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In the turbulent and largely undocumented history of the glens, the tradition of oral history runs deep and according to the vendor this cup was owned by a William Macleod of Skye, apparently the ill-fated third (and youngest) son of the 16th clan chief John. After he had been murdered, this cup was found in the possession of his sister-in-law’s brother, who was subsequently executed on the strength of this evidence.

Circumstantial evidence to this story is as follows: the markings W.M.L. seem to correspond to the owner (William Macleod) and the initials M.K. to Inverness hammerman Simon Mackenzie, who was active c.1690-1740. The date letter T, was previously thought by academics to correspond to the year 1643, but this is unbelievable for two reasons; a date cycle was only introduced for Inverness in 1681, and there is no evidence of domestic silver produced in the town before Robert Elphinstone arrived in 1688. In his book Scottish Gold and Silver Work, Ian Finlay claims the date letter T corresponds to 1723-24 and William (the only William of Macleod since the 16th century) was alive and well (though elderly) by this period.

Aside from the provenance, this was certainly one of the earliest pieces of Inverness domestic silver ever to have appeared on the market. The set of six trefid spoons in the Bute collection have been attributed to Elphinstone, c.1688, and there is a thistle cup marked for Mackenzie, 1690. However, what this piece has that those do not is a scratch weight mark, most unusual.

Consigned for sale on September 9 with an estimate of £400-600, the cup was underbid by six telephone lines before selling to specialist dealer in Scottish provincial silver, Nicholas Shaw, at £6500 (plus 10 per cent premium).