When a war is over and won, the true reckoning begins. The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 ended in
total failure for the Stuart cause. Prince Charlie had fled back to France, leaving his faithful
Highlanders to suffer unspeakable wrongs at the hands of the English victors, under their cruel
leader 'Butcher' Cumberland. Murder, rape, house-burning were the order of the day, and
nothing was left undone that might break the spirit of the brave Clans. They might no longer
wear their traditional tartans, not carry swords-officially. But Highland blood is high, and the
heaths and mountains kid as many broken and outlawed men as they did rabbits and foxes; each
with some vestige of a knife or rusted gun, and each with hatred in his heart for the conquering
There is the tale of one Donald Ban and his wife, who were visited one night by a ghost,
and sorely frightened. But the woman retained enough self-possession to beg the ghost to answer
one question for her: 'Will our Prince come again?' The phantom replied in the following lines:
The wind has left me bare indeed,
And blawn my bonnet off my heid,
But something's hid in Hieland Brae-
The wind's no' blawn my sword away!
But this poetic spirit is not the ghost of our story.
By 1749, three years after the Rising was quelled, the English government was still uneasy
about the Highlands. The feeling that 'something's hid in Hieland brae' was only too strong
upon them, and an Army of Occupation still kept watch on the territory. It was as popular as
Armies of Occupation usually are.
But an exception to the general label of 'bluidy redcoat' was Sergeant Arthur Davies, of
Guise's regiment, who in the summer of 1749 was posted from Aberdeen to Dubrach in Braemar,
eight miles away from the nearest guard-station at Glenshee. Between the two places stretched a
wild waste of bog and mountain, rock and river. Sergeant Davies was not perturbed by the
difference between this savage land and his own gentle countryside, and soon settled down. He
was quickly accepted, for he was one of those men born to be liked by his fellow-men-kindly,
honest, fair in his dealings, and in his private life devoted to his young wife and fond of children.
This last must have been a remarkable attribute in a country where a second Slaughter of the
Innocents had just taken place. His wife later testified that 'he and she lived together in as great
amity and love as any couple could do, and he never was in use to stay away a night from her.'
The sergeant, who was comfortably off in England, and of saving disposition, must have
appeared very wealthy to hungry Highland eyes. He wore a silver watch, and two gold rings-one
with a peculiar knob on it. His brogues had silver buckles, and, like Bobbie Shafto, he wore
'silver buckles at his knee.' On his striped lute-string waistcoat were two dozen silver buttons;
his coat was a cheerful bright blue, his hat, with his initials cut into the felt was silver-laced, and
his dark brown hair was gathered into a silk ribbon. He had saved fifteen guineas and a half-a
huge sum for those days-and was in the habit of carrying it in a green silk purse and innocently
displaying it to those interested. He carried a gun-an envied possession in those parts. Such was
Sergeant Davies, 'a pretty man,' every detail of his appearance and attire noted by those who saw
him leave his lodgings at Michael Farquharson's in Dubrach on 28 September, early in the
morning. His wife, in her cap and bedgown, came down to kiss him good-bye at the door. Did
her arms hold more tightly and long around him than usual? Or did she watch him out of sight,
with the uneasy feeling that this was the beginning of a very long journey? Probably not; she was
an English-woman, not a Highland lass with 'the sight.' 'Good-bye, Arthur-take good care of
yourself,' was more than likely to be all she said, before shutting the door and beginning her
Sergeant Davies briskly collected four men, and set out towards Glenshee to meet the
patrol which was coming from there. On the way he met a man called John Growar, and noticed
that Growar was wearing a tartan coat-a thing forbidden by law. Instead of arresting him, as most
English officers would have done, Davies kindly advised him to take it off and not to wear it
again, and then let him go on his way. Davies was by this time alone, having left his men
temporarily because he thought he would like to cross the hill and try to get a stag-he fancied
himself as a sportsman. He promised to rejoin the men later on their way to the rendezvous with
But when they met with the patrol, Sergeant Davies had not rejoined them. They gave
him an hour or two, then went back and searched the route. They called, they shouted, but no
voice answered, only the frightened moorland birds. The sun of a late summer was hot on their
heads, and by the end of the day they gave up, exhausted.
For three days it was expected that Sergeant Davies would return of his own accord; on
the fourth day a band of soldiers from the combined forces of Dubrach and Glenshee went out on
an intensive search for him. But no trace of him was found; the substantial Sergeant Davies had
vanished as if the fairies had taken him. Some simple folk believed they had; others had darker
The weeks passed, and the months. It was June, 1750, and the rooms where Sergeant
Davies had lodged were occupied by his replacement. Poor Mrs. Davies had gone home to
England; after waiting for months in Scotland for her lost husband to return, she had given up
hope. Michael Farquharson's son, Donald, was at home when the servant came to tell him that
there was a visitor asking for his father, one Alexander Macpherson. His father being away on
business, Donald offered to see the man himself.
Alexander Macpherson was a middle-aged man who had so far stayed out of trouble with
the English, and was living humbly but peacefully enough in a shepherd's hut among the hills.
The story he had to tell was a strange one. He had, he said, been visited repeatedly at night by the
ghost of Sergeant Davies, looking exactly as he had done in life but with an anxious, troubled
expression. The ghost had begged Macpherson to go and look for his bones, which were buried
in a peat moss, about half a mile from the road taken by the patrols. Macpherson, afraid, refused
to do this. 'Bury my bones! Bury my bones!' repeated the ghost over and over, despairingly. 'I
will not-I am afraid,' returned Macpherson. 'Then you will find one who will. Go to Michael
and Donald Farquharson at my old lodgings, and tell them to bury my bones-bury my bones!'
Donald Farquharson listened to this recital incredulously. He was a level-headed person,
and had heard many wild tales from his fellow-Highlanders. Frankly, he did not believe
Macpherson, and said so.
'But at least come with me and see if the bones are there!' Macpherson pleaded. 'If you
could have seen and heard the ghost you would have believed!'
His insistence finally succeeded with Farquharson, who agreed to go with him. The next
morning they set out, and within an hour or two arrived at the spot described by the ghost. They
had brought spades, and now used them. Not far below the surface they turned up a shred of blue
cloth. Deeper still they dug, until the peat yielded what the ghost had promised-the pathetic
bones of Sergeant Davies, the brown hair still clinging to the skull, but the silk ribbon gone; the
silk waistcoat almost intact, but without its silver buttons, and the buckles vanished from the
bones and knee and foot. His murderers had torn the silver lacing from his hat and thrown the hat
down beside him. There it lay, rotting, the initials 'A.D.' still clear.
Reverently, Farquharson and Macpherson dug a neat grave away from the peat moss, and
in it they laid the poor bones, saying over them a service of prayer and committal; for they were
both devout men. The rags and relics of clothing they collected and took back with them to
Dubrach, as evidence of the murder that had been done.