GLASGOW in the 1730s and early 1740s was something of a boomtown.  Having been one of the places that hosted anti-Union riots in 1706-07, the city had embraced the Union and the House of Hanover, not least because of the possibilities of international trade.

The town council could afford to build a new town hall, rich individuals like James Macrae, Governor of Madras, presented the city with adornments such as the first equestrian statue in Scotland, and the likes of Colonel William Macdowall made fortunes for Glasgow with the slave plantations growing sugar cane and tobacco, while early cotton imports only added to the city’s wealth. 

New industries emerged such as linen and iron production, and not even disastrous weather – the great gale of 1739 and the severe frost of 1740 – could hold back progress. New churches were built and many new houses, all of stone, began to appear.  The population grew to in excess of 18,000 by 1745, which proved to be a very fateful year.

Glasgow Times:

On July 23, Prince Charles Edward Stuart and seven companions arrived at the isle of Eriskay at a point which is still known in Gaelic as Cladach a Phrionnsa, or Prince’s Shore. He had come to regain the throne of the United Kingdom for his father James, and soon set sail for the mainland where he summoned all those Jacobite clans who were still loyal to the Stuarts.

With an army of 4000 clansmen, Charles led the march south and utter panic broke out in Glasgow which had heard the news of the new Rising with dread. 
The city had resisted the Jacobite Rising in 1715 and even provided soldiers in the form of a militia to fight for the Hanoverian Government of King George I. What would Charles and his army do to them?

By September 14, Glasgow’s people were engaged in hiding all their wealth, even their clothing, anticipating invasion by the Jacobites. Instead they got a 
letter, written by Charles when he was near Glengunnock just 20 miles from the city. It is still preserved: “To the Provost, Magistrates and Town Council of Glasgow. I need not inform you of my being come hither, nor of my view in coming; that is already sufficiently known; all those who love their country, and the true interest of Britain ought to wish for my success, and do what they can to promote it. 

“It would be a needless repetition to tell you that all the privileges of your town are included in my Declaration, and what I have promised I will never depart from. I hope this is your way of thinking, and therefore expect your compliance with my demands. 

“A sum of money besides what is due to the government, not exceeding fifteen thousand pounds sterling, and whatever arms can be found in your city, is at present what I require. 

“The terms offered you are very reasonable, and what I promise to make good. I choose to make these demands, but if not complied with I shall take other measures, and you must be answerable for the consequences.”  

Glasgow Times:

The defenceless city – there were just 30 soldiers at Dumbarton Castle – feared the worst as it appeared that Charles was heading for England via the western route which would put Glasgow in his path.  

Provost Andrew Cochrane convened the council to discuss what to do. Paying the £15,000 would more than bankrupt the city which had an annual income of just £3000. 

They decided to send a deputation to meet the Prince and try and negotiate with him. At the same time they wrote to the Government’s representatives in Scotland, including the Lord Advocate and Lord Justice Clerk.

Again the letter had been preserved and it mentions “our naked, defenceless state, without arms ... the distance of His Majesty’s forces; the vicinity of the rebels, within 12 miles of us, with a force of at least 4000 ... our reputation for wealth, and the great value of goods of various kinds must always be in a place like ours; the nature of our enemy – men under little order or discipline, who want nothing more than the plunder of such a town as ours; and the absolute stop our fears and the neighbourhood of the rebels have put to all manner of industry...This has thrown us into infinite disorder and confusion, which is far from being at an end.... Our case is extremely deplorable, that we must truckle to a pretended prince and rebels, and, at an expense we are not able to bear, purchase a protection from plunder and rapine.”  

Glasgow got lucky. Charles decided to advance to Edinburgh and occupied Holyroodhouse. On September 21, the Highlanders charged at Prestonpans and obliterated the Government forces under General Sir John Cope, pictured. The

Jacobites went back to Edinburgh and settled in for some prolonged celebrations.
Instead of Jacobites coming to occupy the city, Glasgow got a repeat demand from Charles. His quartermaster John Hay rode into the city and Provost Cochrane and the council were able to persuade him that Glasgow could not afford the £15,000. Hay waited while the council effectively held a whip-round of its prominent citizens – in fear for their lives they found some of that hidden money – and Hay rode back to Edinburgh with £5000 in cash and £500 in goods. 

Yet the city remained defiant, holding a huge celebration of the birthday of King George II. Provost Cochrane wrote: “On the 30th we solemnized his Majesty’s birthday with all manner of rejoicing, such as illuminations, bonfires, ringing of bells, convening all persons of distinction and the principal inhabitants in the town hall, and drinking the usual and some new loyal healths.”

The defiance took on a more substantial form when the council raised two regiments of militia, some 1200 men in total, and all of them paid for by local burgesses and lairds. 

The city prepared its defences in anticipation of attack from the east, but Charles and his officers had other ideas.

They set out to invade England, and Glasgow breathed a collective sigh of relief. But Bonnie Prince Charlies was not done with Glasgow, not by a long chalk. Find out next week what happened when he came back north.