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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 13


A PROCLAMATION of indemnity being published by Queen Anne in March, 1703, in favour of all who had borne arms against Government since 1688, most of the Jacobites in France then came home. Struan returned with the rest. He quietly took possession of his property, as if no forfeiture had taken place. Now his own master, and the independent chief of several hundred devoted adherents, he began with enthusiasm to form plans for the beautifying and improving of his estate, in the prosecution of which he exhibited a great deal of sound common-sense, mingled with the taste acquired in France, and with not a little of his own natural oddity of character. The fir woods were turned to account, and good regulations laid down for the proper grazing and cultivation of the ground. But the favourite creation of Struan's taste was the Hermitage of Mount Alexander. Choosing the bold bluff mound, standing, sentinel-like, at the entrance of Rannoch for a site, he placed his nest on the top, and ornamented and planted all round, as he himself styles it, "A la mode de France." From this sanctuary woman was strictly excluded. He was exclusively served by male attendants, and the company invited to his jovial bachelor feasts were, without exception, of the same sex. To his servants he was a kind and indulgent master. This was the advice he gave one of them when entering upon his employment:—

"You are a stranger, and I'll tell you the sort of master you have got. I'll make you serve me right. I'm dreadfully hasty, too, and shall scold you at times without rhyme or reason. When I'm angry, I'll not bear you to be insolent, nor a dumb dog neither. When you are right and I wrong, defend yourself like a man, but do it without impertinence." Almost every gate and door about the Hermitage bore proofs of Struan's poetical talents. Take for example :—

LINES OVER THE DOOR OF MOUNT ALEXANDER.

"Turn thee, judicious guest, and relish all
The various beauties of the globe, in small.
The power and being of a God you'll trace
In the contexture of this narrow space."

OVER THE DINING ROOM DOOR.

"Let no excess in our plain board appear,
For moderation is the best of cheer.
Oft-times the man, in meat and drink profuse,
Frantic or dull, with the bewitching juice,
Forgets the God that gave it for his use."

OVER THE BEDCHAMBER DOOR.

"Here taste a sweet and undisturbed repose,
A short-lived death t' unbend thy mind from woes.
Yet be prepared, not knowing but thou'rt bound
To fetch thy nap till the last trump shall sound.*

But the "Lines over Mount Alexander Gate" were those that chiefly provoked the ire of the fair, and called forth their poetical castigation :—

"In this small spot whole paradise you'll see,
With all its plants but the forbidden tree.
Here every sort of animal you'll find,
Subdued, but woman who betrayed mankind.

All kinds of insects, too, their shelter take
Within these happy groves, except the snake.
In fine, there's nothing poisonous here enclosed,
But all is pure as heaven at first disposed.
Woods, hills, and dales, with milk and corn abound.
Traveller, pull off thy shoes, 'tis holy ground."

The jovial, whimsical, warm-hearted Struan was a prime favourite with all parties. He was, in fact, a privileged person. His known eccentricity, his learning, and poetical genius, no less than his extreme sense of honour, and the antiquity of his family, endeared him to Whig and Jacobite, and excused in him those political sallies and practices which would consign another to a State prison. Struan was no intriguer. He could only think of the restoration of his "King" by a bold and chivalrous coup-de-main. But though not implicated in the tortuous secret checks and counter-checks of parties, he could see by his frolicsome eye more than those he came in contact with counted upon, and their selfish littleness and fine-spun-scheming formed a subject for his rough hearty muse much oftener than they at all wished. Party-spirit did not blind him as much as others either to falsehood or worth. The firmest Jacobite in the three kingdoms, he could ridicule the caballers of St. Germains, and eulogise the Duke of Argyle, without affording the least ground of suspicion of having turned his coat.

Struan was suddenly called from his nine years' quiet retirement. Anne died; the Elector of Hanover was proclaimed King of Great Britain; Mar proclaimed the Chevalier at Moulinearn—these events followed fast upon each other. Struan was among the first to join the rebel Earl. He had been previously summoned to attend at Edinburgh, under the pain of fine and imprisonment, to give bail for his allegiance to the existing Government— From his hostility to the whole race of "wee lairdies," and to their chief in special, he was known at this time among his Jacobite friends by the nick-name of "Elector."

Mar thought it of much importance to gain the hearty co-operation of the " Elector of Struan." He was anxious to humour him himself, and endeavoured to make others do so also. At the beginning of the rebellion, Perth was seized by the Jacobites of Fife. Colonel Hay, brother to the Earl of Kinnoull, was appointed governor of the captured city, with very despotic instructions indeed. Alexander of Struan, with his Robertsons, reinforced Hay by order of Mar. In his letter to Hay, Mar thus introduces Struan:—"You must take care to please the Elector of Struan, as they call him. He is an old colonel; but, as he says himself, understands not much of the trade. So he'll be ready to be advised by Colonel Balfour and Urquhart. As for money, I am not so rife of it as I hope to be soon ; but I have sent off the little I have, fifty guineas, by the bearer." Struan's enthusiasm was of that infectious kind which spread from man to man. His zeal shamed the sluggish and inflamed the lukewarm. One of the ways by which he dragged half-unwilling recruits to the standard of the Chevalier may be seen from the following lines:—

STRUAN TO HIS BROTHER, DUNCAN VOIR, OVER A BOTTLE.

"To retrieve your good name
And establish your fame
Dear Goth* let your fiddling alone:
'Tis better to go

* Struan calls his brother by this nickname very often.

And fight with the foe
That keeps royal James from his own."

DUNCAN VOIR'S ANSWER.

"The fatigues of the field
Small pleasures can yield
But the silly repute of a Hector;
Then at Carie we'll stay,
And drink every day,
With the dear little prig, the Elector."

Such humorous bantering was with Struan a common weapon. Duncan Voir did go out to seek the "silly repute of a Hector," but got a long imprisonment instead. Another brother was among the slaughtered at Preston.

At the Battle of Sheriffmuir, Struan, along with Lord Strathallan, commanded the centre of Mar's second line. The honest laird distinguished himself more by his downright knight-errant. bravery than by the talents proper for a commander. When the English dragoons reeled before the first furious onset of the clans, Struan, it is said, threw himself before the lines, and, holding up his purse, shouted to one of the retreating foe, "Turn, caitiff, turn; fight with me for money, if not for honour!"

The firmness of the Government forces, and the ability of their general, though the battle was undecisive enough to allow both parties the claim of victory, made such an impression upon the insurgents, that many began to despair of the issue, and gradually deserted their colours. Struan's sanguine nature, roused by actual conflict to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, overlooked all obstacles and difficulties in the way, and fixedly gazed on the expected result, the installing of James at Whitehall. The song in which he expressed his feelings immediately after the Battle of Sheriffmuir will show his sentiments better than anything else:—

"Since loyalty is still the same
Whether it win or lose the game,
To flinch it were a burning shame
Since Mar has won a battle:
Let each brave true-hearted
Scot Improve the victory he has got,
Resolving all shall go to pot,
Or James the Eighth to settle.

Let those unmanly men who fear,
With downcast looks, and hanging ears,
Who think each shadow that appears
An enemy pursuing—
Let such faint-hearted souls be gone,
The dangers of the field to shun;
We'll make Argyle once more to run,
And think on what he's doing.

Can poor Low-country water-rats,
Withstand our furious mountain-cats,
The dint of whose well-armed pats
So fatally confoundeth,
When many hundred warlike men
Were so well cut, and so well slain,
That they can scarce get up again
When the last trumpet soundeth?

Come, here's to the victorious Mar,
Who bravely first conceived the war,
And to all those who went so far
To shake off Union's slavery—
Whose fighting for such noble cause
As king and liberty and laws,
Must from their foes even force applause,
In spite of their own knavery."

But the affairs of the insurgents were rapidly falling to ruin. Few were animated with a spirit similar to Struan's. The Chevalier arrived at Perth in January, and made a shadowy attempt to assume the insignia and discharge the functions of royalty. The presence of the Prince in the rebel camp did more harm than good. His pale melancholy face showed no trace of sanguine hope; and instead of using the animating military eloquence of a Montrose or Dundee, to rally and encourage his followers, the unhappy Chevalier did so preserve that silent deportment naturally belonging to him—but in present circumstances so thoroughly out of place—as to provoke the Highlanders to ask "if he could speak?" On the approach of Argyle the insurgent camp finally broke up ; and after a few weeks' residence in the country, James embarked at Dundee for France in the beginning of February, 1716, and never returned. After his unmartial conduct on this occasion, though cherishing their allegiance to him as a religious sentiment, James never thoroughly gained the love of the Highlanders for his person in the way his son -Charles Edward did. After Sheriffmuir, Struan does not again mention his name, coupled as formerly with personal commendation, but merely as the perpetuator and temporary representative of the "sacred blood of anointed kings." The disappointment appears to have been universal; and, indeed, had it been otherwise, Charles' name would not have so completely eclipsed that of his royal father in the rebellion of '45 and ever afterwards. The language of official documents might be different; but few of the Highlanders thought at Culloden they were fighting for any person or thing other than the Prince and Prince alone. Before leaving the country, the Chevalier sent a letter to the Duke of Argyle, "desiring him, if not as an obedient subject, at least as a lover of his country," to appropriate certain sums of money left behind by him, for the purpose of repairing, as far as possible, the damages of war. The Duke's merciful order, to "spare the poor blue bonnets" at Sheriffmuir, sank deep into the grateful hearts of the rebels, and his manly talents and known integrity pointed him out to all but to the Germanised London Government as the fittest person for settling the troubles following the rebellion. Struan's lines to the Duke on the same occasion are creditable to both :—

"By gentle means mankind is formed to good,
Virtue's inculcated, and vice subdued:
The tender patriot's mildness oft prevails
When the tumultuous warrior's fury fails.
This Scotia saw, when, by your milder art,
You gained th' applause and love of every heart.
Th' unconquerable clans, when you engage,
Bold to perform, as in your counsel sage,
Submit their interests, and dismiss their rage.
Safe on your word, they fear no treacherous foe,
No breach of public faith, no Preston, no Glencoe."

Struan and the Laird of Glenlyon accompanied their Prince to France. The estate was a second time forfeited. Struan continued in exile until 1724 or thereabouts. During his exile, war broke out between Great Britain and Spain. Cardinal Alberoni formed a scheme for distracting the efforts of England, by fitting out an expedition for supporting the pretensions of James. The conducting of this expedition was entrusted to Ormond. The Regent Orleans sided with King George. Attempts were made to engage the famous Duke of Berwick, natural son of James II., now a Marshal of France, in this expedition. In the eyes of Struan, Berwick was clearly the man of the age; he introduces his name as often as he can, and always associated with praise. With great respect, tempered with a little disappointed bitterness, he expostulates with the Duke about the Ormond expedition, and counsels him directly to desert France and fly to Spain. It would appear that Struan obtained, for the second time, pardon from Government, through the intercession of the Dukes of Argyle and Albemarle. In 1723, the estate was granted to Struan's sister, which grant she, according, as it would seem, to a previous arrangement, transferred to trustees for her brother in liferent, and in reversion to the next heir-male of the family.


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