WHEN, on April 16, 1746, the clans were broken on Culloden Moor, the first thought of loyal hearts was for the safety of the Prince’s person. The Rising had terrified the Government of George II., for it had won a glamour and a success which no one had believed to be within the bounds of possibility, and the glamour was created by the personality of Charles Edward. From a boy he had dreamed one dream and hoped one hope, and he had never ceased to see in solemn vision the crown placed upon his father’s head by his own hands, and his father’s subjects delivered by his own sword from a usurper’s tyranny. When he was about twenty, a young Scottish poet, a member of a great Whig family which had been the enemy of Ms house, was visiting Rome. The Prince, who made it his business to know all about British travellers in Italy, found the young Scotsman in the Capitol, and laying Ms hand on Ms shoulder, addressed him by name. “ Mr. Hamilton, do you like this prospect, or the one from North Berwick Law best? “ North Berwick Law was near the home of Hamilton’s Whig relatives, but early prejudices vanished before the charm of the Prince’s manner and conversation, and Charles Edward had gained a recruit for his future army.
This personal fascination had been the real strength of the Jacobite cause from the moment of the Prince’s landing in Scotland. There had been great expectations of French help, and when these seemed likely to fail, Prince Charlie had said in 1744, “ I will be in Scotland next summer, though it is with a single footman.” Next summer, he had landed on the little island of Eriskay with seven men. His small following alarmed the few friends who met him. The task seemed hopeless, and they advised him to return home. “I am come home,” he replied, and gave orders to sail to the mainland.
His personal appeal led men to join Trim in defiance of every dictate of interest and common-sense. “I will erect the royal standard,” he said to Cameron of Lochiel, “ and proclaim to the people of Britain that Charles Stuart is come over to claim the crown of his ancestors, to win it, or perish in the attempt. Lochiel, who, my father has often told me, was our firmest friend, may stay at home and learn from the newspapers the fate of his Prince. ‘ The words changed Lochiel’s mind. “ I will share the fate of my Prince.” he replied. “ Will not you assist me? “ Charles asked another young Highlander, and drew the expected answer, “I will, though no other man in the Highlands should draw his sword.” Throughout the whole campaign, it was the Prince who maintained the Jacobite army; hope and inspiration came from him, and his were the fleeting triumphs that brightened the early months of an effort foredoomed to failure. “ I leave for England in eight days,” he said in Edinburgh, “ England will be ours in two months; “ and in the Council of War at Derby his voice alone was given for the march to London: “ to put it to the test and win or lose it all.” After the retreat and the victory at Falkirk, Charles wished to remain in the Lowlands and meet Cumberland there. He hoped to the end, and refused to seek safety in flight while he had still an army to fight for him.
On his arrival the Government had offered a reward of 30,000 for his head, and tradition tells that the Prince wished to retort by offering 30 as an adequate sum for the head of the Elector of Hanover. Even in the hour of defeat at Culloden, his followers felt that the ministers of King George would still be eager to secure the person of an enemy, whose charm and fascination had wrought one miracle and might be employed to work another. While the Prince was still a free man, could the House of Hanover be safe? The savage Duke of Cumberland would certainly wish to add to his tarnished laurels the glory of the capture of the fugitive. There was little time for consideration; the battle was fought and lost in less than half an hour, and Cumberland’s fresh troops might be trusted to be active in the pursuit. The Prince would not believe that all was lost, and he tried to induce the stragglers to return to the charge. Those nearest to him begged him not to expose his person needlessly, for the broken clans would not rally. He hesitated, and one of them seized his bridle and turned his horse’s head to the rear, just as, a hundred years before, his great-grandfather, Charles L, had been led off the field of Naseby with the words, “ Will you go upon your death? ” For a few minutes it seemed as if the Prince were still “going upon” his death. The fire of Cumberland’s artillery did not slacken as the Jacobite army wavered, and the retreating Prince had his horse shot under him. A groom brought him a fresh horse, and, as he mounted, the man fell dead by his side. Whither was he to flee? No plan had been made for the event of a defeat, and no rendezvous had been appointed for the beaten army. Accompanied by a few friends, and a body-guard of some fifty horse, he rode off towards the river Nairn. His direction was southwards, and Cumberland was pushing the pursuit westwards to Inverness, but had detached a body of horse to ride down the stragglers. Charles left the field blinded with tears that fell for his lost hopes, and he very narrowly escaped falling in with this force as he pursued his uncertain way.
His bonnet fell from his head, and a private in his Life Guards brought him another. It was Edward Burke, whom the Prince recognized as a servant of one of his aide-de-camps. Burke belonged to an Irish family which, for some generations, had been settled in the Hebrides, and he was a native of North Uist. When he joined the army he was a “ chairman “ (the carrier of a sedan chair) in Edinburgh, but he had been a gentleman’s servant, and had travelled much with his master, and he knew the country. “ Ned,” said the Prince, “ if you be a true friend, lead us safe ofi.” Ned, greatly honoured, did his best, and was the wanderer’s first guide. Ned Burke was described by those who knew him as true as steel but a rough man, and he addressed the Prince with the wonted familiarity of the Scottish peasantry, Charles humoured him and chaffed him, and they had a standing joke about “Deft speed the leears (liars),” a wish obviously appropriate to a disguised prince and his companions.
When Ned took command of the party, the Prince dismissed his body-guard, and with Ned’s master and five others he crossed the Nairn and rode for some distance up the right bank. It was growing late and they sought refuge at Tordarroch, but in vain, and pushing on, they recrossed the river near Aberarder, where they were again refused entrance. Both of these places were too near Inverness for safety. It was fortunate that they did not halt until they reached the hamlet of Gortuleg, where, in a house still in existence, they found the aged Lord Lovat, the Fox of the Highlands, who had played false to both sides, and was attempting to escape from the fate that was to overtake him on Tower Hill. The Prince drank three glasses of wine with Lovat, who reminded him that Robert the Bruce had lost eleven battles and won Scotland by the twelfth. Doubtful history, and a moral which could not be acted upon, were poor consolation, and Charles speedily left his host and rode on through the night.
There was some moonlight the moon was in her first quarter and the tired little company reached Invergarry Castle just as the moon was setting. The house was empty and there was no food; but the Prince had some rest, and Ned Burke noticed a fishing net which had been set, and found two salmon, which he cooked for their breakfast. In the afternoon, they took to their horses again and rode along Loch Arkaig to Glenpean, where they spent the night. Next day the Prince expected a communication from his Men or a hint of the doings of his pursuers, but none came, Cumberland, in fact, was on the wrong track. He thought that the fugitive had made his way to Lovat’s country near Beauly, and the real route was unknown to the enemy. Making for the sea, the Prince walked from Glenpean over the hills to the beautiful region of Morar, had some sleep in a lonely shieling, and through the night of 20th April tramped to Borrodale, in Arisaig, where he had landed nine months before.
Less than a fortnight later, two French vessels, carrying gold, reached Borrodale, but the Prince was no longer there. He had stayed for five days, but he could not know where Ms safety lay, and his friends had sent him a fresh guide in the person of a Skye farmer named Donald MacLeod. The Prince went out to meet Donald and they had their first conversation alone in a wood. His new friend was horror-struck at the Prince’s first suggestion. Like his ancestress, Queen Mary, Charles was seized with a mad desire to throw himself on the mercy of his enemies. He did not, indeed, propose to surrender to Cumberland’s troops, but he asked Donald to carry letters for him to his own chief, MacLeod, and to Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat. These men were on the Government side, but he believed that they would do everything in their power for his safety. Donald replied that his life was at the Prince’s command, but that nothing would induce him thus to reveal his whereabouts. “ Does not your Excellency know that these men have played the rogue to you altogether, and will you trust them for a’ that? Na, you maunna do ‘t” Then Donald told him that the Laird of MacLeod and Sir Alexander MacDonald were searching for him about twelve miles away by sea, and urged that the sooner he left Borrodale the better. Donald was a skilful seaman, and he undertook to conduct the Prince to the Hebrides, in the hope of finding a ship to take him to France.
It was not good advice, for a British fleet commanded the seas, and the islands were easily watched. The best hiding-place was in the wild district of Morar, whence, as we have seen, he could have escaped within a fortnight. But he could not tell that his refuge might not be discovered. It was quite well known among the people, for Donald’s son Murdoch, an Inverness schoolboy, who had run away from school to fight at Culloden, astonished his father by appearing at Borrodale; he had traced and followed the Prince, and less friendly inquirers might do the same. Charles thought of the 30,000 pound reward, and as yet he did not realize that the Highlanders were not thinking about it. He spent five more unhappy and restless days at Borrodale, while Donald MacLeod obtained a boat and a crew. At last an eight-oared boat was ready, with eight boatmen, among whom were Ned Burke and the boy, Murdoch MacLeod. The Prince’s compinions were Captain O’Sullivan, Captain O’Neil, Captain Allan MacDonald, and a Roman priest. Donald MacLeod was skipper, and he is known to history as the Prince’s Pilot.
On the evening of 26th April the Pilot warned the Prince that a great storm was coming, and begged him not to sail; but Charles was anxious about the parties which were searching for him on the mainland, and he insisted. They were unobserved by any of the Government vessels; indeed, the fleet had gone off to the remote island of St. Kilda, misled by some rumour that the Prince was there. But the Pilot’s prophecy was fulfilled; he said afterwards that the tempest was more violent than any “ he had ever been trysted with before, though all his life a seafaring man.” Thunder and lightning and torrential rain, a hurricane, and a heavy sea, were a new experience for a Prince in an open boat. “ I had rather face cannons and muskets than be in such a storm as this.” he said, and told Donald to make again for the shore. To obey the command would have been certain death. “Since we are here,” said the Pilot, “We have nothing for it but, under God, to set out to sea.. Is it not as good for us to be drowned in clean water as to be dashed in pieces upon a rock and to be drowned too?” So they made for the open sea; it was pitch dark, they had neither lantern nor compass nor even a pump. Through the whole night scarcely a man spoke one word; the thought of all was that it would be better to be drowned in clean water than to be driven on the coast of Skye, where bodies of militia-men were on the outlook for the wanderer.
IN THE OUTER ISLES
Morning broke, and the storm was still raging, but they were far beyond the shores of Skye. They succeeded in landing at Rossinish in Benbecula, and found an uninhabited hut in which they lit a fire and dried their clothes. In this desolate region they remained two days, and on the night of 29th April set sail for the island of Scalpa, the tenant of which, Donald Campbell, was a friend of the Pilot. They agreed to represent themselves as the captain and crew of a ship which had been wrecked on the island of Tiree. O’Sullivan took the name of Captain Sinclair, and the Prince passed as young Sinclair, his son. They were hospitably received at Scalpa, and their host, Donald Campbell, was in the secret of the shipwrecked crew. They were eager, they said, to return to their home in the Orkneys, and sent the Pilot to Stornoway to hire a vessel.
Meanwhile, mischief was brewing. John Macaulay, minister of South Uist (grandfather of Lord Macaulay V, had heard of the Prince’s coming, and he informed his father, Aulay Macaulay, minister of Harris. The Macaulays were strong Whigs, and there is a tradition that, while Prince Charlie was in Scalpa, Aulay Macaulay and a neighbouring laird landed in the island with a boatful of armed men and announced their intention of earning the blood-money which the Government had offered. But Donald Campbell warned the Prince and his followers, and told the invaders that he would himself fall in the Prince’s cause rather than give up a man who had entrusted him with his life, and Macaulay and his friends “ sneaked off the island.” At all events, the information sent by John Macaulay (who long afterwards was snubbed at Inveraray by Dr. Johnson) spoiled the plan of the shipwrecked mariners. When Donald MacLeod reached Stornoway, he found difficulty in securing a ship and suspected that the truth was known; but at last he succeeded in buying one and sent the good news to Scalpa.
On 4th May the Prince, with O’SuIlivan, O’Neil, and Ned Burke, crossed to Harris. The journey was unfortunate, for they were misled by a guide whom they had engaged, and they tramped all night through wind and rain. The Pilot met them and told them that he had arranged for their reception at Kildun House, two miles from Stornoway, and he himself returned to the town to make final preparations. To Ms surprise, he found the road barred by two or three hundred men in arms, who explained that they knew the Prince was coming with a force of five hundred men to seize a vessel in Stornoway, and that they feared the vengeance of the Government. He told them the truth, and they disowned any intention of doing the Prince an injury, but insisted on his taking his departure. It was in vain that Donald asked for a guide who knew these stormy seas, and he had to return and tell the news. The boa had followed them, though two of the boatmen had deserted, and on the morning of 6th May they set sail for Scalpa.
As they approached the island they had the “comfort and mortification” of seeing, without being observed, three Government vessels on the outlook, and they changed their course for the desert island of Euirn or lubhard, where they found some fishermen who had erected little huts, like pigstyes, for a temporary shelter. The fishermen mistook the newcomers for a press-gang from the wars-hips and fled, but they left their fish behind them, and the fugitives had brought some provisions. They remained for four days on this desolate island, occupying one of the “pigstyes.” It rained hard and they had to cover the hut with the boat-sail for shelter, but the Prince was in excellent spirits. He insisted on doing the cooking himself, and laughed at Ned Burke for being too fine to eat butter which had got mixed up with bread-crumbs. A large stone served as a table for the Prince and the gentlemen, and the boatmen ate by themselves. Leaving this retreat on 10th May, they returned to Scalpa, but found that their kind host had been compelled to flee, and that it was not safe for them to remain.
It was after leaving Scalpa that the Prince had his first narrow escape. They were sailing south along the coast of Harris, when, near Finsbay, they found themselves within two musket shots of a man-of-war under full sail. Their little boat was itself under full sail and the boatmen rowed for dear life. “I will never be taken alive” said the Prince as the race went on. They were hotly pursued for three leagues, until they reached shallow water near Rodil Point, where their enemy could not follow them as they sailed among the creeks. After an ineffectual attempt, he turned his course out to sea, and they hugged the coast until they reached Loch Maddy. There they spied another war-ship, but retreated from the loch without attracting observation, and that night (llth May) they landed on an island in Loch Uskavagh in Benbecula. During their two days sail they were short of food, and the Prince, who had given his followers some lessons in cooking at Euirn, was taught how to make drammock, that is, meal mixed with water, salt water unfortunately. He ate heartily of it, and his Pilot loved to tell how “ never any meat or drink came wrong to him, for he could take a share of everything, be it good, bad, or indifferent, and was always cheerful and contented in every condition.”
There was need of cheerfulness, for though, as they were landing in the rain, one of the boatmen captured a crab and waved it triumphantly at the Prince, the hut, which was their only refuge, was so low that they had to dig below the door and line the hole with heather for the Prince to crawl through. The hut, said the Prince, had been inhabited by the devil, who had left it because he had not room enough in it. After three days in this island, they crossed to South Uist and walked to Coradale, where Charles had more comfortable quarters in a cottage. He was delighted with his new abode and sat on a turf seat smoking a pipe very happily until bedtime. The three weeks spent at Coradale were the least troubled period of his wanderings. He was a good shot, and brought down a deer one day “ firing off-hand “; he also fished from a small boat with a hand line. The weather was fine, and he often sat on a stone by the door, basking in the sunshine and watching the ships pass; he deluded himself with the hope that they were French, but his friends knew that they were on the watch for him. Occasionally he was melancholy, but he would recover, and dance for a whole hour together to the music of a Highland reel, which he whistled as he tripped along. The happy days did not last long; the Government troops returned from their vain journey to St. Kilda, and Barra and Uist began to be dangerous. Donald MacLeod, the Pilot, had been sent to the mainland and returned with news and two ankers of brandy, in time to accompany the Prince in the flight which was rendered necessary by the presence of troops in the neighbourhood. On 6th June, they sailed to the island of Ouia or Wiay, about twelve miles distant, but they were not yet safe, and returned to Rossinish in Benbecula, fortunately not taking the Pilot with them. At Rossinish Charles was in grave danger, for he was warned to make his escape, and the passage to Ouia was guarded by Government vessels. Taking advantage of the short midsummer hours of darkness or twilight, Donald MacLeod brought a boat to the rescue, and they made for their old retreat at Coradale; but a storm and a glimpse of two war-ships forced them to land where they could, and the Prince slept in a cleft of a rock, drawing his bonnet over big eyes for shelter. The storm continued to rage all next day, but the enemy were within two miles of them, and at night they found another refuge. Their hope was to reach the territory of MacDonald of Boisdale, who, they believed, could help them, and on 15th June they sailed for Boisdale in South Uist.
It was a dangerous journey, for fifteen sail were visible at sea, and they knew that the land was guarded. They lay all day out of sight in a narrow creek, and landed at night on the shores of Loch Boidae, where the Prince slept on a bed of heather in the shelter of a ruined castle. Next morning their spirits rose, for the Pilot saw two French ships appearing, and they were ready to hail them when they made the sad discovery that they were Government vessels. A party of soldiers under Captain Caroline Scott, one of Cumberland’s best executioners, landed within a mile of them, and the Prince took to the hills, while the boatmen concealed the boat. For three days, the Prince was engaged in dodging the Redcoats on one side or the other of Loch Boidae. Their journey was useless, for Boidae had been made a prisoner, and his wife could do no more than warn them of Scott’s neighbourhood.
The Prince decided on a bold and desperate plan. When he was at Coaldale, a half-hearted friend, Ronald MacDonald, the chief of Clanranald, had sent him as an attendant a gentleman of his clan named Neil Macdonald–Maceachain, the future father of a distinguished son, Napoleon’s Marshal MacDonald, Duke of Tarentum. Neil Maceachain had been educated in France for the priesthood, and Clanranald knew that he was fitted to be a companion for the Prince. Soon after Neil joined him, the Prince received a message from Hugh MacDonald of Armadale. This man was in charge of a company under his cousin, Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat, whose duty was to capture the Prince. But Hugh MacDonald had served in the French army and was himself a Jacobite, and his loyalty to his own chief was modified by the circumstance that his chief’s wife, Lady Margaret MacDonald, was known to sympathize with the Prince’s cause. Some years before lie had abducted, or eloped with, the young widow of Ranald MacDonald of Milton in South. Uist, and his stepdaughter, Flora MacDonald, was living with, her brother at Milton. The message which he sent to the Prince contained a warning that, since the Government forces knew him to be concealed in the Outer Hebrides, it was hopeless to try and elude them, and, offered a suggestion of an escape to Skye, where Lady Margaret would receive Mm in her husband’s absence. The plan was that Hugh MacDonald should give his stepdaughter a pass or safe-conduct to her mother’s house in Skye, that the Prince should be disguised as her maid, and that Neil Maceachain should accompany them as a servant.
When Charles, with Captain O’Neil and Neil Maceachain, was in hiding on the top of one of the mountains overlooking Loch Boidae, this scheme recurred to his mind, and, on 21st June, the three walked to within a short distance of a shieling where Flora MacDonald and her brother were tending their cattle. That evening the Prince, who had just parted with his faithful Pilot and with Ned Burke, had his first interview with the brave girl whose name was to be so honourably linked with his own. He himself told her of her stepfather’s proposal, and she answered that she would gladly take the risk. It had to be then or never, and Flora set out at once for Benbecula to arrange matters with her stepfather and to procure a disguise from Lady Clanranald, while the Prince and his two followers found shelter in the hills near his old quarters at Coaldale. Next day, the impatient Prince sent Neil Maceachain to Benbecula to bring back a report; but when he came to the fords between South Uist and Benbecula, he found that they were closely guarded at low tide when alone they are passable. Flora MacDonald had met with the same difficulty the preceding day, and each of them asked to be taken to the captain of the company, who was Hugh MacDonald. Neil found Flora breakfasting with her stepfather, and they arranged that Neil and the Prince should meet her at Rossinish. The difficulty was to bring him there; they dared not risk an attempt to pass by the fords. But Neil was lucky enough to find some fishermen whom he knew, and they ferried the Prince and Captain O’Neil and himself to the coast of Benbecula, in the darkness, and left them on a tidal island, much to the alarm of the Prince, who awoke from a sound sleep to find himself upon a small rock surrounded by water.
At low tide they made their way to the shore, and after a cold wet night in the heather, set out for Rossinish in a wild storm of wind and rain. Walking was very difficult, and the exhausted Prince was constantly falling into holes concealed by the heather or losing his shoes in the bogs. At last they reached the rendezvous, and Neil went on to reconnoitre. He did not find Flora or Lady Clanranald, and he was informed that twenty of the Skye militiamen were in a tent about a quarter of a mile away. There seemed nothing for it but another night in the heather, but they found shelter at some little distance, in a house belonging to a tenant of Clanranald. At dawn their hostess turned them out because she knew the militia-men were corning to buy milk, and they hid themselves under a rock by the shore. The rain never ceased, and they thought that all the windows of heaven had been broken open. The rock was an insufficient protection, and a swarm of midges settled upon the Prince’s face and hands, inflicting such misery that he cried out in his pain and despair. At last, they were told that the militia had gone; they returned to a warm room and a bright fire; the Prince hung up his clothes to dry, sat at the fireside in his shirt “ as merry and hearty as if he was in the best room at Whitehall,” and slept contentedly upon the door, which was taken down and covered with a ragged sail to make a bed for him.
Two days later, on the evening of 27th June, Flora MacDonald arrived with her brother and Lady Clanranald and Captain O’Neil, who had gone in search of the ladies. They sat down to a good supper, but had scarcely begun when a herd rushed breathlessly into the room and told them that General Campbell was landing his men three miles away. In a few minutes they were in the boat, and they spent the night crossing Loch Uskavagh and finished their supper on the other side at five o’clock in the morning. Lady Clanranald then returned to Benbecula to plead with General Campbell to spare her home. Flora’s brother went with her, and Flora insisted that Captain O’Neil should accompany them. She disliked the attentions he paid her, and she knew that his presence would draw fresh suspicion upon her little company, which was to consist of the Prince, Neil Maceachain, and herself. Her stepfather’s passport was for herself and her servant, and for a woman named Betty Burke, an expert with the spinning-wheel. As an additional precaution, Hugh MacDonald had furnished her with a letter to his wife, saying that Betty’s services should be secured for the spinning of a large quantity of lint which was in the house at Armidale.
Before Lady Clanranald left, she, with Flora MacDonald’s help, dressed the Prince in the clothes they had prepared for him. He laughed and the lady wept as they clad him in the coarse garb of a gentlewoman’s servant a light-coloured quilted petticoat, a flowered calico gown, a white apron, and a long dark cloak made of the rough homespun known as camlet. The head-dress was large enough to cover his whole head and face. Charles was much amused by the apron, and kept telling them not to forget it.
At eight o’clock on the evening of 28th June, Flora, with Betty Burke and Neil Maceachain, set sail from Benbecula for Skye. The sea was rough, but the Prince was in great spirits, and he sang the Cavalier songs which told of the Restoration of his great-uncle, Charles II. “ The twenty-ninth of May “ and “ The King shall enjoy his own again.” Flora MacDonald fell asleep, and he kept guard lest any of the boatmen should stumble over her in the darkness.
Next morning they were off the coast of Skye with a heavy gale in their faces. They were about to land at the Point of Waternish, when they saw two sentries, one of whom ordered them to stop. They rowed out to sea as fast as they could; he fired and missed them, and his companion went off to give the alarm. Fifteen men came up, and two boats were lying ready. Pursuit and capture seemed inevitable, for the Prince had no arms, but the soldiers were content with walking along the shore and watching the direction taken by the little boat, and, after hiding in a creek, Flora and her companions landed undisturbed at Kilbride, in Troternish, near Monkstat, the house of Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat. The laird, as they knew, was with Cumberland at Fort Angustus, but they were sure of help from Lady Margaret.
Flora MacDonald took Neil with her to Monkstat, and left the Prince in the boat. The boatmen were instructed, if any inquiry should be made about the person in the boat, to answer that it was a maid of Miss MacDonald’s, a lazy jane who would not follow her mistress. At Monkstat Flora obtained a private interview with Lady Margaret, and found that there were two guests in the house MacDonald of Kingsburgh, Sir Alexander’s factor or land agent, and Lieutenant Alexander MacLeod, who was in command of the party which had so nearly caught the Prince. Lady Margaret sent for Kingsburgh and told Mm the story. It was impossible to risk a meeting between Betty Burke and Lieutenant MacLeod, and lie promised to take the Prince to Ins own house at Kingsburgh. Neil was sent to convoy the Prince from the boat to a hill a mile from Monkstat, and a bundle of clothes was prepared in order that Betty Burke might be seen to carry her mistress’s baggage. They reached the trysting-place in safety, and the Prince sent Neil back to the boat for a case of knives which would have aroused suspicion if it had been found by the enemy. Neil reluctantly left him within a gun-shot of the highroad, and returned to find that Kingsburgh had brought him wine and biscuits. He had tracked Mm through noticing a number of sheep running away as if alarmed by a stranger, a hint which, fortunately, was not taken by any of the soldiers who were moving about.
Lady Margaret’s problem was to lull any suspicions of her other guest, and for this purpose Flora MacDonald dined at Monkstat, and had a conversation with Lieutenant MacLeod, who was anxious to know if, in her journey from Benbecula, she had heard anything about the movements of Charles Edward. She gave discreet answers to his inquiries, and, in his presence, Lady Margaret strongly opposed the suggestion that Flora should go home that night. She had often promised them a visit, and she must not leave them after a few hours. Flora begged to be excused; she was anxious to see her mother, and to be at home in these troublous times. Lady Margaret reluctantly yielded, but insisted on sending her own maid with her. Flora set out on horseback, and soon overtook Kingsburgh, Betty Burke, and Neil. Some of the neighbours followed her and were much interested in Betty. They remarked on the impudence with which she walked and talked with Kingsburgh, and were indignant that he should make a serving-woman his companion and pay no attention to her mistress. They observed her masculine walk, and were much shocked by the carelessness with which she raised her skirts when fording a stream. Neil pacified them by saying that she was an Irish girl, whom Miss Flora had picked up in Uist and had brought tome because of her marvellous skill in spinning. At last they shook off their inquisitive companions, and the little party reached Kingsburgh House about midnight.
The mistress of the house had gone to bed, and was roused by the visit of an excited daughter, “ O mother, my father has brought in such a very odd, muckle, ill-shaken-up wife as ever I saw! “ Mrs. MacDonald went down and found Betty Burke traversing the hall with “ wide, lang steps.” Her husband asked her to get some supper, and Betty Burke saluted her with a kiss from unshaven lips. Kingsburgh followed her and told her that they had the Prince as a guest. They agreed that it was a hanging matter, but resolved to die in a good cause, and the lady’s anxiety was diverted from the gallows by the difficulty of providing a supper fit for a prince. She brought him roasted eggs and bread and butter, and he drank two bottles of small beer and a bumper of brandy. Then he produced a cracked pipe which he had tied up with thread, and asked for tobacco, which Kingsburgh gave Mm along with a new pipe.
In the morning the Prince slept late, and Flora and Kingsburgh took counsel together. They knew the amiable methods of the soldiery, and were sure that the boatmen, threatened with torture, would tell the story of Betty Burke. Though they were reluctant to disturb the Prince’s rest, it was necessary to get him away at once. They roused him and dressed him in his female attire, for it was obviously desirable that he should leave the house in his disguise, so that any information which leaked out through the servants might lead his pursuers to watch for a man in woman’s clothes. Before he left, Flora cut a lock from his hair, and his hostess gave him a silver snuff — bos engraved with two clasped hands and the motto “ Rob Gib.” Some days later the Prince noticed the motto, asked a companion what it meant, and was told that Rob Gib’s contract was stark love and kindness. “ I will keep it all my life,” he said.
Kingsburgh accompanied him on his way, and, in a wood, Betty Burke changed into Highland dress, and “ with a claymore in his hand he was a soger-like man indeed.” Bidding farewell to Kingsburgh with the words, “ I am afraid I shall not meet another MacDonald in my difficulties,” he and Neil Maceachain walked to Portree under the guidance of a little boy. He left Kingsburgh just in time, for Monkstat and Kingsburgh House were soon searched by the fierce General Ferguson, who insulted Mrs. MacDonald and met her denials of the Prince’s presence with the remark that she had put the maid in a better room than her mistress. Cumberland was furious at the Prince’s escape, and ordered the arrest of Kingsburgh, who, he said, had neglected the greatest service which could have been done to King George. The Prince’s host spent twelve months in prison as the reward of one night’s hospitality.
At Kingsburgh Charles had again proposed to throw himself on the mercy of MacLeod, but had been persuaded to fall in with an arrangement made by Lady Margaret and Kingsburgh. One of Sir Alexander MacDonald’s clan, Donald Roy MacDonald, had been prevented by his chief from going to the Prince when he raised his standard, but had joined after the battle of Prestonpans, had been wounded in the foot at Culloden, and was hiding in a surgeon’s house in Troternish. It was agreed at Monkstat that Donald Roy MacDonald should meet the Prince at Portree, and arrange for his crossing to the island of Raasay under the protection of the Laird of Raasay.
While Charles was at Kingsburgh, Donald Roy succeeded in finding a son of the Laird of Raasay, known by the name of his father’s property of Rona, a neighbouring island. All the boats in Skye had been commandeered, and Rona had to take a crazy old boat which he found abandoned in a fresh-water loch, and to convey it to the sea, in order to obtain one of his father’s boats from Raasay. Before the Prince reached Portree on 30th June, Rona had returned accompanied by his brother, Murdoch MacLeod, and by a cousin, Captain Malcolm MacLeod Flora MacDonald performed her last service to the Prince by riding to Portree to make sure of his reception, and the whole party the Prince, Flora MacDonald, Neil Maceachain, Donald Roy MacDonald, and the three MacLeods met at an inn. Charles purchased a quarter of a pound of tobacco, and Donald Boy had to insist upon his taking three halfpence brought him by the landlord as change for sixpence; but in spite of this warning of the danger of arousing suspicion by unheard-of liberality, he proposed later to be satisfied with eleven shillings as change for a guinea, the landlord not being able to produce more silver. Donald Roy checked him and got the guinea changed elsewhere.
They were to sail about midnight, and the Prince made his farewells. He had always treated Flora MacDonald with the greatest deference, and invariably rose when she entered the room, and he used to speak of her as “our Lady.” He kissed her the usual salutation of the time. “ For all that has happened,” he said, “ I hope, madam, we shall meet in St. James’s yet.” Nine days had elapsed since they first met in the shieling in South Uist; for three days they had been fellow-wanderers. He was not destined to receive her at St. James’s, nor ever to see her again after their parting in the village inn, but a gracious recollection of “ our Lady “ can never have been obliterated by the sins and the sorrows of later years, She was again to meet a Prince of Wales, for, when she was a prisoner in London, the heir of George II. paid his respects to her and gave to history one of the few pleasant stories that are recorded of “ Fred who was alive and is dead.” Four years later she married Kingsburgh’s son; she became the mother of many children; she entertained Dr. Johnson in the house to which she had brought Prince Charlie. Her adventures were not yet over, for, in the year after Johnson’s visit, she and her husband emigrated to North Carolina, and she saw the fighting in the early campaigns of the American War. She returned to Skye and died at Kingsburgh in 1790, two years after “ King Charles” had breathed his last at Rome. Those three June days when she was the Prince’s preserver have consecrated her name and her memory while courage and loyalty are deemed worthy of the reverence of mankind.
The Prince had still before him many weary wanderings. He bade good-bye that evening not only to Flora MacDonald, but also to Neil Maceachain, whom he sent to attend the Lady to her home. Donald Roy was lame and could not accompany him, and he was conducted by the two MacLeod, Murdoch and Malcold; he went off with a bottle of whisky strapped to his belt at one side, and a bottle of brandy, some shirts, and a cold fowl on the other side. They reached Ramsay safely; but the Prince thought the island too small for concealment, and during the short time they were there they were alarmed by a man whom the islanders suspected to be a spy. He came near their hut, and Malcolm MacLeod proposed to shoot him, but Charles forbade him, and the stranger passed on without looking in. The Prince insisted upon returning to Skye; he was not quite happy among MacLeod and wished to be with Donald Roy again.
Late on the evening of 2nd July they left Ramsay in a storm, the Prince singing a Highland song to cheer the boatmen; he had learned Gaelic in the course of his expedition. They landed at Scurrybeck, close to Portray, and the Prince spent an uneasy night in a cow byre, often wakening up and looking round him with a startled air. “ poor England,” he was heard to murmur in his sleep. Donald Roy had been sent for, but was unable to come, and Malcolm MacLeod warned the Prince that parties of soldiers were on the outlook, and that they must set out without a moment’s delay. They walked to Mao Mnnon’s country, the part of Skye known as Strath, and the Prince passed as MacLeod’s servant and took the name of Lewie Caw, a fugitive from Culloden who was known to be hiding in Skye. Lewie Caw carried the baggage and was careful to walk behind his master and to show no curiosity when MacLeod met an acquaintance. They redoubled their precautions when they entered Mackinnon’s country, because MacKinnon had been “ out “ and the district was specially watched. Charles exchanged his waistcoat with MacLeod because it looked too fine for a servant, and promised some day to give him a better waistcoat still when he himself should walk in London streets dressed in the kilt which Kingsburgh had given him. He removed his periwig and covered his head with a dirty napkin, but MacLeod insisted that any one who had ever seen him would know him again. “This is an odd remarkable face I have got that nothing can disguise it,” he said, and MacLeod, as he looked at him, felt that no disguise could conceal his possession of “ something that was not ordinary, something of the grand and stately.” In this way they reached Algol and met the old Laird of MacKinnon, who arranged to accompany the Prince to the mainland. Malcolm MacLeod, himself a person for whom search was being made, thought that the Prince would be safer without him, and Charles reluctantly let Hm go, sending with him a note of thanks to Donald Roy. “Sir,” it read, “I thank God I am in good health and have got off as designed. Remember me to all friends, and thank them for the trouble they have been at. I am, Sir, your humble servant, JAMES THOMSON.”
AT LOCH NEVIS
The Prince, with the old laird and his son, John MacKinnon, landed on the shore of Loch Nevis at four o’clock in the morning of 5th July, and spent three nights in the heather. On the morning of 8th July the old laird went to seek a cave as a shelter, and the Prince and John MacKinnon rowed up the loch. Suddenly, as they came round a point, their oars struck some wood, and they saw a boat tied to a rock and five men standing near it on the shore. They were at once challenged, and, when the boatmen answered that they came from Sleat, they were ordered to come ashore. They disobeyed, and the militiamen jumped into their own boat and pursued. John MacKinnon himself took an oar, for the Prince’s life depended upon the race that summer morning. Charles was sitting in the bottom of the boat with his head between MacKinnon’s legs. He wanted to make for the shore and trust to his powers of running; but MacKinnon spread a plaid over his head that he might not be seen, and told Mm firmly that he had no chance on a bare hillside, that their only hope of escape lay in their oars, and that if the pursuers came up he could rely on them all to fight to the last. Each boatman sat with a loaded musket beside him. From time to time the Prince inquired how the race was going, and MacKinnon was always able to answer that they were holding their own. It was not enough, but a desperate effort carried them round a point and out of sight of the enemy. The coast was wooded, and the Prince, MacKinnon, and one of the boatmen jumped ashore and plunged into the trees. The boat went on, but the pursuers, coming again within view 3 saw that their prey had escaped, and Charles, from the top of a hill, watched them return, while MacKinnon was apologizing for having disobeyed his commands. “ I only wanted,” lie replied, “ to fight for my life rather than be taken prisoner.”
Later in the day they recrossed the loch and walked through the night to Moral, and MacDonald of Moral gave them his son as a guide to Biradial. They made for the house of the Laird of Biradial, Angus MacDonald, but it had been burned down by the troops, and they found him in a neighbouring hut. When John MacKinnon announced the Prince’s presence, the old man said, “I shall lodge him so secure that all the forces in Britain shall not find him out.” After his narrow escape two days before, Charles had received a cold message from Clanranald and a refusal of help from Moral, and Borrodale’s welcome gave Mm fresh heart and hope.
The two Mackinnons left him at Biradial, and both of them fell at once into the hands of the soldiers, who could not fail to suspect the Prince’s presence in the neighbourhood. The news of their capture made old Biradial doubly cautious, and on 13th July he hid the Prince in a cleft between two precipitous rocks where he had constructed a little hut and had covered it with green turf, so that it looked like a natural grass-covered brae. Here the Prince was joined by a nephew of Ms host, Alexander MacDonald of Glenaladale, who was Ms companion in most of what remained of his wanderings. Glenaladale had been wounded three times at Culloden, but he responded at once to the Prince’s call. They did not remait long at Borrodale, for they learned that the Prince’s presence in that region was known to the enemy, and they could see the ships on the coast. On 17th July they set out for a new place of concealment in Morar, where they learned that General Campbell, with six ships, had anchored in Loch Nevis, and that a party of soldiers was near them. It was clear that they were surrounded, and that they must break through the enemy’s line of posts, and make for the north in the hope of finding a French ship at Poolewe, near Loch Maree.
Every day brought fresh perils and new adventures. At their first setting out they saw from the top of a hill some cattle being moved, and discovered that Glenaladale’s tenants were saving their property from the troops, who were taking the very route by which the Prince had intended to go. This led them t<? send for a fresh guide, Donald Cameron of Glenpean, to conduct them out of the dangerous region of Moral. While they waited for him they learned that a hundred Argyllshire militiamen were at the foot of the very hill on the top of which, they were resting. They could not stay for their guide, and, as the sun was setting, they moved on. A solitary figure was seen approaching them, and they could not tell whether the man was friend or foe, but, to their relief, it proved to be Donald Cameron, and he promised to lead them safely through the enemy’s outposts.
From the head of Loch Eil to the head of Loch Hourn there was a long series of small camps about half a mile from each other; the sentries were each within call of his neighbour, and patrols were constantly moving to keep the sentries alert. Cameron led them to a hill which had just been searched, and might, therefore, be regarded as safe, but they had no provisions except a little oatmeal and some butter, and, after some wanderings, they found a hiding-place for the Prince on a hill at the head of Loch Quoich, while some of the party went to get provisions. They brought back the news that a hundred redcoats were marching up the other side of the hill, and the whole party set out again towards nightfall. As they trudged along they saw in front of them a camp-fire, but they decided that they must take the risk of passing through the enemy. To remain in the region of Moidart meant certain capture. They crept along, going so near the camp that they could hear the soldiers talking, but they were unobserved. As they were climbing the next hill they came across a rivulet which, emerging from a spring, fell straight down a precipice. The Prince missed his footing, and was about to fall, but was supported by Donald Cameron and Glenaladale, and they reached the top in safety, only to see another camp-fire at the foot. This they were able to avoid, but, although they had broken through the cordon, their route still lay along the line of the camps.
At the head of Loch Hourn they hid in a hollow which was covered with long heather and birch trees. They were faint with hunger, and one of them, a son of old Biradial, produced from his pocket a small quantity of meal. He used to tell afterwards of the change produced on the faces of his companions by the sight of it. Their guide, Donald Cameron, was not sure of the way from this point, and in the evening he and Glenaladale went to find a new guide. When the two emerged from the hollow they found that they had spent the day quite close to one of the enemy’s camps; they returned, and the whole party at once set out for Glenshiel. The night was very dark, and they had nothing to eat, but in the morning they got butter and cheese in a village in Glenshiel, where they were fortunate enough to find a guide, named Donald MacDonald, who had fought in the Prince’s army and was fleeing from the troops. They also learned the unpleasant news that a French ship had just left Poolewe, and that it would be useless to go there. That day, 22nd July, was very hot, and they lay on a mountain side parched with thirst; a stream was near, and they could hear the sound of the water, but they dared not move. At sunset Donald Cameron bade them good-bye, and a small boy, the son of the man from whom they bought their provisions, arrived with some goats’ milk as a present to Glenaladale.
Thus refreshed, they turned their course southwards for Glenmoriston, under their new guide; but they had scarcely gone a mile when Glenaladale missed his purse, which contained the Prince’s gold. The Prince found a hiding-place, and Glenaladale and young Biradial proceeded to search for the purse. They soon found it empty. There could be no doubt about the thief, for Glenaladale remembered taking it out to give four shillings to the boy who had brought the milk. They walked back to his father’s house and made their complaint. The father seized a rope and threatened to hang the boy to the nearest tree, and the money was returned. The boy’s crime saved the Prince. As he lay waiting, with the guide and another attendant, an officer with a small armed party passed close to him, having come by the track along which the fugitives were going. Charles dared not send to warn Glenaladale and his companion, and he lay in grave anxiety until they arrived. The officer had passed them on the other side of a stream, and neither of the two parties had seen the other. If Glenaladale had not missed his purse, and they had all pursued their original route, they must have met the soldiers, and, though they would have outnumbered them, the noise of the conflict could not have failed to bring larger numbers of the enemy.
They went on towards Glenmoriston, walking by night and hiding by day, the Prince made miserable by swarms of midges. On 24th July, they reached the Braes of Glenmoriston and found some friendly MacDonalds, Highland robbers by profession, one of whom recognized the Prince. “ I hope,” he said, “ to see you yet in a better condition, as I have seen you before at the head of your army on Glasgow Green.” For a week the Prince remained concealed in Glenmoriston. His host told him of a cave which could shelter forty men, the best water in the Highlands running through it, and a heather bed ready for his reception. After three days of these comforts, they moved to another grotto, equally picturesque, but a party of militia was reported to be within four miles of them, and the Prince was again in hopes of finding a French ship at Poolewe.
On the night of 1st August they set out northwards and spent next day in Strathglass, where the Prince rested in a tent made of fir-branches. They continued on this route until 7th August, when, on a hill called Beinn Acharain, they heard again that only one French ship had reached Poolewe, and that it had sailed, leaving behind two French officers who hoped to meet the Prince in the region of Loch Eil. This information led them to retrace their steps, which they did without any adventure until they found themselves again in the Braes of Glenmoriston on,12th August. There they were delayed by a party of soldiers” in Glengarry, but the road was soon clear, and they went on without difficulty except for heavy rain and want of provisions. No food could be obtained, for the troops had wasted the country and driven the inhabitants into the hills. But in their utmost need, near Loch Arkaig, one of the party shot a hart, on which they most deliciously feasted.”
On 21st August, on the shores of Loch Arkaig, Archibald Cameron, a brother of Lochiel, who had been a physician in the Prince’s army, and was afterwards to give his life for the cause in London, brought to the Prince two French officers who had landed at Poolewe in June, and had been looking for him ever since, but they could give him no information of any value. Two days later, as the Prince lay sleeping, he was told that a party of two hundred men were close to him; a friendly guard was believed to have been placed and, as they had received no warning, they concluded that there was treachery and that they were surrounded. The Prince asked for Ms gun, and the small party, eight in number, at once took up a position on the hillside, determined to sell their lives dear. “I was bred a fowler,” said Charles. “I can charge quick and am a tolerable marksman, and I can be sure of one at least.” But the soldiers, after searching the hut which the Prince had just left, went off in another direction, and Charles lay down and slept peacefully in the rain.
This was his last adventure, for the authorities were giving up the search in despair. Cumberland had left Fort Augustus on 18th July, and Ms successor as commander-in-chef, the Earl of Albemarle, wrote from Fort Augustus to the Secretary of State on 12th August that he was to leave for Edinburgh next day. “The last party I sent out, he explained “ (upon a report that the Pretender’s son was in Glen Dessary), returned last night without any tidings of him, and I can make no conjecture of the place he lies concealed in, therefore cannot help suspecting he is gone off, either in some of the small French vessels that have been hovering along the coast, or in a boat to the Long Island. I shall march with the troops, and not leave them till I see them quartered at Perth, Stirling, and other places.” On the day the letter was written, the Prince was in Glenmoriston; three days later, at Loch Arkaig, he was not far from Glen Dessary. He had crossed the head of Glen Dessary on 19th July, and a report to this effect had reached Albemarle much too late. The recall of the troops for their southward march explains the comparative security of the fugitives, and about the same time the militia regiments were disbanded after their fruitless search.
On 27th August MacDonnell of Lochgarry and Dr. Archibald Cameron guided the Prince into the friendly country of duny Macpherson, where he was to remain until the arrival of a French ship could be definitely ascertained. Lochiel had a touching meeting with him on 30th August. He knelt to greet his Prince. “ No, my dear Lochiel,” said Charles, “ you don’t know who may be looking from the tops of yonder hills.” They were entertained in Lacolle’s hiding-place, where the fugitive ate minced collops out of a saucepan with a silver spoon and exclaimed that at last he was living like a prince. Cluny himself joined them on 1st September; he had been originally on the side of the Government, but had been captured by the Jacobite army in August 1745, had joined the Prince with his clan after Prestonpans, had marched into England and fought at Falkirk, but had been too late for Culloden. He took the Prince to a cunningly devised refuge which he had provided to avoid the dampness of a cave. Cluny’s “ cage “ was situated in some holly bushes on a rough hillside overlooking Loch Ericht. The floor consisted of rows of felled trees, made level with earth and gravel. Young trees growing between the planks of the floor formed a series of stakes, which served for the construction of a thatched roof bound with ropes made of heather and birch twigs. A large tree which rested on a rock lay across the top of the hut and gave it the appearance of a cage hanging from a tree. A crevice between two stones formed a chimney, and the smoke of the peat fire was so near in colour to the stones that it was invisible. The hut was divided into two chambers, of which the upper was the living room and the lower served as a kitchen.
In this cage, with sentinels posted round, the Prince, with Cluny, Lacolle, Dr. Cameron, and sis others, lived pleasantly enough for a week. They had plenty of provisions and found amusement in a pack of cards. At one o’clock in the morning of 13th September, they were roused by a messenger who reported the presence of two French ships in Loch Nan Uamh. No time was to be lost, and they set out at once for the coast of South Moral, but they did not forget to send the news to other fugitives who were in hiding among them Neil Maceachain, who met them on the coast and escaped with them.
It was still necessary to walk by night and hide by day; but one day the Prince, who had just received three mounted firelocks which he had left in the course of his wanderings, felt himself safe enough to challenge Ms companions to a test of skill in marksmanship. They threw their bonnets into the air and shot at them, “in which diversion His Royal Highness far exceeded.” He played a poor practical joke on one of his followers, wrapping himself in a plaid and lying on the floor of a hut at the entrance to which was a large puddle. As his victim approached, the Prince peeped out of the plaid; and with a cry of “ O Lord I my Master! “ the unfortunate man fell into the puddle. When they reached the river Lochy, he was greatly delighted by being given some brandy which had been brought from the enemy’s garrison at Fort Augustus. On 16th September they reached the ruins of Lochiel’s house at Achnacarry, which had been burned by Cumberland, and on the 19th they were once more at Biradial. Cluny knew that he was safe in Ms own wild country, and, shortly after midnight, he watched the Prince, with Lochiel and Dr. Archibald Cameron, sail in the frigate Prince de Conti, whence they were transferred to her slightly larger consort, L’Heureux. The two French vessels had arrived in Loch Boidae on 5th September; they had been searching for the Prince for a fortnight, and their commanders were beginning to despair of finding him.
All of Prince Charlie’s companions who left records of his wanderings testify to his courage and endurance. “The Prince submitted with patience to his adverse fortune, was cheerful, and frequently desired those that were with him to be so. He was cautious when in the greatest danger, never at a loss in resolving what to do. He regretted more the distress of those who suffered for adhering to his interest than the dangers and hardships he was exposed to.” If the record of Prince Charlie’s escape is honourable to himself, it is not less honourable to the people who, at their gravest peril, sheltered and protected him, and the unforgetable story which clings to Highland glens and island shores speaks not of the Prince alone but also of the men and women who saved him. Among the things that abide is the memory of such as be faithful in love.
Last updated Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 13:15