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.

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 tipstaffs, constables' staves, handcuffs and even thumbscrews."


These are now housed in a specially reconstructed room in the Museum using panels from the Governor's room at the old fort at Fort William - the room where the order was given for the notorious 'Glencoe Massacre'.