Welcome to 17th-century Argyll. Just watch out for Lachie and the boys...
From the 1680s to the 1700s, a gang of early Jacobites, thieves, housebreakers and highwayman ran a protection racket across the mist-sodden, famine-ravaged Argyll hills, bringing misery and fear to their own people and dismay to the authorities. In the end, a working-class hero, inspired by a widow’s plight and bolstered by his own dogged determination, brought the gang to justice.
It sounds like fiction, but it isn’t; it’s all too true. Ane Compact of Villany is the story of these cowardly thieves, who terrorised their fellow Argyll folk. The book also looks at the nefarious origin of the gang, and the colourful but bloodthirsty politics of the era they operated in.
Their reign of terror covered some of the most politically and economically unstable years in the history of the West Highlands.
For locals, this is the history that lies around them, detailed by names, places, hidden tracks and lost farmsteads, all backed by sound research and on-site work in the hills. For criminal historians, this is the homefront of 17th century law-breaking at its grittiest: low-born victims, elusive criminals and the early days of military law enforcement and trials in a rural town. For Scottish historians, it’s the wide-flung plaid of early Jacobitism which lies behind the ‘villany’ and wickedness of this gang of ‘stouthrieves’ and broken men, while the people they targeted, and from whom they sprung, battled against them.
Ane Compact of Villany brings together several lines of historic enquiry never put together before, whilst touching on many subjects popular in the local history and criminal history genre. It sheds light on a turbulent and colourful period of Scottish history, closely examining the politics and social structure of 17th-century Argyll.