Statue by John Greenshields
A testament to excess.
A crucial but neglected aspect of the history of the Monument is its patronage . As recorded on a marble slab set into the perimeter wall it was built for the local laird, Alexander Macdonald of Glenalladale, but it also became a memorial to him as he died in Edinburgh on January 1815 at the age of 28.
Previous accounts of the Monument refer to these simple facts, but within a collection of unpublished family documents there survives an extraordinary level of persona] detail about him . This detail exists because at his death he had amassed debts of over £32,000 owed to over 80 different creditors. Some of the estate debts remained uncleared 10 years later, despite the selling off of part of the lands and the renunciation by his mother of her life-rent.
The documents provide a valuable insight into Macdonald's personal life, allowing his patronage of the Monument to be characterized as the grand gesture of a flamboyant character who lived a prodigal life of unfettered consumption.
In this he was very like his own chieftain, Macdonald of Clanranald, who dissipated his inheritance in London and was ultimately forced to sell off assets valued at over £200,000. Macdonald of Glenalladale bought from Clanranald the island of Shona along with Dalilea and other lands — perhaps to ensure that they remained within the Macdonald clan — thus contributing substantially to his own indebtedness.
The building and column was erected by one of the foremost Scottish architects of the first half of the 19th century, James Gillespie Graham.
The statue atop the column was carved by John Greenshields as a later addition in 1835.
Local history tells us that Greenshields had been requested to do a statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie and he believed there was a picture of the prince at Lee Castle. He set off to find the painting and when he arrived only a house-maid was available to see him. She showed him two large paintings, one of which had a fellow fully dressed in highland regalia, which he assumed was Prince Charlie and made a sketch of his appearance. That sketch was ultimately transformed into the statue. Unfortunately he had chosen the wrong picture and instead of Bonnie Prince Charlie he created and delivered a statue of Lord Lockhart of Lee.