General Thomas (Tam) Dalyell of the Binns

("Bluidy Tam")

1615 - 1685

General Sir Tam Dalyell
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

General Sir Tam Dalyell

Royalist soldier, who became an important figure in the turbulent times of the mid-17th Century. Born at the Binns (West Lothian), Dalyell had begun his military service by the age of 13 and is known to have fought in Ireland in the 1640s. Serving in King Charles II's Scottish army at the Battle of Worcester (1651), he was captured by Oliver Cromwell's forces and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Dalyell escaped, one of only few prisoners ever to do so, and fled with his king to France. He travelled to Russia where he entered the service of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, father of Peter the Great. Dalyell trained the Russian Army and fought with them against the Tartars and the Turks. Returning home, the "Muscovite De'il" went back into the service of Charles II, who appointed him Commander-in-Chief of the army in Scotland and a Privy Councillor. Dalyell became the scourge of the Covenanters, gaining the epithet "Bluidy Tam" after his suppression of the Pentland Rising at Rullion Green (1666). In this engagement, Dalyell proved himself not to be a cruel man, in that he was horrified when women and children were killed against his express instructions. He resigned his commission in protest and withdrew from public life for more than 10 years. In 1679, Dalyell returned to military service to combat a renewed threat to the crown from the Covenanters. In 1681, he raised a new regiment, which became known as the Royal Scots Greys owing to the novel colour of their uniforms, chosen by Dalyell to provide camouflage.

Dalyell died at his home on Edinburgh's Canongate and, following a large military funeral, was buried at Abercorn Parish Church.

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