Pistols at dawn – the last fatal duel in Scotland

The first edition of my Wee Jaggy Bits o’ History in a while when I find something totally obscure usually by the roadside, which isn’t any form of road-kill and wax lyrically about it in order to make it interesting.

I finally managed a long standing round-to-it this morning by visiting the site of Scotland’s last fatal duel, which was fought in a field not too far away from Cardenden, Fife.

The site is reached from a small back road, which runs from Kirkcaldy to Lochgelly and is accessed along a forest road.

The locals have erected a memorial, which reads “Scotland’s last duel took place near this spot 23rd August 1826 over a bank loan and later assault between David Landale (Linen Merchant) and Lt george Morgan (Banker.) David landale was tried at Perth Circuit Court. He was acquited of Morgan’s murder and in 1835/36 became Provost of Kirkcaldy. He died in 1871, aged 74 years. This plaque was erected by the people of Cardenden in 2008.”

The Duel memorial, Cardenden
The memorial site it to the left in the trees

The Duel memorial, Cardenden
The memorial and a small picnic spot

That’s all from me but there’s one thing for sure….Mair tae come


The following comes from the BBC web site 9 Feb 2007

The last duel
Actor playing David Landale in Timewatch (Picture: Nobles Gate Ltd)

David Landale felt he had no choice

After quarrelling over a bank loan, two men took part in the last fatal duel staged on Scottish soil. BBC News’s James Landale retraces the steps of his ancestor, who made that final challenge.On 23 August 1826, two men met at dawn in a field just outside Kirkcaldy in southern Fife. Only one walked away alive.

One was David Landale, a linen merchant and pillar of the community. The other was George Morgan, a soldier-turned-banker with a fiery temper.

The pair had quarrelled over a bank loan, an argument that had led the banker to spread rumours about his client’s creditworthiness. The merchant had in turn taken his accounts elsewhere and written a stiff letter of complaint to the Bank of Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh.

And that is where it would have stayed had not Morgan’s temper got the better of him one morning when he struck Landale about the head with an umbrella in Kirkcaldy High Street.

According to eyewitness accounts, Morgan cried: “Take that, sir. By God, sir, you shall more of this yet!”

Before fleeing, Landale replied: “You are a coward, sir, a poor, silly coward.”

One gentleman had assaulted another in public and so Landale had no alternative. He immediately challenged his bank manager to a duel. He wrote: “I must request that you will meet me tomorrow morning at seven o’clock… with pistols and give me the satisfaction which as a gentleman I am entitled to.”

Age-old tradition

Landale’s decision was driven and guided by centuries of duelling tradition and codes of honour that had emerged from the age of chivalry.

When Europe’s medieval aristocrats were shorn of their private armies by increasingly powerful monarchs, they retained the right to resolve disputes of honour in private combat. They drew on the judicial tradition of trial by combat and the sporting tradition of knightly jousting to create the modern European duel. What began with swords by the early 19th Century ended with pistols.

Actors in Timewatch (Picture: Nobles Gate Ltd)

Landale was a novice shot

Before the duel, David Landale had to prepare. He found a friend to act as his second and then rushed into Edinburgh – he had never fired a shot in his life and needed to buy pistols.That night, as he put his affairs in order, he wrote to a friend, insisting he was doing the right thing: “In the event of my falling, I beg of you to make no foolish lamentation, as I feel confident before God that I am doing my duty as a Christian and as a respectable member of society.”

The next morning, on the duelling field, Morgan refused to apologise for striking his client.

Following ancient, self-regulating codes that stipulated exactly where the combatants should stand, what they should wear, and how and when they should fire, the seconds acting for Landale and Morgan agreed the terms of the duel.

The merchant and the banker stood 12 paces apart and, on command, fired simultaneously.

Morgan staggered and slumped to the ground, blood pouring from his mouth. Landale, the novice gunman, had fired the straightest and had shot his bank manager dead. He fled the scene immediately.

Thus ended the last fatal duel in Scotland.


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