Colin Fraser, Specialist at Lyon & Turnbull said “The Highland warriors of Scotland carried distinctive arms. Their pistols, unlike those made elsewhere in Great Britain, were constructed entirely from metal, usually steel, and were engraved and often silver-inlaid with geometric and foliate ornament of Celtic inspiration. This pair, signed by the renowned gunmaker Alexander Campbell of Doune, Perthshire, is a classic example of the type. They can be literally worth their weight in gold to collectors. Many are so valuable they are kept only in bank vaults.”
The small Perthshire village of Doune between Stirling and Callander was known throughout the world as the home of the famous pistols which possessed such mystery, artistry and deadly accuracy that they brought incredible sums in the 1600s and 1700s.
In 1646 Thomas Caddell settled in Doune, setting up business as a gunsmith. His artistry and rare skill were renowned. It was said that "This famous tradesman possessed a most profound genius, and an inquisitive mind; and though a man of no education, and remote from every means of instruction in the mechanical arts, his study and perseverance brought his work to such high degree of perfection that no pistol made in Britain excelled or perhaps equalled those of his making either for sureness or beauty."
They were soon bought by Highland clansmen costing between four and twenty quineas, a lifetime's savings to many. In later years, more expensive pistols inlaid with silver and gold were ordered by noble families.
Thomas Caddell passed on his skill to his son Thomas, his grandson John and apprentices John and Alexander Campbell who went on to a higher level of expertise. Doune pistol-making reached its peak during the 1700s. It appears that the last gunsmith carried on his trade there until 1798.
Today, pistols from Doune are displayed in almost every main museum on the European continent. The oldest such weapon is of 1678 and signed by Thomas Caddell, in the Neuchatel Museum, Switzerland.