An important local Dundee man involved in the Javobite uprising of 1745-46, was Sir John Wedderburn, 5th Baronet of Blackness. He was following in the footsteps of his father, Alexander Wedderburn, the 4th Baronet, who had been deposed from his office as Clerk of Dundee in 1717 for supporting the Stuarts in the previous uprising of 1715.
Initially Sir John joined Ogilvy’s regiment as a ‘private soldier’, he was seen at Edinburgh and had marched with the rebels to Derby and back. It seems that, sometime after the return of the Jacobite army to Scotland, he accepted the office of excise collector from Lord Strathallan, who during the uprising was the overall governor of Jacobite controlled East Scotland, and Wedderburn was tasked with the duty of raising taxes on behalf of the Jacobite cause.
He was in the ‘Pretender’s’ guards at the Battle of Falkirk and was again seen with the rebels at Perth and Culloden, armed with broadsword and pistols.
Two reports says he was in the uniform of the ‘Life Guards’, and at other times in the ‘Highland dress’.
Most reports regarding Wedderburn’s activities were detailed by witnesses during his trial in London in November 1746.
That during the retreat of the ‘rebel force’ from Stirling to Aberdeen, he was seen on horseback, with a party of Strathallan’s cavalry crossing the Tay near Perth, he was, wearing the ‘English’ form of dress, not the ‘highland habit’, as was the custom of other leaders of the uprising and he also wore a sword by his side and pistols before him, also, he was also wearing the ‘white cockade’.
He sent a ‘drum’ round Perth giving notice for the inhabitants to come and pay their taxes on penalty of military execution. This collecting of taxes on behalf of the Jacobites is proved by Wedderburn’s signature on several receipts given for taxes on ale and leather in Perth during November, December and January. It was these signatures that ultimately proved his support of the Stuart cause and the guilty verdict of treason in London in 1746.
There is also mention of his tax collecting activities in Dundee in the house of a Mr Ogilvy. (The Ogilvy could be Alexander Ogilvy who was collector of anchorage and other dues in Dundee at the time.
There was also proof that Wedderburn was collecting in Angus and Brechin as one witness paid him 12/6 for his excise, that the man was berated for being late in coming to pay and was threatened with confiscation of his possessions.
Sir John was captured after Culloden, and imprisoned in Inverness, he was then transported south on board H.M.S. Exeter, part of a fleet of 10 ships carrying prisoners to London to stand trial and he was committed to Southwark New Gaol.
Although he was a person of some rank, he had been serving as a private soldier and this added to the harsh treatment he received while in captivity. It is reported that he was not a wealthy man and was not in any position to pay for any favours or luxuries while in prison,
Sir John appeared before a special commission presided over by Lord Chief Justice Lee at the Court House, St Margaret’s Hill, Southwark and was charged with high treason, to which he pleaded ‘Not Guilty’.
The prosecution produced a dozen receipts for excise payments, each signed by John Wedderburn on behalf of the Prince. Without retiring the jury found him guilty and he was taken back to jail.
Sir John’s second son, James, just 15 years old, rode to London to petition the few contacts the family had who might have been able to plead for leniency. But due to the great suspicion surrounding known Jacobite supporters in the capitol, no one was prepared to plead for him.
Young James made one final desperate attempt to persuade his father to try to escape by disguising himself as a woman, but Sir John was not willing to do that and was determined to accept his fate with dignity.
Just hours before he was executed, he calmly posed for his jailor’s daughter as she cut a shadow profile of him.
On the 28th November 1746, he was dragged on a sledge to the gallows on Kennington common and was hanged, disembowelled and decapitated.
Sir John’s older son – John, Master of Blackness, was also a Jacobite supporter and was a Captain in Ogilvy’s Regiment, he managed to escaped to America, and was later a surgeon in Jamaica, he managed to return to Scotland in 1773 and died here on the 13th June 1803. It is also said that he was the father of an illegitimate son, Robert Wedderburn, a black slave.
Another Wedderburn who also was said to be involved in the uprising on the Jacobite side was Robert Wedderburn of Pearsie, Kingoldrum, Sheriff Clerk of Forfarshire. In what respect he was involved in the uprising I have no information.