Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Razor

 MacGregor Heirloom – Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Razor

Bonnie Prince Charlie by Blanchet. From the book Bonnie Prince Charlie by Fitzroy MacLean
Bonnie Prince Charlie by Blanchet. From the book Bonnie Prince Charlie by Fitzroy MacLean

 My family tradition has it that this razor was given by Bonnie Prince Charlie to a Macgregor ancestor of mine as a token of appreciation during the time after the Battle of Culloden (1746) when Bonnie Prince Charlie was fleeing the English troops. The note that accompanies the razor is shown below. We do not know who that ancestor was who first received the razor though several possibilities are listed below.

Duncan McGregor and unidenfied lady. Possibly his mother Catherine or his wife.
Duncan McGregor and unidenfied lady. Possibly his mother Catherine or his wife.

HISTORY OF THE RAZOR’S OWNERSHIP

Charles Edward Louis Phillippe Casimir Stuart (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”; aka “The Young Pretender”) (1720-1788) is believed to have given it to a MacGregor who helped him and who passed down through MacGregors (1 or 2 generations?) to Duncan MacGregor (family tradition is that he descended from a nephew of Rob Roy. Duncan’s gravestone indicates that he was born about 1792).

  • Duncan (c.1792 – 1852) likely gave it to his son Niel MacGregor (1816-1874) 
  • Niel then gave it to his daughter Flo Read (1870-1958)  (Note: Neil MacGregor’s sons had died).
  • Flo then gave it to her cousin A. H. (“Pete”) Stevens (1919-1985) in 1956. 
  • Then it went to his widow, Estelle Stevens, upon his death in 1985. 
  • About 1986 Estelle gave it to her eldest son, Colin MacGregor Stevens.

Families accept their heirlooms at face value, and I do in this case. However, there are historical tests that one should apply to see if the story is plausible.

1. Is the razor old enough? Is the style correct, and was the maker in business then? I have not found information about this maker, which suggest that they are old, and their products very rare. The “J” in Johnson is spelled the Latin way of a capital “I” which suggests great antiquity. I hope someone has more information of these early razors and this company. I took the razor to a real “Antiques Roadshow (Canada)” event in Richmond, B.C., Canada and the experts there agreed that the razor was old enough to have belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Of course they could not know or say anything about its history. However, until we can nail down the dates that Sayles & Johnson operated, the age of the razor  is strictly estimated by informed opinions.

2. Is it reasonable for the Prince to have given a personal item to a MacGregor? Yes, the MacGregors were Jacobite supporters, and there are two likely candidates – the 1 of the Seven Men of Glenmorriston, and the piper. Some MacGregors were at the Battle of Culloden, though most had been ordered off were off on a battle mission North of there and thus missed the battle. Of course, the note does not say that it was “given”, just that it had belonged to the Prince. My MacGregor ancestors would steal cattle but I doubt they would steal from their Heir Apparent, for whom they would lay down their lives.

Bonnie Prince Charlie disguised as "Betty Burke", maid - Artist J. Williams, NLS
Bonnie Prince Charlie disguised as “Betty Burke”, maid – Artist J. Williams, NLS

3. Do we know that Bonnie Prince Charlie had access to a razor and did not grow a beard? We know without question that he had access to a razor in 1746 and used it, for he evaded the English soldiers at one point by being dressed as a female servant! To do that, he HAD to be clean shaven!

  1. The “Seven Men of Glenmoriston” – It is known that a MacGregor was one of the “Seven Men of Glenmoriston” who stayed with the Prince during his flight. They were “led by one Patrick Grant and consisted of two MacDonalds, three Chisolms and a MacGregor.” (p. 274 of Bonnie Prince Charlie by Fitzroy MacLean). Another book names him as Gregor MacGregor.
  2. John MacGregor Murray of Glencarnock – “… (MacGregor name was proscribed, so he had to use the name Murray) … John MacGregor Murray of Glencarnock, assisted the Chevalier, but to prevent the forfeiture of the remaining lands, the active support was conducted by Rob Roy MacGregor, the most celebrated freebooter in Scottish history. The next chief, Robert of Glencarnoch, joined Prince Charles and fought at Culloden, but was pardonned and fell in the American Civil War.” (I would like to know details of his death and location of grave if known) (From “Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland” – copy with Dr. Estelle Stevens in 2006)
  3. A MacGregor as Aide de Camp to Bonnie Prince Charlie – Another book mentions that the Prince’s Aide de Camp (ADC) was a MacGregor. ( )
  4. A MacGregor piper for Bonnie Prince Charlie – A MacGregor website also mentions that the Prince’s piper was a MacGregor.
  5. Major Evan McGregor, Younger brother of GlencarnockAppointed a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army by the Prince 29 Oct. 1745 (copy p. 377 “History of The Clan Gregor From Public Records and Private Collections – Amelia Georgiana Murray MacGregor of MacGregor 1901 [CD copy with Colin MacGregor Stevens]
  6. Colonel Gregor MacGregor (Laird of GlenGyll)ppointed a Colonel and Commandant of the Fortress of Down, Cardross, and Balinton by the Prince 15 Oct. 1745 (copy p. 378 “History of The Clan Gregor From Public Records and Private Collections – Amelia Georgiana Murray MacGregor of MacGregor 1901 [CD copy with Colin MacGregor Stevens]
  7. Lieutenant Colonel John McGrigor (McGregor) or Drummond, Balnacuil.(in Mailer More Glenartney?)Appointed a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army by the Prince 21 Nov. 1745 (copy p. 379-380 “History of The Clan Gregor From Public Records and Private Collections – Amelia Georgiana Murray MacGregor of MacGregor 1901 [CD copy with Colin MacGregor Stevens] His parentage is unknown but he left a son Alexander MacGregor at Loch Catherine side, whose daughter Henrietta, was the second wife of James X of Glengyle.
  8. Gregor (Grigor) Murray of Fogfield (Coinneachan)(probably Balhaldie’s second brother): Copy p. 382 2 Sept. 1745 – To raise soldiers in Glen Almond for the Prince on behalf of Duke William of Atholl.  “History of The Clan Gregor From Public Records and Private Collections – Amelia Georgiana Murray MacGregor of MacGregor 1901 [CD copy with Colin MacGregor Stevens]
  9. James MacGregor of BalnachoilleCopy p. 383 “History of The Clan Gregor From Public Records and Private Collections – Amelia Georgiana Murray MacGregor of MacGregor 1901 [CD copy with Colin MacGregor Stevens]
  10. MacGregors in the Prince’s Army300 are listed c. middle of Nov 1745 in London Newspapers as published in Scots magazine  (date not given) but pre-1902. Copy p. 380 “History of The Clan Gregor From Public Records and Private Collections – Amelia Georgiana Murray MacGregor of MacGregor 1901 [CD copy with Colin MacGregor Stevens].

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s landing site, exit site and burial site.

 

The Razor

THE NOTE (front)- “Razor belonged to Prince Charlie came down through the Macgregors to my father.”

THE NOTE (back): “Flo Macgregor Read referring to Niel Macgregor (her father) Given to A.H.S. 17 Feb 56”  A.H.S. is  my father, Dr. Arnott Hume (“Pete”) Stevens  1919-1985 NS THt writing is in in his handwriting.

Close-up of maker’s marking SAYLES & IOHNSON. Note that Johnson “J” is spelled in the Latin alphabet fashion as a capital “I”.  At an official “Antiques Road Show” in Canada, the appraisers felt that the razor was old enough, but of course they could not pass any judgment on the history.

Can anyone help me with information about the maker of this razor? SAYLES & JOHNSON  aka SAYLES & IOHNSON? Where were they located? When were they in operation? Are there any other examples of their products surviving and if so, what type and where?