Object Title

Flintlock pistol

Flintlock pistol

Date

1760

Object Number

XII.1673

Provenance

Purchased 22 November 1956. Ex HW Arthurton collection.

Physical Description

With scroll butt. The all-steel pistol is profusely decorated with engraved scroll and foliate patterns and on the top of the barrel, in the second stage, a little grotesque grinning face is depicted. The four stage barrel is slightly flared at the muzzle and is fluted at the breech. The scroll engraved lock has a comb on the cock in the form of pierced disc pierced by a star with circular holes between its points. The stocks bear engraved foliate scroll work and the scroll-butt has oval silver escutcheon plaques, on either side , each bearing an engraved crest of a female figure (possibly representing Hope) holding in her dexter hand an anchor and in her sinister, by the hair, a human head (possibly a savage's). The ball of the trigger is also of silver (with an engraved flower decoration on its underside) as is the ball of the pricker. The cock is pierced by a five pointed star, the interces of which are pierced by a small circular hole.
The engraved and pierced steel belthook is attached to the pistol frame by a pierced finial plate.
The pistol lacks its (turned iron) ramrod.

Materials

Dimensions

Dimensions: Overall length: 303 mm (11 15/16 in), Barrel length: 194 mm (7 5/8 in) Weight: 660g (1 lb 7 oz)

Firearms/Artillery

Serial Number nvn

Calibre

.560 in (27 bore)

Inscriptions and Marks

Signed on the lockplate 'J:Murdoch'.

Associations

Places Scotland

Notes

The pistol (and its pair) was made by the pistol-maker John Murdoch of Doune (Whitelaw:43), in the parish of Kilmadock, near Stirling. A prolific maker of pistols, judging by the numbers by him still surviving today, he was active between about 1750 -98 (Kelvin:159) and 'is said to have died in 1812' (Arthur:245, Blair & Woosnam-Savage:33-35)
He signed his pistols 'Murdoch', J. Murdoch' or 'Jo Murdoch' (as on this example), 'the latter form being either in script or Roman lettering (Kelvin:170).
From the 'Statistical Account of Scotland' of 1798 it is known that he was one of the last, if not the last, pistol-maker of Doune:
'The trade is now carried on by John Murdoch, also famous for his ingenuity in the craft and who has likewise furnished pistols to the first nobility of Europe These pistols were sold from 4 to 24 guineas a pair ... when Mr. Murdoch gives over the business, the trade, in all probability will become extinct.' (Sinclair:87).
John Murdoch 'manufactured both lobe-butt and ramshorn (scroll)-butt pistols' (Kelvin: 93-4) and he may also have been the partner of another Doune pistol-maker John Christie as pistols signed 'Christie and Murdoch Duni Fecit' of about 1750 survive.
Although it is not possible to identify with certainty the owner of the crest (and therefore the owner of the pistol) depicted on the silver escutcheon plaques it would appear to be that of the Montgomerie family of Scotland.
A possible, and plausible, candidate for having been the owner of this pistol (and its accompanying partner) is the army officer and politician Archibald Montgomerie, 11th Earl of Eglinton (1726 - 1796).
Montgomerie joined the army in 1743 and rose to be major in the 36th foot by 1751.
In 1757 he raised a new regiment of Highlanders, the 77th Foot, sometimes also known as the 1st Highland Battalion or the 62nd Foot during its existance (Wood:36), 1460 strong, having been commissioned Lieutenant-colonel-commandant on 4 January. The regiment was recruited from clans well known 'to have Jacobite sympathies - the Frasers, MacDonalds, Macleans &c.' (Barnes:64). He commanded the regiment in the capture of Fort Duquesne in 1758 and in 1760 it formed the main part of an expeditionary force he commanded against the insurgent Cherokee indians in South Carolina (Wood:36). The regiment was disbanded in Canada in 1763 (Barnes:73), or 1764 (ODNB:813) and the majority settled in Nova Scotia and New England (Barnes:73). Montgomerie, who was was by then MP for Ayrshire, being elected in 1761, went on to half pay and in 1764 was made Governor of Dumbarton Castle, on the River Clyde.
Montgomerie succeeded to the title in 1769 on the murder of his brother, Alexander Montgomerie, the 10th Earl.
Montgomeries military career ended with him being made Colonel of the 51st Foot in 1767 and General in 1793.
He was made Governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1782.
Various portraits exist of him including one by J Reynolds of about 1783-4. Here it should be noted that a famous portrait by JS Copley of about 1760 is sometimes said to show him in the uniform of the 77th (Montgomerie's Highlanders) (Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh) (Wood:Pl.9). However the portrait is infact one of 'Hugh Montgomerie, 12th Earl of Eglinton'of about 1780 (ODNB:816) as is noted in a number of publications (Cheape:38, Hesketh:46, Fig.56, IDC:7, Kelvin:34, Fig.5) and he is wearing the tartan of the 42nd Regiment (The Black Watch).
Archibald Montgomerie was succeeded by his cousin Hugh (1739 - 1819) 'a politician and army officer' (ODNB:816). Interestingly enough it was Hugh Mongomerie who'was the first Earl to record his Arms in the (Public) Register (of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland)... in 1797' (Pers. corres. from Robin Blair, Lord Lyon King of Arms, 29/03/2005).
Archibald Montgomerie has been described as 'Hard-drinking, hot- tempered, without intellectual interests, Eglinton was a man of limited ability in all his roles.' (ODNB:814).
Alexander Montgomerie, 10th Earl of Eglinton (1723 - 1769) is also another possible candidate for ownership but given he is better known as a politician (he was appointed a Gentleman of the King's Bedchamber in 1760 and as a Scottish representative peer in 1761, the same year he became MP for Ayrshire) and agricultural improver it might be thought a pair of fine pistols might suit the 11th earl better.
References:
Arthur J, The Doune Pistolmakers; Part 2 The Murdochs, 'Guns Review', May 1976, Vol.16, No.5, pp.245-6.
Barnes RM, 'The Uniforms & History of the Scottish Regiments', Seeley Service &Co. Ltd, London, 1956.
Blair C & R Woosnam-Savage, 'Scottish Firearms', Historical Arms Series, No.31, Museum Restoration service, Bloomfield, Ontario, 1995.
Cheape H, 'Tartan', National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1995.
Hesketh C, 'Tartans', Octopus Books, London, 1972.
Irvine Development Corporation (IDC), 'Eglinton Tournament 1839', Irvine, 1989.
Kelvin M, 'The Scottish pistol; Its History, Manufacture and Design', Cygnus Arts, London, 1996.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), Vol. 38, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004.
Sinclair J, 'The Statistical Account of Scotland', Vol.XX, Edinburgh, 1789.
Whitelaw CE, 'Scottish Arms makers', ed. by S Barter, Arms and Armour Press, London, 1977.
Wood S, 'The Scottish Soldier', Archive Publications Ltd., 1987.