Sunday, September 26, 2010

MacDonald of Kingsburgh

On September 26, 1773, Dr. Johnson and James Boswell are still on Skye, meeting with the Macleod's and the MacDonald's who had helped Prince Charles Edward Stuart escape from Scotland after Culloden.  Boswell records the following: '...Mrs M'Kinnon told us at dinner, that old Kingsburgh, her father, was
examined at Mugstot, by General Campbell, as to the particulars of the dress of the person who had come to his house in woman's clothes, along with Miss Flora M'Donald; as the General had received intelligence of that disguise. The particulars were taken down in writing, that it might be seen how far they agreed with the dress of the 'Irish girl' who went with Miss Flora from the Long Island.  Kingsburgh, she said, had but one song, which he always sung when he was merry over a glass. She dictated the words to me, which are foolish enough:

Green sleeves and pudding pies,
Tell me where my mistress lies,
And I'll be with her before the rise,
Fiddle and aw' together.

May our affairs abroad succeed,
And may our king come home with speed,
And all pretenders shake for dread,
And let HIS health go round.

To all our injured friends in need,
This side and beyond the Tweed!
Let all pretenders shake for dread,
And let HIS health go round.
Green sleeves, &c.

While the examination was going on, the present Talisker, who was there as one of M'Leod's militia, could not resist the pleasantry of asking Kingsburgh, in allusion to his only song, 'Had she GREEN SLEEVES?' Kingsburgh gave him no answer. Lady Margaret M'Donald was very angry at Talisker for joking on such a serious occasion, as Kingsburgh was really in danger of his life. Mrs M'Kinnon added that Lady Margaret was quite adored in Sky. That when she travelled through the island, the people ran in crowds before her, and took the stones off the road, lest her horse should stumble and she be hurt. Her husband, Sir Alexander, is also remembered with great regard. We were told that every week a hogshead of claret was drunk at his table...'
Sir Walter Scott covered these events; published in "Tales of a Grandfather".  'General Campbell, returning from Kilda, landed upon South Uist, with the purpose of searching the Long Island from south to north, and he found the MacDonalds of Skye, and MacLeod of MacLeod, as also a strong detachment of regular troops, engaged in the same service. While these forces, in number two thousand men, searched with eagerness the interior of the island, its shores were surrounded with small vessels of war, cutters, armed boats, and the like. It seemed as if the Prince's escape from a search so vigorously prosecuted was altogether impossible; but the high spirit of a noble-minded female rescued him, when probably every other means must have failed.

This person was the celebrated Flora MacDonald ; she was related to the Clanranald family, and was on a visit to that chiefs house at Ormaclade, in South Uist, during the emergency we speak of. Her stepfather was one of Sir Alexander MacDonald's clan, an enemy to the Prince of course, and in the immediate command of the militia of the name of MacDonald, who were then in South Uist.

Notwithstanding her stepfather's hostility, Flora MacDonald readily engaged in a plan for rescuing the unfortunate Wanderer. With this purpose she procured from her stepfather a passport for herself, a man servant, and a female servant, who was termed Betty Burke—the part of Betty Burke being to be acted by the Chevalier in woman's attire.1 In this disguise, after being repeatedly in danger of being taken, Charles at length reached Kilbride, in the Isle of Skye ; but they were still in the country of Sir Alexander MacDonald, and, devoted as that chief was to the service of the Government, the Prince was as much in danger as ever. Here the spirit and presence of mind of Miss Flora MacDonald were again displayed in the behalf of the object, so strangely thrown under the protection of one of her sex and age. She resolved to confide the secret to Lady Margaret MacDonald, the wife of Sir Alexander, and trast to female compassion, and the secret reserve of Jacobitism which lurked in the heart of most Highland women.

The resolution to confide in Lady Margaret was particularly hardy, for Sir Alexander MacDonald, the husband of the lady to be trusted with the important secret, was, as you will recollect, originally believed to be engaged to join the Prince on his arrival, but had declined doing so, under the plea, that the stipulated support from France was not forthcoming; he was afterwards induced to levy his clan on the side of Government. His men had been at first added to Lord Loudon's army, in Inverness-shire, and now formed part of those troops from which the Chevalier had with difficulty just made his escape.

Flora MacDonald found herself under the necessity of communicating the fatal secret of her disguised attendant to the lady of a person thus situated. Lady Margaret MacDonald was much alarmed. Her husband was absent, and as the best mode for the unfortunate Prince's preservation, her house being filled with officers of the militia, she committed him to the charge of MacDonald of Kingsburgh, a man of courage and intelligence, who acted as factor or steward for her husband. Flora MacDonald accordingly conducted Charles to MacDonald of Kingsburgh's house ; and he was fortunate enough to escape detection on the road, though the ungainly and awkward appearance of a man dressed in female apparel attracted suspicion on more than one occasion.'

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