A story of the Scottish rising of 1745.
“The story I am about to tell you my dear is of great importance for if there is one thing I have learned over many years is that one needs to remember so that one will be able to pass on to the young certain truths about the rising in the year 1745 which have truly never been told in full. said Lady Elizabeth to her grand daughter one evening in the winter of 1801
as the wind and snow beat about the turrets of castle Aitcheson was one that young Mary had not heard in full although she had heard parts of the story the majority was new to her.
I was in the year 43 (1743) I had been married less then a year and had returned with your grand father John from our honeymoon on the continent. We had arrived in the late afternoon your great grand father the Laird Alexander Aitcheson had been glad to see us return for he was anxious for news from France and Italy for we had been fortunate to have been granted an audience with the king across the water James Edward Stuart by the grace of God King of England Ireland Scotland and France. Your grand father had for a considerable span of time been in audience with the King over the water and the Bonny Prince while I as the occasion allowed spent an hour in the company of the small court at St Germaine
The Laird of Glen Attie my beloved father in law of blessed memory you see was anxious to know when to prepare for the coming of the King over the water. Since our return to castle Aitcheson John and the laird had been closeted behind closed doors as the laird listened as john told of all that had past between the Sturats Father and son and John in France. The dinner gong had sounded and we at the dinning table awaited the arrival of the Laird and his son almost a quarter of an hour before they made there entrance.
As custom dictated at castle Aitcheson the laird took his place at the head of the table razing his glass we followed his example and turned our eyes towards the large bay windows which faced France raising our glasses we listened as the laird began the toast to the King over the water.
Glen Attie lay below us the small village nestled against the lower hills over which the ancient keep of Aitcheson held domain. We raised our glasses and drank thinking of all that had gone before how in 1715 the battle had been lost even before it had been started. How your great grand father Alexander laird of Aitcheson had laid out the clansmen to declare for James Edward Stuart but before he could do so a messenger had brought news that James Edward Stuart had returned to France. It was indeed a fortunate thing for the laird had not gone but three miles from Glen Attie before turning back and so saved his head and family name from the destruction which the Hanoverians had wrought on less cautious men.
For it was known that the kindly laird of Glen Attie was a cautious man who although kind was not foolish and would always consider the cost of any action he might take before going ahead he would for example turn a penny twice and some times thrice true typical of that highland folk but even for them he was indeed a rare exception.
For one thing he was so different from my own father Angus Mac Murray who was a fearsome quick tempered man who suffered foolish men not at all. While the laird of Glen Attie was known for his benevolence the laird of Mac Murray was known for his fearsome and terrifying temper.
Now as we sat down to dinner that night in 1743 I became aware of certain things it is said that the people of the highland clans have second sight I personally did not hold this belief until that night for as those at dinner began to talk the first courses had been served lady Agnes your great grand mother had no been well of late and had risen claiming indisposition before retiring I was thus left the only woman other then your great aunt Jane at the table your great aunt was but in her 14th year and thus still considered a child. I listened as the men spoke offering little to the conversation been the only woman there in the company of men indeed if your grand father John had not implored me with his eyes upon his mothers retiring to stay I would have left the men talked of the 15 and of the young Bonny prince I listened but fell into a dreamlike state in this state I slipped into the realm of second sight. I saw before me the fields of Culloden covered by vast armies making war on each other I saw the clans men charge and charge again against the guns of the King of England only to be mowed down time and time again. I chanced to see the laird of Clan Aitcheson rise up upon a steed and rally the clan the men followed only to be cut down once again Alexander Aitcheson had not ridden far into the fire of the guns before a large English dragoon faced him with a sword which cut the kindly man in two. I looked on in horror not knowing what further terror I was to watch but relief came from another quarter I heard my name been called Elizabeth, Elizabeth I felt a hand gently shake me Elizabeth waken, waken I was woken with a start for your grand father John stood over me on one side and the kindly father in law who I had so recently seen slain in my vision stood by him. Are you alright my dear asked the laird a look of concern upon his brow.
I fear I have had a spell of fainting I replied as John helped me to my feet Pray excuse me I shall retire now if you dont mine dear father in law I said. In deed Jane take a lamp and light the way for Elizabeth and make sure that Mary brings a warming pan the journey from France has much tired you my dear pray forgive me for keeping you up this late said my father in law.
High above the glen I found my rest disturbed the wind blowing did not much affect my sleep that night it was more the vision which I had seen which made me sleep fitfully for again and again the horror of what I had seen returned to haunt my dreams.
It was much later that John returned from the his meeting with the laird he tried not to wake me but I was awake for I had been woken by dreams of weeping woman as they made there way through the battle fields seeking there men who had fallen in battle. I am sorry to have woken you said John It doesnt matter I was already awake I replied as he settled under the covers. Father says it is to be war with the English he said. John I fear for your father and you I have had the second sight this night and it has put the fear of God in to my bones I replied.
Lass that witches blood in the veins of the Mac Murrays runs true he said jokingly No John it is true for I saw your father cut don and died while you were lead away by the solders of King George I said for he would make light of it but I knew the second sight to be true.
Enough lass come here he said as he snuffed the candle out and turned to me. It was in the early hours of that night my dear that your grandfather planted in me the seed which was to become your father said Lady Elizabeth
A child made in times of trouble to know trouble all his life and to come to a sad end she continued.
Papa was indeed singularly unfortunate in all he tried to do” admitted young Mary I believe it had to do with the troubled star he was born under replied Lady Elizabeth as the son of a Catholic house many doors were closed to him as the son and grandson of rebels he was always viewed with suspicion said Lady Elizabeth. Been catholic in a Protestant country did not help that is why later France became the home of the Aitchesons of glen Attie she continued.
Your grand father knew that after 45 we could never return to the old ways that is why he insisted that we leave the highland the place that had brought us much happiness in our life and we became wanders in strange lands. Said Lady Elizabeth
The highlands in the summer of that year 1743 were a place of beauty for the heather and the thistle were in full bloom as a young married woman there was nothing that I loved more then to be out and about on the banks of the loch we would make a picnic your grand father was an excellent swimmer and would entertain us by swimming out to the mid of the loch. While we your great aunt Jane and I would spread the blanket upon which we would later make our picnic.
It seemed that our idyllic life could continue forever and I was a fool to forget my vision and believe it in the all the while the laird was corresponding with the house of Stuart planning a great adventure which would change Scotland for ever. I t is remarkable that I could have been so naive for there were always men coming and going who did not quite fit into the idyllic picture of highland life, I was naïve to the events of the world true I knew that there were rumblings in Scotland about the King over the water but since when had there never been rumblings which concerned the house of Stuart?
It was a fine evening towards the close of that summer when I felt for the first time the movement of the child which was growing with in me. It is a wonderful thing to feel life as it begins and I was like every other woman since the time of Eve filled with joy at the hope of soon bringing into the world a babe a strong son is what I hoped for a bonny boy who would make his mark in the world. Your great grand mother how she fussed that I would catch a chill from wandering through the glen on horse back for she was that breed of woman that when a woman was found to be with child she should remain with in the confines of the house. I was torn between my free spirited highland ways and those of my mother in law who wished me to remain at home to sit and do needle point an occupation I have always loathed.
Your great aunt Jane will tell you that she never knew such happiness as we knew at that time for it was at this time while John was often busy with your great grand father she became my close and loved companion. Often we would gather heather and flowers we would talk as only young woman can talk. We spoke of our hopes for the future of those we loved of the day when she would be wed to a handsome young man with a fortune.
As the year move don to winter the babe with in me grew and so did the rumblings I had not experience another vision and my fears had so far subsided that I had almost forgotten of the fear I had felt on the night of our return to Castle Aitcheson.
It was early one morning close to the end of that year when I experienced once again the fear. I had spent a restless night the child with in me had moved a great deal and I was quite uncomfortable. I had risen early to make my toilet when I once again as of old slipped into that state. Before me I saw the battle field the sound of mourning as the woman moved among the dead seeking out there loved ones her a woman on her knees holding a fallen husband her back to me the mutilated face of the man hidden by the mass of blood and hair which fell about his face the woman moving from side to side in sorrow at the loss of her warrior husband the clan tartan upon her shoulders was that of the Aitchesons I moved closer so as to see who she was to consol her a foolish thought but never the less one which I had.
I faced her, her grey head bowed over the fallen man looking up she gave a heartbreaking cry I flew back for before me was my mother in law now grief stricken for in her arms she held the body of the laird of Aitcheson broken and almost beyond recognition to any except the one he was most intermit with.
It is said of Scotland that the sight of blood and the weeping of woman is not an uncommon thing, this my dear child is true said Lady Elizabeth for it has always been a land where battles between the clans have cost many lives. She continued It has never been our fathers husbands and sons who have suffered the worse for it but rather every girl child who has had the misfortune to be born in our beautiful county. From the scullery lass who spends her days in toil in the back streets of Edinburg to the fine ladies who spend there lives in the great fortress on the Lochs and glens. Each has her particular burden to bear for the blood of our men has always been hot and this results often in the lose of temper which leads to the bloodshed. She said
This been said let me now tell you of the day when your poor unfortunate father came into this world. It was a cold morning in January 1744 the snow lay deep upon the glen the old keep from afar was a magical sight. This did not keep out the cold for it seemed that every draught of wind found its way into the old place I had been tucked dup in bed from the previous afternoon your grand father was away on business in Edinburgh thus your aunt Jane had been my bed fellow it was just after four in the morning when the birthing pains began. Waking I found that Jane was already up making a draft to keep out the cold
Fetch the mid wife I said is it time she asked the babe to come this day? she asked Ay it seems that the bonny lad wants to come into the world hurry Jane, hurry I dont know how long it will be I gasped as she hurried from the room.
Returning she brought with her mother Aitcheson and the mid wife Oh mother it hurts so much I cried Hush, child hush it is not that bad soon it will be over however I fear the worst is yet to come now bear down
To be continued
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