Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 09:15 UK

Ship's weapon dug up from garden

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Bar shot
Bar shot was designed to destroy a ship's rigging

A history enthusiast may have unearthed a rusting relic of Royal Navy "fire and sword" tactics from the 1700s while weeding his Highlands garden.

John Hodgson found what is believed to be bar shot - metal balls, linked together by an iron bar - at his home in Morven.

Retired marine archaeologist Dr Colin Martin said the ammunition was designed for tearing a ship's rigging.

But he said it could be from one of two warships that attacked Morven in 1746.

Before the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, in April 1746, HMS Terror and HMS Princess Anne landed men in Morven to destroy the homes and possessions of suspected supporters of Charles Edward Stuart - Bonnie Prince Charlie.

It would be a good weapon for destroying buildings
John Hodgson

Mr Hodgson's home at Fiunary is half a mile from the Sound of Mull.

His find may suggest the vessels also played a more direct role in the attack.

The retired boat builder said he had previously uncovered remains of a farm on the site. He found the bar shot in what would have been a niche between two walls.

He said: "There is a chance the farm was the target for the bar shot. It would have been a good weapon for destroying buildings.

"I suppose it could have landed somewhere else and was dragged to the farm by children, but where I found it would have been an odd, and difficult, place for them to leave it."

Dr Martin, a reader of maritime studies at the University of Andrews, said it could not be proved conclusively that the weapon was from HMS Terror or HMS Princess Anne.

However, he added that the shot was of the right size of calibre and, given where it was dug up, it made for an interesting find.

He said: "That kind of ammunition was used in the 16th to 18th and early 19th Centuries by ships primarily as a means of disabling the enemy before boarding them."

Woodland destroyed

Dr Martin said according to a book by John Gibson, HMS Terror and HMS Princess Anne were under the command of a Capt John Fergussone.

"Morven was owned by the Duke of Argyll, who was a supporter of the Hanoverian government, but most those living on his land were Jacobites," he said.

"The ships were certainly landing men in Morven and what they were doing was checking the settlements for Jacobites.

"If the man of the house was found at home then the settlement was left alone, but if it was just his family then it was assumed he was a rebel.

"His home, livestock and crops were destroyed. His boat - an important resource to those living on the coast - was also smashed and any woodland was destroyed to prevent him building another.

"It was a very brutal sort of fire and sword tactic."

'New evidence'

Dr Martin previously investigated the wreck of a warship that sank off Mull on 13 September 1653.

The Swan was one of a six-strong fleet of ships that was dispatched by Oliver Cromwell to capture a castle of the Royalist MacLeans of Mull and end their resistance.

However, a storm sank three of the ships off the coast.

Culloden expert Dr Tony Pollard, of the University of Glasgow, said Mr Hodgson's bar shot was a potentially important discovery.

He said: "I don't know of any accounts of the ships guns actually being used during the Morvern operation so this might be new evidence.

"We know that the west coast of Scotland and the Islands were harried during the '45 and it's aftermath - latterly the Royal Navy was busily engaged in the hunt for the fugitive Prince Charlie.

Dr Pollard added: "The raids on Morvern, known as the 'burning of Morvern'' were carried out in March 1746 and the Terror landed troops from Mingary Castle, which had been turned into a barracks.

"It was a terror campaign designed to punish Jacobites and to dissuade others from supporting them. HMS Terror was certainly well named."

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