Robert Watt ~ Revolutionary or Police Informer

Robert Watt (1761×88-1794) – revolutionary or police informer – was educated at Perth Academy before taking up employment in Edinburgh. After various jobs – clerk, writer and wine merchant – he began working as a spy for the Lord Advocate, Robert Dundas. The late 18th century was a radical period across Britain and Europe and revolutionary and reformist groups were established across the continent. In Scotland, branches of the Friends of the People were established in many towns and cities, including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. After informing for some time, Watt disappeared off the radar only to re-emerge as one of a group of conspirators in a trial relating to a plan to capture Edinburgh Castle and establish a revolutionary government in Edinburgh. Watt’s defence revolved around his claim of being an agent provocateur for the State – after the trial he claimed he was a convert to radicalism. Most of his co-defenders turned king’s evidence and Watt was convicted under the 1709 Treason Act. David Downie, an Edinburgh goldsmith, also found guilty at the trial was given a pardon. Watt was less fortunate. He was drawn, backwards, from Edinburgh Tolbooth to the castle, where he was hanged and subsequently beheaded.