Legends of The Black Watch or
The Story of Farquhar Shaw
THIS soldier, whose name,
from the circumstances connected with his remarkable story, daring
courage, and terrible fate, is still remembered in the regiment, in the
early history of which he bears so prominent a part, was one of the first
who enlisted in Captain Campbell of Finab's independent band of the
Reicudan Dhu, or Black Watch, when the six separate companies composing
this Highland force were established along the Highland Border in 1729, to
repress the predatory spirit of certain tribes, and to prevent the levy of
black mail. The companies were independent, and at that time wore the clan
tartan of their captains, who were Simon Frazer, the celebrated Lord Lovat;
Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochnell; Grant of Ballindalloch; Alister Campbell
of Finab, whose father fought at Darien; lan Campbell of Carrick, and
Deors Monro of Culcairn.
The privates of these
companies were all men of a superior station, being mostly cadets of good
families gentlemen of the old Celtic and patriarchal lines, and of
baronial proprietors. In the Highlands, the only genuine mark of
aristocracy was descent from the founder of the tribe; all who claimed
this were styled uislain, or gentlemen, and, as such, when off duty, were
deemed the equal of the highest chief in the land. Great care was taken by
the six capons to secure men of undoubted courage, of good stature,
stately deportment, and handsome figure. Thus, in all the old Highland
regiments, but more especially the Reicudan Dhu, equality of blood and
similarity of descent, secured familiarity and regard between the officers
and their men-for the latter deemed themselves inferior to no man who
breathed the air of heaven. Hence, according to an English engineer
officer, who frequently saw these independent companies, "many of those
private gentlemen-soldiers have gillies or servants to attend upon them in
their quarters, and upon a march, to carry their provisions, baggage, and
Such was the composition of
the corps, now first embodied among that remarkable people, the Scottish
Highlanders, a people, says the Historian of Great Britain, untouched by
the Roman or Saxon invasions on the south, and by those of the Danes on
the east and west skirts of their country- the unmixed remains of that
vast Celtic empire, which once stretched from the Pillars of Hercules to
The Reicudan Dhu were armed with the usual weapons and accoutrements of
the line; but, in addition to these, had the arms of their native country
- the broadsword, target, pistol, and long dagger, while the sergeants
carried the old Celtic tuagh, or Lochaber axe. It was distinctly
understood by all who enlisted
in this new force, that their military duties were to be confined within
the Highland Border, where, from the wild, predatory spirit of those clans
which dwelt next the Lowlands, it was known that they would find more than
enough of military service of the most harassing kind. In the conflicts
which daily ensued among the mountains-in the sudden marches by night; the
desperate brawls among Caterans, who were armed to the teeth, fierce as
nature and outlawry could make them, and who dwelt in wild and pathless
fastnesses secluded amid rocks, woods, and morasses, there were few who in
courage, energy, daring, and activity equalled Farquhar Shaw, a gentleman
from the Braes of Lochaber, who was esteemed the premier private in the
company of Campbell of Finab, which was then quartered in that district;
for each company had its permanent cantonment and scene of operations
during the eleven years which succeeded the first formation of the
Farquhar was a perfect
swordsman, and deadly shot alike with the musket and pistol; and his
strength was such, that he had been known to twist a horse-shoe, and drive
his skene dhu to the hilt in a pine log; while his activity and power of
enduring hunger, thirst, heat, cold and fatigue, became a proverb among
the companies of the Watch: for thus had he been reared and trained by his
father, a genuine old Celtic gentleman and warrior, whose memory went back
to the days when Dundee led the valiant and true to the field of Rinrory,
and in whose arms the viscount fell from his horse in the moment of
victory, and was borne to the house of Urrard to die. He was a true
Highlander of the old school; for an old school has existed in all ages
and everywhere, even among the Arabs, the children of Ishmael, in the
desert; for they, too, have an olden time to which they look back with
regret, as being nobler, better, braver, and purer than the present. Thus,
the father of Farquhar Shaw was a grim duinewassal, who never broke bread
or saw the sun rise without uncovering his head and invoking the names of
"God, the Blessed Mary, and St. Colme of the Isle; "who never sat down to
a meal without opening wide his gates, that the poor and needy might enter
freely; who never refused the use of his purse and sword to a friend or
kinsman, and was never seen unarmed, even in his own dining-room; who
never wronged any man ; but who never suffered a wrong or affront to pass,
without sharp and speedy vengeance; and who, rather than acknowledge the
supremacy of the House of Hanover, died sword in hand at the rising in
Glensheil. For this act, his estates were seized by the House of
Breadalbane, and his only son, Farquhar, became a private soldier in the
ranks of the Black Watch.
It may easily be supposed,
that the son of such a father was imbued with all his cavalier spirit, his
loyalty and enthusiasm, and that his mind was filled by all the military,
legendary, and romantic memories of his native mountains, the land of the
Celts, which, as a fine Irish ballad says, was THEIRS
Ere the Roman or the Saxon, the Norman or the Dane,
Had first set foot in Britain, or trampled heaps of slain,
Whose manhood saw the Druid rite, at forest tree and rock-
And savage tribes of Britain round the shrines of Zernebok;
Which for generations witnessed all the glories of the Gael,
Since their Celtic sires sang war-songs round the sacred fires of Baal.
When it was resolved by
Government to form the six independent Highland Companies into one
regiment, Farquhar Shaw was left on the sick list at the cottage of a
widow, named Mhona Cameron, near Inverlochy, having been wounded in a
skirmish with Caterans in Glennevis, and he writhed on his sickbed when
his comrades, under Finab, marched for the Birks of Aberfeldy, the
muster-place of the whole, where, the companies were to be united into one
battalion, under the celebrated John Earl of Crawford and Lindesay, the
last of his ancient race, a hero covered with wounds and honours won in
the services of Britain and Russia.
Weak, wan, and wasted
though he was (for his wound, a slash from a pole-axe, had been a severe
one), Farquhar almost sprang from bed when he heard the notes of their
retiring pipes dying away, as they marched through Maryburgh, and round by
the margin of Lochiel. His spirit of honour was ruffled, moreover, by a
rumour, spread by his enemies the Caterans, against whom he had fought
repeatedly, that he was growing faint-hearted at the prospect of the
service of the Black Watch being extended beyond the Highland Border. As
rumours to this effect were already finding credence in the glens, the
fierce, proud heart of Farquhar burned within him with indignation and
At last, one night, an old
crone, who came stealthily to the cottage in which he was residing,
informed him that, by the same outlaws who were seeking to deprive him of
his honour, a subtle plan had been laid to surround his temporary
dwelling, and put him to death, in revenge for certain wounds inflicted by
his sword upon their comrades.
The energy and activity of
the Black Watch had long since driven the Caterans to despair, and nothing
but the anticipation of killing Farquhar comfortably, and chopping him
into ounce pieces at leisure, enabled them to survive their troubles with
anything like Christian fortitude and resignation.
"And this is their plan,
mother?" said Farquhar to the crone.
"To burn the cottage, and
you with it"
"Dioul! say you so, Mother
Mhona," he exclaimed ; "then 'tis time I were betaking me to the hills.
Better have a cool bed for a few nights on the sweet-scented heather, than
be roasted in a burning cottage, like a fox in its hole."
In vain the cotters
besought him to seek concealment elsewhere; or to tarry until he had
gained his full strength.
"Were I in the prime of
strength, I would stay Here", said Farquhar; "and when sleeping on my
sword and target, would fear nothing. If these dogs of Caterans came,
they should be welcome to my life, if I could not redeem it by the three
best lives in their band; but I am weak as a growing boy, and so shall be
off to the free mountain side, and seek the path that leads to the Birks
"But the Birks are far from
here, Farquhar," urged old Mhoua.
"Attempt, and Did-not, were
the worst of Fingal's hounds" replied the soldier. "Farquhar will owe you
a day in harvest for all your kindness; but his comrades wait, and go he
must! Would it not be a strange thing and a shameful, too, if all the
Reicudan Dhu should march down into the flat, bare land of the Lowland
clowns, and Farquhar not be with them? What would Finab, his captain,
think? and what would all in Brae Lochaber say ?"
Yet pause," continued the
"Pause! Dhia! my father's
bones will soon be battering in their grave, far away in green Glensheil,
where he died for King James, Mhona."
"Beware," continued the old
woman, " lest you go for ever, Farquhar."
"It is longer to for ever
than to Beltane, and by that day I must be at the Birks of Aberfeldy."
Then, seeing that he was
determined, the crones muttered among themselves that the tarvecoill would
fall upon him; but Farquhar Shaw, though far from being free of his native
superstitions, laughed aloud; for the tarvecoill is a black cloud, which,
if seen en a new-year's eve, is said to portend stormy weather; hence it
is a proverb for a misfortune about to happen.
"You were unwise to become
a soldier, Farquhar" was their last argument.
"The tongue may tie a knot
which the teeth cannot untie."
"As your husband's tongues
did, when they married you all, poor men!" was the good-natured retort of
Farquhar. "But fear not for me; ere the snow begins to melt on Ben Nevis,
and the sweet wallflower to bloom on the black Castle of Inverlochy, I
will be with you all again," he added, while belting his tartan-plaid
about him, slinging his target on his shoulder, and whistling upon Bran,
his favourite stag-hound, he then set out to join the regiment, by the
nearest route, on the skirts of Ben Nevis, resolving to pass the head of
Lochlevin through Larochmohr, and the deep glens that lead towards the
Braes of Rannoch, a long, desolate, and perilous journey, but with his
sword, his pistols, and gigantic hound to guard him, his plaid for a
covering, and the purple heather for a bed wherever he halted, Farquhar
His faithful dog Bran,
which had shared his couch and plaid since the time when it was a puppy,
was a noble specimen of the Scottish hound, which was used of old in the
chase of the white bull, the wolf, and the deer, and which is in reality
the progenitor of the common greyhound ; for the breed has degenerated in
warmer climates than the stern north. Bran (so named from Bran of old) was
of such size, strength, and courage, that he was able to drag down the
strongest deer; and, in the last encounter with the Caterans of Glen
Nevis, he had saved the life of Farquhar, by tearing almost to pieces one
who would have slain him, as he lay wounded on the field. His hair was
rough and grey; his limbs were muscular and wiry; his chest was broad and
deep; his keen eyes were bright as those of an eagle. Such dogs as Bran
bear a prominent place in Highland song and story. They were remarkable
for their sagacity and love of their master, and their solemn, and
dirge-like howl was ever deemed ominous and predictive of death and woe.
Bran and his master were
inseparable. The noble dog had long been invaluable to him when on hunting
expeditions, and now since he had become a soldier in the Reicudan Dhu,
Bran was always on guard with him, and the sharer of all his duties; thus
Farquhar was wont to assert, "that for watchfulness on sentry, Brands two
ears were worth all the rest in the Black Watch put together."
The sun had set before
Farquhar left the green thatched clachan, and already the bases of the
purple mountains were dark, though a red glow lingered on their heath-clad
summits. Lest some of the Cateran band, of whose malevolence he was now
the object, might already have knowledge or suspicion of his departure and
be watching him with lynx-like eyes from behind some rock or bracken bush,
he pursued for a time a path which led to the westward, until the darkness
closed completely in ; and then, after casting round him a rapid and
searching glance, he struck at once into the old secluded drove-way or
Fingalian road, which descended through the deep gorge of Corriehoilzie
towards the mouth of Glencoe.
On his left towered Ben
Nevis - or "the Mountain of Heaven" - sublime and vast, four thousand
three hundred feet and more in height, with its pale summits gleaming in
the starlight, under a coating of eternal snow. On his right lay deep
glens yawning between pathless mountains that arose in piles above each
other, their sides torn and rent by a thousand water-courses, exhibiting
rugged banks of rock and gravel, fringed by green waving bracken leaves
and black whin bushes, or jagged by masses of stone, lying in piles and
heaps, like the black, dreary, and Cyclopean ruins of an earlier world.
Before him lay the wilderness of Larochmohr, a scene of solitary and
solemn grandeur, where, under the starlight, every feature of the
landscape, every waving bush, or silver birch; every bare scalp of
porphyry, and every granite block torn by storms from the cliffs above;
every rugged watercourse, tearing in foam through its deep marl bed
between the tufted heather seemed shadowy, unearthly, and weird-dark and
mysterious; and all combined, were more than enough to impress with
solemnity the thoughts of any man, but more especially those of a
Highlander; for the savage grandeur and solitude of that district at such
an hour -the gloaming- ere alike, to use a paradox, soothing and terrific.
There was no moon. Large
masses of crape-like vapour sailed across the blue sky, and by gradually
veiling the stars, made yet darker the gloomy path which Farquhar had to
traverse. Even the dog Bran seemed impressed by the unbroken stillness,
and trotted close as a shadow by the bare legs of his master.
For a time Farquhar Shaw
had thought only of the bloodthirsty Caterans, who in their mood of
vengeance at the Black Watch in general, and at him in particular, would
have hewn him to pieces without mercy; but now as the distance increased
between himself and their haunts by the shores of the Lochy and Eil, other
thoughts arose in his mind, which gradually became a prey to the
superstition incident alike to his age and country, as all the wild tales
he had heard of that sequestered district, and indeed of that identical
glen which he was then traversing, crowded upon his memory, until he,
Farquhar Shaw, who would have faced any six men sword in hand or would
have charged a grape-shotted battery without fear, actually sighed with
apprehension at the waving of a hazel bush on the lone hill side.
Of many wild and terrible
things this locale was alleged to be the scene, and with some of these the
Highland reader may be as familiar as Farquhar.
A party of the Black Watch
in the summer of 1738, had marched up the glen, under the command of
Corporal Malcolm MacPherson (of whom more anon), with orders to seize a
flock of sheep and arrest the proprietor, who was alleged to have lifted
(i.e., stolen) them from the Camerons of Lochiel. The soldiers found the
flock to the number of three hundred, grazing on a hill side, all fat
black-faced sheep with fine long wool and seated near them, crook in hand,
upon a fragment of rock, they found the person (one of the Caterans
already referred to) who was alleged to have stolen them. He was a
strange-looking old fellow, with a long white beard that flowed below his
girdle; he was attended by two huge black dogs of fierce and repulsive
aspect. He laughed scornfully when arrested by the corporal, and hollowly
the echoes of his laughter rang among the rocks, while his giant hounds
bayed and erected their bristles, and their eyes flashed as if emitting
sparks of fire.
The soldiers now surrounded
the sheep and drove them down the hill side into the glen, from whence
they proceeded towards Maryburgh, with a piper playing in front of the
flock, for it is known that sheep will readily follow the music of the
pipe. The Black Watch were merry with their easy capture, but none in
MacPherson's party were so merry as the captured shepherd, whom, for
security, the corporal had fettered to the left hand of his brother
Samuel; and in this order they proceeded for three miles, until they
reached a running stream; when, lo! the whole of the three hundred fat
sheep and the black dogs turned into clods of brown earth; and, with a
wild mocking laugh that seemed to pass away on the wind which swept the
mountain waste, their shepherd vanished, and no trace of his presence
remained but the empty ring of the fetters which dangled from the left
wrist of Samuel MacPherson, who felt every hair on his head bristle under
his bonnet with terror and affright
This sombre glen was also
the abode of the Daoine Shie, or Good Neighbours, as they are named in the
lowlands; and of this fact the wife of the pay sergeant of Farquhar's own
company could bear terrible evidence. These imps are alleged to have a
strange love for abstracting young girls and women great with child, and
leaving in their places bundles of dry branches or withered reeds in the
resemblance of the person thus abstracted, but to all appearance dead or
in a trance; they are also exceeding partial to having their own bantlings
nursed by human mothers.
The wife of the sergeant
(who was Duncan Campbell of the family of Duncaves) was without children,
but was ever longing to possess one, and had drunk of all the holy wells
in the neighbourhood without finding herself much benefited thereby. On a
summer evening when the twilight was lingering on the hills, she was
seated at her cottage door gazing listlessly on the waters of the Eil,
which were reddened by the last flush of the west, when suddenly a little
man and woman of strange aspect appeared before her so suddenly that they
seemed to have sprung from the ground - and offered her a child to nurse.
Her husband, the sergeant, was absent on duty at Dumbarton; the poor
lonely woman had no one to consult, or from whom to seek permission, and
she at once accepted the charge as one long coveted.
"Take this pot of
ointment," said the man, impressively, giving Moina Campbell a box, made
of shells, "and be careful from time to time to touch the eyelids of our
"Accept this purse of
money," said the woman, giving her a small bag of green silk; "'tis our
payment in advance, and anon we will come again."
The quaint little father
and mother then each blew a breath upon the face of the child and
disappeared, or as the sergeant's wife said, seemed to melt away into the
twilight haze. The money given by the woman was gold and silver; but Moina
knew not its value, for the coins were ancient, and bore the head of King
Constantine IV. The child was a strange, pale and wan little creature,
with keen, bright, and melancholy eyes; its lean freakish hands were
almost transparent, and it was ever sad and moaning. Yet in the care of
the sergeant's wife it throve bravely, and always after its eyes were
touched with the ointment it laughed, crowed, screamed, and exhibited such
wild joy that it became almost convulsed.
This occurred so often,
that Moina felt tempted to apply the ointment to her own eyes, when lo!
she perceived a group of the dwarfish Daoine Shie - little men in trunk
hose and sugar-loaf hats, and little women in hoop petticoats all of a
green colour - dancing round her, and making grimaces and antic gestures
to amuse the child, which to her horror she was now convinced was a
bantling of the spirits who dwelt in Larochmohr!
What was she to do? To
offend or seem to fear them was dangerous, and though she was now daily
tormented by seeing these green imps about her, she affected
unconsciousness and seemed to observe them not but prayed in her heart for
her husband's speedy return, and to be relieved of her fairy charge, to
whom she faithfully performed her trust, for in time the child grew strong
and beautiful; and when, again on a twilight eve, the parents came to
claim it, the woman wept as it was taken from her, for she had learned to
love the little creature, though it belonged neither to heaven nor earth.
Some months after, Moina
Campbell, more lonely now than ever, was passing through Larochmohr, when
suddenly within the circle of a large green fairy ring, she saw thousands,
yea myriads, of little imps in green trunk hose and with sugar-loaf hats
dancing and making merry, and amid them were the child she had nursed and
its parents also, and in terror and distress she addressed herself to
The tiny voices within the
charmed circle were hushed in an instant, and all the little men and women
became filled with anger. Their little faces grew red, and their little
eyes flashed fire.
"How do you see us?"
demanded the father of the fairy child, thrusting his little conical hat
fiercely over his right eye.
"Did I not nurse your
child, my friend?" said Moina, trembling.
"But how do you see us?"
screamed a thousand little voices.
Moina trembled, and was
"Oho!" exclaimed all the
tiny voices, like a breeze of wind, "she has been using our ointment, the
"I can alter that," said
one fairy man (who being three feet high was a giant among his fellows),
as he blew upward in her face, and in an instant all the green multitude
vanished from her sight; she saw only the fairy ring and the green bare
sides of the silent glen. Of all the myriads she had seen, not one was
[This, and the two legends
which follow, were related to me by a Highlander, who asserted, with the
utmost good faith, that they happened in Glendochart; but I have since
seen an Arabian tale, which somewhat resembles the adventure of the
"Fear not, Moina," cried a
little voice from the hill side, "for your husband will prosper." It was
the fairy child who spoke.
"But his fate will follow
him," added another voice, angrily.
Full of fear the poor woman
returned to her cottage, from which, to her astonishment, she had been
absent ten days and nights; but she saw her husband no more: in the
meantime he had embarked for a foreign land, being gazetted to an
ensigncy; thus so far the fairy promise of his prospering proved true.
[His "fate" would seem to
have followed him, too, for he was killed at Ticonderoga, when
captain-lieutenant of the Black Watch.-See Stewards Sketches.]
Another story flitted
through Farquhar's mind, and troubled him quite as much as its
predecessors. In a shieling here a friend of his, when hunting, one night
sought shelter. Finding a fire already lighted therein he became alarmed,
and clambering into the roof sat upon the cross rafters to wait the event,
and ere long there entered a little old man two feet in height. His head,
hands, and feet were enormously large for the size of his person; his nose
was long, cooked, and of a scarlet hue; his eyes brilliant as diamonds,
and they glared in the light of the fire. He took from his back a bundle
of reeds, and tying them together, proceeded to blow upon them from his
huge mouth and distended cheeks, and as he blew, a skin crept over the dry
bundle, which gradually began to assume the appearance of a human face and
These proceedings were more
than the huntsman on his perch above could endure, and filled by dread
that the process below might end in a troublesome likeness of himself, he
dropped a sixpence into his pistol (for everything evil is proof to lead)
and fired straight at the huge head of the spirit or gnome, which vanished
with a shriek, tearing away in his wrath and flight the whole of the turf
wall on one side of the shieling, which was thus in a moment reduced to
These memories, and a
thousand others of spectral Druids and tall ghastly-warriors, through
whose thin forms the twinkling stars would shine (but these orbs were
hidden now) as they hovered by grey cairns and the grassy graves of old,
crowded on the mind of Farquhar; for there were then, and even now are,
more ghosts, devils, and hobgoblins in the Scottish Highlands than ever
were laid of yore in the Red Sea. Nor need we be surprised at this
superstition in the early days of the Black Watch, when Dr. Henry tells
us, in 1831, that within the last twenty years, when a couple agreed to
marry in Orkney, they went to the Temple of the Moon, which was
semicircular, and there, on her knees, the woman solemnly invoked the
spirit of Woden!
Farquhar, as he strode on,
comforted himself with the reflection that those who are born at night -
as his mother had a hundred times told him he had been - never saw
spirits; so he took a good dram from his hunting-flask, and belted his
plaid tighter about him, after making a sign of the cross three times, as
a protection against all the diablerie of the district, but chiefly
against a certain malignant fiend or spirit, who was wont to howl at night
among the rocks of Larochmohr, to hurl storms of snow into the deep vale
of Corriehoilzie, and toss huge blocks of granite into the deep blue
waters of Loch Leven. He shouted on Bran, whistled the march of the Black
Watch, "to keep his spirits cheery," and pushed on his way up the
mountains, while the broad rain drops of a coming tempest splashed heavily
in his face.
He looked up to the "Hill
of Heaven". The night clouds were gathering round its awful summit,
wheeling, eddying, and floating in whirlwinds from the dark chasms of rock
that yawn in its sides. The growling of the thunder among the riven peaks
of granite overhead announced that a tempest was at hand; but though
Farquhar Shaw had come of a brave and adventurous race, and feared nothing
earthly, he could not repress a shudder lest the mournful gusts of the
rising wind might bear with them the cry of the Tar' Uisc, the terrible
Water Bull, or the shrieks of the spirit of the storm!
The lonely man continued to
toil up that wilderness till he reached the shoulder of the mountain,
where, on his right, opened the black narrow gorge, in the deep bosom of
which lay Loch Leven, and, on his left, opened the glens that led towards
Loch Treig, the haunt of Damh mohr a Vonalia, or Enchanted Stag, which was
alleged to live for ever, and be proof to mortal weapons; and now, like a
tornado of the tropics, the storm burst forth in all its fury!
The wind seemed to shriek
around the mountain summits and to bellow in the gorges below, while the
thunder hurtled across the sky, and the lightning, green and ghastly,
flashed about the rocks of Loch Leven, shedding, ever and anon, for an
instant, a sudden gleam upon its narrow stripe of water, and on the
brawling torrents that roared down the mountain sides, and were swelling
fast to floods, as the rain, which had long been falling on the frozen
summit of Ben Nevis, now descended in a broad and blinding torrent that
was swept by the stormy wind over hill and over valley. As Farquhar
staggered on, a gleam of lightning revealed to him a little turf shieling
under the brow of a pine-covered rock, and making a vigorous effort to
withstand the roaring wind, which over the bare waste with all the force
and might of a solid and palpable body, he reached it on his hands and
knees. After securing the rude door, which was composed of three cross
bars, he flung himself on the earthen floor of the hut, breathless and
exhausted, while Bran, his dog, as if awed by the elemental war without,
crept close beside him.
As Farquhar's thoughts
reverted to all that he had heard of the district, he felt all a
Highlander' native horror of remaining in the dark in a place so weird and
wild; and on finding near him a quantity of dry wood-bog-pine and oak,
stored up, doubtless, by some thrifty and provident shepherd, he produced
his flint and tinder-box, struck a light, and, with all the readiness of a
soldier and huntsman, kindled a fire in a corner of the shieling, being
determined that if it was the place where, about "the hour when
churchyards yawn and graves give up their dead," the brownies were alleged
to assemble, they should not come upon him unseen or unawares.
Having a venison steak in
his haversack, he placed it on the embers to broil, heaped fresh fuel on
his fire, and drawing his plaid round Bran and himself, wearied by the
toil of his journey on foot in such a night, and over such a country, he
gradually dropped asleep, heedless alike of the storm which raved and
bellowed in the dark glens below, and round the bare scalps of the vast
mountain whose mighty shadows, when falling eastward at eve, darken even
the Great Glen of Albyn.
In his sleep, the thoughts
of Farquhar Shaw wandered to his comrades, then at the Birks of Aberfeldy.
He dreamt that a long time - how long he knew Not - had elapsed since he
had been in their ranks; but he saw the Laird of Finab, his captain,
surveying him with a gloomy brow, while the faces of friends and comrades
were averted from him.
"Why is this - how is this?
Then he was told that the
Reicudan Dhu were disgraced by the desertion of three of its soldiers,
who, on that day, were to die, and the regiment was paraded to witness
their fate. The scene with all its solemnity and all its terrors grew
vividly before him; he heard the lamenting wail of the pipe as the three
doomed men marched slowly past, each behind his black coffin, and the
scene of this catastrophe was far, far away, he knew not where; but it
seemed to be in a strange country, and then the scene, the sights, and the
voices of the people, were foreign to him. In the background, above the
glittering bayonets and blue bonnets of the Black Watch, rose a lofty
castle of foreign aspect, having a square keep or tower, with four
turrets, the vanes of which were shining in the early morning sun. In his
ears floated the drowsy hum of a vast and increasing multitude.
Farquhar trembled in every
limb as the doomed men passed so near him that he could see their breasts
heave as they breathed; but their faces were concealed from him, for each
had his head muffled in his plaid, according to the old Highland fashion,
when imploring mercy or quarter.
Lots were cast with great
solemnity for the firing party or executioners, and, to his horror,
Farquhar found himself one of the twelve men chosen for this, to every
soldier, most obnoxious duty!
When the time came for
firing, and the three unfortunates were kneeling opposite, each within his
coffin, and each with his head muffled in a plaid, Farquhar mentally
resolved to close his eyes and fired at random against the wall of the
castle; but some mysterious and irresistible impulse compelled him to look
for a moment, and lo! the plaid had fallen from the face of one of the
doomed men, and, to his horror, the dreamer beheld himself!
His own face was before
him, but ghastly and pale, and his own eyes seemed to be glaring back upon
him with affright, while their aspect was wild, sad, and haggard. The
musket dropped from his hand, a weakness seemed to overspread his limbs,
and writhing in agony at the terrible sight, while a cold perspiration
rolled in bead-drops over his clammy Throw, the dreamer started, and
awoke, when a terrible voice, low but distinct, muttered in his ear -
"Farquhar Shaw, bithidth duil ri fear feachd, ach cha bhi duil ri fear lic!
[A man may return from an expedition; but there is no hope that he may
return from the grave. - A Gaelic Proverb.]
He leaped to his feet with
a cry of terror, and found that he was not alone, as a little old woman
was crouching near the embers of his fire, while Bran, his eyes glaring,
his bristles erect, was growling at her with a fierce angry sound, that
rivalled the bellowing of the storm, which still continued to rave
The aspect of this hag was
strange. In the light of the fire which brightened occasionally as the
wind swept through the crannies of the shieling, her eyes glittered, or
rather glared like fiery sparks; her nose was hooked and sharp; her mouth
like an ugly gash; her hue was livid and pale. Her outward attire was a
species of yellow mantle, which enveloped her whole form; and her hands,
which played or twisted nervously in the generous warmth of the glowing
embers, resembled a bundle of freakish knots, or the talons of an aged
bird. She muttered to herself at times, and after turning her terrible red
eyes twice or thrice covertly and wickedly towards Farquhar, she suddenly
snatched the venison steak from amid the flames, and, with a chuckle of
satisfaction, devoured it steaming hot, and covered as it was with burning
On Farquhar secretly making
a sign of the cross, when beholding this strange proceeding, she fumed
sharply with a savage expression towards him, and rose to her full
stature, which was not more than three feet; and he felt, he knew not why,
his heart tremble ; for his spirit was already perturbed by the effect of
his terrible dream, and clutching the steel collar of Bran (who was
preparing to spring at this strange visitor, and seemed to like her aspect
as little as his master) he said:-
"Woman, who are you?"
"A traveller like yourself,
perhaps. But who are you?" she asked in a croaking voice.
"Do you know our proverb in
What sent the messengers to hell,
But asking what they knew full well?"
was the reply of Farquhar,
as he made a vigorous effort to restrain Bran, whose growls and fury were
fast becoming quite appalling; and at this proverb the eyes of the hag
seemed to blaze with fresh anger, while her figure became more than ever
"Oich! oich!" grumbled
Farquhar, "I would as readily have had the devil as this ugly hag. I have
got a shelter, certainly; but with her 'tis out of the cauldron and into
the fire. Had she been a brown eyed lass, to a share of my plaid she had
been welcome; but this wrinkled cailloch--down, Bran, down!" he added
aloud, as the strong hound strained in his collar, and tasked his master's
hand and arm to keep him from springing at the intruder.
"Is this kind or manly of
you," she asked, "to keep a wild brute that behaves thus, and to a woman
too? Turn him out into the storm; the wind and rain will soon cool his
"Thank you; but in that you
must excuse me. Bran and I are as brothers"
"Turn him out, I say,"
screamed the hag, "or worse may befall him!"
"I shall not turn him out,
woman" said Farquhar, firmly, while surveying the stranger with some
uneasiness; for, to his startled gaze, she seemed to have grown taller
within the last five minutes. " You have a share of our shelter, and you
have had all our supper; but to turn out poor Bran - no, no, that would
To this Bran added a roar
of rage, and the fear or fury which blazed in the eyes of the woman fully
responded to those of the now infuriated staghound. The glances of each
made those of the other more and more fierce.
"Down, Bran; down, I say,"
said Farquhar. "What the devil hath possessed the dog? I never saw him
behave thus before. He must be savage, mother, that you left him none of
the savoury venison steak; for all the supper we had was that road-collop
from one of MacGillony's brown cattle."
"MacGillony," muttered the
hag, spreading her talon-like hands over the embers; "I knew him well."
"You!" exclaimed Farquhar.
"I have said so," she
replied with a grin.
"He was a mighty hunter
five hundred years ago, who lived and died on the Grampians!"
"And what are five hundred
years to me, who saw the waters of the deluge pour through Corriehoilzie,
and subside from the slope of Ben Nevis?"
"This is a very good joke,
mother," said poor Farquhar, attempting to laugh, while the hideous old
woman, who was so small when he first saw her as to be almost a dwarf, was
now, palpably, veritably, and without doubt, nearly a head taller than
himself; and watchfully he continued to gaze on her, keeping one hand on
his dirk and the other on the collar of Bran, whose growls were louder now
than the storm that careered through the rocky glen below.
"Woman!" said Farquhar,
boldly, "my mind misgives me - there is something about you that I little
like; I have just had a dreadful dream."
"A morning dream, too!"
chuckled the hag with an elfish grin.
"So I connect your presence
here with it."
"Be it so."
"What may that terrible
dream foretell?" pondered Farquhar; "for morning dreams are but warnings
and presages unsolved. The blessings of God and all his saints be about me
At these words the beldame
uttered a loud laugh.
"You are, I presume, a
Protestant?" said Farquhar, uneasily.
At this suggestion she
laughed louder still, but seemed to grow more and more in stature, till
Farquhar became well-nigh sick at heart with astonishment and fear, and
began to revolve in his mind the possibility of reaching the door of the
shieling and rushing out into the storm, there to commit himself to
Providence and the elements. Besides, as her stature grew, her eyes waxed
redder and brighter, and her malevolent hilarity increased.
It was a fiend, a demon of
the wild, by whom he was now visited and tormented in that sequestered
His heart sank, and as her
Terrible eyes seemed to glare upon him, and pierce his very soul, a cold
perspiration burst over all his person.
"Why do you grasp your
dirk, Farquhar-ha! Ha!" she asked.
"For the same reason that I
hold Bran-to be ready. Am I not one of the King's Reicudan Dhu? But-how
know you my name?"
"Tis a trifle to me, who
"From whence came you
"From the Isle of Wolves"
she replied, with a shout of laughter.
"A story as likely as the
rest," said Farquhar, "for that isle is in the Western sea, near unto
Coil, the country of the Clan Gillian. You must travel fast."
"Those usually do who
travel on the skirts of the wind".
Farquhar, leaping up with an emotion of terror which he could no longer
control, for her stature now overtopped his own, and ere long her hideous
head would touch the rafters of the hut; "thou art either a liar or a
fiend! which shall I deem thee?"
"Whichever pleases you
most,^ she replied, starting to her feet.
"Bran, to the proof!" cried
Farquhar, drawing his dirk, and preparing to let slip the now maddened
hound; "at her, Bran, and hold her down. Good, dog--brave dog! oich, he
has a slippery handful that grasps an eel by the tail! at her. Bran, for
thou art strong as Cuchullin."
Uttering a roar of rage,
the savage dog made a wild bound at the hag, who, with a yell of spite and
defiance, and with a wondrous activity, by one spring, left the shieling,
and dashing the frail door to fragments in her passage, rushed out into
the dark and tempestuous night, pursued by the infuriated but baffled
Bran-baffled now, though the fleetest hound on the Braes of Lochaber.
They vanished together in
the obscurity, while Farquhar gazed from the door breathless and
terrified. The storm still howled in the valley, where the darkness was
opaque and dense, save when a solitary gleam of lightning flashed on the
ghastly rocks and narrow defile of Loch Leven; and the roar of the
bellowing wind as it tore through the rocky gorges and deep granite
chasms, had in its sound something more than usually terrific. Bulwark!
other sounds came upon the skirts of that hurrying storm.
The shrieks of a fiend, if
they could be termed so; for they were shrill and high, like cries of pain
and laughter mingled. Then came the loud deep baying, with the yells of a
dog, as if in rage and pain, while a thousand sparks, like those of a
rocket, glittered for a moment in the blackness of the glen below. The
heart of Farquhar Shaw seemed to stand still for a time, while, dirk in
hand, he continued to peer into the dense obscurity. Again came the cries
of Bran, but nearer and nearer now ; and in an instant more, the noble
hound sprang, with a loud whine, to his master's side, and sank at his
feet. It was Bran, the fleet, the strong, the faithful and the brave ; but
in what a condition! Torn, lacerated, covered with blood and frightful
wounds -disembowelled and dying; for the poor animal had only strength to
loll out his hot tongue in an attempt to lick his masters hand before he
"Mother Mary," said
Farquhar, taking off his bonnet, inspired with horror and religious awe,
"keep thy blessed hand over me, for my dog has fought with a demon!"......
It may be imagined how
Farquhar passed the remainder of that morning-sleepless and full of
terrible thoughts, for the palpable memory of his dream, and the episode
which followed it, were food enough for reflection.
With dawn, the storm
subsided. The sun arose in a cloudless sky; the blue mists were wreathed
round the brows of Ben Nevis, and a beautiful rainbow seemed to spring
"from the side of the mountain far beyond the waters of Loch Leven; the
dun deer were cropping the wet glistening herbage among the grey rocks;
the little birds sang early, and the proud eagle and ferocious gled were
soaring towards the rising sun ; thus all nature gave promise of a serene
With his dirk, Farquhar dug
a grave for Bran, and lined it with soft and fragrant heather, and there
he covered him up and piled a cairn, at which he gave many a sad and
backward glance (for it marked where a faithful friend and companion lay)
as he ascended the huge mountains of rock, which, on one hand, led to the
Uise Dhu, or Vale of the Black Water, and on the other, by the tremendous
steep named the Devils Staircase, to the mouth of Glencoe.
In due time he reached the
regiment at its cantonments on the Birks of Aberfeldy, where the
independent companies, for the first time were exercised as a battalion by
their Lieutenant-Colonel, Sir Robert Munro of Culcairn, who, six years
afterwards, was slain at the battle of Falkirk.
Farquhar's terrible dream
and adventure in that Highland wilderness were ever before him, and the
events subsequent to the formation of the Black Watch into a battalion,
with the excitement produced among its soldiers by an unexpected order to
march into England, served to confirm the gloom that preyed upon his
The story of how the Black
Watch were deceived is well known in the Highlands, though it is only one
of the many acts of treachery performed in those days by the British
Government in their transactions with the people of that country, when
seeking to lessen the adherents of the Stuart cause, and ensnare them into
regiments for service in distant lands; hence the many dangerous mutinies
which occurred after the enrolment of all the old Highland corps.
This unexpected order to
march into England caused such a dangerous ferment in the Black Watch as
being a violation of the principles and promise under which it was
enrolled, and on which so many Highland gentlemen of good family enlisted
in its ranks, that the Lord President Duncan Forbes of Culloden, warned
General Clayton, the Scottish Commander-in-Chief, of the evil erects
likely to occur if
this breach of faith was persisted in; and to prevent the corps from
revolting en masse, that officer informed the soldiers that they were to
enter England "solely to be seen by King George, who had never seen a
Highland soldier, and had been graciously pleased to express, or feel
great curiosity on the subject"
Cajoled and flattered by
this falsehood, the soldiers of the Reicudan Dhu, all unaware that
shipping was ordered to convey them to Flanders began their march for
England, in the end of March, 1743; and if other proof be wanting that
they were deluded, the following announcement in the Caledonian Mercury of
that year affords it:-
"On Wednesday last, the
Lord Sempills Regiment of Highlanders began their march for England, in
order to be reviewed by his Majesty."
Everywhere on the march
throughout the north of England, they were received with cordiality and
hospitality by the people, to whom their garb, aspect, and equipment were
a source of interest, and in return, the gentlemen and soldiers of the
Reicudan Dhu behaved to the admiration of their officers and of all
magistrates; but as they drew nearer to London, according to Major Grose,
they were exposed to the malevolent mockery and the national taunts of the
true-bred English clowns, and became gloomy and sullen. Animated even to
the humblest private with the feelings of gentlemen" continues this
English officer, "they could ill brook the rudeness of boors, nor could
they patiently submit to affronts in a country to which they had been
called by the invitation of their sovereign"
On the 30th April, the
regiment reached London, and on the 14th May was reviewed on Finchley
Common, by Marshal Wade, before a vast concourse of spectators ; but the
King, whom they expected to be present, had sailed from Greenwich for
Hanover on the same night they entered the English metropolis. Herein they
found themselves deceived; for "the King had told them a lie," and the
spark thus kindled was soon fanned into a flame.
After the review at
Finchley Common, Farquhar Shaw and Corporal Malcolm MacPherson were
drinking in a tavern, when three English gentlemen entered, and seating
themselves at the same table, entered into conversation, by praising the
regiment, their garb, their country, and saying those compliments which
are so apt to win the heart of a Scotchman when far from home; and the
glens of the Gael seemed then indeed, far, far away, to the imagination of
the simple souls who manned the Black Watch in 1743.
Both Farquhar and the
corporal being gentlemen, wore the wing of the eagle in their bonnets, and
were well educated, and spoke English with tolerable fluency.
"I would that his Majesty
had seen us, however" said the corporal; "we have had a long march south
from our own country on a bootless errand"
"Can you possibly be so
simple as to believe that the King cared a rush on the subject" asked a
gentleman, with an incredulous smile ; for he and his companions, like
many others who hovered about these new soldiers, were Jacobites and
"What mean you, sir"
demanded MacPherson, with surprise.
"Why, you simpleton, that
story of the King wishing to see you was all a tale of a tub - a snare.
"Yes - a pretext of the
ministry to lure you to this distance from your own country, and then
transport you bodily for life"
"Oh, that matters little -
perhaps to the American plantations."
"Or, to Botany Bay"
suggested another, maliciously; "but take another jorum of brandy, and
fear nothing; wherever you go, it can't well be a worse place than your
"Thanks, gentlemen" replied
Farquhar, loftily, while his hands played nervously with his dirk; "we
want no more of your brandy."
^Believe me, sirs" resumed
their informant and tormentor, "the real object of the ministry is to get
as many fighting men, Jacobites and so forth, out of the Highlands as
possible. This is merely part of a new system of government."
"Sirs," exclaimed Farquhar,
drawing his dirk with an air of gravity and determination which caused his
new friends at once to put the table between him and them, "will you swear
this upon the dirk?"
"Upon the Holy Iron - we
know no oath more binding" continued the Highlander, with an expression of
"I'll swear it by the Holy
Poker, or anything you please," replied the Englishman, re-assured on
finding the Celt had no hostile intentions. "'Tis all a fact," he
continued, winking to his companions, "for so my good friend Phil Yorke,
the Lord Chancellor, who expects soon to be Earl of Hardwick, informed
The eyes of the corporal
flashed with indignation; and Farquhar struck his forehead as the memory
of his terrible dream in the haunted glen rushed upon his memory.
"Oh! yes," said a third
gentleman, anxious to add his mite to the growing mischief; "it is all a
Whig plot of which you are the victims, as our kind ministry hope that you
will all die off like sheep with the rot; or like the Marine Corps; or the
Invalids, the old 41st, in Jamaica."
"They dare not deceive us!"
exclaimed MacPherson, striking the basket-hilt of his claymore.
"Indeed - why?"
"For in the country of the
clans fifty thousand claymores would be on the grindstone to avenge us!"
A laugh followed this
"King George made you rods
to scourge your own countrymen, and now, as useless rods, you are to be
flung into the fire," said the first speaker, tauntingly.
"By God and Mary!" began
MacPherson, again laying a hand on his sword with sombre fury.
interposed Farquhar; "the Saxon is right, and we have been fooled. Bithidh
gach ni mar is aill Dhiu. [All things must be as God will have them.] Let
us seek the Reicudan Dhu, and woe to the Saxon clowns and to that German
churl, their King, if they have deceived us!"
On the march back to
London, MacPherson and Farquhar Shaw brooded over what they had heard at
Finchley; while to other members of the regiment similar communications
had been made, and thus, ere nightfall, every soldier of the Black Watch
felt assured that he had been entrapped by a royal falsehood, which the
sudden, and to them unaccountable, departure of George II to Hanover
seemed beyond all doubt to confirm.
"In those whom he knows,"
according to General Stewart, "a Highlander will repose perfect
confidence, and if they are his superiors will be obedient and respectful,
but ere a stranger can obtain this confidence, he must show that he merits
it. When once it is given, it is constant and unreserved; but if
confidence be lost, no man is more suspicious. Every officer of a
Highland regiment, on his first joining the corps, must have observed in
his little transactions with the men how minute and strict they are in
every item; but when once confidence is established, scrutiny ceases, and
his word or nod of assent is as good as his bond. In the case in question
(the Black Watch), notwithstanding the arts which were practised to
mislead the men, they proceeded to no violence, but believing themselves
deceived and betrayed, the only remedy that occurred to them was to get
back to their own country"
The memory of the
commercial ruin at Darien, and of the massacre at Glencoe (the Cawnpore of
King William), were too fresh in every Scottish breast not to make the
flame of discontent and mistrust spread like wildfire; and thus, long
before the bell of St. Paul's had tolled the hour of midnight, the
conviction that he had been BETRAYED was firmly rooted in the mind of
every soldier of the Black Watch, and measures to baffle those who had
deluded and lured them so far from their native mountains were at once
proposed, and as quickly acted upon.
At this crisis, the dream
of Farquhar was constantly before him, as a foreboding of the terrors to
come, and he strove to thrust it from him; but the words of that terrible
warning - a man may return from an expedition, but never from the Grave -
seemed ever in his ears !
On the night after the
review, the whole regiment, except its officers, most of whom knew what
was on the tapis, assembled at twelve o'clock on a waste common near
Highgate. The whole were in heavy marching order; and by direction of
Corporal Malcolm MacPherson, after carefully priming and loading with
ball-cartridge, they commenced their march in silence and secrecy and with
all speed for Scotland - a wild, daring, and romantic attempt, for they
were heedless and ignorant of the vast extent of hostile country that lay
between them and their homes, and scarcely knew the route to pursue. They
had now but three common ideas; - to keep together, to resist to the last,
and to march north.
With some skill and
penetration they avoided the two great highways, and marched by night from
wood to wood, concealing themselves by day so well, that for some time no
one knew how or where they had gone, though, by the Lords Justices orders
had been issued to all officers commanding troops between London and the
Scottish Borders to overtake or intercept them; but the 19th May arrived
before tidings reached the metropolis that the Black Watch, one thousand
strong, had passed Northampton, and a body of Marshal Wade's Horse (now
better known as the 3rd or Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards) overtook
them, when faint by forced and rapid marches, by want of food, of sleep
and shelter, the unfortunate regiment had entered Ladywood, about four
miles from the market town of Oundle-on-the-Nen, and had, as usual,
concealed themselves in a spacious thicket, which, by nine o'clock in the
evening, was completely environed by strong columns of English cavalry
under General Blakeney.
Captain Ball, of Wade's
Horse, approached their bivouac in the dusk, bearer of a flag of truce,
and was received by the poor fellows with every respect, and Farquhar
Shaw, as interpreter for his comrades, heard his demands, which were that
the whole battalion should lay down its arms, and surrender at discretion
"Hitherto we have conducted
ourselves quietly and peacefully in the land of those who have deluded and
wronged us, even as they wronged and deluded our forefathers,^ replied
Farquhar; " but it may not be so for one day more. Look upon us, sir; we
are famished, worn, and desperate. It would move the heart of a stone to
know all we have suffered by hunger and by thirst, even in this land of
"The remedy is easy," said
"Name it, sir"
"We have no such word in
our mother-tongue, then how shall I translate it to my comrades, so many
of whom are gentlemen?"
"That is your affair, not
mine. I give you but the terms dictated by General Blakeney."
"Let the general send us a
"Written?" reiterated the
"By his own hand,"
continued the Highlander emphatically; "for here in this land of strangers
we know not whom to trust when our King has deceived us."
"And to what must the
general pledge himself?"
"That our arms shall not be
taken away, and that free pardon be given to all."
"We will rather be cut to
"This is your decision?"
"It is," replied Farquhar,
"Be assured it is a rash
"I weigh my words, Saxon,
ere I speak them. No man among us will betray his comrade ; we are all for
one and one for all in the ranks of the Reicudan Dhu!"
The captain reported the
result of his mission to the general, who, being well aware that the
Highlanders had been entrapped by the Government on one hand, and inflamed
to revolt by Jacobite emissaries on the other, was humanely willing to
temporize with them, and sent the captain to them once more.
prisoners," said Ball; "lay down your arms, and the general will use all
his influence in your favour with the Lords Justices."
"We know of no Lords
Justices," they replied. "We acknowledge no authority but the officers who
speak our mother-tongue, and our native chiefs who share our blood. To be
without arms, in our country, is in itself to be dishonoured."
"Is this still the
resolution of your comrades?" asked Captain Ball.
"It is, on my honour as a
gentleman and soldier," replied Farquhar.
The English captain smiled
at these words, for he knew not the men with whom he had to deal.
"Hitherto, my comrade,"
said he, "I have been your friend, and the friend of the regiment, and am
still anxious to do all I can to save you; but, if you continue in open
revolt one hour longer, surrounded as you all are by the King's troops,
not a man of you can survive the attack, and be assured that even I, for
one, will give quarter to none! Consider well my words-you may survive
banishment for a time, but from the grave there is no return."
"The words of my dream !"
exclaimed Farquhar, in an agitated tone of voice ; "Bithidh duil ri fear
feachd, ach cha bhi duil ri fear lic. God and Mary, how come they from the
lips of this Saxon captain?"
The excitement of the
regiment was now so great that Captain Ball requested of Farquhar that two
Highlanders should conduct him safely from the wood. Two duinewassals of
the Clan Chattan, both corporals, named MacPherson, stepped forward, blew
the priming from their pans, and accompanied him to the outposts of his
own men-the Saxon Seidar Dearg, or Red English soldiers, as the Celts
Here, on parting from them,
the good captain renewed his entreaties and promises, which so far won the
confidence of the corporals, that, after returning to the regiment, the
whole body, in consequence of their statements, agreed to lay down their
arms and submit the event to Providence and a court-martial of officers,
believing implicitly in the justice of their cause and the ultimate
adherence of the Government to the letters of local service under which
they had enlisted.
Farquhar Shaw and the two
corporals of the Clan Chattan nobly offered their own lives as a ransom
for the honour and liberties of the regiment, but their offer was
declined; for so overwhelming was the force against them, that all in the
battalion were alike at the mercy of the ministry. On capitulating, they
were at once surrounded by strong bodies of horse, foot, and artillery,
with their field pieces grape-shotted; and the most severe measures were
faithlessly and cruelly resorted to by those in authority and those in
whom they trusted. While, in defiance of all stipulation and treaty with
the Highlanders, the main body of the regiment was marched under escort
towards Kent, to embark for Flanders, two hundred privates, chiefly
gentlemen or cadets of good family, were selected from its ranks and
sentenced to banishment, or service for life in Minorca, Georgia, and the
Leeward Isles. The two corporals, Samuel and Malcolm MacPherson, with
Farquhar Shaw, were inarched back to London, to meet a more speedy, and to
men of such spirit as theirs, a more welcome fate.
The examinations of some of
these poor fellows prove how they had been deluded into service for the
"I did not desert, sirs,"
said John Stuart, a gentleman of the House of Urrard, and private in
Campbell of Garrick's company. "I repel the insinuation," he continued,
with pride; "I wished only to go back to my fathers roof and to my own
glen, because the inhospitable Saxon churls abused my country and
ridiculed my dress. We had no leader; we placed no man over the rest."
"I am neither a Catholic
nor a false Lowland Whig" said another private - Gregor Grant, of the
family of Rothiemurchus; "but I am a true man, and ready to serve the
King, though his actions have proved him a liar! You have said, sirs, that
I am afraid to go to Flanders. I am a Highlander, and never yet saw the
man I was afraid of. The Saxons told me I was to be transported to the
American plantations to work with black slaves. Such was not our bargain
with King George. We were but a Watch to serve along the Highland Border,
and to keep broken clans from the Braes of Lochaber"
"We were resolved not to be
tricked," added Farquhar Shaw. "We will meet the French or Spaniards in
any land you please; but we will die, sirs, rather than go, like Saxon
rogues, to hoe sugar in the plantations".
"What is your faith?" asked
the president of the court-martial.
"The faith of my fathers a
thousand years before the hateful sound of the Saxon drum was heard upon
the Highland Border!"
"You mean that you have
"As please God and the
Blessed Mary, I shall die Catholic and a Highland Gentleman; stooping to
none and fearing none--"
"None, say you?"
"Save Him who sits upon the
right hand of His Father in Heaven.!
As Farquhar said this with
solemn energy, all the prisoners took off their bonnets and bowed their
heads with a religious reverence which deeply impressed the court, but
failed to save them.
On the march to the Tower
of London, Farquhar was the most resolute and composed of his companions
in fetters and misfortune; but on coming in sight of that ancient
fortress, his firmness forsook him, the blood rushed back upon his heart,
and he became deadly pale; for in a moment he recognised the castle of his
strange dream-the castle having a square tower, with four vanes and
turrets-and then the whole scene of his foreboding vision, when far away
in lone Lochaber, came again upon his memory, while the voice of the
warning spirit hovered again in his ear, and he knew that the hour of his
end was pursuing him!
And now, amid crowds of
country clowns and a rabble from the lowest purlieus of London, who mocked
and reviled them, the poor Highlanders were marched through the streets of
that mighty metropolis (to them, who had been reared in the mountain
solitudes of the Gael, a place of countless wonders!) and were thrust into
the Tower as prisoners under sentence.
Early on the morning of the
12th July, 1743, when the sun was yet below the dim horizon, and a frowsy
fog that lingered on the river was mingling with the city's smoke to
spread a gloom over the midsummer morning, all London seemed to be pouring
from her many avenues towards Tower Hill, where an episode of no ordinary
interest was promised to the sight loving Cockneys - a veritable military
execution, with all its stern terrors and grim solemnity.
All the troops in London
were under arms, and long before daybreak had taken possession of an ample
space enclosing Tower Hill; and there, conspicuous above all by their high
and absurd sugar-loaf caps, were the brilliantly accoutred English and
Scots. Horse Grenadier Guards, the former under Viscount Cobham, and the
latter under Lieutenant-General John Earl of Rothes, K.T., and Governor of
Duncannon; the Coldstream Guards; the Scots Fusiliers and a sombre mass in
the Highland garb of dark green tartan, whom they surrounded with fixed
These last were the two
hundred men of the Reicudan Dhu selected for banishment, previous to which
they were compelled to behold the death, or - as they justly deemed it -
the deliberate murder under trust, of three brave gentlemen, their
The gates of the Tower
revolved, and then the craped and muffled drums of the Scots Fusilier
Guards were heard beating a dead march before those who were "to return to
Lochaber no more." Between two lines of Yeomen of the Guard, who faced
inwards, the three prisoners came slowly forth, surrounded by an escort
with fixed bayonets, each doomed man marching behind his coffin, which
was. borne on the shoulders of four soldiers. On approaching the parade,
each politely raised his bonnet and bowed to the assembled multitude.
"Courage, gentlemen" said
Farquhar Shaw; "I see no gallows here. I thank God we shall not die a
"Tis well" replied
MacPherson, "for honour is more precious than refined gold."
The murmur of the multitude
gradually subsided and died away, like a breeze that passes through a
forest, leaving it silent and still, and then not a sound was heard but
the baleful rolling of the muffled drums and the shrill but sweet cadence
of the fifes. Then came the word. Halt! breaking sharply the silence of
the crowded arena, and the hollow sound of the three empty coffins, as
they were laid on the ground, at the distance of thirty paces from the
Now the elder brother
patted the shoulder of the other, as he smiled and said:-
"Courage-a little time and
all will be over-our spirits shall be with those of our brave
"No coronach will be cried
over us here, and no cairn will mark in other times where we sleep in the
land of the stranger."
"Brother" replied the
other, in the same forcible language, "we can well spare alike the
coronach and the cairn, when to our kinsmen we can bequeath the dear task
of avenging us"
"If that bequest be valued,
then we shall not die in vain."
Once again they all raised
their bonnets and uttered a pious invocation; for now the sun was up, and
in the Highland fashion - a fashion old as the days of Baal - they greeted
"Are you ready" asked the
"All ready," replied
Farquhar "moch-eirigh 'luain, a ni'n t-suain 'mhairt [Early rising on
Monday gives a sound sleep on Tuesday,- See Macintosh's Gaelic Proverbs -
This, to them, fatal 12th of July was a Monday; so the proverb was
Wan, pale, and careworn
they looked, but their eyes were bright, their steps steady, their bearing
erect and dignified. They felt themselves victims and martyrs, whose fate
would find a terrible echo in the Scottish Highlands; and need I add, that
echo was heard, when two years afterwards Prince Charles un-
furled his standard in Glenfinnan? Thus inspired by pride of birth, of
character, and of country - by inborn bravery and conscious innocence, at
this awful crisis, they gazed around them without quailing, and exhibited
a self-possession which excited the pity and admiration of all who beheld
The clock struck the fatal
hour at last!
"It is my doom," exclaimed
Farquhar; "the hour of my end hath followed me."
They all embraced each
other, and declined having their eyes bound up, but stood boldly, each at
the foot of his coffin, confronting the levelled muskets of thirty
privates of the Grenadier Guards, and they died like the brave men they
had lived. One brief paragraph in St. James's Chronicle thus records their
"On Monday, the 12th, at
six o'clock in the morning, Samuel and Malcolm MacPherson, corporals, and
Farquhar Shaw, a private-man, three of the Highland deserters, were shot
upon the parade of the Tower pursuant to the sentence of the court
martial. The rest of the Highland prisoners were drawn out to see the
execution, and joined in their prayers with great earnestness. They
behaved with perfect resolution and propriety. Their bodies were put into
three coffins by three of the prisoners, their clansmen and namesakes, and
buried in one grave, near the place of execution."
Such is the matter-of-fact
record of a terrible fate!
To the slaughter of these
soldiers, and the wicked breach of faith perpetrated by the Government,
may be traced much of that distrust which characterized the Seaforth
Highlanders and other clan regiments in their mutinies and revolts in
later years; and nothing inspired greater hatred in the hearts of those
who "rose" for Prince Charles in 1745, than the story of the deception and
murder (for so they named it) of the three soldiers of the Reicudan Dhu by
King George at London. "There must have been something more than common in
the case and character of these unfortunate men" to quote the good and
gallant old General Stewart of Garth, "as Lord John Murray, who was
afterwards colonel of the regiment, had portraits of them hung in his
This was the first episode in the history of the Black Watch, which soon
after covered itself with glory by the fury of its charge at Fontenoy, and
on the field of Dettingen exulted that among the dead who lay there was
General Clayton, "the Sassenach whose specious story first lured them from
the Birks Of Aberfeldy"
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