs as follows:-

'To Archibald Cameron & now in trust for Lochealls sons (which is to be recovered) ...6,000.'

(Note by Charles): 'Given to Camerons Brother Fassfern without orders.'17

This at least shows that Charles understood that Fassifern had charge of this Lochiel trust.  Actually this document only rests on the information of H. Patullo18 and Lochgarry,19 and it will be shown to be inaccurate in many respects; however, it is probable that this and most items were founded on the truth.  Lang says20 that 'in May 1758, Fassifern himself, then a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle, was examined.  He declined to give any evidence against anybody on any charge.  He admitted that in 1749 he received 4,000 L from Evan Cameron of Drumsallie, now dead, for Lochiel's family.  He asked no questions, but deposited it with Mr. Macfarlane, W.S., who let it out to Wedderburn of Gosford, in Fassifern's name.  Fassifern acted as a near relation for his exiled nephew, Lochiel's son.'  Could the 4,000 L be part of the Locharkaig Treasure?  In a letter in the Public Record Office,21 the traitor, Alexander Cameron of Glenevis, informs Lieut.-General Churchill that Fassifern 'got from Clunie 6,000 sterling of the money and carried it with him to Edinburgh in the Winter following (1750), and lodg'd it in the Hands of John Mcpherlane, Writer to the Signet.'  This suggests that the money lodged by Fassifern with Macfarlane did derive from Locharkaig, though their figures differ.  If, however, Fassifern's estimate of 4,000 is accepted, this would leave 1,700 L out of the 5,700 L to be accounted for, and it is a strange coincidence that in the 1754 account Charles notes that Angus Cameron stole 1,700 L, but he thinks this sum was derived from the 8,000 L stolen by John Murray of Broughton.  But could not this be an inaccuracy and the 1,700 L have been really taken from Fassifern's hoard?  It seems more probable that a Cameron would be able to discover the whereabouts of louis hidden in his own country than Murray's pile, some of which was in the hands of an Edinburgh merchant22 and the rest with Menzies of Culdares in Glen Lyon in Perthshire.  At any rate, it seems likely that it was Fassifern who administered the Lochiel Trust and not Dr. Archibald Cameron.

Cluny's later account is almost as interesting as that copied by Dr. Cameron at Rome and the two together give us the complete statement of the disposal of the Locharkaig Treasure which has hitherto been lacking.  In spite of its somewhat awkward style, there is something very impressive about Cluny's declaration, and the strength of the personality behind it is to be sensed throughout.  It gives a prosaic but pathetic picture of the Highlands after the '45 and the part played by the Treasure in the tragedy.

From these two accounts the following reconstruction of an account to cover the whole 35,000 louis d'ors originally landed can be made:-


Stolen at the time of landing... 800
Given away by Murray of Broughton... 4,200
Stolen by Murray of Broughton... 3,000
Taken23 away by Charles Edward to France, 18 Sept. '46... 3,000
Accounted for by Macpherson of Cluny, 1755... 24,000

It is important to note that both Charles24 and Dr. Cameron agree that all Cluny has to account for is the 24,000 L.  It is also noteworthy that Cluny is entirely open about his appropriations for his personal use.  It is significant that both Patullo's and Lochgarry's account25 tally with Dr. Archibald's copy of Cluny's Account in this respect, that the items referring to Cluny's personal expenditure add up to 1,700 L.  According to Dr. Cameron, he was going to reserve 5,000 L to be disposed of at his discretion.  It was possible, therefore, for him to spend 6,700 L for his own purposes, and according to his own account the items spent on himself, his family and friends amount to 6,230, which so nearly tallies with Dr. Cameron's estimate and is so much above Lochgarry's and Patullo's that it seems reasonable to accept Cluny's version as the truth.

These documents also help to clear up another point of mystery raised by Grant Francis concerning the Locharkaig Treasure.  He quotes a letter, written by Lochgarry on 22nd June 175026 to Charles, in which he says: 'I...forward the present letter which covers a just copy of the State Clunie gave me.  By it your Royal Highness will observe that no less a sum than 16,000 louis d'ors may still be recovered of the money...'  Grant Francis naturally asked 'Who had them?' and replies, like Andrew Lang, 'Pickle.'  But according to Dr. Archibald and Cluny, 'Pickle' only received 300 L.  It is interesting that Cluny does not mention seeing the forged letter from James Francis Edward, of which Grant Francis and Andrew Lang speak, but only verbal 'plausable accounts.'  It has already been shown that the total can be accounted for without allocating more than the 300 L to 'Pickle,' but that Charles thought there were still between 16,000 and 17,000 remaining and that it was for this reason that he sent for Cluny in 1755, is perfectly true.  The mystery is explained a third document, which is dated 27th Augt. 1754 and headed 'State of the effects which are presently in Scotland.'27

It will be seen from this account that the 16,000 L was calculated on the assumption that 6,700 L would be recoverable not from buried treasure, but from sums already 'taken without orders,' and that Cluny still had in his hands 9,150 L; Patullo and Lochgarry were evidently unaware of Cluny's further expenditure on himself and his friends and relations.  It is clear, therefore, that this 16,850 L was purely an imaginary balance, which had no relation to the real state of the cash.  The answer to the problem of 'who had the 16,000 L ?' is that they never existed except on paper.  The account itself is obviously inaccurate and misleading in many ways, as it begins by reckoning the total of the Treasure at 36,000 P, so that at the outset a false addition of 1,000 L is made.  On the other hand, the sum said to be lost at removing is given at 500 L, and Cluny puts it at only 425.  The 4,20028 given by Murray of Broughton for arrears of pay for the troops, etc., is left out of the reckoning altogether.  The small payments, such as those to Torcastle and 'Archeille's lady,' do not appear on either Cluny's or Archy's accounts, but they are probably approximately accurate and are no doubt included in one of the larger sums, such as the 13th item in Cluny's account,29 and would come under the heading of 'other friends who attended him' (Charles).

Another mystery of importance in connection with the Locharkaig Treasure, on which these Stuart Papers throw some though imperfect light, is the ultimate fate of the 3,000 L stolen by Murray of Broughton, 900 sterling of which was said to be in Menzies of Culdair's hands.  According to Lochgarry,30 'Menzies of Culldairs has still in his hands nine hundred pound of the money that John Murray brought South...[This] can be got immediately if Jamie McLeod writes to his fayrth.'  He also states that 'Glengary got of the money yt. John Murray gave William McDougall 1,100.'  The first statement is probably untrue, but the second, according to the evidence of Pickle himself, is approximately correct.  There is among the Stuart Papers a copy, in the hand of Andrew Lumisden,31 of Glengarry's confession32 regarding the money lodged with William Macdougal of Edinburgh by Murray of Broughton.  The document bears no signature, but it is obviously not by Lumisden, as the writer of the original has to fulfil the following conditions: 1. He must have been at Rome for 5 months in August 1750; 2. He must be a member of a leading Roman Catholic clan; 3. His father must be ill in 1750 and at one time a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle; 4. He must have lost a brother in the' 45 who left a widow and two young children.  The only person who has all these qualifications is 'Pickle.'

To attach any importance to Pickle's statements may seem irrational, but this document is the only evidence at present available as to the expenditure of this portion of the Locharkaig Treasure, and there are one or two indications that for once he is speaking the truth.  The sums which he confesses to have had for his father's estate and his relations adds up to 1,050, which is only 50 short of Lochgarry's estimate.  Moreover, two of the items in the account of the money administered by Macdougal could have been easily checked.  Andrew Lumisden would hardly have copied 'To Mr. Lumisden to be sent to his son...75 5'33 without comment if it had been a lie.  Again, it would have been dangerous to give a false account of money sent to Michele Vezzosi,34 who in 1750 had returned to Charles's service and was in his household at Avignon.  It is also significant that John Murray of Broughton, in his account35 of some 37,755 (which includes the Locharkaig Treasure and sums from other sources), also gives the amounts deposited with Menzies of Culdares as 3,500 and 351 guineas.36  Another striking point is that if the sum of Pickle and Macdougal's expenditure and Murray's 50037 is subtracted from the total deposited in Culdairs's hands, the balance is 878, 9s. 8d., which after all is very near Lochgarry's estimate of 900.  Thus, although nothing can be definitely proved, it seems not unreasonable to attach at least some interest to Pickle's version of the affair.

Historians have always looked with horror at the bitterness roused by the French Treasure, but these documents in the Stuart Papers suggest that those who handled it did so rather for the sake of their families and in order that these might survive for another rebellion, than from personal greed.  We see in this story what all through is both the strength and the weakness of the Jacobite movement - family tradition, which kept loyalty alive but brought with it petty jealousy and suicidal rivalry.  It is satisfactory, however, to know that the spending of the Treasure was for the most part by those who had lost all for the cause and not by their ungrateful Prince, whose view of finance is well summed up in his own words:-38

'...as to Money Matters as I never medled or maked in it, I can have nothing to say on ye subject and in reality, as to me in particular these Matters at present are the least of my conserns. ...CHARLES P.'

* The gracious permission of His Majesty the King to make use of material from the Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, is hereby acknowledged.  Acknowledgment is also due to Miss Mackenzie, Registrar of the Royal Archives, Miss Henrietta Tayler, and the Hon. Clare Stuart-Wortley for their valuable criticism and suggestions.

1 Younger brother of Donald Cameron, the Lochiel of the' 45; executed 1753.

2 Laughlan Macpherson, one of the most influential Highland Chiefs out in the '45.

3 Andrew Lang. The Companions of Pickle (London 1898), p. 144.

4 John Cameron of Fassifern. another brother of Lochiel.

5 John Cameron, but for the attainder Laird of Lochiel, son of the Lochiel of the' 45 (Donald), and 3rd Titular Lord; Captain in the Albany Regiment; succeeded his father October 1748, returned to Scotland 1759, died unmarried at Edinburgh, 1762.

6 The Companions of Pickle, p. 145.

7 Idem, p. 146.

8 Idem, p. 145.

9 Grant R. Francis, F.S.A., The Romance of the White Rose (London, 1933), p. 311.

10 The Companions of Pickle, p. 143.

11 Alexander or Alistair MacDonell, 13th Laird of Glengarry and 3rd Titular Lord; eldest son of John, 12th Laird and 2nd Titular Lord; alias 'Pickle the Spy.'

12 Stuart Papers, vol. 300, no. 80; see: Dr. Archibald Cameron's Memorial Concerning the Locharkaig Treasure.

13 Stuart Papers, vol. 358, nos. 28 and 29

14 Idem.

15 Stuart Papers, vol. 300, no. 80; see: Dr. Archibald Cameron's Memorial Concerning the Locharkaig Treasure.

16 Idem.

17 Stuart Papers, vol. 350, no. 50

18 He was out in the '45 and an agent for Charles Edward in the matter of the recovery of the French Treasure in 1754; he is almost certainly the 'Henri Pitillo' described in the list of Jacobite exiles drawn up at the Scots College, Paris (see Stuart Papers, vol. 296, no. 101), as an 'Aide de Camp...d'une ancienne famille, beaucoup souffert dans ses biens ayant ete Negotiant considerable; il a servi comme Commissaire et Marechal de Logis dans L' Armee, dont il a les Brevets du Prince desquels Employ.  Il s'est acquitte avec Diligence, il ne peut pas se retoumer.'

19 Donald Macdonell, of Lochgarry, a kinsman of the Glengarrys; out in the '45 at the head of the Glengarry battalion.

20 The Companions of Pickle, p. 145.

21 S.P. 54/43, no. 28 (f. 98) (State Papers Scotland).

22 Stuart Papers, vol. 300, no. 80.  See: Dr. Archibald Cameron's Memorial Concerning the Locharkaig Treasure, and Stuart Papers, vol. 310, nos. 83 and 84.

23 Stuart Papers, vol. 350, no. 50.

24 Idem.

25 Idem.

26 Stuart Papers, vol. 308, no. 38, and Romance of the White Rose, p. 308.

27 Stuart Papers, vol. 350, no. 50.

28 Stuart Papers, vol. 300, no. 80; see: Dr. Archibald Cameron's Memorial Concerning the Locharkaig Treasure.

29 Stuart Papers, vol. 358, nos. 28 and 29.

30 Stuart Papers, vol. 310, no. 84.

31 Andrew Lumisden, who described himself in Stuart Papers, vol. 302, no. 3, as 'descended from...Lumisden of Cushnie and Bruce of Clackmanan'; he was the grandson of the Bishop of Edinburgh and son of the Jacobite Governor of Burntisland; was out in the' 45 as Under-Secretary to Charles; acted as Secretary to James Edgar and succeeded him as Secretary to James Francis Edward in 1762; retired from Charles's service in 1768.

32 Stuart Papers, vol. 310, nos. 82, 83.

33 Idem.

34 An Italian who was a valet for many years in the Stuart household in Rome and who accompanied Charles to Arisaig in '45.  He surrendered during the campaign and was imprisoned by the Government and not released until 1747.  He is the author of a biography of Charles known as 'Juba.' See Stuart Papers, vol. 310, nos. 82, 83.

35 Printed in the Appendix of Robert Chambers's History of the Rebellion in Scotland 1745-46' (1869), p. 522, item 38.

36 Stuart Papers, vol. 310, nos. 82, 83.

37 Idem.

38 Stuart Papers, vol. 289, no. 4.