|My father's ancestors were the Shaws of
Rothiemurchus, in Scotland, and the ruins of their castle may still be seen on the island
of Loch-an-Eilan, in the northern Highlands. It was never the picturesque castle of song
and story, this home of the fighting Shaws, but an austere fortress, probably built in
Roman times; and even to-day the crumbling walls which alone are left of it show traces of
the relentless assaults upon them. Of these the last and the most successful were made in
the seventeenth century by the Grants and Rob Roy; and it was into the hands of the Grants
that the Shaw fortress finally fell, about 1700, after almost a hundred years of ceaseless
warfare. It gives me no pleasure to read the grisly details of their struggles, but I
confess to a certain satisfaction in the knowledge that my ancestors made a good showing
in the defense of what was theirs. Beyond doubt they were brave fighters and strong men.
There were other sides to their natures, however, which the high lights of history throw
up less appealingly.
As an instance, we have
in the family chronicles the blood-stained page of Allen Shaw, the oldest son of the last
Lady Shaw who lived in the fortress. It appears that when the father of this young man
died, about 1560, his mother married again, to the intense disapproval of her son. For
some time after the marriage he made no open revolt against the new-comer in the domestic
circle; but finally, on the pretext that his dog had been attacked by his stepfather, he
forced a quarrel with the older man and the two fought a duel with swords, after which the
victorious Allen showed a sad lack of chivalry. He not only killed his stepfather, but he
cut off that gentleman's head and bore it to his mother in her bed-chamber--an action
which was considered, even in that tolerant age, to be carrying filial resentment too far.
Probably Allen regretted it. Certainly he paid a high penalty for it, and his clan
suffered with him. He was outlawed and fled, only to be hunted down for months, and
finally captured and executed by one of the Grants, who, in further virtuous disapproval
of Allen's act, seized and held the Shaw stronghold. The other Shaws of the clan fought
long and ably for its recovery, but though they were helped by their kinsmen, the
Mackintoshes, and though good Scotch blood dyed the gray walls of the fortress for many
generations, the castle never again came into the hands of the Shaws. It still entails
certain obligations for the Grants, however, and one of these is to give the King of
England a snowball whenever he visits Loch-an-Eilan!
You can read more of this in her EText of her book "The
Story of a Pioneer" which goes on to account her story in America.