N/A, L Jones


isle of arran heritage, the arran high school project (2002)

Location: Arran

Killed for smuggling whisky

The Kilmory area on Arran was famous for illicit distilling. ‘Few, if any, in the parish - at some period of their lives, were not engaged in some department of smuggling,’ reported the local minister.

Both producing whisky and smuggling it for money or for salt was an essential part of the local economy, and entire families were engaged in it. However, these were occupations fraught with danger. One well-known incident was that of the murder of unarmed smugglers at Shannachie on the coast not far from Kilmory.

On 27 March 1817, a small boat carrying whisky produced at a distilling place called ‘Black Cave’ on the Struie burn was spotted by the ‘gadgers’ as the excise men were known. The gadgers gave chase, forcing the smugglers to retreat to the shore. In desperation, they threw stones at the gadgers in an effort to keep them away. But the gadgers fired their guns in return, killing a woman, Isabell Nicol, and a father and his son, William and Donald McKinnon. These deaths had a considerable impact on the local community and as late of the 1950s a memorial service was held where they were killed. Their graves can still be seen in Kilmory graveyard. Meanwhile, at his trial for murder at Edinburgh’s high court, despite opening fire on a group of unarmed islanders, John Jeffrey who led the excise party was found ‘not guilty'.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.