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Last Fatal Duel in Scotland

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The last fatal duel in Scotland took place in a field to the west of Kirkcaldy, Fife, on August 23, 1826.

The two men involved were David Landale, a linen merchant and pillar of the community, and George Morgan, a banker with a fiery temper who was a retired Lieutenant from the 77th Regiment of Foot.

The pair had quarrelled over a bank loan, and the banker had spread rumours about the merchant's creditworthiness. In response, the merchant took his business elsewhere, and addressed a stiff letter of complaint to the Bank of Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh.

The matter might have ended there, but Morgan came across Landale in Kirkcaldy's High Streer, and hit him about the head with his umbrella while shouting "Take that, sir. By God, sir, you shall more of this yet!"

Landale fled the attack, but not before replying with "You are a coward, sir, a poor, silly coward."

The assault in public by one gentleman on another left Landale with no alternative, and he immediately wrote to Morgan, challenging him to a duel "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."

The duel had arisen from the age of chivalry, after the aristocrats had lost their armies, and developed through fighting with sword into pistol in more recent times. Landale, however, was a novice shot and had to acquire pistols for the confrontation, arrange for seconds, and put his affairs in order the day before the duel.

The two men met in the field at Cardenbarns, to the south of Cardenden, where Morgan refused the opportunity to apologise for his public assault on Lansdale.

According to the code which had developed to regulate such confrontation, defining 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 pair stood 12 paces apart and, on command, fired simultaneously.

Morgan staggered and slumped to the ground, blood pouring from his mouth, fatally wounded.

Landale, the novice, had fired straight and true at his target - immediately, he fled the scene.

The last fatal duel fought on Scottish soil was over.

Landale fled to England and the Lake District to avoid arrest, where he adopted an alias and kept a low profile.

He wrote to the legal authorities, promising to appear at his trial, and one month after the duel, was tried for murder in Perth where he was acquitted "with character unsullied".

Remarkably, some 25 years later, the Landale and Morgan families were reconciled when David Landale's daughter married George Morgan's nephew.

Present day

The original pistols that David Landale used in the duel are housed in the Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery.

David Landale's descendent, James Landale, took time off from his job at BBC News 24 in order to research his family history, and discover the detail of the story. This was told in an episode of Timewatch: The Last Duel, broadcast in the UK on BBC 2, February 9, 2007 at 2100 GMT.[1][2]


1 BBC NEWS | Magazine | The last duel Retrieved April 01, 2013.

2 Timewatch – The Last Duel | Watch Documentary Online Free Retrieved April 01, 2013.

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