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Doune Pistol Makers

Subdeacon Joe

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Doune Pistol Makers
Doune became renowned not only in Scotland but throughout the known world, for from this tiny place, came the famous pistols which possessed such mystery, such superb artistry, and such deadly accuracy that they fetched incredible sums of money in the 17th century.
Today they are literally worth their weight in gold as collector's pieces, and many are so valuable they are kept only in bank vaults.
The trade of gun making started in 1646, shortly after the Earl of Moray had transformed Doune from a miserable collection of cottages clustered around the castle into a well laid out burgh. Around 1646 Thomas Caddell made his way to Doune, he had come from the village of Muthill, some 15 miles to the north, where he had been a country blacksmith, and it is still a mystery where he acquired his training and rare skill. However there was a Flemish gunsmith called Cadell working in London at this period who was forced to flee London after being accused of an unspecified crime, and this may have been the same man. Little is known about Caddell as a person, and the only description is in the Old Statistical Accounts which says: this famous tradesman possessed a most profound genius, and inquisitive mind; and though a man of no education, and perseverance brought his work is so high a degree of perfection that no pistol maker made in Britain excelled or perhaps equalled those of his making either for sureness or beauty.
Inquisitive his mind certainly was for he ignored the traditional and sometimes imprecise forging of his own material. He looked around instead for the surest metal which was easy to work with and also in constant supply, and discovered this to be horse shoe nails. Taking hand fulls of nails, he heated and hammered them into a flat slab of metal, then drew this out into long steel ribbon. This was again heated, and beaten around an iron rod in a close spiral twist.
On some of Caddell's early guns it is possible to see the faint outline of the ribbon. The rod was then withdrawn and the now roughly shaped barrel was bored out to the diameter and the outer surface filed down. The breech end was tapped with a thread and a breech plug screwed in. The lock and mechanism were then closely wrought to the approximate shape, for those days material was dear and labour cheap, and every ounce of metal was valuable, as were the files which shaped the final finish. The last staged involved working the stock as one piece, and joining it to the barrel before the decoration was applied. It was designed to fire a round lead ball about three quarters of an inch in diameter.
The end product was an all steel pistol about 14 inches long which flowed in perfect symmetry from the ram's head butt to the slight, subtle flaring of the muzzle. It was profoundly embellished with scrolls and spirals which are yet another mystery for they are curiously a mixture of Oriental and Celtic design, and posses a poetic power of expression which rivals any of the great treasures. Although the pistols are works of art, and of a standard rarely found in Scotland, Caddell designed them initially for the nearest market, (the proud and quick tempered Highlander) and for this reason they are shorn of safety features. They have no trigger guard or safety catch, have an easy to find ball trigger, and were made in pairs for left hand or right hand use.
Caddell's pistols were soon being eagerly bought by the clansmen, who gladly pay a lifetime's savings to possess a pair costing between four and twenty guineas. Indeed, some were so proud of their acquisitions that they engraved, 'I love thee as my wyfe, I'll keep thee as my lyfe!
Soon the fame of his guns spread further afield, and in later years more expensive ones were ordered by noble families. These high quality weapons had inlaid ornamentation of gold and silver wire fused together, which contrasted beautifully with the blue black colour of the metal.
Between 1700 and 1800 the manufacture of Doune pistols reached its highest peak with regards to beauty and accuracy, it is obvious that many unknown gunsmiths also served their apprenticeships in Doune. 
In the autumn of 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie's army marched through Newton of Doune on its way south to disaster. Pistols hung from the belts of the better armed clansmen, while those on horse back carried them in the saddle holsters (the guns weighed over 8 pounds)
One can imagine the gunsmiths hurrying from their shops to gaze at pride at their work, or that of their father or grandfathers, as over a hundred years of pistol making skill was exhibited in its birth place.
The beginning of the end for the pistol makers started with destruction of the very people for whom the guns were first made, the Highland clansmen.
The crushing of the '45 Uprising and the passing of the Disarmament Act, meant that the traditional market was finished for good. The gunsmiths out thought this process and began to export to England and the Continent, and thus entered the gunsmiths finest period. Every European Capital knew of them, and their cost which now exceeded 50 Guineas. Kings and nobles boasted when they acquired a pair, and ignored their own beautifully engraved coat of arms as they gazed with pride at the signature of Caddell and other great gunsmiths of Doune at the time such as Campbell or Murdoch.
Today, pistols from Doune are displayed in almost every principal museum on the Continent, the oldest weapon is one of 1678, signed by Thomas Caddell in the Neufchâtel museum in Switzerland. The finest of all, is the gold engraved pair in the Armoury of Windsor Castle, although many are on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Many of the pistols later found their way to America and it was a gun sold by John Murdoch of Doune that fired the first shot in the American War of Independence, his pistol is now preserved in Lexington Museum.
The trade began to die out towards the end of the 18th century, around this time many of the gunsmith families began leaving Doune to work in major cities.
All that now remains in Doune is Caddell's old workshop and the graves of generations of pistol makers in the old cemetery of Kilmadock.












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In RIDE THE RIVER, Echo Sackett carried a pair of them. A full length one in her carpet bag, and one with a cut down barrel in her reticule.


Almost made me cry when it mentioned that sawed-off one.

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There are 20 shillings in a pound. A Guinea has 21.


That would be like us having a dollar bill and then another piece of currency worth $1.05.


In case you didn't know before, the British are weird.

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I knee an old Englishman who never quite adapted to the new monetary system.  He had aa relative visit him from his old hometown and were discussing a purchase of some kind.  I was sort of listening when I heard him ask "What is that in old money?"

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2 hours ago, Tell Sackett SASS 18436 said:

What’s a Guinea?? A Pound? Or a multiple of a Pound?

I’ve always wondered, but never known.


BRITISH MONETARY SYSTEM (for calculations contained within the ... https://www.nps.gov/fost/learn/historyculture/upload/BRITISH-MONETARY-SYSTEM.pdf





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2 hours ago, Subdeacon Joe said:


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16 minutes ago, Tell Sackett SASS 18436 said:



WHAT!"?!?!  Plain as day!  :D
Maybe this will make it clearer:

                     The Roseboom Books, when recording account information, usually have three (3) columns representing Pounds, Shillings, and Pence.  For example:                                                          £   s   d One widget                          3   2   1 This would be pronounced: “three pounds, two, & one” (representing three pounds, two shillings, and 1 pence. In some instances when recording money outside of the three column format and when pounds are not listed the 18th century format of 6/3 is used.  This would be pronounced: “six and three (representing six shillings and three pence. It is important to remember that 13 pence = 1 shilling and 1 pence; and 21 shillings = 1 pound and 1 shilling1. A calculation example using the above is as follows:   115 Gal’s of Rum @ 3/4 = 19 Pounds, 3 Shillings, 4 Pence Step 1: Gal’s X’s shillings                                                  1 One pound and one shilling is also represented by a coin known as a guinea.  For our calculation purposes, however, we won’t concern ourselves with the Guinea.  The Guinea is a gold coin, originally made of gold from the Guinea coast of Africa.  The Guinea came into existence in 1663, under Charles II; when first issued they were worth one pound, or twenty shillings.  The value of the guinea had fluctuated over the years from 20 to 30 shillings.   A Royal Proclamation of September 1717 fixed the value of the guinea at 21 shillings.  In the Great Re-coinage of 1816, the guinea was replaced as the major unit of currency by the pound.  Although the last guinea was minted in 1813, the guinea as a monetary unit continued until decimalization in 1971 (http://www.dicamillocompanion.com/british_money.html).

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