The Clock That Hung Macpherson is a story that has been told for a long time. Doing some digging in the history of it I found quite a bit of information about it. In a document from 1910 I found the following:

There is no doubt that the freebooter was captured in Keith. So far as we know, the Cross never stood in the High Street. Before its removal to a field on the farm of Sandyhills in 1768. It occupied the site of the ‘Biggar Memorial Fountain’ in Low Street. In October 1878, while excavating for the fountain, workmen came upon a bottle covered by a stone. The bottle contained a sheet of vellum, with writing of date 1819, at which time Low Street was levelled and newly paved. The record bore that it was deposited there to commemorate that circumstance, “and the stone which covers it on the level of the street is placed to mark the centre of the site of the old Cross of this ancient burgh of Banff, which Cross, as obstructing the carriage way of the street, was removed in the year 1768. Whoever may examine this document are enjoined to deposit it again sacredly in the same spot and to replace the stone above or another one over it to designate distinctly this ancient landmark of the burgh of Banff, which may God long preserve in prosperity and peace.”

Nicolas Dunbar

In 1935 a news article was published about the Clock That Hung Macpherson being in repair in Peterhead and for short on display. The article read the following:


How It Sealed an Outlaw’s Fate

A relic of bygone days is on view in the shop of Messrs John A. Smith, watchmaker, Broad Street, Peterhead.
It is the clock which, 235 years ago, sealed the fate of James Macpherson, the notorious outlaw and freebooter.
After doing duty for many years in Fetterangus Church it has been sent to Mr Smith for repairs. It is in excellent preservation.

Hanging Recalled

This timepiece has a dramatic history. Macpherson was sentenced to be hanged at Banff on 16th November 1700. Everything was in readiness for the execution when a courier on horseback was seen on the nearby bridge waving something in his hands.

The Banff officials rightly came to the conclusion that the courier was on his way with a last-minute reprieve, and determined not to be baulked of their lawful prey, they put forward the hands of the clock five minutes and immediately proceeded to hang Macpherson, before the messenger could place the reprieve in the hands of the sheriff.

The Unwanted Violin

One of the best violin players of his time, Macpherson performed with his favourite instrument at the foot of the gallows. He asked if any friend would accept the instrument as a gift. No one came forward, and he therefore broke the violin over his knee. He was the author of the well known tune “Macpherson’s Rant” and the pibroch “Macpherson’s Lament.”

Location of the Clock

After contacting the “The Sanctuary” as it is called now, I received an invite to have a look at the clock. The clock’s design corresponds with the era Jamie Macpherson was hung. And, on the wall is written that the clock was indeed in Peterhead for repairs at Messrs John A. Smith. The clock has been repaired again in 1952 and 1986. Now the clock is not working anymore.

Dufftown’s claim for having the clock years ago is unfounded and no evidence can be found for it. The Macpherson Museum in Newtonmore do not have any recollection or evidence of getting the clock from Dufftown either. I think it is safe to say that this Clock is still in the Fetterangus Church.