Mysterious Clan Macnab Pistols
A clansman has acquired an interesting pair of flintlock belt pistols, which bear the Macnab crest and motto. The pistols were made about 1770 by Joseph Adams of Birmingham and are very finely decorated with silver furniture.
They have been adapted in contemporary times with the addition of a belt hook – as that was how pistols were worn with Scottish dress.
The pistols must have belonged to a wealthy Macnab who was entitled to use the coat of arms
– maybe Francis Macnab 12th chief, in his early days ( he would have been about 36 when they were made ) – but they are not the pistols he is carrying in his portrait by Raeburn.
Interestingly, a close look at the portrait shows that Francis is not carrying a pair of pistols, as one would expect, but two quite different ones. The one on his shoulder belt is a classic Scottish ramshorn butt pistol , but in his right hand he is carrying a small screw barrelled pocket pistol. Both of these weapons would have been made decades before the picture was painted about 1813. In the National Gallery of Scotland commentary on the portrait, they note ” at the right cuff of the coat MacNab’s fist emerges holding a tiny pistol “.
The pistols illustrated came from Blair Atholl castle, but their archives contain no information on when or from where, they acquired them.
One possible source is from the sale of the contents of Kinnell House in 1935 and the owner would be very grateful for any information on that sale, who were the Auctioneers, or about the contents of the house before the sale.”
If anyone out there knows anything about these pistols – we’d love to hear from you.