Blacksmiths' Second Fight 1856
by John Dye

Transcribed handwritten material from the office of the Procurator Fiscal of Tobermory, currently held in the Argyll Archive at Lochgilphead.

Ewen Young and John MacPhail, both blacksmiths were charged with assaulting Charles Cameron on the road leading to Strontian. This was the second time that year that one of them had been in trouble, see also

Young felt aggrieved that he had been outbid by a miner for a grinder at the sales and picked a fight, first with Hugh McMaster and later with Charles Cameron, the friend who had been standing by. The main assault was by the blaksmith's apprentice John MacPhail who said to Charles Cameron "that the Aharacle lads were always boasting over the Strontian lads & that he would try me that night".


Charles Cameron Assault victim on the road to Strontian
Ewen Young Blacksmith in a bad mood and drunk at the Inn
John MacPhail Blacksmith's apprentice who struck without provocation
John MacPhee Shoemaker having a drink with McMaster and Cameron
James MacKay Friend of John MacPhee who went to the Inn with him
Hugh McMaster Threatened at the Inn by Ewen Young
Donald Cameron A passer-by, who held on to John McPhail after the attack
Duncan Cameron The policeman who took charge in the end



Charge: That information is lodged with the petitioner upon the twenty fourth day of June Eighteen hundred and fifty six years, on or near the public road leading from Strontian Mines to Strontian and at a place thereof which is distant seventy yards or thereby from the dwelling house at Anaheilt, then and now or lately occupied by Duncan MacPherson now or lately residing there all in the parish of Ardnamurchan and County of Argyll, Ewen Young and John MacPhail, both Blacksmiths now or lately residing at Strontian in the said parish did wickedly and feloniously attack & assault Charles Cameron, Crofter now or lately residing at Aharacle in the parish of Ardnamurchan aforesaid and did with their fists strike the said Charles Cameron several severe blows on the face, head, breast and other parts of his person to the effusion of his blood and injury of his person.
30th June 1856


He had a whisky with Hugh McMaster and Charles Cameron, who was later assaulted

Strontian 2 July 1856: Compeared John McPhee, Shoemaker residing with Alexander McPherson, a Shoemaker at Anyheilt in the parish of Ardnamurchan who says:

I am 20 years of age. I met with Charles Cameron & Hugh McMaster in the Inn at Strontian on the Evening of the day of the sale at the Strontian mines about 9 p.m. They were in a room drinking and I went in where they were accompanied by James MacKay from Aharacle. We partook of a part of a Gill of Whiskey along with McMaster & Cameron who were both quite sober.

Ewen Young joined them and was aggressive and upset

Shortly before we all left the Inn, Ewen Young came into the room where we were and sat down. He appeared to have been drinking. He also partook of the spirits that were on the table but he neither called for nor paid any. We did not remain in the ..(part missing).. Young came into the room. When we were all in the Lobby on the way out, Young found Janet with MacMaster who is a Miner for some other Miners opposing him in his bids at the sale which had taken place that day at the Strontian Mines. He appeared to be angry & after we got outside the door he threw his coat back in the act of taking it off & asked McMaster to fight him. MacMaster declined and we all went along the road together towards the Bridge at Strontian on our way home. Young was quarrelling with MacMaster and wishing him to fight as we walked along.

After leaving the Inn, Young tried to pick a fight with MacMaster, but was prevented by Cameron

When we reached the bridge we all stood up in consequence of Young making an attempt to strike MacMaster. Cameron seeing this interfered advised Young to be quiet and told him that MacMaster would not bet a blow that night if he could prevent it. We stood in the bridge about five minutes during which time Young was making every effort to induce a quarrel and get at McMaster to strike him. He was prevented by Cameron. McMaster was afraid and I heard Cameron say that he would go along with and see him past Young's house. We then left the Bridge & went on our way home, Young continuing to quarrel with McMaster and to miscall him. McMaster saying to him repeatedly that he had no desire to do so and advising him to be quiet & to go home. When we were under Young's house at Anyheilt which is distant from the Inn about a mile, we all stood up again, Young was anxious there to fight McMaster & asked him to Turn out but he still declined both he and Cameron advising him to go home. He went off the road to go home, his house being situated a little above the Highway. He was angry.

They left Young at his house and proceeded onwards, only to turn back again fearing an attack on them individually when they heard Young summon assistance

We then proceeded on our way home. Before we had gone 50 yards we heard a loud whistle. I remarked that that was Young's signal to gather his companions together to attack or fight McMaster & Cameron. They agreed that it was and after we had proceeded about 300 yards farther, McMaster proposed to return as it was possible if Cameron went alone Young and his companions might meet or attack him & we all agreed to return McMaster saying that he would stay in his father's house at ArdnastaIng near the sea shore & which Cameron had to pass on his way home to Aharacle. This led us again past Young's house.

In consequence of this conversation we all turned and before we had reached the place where we had previously passed with Young & while we were on the public road & under the house at Anaheilt occupied by Duncan McPherson a Crofter, we saw Young & his apprentice John McPhail coming towards us walking very quickly & followed by a woman.

They were then confronted by Young and his apprentice John McPhail

McPhail had his coat off. Cameron remarked when he observed them coming that we should all walk past without speaking which was acquiesced in by all of us. McPhail came up first & caught Charles Cameron by the collar of the coat and asked him what he was doing. Cameron answered that he was doing nothing. McPhail said there was, that Cameron was a liar and that he would shew him that he was doing something.

After threatening Cameron, McPhail struck him a violent blow

With these words he drew his clenched fist and struck Cameron a violent blow on the face near the Eye. Young was standing bye encouraging McPhail and telling him to do his best in giving Cameron a thrashing. He alleged no reason. McPhail had let Cameron go & he made another attack at him but Cameron warded off the blow which was aimed at his face, closed upn him & put him down & held him down for a minute or two. He did not strike either before or after he was on the ground. Young pulled Cameron off & McPhail got up and made another rush at Cameron, striking at him with his clenched

fists, Cameron warding off the blows with his arm and telling him to be quiet. Young was encouraging McPhail & telling him to walk into Cameron.

Both Young and McPhail then together set on Cameron, who at no time had shown aggression but merely acted defensively

Cameron again put him down, falling above him and holding him down on the road. Young seeing this made a rush at Cameron and seized him by the neck to assist McPhail. Cameron called out for the Police Officer and asked me to run for him. Seeing Young & McPhail both engaged against Cameron I said to the former that it was not fair for two to be against one. When Young made a rush at me, saying that he would kill me, I ran off for the Police Officer & Young chased me through a potato field swearing at me. He returned (after he had ran after me about 50 yards) to where McPhail & the others were on the road.

The police were called

I went on for Duncan Cameron, Police Constable who lived near at hand. I saw Duncan Cameron and after telling him what was going on I went off to the place I had left the parties & found them all there. McPhail & Cameron were Laying on the bank at the side of the road. Cameron was uppermost. They were in grips, Donald Cameron was separating them. I don't remember of hearing any words spoke but Cameron succeeded in separating them.
Charles Cameron's cheek was cut above the eye and I saw blood on his face. It was so dark that I did not observe whether or not his Eyes were swollen or blackened. I saw no blood on McPhail.

Cameron did nothing at all except in warding off McPhail's blow & closing upon him as before mentioned to prevent his getting an open blow at him. Cameron said to him towards the end that unless he would desist he would give him something that would hinder him from playing such a game again.
Duncan Cameron the Police Officer came up & he, along with McMaster, Charles Cameron & myself, leaving McPhail & Young along with one or two others standing on the road. Charles Cameron was complaining of the way his face was cut up & that he would (be) ashamed to appear in public with it.

Signed John McPhee.



He says that he personally did not oppose Young on any of the lots bid for at the sale of furniture

Compeared Hugh McMaster, Miner, residing at Scotstown in the parish of Ardnamurchan & County of Argyll, who says:

I am 34 years of age. I was at the sale of furniture at the Strontian Mines on Tuesday 24 June 1856. I saw Ewen Young there but I did not oppose him in any of his purchases. I was in the Inn at Strontian that same evening along with Charles Cameron. I think we went there about 9 p.m. While we were in the Inn, Ewen Young came into the room where we were and he was offered and tasted some of the spirits which we had on the table. He was the worse of spirits when he came in. We rose and went out about 10 p.m., Young went out with us.

While we were in the lobby, Young said to me that 'they had prevented him from getting a Grindstone at the sale & that he was abler to pay for it than any of the Miners'. He was angry but as he was the worse of spirits I paid no attention to him. As we walked along the road Young wanted me to fight him and was endeavouring to pick a quarrel. He told me that he could knock my eyes out if he pleased. I told him frequently to be quiet & that I did not wish to quarrel or fight with him.

But Young was cross and drunk and tried to fight him on the bridge at Strontian

When we got to the Bridge at Strontian which is almost ¼ of a mile from the Inn, we stood up there. When we were there Young Squared himself to fight and asked me to come on. He was working with his hands & saying what he could do with me. Cameron told him that there would be no fighting that night and both he and I advised him to go home quietly. We all moved on and I concur with John McPhee in his statement as to Young's anxiety to fight and to quarrel.

McMaster feared to go to his own house at Scotstown and decided to go instead to his father-in-law at Ardnastaing

I also concur with him in the statement with the following additions: after hearing the whistle I was rather afraid to go alone and I proposed to return & stay in my father-in law's house at Ardnastaing. I was afraid that Young & some of his companions might follow and attack me if I went home to my own house at Scotstown alone and my reason for returning was to have company as it was not likely we would be followed so far as my father-in-law's house.

When McPhail came to the bridge, he was also drunk and at first asked Cameron for support to fight his apprentice-master, Ewen Young, the blacksmith

McPhail caught hold of Cameron and said to him that he wanted to thrash Young. Cameron said no, that he would rather take his part than fight with him. McPhail without further remark drew his clenched fist and struck Cameron on the face & cut him. Cameron told him to beware what he was about, that he had broke the law once before & that it was better to desist. McPhail paid no attention but continued to strike at him. Young was encouraging him. Cameron called for the Police & asked McPhail to go for him.

Having taken on Cameron instead, McPhail and Young both continued the attack until the policeman Donald Cameron intervened

Cameron closed with him & put him down but did not strike him. McPhail was quite drunk. Young released him. McPhail got up & renewed the attack still encouraged by Young. Cameron as before closed on him & put him down & held him down. This was repeated four times. I did not see Young kick Cameron when they were on the ground nor did I see him strike him, but the second time that Cameron & McPhail were laying on the ground, Young had a grip of Cameron & I heard Cameron call out that Young had kicked him.

Donald Cameron came and relieved Charles Cameron & got McPhail to desist. Cameron had no desire to fight and he in the whole transaction was preventing McPhail as much as possible from injuring him. Cameron's face was cut and bleeding but as it was dark I did not observe whether or not his Eyes were blackened. We went together as far as Ardnastaing along with Duncan Cameron, Police Officer, who left us when in sight of my father-in-law's house. I gave Young no provocation & I know of no cause of quarrel which he could have with me.

Hugh McMaster



He went to the sale and saw both McPhail and Young there, before leaving and going on to the Inn, London House

On Tuesday 24 June 1856 I was at the sale at the Mines at Strontian. I saw McPhail & Young there, I spoke to the latter. I left the sale about 7 p.m. along with Hugh McMaster, Miner, to go home. We went to London House & had a dram - we had 2 gills. Dugald McPherson was with us & helped to drink it while we were in the Inn & while we were drinking the last 2 gills Ewen Young came in & got a glass of spirits. After it was finished Young asked me to get another but I declined. I did not positively refuse but I did not order it. We all went out.

Young joined them and as they left, challenged McMaster to a fight

When in the lobby, Young challenged McMaster and said that his neighbour miners opposed him in the purchase of a grindstone & wanted to fight. He was angry & had his coat half stripped to fight but was prevented. We all went out together along the road towards the smithy at Anaheilt. All the time Young quarrelling with McMaster & wanting to fight.

When we came to the bridge where our roads parted, McMaster asked me to go with him as he was afraid Young would attack him. Young threats all the time, I went, while we were passing Young's house at Anyheilt I ordered Young to go home & I bade him goodnight. Young went home & McMaster along with me, John McPhee & Jas. McKay went along the road to see McMaster home. In a few minutes after Young parted & before we had proceeded 100 yds we heard a loud whistle. McPhee commented that it was something concerning them, we walked on talking over it.

McMaster decided to turn around and stay with his father-in-law at Ardnastaing, accompanied by Cameron and MacPhee, but they met Young and McPhail who attacked Cameron

Then McMaster proposed to return to go to Ardnastaing to his father in law's house as he was afraid of being attacked after we left them. We agreed with him & we all turned & went towards Ardnastaing on our way thither & when we were right opposite Duncan McPherson's house at Anaheilt John McPhail came running up & met us. I was first & he & then McPhail got up & attacked me again, cursing & swearing & miscalling me & saying that the Aharacle lads were always boasting over the Strontian lads & that he would try me that night. Young was assisting him & egging him on. I caught him again & put him down & held him down.

While Duncan Cameron the policeman was coming, Donald Cameron held John McPhail off Charles Cameron

Donald Cameron was this time came up & asked me to let him go & that he would keep him safe till the Police would come. I did so at once & Cameron took charge of him. Duncan Cameron, Police Officer came up immediately afterwards & took McPhail away. We then went off. My right eye was cut & nearly closed with swelling. It was black. My left eye was also bloodied, my neck was very sore. I lost a small quantity of blood from a cut on the right eye. I am quite satisfied that the assault was premeditated & that Young was the party who instigated McPhail.

Details of the injuries and the assault are given

Inserted note:
saying a word McPhail drew his fist clenched and struck me a violent blow at the side of the right eye which cut me. I asked him what he meant but he said nothing but struck me again on the left cheek under the eye. At this time Young also came up & was inducing McPhail again to strike me. I caught McPhail to defend myself & put him down & held him down. Young came up & relieved him & forced McPhail again to attack me. He struck me again 3 more times - I caught him & put him down but did not strike. Young came & relieved him & while I was holding him down Young came & kicked me on the left cheek. I let McPhail go & he got up. He attacked me again & I warded off his blows. I caught him & threw him down again & held him down (part missing)

Charles Cameron 35:



Post-script and confirmation of the sentence

Donald Cameron, a Shepherd, Anaheilt, aged 30. In bed hear noise - both standing - hold of breasts - Both cools off - McKay heard Charles - I told them to give it up & go home & not to carry on at that rate - Charley said he would not till the Policeman came - that he was struck by him on the public road & that he could not leave till he gave him up till the officer - I separated them - I had no difficulty I asked Charles to allow him to me & that I did take care of him till the policeman came - he did so - did not observe bleeding - Young there - saw nothing, both drunk - rest sober - I heard Young say McPhail to be clever & to give Cameron a good thrashing - McPhail was cursing Duncan Cameron

Mary McPherson aged 56

On the covering note is the information:
4 July 1856
Tried summarily
Plea guilty
Sentence 30 days impt. or 21/- fine