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The Scottish Chiefs

"Remember this, and show yourselves to be men! Remember the former things of old; for I am God! declaring the end from the beginning. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness! I bring near my righteousness, and it shall not be far off; and my salvation shall not tarry. I will place salvation for them who trust in me!"—ISAIAH.

Note respecting the personal Conformation of SIR WILLIAM WALLACE and KING ROBERT BRUCE.

THE extraordinary bodily, as well as mental superiority which Wallace and Bruce possessed over their contemporaries, is thus recorded by Hector Boetius:-

"About the latter end of the year 1430, King James I. (of Scotland,) on returning to Perth, from St. Andrews, found his curiosity excited to visit a very old lady of the house of Erskine, who resided in the castle of Kinnoul. In consequence of her extreme old age she had lost her sight, but all her other senses were entire, and her body was yet firm and active. She had seen William Wallace and Robert Bruce in her earliest youth, and frequently told particulars of them. The King, who entertained a love and veneration for great men, resolved to visit the old lady, that he might hear her describe the manners and strength of the two heroes. He therefore sent a message, acquainting her that he would come to her the next day. When she was told that the King was approaching, she went down into the hall of her castle, attended by a train of matrons; many of whom were her own descendants. She advanced to meet his Majesty so easily and gracefully that he doubted her being blind! At his desire, she embraced and kissed him. He took her by the hand, and made her sit down on the seat next him, and then, in a long conferrence, he interrogated her on ancient matters. Among others, he asked her to tell him what sort of a man William Wallace was; what was his personal figure; what his bearing; and with what degree of strength he was endowed. He put the same comparing questions to her concerning Robert Bruce. ‘Robert; said she,’ was a man beautiful, and of a fine appearance. His strength was so great, that he could easily have overcome any mortal man of his time, save one! Sir William Wallace ! But in so far as he excelled other men, he was excelled by Wallace, both in stature and in bodily strength ! For in wrestling, Wallace could have overthrown two such men as Robert. And he was comely, as well as strong; and full of the beauty of wisdom"

I might have thought, had I known the above record in my young days, when I heard my old friend Luckie Forbes, describe the Scottish heroes, that she must have been one of those matrons of honour to Lady Kinnoul, and had "seen baith the stalwarth chiefs" in her also venerable life. But the description of my humble historiographer, was the work of her own heart; suggested there by tradition; and a holy reverence of even the name of William Wallace, to help it out; and so my pen, moved by the same impulse, has attempted to copy the picture she presented.— (1809.)

Postscript to the above Appendix, added May, 1841.

The preceding note having been appended to the first edition of this work, at the time of its answering date; an extraordinary circumstance which occurred a few years afterwards, regarding certain portraitures of Sir William Wallace and Robert Bruce, the author of these pages is tempted to repeat now, as being a something strange and romantic story. The original relater of it was Mr. Blake, a young painter of remarkable talents; but which were, at times, carried away into wild fancies; a mirage of waking dreams, which he gravely asserted, on describing them, were real visions from the departed world. Soon after the publication of the "Scottish Chiefs," his ardent nature had deeply interested him in their fate; but most particularly in that of Wallace; of whose unjust doom he was often in the habit of speaking to a friend of the author of the book, and with a force of language, and indignation at the fact, as if the noble victim’s death had been only an event of yesterday.

In one of my friend’s calls on the young painter, he found him in an almost breathless ecstasy, which he explained to him, by telling him that he had just achieved two sketches—one of Sir William Wallace, the other of his enemy, Edward the First!—Both chiefs having actually appeared to him successively, and had successively stood, at his earnest request, to allow him to make a hasty sketch of their forms.

While he related this, he placed a small canvas, of the common portrait size, on his easel, before my friend; on which was drawn, in a bold and admirable manners the head of a young warrior in the prime of his days: as Wallace is described to have been, even at the time in which he was cut off. There was neither helmet, nor any covering on his head, excepting the rich golden-tinted light-hair, that waved high and loosely from off his broad and very elevated forehead. The face was, nearly a front view, remarkably handsome—open in its expression, and full of an ardent, generous courage: the blue eye being bright and expanded, and the lips of a noble contour, seemed cheering his devoted followers to deeds of glory. All was gallant sunshine over that fine countenance, which, while you looked on it, might almost induce you to believe the reality of the vision. Also, the high bearing of its corresponding neck and chest. The first was entirely bare; and the latter simply discovered a low breastplate of plain workmanship, half covered by his plaid, broached on the shoulder. This was all which was even outlined in this mysterious portrait. For the painter told my friend, that having turned to dip his pencil for a further touch, when he looked up again, the vision was gone!—While my friend was contemplating this extraordinary portrait, its enraptured artist had described its origin, in this wise:—"He was sitting, meditating, as he had often done, on the heroic actions and hard fate of the Scottish hero, when, like a flash of lightning, a noble form stood before him; which he instantly knew, by a something within himself to be Sir William Wallace. He felt it was a spiritual appearance; which might vanish away as instantly as it came; and, transported at the sight, he besought the hero to remain a few moments till he might sketch him. The warrior Scot, in this vision, seemed as true to his historical mental picture, as his noble shade was to the manly bearing of his recorded person; for, with his accustomed courtesy, he smiled on the young painter;—and the sketch was outlined, with a tint or two besides. But, while eagerly proceeding, the artist bent his head once too often, to replenish his pencil; and turning again, to pursue the noble contour, the spirit of the ‘stalworth knight’ had withdrawn from mortal ken. But (Blake proceeded to say,) it had not left a vacancy! Edward the First stood in its place; armed from head to foot, in a close and superb suit of mail; but with the visor of his helmet open!"

The artist, it appears, had as little difficulty in recognising the royal hero; as, when his heart, as well as eyes, bowing before the august figure just departed, told him it was the Caledonian patriot he beheld. His English loyalty, however, made him rise before the royal apparition. Nevertheless he saluted the monarch with the same earnest privilege of enthusiastic genius, which had dictated his request to the Scottish chief; and he asked the stern-looking, but majestic warrior-king of England, to allow him to make a corresponding sketch. This too, was accorded. And he had arrived at about the same point, as in the former portrait, when the British hero also disappeared;—and Blake was left—not so disappointed at not having accomplished all be wished, as enraptured at having been permitted to behold two such extraordinary characters; and to have thus far, identified their personal presence to himself; and to the world, to all posterity! For such was his own conviction. The vast expense of life’s energies, wrought in this young man, by the overactive exercise of his talents; and the burning enthusiasm, which almost ever over-stimulated their action; swiftly consumed his constitution; and not very long after the painting of these two visionary portraits, he died of a rapid decline—my friend purchased them both; and subsequently showed them to me; recounting the little history, I have just repeated. And, I confess, I looked upon them with no small pleasure; for each bore a strong resemblance to the pictures my mind had before imbibed of both heroes, from all the historical descriptions I had ever heard, or read. There is, however, a roughly-visaged old head, that I have often seen, in rude oil-painting, and in equally rude engraving, which is pretended to be the portrait of Sir William Wallace. But it does not in any one respect, answer to the historical, or traditionary accounts of the knight’s person; excepting that it has part of a coat of mail on its breast, and the usual tartan plaid, which marks a Scottish warrior of any age. But it has two contradictions to attested facts, which completely disprove its authenticity as a likeness of that hero. It is the head of a weather-beaten, and evidently thickset elderly man, beyond fifty years of age. Whereas, Wallace was hardly more than thirty, when he died on the scaffold. His figure too, was eminently tall and well-proportioned; and his hair was noted for being "yellow like gold." While, on the reverse, the beard, rough eyebrows, and scant locks of the pretended old portrait of the hero, are dark—almost amounting to black. That it may be a picture of some distinguished personage of the name of Wallace, is very likely; from the great respect in which it is even now held in his country—(and particularly by seamen; who have been known to keep the print hung up in the cabin of their little vessels, by way of a talisman against storms, or enemies !)—therefore I see not why the real original of the memorial in question, may not have been some celebrated naval defender of the Scottish sea, or shore, of the family of William Wallace; but of a later period than himself; as the costume of the portrait, evidently appears of a more modern date.—(1841.)

Note concerning JOANNA of MAR and STRATHEARN.

This unhappy, and wicked woman’s descendance, as daughter of a princess of the Orkneys, and her husband Mellis Earl of Strathearn, is given in all the old Scottish genealogical, works; and her marriage with Earl de Warenne, followed up by her most unnatural treasons against her native country, are not less faithfully recorded.

But it is something curious, that while revising this volume a few years ago, I met a paragraph in the Morning Post newspaper, relative to this very lady—now dead upwards of five hundred years—and dated, August 26th, 1831; almost the very anniversary-day of Sir William Wallace’s death! It was an extract from the Perth Courier, and runs thus:— "In preparing the foundation of the classical monument which Lady Baird is about to erect on Tom-a-Chastel, to the memory of Sir David, the workmen discovered the remains of an extensive edifice, intermixed with a blackish mould, in which human bones frequently, occur, with stirrups, buckles, and other decayed fragments of ancient armour. In an excavation, were found a quantity of black earth, the debris of animal matter; some human bones; a bracelet; and a considerable portion of charcoal; from which it may be concluded, that the individuals whose remains were discovered, had perished during a conflagration of the castle. The tradition of the country is, that—Three ladies had been there burnt to death. And as it is known that the Lady of Strathearn, a daughter of the Earl of Orkney, involved herself in the quarrels between Bruce and Baliol; and was, after the ascendency of the former, in a parliament held at Scone in 1329, doomed to perpetual imprisonment for the crime of laesae majestatis, it is no violent stretch of conjecture, to come to the conclusion that this very lady may have been one of the unhappy victims whose remains have been thus accidentally brought to light. The excavation, undoubtedly (being the most probable supposition) was that usually found in the base of the dungeon-keep of the castle. Tom-a-Chastel, on the summit of which Sir David Baird’s monument is to be placed, overlooks the whole strath, and is even visible from Dundee." So far, the note from the Perth newspaper; (which was first appended to this, "almost veritable, romance-biography of Sir William Wallace," in the edition of 1831;) and, on comparing the circumstances and dates of the period referred to, it does not seem improbable that such might have been the fearful end of that ambitious, and cruelly impassioned woman. Earl de Warenne was not a man to burden himself with cares for such a partner, after her treasons had become abortive, in the secret continuance of which, most likely she had been discovered in some of her territorial permitted visits to her inherited lands in Scotland. And the relics of the other two female forms found in the ashes, may reasonably be supposed to have been those of her personal attendants, sharing her captivity.

The above coincidence of recollections between the far past, and the present nearly but passing events, may be regarded as rather remarkable. For the hill of Tom-a-Chastel, may now be looked upon as an object recalling to memory two heroes. One, Scotland’s noblest son, of full five hundred ages gone! The other, her boast on the plains of India, within our own remembrance. While the same summit, brings two of her daughters likewise, to eminent recollection. One that disgraced her sex, in every relation of life; the other, who honours it, in all. The hand of the first would have destroyed her country’s greatest hero ;—the hand of the second, raises a tumulus, to maintain the memory, and the example of such true sons of her country, in a perpetual existence.—(1841.)

The Scarf of JAMES THE FIFTH OF SCOTLAND, in the possession of Dr. Jefferson, of West Lodge, Clapham.

This scarf belonged to, and was worn by the truly royal, but something romantically adventurous King of Scotland, James the Fifth. He was fond of roaming about in his dominions, like the celebrated Haroun Al Raschid, in various disguises, to see, and to observe; and to make acquaintance with his people of all degrees, without being known by them. In one of these incognito wanderings, about the year 1533, he was hospitably entertained for a night, by an ancestor of Dr. Jefferson’s lady; a man of liberal name in the country;. and who, unwittingly had given most courteous bed and board to his sovereign, (then personally unknown to him,) when he thought he was entertaining a person not much above the rank of the commonest degree. It being the monarch’s humour, generally to assume the most ordinary garb outwardly; and it therefore depended on the tact of the entertainer, from his own inherent nobleness, to discern the real quality of the mind and manners of his transitory guest. The host in question did not discern that it was his sovereign, he was then treating like a prince; but he felt it was a visitant, be he whom he may, that was worthy his utmost respect; and the monarch, highly pleased with his night’s lodging, and previous gracious welcome, on his departure next morning, presented to the lady of the mansion a grateful tribute to her good care, in the form of a small parcel rolled up, which, when opened, they found to be a splendid scarf endorsed to herself and lord, in the name of the Gudemon o’ Ballangeich. All knew it was then the "generous and pleasant King of Scotland;" who had been their guest.

The Scottish Chief, on whom this beautiful memorial of received hospitality had been bestowed, was John Burgh, of Burntisland, in Fifeshire; from whom the writer of this note literally traces the present inheritance of the scarf. John Burgh had an only daughter, who married John Balfour, K. N., who also had an only daughter, and she married Gilbert Blair, brother to Blair of Ard-Blair. Their only son, James Blair, married Jane Morrison, daughter of— Morrison, Esq. and an heiress of the brave house of Ramsay; by which marriage the ancient and honourable families of Burgh, Blair, and Ramsay were woven into one branch; and from this branch, indeed from the first off-set of its united stem, was born, of this marriage, Margaret Blair; who, dying in the year 1836, bequeathed the long-cherished scarf to Dr. Jefferson, the worthy husband of her beloved kinswoman—direct in the line of John Burgh, to whom it had originally been given. And by the above little memorandum, we see that Dr. Jefferson’s lady is only fifth in descent from the hospitable chief of Burntisland!

Touching on the above three names, so justly respected in Scottish history from the earliest times; and being especially connected with the era of my "Scottish Chiefs," I cannot forbear dwelling a little more particularly on their genealogy, to the present period. Both the Ramsays and the Blairs were conspicuous adherents to the fates of Wallace and of Bruce. Anterior to the twelfth century the Blairs were established in Ayrshire, and thence spread themselves in brave settlements, as was the uses of those times, northward and southward, into Perthshire, Fifeshire, and on the banks of the Eske.

The Ramsays, by a similar valiant course, found to themselves commanding homesteads in the same districts; and in process of time, as has been shown, mingled their "brave and beautiful" sons and daughters, into nuptial bands.

We have heraldic records of these families, and their successive unions, thus from respected authority. "The sirname of Blair, (observes Douglas, in his Baronage,) is of great antiquity in Scotland; and there are two families of the name, who have long competed for the chieftainship:—viz. Blair of Balthyock, whose principal residence has always been in Fife or Perthshire; and Blair of Blair, (or that ilk,) in Ayrshire. The first of the Blairs of Balthyock, we have found upon record, was Alexander de Blair, who flourished in the reigns of William the Lion, and his son Alexander II., who succeeded his royal father, A.D. 1214. Here we have the lineal ancestors of the Blairs, who drew their swords, and wove their epic song, to the fame of their country, and of William Wallace. These Blairs intermarried with the lines of the Ramsays, north and south. And from the Blairs of Balthyock, and Ard-Blair, Mrs. Jefferson’s mother, whose maiden name was Margaret Ramsay, of the family of the present Sir James Ramsay of Banff, (according to the above-quoted authority of Douglas,) was descended, by a double descent. "Sir Alexander Blair, having married Helen, the sister of Sir William Ramsay, in 1266; and Sir Gilbert Ramsay, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Blair, in 1635. To go back to the point of union between the Blair and the Morrison; from whom Mrs. Jefferson, the heiress of the royal scarf, is straightly descended, we find it thus:—James Blair, the great grandson of the hospitable chief to whom it was first given, married Jane Morrison, whose own mother was a Ramsay, and of near kindred to Mrs. Jefferson’s maternal grandfather, George Ramsay, Esq., they having been brother’s children. This George Ramsay married a beautiful Englishwoman, Miss Doyley, of an ancient family in Buckinghamshire. The memorials of this honourable parentage, are not the ostentatious displays of a vain blazonry, but are like the bright elements of a pure atmosphere. Turn to respire their breath, and their sun shall inhale a vivifying principle of active and generous usefulness—start aside, despising the bland influence, the collected rays of successive ages, and perversely seeking a course of his own, anywhere, and under any sky; and he need not be surprised when, at the termination of his unrefleeting career he shall leave no track behind worthy to be followed, or to be in any way remembered.

Not so was the memory of the royal scarf I have to describe; nor of the noble race on whom it was bestowed. And I am especially moved to note it, having seen it, and been gratified with a minute inspection of it, by its present respected and deserving possessors. It is composed of a rich and brilliant tissue of gold and silver threads, interwoven with silk-embroidered flowers in their natural colours. They are chiefly pansies, the emblems of remembrance; thistles, the old ensignia of Scotland; and the field daisy, the favourite symbol of King James’s mother, the beautiful Queen Margaret. The flowers, entwined together, run in stripes down the splendid web of the scarf; which terminates at each end with what has been a magnificent fringe of similar hues and brightness. The scarf is seven feet in length, by one foot nine inches in width.

This interesting bequest was still further enriched to Dr. Jefferson, by the addition of a cap and gloves, which tradition says, the worthy chief of Burntisland wore on his nuptial day. There are also a smaller pair of gloves, of a more delicate size and texture, appropriated by the same testimony to the fair bride. But these articles are supposed to have been of earlier fabric than that of the scarf—probably about the year 1500; and they are of less exquisite manufacture: the former appearing to be from the fine looms of France, and the latter wrought in the less practised machinery of our then ruder northern isle. The cap is of a pale red silk, with gold cord and embroidery down the seams, it being formed to fit the head, and therefore in compartments broad, where they are inserted into the rich fillet-band round the head; and narrowing to the closely-fitting top. it looked something like an Albanian cap. The gloves, which are said to have been those of the chief, were of a brownish fine leather, with embroidered gauntlet tops. The lady’s are of a lighter hue, and still softer leather, with gay fringe of varied-coloured silk and gold, and tassels at the wrists. Both these pairs of gloves were well shaped, and most neatly sewed.

On these relics of antiquity, and of ancestorial memorials, devolving on Dr. Jefferson, he sought for a place of deposit for them, suitable to their dignity, their character, and their times. He had in his possession a curious old table, of the era of Henry the Eighth, which he soon adapted to the purpose. Its large oaken slab was of sufficient dimensions to admit of the royal gift being spread in graceful folds over the dark surface of the wood, which the better displayed the tissue’s interchanging tints; and also gave room for the disposal of the cap and gloves, which were placed in a kind of armorial crest between its gauntlets, at the head of the scarf; and at its foot was added a beautifully written inscription in old emblazoned characters, historic of the interesting relics above. The whole is secured from dust or other injury by a covering of plate-glass, extending over the entire surface of the table; which, having a raised carved oak parapet-border, of about four inches high along all its sides, forms a sort of castellated sanctuary, that completely defends from accident the glass, and the treasure beneath it; which is distinctly seen through the lucid medium. The shape of the table is like what we call a sofa-table, but very long, being five feet by two and a half. The depth of its frieze altogether, is eight inches; for it extends four inches below the four-inch parapet above; and this lower portion is worked into a foliage, enwreathing the sides. The whole height of the table, from the feet of its four-clawed pedestal, is three feet two inches. This pedestal, or rather branching stem of polished oak,—being of the sturdy contour of its original growth, with its superb ramifications supporting the precious slab above,—shows an elaborate design in its carvings, far beyond my power to describe; so luxuriant, so various, so intricate, one might almost suppose that the matchless tool of the famous Beneventa Cellini had traced its wild and graceful grotesque. The four claws, which are like roots from the stem of the pedestal, partake of the same rich arabesque in their design, and terminate in the form of lion’s-paws.

But the most striking part of this noble pedestal, is the presence of four figures, with each its back to the stem; roughly-garbed men, with bag-pipes in their arms and at their lips. At the first glance, they appear to be ancient Highlanders, in kilt and bonnet; but on looking closer, they are discovered to be ancient people indeed, but of what country it may not be so easy to determine. For, what seemed the Scottish kilt, is a rough, short vesture, of some animal’s hairy hide; while, whatever other covering the figures have, which is scanty enough, bears an equally wild and almost savage aspect. Ancient Italy, as well as ancient Greece, exhibited the bag-pipe. But the coincidence of seeing men so habited, and appended, on a table its owner had only adapted to his interesting piece of Scottish antiquity, could hardly lead to other conjecture, on a first glance, than that they were the aborigines, at least, of old Caledonia.

The plaids of Scotland, with their peculiar distinguishing stripes, have been supposed to be of Phoenician origin; and the bag-pipe too, has been traced to that same primeval people. The writer of these notes intended to have added some particulars concerning these tartans’ history, as connected with the Scottish clans; but her Appendix having swollen so far beyond the length she originally meditated, she resigns the pleasing task to, she hopes, some more able pen hereafter; referring the eye of the inquirer into their various bearings, to the complete collection, and fully satisfactory explanation of them, to be found at the liberal house of Messrs. Romanes and Paterson, in the city of Edinburgh; who, above a year ago, obliged her with a gift of some fine specimens of them all.

And now, on the 30th of June, 1841, I finish this Appendix; and close my re-touching hand, over "The Scottish Chiefs;" perhaps for ever. I now resign them entirely to the world and to posterity, like an aged parent taking a last leave of the child of her bosom;—and, of a certainty, while writing it, it was "most pleasant to me—sweet, though mournful to my soul !" But it was not my first work; it followed that of "Thaddeus of Warsaw;" which, of course, being published before its successor, the "Scottish Chiefs" has, by due course of time, returned to me, to date as my own property again, a few years anterior to the similar return of the "Scottish Chiefs." And, as I have now re-launched that, my second-born, (as I may call it,) into the world’s revolving ocean of taste and opinions;—yet still ultimately steered through by the one great star of sound Christian principle!—I feel a corresponding wish, to give a last refit to my first-born also; and, ere long, I hope to pass my revising hand over its pages, and then resign it to a similar re-launching as that of the "Scottish Chiefs." In such a case, "Thaddeus of Warsaw" may then make its last essay, under some circumstances particularly interesting to its author, at least as far as relates to her own feelings with regard to her work’s Connection with their subject.

On its first publication, it was brought out under the encouragement of friendship; it was a simple tale of true heroism! and it appeased under the sanctioning banner of her most revered friend, Sir Sidney Smith;—then "the observed of all observers! "—the just returned from his ever-memorable defence of St. Jean D’Acre! when all England pressed to give him hail, and high and low made acclamation to his well-earned fame. The smiles of beauty, the plaudits of patriotic virtue, were then, a galaxy around him. Now, the tears of the one, and the grave regrets of the other, have succeeded; time has passed on and the Hero of Acre is no more. And also now, the author of "Thaddeus of Warsaw," contemplating the republication of that little tale of "other days;" which, in its first morning, imbibing some of that bright sun’s influence, thereafter lost not hold of a sort of twilight abiding ray;—she thinks it not improbable, that something like the dawn, and the evening of her mind’s destiny, may again meet on the same point:—with this change, the fate of all living, having passed between that "dawn and evening"—life and death having re-united that point into one—she thinks it not improbable, that the last edition of her earliest work may meet the returning mortal remains of the hero and friend, under whose protecting auspices it first met the world. He was then full of life and zeal for human-kind, and the hope of all noble achievements! And now he is laid in his cold coffin, in a foreign, and once long-hostile land! But, (and respected be the honourable pledge given to his country, at the close of the just expired session of Parliament!) those sacred relics are to be restored to England, and laid in a tomb of honour, in one or other of the two great cathedral-cemeteries of our British metropolis!

Thus, it indeed becomes the Government of every country, and the people who compose its population, to uphold its defenders in life, and to honour their remains when dead. Such memorials speak aloud to future generations—"England, while she expects every man born in her dominions to DO HIS DUTY!—like the God who made the worlds, rewardeth that duty, as if it were a debt!" How noble the stimulus! and true to the nature in which the best of men are formed! Not any sordid reward is promised; but that which emanates from the exalted soul that gives, and is ardently welcomed by that of him by whom it is received:—" Honour to whom honour is due!" Of the like character and acceptance are the records of history. Even so that of the epic song. The aim, also, of the biographical style of romance; to which my pen hath ardently, though humbly been devoted, from its holder’s "youth to age;" and, that its aim has not been disappointed, in the hearth of many a young aspirant to patriotic glory, and to private virtue, who has read her pages—chronicling the noble deeds of old!—is indeed a "setting sun" of gracious influence, to the declining days of



There is another book about Wallace and Bruce available in e-text:

In Freedom's Cause : A Story Of Wallace And Bruce
Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902

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