Drummond designed this group to occupy a prominent foreground position in his great picture showing the mob execution of Captain Porteus. Drummond knew this group could reveal a subtle point of the story: some of the mob who carried out the execution were gentlemen in disguise, not merely coarse rioters. He was inspired by Walter Scott's account of the event in his novel 'Heart of Midlothian', which told how ladies in sedan chairs were turned away from the riot by members of the mob. One lady revealed that a man dressed as a baker had 'handed her out of her chair and took leave with a bow', displaying the manners of a well-bred gentleman. The faint outline of a figure on the right of this exceptionally precise drawing exhibits such manners, but Drummond dressed him in the more suitable disguise of a link-man (light-man).
Drummond made many detailed studies for his great painting showing the execution of Captain Porteous. Although he relegated the main action to the background of the picture, he was careful to ensure that the foreground figures helped to communicate the story as described in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Heart of Midlothian’. In the novel, Scott mentions that ladies in sedan chairs were stopped by rioters. Sedan Chairs were common in Edinburgh, as they were able to negotiate the many narrow closes that a carriage could not. The chairs-bearers were normally Highlanders who had moved south in search of work. They were distinguished by their tartan uniforms. In this drawing, Drummond sketched in the sullen face of the stooped chair-bearer, as he peers around the door at his refined passenger.
Drummond was an accomplished artist and antiquarian, who specialised in Scottish history paintings. He studied at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh and made many fine drawings, reflecting his interests in arms, armour and architecture. He supported the preservation of Edinburgh's historic buildings, which often feature in his paintings. Drummond researched his subjects thoroughly and planned his compositions along strict academic lines. Detailed drawings of individual figures, figure groups and compositional sketches, in pencil and watercolour, preceded his final painting. Drummond was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1852 and became curator of the National Gallery of Scotland in 1868.