Famous Scots
- John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee (1648-1689)

John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee

The eldest son of Sir William Graham, John Graham belonged to a family which was descended from King Robert III and had acquired the estate of Claverhouse near Dundee. He was a distant relative of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose. He was educated at St Andrews University and served King Louis XIV with other Scots in France and Holland. He distinguished himself in 1674 at the battle of Seneff, where he is said to have saved the life of the Prince of Orange.

He was sent as a cavalry leader to Scotland in 1678, with orders to enforce conformity to the established church. His reputation for relentless repression of the Covenanters in Dumfries and Galloway earned the nickname of "Bluidy Clavers". But in fact he urged moderation, believing that severe punishment would alienate rather than convert.

In 1679 the Covenanters defeated him at the Battle of Drumclog but he defended Glasgow against them and fought at Bothwell Brig.

Surprisingly, he married a daughter of a fiercely Covenanting family in 1674 and that damaged his career for a spell. But in 1688 he was created Viscount Dundee by James II while with the Scots army in England.

In 1689, after the overthrow of King James VII by William of Orange, he became an ardent supporter of the Stuart cause. At one point he scaled the rock face of Edinburgh Castle to confer with the Duke of Gordon, who was holding the fortress for King James.

Viscount Dundee then raised his standard on Dundee Law in support of the Jacobite cause (leaving his wife and newly born son on the family estate at Glen Ogilvy). For four months he marched 800 miles with the Highland veteran Lochiel, trying to rally support and hoping that King James would come over from Ireland.

St Bride's Kirk, Blair CastleHis greatest victory was at the battle of Killiecrankie, July 17, 1689. But he was mortally wounded during the battle and was taken a few miles to St Bride's Kirk (pictured here) in the grounds of Blair Castle where he died. He is buried in a vault beneath the kirk.

The use of "Bonnie Dundee" as an epithet for Graham dates from Sir Walter Scott's song, the original old ballad of that name being concerned with the town of Dundee.

Return to the Index of Famous Scots

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line