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 III's Commander-in-Chief in Scotland called the soldiers' 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.

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 believed to act both as a social deterrent and a call to piety for transgressor and the viewing public alike.

Neck irons