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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 22


IT would have been no difficult matter, from the abundance of materials, to sketch the history of the M'Gregors downwards from the point at which we have broken off in last number—to show how, in the civil war, they once more raised their head, and under Patrick Roy, heir of Glenstrae, fought with loyalty so unflinching, and gallantry so conspicuous, as to merit the warmest thanks of the Marquis of Montrose, and obtain the written promise of the restitution of their old possessions, as soon as his Majesty was restored—to point out the sinister influence under which the solemn pledge was left unredeemed by the ungrateful Charles, and even the penal enactments revived, to reassure the hearts of the white-washed rebels, who battened on the spoil of the ruined clan—and to describe the firmness with which, for a century or more after the Restoration, they clung to clan-associations and hereditary traditions, in the face of many inducements to the contrary, until at last the British Parliament tardily abolished the Draconic Acts of King James, and gave back to the M'Gregors the only thing it then could—their ancient surname. But I am conscious of having already digressed too far from the subject matter; and besides, no commingling of history, no close bonds of connection with the family of Glenlyon, can be alleged as an excuse for dragging in posterior like former events. We shall therefore return to our old acquaintance, John Campbell, seventh Laird of Glenlyon, and to the period in his life at which we formerly left off—namely, the year 1714.

His eldest child, a daughter, was born that year; and after the difficulties thrown around his early career by a spendthrift father were so far surmounted, that he could look his numerous creditors in the face, with the certainty of being one day able to pay them all, he had the brightest prospects of happy competence before him, sweet domestic bliss, and the affection of a wide circle of friends, attached to him far less by family alliance than the manly courage and honest determination with which he met diminution of fortune, and the severe pecuniary obligations incurred by Robert the unfortunate. There is evidence that he actually looked upon his position in this cheerful, hopeful frame of spirit, and planned improvements on his property, and sensible expedients for paying his debts; when lo! a mysterious whisper breathed over the land, making men mad with the insanity of longing undefined expectation, and the sober John Campbell became the hot enthusiast, and, before all was over, experienced no less than Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia, the futility of plans of pleasure, and man's incapacity to enjoy bliss unalloyed.

Queen Anne died on the 1st of August, 1714. The schemes projected for several years by Bolingbroke and his party, abetted latterly by Anne, both from natural affection for her brother and old hatred to the family of Hanover for opening the succession to the Pretender, were disarranged and precipitated by her sudden death. Presuming upon the strength of the Jacobite party and the personal favour of the Queen, three or four leading statesmen had proceeded too far to expect favour or mercy from the Protestant successor, King George. Rather, therefore, than face a trial for high treason, or at best sink into forced obscurity and insignificance, these parties selfishly resolved upon wrapping their country in the flames of civil war. Their best excuse before the bar of history is that the King acted in the emergency more like the intolerant head of the Whig party than the constitutional monarch of Great Britain, the common father of his people. They may have really believed that the cold shade into which they themselves had fallen too truely typified the real gift received by the country in the Protestant and foreign dynasty. The chivalrous principle that enlisted the Highlanders on the side of the natural prince, can by no means be ascribed to the party politicians Oxford, Bolingbroke, and Mar. Power, wealth, and station, for themselves and families, formed the magnum bontim of these men; and though none of them considered himself an Esau, silly enough to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage, yet each and all would probably pledge honour and salvation for what George foolishly refused, the sunshine of the Court, and ultimate hope of securing posts and pensions with a little liberty, as heretofore, to sell the people and corrupt the Church. This rebellion is indeed incomparable for the meanness of underlying motives. The superlative hollowness of the principals, painfully contrasted with, and everything than relieved by, the unthinking bravery and instinctive loyalty of the poor deluded tools. Mar dismissed from office, and finding the monarch de facto looking coldly and suspiciously upon his tender of allegiance and devotion, opened a secret correspondence with the king dejure, retired to the Highlands, consulted with the hottest Highland Jacobites at the famous " Deer Hunt," and proclaimed the Chevalier de St. George at Castlc-ton of Braemar, 9th September, 1715.

The measure was not unexpected on the part of the Highlanders. The subjoined note was written by Stewart of Ballechin to the Laird of Glenlyon the 25th August of the preceding year, and twenty-four days after the Queen's death:—

"Ball: 25 Aug. 1714.

"Sir—I received ^18 Scots from yor servant, which I shall transmit to my brother Robert by my son Charles, who I doubt not will send hither Rob's obligation with thanks. As for news, I hear none save what the prints give us. All is very quiet and peaceable, and every man working at harvest and oyr lawfull employments, and no appearance of the least Disturbance. I give my service to all yours, and am, sir, your most humble servant, Chas : Stewart."

John Campbell of Glenlyon, who had apparently been anxious to plunge into rebellion in 1714, had in 1715 the rather unenviable honour of being the man who attempted to strike the first blow. As we shall have occasion to show immediately, his success was not commensurate with his enthusiasm, and the failure of the attempt was an omen of ill augury to the side he espoused.

When the signs of the coming storm became too evident to be longer misunderstood, the Government of King George, induced by the pressing energy of Argyle, took every prudent precaution to mitigate if not arrest its fury. One of these was, to deprive the disaffected, by one home thrust, of all their chief men, or if that failed, to drive them, before being fully prepared, into a precipitate and ill-concerted rebellion. Summonses were accordingly issued to all the heads of the Jacobite Clans, and other suspected persons in Scotland, to appear at Edinburgh by a certain day, in terms of a very stringent Act passed that year, to find bail for their good conduct. "Iain Glas" the aged Earl of Breadalbane, was among those summoned. He found no difficulty in obtaining from the minister of Ken-more (Alexander Comrie), of which parish he himself was patron, a certificate, upon soul and conscience, that, from age and infirmity, he could not be removed from his room, far less undertake a fatiguing journey to Edinburgh. Notwithstanding, the Earl was busy at the time mustering his men, and, within a fortnight, joined the Earl of Mar at Logierait! The Breadalbane men, to the number of 500, assembled about the middle of September, under John Campbell of Glenlyon, and marched into Argyleshire. We have formerly shown that the interests of the two great branches of the Campbells often clashed since "Iain Glas" succeeded to the headship of the younger or Breadalbane branch. The hopes of obtaining the undivided leadership of the Siol Diarmid, almost within his reach in 1685, had never been given up by the wily "pale John." Many gentlemen of the Campbells of Argyle had strong leanings in favour of James and hereditary right; and though, since the restitution of the Mac-Cailein-Mores to their honour and dignities, not daring to- offer active opposition, still by a persevering exercise of the vis inertia, they more than once weakened the hands of the chief. The state of affairs was very well known to Breadalbane, who hastened to avail himself of it by sending his men to Argyle, that his standard might be a rallying-point to the friends of James, and consequent enemies of John, Duke of Argyle. It was an attempt to rob Argyle of his following, and to deny at home the principle of legitimacy, for which Jacobites publicly contended.

Before marching, water off the "Clach-Buadh" was sprinkled upon the men. When Glenlyon came to a certain man called M'Calum, who appeared to shrink from the shower of water with which the chieftain sportively deluged him, the latter observed in jest, "Calum, you tremble, you coward!" "I do not tremble," replied Calum angrily; "but see you do not tremble. To your father's son it would be a greater shame." Calum M'Calum was a Glenlyon man, who for personal love to the old family had joined the host, like several others, of his own accord; and before the campaign was over, he proved satisfactorily that such service as he offered was not to be bought with gold, and that he had come of a race who never learned to "tremble."

Glenlyon marched into Argyle before Mar made a single move. At the head of his 500 men, he penetrated through the passes of that country without opposition. A few of the Campbells joined him, but by no means the number expected by Breadalbane. It was intended to occupy the places of strength, overawe the districts purely Presbyterian, and proclaim the Pretender at Inverary. Meantime, much to the discomfiture of these plans, Colonel Alexander Campbell of Fonab, sent by the Duke of Argyle, hastily raised the militia of the county for the service of King George, and brought up arms and ammunition from Glasgow. This experienced soldier, who learned his tactics under William and Marlborough, allowed the rash Glenlyon to proceed without molestation into the heart of the country, and then, by a skilful flank march, cut off his retreat, and left him but the alternative of surrendering at discretion, or of fighting under disadvantages tantamount to the certainty of annihilation, giving no chance of inflicting material injury upon the assailants. In these desperate circumstances, Glenlyon insisted upon running the risk of one attack, but was with difficulty over-ruled by John Campbell of Achallader, Breadalbane's chamberlain, and Campbell of Glendarule, who had been given to him by the Earl for advisers or "Comhairl Taighe." Fonab was not disposed to proceed to extremities. He had been the late Glenlyon's companion-in-arms; and whatever the world thought of the commander in the massacre of Glencoe, he had loved him as a brother, and as a brother had acted in seeing him honourably buried at Bruges, and in settling his perplexed affairs after his death. This generosity extended to the impoverished family; and we find that in 1703 he had lent to the present Glenlyon, then in great straits, the sum of 600 merks, which were repaid to Robert his son, and his widow Mary Bailie, in 1736, several years after his death. Besides the personal relation of the leaders, Fonab was aware that many on his own side, who would not scruple to fight well for King George in other circumstances, as the chief willed it, were averse to draw their swords against their brothers of the Siol Diarmid, and for the first time sow the seeds of mortal dissension amidst the chief branches of the surname. He therefore proposed that Glenlyon would withdraw his men, promise on his honour to abstain from injuring the inhabitants in his retreat, leave the country and engage not to invade it again. These terms were accepted, and both sides acted upon them without delay. The issue was fortunate for Glenlyon.

Before he crossed the borders of Argyle on his backward march, the Duke's brother, the Earl of Hay, arrived at Inverary from Edinburgh. This nobleman had exerted himself strenuously for suppressing the progress of the revolt in the capital, was enthusiastically attached to Presby-terianism and the Protestant succession, had talents of no mean order, but exhibited little or nothing of the national and clannish warmth of emotion, the patriotic and enlightened comprehensiveness of mind, the exalted sentiments and native unselfishness of his famous brother, John, Duke of Argyle and Greenwich—qualities which rarely meet in one person, and which, take him all in all, have stamped the character of Argyle in Scotch affection as the brightest historical legacy of that age of venal, treacherous politicians, and selfish generals. Hay's prudence, on the other hand, degenerated at times into low cunning, and his policy as a public man was but cruelty and intolerance in disguise. The conduct of Colonel Campbell incurred his severe censure, and an attempt was made to intercept the retreating band. Misfortune taught Glenlyon to retire with more caution than he advanced, and Hay was baulked of his object by finding that the tables were now turned, and the disadvantage of position and communication, under which the Breadalbane men first laboured, would be now on * the side of their assailants. The proposal was therefore given up, and Glenlyon quietly reached the borders of the county, where he remained for a few days to facilitate the assembling of the western clans. The expedition was of eminent service in this respect. Previous to Glenlyon's appearance in the shire, Lochiel, Glengarry, and Appin, with several subordinate chieftains, had been in correspondence with the Duke's representative, Colonel Campbell, and showed a strong inclination to remain true to their allegiance to the house of Hanover. It is a strange incident, read in the light of their past history and subsequent conduct, that the royalist offspring of Black Sir Evan of Lochiel, and the veteran Glengarry, who bore the banner of James at Killiecrankie, should at this time waver in their fidelity to the Stuarts. Such, however, was the case. They sent a message to Colonel Campbell, assuring him "that if he could promise them the Duke's friendship, they would, as soon as they could, get their men together, march them to In-verary, and join his (the Colonel's) men, who were in arms for the King (George), and they themselves would go to Stirling to wait on his Grace." The moment they heard of the "Yellow Banner" being displayed, the good promises to Colonel Campbell resolved into thin air, and they prepared in all haste to espouse the other, and to them natural, side. The former hesitation was chiefly owing to the fact, that as the western and northern nobility had not joined Mar, and as he and his principal adherents were not connected by previous ties with the Camerons and M'Donalds, these clans, narrowing the world to the circle of their traditions, shrank from trusting leaders of whom they knew nothing, and whose banners were not mentioned in the war songs of their bards. More prudential motives actuated the chiefs—both were men who had seen the world, and distinguished themselves as officers of the Duke of Berwick. The ability of Breadalbane was long their dread individually and collectively; his wisdom, or rather cunning and foresight, had passed into a proverb ; through the convulsions of more than threescore years he had both maintained his hereditary influence, and greatly added to it; would he now risk all without the certainty of success? Where he forded, could they not swim? The promptitude of the old Earl was the spark needed to excite the conflagration. The Camerons and M'Donalds thought of the days of Montrose, Evan Dubh, and Dundee; and at this crisis it is said the personal influence of the chiefs could not restrain their men from mustering under the banner of the ancient foes of their fathers, if they themselves would not lead them into rebellion as they desired.

Glenlyon, before leaving Argyle, saw Glengarry and Glenmoriston encamped at Achallader, on the Braes of Glenurchay, with 500 warlike followers. Shortly afterwards they moved their camp to Strathfillan. From the positions which they held, they completely covered the passes to Breadalbane, Glenlyon, and Rannoch. Argyle was completely sealed in. By the 18th October the Captain of Clanronald, Rob Roy, Stewart of Appin, Sir John M'Lean, M'Dougal of Lorn, with their followers, and a fresh levy of Breadalbane men, rendezvoused with the clans at Strathfillan. From this they marched into Argyle, and afterwards returning, joined the Earl of Mar on the eve of the Battle of Sheriffmuir, 2,400 strong.

Leaving Glengarry at Achallader, the Laird of Glenlyon marched down his native glen, and joined the Earl of Mar at Logierait with all his men.


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