John Kennedy of Laggan, the 'most famous thief in the Highlands'?

annotated by Iain Kennedy August 13th, 2006

Copyright © 2007 Iain Kennedy


The following two extracts are taken from the 'Historical Papers 1699-1750' published by the New Spalding Club in 1896 edited by Col. James Allardyce, in the section entitled 'Highland Reports 1749-50'.

In a section on reports submitted by captains of various Highland posts, one James Molesworth uses some colourful language to describe his opponent as 'the most noted thief in the Highlands' only to be supplanted just another week later by another individual who is now 'the most famous thief in the Highlands'. This latter gentleman is our Kennedy but I attach the description of the former for reference.

2nd Captain's Command

'... Nov 9th - Taking of Donald MacPhie alias Cameron the most noted thief in the Highlands and therefore called the wolf. He was surpriz'd at a town call'd Badenoch upon the River Quilt at 12 at night... I doubt he will be capitally punished but yet his being in Plad and arms will suffice 6 months in prison...

Nov 16th

Pursuivant to a route rec'd from you on 15th I marched from Laggan ... The party at Lonkie rescued 4 cows belonging to Strathglass ... the Thieves escaped by means of a nearby wood. The thieves I leave in the country are John Kennedy called Brike, or Pocke or Pocpitted. He is a deserter from the British service; middle sized, sandy hair, strong made and speaks a little English.

His house is at the bank of the River Glaster near Killenann about 1 mile to the westward of Laggan and a little to the northward of Loch Lochky. He has sometimes his residence over agst the place just described upon ye south of the Loch at his sisters. He has also a lurking hut in the Mon Martins wood about 3 miles to the west of Laggan and within a mile of Letterfinlay. He sometimes haunts a town caleld Badendoch upon the River Quilt. His age is about 35 and he is the most sublte most desparate and most famous thief in the Highlands. He goes always armed.

... John McDonell nephew to the above Kennedy and his pupil. He is young, tall and well-look'd with light hair. He always robbed in company with Kennedy and lately the above 2 have assembled with him, the whole being under the command of Kennedy.'

signed James Molesworth (Captain)