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Thomas Muir of Huntershill

(1765 - 1799)

Thomas Muir son of a wealthy Glasgow Merchant. Muir was born in 1765, studied and practiced law in Glasgow and Edinburgh. He became a noted reformed connected with friends of the people and the united Irishmen. Under his influence parliamentary reform societies were established all over Scotland, this coincided with the revolutionary events in France. Muir was arrested on 4th august 1793, tried in Edinburgh on 30th August 1793, where he was found guilty of having created disaffection by means of libel and seditious speeches. He was banished to Botany Bay for 14years. In 1796 he escaped and made his way to France where he was hailed as a hero and made a citizen of France.







Thomas Muir bust by

Alexander Stoddart

Currently exhibited in the Bishopbriggs Library



He died on 26 January 1799 in Chantilly France aged 33 years.


****Robert Burns wrote Scots Wha Hae on the day Muir's trial started. The letter he wrote with the first draft makes it clear who he had in mind; Wallace was an allegory for the real hero.****


The Scottish Martyrs

Thomas Muir was one of the Scottish Martyrs. Five men who were 18th Century political reformers, in 1793 they were sentenced to transportation to Australia for sedition and writing and publishing pamphlets on parliamentary reform.

They are honoured by two large obelisks, a Martyrs gate and a cairn.

The two large obelisks were funded by public subscription raised by the radical MP Thomas Hume. One of these is in Nunhead Cemetery in South East London, while the other in the Old Calton Cemetery dominates the Edinburgh sky-line.


The obelisk in the old Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh was designed in 1844 by architect Thomas Hamilton (1784 - 1858).

The monument speaks for itself:

To The Memory Of Thomas Muir, Thomas Fyshe Palmer, William Skirving, Maurice Margarot and Joseph Gerrald. Erected by the Friends of Parliamentary Reform in England and Scotland, 1844.

It includes the following quotations:

I have devoted myself to the cause of The People. It is a good cause - it shall ultimately prevail - it shall finally triumph.

Speech of Thomas Muir in the Court of Judiciary on the 30th August 1793.

I know that what has been done these two days will be Re-Judged.

Speech of William Skirving in the Court of Judiciary on the 7th January, 1794.



The Nunhead obelisk was erected in 1837



The Cairn and Martyrs Gate at Huntershill Village we're erected by John SL Watson of Huntershill and partly funded by the East Dunbartonshire Council.


There is a permanent exhibition to Thomas Muir at Bishopbriggs library, which includes a specially commissioned bust of Thomas Muir.


More info:


National Library Australia


Carlton Hill Cemetery Photo's

The Glasgow Story

Electric Scotland


National galleries

Your Scottish descent

Calton hill cemetery article

Nunhead cemetery article 2009