Murder in the Family

Fratricide & Insanity

The Shooting of Sir Francis Kinloch by his brother Archibald Kinloch

In 1779/1780 Archibald spent much time in St. Lucia in the West Indies caught a fever (generally called St Lucia Fever), after which his character changed greatly. He is recorded of having been once confined to the Edinburgh Bedlam for insanity.

On the evening of 14 April 1795 Sir Francis Kinloch travelled from his home at Athelstaneford to visit Archibald at Gilmerton House, recently inherited from their father. He dined with Archibald and others. The group as a whole sat until 3 am.

Kinloch portraits.

Archibald appears to have confronted his brother, Sir Francis half-dressed on the stair. He came down with two loaded pistols in his pockets. He fired one, hitting Francis in the chest as he stood on the staircase. He was taken to his room where the men tried to tend him, Francis was mortally wounded but was fully conscious and it was he who summoned a doctor, Archibald was placed in a strait jacket, already in the house, and put into the care of a nurse.

Dr Benjamin Bell arrived from Edinburgh at some point during the day and extracted the bullet whilst Francis was still alive. The bullet had passed most of the way through the body and was extracted from the back, near the spine. Sir Francis had a slow and painful death, dying at 11 pm on the evening of 16 April some 44 hours after the shooting.

However, he had expressed to those present a deep regret for his poor brother and seemed to lay no blame on his shoulders. He had specifically requested that the authorities not be contacted.

Archibald was placed in Haddington Jail on 16 April, He was moved to the Edinburgh Tolbooth on 24 April. Archibald was arrested on 30 May and placed in the Tolbooth Prison on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, adjacent to the Scottish High Courts. The two pistols, inscribed by the maker H. W. Mortimer of London, and the ball taken from Francis’ body were held as evidence.

The Trial

The trial took place on 30 June 1795 in the Edinburgh High Court.

Kinloch pleaded not guilty after the reading of the charge of murder. Witnesses (family, friends and servants) attested to Archibald’s insanity But, in general, the medical witnesses did not consider him insane. Blame was placed on the servants for not being there to assist in the disarming of Archibald.

The jury, found Kinloch guilty, but was considered temporarily insane ‘not an object of punishment’. This saved him from the death penalty. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Tolbooth. An odd rider on the sentence allowed any person to secure his release on payment of £10,000 and on upon promise of holding him securely in another place (effectively allowing a house arrest). Dr William Farquharson approached Lord Braxfield on 17 July and successfully secured Kinloch’s release into his own care. It is not clear if the required bond was paid. If so it equates to around £5million by current (2016) standards.


Kinloch went to live with Farquharson at his house at Worlds End Close on the Royal Mile. Farquharson disappears from the Edinburgh Post Office Directory soon thereafter, presumably choosing a less urban environment for this onerous task of caring for Kinloch.

Archibald died in 1800, presumably in Farquharson’s house (given the requirements of the judgement). At this point, his younger brother, Sir Alexander Kinloch (Sandie) became the 8th baronet and the Kinloch baronetcy returned to normality.