An Iron Collar Around His Neck


Battle of Culloden, 16 April 1746. It was the end the Jacobite Rebellion, the end of the Stuart dynasty, and in many ways the beginning of the modern era.

After the battle, 3,470 people were prisoners of the English. Of these, 936 were transported to the colonies, 222 were banished, 120 were executed, 88 died in prison, 58 escaped from prison, 76 received a conditional pardon, and 1,287 were released or exchanged. The fate of the remaining 684 is unknown. 

The Ghosts of Culloden, sung by Isla Grant.

Our ancestor William Shaw was among those captured and transported to the colonies. We don’t know anything about him before the battle but it seems likely he fought with Lord Ogilvy’s Regiment, as did some other Shaws.

Those who were transported spent nearly two years in miserable conditions in English jails while the government negotiated with merchants. Finally, in the spring of 1747 the prisoners were taken from the jail in Liverpool, handcuffed in pairs, and locked in the holds of ships bound for America. The voyage took two months. The ships entered Chesapeake Bay on July 18th, and the merchants auctioned the prisoners as indentured servants.

The first reference to William Shaw is on 19 October 1748, when the Augusta County Order Book shows the local court ordered “Iron collar about neck of William Shaw, servant of Daniel Morley to be taken off” (Chalkey 1:37). There is a reference 1747-8 in the Augusta County Fee Book: page 77, William Shaw, servant of Cornelius Murley (Chalkey 2:396). The fee he paid was probably for filing the suit that led to removing his collar.

The iron collar around his neck and the timing of the order to remove it have led historians to believe William was one of the Culloden prisoners.

The Rest of the Story

William Shaw came to America as a prisoner and an indentured servant. He eventually gained his freedom, although it doesn’t appear he was ever prosperous. Nearly 20 years later he appears on Capt. Smith’s 1766 list of tithables in Augusta County, with no estate and one tithable (Chalkey 2:419). This is the same list, so the same geographical area as “Dan’l Murley”.

The interesting twist to his story is that he lived long enough to side against the English again:

“Wm. Shaw of Capt. Stephens’ Compy.” appears on James McCorkle’s list of those who took the Oath of Allegiance to the American cause in Montgomery County, Virginia on 5 December 1777.

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