A trial was held, and Alexander Macpherson was called upon to give evidence. His
testimony differed substantially from the story he had told Donald Farquharson. According to
what he now said, he had been visited late in May by a vision of a man clothed in blue, who said
'I am Sergeant Davies!' At first he thought the figure was a real living man-a brother of Donald
Farquharson's. He rose and followed the shape to the door, where it told him that its bones lay in
a spot the direction of which it pointed out, and said that it wished them to be decently buried, and
that Donald Farquharson would help do this.
Next day Macpherson went out and found the bones, afterwards covering them up again.
On his way back to his hut he met Growar, the man of the tartan coat whom Davies had
encountered on his last day on earth. Growar said that if Macpherson did not keep quiet about the
discovery, he himself would impeach Macpherson to Shaw of Daldownie, a magistrate.
Macpherson, taking the wise course, went to Shaw himself and told his story; but Shaw told him
to keep his mouth shut about the whole affair, and not give the district a bad name for harboring
rebels. Macpherson went home with a disturbed mind. That night the ghost again appeared to
him, reproaching him, and once again commanding him to get Donald Farquharson to bury the
bones. He also-and this caused a sensation in the court-revealed the names of the two men who
had murdered him, Duncan Clerk and Alexander Bain Macdonald.
At this point the magistrate interrupted to ask in what language the ghost had spoken to
'In the Gaelic,' Macpherson replied. The magistrate wrote down his answer.
Then came an uncanny piece of evidence from Mistress Isobel MacHardie, for whom
Macpherson worked as a shepherd. One night in June, 1750, she said, she had been sleeping in
the sheiling (a hut for the use of shepherds) while Macpherson slept at the other end; a double
watch was kept on the sheep. While she lay awake 'she saw something naked come in at the
door, which frightened her so much that she drew the clothes over her head. When it appeared it
came in in a bowing posture, and next morning she asked Macpherson what it was that had
troubled them in the night. He answered that she might be easy, for it would not trouble them any
Incredible as it may seem, no further inquiry was made into the doings of the men Clerk
and Macdonald; the whole matter was suspended. Then, three years later, in September 1753,
they were suddenly arrested-on charges of rebellious behavior, such as wearing the kilt! They
were kept in Edinburgh's Tolbooth Prison until June, 1754, and then tried. At the trial it emerged
that Clerk's wife wore Sergeant Davies's ring-the one with the characteristic knob-and that
Clerk, after the murder, had suddenly become prosperous and had taken a farm. Witnesses came
forward to swear that Clerk and Macdonald, armed, were on a hill in the neighborhood of the
murder on 28 September, 1749. And one Angus Cameron swore that he saw the murder
committed, while he and another Cameron, now dead, had been hiding in a little hill-hollow all
day, waiting for Donald
Cameron, who was afterwards hanged, together with some of Donald's companions from
Lochaber. The implication is that some underground Jacobite business was afoot. The watchers
had seen Clerk and Macdonald strike and shoot a man in a blue coat and silver-laced hat, and then
had run away.
Their evidence impressed the court greatly. But 142 years later, it was contradicted by the
story told by a very old lady, a descendant of one of the witnesses at the trial. She said that her
ancestor had been out stag-shooting on 28 September, 1749, with gun and deer-hound. He saw
Clerk and Macdonald on the hill, and, thinking they had got a stag, went towards them, his dog
running in front of him. As he drew nearer, he saw what it was they had. He called to the dog,
and began to run away, but they fired a shot after him and the dog was wounded. Then he ran
home as fast as he could.
Between the story of 1754 and that of 1896 it seems more than likely that Clerk and
Macdonald were guilty. Their lawyers were certainly convinced of their guilt. And yet, when the
jury of Edinburgh tradesmen returned to give their verdict, it was that of-Not Guilty. The reason
for their acquittal was that the ghost had spoken to Alexander Macpherson in Gaelic, a language
it did not know in life.
And so the unfortunate Sergeant Davies, who had struggled back through the gates of
death to beg for Christian burial and to denounce his murderers, had made his journey in vain; for
his bones were never interred in a kirkyard, and Clerk and Macdonald went free. They lived in
prosperity, for those times, on the proceeds of the sergeant's guineas, watch and rings, and the
silver buckles and buttons for which they had killed him. Small wonder if his forlorn blue-coated
spirit walks the Braemar hills to this day.