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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 14


THE failure of the efforts to replace the Stuarts on the throne of Britain was so signal as to make it evident to Struan's strong common-sense, that the struggle in present circumstances, and probably for the future too, was nearly hopeless. He appeared so far reconciled to the Brunswick dynasty as to be willing to lead a peaceable life under the shadow of the legal Government, keeping his allegiance to the Stuarts like the private worship of the household gods. Marshal Wade was a fast friend of Struan ; but being invited to a ball given by the Marshal at Weem, Struan, according to Highland custom, having insisted on paying a part of the "lawing," so affronted the Englishman that he for a time lost his favour, and was also, what he liked better, in danger of being "called out." Struan, without a plack in his purse, would, like Caleb Balderston, have considered it a degradation not in all things to keep up the honour of the house, and show everybody he was chief of Clan-Donnachie—a potentate, in his opinion, differing from the Grand Monarque only in degree. His long residence in France had habituated Struan to the strict feudalism of that country, and the natural result was to make him, speculatively, the imitator of the petty, arrogant, despotic French seigneur; while his warm heart and clannish pride counteracted the evil, and made him, practically, the kindest and most affectionate of chiefs. He evidently considered himself a higher sort of individual than his followers —in fact, a being made of different clay. From him we never hear of the Robertsons and their deeds, but of the Chief of the Robertsons and his deeds, and this not so much from personal vanity—of which, however, he had a full allowance—but for the " credit of the house," he himself being the house for the time. The king accountable to God, the noble accountable to God and the king (perhaps, in fact, the latter should be first), the noble's vassal accountable to all the higher powers—and so on; the chains of authority duly increasing and tightening, to keep that beast, the multitude, properly tied down: such was, legitimately, the plan of government anxiously desired by the Stuarts, acted upon by Louis le Grand, and worshipped by Struan. Were the perfection of the Supreme to be found in the delegates, no objection could be made to it; and though, wanting that, it was perfectly absurd, yet it produced some good fruits; for the higher classes, affecting a character superior to their fellows, ended partly in really attaining it; and Montesquieu not inaptly reckons "Honour" the ruling principle of a government built on that idea. The grotesque contrast between Struan's acquired feudalism and the natural family affectionateness of the Highland chief to his followers comes out so strongly in his "Epitaph on his Servant," that it would have been capital burlesque had it not been nearly blasphemous :—

"Poor honest Dunky sleeps beneath this stone
'Till Heaven awakes him to the Judgment Throne;
From whence he needs not fear a dire decree,
For want of faith to God his king—or me.

Tho' poor, to mean and servile arts inclined,
No gain could taint his probity of mind.
No prince, no priest, a cleanlier heart could show—
With this great odds, that what he said was true.

For such a loss, the Eternal, unsevere
To human frailty, well permits a tear."

His "Epitaph on Himself" displays the same arrogant claims of superiority, and the unstinted laudation of self so natural in the "Lord of the Barony of Struan" and "The Chief of Clan-Donnachie"—a being above others by charter royal, a being whose pre-eminence of blood was recognised by 800 devoted subjects—a being, too, who was fully aware of the double honour of being head of the house and lord of the barony. Here is a part of the "Epitaph":—

"Tenacious of his faith to aid the cause
Of Heaven's Anointed and his country's laws,
Thrice he engaged, and thrice, with Stuart's race,
He failed; but ne'er complied with foul disgrace.
Tho' some, despising Heaven's most sacred ties,
Perjured for interest, acquiesced to lies,
Clan-Donnoch's Chief maintained his reputation
And scorned to flourish in an usurpation.
Lo! here his mortal part reposing lies,
Hoping once more the living man shall rise,
When the same pow'r breathes in the part that never dies.

* * * * *

There is nothing dignifies so much this dust,
As that, like God, he aimed at being just."

Struan was disposed sometimes to exert his rights of lordship in a manner not generally practised at that time in the Highlands. He would, for instance, threaten to carry any reforms he meditated into effect without caring much for the partialities of the clan, and indeed leave no choice at all to the "vassal." His plans were, to his honour, proposed for their good, not his. Extensive reading, travelling, experience, and good sense, placed him a century at least in advance of his age. He had talents and desire for being a reformer, but lacked the sternness and perseverance that would really make him such. A whine of distress, a tale of woe, would make him at once abandon his best laid scheme. To masterful spoilation—to thieving in all its forms, the common vice of his age and country —he always pronounced himself an uncompromising foe, Still, by playing on his weakness, the depredators made him a sort of chief and protector for them.

At the time of which we are speaking, twisted twigs, or withes, were the universal subtitutes for ropes. Cowbands, all the ties of horse-graith, &c, were generally made of withes. Before the introduction of carts, creels or panniers on the back of horses, tied with withes, were used instead ; hence the Gaelic adage—"Is mithich a bhi cuir na'n gad am bogadh"—which is equivalent to, "It is time to pack up bag and baggage." Great quantities of the birchen twigs suitable for withes were yearly cut above Carie, on the property of Struan. The Laird wished to keep them for the use of his own tenants ; but people from a distance often cut and took them. One man, who made quite a . trade of pillaging the copse, and selling the withes in the neighbouring districts, was at last caught in the act, and brought before Struan. The Laird stormed and threatened; "he would have thieves punished; he would make him repent the day he entered his woods." But after all, the honest Laid found it easier to scold than to dispose of the depredator. "What are we to do with him?" says Struan at last. "Do with him, Sir," answers the servant; "take his horse from him. He is too poor ever to get another one; and I'll be bound he'll never come to your woods again." "Take his horse from him, ye born scoundrel," responds the Laird, turning fiercely upon the servant; "the horse is his sole means of living, and he is a careful, diligent rascal, though a knave. No; let him have his horse, and my permission to cut withes when he likes. I wish to encourage industry if it be honest." Struan might have spared his indignation, for he arrived precisely at the conclusion the servant wished, though it was by pretending the very reverse he got him to it.

Like most of the Jacobites, Struan hated the Union, and counted the Scottish nobles who aided in bringing it about little better than renegades. Though rather long, and not very poetical, I would wish to quote his estimate of the different Scottish statesmen who conducted affairs under George I. and during the early part of his son's reign:—

ADVICE TO A PAINTER.

"Limner, would you expose Albania's fate,
Draw then a palace in a ruined state.
Nettles and briers instead of fragrant flowers,
Sleet, hail, and snow, instead of gentle showers:
Instead of plenty, all things meagre look,
And into swords turn plough-crow, scythe, and hook—
Instead of guards, you ravenous wolves must place,
And all the signs of government deface;
Instead of order, justice, and good laws,
Let all appear confused as the first Chaos.
Near to this palace, make on every hand
The ruins of two noble fabrics stand—
A Church where none but priests of Baal do stay;
A Court of Justice filled with birds of prey.
With a bold pencil draw the great Argyle—
In some respects the glory of our Isle—
Draw his intrepid heart and generous mind,
Where nought that's base did ever harbour find;
But near him place his brother, and display
With what base arts he leads his friends astray.
Give him an air that's sullen and morose,
Still looking downward; his dark mind expose.
Let Roxburgh next upon the canvas stand,
Supported by the vilest, sordid band
That ever did invest this wretched land,
In proper colour paint his vicious mind,
Which rules of honour never yet could bind;
Where truth and justice, banished far away,
Revenge and falsehood bear a sovereign sway.
Limmer, proceed; conspicuously expose
The chicken-hearted, narrow soul, Montrose.
Show how he doth debase his noble line,
Which heretofore illustriously did shine:
Show how he makes himself a tool of State,
A slave to avarice, to his friends ingrate.
Tweedale demands a place upon the stage—
Composed and learned, though scarce attained to age.
Time must determine how he will employ
The talents which he largely doth enjoy.
As from the morn the day is often guessed,
He'll prove, I fear, a hawk, like to the nest.
Queensberry next a station here should claim—
O, how I tremble when I write his name!
Will he, for what his father did, atone,
Or will he in the same course still go on?
To Stair allow, as he deserves, some space,
And round about him the Dalrymple race.
Describe how they their sovereign did betray,
|And sell their nation's liberty away.
Let Haddington appear, as is his due,
Among a rakish unbelieving crew;
And near him place no man that has desire
T' escape the danger of eternal fire.
Place Sutherland, Orkney, Lauderdale, Morton,
Rothes, Ross, Buchan, Balhaven, Bute, Hopton,
All close together as a pack of fools,
And near to them another class of tools;
When Douglas, Hyndford, Selkirk, bore some sway,
And Lothian won't to Forrester give way.
But now reserve some place for Athole's Grace,
In every one of these two ranks him place;
Do not forget his visage to describe,
And fill his breast with avarice and pride.
Near to him let his Grace of Gordon stand—
For these two drakes may well go hand in hand—
And if you mount him on his Tuscan steed,
Leave him full room to gallop off with speed.
Finlater surely will pretend some space,
|For he ne'er wants pretensions to a place;
For this, a footman court, his friends betray,
Engage at night, and break his course ere day;
Profound respect for every party pay;
A place for him apart, assign you must,
For who'd be near to him, whom none would trust?
If these will but reflect on what is past,
Give any one a stone that first will cast.
With these you may a canvas large supply,
And then to match them all the world defy."

Struan must have been close upon eighty when Charles landed. He was too old and feeble to take the field in person, but did all he could for forwarding the cause. He had an interview with the Prince when the latter was in Athole, and came away filled with enthusiasm for the "Young Chevalier." He blamed him, however, for his choice of commanders, and sorrowfully predicted the sad issue of the undertaking. Since their chief could not lead them, and from other reasons too, over which poor Struan had no control, the Robertsons did not fight under Charles as a separate clan, though great numbers of them were present under the banners of neighbouring chiefs.

After Culloden, the wrath of the victors did not allow Struan to go off unpunished. His lands were ravaged, his house burned to the ground, and the feeble old Jacobite had to skulk in secret dens and woods, an outlaw for the third time. The women of Camghouran, it is said, saved him once vi et armis from being caught. They seized upon the officers of justice, and ducked them so well in the mill-dam that they were glad to escape with life. When under hiding, he was at times in need of the barest necessaries of life. His shepherd appears, from the following, to have been his chief purveyor :—

A ROUNDEL ON STRUAN'S SHEPHERD.

"Our shepherd is our guardian angel;
When we would jouk our foes
He plots to put us out of danger;
Our shepherd is our guardian angel,
And makes us feed at rack and manger,
In spite of George's nose.
Our shepherd is our guardian angel
When we would jouk our foes."

In his troubles and infirmities he kept up the same stout heart, and his jovial muse was not a whit less hopeful and caustic than when, nearly sixty years before, he drew his maiden sword under Dundee. Like the rest of his countrymen, Struan appears to have taken up the strong unfounded prejudice against Lord George Murray. Let us hear the hoary outlaw's song in the woods of Rannoch :—

A BALLAD.

"A hoary swain inured to care
Has toiled these sixty years,
Yet ne'er was haunted with despair,
Nor subject much to tears:
Whatever fortune pleased to send
He always hoped a joyful end,
With a fa la la la la la.

He sees a champion of renown
Loud in the blast of fame,
For safety, scouring up and down,
Uncertain of his aim:
For all his speed a ball from gun
Could faster fly than he could run,
With a fa la, &c.

Another labouring to be great
By some is counted brave;
His will admits of no debate,
Pronounced with look so grave:
Yet 'tis believed he is found out
Not quite so trusty as he's stout.
With a fa la, &c.

An action well contrived of late
Illustrates this my tale,
Where two brave heroes tried their fate
In fortune's fickle scale:
Where 'tis surmised they wisely fought,
In concert with each other's thought.
With a fa la, &c.

But first they knew that mountaineers
(As apt to fight as eat)
Who once could climb the hills like deers,
Now fainted without meat,
While English hearts their hunger stanch,
Grew valiant as they crammed their paunch.
With a fa la, &c.

Thus fortified with beef and sleep
They waddling sought their foes,
Who scarce awake their eyes could keep,
Far less distribute blows.
To whom we owe the fruits of this
Inspect who will, 'tis not amiss.
With a fa la, &c.

Tho' we be sorely now oppressed,
By numbers driven from home,
Yet fortune's wheel may turn at last,
And justice back may come.
In Providence we'll put our trust,
Which ne'er abandons quite the just.
With a fa la, &c.

Even let them plunder, kill, and burn,
And on our vitals prey,
We'll hope for Charles' safe return,
As justly so we may:
The laws of God and man declare
The son should be the father's heir.
With a fa la, &c.

Let wretches, flustered with revenge,
Dream they can conquer hearts,
The steady mind will never change,
Spite of their cruel arts;
We still have woods and rocks and men,
What they pull down to raise again.
With a fa la, &c.

And now let's fill the healing cup
Enjoined in sacred song,
To keep the sinking spirits up
And make the feeble strong.
How can the sprightly flame decline
That always is upheld by wine.
With a fa la, &c."

When vengeance was glutted with the hecatombs offered on her altars, the search after Struan slackened, and he appears to have obtained a protection, for he was permitted to build a small hut on the blackened ruins of his former home, and there he died in 1749. Reqtiiescat in pace.


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