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Women in History of Scots Descent
Flora MacDonald

Flora MacDonaldOff the western coast of Scotland lie many islands known as the Hebrides; the group furthest to the north-west is called the Outer Hebrides, and three of these, namely North Uist, South Uist, and Benbecula, between them, make ‘The Long Island.’ The coasts of the mainland and islands are immensely rugged; the edges torn, as it were, by primeval giant hands into jagged cliffs, separated by deep winding inlets, called firths or lochs. The islands seem like giant-torn fragments, hurled outwards into foaming seas, out to which their rugged headlands rise. In times of calm there may be, as the poet Wordsworth says,

‘A silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.’

but even in summer, storms are frequent, and very terrible to voyagers. Then, the wind lashes the water into great rolling billows which break against the cliffs with noisy violence, and beyond the Outer Hebrides and the Long Island the great Atlantic surges and swells with deep-voiced thunder, lashing itself like a fierce serpent around those desolate shores.

The inhabitants of the Hebrides nowadays are few and poor: inland there are farmers or ‘crofters,’ and fishermen on the coasts; in the towns there are shop-keepers and traders, school teachers and Government officials, also ministers of religion who preach, most often in Gaelic, to simple congregations. These all live simply because there is no wealth; but those whose families belong to the soil cling lovingly to the land of their fathers.

Two centuries ago, however, things were somewhat different. There are many ‘Lords’ or ‘Lairds,’ a sort of Highland chieftains who lived in large comfortable stone-built mansions which were called castles; the Lairds were surrounded by their followers and servants. These chieftains were not rich men in the modern sense, but they owned much land, and lived in homely comfort, just as Lords of the Manor had lived in Southern Britain in yet earlier times. They had for their food plenty of game and fish, the flesh of their own sheep and cattle, oatmeal and rye, besides wheat and barley brought from the mainland. Whisky never failed to be imported, nor French wines. The ladies of these households were skilled in all domestic things and could direct, if not also perform, the spinning of their own wool and flax. Many of these Lairds went once a year with their families for some months to Edinburgh, where they mixed with the best of Scots society, and heard of all the happenings in the wider world beyond. Their ladies could play, also, on harp and spinet, and sing Gaelic songs. In the islands, besides the chiefs and their followers, there were independent crofters, who made a good though simple livelihood on their farms; there were also ministers, and boatmen and fishermen. All these were fairly prosperous folk.

In the early part of the eighteenth century when King George II. reigned in England, a little girl called Flora Macdonald was living in the island of South Uist. Her father, a minister, had died in 1724, when Flora was two years old; four years later, her mother married again. Her second husband was Mr. Hugh Macdonald, a member of the same clan, though only a distant relative; and he lived at Armadale in Skye. Then arose the question whether Flora should remain with her brother Angus in Uist, or go with her mother to Skye; and the child, being given her choice, decided firmly: ‘I will stay at Milton because I love it, till my dear Mamma comes back to me.’

She grew up therefore in a quiet valley by a burn which turned a mill, hence the name of the stone-built cottage, Milton. From the cottage Flora could see the lake to which the burn flowed and great hills far away: on the west the Atlantic, by the side of which Flora often wandered alone, drinking in unconsciously the wide-spread beauty of the sea and sky. Watching her thus in our imagination we may foretell, as Wordsworth did of his Lucy:

‘The floating clouds their state shall lend
To her: for her the willow bend:
Nor shall she fail to see,
E’en in the motions of the storm,
Grace that shall mould the maiden’s form.
By silent sympathy.’

Among the farmers and their families Flora had many friends; they were a musical and poetical folk; so she learnt to sing Gaelic songs to their beautiful simple tunes, words and tunes alike being the growth of centuries of joy and sorrow, and handed down by memory from generation to generation. Flora had some schooling also; for these Hebridean folk had worked out an excellent plan by which their young people were gathered into conveniently placed schools at various points, where a teacher from the mainland gave instruction.

When Flora was thirteen years old, a friend of her mother, Lady Clanranald, invited the girl to share her own daughters’ education. So Flora went to live at Ormiclad with the Clanranalds, and remained there three years. Then a fresh opportunity offered itself. Her mother’s friend, Lady Margaret Macdonald of Monkstadt in Skye, invited Flora to stay with her in Edinburgh. In September 1740 Flora went on board a small schooner, bound for Glasgow with a cargo of fish. The captain, one Roderick of the Clan Macdonald, was a noted singer of Gaelic songs, so he and his lady passenger had a taste in common. From Glasgow, Flora travelled by coach to Edinburgh, and there joined a very small school kept by a Miss Henderson in the High Street of the capital. It was hardly what we should call a school, but rather a cultivated home, where the girls were educated by intelligent conversation and interesting reading, and by much intercourse with the best Edinburgh society.

After three years, Flora, now aged twenty-three—for there had been intervals between the periods of schools—decided to return to the Western Islands.

* * * * * *

It was the year 1745, a notable date. Sir Alexander Macdonald, husband of Flora’s friend, Lady Margaret, had been in Edinburgh that June, and had heard much talk of public affairs. Rumour was busy about the ‘young Chevalier,’ Prince Charles Edward. Thirty years before, his father James Stuart, only son of King James II., had raised rebellion against King George I., and been defeated. It was now talked of everywhere that Charles Edward, an adventurous young man, was on the point of a similar attempt. He had been for some time the centre of Jacobite hopes and plots: to some men, success seemed possible. But there were many leading men of Scotland, who, even though they loved not the House of Hanover, shook their heads sadly, and refused to lend support to ‘Prince Charlie.’

One of these was Sir Alexander Macdonald; but Lady Margaret was a Jacobite at heart. He now (June ‘45) decided to return to Skye with his wife and Flora.

They took ship from Leith to Inverness, and in such windless weather that the passage occupied eleven days. Tedious to our ideas! But these eighteenth-century travellers found ample interest in conversation and music, and did not long for comforts and luxuries such as we think necessary.

At Inverness the Macdonald party were entertained by the Provost at a dinner at which all the leading people of the town and lairds of the neighbourhood were present. The Macdonalds waited there a week for the horses expected from Skye; and then set out along rough bridle paths across the mountains, a horse for each traveller, and for each horse a ‘Gilleceann-srein,’ or attendant who walked on the off-side for the rider’s protection. Their route lay along the line now marked by the Caledonian canal; on the first night they slept at the Castle of Glenmoriston; on the second at a small Highland inn; on the third day, by starting early, they reached the Kyleakin ferry, and crossed the Sound of Sleat to Skye. Here, at the house of the Laird of Mackinnon, Flora met her mother. After this she returned to South Uist, where her brother and many friends welcomed her.

It was now July 1745, and all Scotland was astir with rumours. Highland gentlemen, keen for Prince Charles, were circulating secret messages from and to others who were with the Prince in France. The Northern Highlands and the Western Islands were the chief centres of these doings, for here, if anywhere, it was believed the rising should begin.

Suddenly, in the third week of July, rumour became certain information; the Prince, it was said, had landed at Eriskay, south of Uist, and had passed the night in a peasant’s cottage, his identity unknown to his host. There followed meetings with various leading men of the islands in the hope of persuading them to join the rising; five of the most important refused. But on the mainland it was different; there, the Highlanders were full of enthusiasm; the fiery cross was passed from hand to hand over mountain passes and through lonely glens till a small army of 4000 men gathered at Glenfinnan; thence they marched to Edinburgh, gathering numbers on the way.

There, a memorable entry; the capital rose in wild enthusiasm for a Stuart Prince; for some days he kept high state at the Palace of Holyrood, defeated King George’s troops at Prestonpans, and struck southwards in triumph through Western England.

We know the dreary ending of all this fair beginning; the wet depressing autumn; Highland troops deserting; the retreat from Derby; failure after failure; till in April 1746, on Culloden Moor, the clansmen, magnificently brave, but little used to disciplined battle, flung themselves in vain against the English ranks, and were hopelessly beaten.

Prince Charles allowed himself to be guided off the field by some of his officers, and made for the west coast, hoping to escape to France. Many who loved him believed in a possible rally. But when, a few days later, a loyal Jacobite, Lord George Murray, sent news of some thousands who were willing to dare again, the Prince refused to allow any further action. In this, we can praise his wisdom.

Now, a hunted man, with a price of 30,000 on his head, as he wandered through a desolate country, he must have realized some of the suffering he was causing. The Highland castles were deserted; the populace in hiding; day after day, as he sought for food and shelter at some well-known mansion, he found none to welcome him. At Gorthling House, its old master had been preparing a feast to celebrate the expected victory at Culloden; now, he met his Prince a fugitive, worn out with hunger and fatigue. Frantic with disappointment, the old man could only repeat, ‘Cut off my head.’

Staying there for hasty refreshment, the party tramped on, past Fort Augustus, and the Castle of Invergarry, over sharp boulders and through swollen streams, till near Loch Arkaig they met a young chieftain, whose father, Cameron of Clunes, had been killed at Prestonpans fighting for Prince Charles. Here they spent the night in a cave with a plentiful supply of meat, bread, and whisky.

The next night, stormy and cold, was passed in a sheep shearer’s hovel with a turf fire; but there were several more days of travelling before they reached Arisaig on the coast. At this point several loyal friends tried to dissuade the Prince from attempting the Hebrides, where every creek and every hill-side were being watched; in vain; Charles was bent on the attempt. Donald of Galtrigil piloted the fugitives through a tremendous storm to the eastern side of Benbecula; but a message from the Clanranald family suggested, as the best chance, a dash for Stornoway, capital of Lewis, where, if at all, a vessel for France might be found; the dash is made, a thousand perils occurring; in a week they are back again in a hovel on the coast of Benbecula, and Donald the faithful carries to the waiting folk at Ormiclad a message that some fresh plan must be made.

Now it happened that Flora Macdonald was at this moment a guest of the Clanranalds; her quiet sagacity was called in on every discussion about the Prince. Her caution, indeed caused Lady Clanranald some irritation, but she showed also a quiet hopefulness. The caution arose, in fact, only from her fear lest active measures taken for the Prince’s rescue should bring her friend, Sir Alexander Macdonald, into trouble.

And in truth the Prince’s plight grew daily more desperate; though now hidden in a cave of Glen Corrodale, a natural hollow scooped out of the base of the cliff and hidden by a slab of rock, watchfulness on the part of Government troops was daily increasing, since it had become known that Charles had left the mainland. Every ferry and landing-place was guarded; every channel and loch patrolled by boats. However, by means of newspapers, sent secretly by Lady Margaret Macdonald, Prince Charles and his friends could follow the different measures taken by the English Government for his capture.

At Ormiclad, discussion occupied hour after hour and day after day. At last, a plan was woven.

The Long Island had now become the centre, as it were, of the toils closing round the Prince; there he was, however well hidden, and there he was known to be. Out of the Long Island he must be got; on the contrary the Island of Skye was comparatively little suspected because the two chieftains, viz. Macdonald and Macleod, whose clans occupied nearly all its soil, were believed to be firm supporters of the English King.

Flora, therefore, should be the chief agent of escape. By means of a passport, obtainable from her stepfather, Hugh Macdonald, she would visit her mother at Armadale in Skye, taking with her Niel MacEacheann, her man servant, and ‘Betty Burke,’ an Irish spinning maid, whose services were urgently needed by Flora’s mother. We can guess at the person to be disguised as ‘Betty Burke.’

But how to get the passports quickly? No travelling without one at that time! Here, fortune was kind. Flora and the faithful Niel, travelling by night from Milton back to Ormiclad, were arrested by a party of soldiers whose officer in command was absent. In the morning, the returning officer proved to be Captain Hugh Macdonald, just then employed on the island by Government. To him Flora confided her plot, taking care to press him in presence of his junior officers for the passports which she really must have at once to enable her to get to her mother’s house in Skye. That very evening, the three passports were handed to Flora at the house at Ormiclad, together with a letter from her stepfather to his wife, explaining the matter in such a way that no suspicion could be aroused.

An excellent boat with six boatmen was engaged, and the men, sworn to secrecy, engaged also to meet the three passengers at a fixed time. Lady Clanranald ransacked her stores of clothing, till with difficulty she got together some articles out of which could be fashioned a suitable disguise for gigantic ‘Betty Burke.’

Next evening these garments were carried by Flora, Lady Clanranald, and Niel, to the Prince’s hiding-place. They found him cooking a savoury mess for his supper, a sheep’s liver, kidneys, and heart; the visitors had brought game, bread, cheese and wine. At Charles’ desire they all joined in the meal, seated on bundles of heather round a stone table. The Prince was gracious and amusing.

Supper over, he put on his disguise. After twenty minutes in a rocky robing room, with Niel to help him, he appeared, amid peals of laughter, in a flowered linen gown, over a quilted petticoat, a grey-hooded cloak and a large woman’s cap. ‘Betty’ appeared very large and lanky, also shy at the difficulty of managing her skirts.

At this very moment Lady Clanranald was summoned home by a messenger, because some soldiers, visiting Ormiclad, showed suspicion about her movements. When questioned she told the officer in command that she had been on a sad errand, visiting a dying friend.

On the next evening, June 27th, the Prince, Flora and Niel, met at the appointed place on the shore. Rain was falling in torrents; no boat appeared; only, out at sea several vessels filled with soldiers. An hour after these had disappeared, the expected boat glided with muffled oars out of a hidden creek. They were, at least, safely off.

It was a distance of forty miles, across the Minch to the northern coast of Skye - a stormy sea, alive with Government craft. They were caught in a terrific storm; no sailing possible; now, they drifted helplessly, and were nearly driven back; now, mountainous waves all but swamped the boat. The Prince sang throughout the tumult, and Flora, lying on ballast, slept at intervals. It was long after day-break when they sighted the headlands of Skye and steered for the point of Waternish; but fresh danger lay there. Suddenly a shower of bullets fell around the vessel, riddling sails, splitting the handle of the helm and grazing the steersman’s hand; the red-coats on shore had seen them, but soon they were out of range once more.

In the early afternoon they landed safely at Kilbride near to Monkstadt, Sir Alexander Macdonald’s house. A small cave on the shore served for ‘Betty’s’ hiding-place while Flora and her servant announced and explained their arrival. Sir Alexander was absent, fortunately, but the drawing-room was full of visitors to the hospitable Lady Margaret. Some of these were old friends of Flora and welcomed her warmly, but Captain John Macleod of His Majesty’s service, quartered at Monkstadt, questioned the newcomer without pretence of courtesy. Thus:

‘Be pleased to tell me, my good lady, whence you come to-day and whither you are going; also who has been with you as you crossed the Minch.’

To all such questions Flora replied so easily and with such apparent candour that the captain appeared quite satisfied, and escorted her in to dinner in his most gallant mood. Later, he came still nearer to the risky topic: ‘What news, Miss Macdonald, from the Long Island, about that unfortunate rebel, Prince Charles Edward?’ To which Flora answered smiling: ‘Perhaps, Sir, you are not aware that I am a bit of a Jacobite myself, and therefore I am glad to understand that the poor fugitive has left the Long Island by means of a vessel from France.’ No further suspicion of Flora’s doings appeared possible.

The next problem was to provide for the Prince’s safety and comfort during the approaching night. After dinner, Captain Macleod and his officers went off on military inspection of their patrol; it was necessary, now, to reveal the matter to Lady Margaret and to Mr. Macdonald of Kingsburgh—Sir Alexander’s factor, or steward—(generally known as ‘Kingsburgh’ simply). The latter set out for the Prince’s cave carrying provisions, and caught sight, before reaching it, of a ‘gigantic female figure stalking rapidly over a meadow, every pace, a fathom in length.’ ‘Betty’ returned to her cave and enjoyed the meal provided.

It was necessary before long to explain the presence of ‘Betty Burke’ to the Monkstadt servants, for a cattleman presently entered the kitchen exclaiming in Gaelic, ‘Lord preserve us! I saw a large female with a big stick, and a curious hood, and a most remarkable dress.’ For that night, ‘Betty’ had to remain in hiding, but when the Government officers had gone to bed, the little party of Jacobites sat late discussing the next move.

Rapid movement from place to place— the winding and doubling of a hunted hare—in this only lay a chance of escape.

At early dawn, therefore, Kingsburgh set out with ‘Betty,’ on foot across the hills to his own house, some twelve miles off. Later, in the morning, Flora, with Niel and another lady visitor at Monkstadt, followed, mounted on ponies; Flora had eluded Captain Macleod’s suspicions by assuring her hostess that she must hasten on to her mother’s house. Actually, she travelled in the opposite direction and after an hour or two caught up ‘Betty’ and her companion. They tramped on in pouring rain, and once, when very thirsty, they were directed to a pure spring of water by a bare-footed boy who was herding cattle. This boy lived to be a very old man, and then, a well-known inhabitant of the Lawnmarket in Edinburgh, he used to tell with pride of this incident, and how he had received a whole silver shilling from that tall Irish woman—whose identity he afterwards learnt. That spring is known to this day as the Prince’s Well Tobair a Phrionessa, in Gaelic—and it belongs to the Kingsburgh family.

A trying walk that, for ‘Betty Burke.’ Her long skirts were harassing to her inexperience. Now, she held them up so high that every passer-by was staring; now, she let them drag in the streams they had to cross. And when, presently, they were met by a party of country folk returning from church, the latter saluted Kingsburgh but gazed in awe at his companion. They chattered in Gaelic, pointing at her: ‘Oh! see that strange woman, her big wide steps! What a bold slattern she is! One of a giant race, for sure.’

At midnight the travellers reached Kingsburgh House; the inmates in bed—there was none to welcome them. However, Kingsburgh’s wife was roused and bustled about preparing food and beds. Her little daughter ran to her. ‘Oh! mother, father has brought back the most muckle ill-shapen wife you have ever seen, and into the hall too.’ When, however, the strange woman advanced to meet the hostess, and saluted her on the cheek in the princely fashion of those days, the truth flashed on the Highland lady’s mind.

‘Me come to supper,’ says she to her husband, ‘I know not how to conduct myself before Royalty.’ ‘Royalty here, or Royalty there,’ quoth Kingsburgh, ‘the Prince will not sit down without you.’

So the party shared a plentiful meal, and when the ladies had gone to bed, Prince Charles and his host sat on, smoking, talking and drinking hot toddy. So loth was the Prince to end the cheery evening, that the punch-bowl containing the toddy was broken in two during a friendly struggle, Kingsburgh wishing, in spite of hospitality, to put away the tempting drink. It was two o’clock on the next afternoon before the Prince was roused for the next stage of his wanderings. Then once more, he was helped amid laughter into the clothes of ‘Betty Burke,’ for it was necessary for him to leave the house disguised, as on his arrival. Shortly afterwards he exchanged the woman’s dress for that of a Highland farmer. From the eastern coast of Skye he hoped to get to the mainland.

The services of Flora were no longer needed. With tears in his eyes the Prince thanked her, giving her his portrait in a gold locket, and many promises of future reward, when he should have won the throne of England. He knew well enough, indeed, that only Flora’s wise and courageous device could have drawn him out of that ‘wall of fire’ by which he had been enclosed on the Long Island. It is sad to record that never from that day onward did Charles bestow on Flora a single sign of gratitude or remembrance, not even a letter. This is only one of many evidences of the well-known fact that the Stuarts were wont to take as a matter of course all the steadfast and warm devotion showered by their followers on one after another of their luckless family.

‘To my true King I offered, free from stain,
Courage and faith; vain faith, and courage vain.’

Thus wrote Macaulay in his imaginary, ‘Jacobite’s Epitaph.’ Vain faith and vain courage indeed in this special case we feel, because the after-life of Charles, rescued at so great a cost, seems in the end to have not been worth saving. After three months more of wandering he escaped to the Continent, living on and on till January 1788, a broken man, useless and dissipated.

But among some of those who had worked for him relics were kept as sacred things: the China punch-bowl, riveted with silver, remained as an heirloom in the family of Kingsburgh’s daughter, and of the sheets in which Prince Charles had slept that night, one was kept by Mrs. Macdonald, and one so treasured by Flora that she desired it to be used as her shroud.

* * * * * *

After parting from the Prince, Flora visited her mother at Armadale; no word of her exciting adventure did she utter for fear of the anxiety it might cause. A trivial incident this; yet it is most significant of her wise self-control.

The whole affair had indeed become known, for one mistake had been made. The boat and boatmen from the Long Island had returned there as soon as they had landed the Prince and Flora in Skye. The men were captured and separately examined; so much suspicion was aroused that Flora was summoned to answer to a charge of helping the Prince to escape.

She confessed the matter fully, declaring that she would never regret her part in it, and she was sent as a State prisoner, with a Highland girl in attendance, on a Government vessel to Leith harbour. Here, hundreds of Edinburgh folk visited the much talked of heroine; from there she sailed to London, and had a brief imprisonment in the Tower—at that time still used as a State prison. But so strong was popular feeling in her favour that she was released as a prisoner on parole and lived with Lady Primrose in London. Amongst the many fashionable folk who visited her was Frederick Prince of Wales, eldest son of George II. The story goes that when he asked her how she dared assist a rebel against his father’s throne, she replied, ‘I should have done the same for your Royal Highness had you been in like need.’

She constantly maintained that her action had been one of simple humanity, and therefore not wrong in any way. But without blame to Flora there is a cruel contrast in the story of the reprisals. For this educated lady, with important Highland relatives, went publicly honoured for her courage in deliberately foiling Government’s plans by carrying off the rebel, disguised; while thousands of peasant folk were massacred or driven from their homes to starve, only because the Prince had travelled through their districts without being given up to justice.

When Flora received her freedom in 1747 she begged for and obtained pardon for her fellow prisoners from the Western Islands, amongst them, old Macdonald of Kingsburgh. Then, she returned to Scotland, first to Edinburgh, thence to Inverness, and as in 1745 on horseback across country to the coast, her companions, Niel MacEacheann and the Highland girl, Kate Macdonald.

Thus ended her famous days, though not her days of adventure. During two years she lived quietly as of old with her brother Angus, at Milton, ‘at once, the greatest heroine of her age, and the simplest of women.’ In November 1750 she was married to Alan Macdonald, son of the master of Kingsburgh House. And to that house, after its old master’s death, came Alan and Flora with their large family of sons and daughters.

It was here that they were visited in 1773 by the great Dr. Johnson and his friend Boswell, who describe them thus:

‘Alan Macdonald,’ writes Boswell, ‘was completely the figure of a gallant Highlander.... He had his tartan plaid thrown round him, a large blue bonnet. . . a bluish philibeg (kilt) and tartan hose. He had jet black hair tied behind, a large stately man, with a steady sensible countenance.’ And of Flora, the Doctor writes: ‘A woman of middle stature, soft features, gentle manners, and an elegant presence.’

* * * * * *

But hard times came to the dwellers in Skye, and many of the crofters went to America. Among these were the Kingsburgh Macdonalds, settling in Carolina, one of the southern colonies of the eastern coast. When the War of Independence broke out, in 1776, Flora’s husband and five sons entered the Royalist service; the husband was taken prisoner and Flora returned to Scotland with a delicate daughter. On the voyage their ship was attacked by a French privateer and in the fighting Flora, remaining on deck by choice, had her arm broken. She used to say that she had suffered in the service of both Stuarts and Hanoverians.

On her husband’s release in 1783, the family settled once more at Kingsburgh House. There, in March 1790, Flora died, and was buried in the churchyard of Kilmuir on the northern coast of Skye.

Was not this an example of very ‘complete living’?

Here is a wee account of Flora MacDonald taught to 8 year olds in North Carolina


One of the most fascinating women ever to live in North Carolina was the Scottish heroine, Flora MacDonald.  Although she made her home in the Tar Heel state for but four years, Flora won fame and admiration when as a young woman she saved the life of Scotland’s "Bonnie Prince" Charles Edward Stuart from the British by disguising him as an Irish maid and enabling the young prince to escape.

The Battle of Culloden

Like thousands Scots who lost their freedom in the years that followed the British victory at the Battle of Culloden (1746), Flora and her family left their homeland in 1774 and emigrated to North Carolina.  While some left willingly for economic opportunities, many were forced to migrate. They landed at Wilmington and traveled up the Cape Fear River to its furthermost navigable point: the Highland Scots community of Cross Creek (now Fayetteville) in Cumberland County. Later, the family settled on a 500 acre estate named "Killegrey" in present-day Montgomery County where they raised cattle and engaged in the profitable colonial trade of producing pine products called "naval stores."

But before being allowed to settle, Flora and her family had to sign an oath (promise) never to oppose the British government. The family’s new life was soon interrupted by the outbreak of the American Revolution. True to the sworn oath, the MacDonald family joined the Tory cause at the outbreak of the fighting. Flora’s husband, Allan became a major in the service of the British Army and recruited soldiers for the loyalists in North Carolina. Her son Alexander and son-in-law, Alexander McLeod were also Tory officers.  In February 1776 Royal Governor Martin called for the Highlanders to march from Cross Creek to join forces with the British at Wilmington.  A legend survives that Flora MacDonald cheered the departing men in her native Gaelic language while seated upon a white horse.
The Continental Congress had urged that militias be organized in each colony to prepare for war with the British. When North Carolina patriots learned that loyalists were marching to Wilmington, they set up an ambush at Widow Moore’s Creek Bridge where they surrounded and pursued the surprised Tories in a battle that lasted only fifteen minutes with the patriots winning an important victory.  Several Highlanders were killed and more than 800 fled or were captured.  Flora’s husband was taken prisoner of war.

Flora remained at Killegrey for a time though she had to endure harassment and live in fear for her life.  In 1779 she left the United States and returned to Scotland where she lived peacefully with her husband on the Isle of Skye until her death in 1790.  To this day her grave is one of the most visited sites in Scotland.  Her legacy remains in the Cape Fear region as well with a school in Red Springs that bears her name and serves as the location of the Flora MacDonald Highland Games where each fall hundreds of people gather for competitions, musical performances and socialization to promote Scottish culture and heritage.   The spirit of Flora MacDonald serves as an example of courage and honor to all who admire her.

The Flora McDonald Campus

We got in an email from Angus MacMillan which said...

There is one paragraph that offends not so much me as history. It starts by suggesting that the King at the time of Flora's birth in 1722 was George II. He did not become king for another 5 years. It then says Flora's father was a Minister. That was Angus MacDonald, am Ministeir laidir, the 'strong Minister' her mother's father. Flora's father was Ranald MacDonald II of Balivanich and Milton; he did incidentally have a Minister brother as Master Alasdair was Rector of Eilean Finnan and father of the great poet of the '45 and Prince Charles' Gaelic tutor, Alasdair mac Maighsteir Alasdair. Then it suggest that Flora had the choice when her mother remarried, which was in 1728, of going to live with her mother and Hugh Cam MacDonald at his home at Armadale in Skye, or of remaining with her brother Angus at Milton. Hugh Cam moved into the Flora family home at Balivanich in Benbecula in 1728 and only left for Armadale, of which he first had a tack at Whitsunday 1746, having had to leave Benbecula in disgrace after having an affair with a married woman of some status, resulting in the birth of an illegitimate daughter. As for remaining with her brother at Milton, no-one has ever suggested that Angus was born before 1718 as his mother was only born in about 1690 and his own granddaughter, Mrs John MacLellan, wife of the tacksman of Drimsdale in South Uist, told the great collector of Gaelic material, Alexander Carmichael, in a note still in the Carmichael/Watson collection at Edinburgh University, that Angus was born after his father's death, which is why Clanranald gave him the tack of Milton. That would make Angus at most aged 4 when he was offered custody of his 6 year old sister. There was no significant house at Milton until the 1790s, which allocates the building to Angus' son and Flora's nephew, Angus MacDonald IV of Milton. Milton itself was Airigh Mhuillin, the mill sheiling i.e. summer pasture and not a farmstead. The site of the home in Balivanich where the family did live is still well known in Benbecula and the Rev Dr Angus MacDonald of Killearnan, a Benbecula lad and joint author of the great three volume history of Clan Donald, has left a written note in his m/s history of the Uists, also in Edinburgh University Library that, albeit a ruin, the house was still standing when he was at school in Balivanich in the late 1860s.

I hope this helps. It seems a pity for valuable sites to mislead the unwary. If I may be so bold and as you say there are multiple sites dealing with Flora, it might be wise also to have a look at them. The'histories' to the extent that they cover Flora's years until she met the Prince are simply inventions plagiarised from one generation of authors to the next. They say that she was educated in Edinburgh when she herself is on record as never having been out of the Uists until 1744, when she was 22. They suggest that education was overseen by Lady Margaret Montgomerie, wife of the Skye MacDonald chief, who was barely older than Flora and did not marry Sir Alexander of Sleat or move to Skye until Flora was 17. And so on ...

The Life of Flora MacDonald
By The Rev. Alexander MacGregor, M.A. (1901) (pdf)

Flora MacDonald in Uist
By William Jolly, F.R.S.E, F.G.S (1886)

Flora MacDonald in America
By J. P. MacLean (1909)

Return to Women in History of Scots Descent Index


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