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Book of Scottish Story
Auchindrane; or, the Ayrshire Tragedy


By Sir Walter Scott.

John Muir, or Mure, of Auchin-drane, was a gentleman of an ancient family and good estate, in the west of Scotland, bold, ambitious, treacherous to the last degree, and utterly unconscientious,a Richard the Third in private life, inaccessible alike to pity and remorse. His view was to raise the power and extend the grandeur of his own family. This gentleman had married the daughter of Thomas Kennedy of Barganie, who was, excepting the Earl of Cassilis, the most important person in all Carrick, the district of Ayrshire which he inhabited, and where the name of Kennedy held so great a sway as to give rise to the popular rhyme,

'Twixt Wilton and the town of Ayr,
Portpatnck and the Cruives of Cree,
No man need think for to bide there,
Unless he court the Kennedie.

Now, Muir of Auchindrane, who had promised himself high advancement by means of his father-in-law, saw, with envy and resentment, that his influence remained second and inferior to the house of Cassilis. chief of all the Kennedies. The Earl was indeed a minor, but his authority was maintained and his affairs well managed by his uncle, Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culleyne, the brother to the deceased earl, and tutor and guardian to the present. This worthy gentleman supported his nephew's dignity and the credit of the house so effectually that Barganie's consequence was much thrown into the shade, and the ambitious Auchindrane, his son-in-law, saw no better remedy than to remove so formidable a rival as Culleyne by violent means.

For this purpose, in the year 1597, he came with a party of followers to the town of Maybole (where Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culleyne resided), and lay in ambush in an orchard through which he knew that his destined victim was to pass, in returning homewards from a house where he was engaged to sup. Sir Thomas Kennedy came alone and unattended, when he was suddenly seized and fired upon by Auchindrane and his accomplices who, having missed their aim, drew their swords and rushed upon him to slay him. But the party thus assailed at disadvantage had the good fortune to hide himself for that time in a ruinous house, where he lay concealed till the inhabitants of the place came to his assistance.

Sir Thomas Kennedy prosecuted Muir for this assault, who, finding himself in danger from the law, made a son of apology and agreement with the Lord of Culleyne, to whose daughter he united his eldest son, in testimony of the closest friendship in future. This agreement was sincere on the part of Kennedy, who, after it had been entered into, showed himself Auchindrane's friend and assistant on all occasions. But it was most false and treacherous on that of Muir, who continued the purpose of murdering his new friend and ally on the first opportunity.

Auchindrane's first attempt to effect this was by means of the young Gilbert Kennedy of Barganie (for old Barganie. Auchindrane's father-in-law, was dead), whom he persuaded to brave Cassilis, as one who usurped an undue influence over the rest of the name. Accordingly, this hot-headed youth, at the instigation of Auchindrane, rode past the gate O' the Earl of Cassilis without waiting on his chief, or sending him any message of civility. This led to mutual defiance, being regarded by the earl, according to the ideas of the time, as a personal insult. Both parties took the field with their followers, at the head of about two hundred and fifty men on each side. The action which ensued was shorter and less bloody than might have been expected. Young Barganie, with the rashness of headlong courage, and Auchindrane, fired by deadly enmity to the house of Cassilis, made a precipitate attack on the earl, whose men were strongly posted and under cover. They were received by a heavy fire. Barganie was slain. Muir of Auchindrane, severely wounded in the thigh, became unable to sit on his horse, and the leaders thus slain or disabled, their party drew off without continuing the action. It must be particularly observed that Sir Thomas Kennedy remained neuter in this quarrel, considering his connection with Auchindrane as too intimate to be broken even by his desire to assist his nephew.

For this temperate and honourable conduct he met a vile reward; for Auchindrane, in resentment of the loss of his relative Barganie, and the downfall of his ambitious hopes, continued his practices against the life of Sir Thomas of Culleyne, and chance favoured his wicked purpose.

The knight of Culleyne, finding himself obliged to go to Edinburgh on a particular day, sent a message by a servant to Muir, in which he told him, in the most unsuspecting confidence, the purpose of his journey, and named the road which he proposed to take, inviting Muir to meet him at Duppill, to the west of the town of Ayr, a place appointed for the purpose of giving him any commissions which he might have for Edinburgh, and assuring his treacherous ally he would attend to any business which he might have in the Scottish metropolis as anxiously as to his own. Sir Thomas Kennedy's message was carried to the town of Maybole, where his messenger, for some trivial reason, had the import committed to writing by a schoolmaster in that town, and despatched it to its destination by means of a poor student, named Dalrymple, instead of carrying it to the house of Auchindrane in person. This suggested to Muir a diabolical plot. Having thus received tidings of Sir Thomas Kennedy's motions, he conceived the infernal purpose of having the confiding friend who sent the information waylaid and murdered at the place appointed to meet with him, not only in friendship, but for the purpose of rendering him service. He dismissed the messenger Dalrymple, cautioning the lad to carry back the letter to Maybole, and to say that he had not found him, Auchindrane, in his house. Having taken this precaution, he proceeded to instigate the brother of the slain Gilbert of Barganie, Thomas Kennedy of Drumurghie by name, and Walter Muir of Cloncaird, a kinsman of his own. to take this opportunity of revenging Barganie's death. The fiery young men were easily induced to undertake the crime. They waylaid the unsuspecting Sir Thomas of Culleyne at the place appointed to meet the traitor Auch-indrane, and the murderers having in company five or six servants well mounted and armed, assaulted and cruelly murdered him with many wounds.

The revenge due for his uncle's murder was keenly pursued by the Earl of Cassilis. As the murderers fled from trial, they were declared outlaws; which doom being pronounced by three blasts of a horn, was called "being put to the horn, and declared the king's rebel." Muir of Auchindrane was strongly suspected of having been the instigator of the crime. But he conceived there could be no evidence to prove his guilt if he could keep the boy Dalrymple out of the way, who delivered the letter which made him acquainted with Culleyne's journey, and the place at which he meant to halt. Muir brought Dalrymple to his house, but the youth tiring of this confinement, Muir sent him to reside with a friend. Montgomery of Skelmorley, who maintained him under a borrowed name amid the desert regions of the then almost savage island of Arran. Being confident in the absence of this material witness, Auchindrane, instead of flying like his agents Drumurghie and Cloncaird, presented himself boldly at the bar, demanded a fair trial, and offered his person in combat to the death against any of Lord Cassilis' friends who might impugn his innocence. This audacity was successful, and he was dismissed without trial.

Still, however, Muir did not consider himself safe so long as Dalrymple was within the realm of Scotland; and the danger grew more pressing, when he learned that the lad had become impatient of the restraint which he sustained in the island of Arran, and returned to some of his friends in Ayrshire. Muir no sooner heard of this than he again obtained possession of the boy's person, and a second time concealed him in Auchindrane, until he found an opportunity to transport him to the Low Countries, where he contrived to have him enlisted in Buccleuch's regiment; trusting, doubtless, that some one of the numerous chances of war might destroy the poor young man whose life was so dangerous to him.

But after five or six years' uncertain safety, bought at the expense of so much violence and cunning, Auchindrane's fears were exasperated with frenzy, when he found this dangerous witness, having escaped from all the perils of climate and battle, had left, or been discharged from, the Legion of Borderers, and had again accomplished his return to Ayrshire. There is ground to suspect that Dalrymple knew the nature of the hold which he possessed over Auchindrane, and was desirous of extorting from his fears some better provision than he had found either in Arran or the Netherlands. But, if so, it was a fatal experiment to tamper with the fears of such a man as Auchindrane, who determined to rid himself effectually of this unhappy young man. Muir now lodged him in a house of his own, called Chapeldonan, tenanted by a vassal and connection of his, named James Bannatyne. This man he commissioned to meet him at ten o'clock at night, on the sea-sands, near Girvan, and bring with him the unfortunate Dalrymple, the object of his fear and dread. The victim seems to have come with Bannatyne without the least suspicion. When Bannatyne and Dalrymple came to the appointed spot, Auchindrane met them, accompanied by his eldest son James. Old Auchindrane, having taken Bannatyne aside, imparted his bloody purpose of ridding himself of Dalrymple for ever, by murdering him on the spot. His own life and honour were, he said, endangered by the manner in which this inconvenient witness repeatedly thrust himself back into Ayrshire, and nothing could secure his safety but taking the lad's life, in which action he requested James Ban-natyne's assistance. Bannatyne felt some compunction, and remonstrated against the cruel expedient, saying it would be better to transport Dalrymple to Ireland, and take precautions against his return. While old Auchindrane seemed disposed to listen to this proposal, his son concluded that the time was come for accomplishing the purpose of their meeting, and without wailing the termination of his father's conference with Bannatyne, he rushed suddenly on Dalrymple, beat him to the ground, and kneeling down upon him, with his father's assistance accomplished the crime, by strangling the unhappy object of their fear and jealousy. Bannatyne, the witness, and partly the accomplice, of the murder, assisted them in their attempt to make a hole in the sand with a spade which they had brought on purpose, in order to conceal the dead body. But as the tide was coming in, the hole which they made filled with water before they could get the body buried ; and the ground seemed, to their terrified consciences, to refuse to be accessory to concealing their crime. Despairing of hiding the corpse in the manner they proposed, the murderers carried it out into the sea as deep as they dared wade, and there abandoned it to the billows, trusting that the wind, which was blowing off the shore, would drive these remains of their crime out to sea, where they would never more be heard of. But the sea, as well as the land, seemed unwilling to conceal their cruelty. After floating for some hours, or days, the body was, by the wind and tide, again driven on shore, near the very spot where the murder had been committed. This attracted general attention; and when the corpse was known to be that of the same William Dalrymple whom Auchindrane had so often spirited out of the country, or concealed when he was in it, a strong and general suspicion arose that this young person had met with foul play from the bold bad man, who had shown himself so much interested in his absence. Auchindrane, indeed, found himself so much the object of suspicion from this new crime that he resolved to fly from justice, and suffer himself to be declared a rebel and an outlaw rather than face a trial. He accordingly sought to provide himself with some ostensible cause for avoiding the law, with which the feelings of his kindred and friends might sympathise; and none occurred to him as so natural as an assault upon some friend and adherent of the Earl of Cassilis. Should he kill such a one, it would be indeed an unlawful action, but so far from being infamous, would be accounted the natural consequence of the avowed quarrel between the families. With this purpose, Muir, with the assistance of a relative, of whom he seems always to have had some ready to execute his worst purposes, beset Hugh Kennedy of Garriehorne, a follower of the earl, against whom they had especial ill-will, fired their pistols at him, and used other means to put him to death. But Garriehorne, a stout-hearted man and well-armed, defended himself in a very different manner from the unfortunate knight of Culleyne, and beat off the assailants, wounding young Auchindrane in the right hand, so that he well-nigh lost the use of it.

But though Auchindrane's purpose did not entirely succeed, he availed himself of it to circulate a report that if he could obtain a pardon for firing upon his feudal enemy with pistols, weapons declared unlawful by Act of Parliament, he would willingly stand his trial for the death of Dalrymple, respecting which he protested his total innocence. The king, however, was decidedly of opinion that the Muirs, both father and son, were alike guilty of both crimes, and used intercession with the Earl of Abercorn, as a person of power in these western counties, as well as in Ireland, to arrest and transmit them prisoners to Edinburgh. In consequence of the Earl's exertions, old Auchindrane was made prisoner, and lodged in the tolbooth of Edinburgh.

Young Auchindrane no sooner heard that his father was in custody, than he became as apprehensive of Bannatyne, the accomplice in Dalrymple's murder, telling tales, as ever his father had been of Dalrymple. He therefore hastened to him, and prevailed on him to pass over for a while to the neighbouring coast of Ireland, finding him money and means to accomplish the voyage, and engaging in the meantime to take care of his affaire in Scotland. Secure, as they thought, in this precaution, old Auchindrane persisted in his innocence, and his son found security to stand his trial. Both appeared with the same confidence at the day appointed. The trial was, however, postponed, and Muir the elder dismissed, under high security to return when called for.

But King James, being convinced of the guilt of the accused, ordered young Auchindrane, instead of being sent to trial, to be examined under the force of torture, in order to compel him to tell whatever he knew of the things charged against him. He was accordingly severely tortured; but the result only served to show that such examinations are as useless as they are cruel.

Young Auchindrane, a strong and determined ruffian, endured the torture with the utmost firmness, and by the constant audacity with which, in spite of the intolerable pain, he continued to assert his innocence, he spread so favourable an opinion of his case, that the detaining him in prison, instead of bringing him to open trial, was censured as severe and oppressive. James, however, remained firmly persuaded of his guilt, and by an exertion of authority quite inconsistent with our present laws, commanded young Auchindrane to be still detained in close custody till further light could be thrown on these dark proceedings.

In the meanwhile, old Auchindrane being, as we have seen, at liberty on pledges, skulked about in the west, feeling how little security he had gained by Dalrymple's murder, and that he had placed himself by that crime in the power of Bannatyne, whose evidence concerning the death of Dalrymple could not be less fatal than what Dalrymple might have told concerning Auchindrane's accession to the conspiracy against Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culleyne. But though the event had shown the error of his wicked policy, Auchindrane could think of no better mode in this case than that which had

failed in relation to Dalrymple. When any man's life became inconsistent with his own safety, no idea seems to have occurred to this inveterate ruffian save to murder the person by whom he might himself be any way endangered. Ban-natyne, knowing with what sort of men he had to deal, kept on his guard, and by this caution disconcerted more than one attempt to take his life. At length i Bannatyne, tiring of this state of insecurity, and in despair of escaping such repeated plots, and also feeling remorse for the crime to which he had been accessory, resolved rather to submit himself to the severity of the law than remain the object of the principal criminal's practices. He surrendered himself to the Earl of Abercorn, and was conveyed to Edinburgh, where he confessed before the king and council all the particulars of the murder of Dalrymple, and the attempt to hide his body by committing it to the sea.

When Bannatyne was confronted with the two Muirs before the Privy Council, they denied with vehemence every part of the evidence he had given, and affirmed that the witness had been bribed to destroy them by a false tale. Bannatyne's behaviour seemed sincere and simple, that of Auchindrane more resolute and crafty. The wretched accomplice fell upon his knees, invoking God to witness that all the land in Scotland could not have bribed him to bring a false accusation against a master whom he had served, loved, and followed in so many dangers, and calling upon Auchindrane to honour God by confessing the crime he had committed. Muir the elder, on the other hand, boldly replied, that he hoped God would not so far forsake him as to permit him to confess a crime of which he was innocent, and exhorted Bannatyne in his turn to confess the practices by which he had been induced to devise such falsehoods against him.

The two Muirs, father and son, were therefore put upon their solemn trial, along with Bannatyne, in 1611, and after a great deal of evidence had been brought in support of Bannatyne's confession, all three were found guilty. The elder Auchindrane was convicted of counselling and directing the murder of Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culleyne, and also of the actual murder of the lad Dalrymple. Bannatyne and the younger Muir were found guilty of the latter crime, and all three were sentenced to be beheaded. Bannatyne, however, the accomplice, received the king's pardon, in consequence of his voluntary surrender and confession. The two Muirs were both executed. The younger was affected by the remonstrances of the clergy who attended him, and he confessed the guilt of which he was accused. The father also was at length brought to avow the fact, but in other respects died as impenitent as he had lived; and so ended this dark and extraordinary tragedy.


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