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Credit: Visit Inverness Loch Ness

Shipbuilding, tennis and football are not the first subjects which spring to mind when thinking of Scots in a far off country, but that was certainly not the case in nineteenth century Russia.

In 1830 Murdoch MacPherson, a shipbuilder, received an order to build a yacht for Emperor Nicholas I of Russia. The ship was completed in his yard in Greenock and although the ship sank in a storm en route for St Petersburg he completes a second ship which was delivered safely. The Emperor was delighted with his new yacht and appointed Murdoch the Imperial Engineer of all the Imperial yachts. This led to Murdoch and his family moving to Russia where they stayed until the Revolution in 1917.

Two generations on, Arthur MacPherson, also an engineer, was an all round sportsman and developed the playing of football and tennis in Russia. He became the Chairman of the Russian Football Association, the Russian Tennis Association and the Russian Rowing Association. In 1914 for his work he was awarded the Order of Saint Stanislaus, the first time anyone in the country had been decorated for services to sport. Football was developed in Russia in the 19th century and a league system was started in 1901. Allegedly it was encouraged by employers to distract their workers from drinking vodka on Sundays.

Sadly, Arthur MacPherson's life ended in tragedy. Following the October Revolution in 1917 he was arrested by the Bolsheviks for serving British interests and imprisoned. It was reported that he had been shot but in fact he had been taken to Moscow from a St Petersburg jail for several months where he contracted typhoid. No medical assistance was offered and he died in prison towards the end of 1919. He was buried in the Lutheran Smolensk Cemetery in St Petersburg, the Russian inscription on his gravestone bears his name Arthur Davidovich Macpherson 1870-1919.

His family dispersed far and wide, one of his sons going to America and became a success in business and sport. Robert his other son joined the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders and was drowned when H M S Hampshire was sunk when he was travelling to Russia as an interpreter on a mission with Lord Kitchener. Another branch of his family moved to Borneo where their descendants still live, some of whom have come to Scotland to attend the annual Clan MacPherson Gathering, being very proud of their Highland ancestry.


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