A Scottish Flintlock Belt Pistol by Thomas Murdoch of Doune and Leith
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7" overall. 4¼" tapered, two-stage round barrel with ring muzzle and the typical Doune style of decorative engraving, including scrolls and chevrons. Flat, single border line and foliate engraved swan neck cock, flat lockplate with the typical Doune style of scroll decorative engraving behind the cock, and signed “T” with “MURDOCH” beneath, with a downward pointing scroll extension to the right hand leg of the letter “R”, which extends to the front, then upwards, to curl around the letter “T”, in standard form for Thomas Murdoch’s signature. The lock is of “Highland” form, with a horizontal sear extending through the lockplate which holds the cock in half-cock position, and which, indicative of the quality of this gun maker, has two raised ridges, which serve to decrease friction when the pistol is fired. Central spine and curled top to the back of the steel, engraving to the pan bridle, and teardrop finial to the feather spring. The all metal fullstock and lobe-butt are decorated with the same Doune style of engraving overall, comprising scrolls, chevrons and wavy lines, a plain oval above the cock, and a band of silver, with chevron decoration, behind the trigger. At the centre of the pommel of the lobe-butt is a small silver rondel, and the lobe-butt is also decorated with four inlaid silver triangles, their points facing upwards, with scrolls engraved between each triangle, so that, from below, the appearance is of a four petalled flower of engraved silver decoration. The button of the trigger is silver, decorated with four pricked hearts, and a cross in the centre. The sprung steel belt hook is engraved on the back half with a similar chevron pattern to that on the left and right flats of the stock, and curls slightly outwards at the end. The tiny ramrod has a button head, some double line engraving, and a worm end, and the single ramrod pipe has similar double line engraving and is affixed, in one piece, to the underside of the stock.
Excellent working order and very fine and original condition.
Note: Thomas Murdoch (1735-1791/3) was a prolific maker of high quality pistols, and the design of the later lobe-butt in Scottish pistols, around 1750, is accredited to him. He emigrated from the Perthshire gunmaking village of Doune, following the English proscription on the Highlanders’ ownership of firearms as a consequence of the failed Jacobite rising, in about 1774, and set up his pistol-making business in Walkside, Leith, and from 1780 to 1790 his name appears in the directories of Edinburgh, as well as those of Leith.
Provenance: Bought from Lewis Drake, Kentucky. In a letter which accompanies the pistol, he states that he bought it from a fellow dealer friend, Eric Vaule, in the early 1990s, who, he recalls, had purchased a number of very rare Scottish pistols from W. Keith Neal’s daughter, Diana, and that he has always assumed that it is one of those pistols. Having sold it in the late 1990s to a friend, he bought it back in 2019 from the friend’s executor.