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Last Updated: Friday, 5 October 2007, 00:57 GMT 01:57 UK
Mystery over Jamaican at Culloden
By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland, Highlands and Islands

The National Trust for Scotland believes the character may represent a Jamaican servant

Historians are intrigued by a mysterious figure who appears in a tapestry depicting a scene from the last battle fought on British soil.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) believe he may be a Jamaican servant of an officer on the government side at the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness.

Little is known of the 18th Century needlework, which will go on display at the trust's new battlefield centre.

Katrina Thomson, of NTS, hopes more can be found out about the figure.

The trust purchased the needlework for a 3,600 hammer price at a Bonhams auction - the total coming to 4,446 with buyer's premium and VAT.

It shows the government cavalry, a tartan-clad figure thought to be Bonnie Prince Charlie and Culloden House.

Miss Thomson said it was not clear if the tapestry was a true depiction of a scene from the battle on 16 April 1746, or one featuring later influences.

She said the mystery figure has excited historians.

The NTS deputy curator said: "We just simply don't know. We are presuming it is a black character.

"When we bought the needlework there was a suggestion via Bonhams that he was a servant of a General McNaughton.

"We tried to chase this up with some historians but they had not come across the name, or a mention of a black servant."

Flag at Battle of Culloden site
The battle was fought on Drumossie Moor, to the north-east of Inverness
British place names appear across Jamaica - including a Culloden
The day before the battle, the Jacobites made an attempt to attack the government troops camped at Nairn. The raid was called off and they turned back for Inverness

However, there is a theory that he could be the servant of a senior officer who had served in the West Indies.

NTS said the panel - which measures 127cm (4ft) wide by 66cm (2ft) and is stitched in coloured silk threads - is a section of a larger wall hanging.

It is thought to have been worked by women in the household of Charles Edmond Hay, 3rd Laird of Hopes (1704-1788).

He was a relation of John Hay, who was secretary of state for Scotland during the critical years of the Jacobite uprising.

Miss Thomson said: "Before going on display, the work will be cleaned and remounted.

"The trust would like to thank the Ardmore Fund, set up in 1974 by Lady Gammell for the benefit of the trust's collections, without which this acquisition and its conservation would not have been possible."

She added that she hoped someone would come forward with more detail about the tapestry's mysterious figure through publicity of its purchase.

The piece has never before been seen in public

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