Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the The University of Edinburgh & National Museums Scotland's online course, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Snuffboxes, which are called snuff mulls in Scotland, were used as personal items for carrying snuff, pipe or tobacco, around. And they were often shared between friends. They were given as gifts between gentlemen. And this one, in particular, dates from the 1715 Jacobite rising. The band around the base of this snuff box is engraved, saying, to Colonel Donald Murchison, 1715. Donald Murchison was a Jacobite. He fought at Sheriffmuir and the Earl of Seaforth. His brother was also involved in the battle but his brother John died. Donald then went back to the Highlands where he took up the role of being a factor for the Earl of Seaforth. He went into exile at the end of the 1715 rising.

Skip to 1 minute and 8 seconds Gathering rents from lands that had been forfeited from the gentry he went into exile was illegal. And Donald was noted for his bravery in continuing to collect rents to send to the Earl of Seaforth in France. There is a famous incident which is commemorated in a painting, painted by Landseer. And the snuff mull features in the painting. It’s at the very front. And it depicts Murchison seeing off some red coats who’d come to challenge him on collections the rents. One of Murchison’s descendants, Roderick Murchison, posed as Donald Murchison in the painting. And it was through that side of the family that the snuff mull came to the museum.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds The inscription in the top rim of the snuff mull is a Latin inscription which is taken from Virgil’s Aeneid. And it is quite common for the Jacobites to use extracts from Virgil to convey their political sentiment. This inscription translates as, call back my father, bring him back to my sight. If he is restored, there will be no more cause for grief. So there’s a clear correlation between the phrase that they’ve picked and the idea of the Jacobite kings coming back and being on the throne. As I mentioned at the beginning, snuffboxes were quite often given as gifts. And this inscription says to Colonel Donald Murchison, so it’s obviously a gift.

Skip to 2 minutes and 43 seconds When this came into the museum, the family tradition that came with it was that this gift had been given to Murchison by James VIII & III. And this is unlikely because first of all James was only in Scotland for around a month during the 1715 rising. And by that time, Donald had gone back home. Secondly, the engraving and the style of the snuff marks is not of a high enough quality to be a royal gift that was bestowed upon somebody. But it probably was given to Murchison as a gift. And the way that we can try and pinpoint who that gift was from was by looking at the crest that is on the top of the lid.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 seconds So this shows a motto, which is forward and spare not. It’s got a crying thistle and an IR standing for Jacobus Rex. So that’s obviously a Jacobite connection. And it’s also got a fir tree at the very bottom. The fir tree is the symbol of the McGregor clan, along with the phrase, spare not. So it’s potential that this is somebody from the McGregor clan who gave the snuffbox to Donald Murchison. Interestingly, a family history researcher, he was researching in the 19th century, found an inscription on a grave at a house called Glengyle near Loch Katrine. And the motto in that was ‘Forward and spare not’.

Skip to 4 minutes and 12 seconds And it’s the only other instance that, so far, we find of the use of this motto. Now, Glengyle Mcgregors were connected to the most famous MacGregor, Rob Roy. But Rob Roy’s nephew was called Gregor McGregor. And he was Gregor McGregor of Glengyle. And he was involved in both the 1715 rising and the 1745 rising. So it’s likely that he would have been at the same kind of station as Colonel Murchison and that they might have known each other. We can’t say for certain that this was a gift from Gregor McGregor to Murchison. But it seems likely that somebody connected with that family was the person who gave the gift.

Skip to 4 minutes and 57 seconds This is a particularly interesting object for us because it shows the personal connections that were happening within the Jacobite movement. And it’s individual stories rather than the politics and the military action that really stand out.

Murchison snuff mull

What is it?

Our next object is a snuff mull – or snuff box – dated 1715 that was used to hold snuff, a powdered tobacco.

Who owned it? Why is it important? It was given as a gift to the Jacobite Colonel Donald Murchison who fought at the battle of Sheriffmuir.

Watch this short video in which Assistant Curator, Adrienne Hynes examines the Murchison snuff mull and its inscriptions.

You can see the snuff mull in this painting by Landseer, 1868 that Adrienne mentions in the film.

The next step will discuss the snuff mull, the powder flask and the broadsword that we have explored as part of the surviving material – and martial – culture associated with the 1715 rising.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

The University of Edinburgh