Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lady Grange on St. Kilda

September 19, 1773 was a Sunday, as is the case this year.  Johnson and Boswell continue on their tour of the Western Isles.  They are in Skye, visiting with the McLeod's of Dunvegan, talking of happenings in the region:

'After dinner to-day, we talked of the extraordinary fact of Lady Grange's being sent to St Kilda, and confined there for several years, without any means of relief. [Footnote: The true story of this lady, which happened In this century, is as frightfully romantick as if it had been the fiction of a gloomy fancy. She was the wife of one of the Lords of Session in Scotland, a man of the very first blood of his country. For some mysterious reasons, which have never been discovered, she was seized and carried off in the dark, she knew not by whom, and by nightly journies was conveyed to the Highland shores, from whence she was transported by sea to the remote rock of St Kilda, where she remained, amongst its few wild inhabitants, a forlorn prisoner, but had a constant supply of provisions, and a woman to wait on her. No inquiry was made after her, till she at last found means to convey a letter to a confidential friend, by the daughter of a Catechist who concealed it in a clue of yarn. Information being thus obtained at Edinburgh, a ship was sent to bring her off; but intelligence of this being received, she was conveyed to M'Leod's island of Herries, where she died.

Rachel Chiesley was the wife of James Erskine, Lord Grange, who was a Jacobite sympathizer.  Chiesley, who may have been unbalanced for many years, felt her husband was being unfaithful to her, and she accused him publicly of acting treasonably against the Hanoverian government.  This occurred in late 1731, and when Chiesley booked a coach to London in January 1732, Erskine, afraid she might cause more trouble, had her kidnapped.  She was later transported to the Monarch Isles, where she lived for two years, then to St. Kilda from 1734 - 1740.  She was moved to the Isle of Skye in 1740, and died there in 1745.
Walter Scott leaves a reference to Lady Grange in his Journal: 'January 20 [1829].—...Also a letter to Mrs. Professor Sandford at Glasgow about reprinting Macaulay's History of St. Kilda, advising them to insert the history of Lady Grange who was kidnapped and banished thither.'

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