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Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott - Notes

Project Gutenberg's Rob Roy, Complete, by Sir Walter Scott


The second article of the Appendix to the Introduction to Rob Roy contains two curious letters respecting the arrest of Mr. Grahame of Killearn by that daring freebooter, while levying the Duke of Montrose's rents. These were taken from scroll copies in the possession of his Grace the present Duke, who kindly permitted the use of them in the present publication.--The Novel had but just passed through the press, when the Right Honourable Mr. Peel--whose important state avocations do not avert his attention from the interests of literature--transmitted to the author copies of the original letters and enclosure, of which he possessed only the rough draught. The originals were discovered in the State Paper Office, by the indefatigable researches of Mr. Lemon, who is daily throwing more light on that valuable collection of records. From the documents with which the Author has been thus kindly favoured, he is enabled to fill up the addresses which were wanting in the scrolls. That of the 21st Nov. 1716 is addressed to Lord Viscount Townshend, and is accompanied by one of the same date to Robert Pringle, Esquire, Under-Secretary of State, which is here inserted as relative to so curious an incident:--

_Letter from the Duke of Montrose, to Robert Pringle, Esq., Under-Secretary to Lord Viscount Townshend._

“Sr,_Glasgow,_ 21 _Nov._ 1716.

“Haveing had so many dispatches to make this night, I hope ye'l excuse me that I make use of another hand to give yow a short account of the occasion of this express, by which I have written to my Ld. Duke of Roxburgh, and my Lord Townshend, which I hope ye'l gett carefully deleivered.

“Mr. Graham, younger of Killearn, being on Munday last in Menteith att a country house, collecting my rents, was about nine o'clock that same night surprised by Rob Roy with a party of his men in arms, who haveing surrounded the house and secured the avenues, presented their guns in at the windows, while he himself entered the room with some others with cokt pistolls, and seased Killearn with all his money, books, papers, and bonds, and carryed all away with him to the hills, at the same time ordering Killearn to write a letter to me (of which ye have the copy inclosed), proposeing a very honourable treaty to me. I must say this story was as surprising to me as it was insolent; and it must bring a very great concern upon me, that this gentleman, my near relation, should be brought to suffer all the barbaritys and crueltys, which revenge and mallice may suggest to these miscreants, for his haveing acted a faithfull part in the service of the Government, and his affection to me in my concerns.

“I need not be more particular to you, since I know that my Letter to my Lord Townshend will come into your hands, so shall only now give you the assurances of my being, with great sincerity,

“Sr, yr most humble servant,

“I long exceedingly for a return of my former dispatches to the Secretary's about Methven and Colll Urquhart, and my wife's cousins, Balnamoon and Phinaven.

“I must beg yow'll give my humble service to Mr. Secretary Methven, and tell him that I must refer him to what I have written to My Lord Townshend in this affair of Rob Roy, believing it was needless to trouble both with letters.”

Robt. Lemon,
_Deputy Keeper of State Papers._

_Nov._ 4, 1829

Note.--The enclosure referred to in the preceding letter is another copy of the letter which Mr. Grahame of Killearn was compelled by Rob Roy to write to the Duke of Montrose, and is exactly the same as the one enclosed in his Grace's letter to Lord Townshend, dated November 21st, 1716.
R. L.

The last letter in the Appendix No. II. (28th November), acquainting the Government with Killearn's being set at liberty, is also addressed to the Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Pringle.

The Author may also here remark, that immediately previous to the insurrection of 1715, he perceives, from some notes of information given to Government, that Rob Roy appears to have been much employed and trusted by the Jacobite party, even in the very delicate task of transporting specie to the Earl of Breadalbane, though it might have somewhat resembled trusting Don Raphael and Ambrose de Lamela with the church treasure.


Note A.--The Grey Stone of MacGregor.

I have been informed that, at no very remote period, it was proposed to take this large stone, which marks the grave of Dugald Ciar Mhor, and convert it to the purpose of the lintel of a window, the threshold of a door, or some such mean use. A man of the clan MacGregor, who was somewhat deranged, took fire at this insult; and when the workmen came to remove the stone, planted himself upon it, with a broad axe in his hand, swearing he would dash out the brains of any one who should disturb the monument. Athletic in person, and insane enough to be totally regardless of consequences, it was thought best to give way to his humour; and the poor madman kept sentinel on the stone day and night, till the proposal of removing it was entirely dropped.

Note B.--Dugald Ciar Mhor.

The above is the account which I find in a manuscript history of the clan MacGregor, of which I was indulged with a perusal by Donald MacGregor, Esq., late Major of the 33d regiment, where great pains have been taken to collect traditions and written documents concerning the family. But an ancient and constant tradition, preserved among the inhabitants of the country, and particularly those of the clan MacFarlane, relieves Dugald Ciar Mhor of the guilt of murdering the youths, and lays the blame on a certain Donald or Duncan Lean, who performed the act of cruelty, with the assistance of a gillie who attended him, named Charlioch, or Charlie. They say that the homicides dared not again join their clan, but that they resided in a wild and solitary state as outlaws, in an unfrequented part of the MacFarlanes' territory. Here they lived for some time undisturbed, till they committed an act of brutal violence on two defenceless women, a mother and daughter of the MacFarlane clan. In revenge of this atrocity, the MacFarlanes hunted them down, and shot them. It is said that the younger ruffian, Charlioch, might have escaped, being remarkably swift of foot. But his crime became his punishment, for the female whom he had outraged had defended herself desperately, and had stabbed him with his own dirk in the thigh. He was lame from the wound, and was the more easily overtaken and killed.

I always inclined to think this last the true edition of the story, and that the guilt was transferred to Dugald Ciar Mhor, as a man of higher name, but I have learned that Dugald was in truth dead several years before the battle--my authority being his representative, Mr. Gregorson of Ardtornish. [See also note to introduction, “Legend of Montrose,” vol. vi.]

Note C.--The Loch Lomond Expedition.

The Loch Lomond expedition was judged worthy to form a separate pamphlet, which I have not seen; but, as quoted by the historian Rae, it must be delectable.

“On the morrow, being Thursday the 13th, they went on their expedition, and about noon came to Inversnaid, the place of danger, where the Paisley men and those of Dumbarton, and several of the other companies, to the number of an hundred men, with the greatest intrepidity leapt on shore, got up to the top of the mountains, and stood a considerable time, beating their drums all the while; but no enemy appearing, they went in quest of their boats, which the rebels had seized, and having casually lighted on some ropes and oars hid among the shrubs, at length they found the boats drawn up a good way on the land, which they hurled down to the loch. Such of them as were not damaged they carried off with them, and such as were, they sank and hewed to pieces. That same night they returned to Luss, and thence next day to Dumbarton, from whence they had at first set out, bringing along with them the whole boats they found in their way on either side of the loch, and in the creeks of the isles, and mooring them under the cannon of the castle. During this expedition, the pinnaces discharging their patararoes, and the men their small-arms, made such a thundering noise, through the multiplied rebounding echoes of the vast mountains on both sides of the loch, that the MacGregors were cowed and frighted away to the rest of the rebels who were encamped at Strath Fillan.”--_Rae's History of the Rebellion,_ 4to, p. 287.

Note D.--Author's Expedition against the MacLarens.

The Author is uncertain whether it is worth while to mention, that he had a personal opportunity of observing, even in his own time, that the king's writ did not pass quite current in the Brass of Balquhidder. There were very considerable debts due by Stewart of Appin (chiefly to the author's family), which were likely to be lost to the creditors, if they could not be made available out of this same farm of Invernenty, the scene of the murder done upon MacLaren.

His family, consisting of several strapping deer-stalkers, still possessed the farm, by virtue of a long lease, for a trifling rent. There was no chance of any one buying it with such an encumbrance, and a transaction was entered into by the MacLarens, who, being desirous to emigrate to America, agreed to sell their lease to the creditors for L500, and to remove at the next term of Whitsunday. But whether they repented their bargain, or desired to make a better, or whether from a mere point of honour, the MacLarens declared they would not permit a summons of removal to be executed against them, which was necessary for the legal completion of the bargain. And such was the general impression that they were men capable of resisting the legal execution of warning by very effectual means, no king's messenger would execute the summons without the support of a military force. An escort of a sergeant and six men was obtained from a Highland regiment lying in Stirling; and the Author, then a writer's apprentice, equivalent to the honourable situation of an attorney's clerk, was invested with the superintendence of the expedition, with directions to see that the messenger discharged his duty fully, and that the gallant sergeant did not exceed his part by committing violence or plunder. And thus it happened, oddly enough, that the Author first entered the romantic scenery of Loch Katrine, of which he may perhaps say he has somewhat extended the reputation, riding in all the dignity of danger, with a front and rear guard, and loaded arms. The sergeant was absolutely a Highland Sergeant Kite, full of stories of Rob Roy and of himself, and a very good companion. We experienced no interruption whatever, and when we came to Invernenty, found the house deserted. We took up our quarters for the night, and used some of the victuals which we found there. On the morning we returned as unmolested as we came.

The MacLarens, who probably never thought of any serious opposition, received their money and went to America, where, having had some slight share in removing them from their _paupera regna,_ I sincerely hope they prospered. The rent of Invernenty instantly rose from L10 to L70 or L80; and when sold, the farm was purchased (I think by the late Laird of MacNab) at a price higher in proportion than what even the modern rent authorised the parties interested to hope for.

Note E.--Allan Breck Stewart.

Allan Breck Stewart was a man likely in such a matter to keep his word. James Drummond MacGregor and he, like Katherine and Petruchio, were well matched “for a couple of quiet ones.” Allan Breck lived till the beginning of the French Revolution. About 1789, a friend of mine, then residing at Paris, was invited to see some procession which was supposed likely to interest him, from the windows of an apartment occupied by a Scottish Benedictine priest. He found, sitting by the fire, a tall, thin, raw-boned, grim-looking, old man, with the petit croix of St. Louis. His visage was strongly marked by the irregular projections of the cheek-bones and chin. His eyes were grey. His grizzled hair exhibited marks of having been red, and his complexion was weather-beaten, and remarkably freckled. Some civilities in French passed between the old man and my friend, in the course of which they talked of the streets and squares of Paris, till at length the old soldier, for such he seemed, and such he was, said with a sigh, in a sharp Highland accent, “Deil ane o' them a' is worth the Hie Street of Edinburgh!” On inquiry, this admirer of Auld Reekie, which he was never to see again, proved to be Allan Breck Stewart. He lived decently on his little pension, and had, in no subsequent period of his life, shown anything of the savage mood in which he is generally believed to have assassinated the enemy and oppressor, as he supposed him, of his family and clan.

Note F.--The Abbess of Wilton.

The nunnery of Wilton was granted to the Earl of Pembroke upon its dissolution, by the magisterial authority of Henry VIII., or his son Edward VI. On the accession of Queen Mary, of Catholic memory, the Earl found it necessary to reinstate the Abbess and her fair recluses, which he did with many expressions of his remorse, kneeling humbly to the vestals, and inducting them into the convent and possessions from which he had expelled them. With the accession of Elizabeth, the accommodating Earl again resumed his Protestant faith, and a second time drove the nuns from their sanctuary. The remonstrances of the Abbess, who reminded him of his penitent expressions on the former occasion, could wring from him no other answer than that in the text--“Go spin, you jade!--Go spin!”

Note G.--Mons Meg.

Mons Meg was a large old-fashioned piece of ordnance, a great favourite with the Scottish common people; she was fabricated at Mons, in Flanders, in the reign of James IV. or V. of Scotland. This gun figures frequently in the public accounts of the time, where we find charges for grease, to grease Meg's mouth withal (to increase, as every schoolboy knows, the loudness of the report), ribands to deck her carriage, and pipes to play before her when she was brought from the Castle to accompany the Scottish army on any distant expedition. After the Union, there was much popular apprehension that the Regalia of Scotland, and the subordinate Palladium, Mons Meg, would be carried to England to complete the odious surrender of national independence. The Regalia, sequestered from the sight of the public, were generally supposed to have been abstracted in this manner. As for Mons Meg, she remained in the Castle of Edinburgh, till, by order of the Board of Ordnance, she was actually removed to Woolwich about 1757. The Regalia, by his Majesty's special command, have been brought forth from their place of concealment in 1818, and exposed to the view of the people, by whom they must be looked upon with deep associations; and, in this very winter of 1828-9, Mons Meg has been restored to the country, where that, which in every other place or situation was a mere mass of rusty iron, becomes once more a curious monument of antiquity.

Note H.---Fairy Superstition

The lakes and precipices amidst which the Avon-Dhu, or River Forth, has its birth, are still, according to popular tradition, haunted by the Elfin people, the most peculiar, but most pleasing, of the creations of Celtic superstitions. The opinions entertained about these beings are much the same with those of the Irish, so exquisitely well narrated by Mr. Crofton Croker. An eminently beautiful little conical hill, near the eastern extremity of the valley of Aberfoil, is supposed to be one of their peculiar haunts, and is the scene which awakens, in Andrew Fairservice, the terror of their power. It is remarkable, that two successive clergymen of this parish of Aberfoil have employed themselves in writing about this fairy superstition. The eldest of these was Robert Kirke, a man of some talents, who translated the Psalms into Gaelic verse. He had formerly been minister at the neighbouring parish of Balquhidder, and died at Aberfoil in 1688, at the early age of forty-two.

He was author of the Secret Commonwealth, which was printed after his death in 1691--(an edition which I have never seen)--and was reprinted in Edinburgh, 1815. This is a work concerning the fairy people, in whose existence Mr. Kirke appears to have been a devout believer. He describes them with the usual powers and qualities ascribed to such beings in Highland tradition.

But what is sufficiently singular, the Rev. Robert Kirke, author of the said treatise, is believed himself to have been taken away by the fairies,--in revenge, perhaps, for having let in too much light upon the secrets of their commonwealth. We learn this catastrophe from the information of his successor, the late amiable and learned Dr. Patrick Grahame, also minister at Aberfoil, who, in his Sketches of Perthshire, has not forgotten to touch upon the _Daoine Schie,_ or men of peace.

The Rev. Robert Kirke was, it seems, walking upon a little eminence to the west of the present manse, which is still held a _Dun Shie,_ or fairy mound, when he sunk down, in what seemed to mortals a fit, and was supposed to be dead. This, however, was not his real fate.

“Mr. Kirke was the near relation of Graham of Duchray, the ancestor of the present General Graham Stirling. Shortly after his funeral, he appeared, in the dress in which he had sunk down, to a medical relation of his own, and of Duchray. 'Go,' said he to him, 'to my cousin Duchray, and tell him that I am not dead. I fell down in a swoon, and was carried into Fairyland, where I now am. Tell him, that when he and my friends are assembled at the baptism of my child (for he had left his wife pregnant), I will appear in the room, and that if he throws the knife which he holds in his hand over my head, I will be released and restored to human society.' The man, it seems, neglected, for some time, to deliver the message. Mr. Kirke appeared to him a second time, threatening to haunt him night and day till he executed his commission, which at length he did. The time of the baptism arrived. They were seated at table; the figure of Mr. Kirke entered, but the Laird of Duchray, by some unaccountable fatality, neglected to perform the prescribed ceremony. Mr. Kirke retired by another door, and was seen no wore. It is firmly believed that he is, at this day, in Fairyland.”--(_Sketches of Perthshire,_ p. 254.)

[The treatise by Robert Kirke, here mentioned, was written in the year 1691, but not printed till 1815.]

Note I.--Clachan of Aberfoil.

I do not know how this might stand in Mr. Osbaldistone's day, but I can assure the reader, whose curiosity may lead him to visit the scenes of these romantic adventures, that the Clachan of Aberfoil now affords a very comfortable little inn. If he chances to be a Scottish antiquary, it will be an additional recommendation to him, that he will find himself in the vicinity of the Rev. Dr. Patrick Grahame, minister of the gospel at Aberfoil, whose urbanity in communicating information on the subject of national antiquities, is scarce exceeded even by the stores of legendary lore which he has accumulated.--_Original Note._ The respectable clergyman alluded to has been dead for some years. [See note H.]