On August 12, 1831, John Francis Miller Erskine, 14th Earl of Mar, was out shooting on a Perthshire moor when John Oldham appeared.

Erskine told him he had no right to be there, but Oldham insisted he had every right, so a heated argument ensued. Oldham had been given permission by Mr Baird of Forneath, but he refused to show him the licence or tell him who had given him permission.

Things escalated to the point where Erskine told him that if he did not leave, he would shoot him. Oldham stood his ground, so Erskine raised the gun, and fired. Oldham was not injured but the case ended up at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh on Monday, December 19, Erskine having been charged with assault. He pleaded not guilty.

Oldham was the first witness in the case. He told the court about the altercation which was all about the boundaries of the moor being defined. Erskine’s party had tried to calm him and dissuade him from shooting, but nevertheless the earl raised his gun to his shoulder and fired.

Other witnesses were called to give evidence. For the defence, Robert Bruce of Kennet took the stand. He served with Erskine in Belgium in 1815, including Waterloo, and told the court he was a perfect gentleman in every respect. Major Jameson told the court he had known him since he was a youngster, also testifying that he was a gentleman.

The Solicitor General Henry Cockburn pressed for a conviction.

Solicitor Mr Cunninghame addressed the jury on behalf of Erskine, claiming the gun had been fired in a way as to not harm Oldham, as that was never Erskine’s intention. He claimed the case of assault could not be proved.

The presiding judge Adam Gillies, Lord Gilles, summed up and the jury considered their verdict.

When they returned, they found Erskine guilty.

Lord Gillies said that Erskine was a representative of one of the country’s most noble families and although he was held in high regard, everyone was equal in the eyes of the law. Erskine was imprisoned for two months and was told to find a £5000 bond to keep the peace over the next five years, or he would be imprisoned for another six months.

Twice more Erskine faced court action. These were over incidents when he was out horse riding. He appeared at the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 1854, but the jury found in his favour. The other case thrown out by the Crown.