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The Fort

The town now known as Fort William has had many names, suggesting something of its strategic and political importance to the control of the Highlands.

The first settlement in 1654 was called Braintoun after its first governor  – there was no town at all until Cromwell’s military came to keep the locals in check. In 1690, the year William II’s Commander-in-Chief in Scotland called the soldier’s settlement Fort William after the King, the Duke of Gordon also tried to name it Gordonsburgh after himself. Duncan Cameron of Callart later tried to change the name to Duncansburgh. In 1954, a suggestion was even made to change the name to Abernevis to distance the town from its oppressive origins, but this came to nothing.

Throughout the vanities of landowners and governors alike, the town remained to the locals what it always had been: an Gearasdan, the garrison to the Gaelic speakers and to the English speakers, the Fort.

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The Birching Table

Crime and Punishment: It is easy to forget in the present day how recent it was that corporal punishment was thought fitting and useful both as a punishment and deterrent. Right up until the mid-twentieth century (and the 1970s in the Isle of Man) it was common in many areas of the UK for perpetrators […]

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Neck Irons (Jougs)

Pain in the neck: These nasty-looking and very heavy neck-irons were made in much the same way as the more commonly seen leg-irons. Law-breakers would have been shackled by the neck via an iron chain to a fixed post which was usually driven into the ground near the kirk door, with the resultant public shaming […]

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Cannonballs

Remnants of a past age: When land around the old fort was excavated to make way for the first rail line into Fort William in the 1890s, knives and bullet moulds were found in the old fort, as well as many objects relating to the town’s constables’ barracks. Among our collection we have examples of […]

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Military Map

Designs on the place: A military map of the old ‘Fort at Inverlochy’, i.e. the ‘Fort’ in ‘Fort William.’ This map dates from January 1657, and has each section of the fort clearly marked – complete with the governor’s room (which has been recreated in panels within the museum), the commissary, the smithy,  supply stores, […]

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