Without whose assistance and encouragement this story could not have been written. Most fortunately for me, what I lacked in grammar and the use of punctuations, Mary could contribute her vast editorial knowledge to ease the flow of words and thoughts so that the reader could do so in comfort.
Mary’s most poignant observation and used many times as we studied a day’s progress was, “If I cannot understand what you are trying to say, how do you expect the reader to do so.”
“WHITE COCKADE” was an adornment worn by citizens, politicians and the militant on their head gear and outer clothing to signify their loyalty to their cause, be it “Scotland for Scots”, support to “Prince Charlie” or “To worship as a Catholic.”
The Bothwell Family
Battle at Culloden
The Fiery Cross at Glen Lyon
Uncle Andy McCall nee Andrew MacCullough
After the Battle (all the brothers are gone)
Escaping over Ben Nevis
A Reign Of Terror
Colonial Bark “Goodwill” and Captain Mackay
The wreck of “Maid o’ the Glens”
Passage to the Colonies
A Colonial Nightmare
People, Dates and Places
Mary Stuart: (1542-1587) she preferred the French spelling of Stewart.
Mary became Queen of Scots (1542-1567). In 1565 she married Henry Stewart who was murdered in 1567. She married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who was exiled after Mary gave up her crown to her half brother James Stewart. She was beheaded on orders of Queen Elizabeth in 1587.
Charles I: (1600-1649) King of Great Britain and Ireland only; not Scotland
(1625-1649). His Episcopacy riled the Scottish Covenanters (Presbyterian) and he was executed on orders from Oliver Cromwell in 1649.
Charles II: (1630-1685) also was a Catholic sympathizer, and also riled the
Covenanters. He claimed the throne in1649 and was Crowned King of all the British Isles in 1651.
James II of England (1633-1701) King of England (1685-89) was converted to Catholicism in 1672. His attempts to create harmony between the opposing religious orders stirred up bitter confrontations causing the King to lose most of his supporters. One of the most important acts in English history was the “Glorious Revolution” (1688-89), which subjected the king to laws alterable only by act of parliament. After a long struggle to put the throne above the laws James was forced to abdicate and run away to France. His daughter, Mary, heiress-presumptive to the throne in 1671, was a protestant and staunch supporter of the Church of England. She and her husband, William III were proclaimed joint sovereigns.
Mary II: (1662-1694) Ruled England from 1689 until her death in 1694.
She was married to William (1650-1702), Prince of Orange (Holland) in 1677. William III and Mary II ruled jointly from 1689 until 1694 and William III ruled alone until his death in 1702. During their reign the Highland Clans threatened restoration of Mary’s father, James II, and in 1692 the crown had all males of the Macdonald Clan, who were supporters of James, massacred at Glencoe. The predominantly Catholic Highlanders remained loyal to the Stuart King in exile.
Bonnie Prince Charlie: (1720-1788) the young pretender, Grandson of James II, son of James Stuart the Old Pretender. He was born in Rome and at 14 years, fought for Spain and distinguished himself at the
Siege of Gaeta during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). France provided him with a military force, for his planned invasion of England, but his flotilla was destroyed by a storm in 1744. Charles was still able to make his way to Scotland landing on the Isle of Eriskay on 23 July 1745 and aroused the Highlanders to follow him in 1745 to their eventual defeat at Culloden Moor on April 16, 1746. He died in Rome leaving no legitimate children.
Jacobites: Catholic and certain Episcopalian followers of James II, King ofEngland (1685-89), who was dethroned. Jacobites (from the Latin “Jacobus” form of James) followed the house of Stuart and were most notably known for their defeat at the Battle of Boyne, Ireland by William III of Orange July 1, 1690. The Jacobites attempted to assassinate William III in 1696; many were caught and executed.
Jacobites fomented the rebellions against the English Crown in 1715.
A major battle at Sheriff-muir was indecisive, and later events ended in their total surrender at Preston. Again in 1745, while the English were at war against the French, the Jacobites rallied behind “Bonnie Prince Charlie” when he landed at Loch Shiel in Northern Scotland and raised an army of 5,000 men. Most were Highlanders and all were revitalized Jacobites. After several victories into the south of England as far as Derby the warriors, being undisciplined, soon tired of battle and characteristically broke ranks and headed for home with the excuses of, “the crops need tending” or, “my family needs me”. As in all their conflicts, they could only be counted on for one or two battles.
Charles’ forces were forced back to the far north where they met total defeat on the plains of Culloden Moor just a few miles southeast of Inverness in 1746, when faced by 9,000 English troops.
As a result of religious conflicts in Northern Ireland and the lowlands of Scotland many Presbyterians were forced to immigrate to Ulster, Ireland. They were given land grants formally belonging to the Catholic Irish in that area. These people were thereafter known as Scotch-Irish or Scot-Irish. Because of the harsh treatment of the Highlanders by their victors many migrated to the southern American colonies. Those that remained behind became ardent supporters of the Crown’s authority and contributed to the Monarch’s harsh dealings with the immigrant Scot-Irish in the American Colonies.
King George II of England, not satisfied with just a victory, had his son, the Duke of Cumberland who commanded the King’s Army in Scotland, continue to seek out and punish all Scots who supported Prince Charles at the battle of Culloden Moor in April of 1746, thus earning the name “The Butcher Cumberland”.
One of the more horrific deeds of the merciless victors was to murder entire Jacobite families (Clans) whose members were suspected of participating at Culloden (guilty….or not). This was reminiscent of the Crown’s attempt to cleanse the Highland MacDonald Clan (supporters of James II) wherein William III of Orange, reaping his vengeance at Glenco in 1692, as an example of punishment for not swearing allegiance to the throne within the allotted time for amnesty, ordered the slaughter of the MacDonald family members as they slept.
One hundred soldiers of the Argyll Regiment, most of whom were of the Campbell clan and bitter enemies to the MacDonald clan, were billeted with assurances of no hostile intent at the MacDonald estate for over a week. Forty MacDonalds were outright butchered and many more died from exposure to the weather. A child and a woman were the only known survivors.
Prince Charles and other Jacobite leaders who were able to elude capture after their defeat at Culloden had bounties placed on their heads, forcing them to spend the rest of their lives hiding from bounty hunters. No one betrayed Charles even for the ₤30,000 placed on his head as he hid out for five months on the Isle Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, with the assistance of Flora MacDonald. Her exploits became legend in Highland lore, though she never heard from Charles again once he made his way to safety. Flora’s name will surface once again during the Colonial uprising.
My original theme for this story was to create an adventurous and romantic interlude based on Scot-Irish influence during the 1770’s uprisings in America. As I waded through volumes of research material I found history of this period abundant with exciting episodes not generally known. Most documented recollections came piecemeal from letters or logs, usually after the fact, as few people directly involved had neither the time to write nor pen and paper to do so. When these assorted bits of information become woven into a chronological order exciting history seems to come alive.
Spain, because of her rightful claim to Florida, was becoming more concerned about the Colonial and English emigrant incursions into her Florida territory. The Spaniards supported anyone who would put a halt to these illegal encroachments, encouraging her ally, France, to intercede.
Bitter over the conflicts of her vast Canadian territory, France had much to gain if the Colonies were to take up arms against their British parents, thus allowing King Louis XV and his Mistress, Mme. de Pompadour, who was a powerful voice in the affairs of French policy, to concentrate on his other wars and intrigues on their own Continent.
It is my opinion and I do firmly believe that the survivors of the Highland Revolution of 1745 and the immigrant Scotch-Irish from Ulster, who suffered religious prosecution, high land rents and poor crop yields prior to coming to the Colonies, were largely responsible for inciting opposition to many of the English Kings’ mandates in their new found home. These Scot-Irish immigrants fanned the flames of hatred recalling their experiences of how the throne passed laws and proclamations to restrict privileges and rights on his Majesty’s own loyal citizenry, forcing them to flee their homelands, seeking new beginnings in the colonies.
You might ask why I chose to portray the Scot in particular. Read early American history and you will recognize many Scot and Irish names amongst our greatest Patriots whose roots can be traced to Scotland. Better yet, read of the troubled history in their homelands where seeds of revolution and discontentment with the English Monarchy were fomented.
The Highland Clans had a most colorful history even before the tales of Rob Roy, Wallace or Robert the Bruce. Fierce wars amongst themselves refined their battle strategies and weapons and honed their fighting skills to a point that even the ruthless Norse invaders found the Scots a force to be reckoned with.
They represent some of the oldest organized combat brigades since the Crusades and they may have been the world’s original mercenary military force. Every nation in Europe had the highest regard for their bravery. France bestowed the highest honors on their Regiments. Germany used several Brigades of Scot “Soldiers of Fortunes” and had high praise for their fierceness on the battlefield.
Within the “Terms of Alliance” with England after the Dutch won their Independence from Spain in 1678, there was language to establish a permanent station of 6,000 men of the “Scot Brigade” to act as a buffer between England and France. One hundred years later in 1776 when King George III requested their return so they could be sent to quell the colonial uprising in the America Colonies, the Dutch refused their request.
Promises were made that the Scots would not be sent to the colonies but only be used to relieve other English troops stationed in the Mediterranean. The English King even offered to hire Hessian troops to replace the “Scot Brigade” in Holland. Again the Dutch refused. King George was then forced to hire the Hessian troops and transport them directly to the colonies, many of whom consequently surrendered at Saratoga with General Burgoyne, others were captured by General Washington at Trenton on Christmas Day 1776 and many deserted seeking new identities in the Americas.
While visiting the port of Rosneath, on the Firth of Clyde during the Second World War, I became enchanted with the Scots and what I judged to be their quaint habits. I thought the country was as beautiful as any I’d ever seen and the people were as friendly as any people I’d ever want to meet.
In recent years I’ve walked the historic grounds of Culloden in the drizzle and cold rains, visited Fort George and many of the castles throughout the Highlands; even some that were private and not open to the public. What history those walls embrace! The back trails of Rannoch Moor and Glen Lyon in the autumn are beautiful. The high country around Glencoe was cold and misty and as my wife and I drove towards Mallaig the heavy rains created huge pure white waterfalls cascading out of the solid black rock mountains.
I conversed and interviewed people throughout the Highlands; I did sense a bit o’ the spirit of the Jacobites still flickering, I couldn’t tell if it was a sincere desire to rekindle the old flame or if it was just a romantic reflection of memories past.
A story has to have a beginning. So, after exploring a bit of the background of Scot history, I thought that the following narrative might just have been the time and place where the seed of the American Revolution germinated.
Early history suggests that the Bothwell family had a kinship to the throne, but that distant side of the family fled Scotland to France when politics deemed it necessary and prudent to do so. The Bothwells depicted herein were cousins, though many times removed, to the Bothwells on Clyde.
Nathan Bothwell and his sons were respected operators of “Bothwell Marine Works”, a ship design and construction business which built ocean- going vessels until the decline of local grown lumber. The family interests then turned towards shipping and they became active as cargo masters and warehousemen for both coastwise and offshore traffic. They established a relationship with warehouses in the American colonies at Boston and New York.
Managing and supervising a large work force of skilled waterfront craftsmen required tact, diplomacy and the ability to confront every challenge and especially to the testing of their craft experience. William, Nathan’s second son, could hold his own at every challenge. Not so his elder brother Robert, who would rather handle the business end and entertain the customers. Robert, a born politician, was at his best when socializing and making up to political and government leaders. The Government had recently commissioned him master storekeeper for the Crown’s interests near the family facilities in Massachusetts.
Robert and his family sailed for the new world. William and his wife Mairi, the youngest brother Jonathan and their aging parents, Nathan and Mercy, remained behind to manage the family’s dwindling shipbuilding and foundry business. The decline of business was also blamed on competition with American ship-building, along with their unlimited supply of timber in the new world, whereas Clydebankers had to import their timber from the Colonies or the port of Riga on the Baltic.
Wars, severe weather, and importation had created hard economic times throughout Britain but were hardest felt in Scotland. Because of the lack of local grown timber or manufactured products, local new ship construction came to a standstill.
Despondent at watching the business decline and angered that brother Robert left when he was needed most, William was often found frequenting Keith’s Inn and Tavern. Many of the more skilled craftsmen who once worked at the Bothwell Marine Works would often stop in for a pint or two, hoping to approach William for a few hours of part time work. No work was to be found anywhere, not even for the most valued or skilled craftsmen. The families of these men were feeling the pinch, as any savings they had managed to collect were now being used for day to day living.
Only the foundry remained busy because the molders and pattern makers were some of the most talented artists in the marine field. Bothwell had recently developed a progressive pattern process for casting a moderate weight capstan that could use replacement parts, such as pawls and lignum-vitae bearing staves, and was becoming standard in the Royal Navy. Also developed was a new multi-stage bilge-pump that was capable of lifting bilge water from the very depths of a vessel through a series of clapper valves and leather sealed pistons which were operated by seamen pushing and pulling on a rocking lever action then discharging the water on deck. This proved to be much more efficient than the old bellows-like pumps.
Some of the idle workers would sit around speculating on the rumors that Prince Charles had already landed in Scotland. They spun yarns that soon became wild exaggerations of the Jacobite uprisings back in ’15….even though some of those exaggerated tales had only a slight ring of truth. Many of the men even discussed joining the ranks of the “Young Pretender” if an opportunity arose; they were that desperate.
William was suspicious that the French had a hand in spreading the rumors and this news only heaped more concern on the pile of troubles he already had.
The Bothwells were a family of proud Presbyterian Scots. They wanted a free Scotland, they hated the French, Robert was now doing service for the English Crown in the Colonies, and they were also somewhat sympathetic towards the Catholic Prince Charles’ claim to the English crown because mother Mercy’s family had deep roots in the Highlands………What a dilemma!
A cold wet morning with the promise of more rain to come and even a threat of sleet greeted the two armies who were about to face each other on this day in what, by late afternoon, would become the final and decisive engagement for the throne of England and Scotland.
The English battle lines were forming after much maneuvering and parade fanfare in cadence to each of the battalion’s drummers. Colors and standards were unfurled to flap wildly in the wind then planted at the head of each Regiment, identifying from whence they came or the officer in command. Artillery was pulled and pushed through the muddy quagmire into the forward lines by laboring groups of foot-soldiers sinking knee deep in the muck, their uniforms now covered with thick globs of mud.
Other soldiers were busy building up a berm in front of the cannons to protect the gunners from musket fire or an all out charge, while others of the gun crews were laying out the implements of ordinance to make ready for the command to “Fire”.
Once the Artillery piece was in place it took less than three minutes to clean the bore, load, aim and be ready to place their slow burning matches to the freshly primed touch-holes. Then, within an instant, a thunderous explosion would belch the weapons deadly shot toward the enemy’s ranks.
The muzzle explosions brought to life the purpose of the task ahead. The Clans began to feel the destructive forces of the cannon’s grapeshot as their front lines were decimated and warriors from the rear came up to fill the voids in their ranks. The withering bombardment continued unmercifully until a thick cloud of burnt gunpowder with an acrid stench slowly drifted over friend and foe alike, obliterating all vision of the enemy’s ranks.
And then a moment of eerie silence interrupted only by the occasional feeble report from the Clan’s battery of antique weapons and ill trained gun crews. They too fell silent when it became obvious of their ineffectual fire.
The clans began chanting in unison, “CLAYMORE…CLAYMORE” as they beat their swords on their targs, made of wood and bull hide, begging their leaders for the order to advance…. only to be held in check by their commanders who were themselves awaiting orders from a higher authority.
The angry sounds of the Jacobite taunts were heard over the Moor and continued until their gut-retching yells reached a crescendo that every English soldier recognized as a precursor to their attack. The screeching and bleating of the pipes and the rhythmical beatings of drums were whipping the Clans into a frenzy, but they held their line. Until….the men in the forward ranks of Clan Chattan spotted the banners and kilt attire of their blood enemy the Campbells of Argyll, who were fighting on the side of the English Crown and were inching their way behind a wall of stones trying to flank the Jacobite lines on the right.
Clan Chattan was a mixture of small Clans from many of the Central Highland Glens around Loch Ness and as far south as Loch Lomond. They made up the attacking force now in hot pursuit of the Campbells of the Argyll Militia.
By now the hail of English musket fire was finding its targets; men wearing the blue bonnets with white cockade and thistles were falling all about. Men of the Clans MacGregor, Mackintosh and Cameron suddenly burst from their ranks and charged across the moor in such frenzy as to overwhelm the front lines of the English, sending them into a near rout.
Heavy smoke from the recent barrage lay just a few feet off the mire obliterating any view of the combatants.
“We’ve got ’em on the run lads, keep after ’em!”
A retreating column of English redcoats suddenly stopped, turned, and fired a final volley. Then, seeing that their situation was seemingly hopeless, they threw down their muskets and ran.
The chase was on, the enemy was in full retreat across the green, stumbling through the wasteland of craggy rocks and down into the bogs at the low land area of Culloden Moor with the Scottish Irregulars on their tails in hot pursuit.
Suddenly the enemy vanished over a rise and the only army in sight was the Scots clambering over the rocks and who, as yet, hadn’t reached the bog.
A command was sounded, “Fall back! It’s a trap!” The horns and pipes were calling them back. The advanced brigade of several hundred Highlanders suddenly became isolated from the main body as they were encircled by redcoats; the English seemingly coming from nowhere.
A small tight knit band of men could be seen fighting hand-to-hand, with dagger and broadsword, forcing their way up the green trying to reach the ranks of the Scot reserves who were firing their weapons at the English as fast as they could reload.
“Follow me lads! Stay together and we’ll fight our way out!” The towering figure of Andrew MacCullough loomed tall and proud as he led the small group of the trapped men up the green. Redcoats were charging from the high ground on all sides of the moor.
No fiercer battle ever took place as on that spring day at Culloden Moor in 1746. It was a battle that broke the spirit of the Scottish Patriots and succeeded in silencing their demands for a separate Scotland forever.
Andrew MacCullough, a heroic leader to all about him, nearly reached the safety of his own lines and was still encouraging his band along when a musket shot fell the giant redhead.
Jonathan came upon his fallen uncle and tried to comfort him.
“Here….Jonathan…” MacCullough gasped, a short breath rasping between each word… “take my sword….I fear I’ve been mortally wounded….see that your mother gets my….augh.” The blood poured from his mouth with his last tortured cry and Andrew MacCullough slipped into the hereafter.
“Uncle Andrew….Try….We can make it. Don’t give up! We can carry you.” With tears swelling in his eyes Jonathan cradled the upper body of this giant of a man in his arms.
An aide to the Clan leader yelled “Give it up m’ lad can’t you see the brave man’s gone? Take the Tartan and his sword so the bloody buggers can’t lay claim to the bounty on his head.” At that moment another deafening volley of musket fire sounded just beyond the moor as the enemy advanced up the green towards them.
Jonathan removed the sword from Andrew’s out-flung hand and unbuckled the scabbard and, though it pained him to remove the Tartan, his uncle’s pride, he knew he must. For if the Clan MacCullough Tartan should fall into the hands of the English a price would be on the head of every male MacCullough ’til there were none left.
A shout from a kilted Highlander was heard over the sounds of battle. “Run for your lives, they’re trying to ring us again!”
As he stood clutching Andrew’s blood-spattered Tartan and treasured sword, Jonathan’s shoulder and back exploded in burning agony and the left side of his body numbed with pain. He stumbled once as he looked back at the body of his fallen Uncle, then picked up the pace to join the others fleeing that desolate moor and the brave men who died in that most wretched of all Scotland’s battles.
For the hundreds of brave Highlanders slain that day a coronach and cry was heard in every glen and mountain stronghold and the likes of Andrew McCall (nee MacCullough) will forever be remembered.
THE FIERY CROSS
GLEN LYON – 1745
Jonathan Bothwell, his lady friend Elizabeth MacAllister (Tibby as she was affectionately called) and her four brothers were preparing for a journey to the annual MacAllister family’s reunion at MacAllister Hall near Glen Lyon in the central highlands.
Jonathan had been invited to join them to meet the whole family and, maybe, begin the traditional negotiations on the custom of a dowry. The brothers, all but one being older than Jonathan and being very protective of their baby sister, encouraged him to partake in many of their activities so they could keep a watchful eye over him.
It was obvious the brothers approved of Jonathan and knew that they could convince the family to agree to the marriage. The brothers and Tibby had been staying in town with their mother’s brother where Tibby kept house and the boys, on occasion, worked for Bothwell Marine Works and therefore knew somewhat of Jonathan’s family background.
Unfortunately, upon reaching MacAllister hall, marriage was never put on the agenda; much more important issues were to be considered first. A call to arms order, by way of the Fiery Cross, was received by the MacAllister Clan. They were expected to send representatives to a Heraldic meeting….No exceptions.
Tibby’s brothers and other male members of the family departed immediately for the gathering. They were gone for a night and a day and on their return a solemn and secretive pall overtook the large family gathering of some one hundred people.
As soon as the horses were cared for and stabled and the men were fed, a meeting was called in the great room of the main house. Jonathan, because he wasn’t blood family, was asked to retire to an out-building with some of the other house guests and farm laborers. The out-building was built of stones and mortar similar to the great house. No doubt that this had served as the great house in the past until the other was built. Most of the floor around the fireplace was stone with some wood in the outer edges of the very large room. The peaked roof with missing pieces of slate had been thatched over and seemed to keep out the cold wind but Jonathan wondered if it would keep things dry in a heavy rain.
Even over the cold and howling winds they could hear occasional shouts of rage coming from the great house…. then angry screaming and sounds of a brawl so loud it would seem all the Clan men were involved. This was a very strange turn of events and the non-family members with Jonathan puzzled over the Clan’s odd behavior and couldn’t imagine what was going on.
“What do you make of all of this?” Jonathan asked a fellow who had his nose pressed hard against the window.
“Could be that some kin died or some disaster in the Burgh, but then they would have needed us,” he replied without turning his head away from the glass.
“I heard something about a Fiery Cross….” Before Jonathan could get out another word he was interrupted.
A tall old gent that answered to the name of MacTavish stood in the rear of the group at the window. “Fiery Cross, did ya say? You all know what that means. Lord, help us!”
A wife of one of the laborers from the lowlands asked what it was all about, as she had heard tales of the Fiery Cross but wasn’t sure of its exact meaning.
“It means war and I’m not going to get caught up in it. The rumors of Bonnie Prince Charlie coming must have been the truth,” said MacTavish.
That still didn’t answer the old woman’s question and she repeated, “What does the Fiery Cross Mean?”
“It’s two pieces of charred wood shaped like an X, just like the cross that our beloved Saint Andrew was crucified on. You tie it together with a sample of Tartan from a Chieftain of the Highland Clans, along with a personal token, proving it’s authority and known only to the family receiving the Fiery Cross. Then it’s either placed on the door stoop or actually thrown at the door by some secret messenger. It’s a traditional call to arms. I still don’t want any part of it.” The lanky old gent turned away from the group and went to the fireplace and sat on the edge of the hearth.
Jonathan followed him wondering why this man was so upset when, to him, words like “Fiery Cross” and “Call to Arms” set his heart racing and his stomach churning with excitement.
“You know laddie, I’m too old for another battle. I’ve got the scars to prove my courage. Besides, things have changed. Once we warred over religion, then it was against the cruel Kings, then it was for Scotland, then it was for ….or….was it against the French. Half my family lives in Ireland under an Irish name. My daughter ran off and married a Lowland Presbyterian. You young lads will go off to do battle and half of you will not come home and all for what….?” He stopped, cradled his head in his hands with his elbows resting on his knees. “I’m na’ a coward….We need our strong young lads to work the soil and tend the farms and raise families, not going off shedding their blood.”
The reasoning outbreak of the old gent so humbled Jonathan that he was almost put to tears. He went to the distraught man and laid a hand on his shoulder then glanced about the room. All eyes were on this gent by the fire and no one spoke a word for a very long time.
Morning came, the passing storm cleared out the clouds but lowered the temperature to near freezing. As the sun rose, smoke from the chimney fires hovered low overhead.
The hill across from the farm was crisscrossed with stone walls three to four feet high and several feet across, dividing the hill into large plots of different colored patches. Not a tree was to be seen on that hill or any of the hills nearby. Only a few stumps, here and there, were all that remained from heavy timber cutting in the past, and this had once been the center of the Great Caledonian Forrest.
People were now coming out of the great house, loading the carts with their belongings and hitching up the animals preparing to leave. Some hugged, others abruptly turned away. Tears were everywhere, as nearly half the clan prepared to leave, departing in every direction.
A few of the people, on leaving, waved towards Jonathan. He couldn’t understand what had happened to the mood of this large gathering which only a short time earlier had been a happy and friendly group of relatives….now changed into an angry congregation leaving the estate.
Not willing just to stand idly by, Jonathan burst into the house and confronted the brothers for an explanation.
“What in blazes is going on?” he demanded, “Why is everyone leaving?”
Two of the younger brothers who were most friendly with Jonathan ushered him out of the house and started walking out towards the fields as one excitedly explained, “Do you remember the story we told you about our clan and how it once fought in the battles along side of James II? Well, we’ve been called on to form a company of fighting men to join in a similar cause. Our own Bonnie Prince Charlie, grandson of James II, is calling all who are loyal to the Stuarts. It’s possible….just possible….that while England is distracted by uprisings in Wales, trouble with the Indians and the French in the Colonies and the Crown’s interference against France over Austria we can rid Scotland of her bloody rule forever!
“Because of your older brother’s connection with the Crown, keep a closed mouth when we get you back to your home, for Duncan here,” he clapped his younger brother around the shoulders, “and I will be joining our two older brothers in recruiting men to fight for our Bonnie Prince. Tibby and the three of us will start back for Dumbarton today. By the way, forget any thoughts of a dowry until this is over.”
A dowry and, he was ashamed to admit, Tibby herself were the last things on Jonathan’s mind at present. Excited again now, he bombarded the brothers with questions of “When…Where…How?”
“Enough, lad, enough!” the older boy said. “It’s not your problem as yet! Your Pa will be boxin’ our ears for filling your head with as much as we have!” They turned and started back to the great house to say their goodbyes and prepare for the long journey home.
UNCLE ANDREW McCALL
Nathan Bothwell purchased the house from the heirs of a banned Jacobite family after the turn of the century. He thought it ideal because of its location close to the Marine industries on the Clyde and that it was able to accommodate a large family.
The house, made from large cut stone blocks, was two stories high and had a castle-like rook overlooking the Firth of Clyde, a short distance beyond. Bothwell was considered a small estate by most comparisons of the region. The town of Dumbarton was a few miles down the Clyde from Clydebank.
Tibby and her two youngest brothers, Neil and Duncan, returned to the estate with Jonathan and were invited to stay at the house until the older brothers and their Uncle returned from their travels. The true story of the older boys and their uncle joining Bonnie Prince Charlie’s supporters was kept from Nathan. He was told that they were away to purchase animals for the farm.
The men were sitting at the table sipping their port after the large supper that Mercy Bothwell had insisted on helping the cook prepare. The women, Mercy, William’s wife Mairi, and Tibby, were preparing rooms and beds for the guests.
“You’re home sooner than expected,” Nathan remarked to his youngest son, “How did it go up at Glen Lyon?” Not waiting for an answer he then announced, “We received word from your brother Robert in America just this morning. Everything is going very successful for him. Government shipping is increasing due to outbreaks with Indians in the Colonies and the need for more warehousing is growing. Robert even suggested that if business at the Works stays slow after winter, it might be wise to consider moving everything to the Colonies.”
As Nathan read on, he directed a passage of the letter to William, in which Robert indicated that he had very little money to send home because the need to enlarge operations at Boston was taking almost all of the profits to finance the expansion.
William was used to Robert’s flair of superiority and his dreams of someday becoming master of Bothwell; he sighed and looked at his father. “What in bloody hell does he intend to do with our holdings here….not to mention the family home…. if we were to move to the Colonies?”
He slammed the flat of his hand on the table, almost upsetting his glass. “Would he sell everything here on the chance of becoming rich at the whim of the English King?”
Jonathan traded furtive glances with Neil and Duncan as his brother raged.
As Nathan poured more port in his glass he silently sympathized with his son. Nothing could change the fact that William was born the second son and was therefore relegated to be subservient to his older brother.
Nathan glanced at his youngest son and thought, “Poor Jonathan, he gets nothing but the tail.” Then, to change the subject he told Jonathan and the MacAllisters about the assemblage of business owners, shopkeepers, neighbors and friends that had met the previous night at the church to discuss the troubling times of poor business, problems with France, Wales and Charles Stuart’s “Call to Arms”.
“We don’t know what effect these things will have on businesses along the Clyde,” he said, “Opinions ran high and were about evenly divided…..nothing was accomplished.”
“It seems that it’s no secret that Prince Charles is here,” Nathan continued, “but when will he show his force and who will support him?”
“I’ll support him sir,” snapped Tibby’s youngest brother Duncan.
“And I!” responded his brother Neil.
A pounding on the window startled everyone and then heavier pounding at the door brought the women downstairs.
“Get the door Jonathan!” Nathan said, as he rose from his chair.
Jonathan opened the door and stepped back a pace as a large red-bearded rough looking beast of a man loomed in the door way.
“Where’s my little sister Mercy?” demanded the intruder… “Nathan, you cagy old codger how be you?”
Then he turned to the frail lady at Nathan’s side, “Mercy m’love, don’t you recognize me? It’s me….Andy….do I look that bad? Come, give us a big hug.”
Everyone stood dumbfounded; no one could speak, even Mercy was at a loss for words, looking as if she had seen a ghost.
“You must be Uncle Andy. I remember seeing you ten or twelve years ago,” said William. “Mother, don’t you recognize him?”
“I do…I do. He just took me by surprise, like a ghost from the past. Sure I recognize you! Give me a hug you big hairy monster! You must be freezing. Here, have a toddy and let me fix you some food.” Mercy embraced the huge man, pushing him towards a stool in front of the crackling fire.
“I’ve been traveling out in the cold for days! Let me get next to that fire young fellow and shut that damned door.”
“I’m Jonathan your nephew. Glad to meet you sir. Mother has told us about you. Have you traveled far?” The young lad eagerly offered his hand.
“I guess we’d all like to know,” Nathan said, “the last time I remember you passing through was about twelve years ago. You were on the run with the King’s men hot on your tail.”
“How’s the family Andy….The wife….besides your sons, didn’t you have some daughters? What’s been happening?” Mercy fixed him a plate loaded with pieces of beef, cheese, bread and preserves and then filled a mug with a hot steaming liquid.
“Mercy, you still ask too damned many questions,” the giant growled. Then, turning to Nathan asked, “How do you put up with her?” The big man paused, looked about the room and with his mouth crammed with food blurted, “Nathan, kindly introduce me around. I must know who I’m confiding in; it could mean my head you see.”
“You know William, and this is his wife Mairi,” Nathan said as Andy engulfed Mairi’s hand with one huge rough paw and patted it with the other.
“You’ve just met my youngest, Jonathan, this is his lady friend Elizabeth,” Nathan always insisted on using her full Christian name, “and her two brothers Neil and Duncan MacAllister. My oldest son Robert is in America with his family. Now, about yourself, we’re all family or soon will be.”
Andy looked closely at Neil and Duncan. “By some chance are you lads from the central Highlands around Glen Lyon and that rascally Clan of Rufus MacAllister?” he asked.
“That would be my uncle Rufus,” Neil responded.
“Then I can trust everyone here but you Nathan…. no….I take that back. I know your leanings and I also know you are an honorable man. I’ve trusted you with my life before. Sorry I really don’t know why I said that.” He continued rambling, slurring his words, looking as if he was about to collapse.
“I’m on an important mission and I need help. I’m so tired…..if I could just get some rest I’ll be on my way….”
“Are you alone Andy? Is someone after you? Are you being chased? Andy please tell me,” Mercy pleaded.
“She never changes….questions….always questions,” he muttered. His empty plate dropped from his hand and he crumpled to the floor like a large sack of potatoes.
It took the effort of all the men in the house to haul the monstrous body of Andrew to the large leather settee in the library. They stood there studying the man. It was apparent that he couldn’t go any further and needed a safe haven. It was fortunate for him that he’d even made it this far.
“Da’, tell us what he was talking about,” demanded William. “Sounds like he was in trouble before and then you helped him.”
“Boys, I don’t know if this is the time to reveal the past but I can say this…. Andy and his brothers were a peaceful family at one time until their politics and religion got the better of them. How can I not help this man when I know for certain that if all Scots were as patriotic as he, Scotland would rule all of Britain.
“Your mother doesn’t fully approve of his activities. It’s not that she is not patriotic, but she feels others should shoulder some of his burden. She has seen four of her five brother’s fall while trying to keep the flames of their cause alive. He’s been living these past years in Ireland to escape the bounty placed on his head and changed his name from MacCullough to McCall to keep the King’s men from finding him. I needn’t caution you to keep this secret to yourselves.”
Nathan took one of the blankets that Mercy had fetched and pulled it over Andy’s sleeping frame. He winked at William and said. “That other blanket would do well over his head if he continues with those snores! Come, let’s see if we all can sleep as well as he tonight. It’s time to retire.”
Tibby and Jonathan stayed up after the others turned in trying to decide what to do about their future. They climbed the stairway to the rook tower and huddled close to share the blanket that protected them from the chilling wind….. As Jonathan looked down into Tibby’s adoring eyes he felt again the excitement that had been his almost constant companion since the news at MacAllister Hall had sent his blood boiling….only somehow this time it was different. He cupped her little chin in his fingers and lowered his mouth on hers…………
Mother Mercy always rose before the sun to start the day, seeing that her men folk were properly attired, fed and sent off to work. The cook usually came in between nine and ten and stayed ’till the baking and heavier work of supper was over. She could afford a housekeeper but enjoyed doing most of it herself. Besides, Mercy was a very private person.
“Get up and bathe you stinkin’ lout, I’ve got hot water on the fire. And get those filthy rags off now, so I can do something with them,” she nagged, half in jest just as she had done many years ago when she helped care for all her younger brothers, save Andrew, who was the eldest of the brood.
“Just like old times, eh Mers? God, how I sometimes long for those days.” Andy stretched and scratched as he worked his way to the pantry just off from the large fireplace where a large kettle, steam rising from the rapidly boiling water, rested on a black iron spider squatting over the hot coals. He pulled off his garments, which appeared not to have been washed in months.
“How long have you been away from home?” Mercy asked.
“I left Londonderry three weeks ago and have been on the move ever since, trying to catch up with the Prince.”
“How are your wife and children?” she asked as she bustled around the kitchen. “I’ve got porridge cooking. Have some tea.”
She drew a couple of buckets of water from the cistern pump at the back door and poured them into the large half-cask that served as their bathing tub, then topped it of with the boiling water from the fireplace.
“Your bath’s ready. I’ll ask again…..how is your family?”
“The two oldest went to the Carolinas, my youngest is with the Prince now, and my daughters all have large families. The wife is with our oldest daughter.” Andy stepped behind the curtain Mercy had draped between two high-backed chairs, dropped his clothes and climbed into the tub.
Nathan came into the kitchen and headed for the fat teapot sitting on the sideboard. “Good morning to you Andrew. I see Mercy has you well under her control. I don’t know what we would do without her always bossing us to take baths, change clothes and the like. I guess she had plenty of practice raising you boys.
“We went to a meeting the other night where the discussion of the war with France and your group’s uprising raged hot and heavy. Convince me to take the right path.” Nathan handed the bather a cup of tea.
Other members of the family began gathering near the warm fireplace getting their first cup of tea and pretending not to notice Uncle Andrew in the tub.
“I’m not used to an audience whilst I take m’ bath. Turn your heads!” Andy bellowed. The group turned around, snickering as they headed for the breakfast table.
“I’ll tell you Nathan, you’re the only man I have ever discussed both religion and politics with in the same conversation without the threat of mayhem. We know each other’s position, so why don’t we let it go at that for Mercy’s sake,” Andrew pleaded.
“You’re saying that nothing has changed in lo these many years to make you more considerate?” insisted Nathan.
“Damn me, Nathan! A true Scot is for Scotland. You should support the rightful Scottish heir to the English throne, be he Scot-Catholic or not!” Andy rose out of the tub, dripping and splashing water on the pantry floor.
“You’re giving Scotland to the French to kill our own blood kin. Think, man, before you destroy us all!” Nathan turned abruptly and left the pantry.
Mercy had gone from the cooking area before the conversation became strained. Tibby and Mairi took over preparing breakfast and began serving the table, all the while keeping their ears trained on the heated exchange.
“I’m a guest in your house and I’ll not say another word on the matter Nathan….Agreed?” Andrew was standing behind the curtain Mercy had strung so as not to embarrass anyone.
“Andy! Drape that curtain about you and go to the library. I’ve got your clothes all laid out,” Mercy snapped as she entered the kitchen, ignoring the arguing of the two men. “If you haven’t gained too much weight these clothes just might fit.”
Andy walked into the library and a few moments later he reappeared still wrapped in the curtain and in a most solemn manner asked, “Dear sister, would you mind trimming my hair and beard like you used to in the good old times?”
“Of course Andy, sit yourself down and I’ll make your appearance fit for a King.” Mercy smiled and pushed a stool towards him.
“I have an early appointment this morning and when it’s over I’ll come right home, love.” Nathan kissed Mercy on the forehead just as he had done for many years. He clasped Andy on the shoulder, said his goodbyes to all and left the house.
Mercy, her scissors flashing, trimmed and clipped Andy until he began looking more like a man than the huge bear that had invaded the house the night before. She made a final snip and then stood back admiring her handiwork. “Now off with ye….get dressed!” She gave him a playful push towards the library.
Twenty minutes later a gasp from Jonathan hushed the din of the breakfast chatter. The family sat in silent awe, staring.
In the doorway stood the most magnificent figure of a warrior ever imagined. From the Bluebonnet adorned with a white cockade and the eagle feather of a sub-chief, to the kilt, hose and brogues, Andrew stood resplendent in his accoutrements such as the ornate gorget at his throat and basket-hilted Claymore sword hanging from the buckled, broad shouldered belt at his side. The forbidden Tartan kilt was drawn from behind the waist, under his right arm and up across his chest to his left shoulder, where it was gathered and secured with the large crested brooch of his clan. The Tartan was allowed to hang free down to his knees, imparting a stylish and cocky flair, and at his groin hung a beautiful furred sporran to carry his rations. Such splendor!
“You’ve made me feel like a man again Mers. I’ve never felt prouder in my life than when wearing the Kilt. I feel invincible. I feel like I can go into battle and win!”
William, Jonathan and Tibby’s two brothers stood in awe. The four young men had only heard of such beautiful uniforms. The English Crown had outlawed everything ….the Tartans, Bluebonnets such as this and, of course, the beautiful Bagpipes….many years ago.
“That’s all I have left of the old family, Andy dear. Do you remember when the British were hunting you after the defeat at Preston and Nathan hid you and provided a vessel to take you to Ireland? This is your old tuck that we hid from the searchers. Every time I take it out of the chest I hold it close and it brings back memories of you and your brothers, when we were all so young. Now….you young people….don’t let that uniform sway you. War is the plague of the world! Tell them Andy.” Mercy turned away knowing in her heart she opened old wounds.
“Is it true, that if we don’t fight to put Charles on the throne, Scotland will forever lose its rightful linage to the throne?” Jonathan eagerly questioned.
“Right you are lad,” answered Andy.
“I see a lot of what appears to be Frenchmen in the countryside. Are they going to fight for Scotland against the English and then leave Scotland when it’s all over? Or will we have to be subservient to them?” asked William.
“You’ve been listening to your father. I don’t agree with his reasoning but I’m not going to argue against him in his house. That would not be honorable. I’ll just say that the Highlanders have a lot of history that the English have taken away from us and we have to try and recover it now.”
With that, Andy walked out to the pantry area where Mercy was washing his old clothes. They conversed for an hour asking and answering each others inquiries until you’d think they would talk themselves out of words.
When Nathan returned home he was surprised to see Andrew in all his fine regalia. Even though he wasn’t comfortable that Andrew should display symbols not of his choosing, he didn’t comment on the matter until he learned that his dear wife had stored the uniform, under his nose and in his house for so many years.
“You’d think a man would know a woman after thirty or forty years,” he mumbled, “yet, there she stands, the Mother of my children….and I don’t know her at all!”
Turning to William he said, “And I suppose he’s been filling you and the other boy’s heads with tales of the glory of war!”
“No sir,” said William, “He refused to discuss the coming crisis unless you were present.”
“Enough of this bickering,” Andrew announced, “I’m going to leave after dark for the Highlands in search of Charles’ forces and I’ll be stopping at Rufus MacAllister’s headquarters. Anyone wishing to come is welcome!”
“We’re with you Andrew MacCullough!” said Neil and Duncan in almost the same breath “We had business to tend to here in Dumbarton, but it can best be handled by others.”
Jonathan looked at his father. The look on Nathan’s face cautioned Jonathan to hide his excitement. “I’ll go as far as MacAllister Hall and see that Tibby is settled in with her Mother.”
He glanced again at Nathan, “Once she’s safe, I promise to return.”
Mother Mercy was already preparing haggis for dinner and oat porridge bricks for the Highland journey.
The ensuing months brought no direct word from any of the departed family members, only reports of clashes from as far down into England as Derby, just a few days travel from London. Then, days later, reports had the Jacobites back up in Scotland battling at Stirling.
Nathan and Mercy were at their wit’s end fearing that Jonathan might be caught up in the fighting when he hadn’t returned as promised.
William thought the fighting must be spreading through out the country or armies of men were traveling great distances very quickly.
The feeling of most people around the Clyde was hurrah for Prince Charles as long as he was triumphant. But many felt that he failed to arouse enough enthusiastic support from the population centers around Glasgow and that he should have made overtures to Presbyterian notables to attempt to restore their Scot patriotism. Without support of the Protestants he was sure to lose his following.
Word spread that a great battle had taken place at Culloden Moor just a short distance from Inverness. Further reports indicated that it was a total defeat for the Highlanders and that the English were in hot pursuit of anyone who may have participated in the general uprising.
British troops were seen coming over the back country from the direction of Stirling towards Dumbarton on the Clyde. Other reports had them coming down the west banks of Loch Lomond from the Grampians and converging on Dumbarton from the west. At the same time vessels of every type and description were assembling to carry the British troops south to engage the French; or so the Scots hoped.
It was early morning when a contingent of British troops entered Dumbarton. William had left for the foundry and Mairi had taken a horse and carriage to Tibby’s Uncle’s house. Despite the danger of traveling the roads during this fearful time Tibby had made the long trip from the MacAllister estate by herself. She had been in town with her Uncle for two days and Mercy and Mairi were curious to find out the reason for her return. Perhaps she had word of Jonathan’s whereabouts.
A tall elderly man stepped from behind a shed at the foundry and blocked Williams’s path. “Are you William Bothwell, brother to Jonathan?” He waited for an answer.
“Why do you ask?” William demanded.
“Are you, or are you not, Jonathan’s brother?” the old man asked again.
Fearing it might be some sort of an English trap; William was unwilling to reply to any more questions and continued to walk towards the mold shop.
“He’ll not make it through many more nights. Andrew and the MacAllister brothers were lost at Culloden.” He hesitated, noting the pain that twisted William’s face, then continued, “Jonathan was hit in his neck and shoulder and infection has taken over the wounds. We’re sore afraid of losing him and others we have in hiding.
“Now will you come?” he pleaded, “I’ll take you to him. It’s more than a two day’s ride and we’ll have to dodge the bloody heathens.”
“You follow me,” William said, after weighing his alternatives. “We’ll go by my house and get a few things. But, whatever you do, watch your words to my parents. They’re old…..and my mother has a bad heart. We can start from there after you’re fed. You look like you could use a meal.”
“By what name are you known?” asked William as he saddled his horse. The old man had gone behind the shed and walked out an old sway-backed nag, lathered from hard riding.
“MacTavish,” he replied, “Not enough of us around anymore to waste using Christian names.”
The road from the Clydebank to Dumbarton was teeming with people, their animals over-loaded with household belongings, many toting large bundles on their backs. Some were coming from Dumbarton and some seemed hurrying towards the city, indicating to William that the British military had infiltrated the entire area.
“Come,” William said, “we’ll make no time fighting this mob on the road. We can travel faster through the fields and over that yonder hill.”
They approached the Bothwell estate cautiously, observing a company of light horsemen leaving with arm-loads of booty that William recognized as coming from his house. They hid behind a heath row until the soldiers passed and overheard one horseman shout to a man evidently left to guard the house. “I’ll alert the Lieutenant and be back at sundown. It looks like a good place to camp. Get rid of the bodies….and if I find you’ve emptied the wine cellar, there’ll be hell to pay! Guard those ship instruments well. Maybe I can make my Sergeant’s stripes if Lieutenant Gordon is in a receiving mood!” The soldier laughed, kicked his horse, and galloped after the retreating men.
William tried not to think about the chilling words tossed out so casually by the soldier. Approaching his home cautiously, he and MacTavish got down from their mounts, tethered them behind one of the out-buildings and walked the last several hundred feet.
Through an open window they saw the sentry roaming through the house. He was oblivious to anything outside as he opened cupboards and drawers and scattered their contents in search of valuables.
When they saw him move from the great room towards the library the two men silently opened the back door and crept into the pantry. William froze in horror. The sight of his parents crumpled on the floor made him forget the soldier and he bellowed in rage.
The soldier ran back into the pantry, his bayonet ready to attack. At the sight of the soldier William picked up a chair and smashed the weapon from the man’s hands. Then he charged the man with his bare hands; punching, choking and kicking until there was no sign of life.
Gasping for breath, he returned to where his parents had fallen. MacTavish, seeing the old man stir, had lifted him off of Mercy and propped him up with a cushion. Nathan seemed to be coming around but it was obvious he was critically hurt. William knelt next to Mercy, but saw that nothing could be done for his mother; her heart must have just given up.
William moaned and gently closed Mercy’s eyes. “English bastards!” he screamed.
Rising from Mercy’s side, William glanced over at MacTavish, “There, man, in the bottom of that cupboard, you’ll find a ‘glass. Go up and keep a keen eye for the pigs. No doubt they’ll be coming back soon.
Dropping to his knees beside his father, William took Nathan’s hand in his. “They….wanted to know….where you lads were….they must think you…we….are Jacobites.” Growing very short of breath, the old man asked in a barely audible whisper, “How’s my Mercy?” William only shook his head.
Nathan, accepting the truth he dreaded to hear, closed his eyes and with a deep sigh, slipped away.
Trying not to think about his mother and father, but concerned with what his father had said, William started gathering any important family papers, letters or documents that bore the Bothwell name and tossed them into the blazing fireplace. He knew now, without a doubt, which side the English considered the family to be on. Nothing must be found that would connect the warriors at Culloden to William himself or to Robert Bothwell in the Americas, Master Storekeeper for the King.
A call came from above, “Mr. William, there’s a light carriage coming up the back trail with two ladies. I can see Tibby but I don’t recognize the other woman. What shall we do?”
“It must be my wife with Tibby MacAllister. Run out and stop them. Tell them to hurry to Cousin Fiona’s house and stay there until we come. Under no circumstances let them come in or indicate to them what’s happened.”
William stoked the coal in the fireplace to ignite as much of it as he could. Removing the uniform of the dead sentry, he stripped and dressed the body in his clothes and shoes. He then knelt at Nathan’s side and gently removed his ring with the family crest, then slipped it on the finger of the dead Englishman. Then he took an old flintlock pistol that was kept loaded above the mantel, fired a ball into the head of the dead soldier, and placed the pistol in the man’s hand. The red coat, white breeches and boots were tossed into the raging fire and stoked until there was no trace left of them. With any luck, William reasoned, when the marauders returned they would suppose the third body, if any traces remained from the fire he intended to set, to be William himself. William then ran upstairs to his room and dressed quickly for travel.
William loaded the soldier’s horse with odds and ends of household items. Then, leaving a trail of valuables as if being carted by a greedy and over-burdened thief, he led the mount to a stand of trees. William unloaded the loot and half-buried it, then removed the tack and chased the horse off.
He returned to the house and with hurt in his chest and tears in his eyes, William doused the bodies of his beloved mother and father and the English soldier with lamp oil. He sprinkled the rest of the liquid to other areas of the house then shoveled the glowing embers of coal about the once beautiful home, setting it full ablaze.
He grabbed the strong box, which he had removed from its hiding place, and bolted from the house. Transferring the contents of the box to his traveling case, he left the box open with some valuables scattered nearby giving the impression that the guard might have absconded with the loot.
Two miles up the back trail they paused and looked back at a column of smoke rising from the flames engulfing the once proud house of the Bothwells.
Cousin Fiona saw the two horsemen coming through the pasture and alerted her husband to take them and their mounts to the barn. She was carrying out food and blankets for the whole group. She offered fresh horses only if they would all ride out that very night and promise not to leave any trail or trace behind.
“The whole world has gone crazy and we don’t want any part of it. I’m afraid to house my own cousin for a night for fear they’ll swoop down and kill us all,” Fiona whined. “Please go away!” She turned on her heels went towards the house without even looking back.
Mairi ran up to her husband and put her arms around him sobbing, “What’s the world coming to? Why are we being treated like this? We’ve done nothing wrong. We’ve stayed out of the politics.”
William groaned and let out a long sigh, “I have such bad news for you Mairi, my love. Those English bastards murdered mother and father and the Bothwell home is burned to the ground. Now, we must leave everything we know and follow this man, MacTavish, up into the hills. Mairi buried her face in Williams shoulder and shook as she wept.
An anguished William turned to MacTavish and appealed, “They’ve killed my father and mother for a few pieces of silver and a cause too complicated for a common man to understand. Do you understand, man? Do you know the rights and wrongs committed in the name of the King, or England, or Scotland…or even in the name of God?” MacTavish didn’t answer, as he knew an answer was not expected.
William held Mairi in one arm and encircled Tibby with the other, “Come here Tibby. I want to tell you first. The Clan MacAllister is no more. They all fell in battle, as did Uncle Andrew. Your four brothers died like the heroes they were.”
MacTavish tugged on William’s arm, “Mr. William we’ve got no time to dally I don’t know how much longer Jonathan can last.”
Tibby, who had paled and sagged at the news of her brothers, started screaming, “No. no. no….it can’t be so….Oh most merciful Father please don’t take him from me also. Oh God…Oh God….Oh God.” It seemed to take forever for her to sink to her knees where she knelt, keening as she rocked to and fro…back and forth.
Mairi took her in her arms and tried to comfort her but there was no consoling the stricken girl. Nothing could be said to calm this poor young lass who had just been told that all whom she held so dear to her heart were dead or dying.
William turned to Tibby, took her from Mairi’s arms and gently stood her up on her feet. “Take hold of yourself, lass. I’ve found my mother dead and watched my father die! Then, with my bare hands had to kill a soldier and burn my family’s home. Now I learn that my Uncle is dead and my youngest brother is about to die. You’re not alone in your grief!”
“But….you don’t understand….I’m….I’m carrying Jonathan’s child. Oh dear God what am I going to do?” Tibby sobbed and turned pleadingly to Mairi.
William’s shoulders slumped and his head dropped, “When will it end,” he whispered, “when…will…it all…end!” Turning to MacTavish he said, “Come, man, let’s be off to the house to see about the horses.”
The men walked from the barn up to Cousin Fiona’s house and William offered to buy extra mounts, explaining that his carriage horses would not do for riding over rough terrain and that with good mounts they could get underway as soon as that very evening.
“Anything to be rid of ya William. Uncle Nathan was always good to us but with him killed by the Crown, what would they do to my family if they found you here?” Fiona’s eyes were everywhere but looking at William and she nervously twisted a corner of her apron.
“I guess I understand….” William hesitated and then asked, “Cousin Fiona, what if I should send a young lady to you that is with my brother’s child. Would you consider helping her until she delivers? I’ll make it worth your while.”
“When’s she due?” Fiona snapped… all business now.
“She’s due in two or three months at the most. Will you please take them in on their return from seeing to Jonathan?” “I’ll have Mairi stay and help. They’ll be no trouble.”
“We could surely use the money. I’ll do it… but only if you promise not to come around,” she replied.
Fiona turned to her husband, “Kelvin, you take their horses to the barn and see what you can do for riding mounts. Give that gentle little filly to Tibby, she’s not well.”
As William followed Kelvin to help round up the horses, he was thinking how he had never felt comfortable with Fiona’s husband; the man had never spoken ten words to him in all the years he had known him.
“I hear the English are offering money to tell where the Jacobites are hiding,” Kelvin muttered, “Fiona’s worried a neighbor might report you coming.”
Well, that made thirty words in as many years, William thought. And what unsettling words they were…he certainly hoped their little party had arrived unseen and that Mairi and Tibby could return unnoticed.
The journey to the Highlands where Jonathan and other survivors of the battle were hiding was fraught with fear. At every turn of the trail the party stopped to scour the country ahead making sure there was no enemy laying in wait.
Old MacTavish led the party. He would ride far up the trail then signal to come ahead when all was clear, leading them through valleys of rocky crags and up mountain slopes that both horse and rider had trouble negotiating. After two full days MacTavish led them near a large group of boulders and told them to stop. From somewhere amongst the huge rocks a strange voice demanded that they all dismount.
“It’s MacTavish, lad. I’ve brung Jonathan’s wife and brother. Take them to him and I’ll hide the animals.”
As the old man grabbed the reins and led the horses down the slope for safe hiding, a man scrambled down from the rocks and motioned for the group to follow.
As he walked up to the entrance of a well concealed cave, the man escorting them commented, “We have four badly wounded, including Jonathan, and seven of us are recovering. We lost three in the last four days. All the healthy men moved on to other places of hiding. No one dares go home again. There’s Jonathan over there,” he said, holding his candle high and pointing to what appeared to be an unrecognizable clump of rags against the cave wall.
Tibby rushed to the motionless mound, knelt, and gently cradled Jonathan’s head in her arms. She started wiping his perspiring face with her skirt, then gently kissing his brow and running her fingers through his hair. Jonathan seemed to respond ever so slightly.
“He’s in very bad shape. How he’s hung on this long we can’t figure,” said the escort.
“Do you have any drinking water?” William questioned.
“Water’s about all we have left. We were hoping you’d bring some vittles with you.” The man went to the entrance of the cave and brought back a bucket of water.
William took several cakes of porridge from his bag and exchanged them for the water bucket which he sat down next to Tibby.
Tibby tore a strip from her petticoat and she and Mairi started gently cleaning Jonathan’s face and neck area. The dried blood had mixed with dirt so that they couldn’t tell where the wound was until they started cleaning Jonathan’s back and shoulder and found the festering mass rising behind his left shoulder.
“Willy….I told da’ a lie about coming right back home….ask him to forgive me…. Uncle Andrew…. He treated me like his own son….like a man….I took his name for my own to protect our family’s name and I held him in my arms and watched him die. Will….it was so horrible….all the brothers gone.” Jonathan’s words were slurred and his eyes darted around the cave as he drifted in and out of consciousness; unaware the women were cleaning him up and changing the filthy dressings.
Finally, Jonathan stirred, opened his eyes and for a moment seemed aware of his surroundings; his eyes fell on Tibby and a hint of a smile touched his lips, “I love you sweet lady.”
“You have to get well so you can raise our son.” Tibby turned away so he wouldn’t see the tears streaming down her face. Whether he heard her words, only he knew. His will to stay alive had served its purpose and no more fight was left in him.
The men carried the body out of the cave and down the slope where several fresh mounds were barely visible. William and MacTavish laboriously picked and dug through rock and stone, trying to dig deep enough to bury young Jonathan.
As the men spent hours attempting to dig deep enough through the rocky terrain for a suitable grave, William questioned the tall man as to where his interest lay in all this. “Why are you so involved, Mister MacTavish? I’ve never met or heard of you before; you seem so deeply concerned for our welfare.”
“I’ve been a smithy for the MacAllisters nigh on to forty years. Clan chief Rufus and I fought side by side in many battles until I just gave out. Now with all the sons gone some one has to care for Tibby MacAllister. Besides, Jonathan and I became good friends.”
The tall leader of the group walked up to William and handed him a wrapped bundle, “These trappings belong to your family. Jonathan made a promise to come back and haunt us if we didn’t give them to you,” he remarked. “It seemed so important to him that you get the sword and other gear.”
As William took the large battle sword and drew it partially from its scabbard he saw the inscription ‘Clan MacCullough Semper Vivus’ with crosses of Saint Andrew engraved at each end. He sighed and shook his head as he assimilated the Latin phrase, “Clan MacCullough lives forever.”
“Maybe you can suggest a good hiding place for this gear,” William said to MacTavish, pointing to the Tartan and Sword.
The old man shrugged and looked at the hole they had just finished. “Why not let Jonathan take it with him to his grave.”
William laid the gear at the bottom of the shallow hole and together they lowered the body on top of the traps, then covered all and scattered the surface around the grave to appear as if the ground had never been disturbed.
“MacTavish, will you take the ladies down to Cousin Fiona’s place?” William said as they finished, “I’ll travel with you for a way then come back here, as my face is neither welcome nor safe there. I’ll give you some money for my cousin and for you to purchase and bring back what supplies you can. You know what is needed here.”
While waiting for MacTavish to return, William assisted in tending to the needs of the remaining injured men, cauterizing the infected areas and sewing up the punctures and cuts. William’s horse was slaughtered, some distance from the cave, for the meat. The bones and hide were buried to conceal any sign of human existence in the area. He hated to give the animal up, but if the English bush-beaters saw the animal in hiding it would be a dead giveaway. Now the group only hoped the weather would continue to stay cold and damp to make it miserable for the hunters. On the other hand, too heavy a downpour would force them, by the rush of cascading water, from this cavern carved out of the stone mountain.
They all feared that if someone left the cave and was captured that that person might be tortured into telling of its location. Therefore everyone agreed to stay until all were well enough to travel on their own…or dead.
The long hours of waiting gave William time to ponder and think of what his next move was to be. He hated to leave Mairi alone, but he knew she would be safer with Cousin Fiona than traveling with him. He was seriously thinking of making the journey to Ireland to hide, as many Scots had before him, until the world returned to a sense of normality.
One of the survivors who claimed he stood with the Camerons of Loch Eil in battle, told of his trek down from the defeat by way of Deeside. He had hopes of making it through Tayside to the west coast but the English were beating the bushes in every Glen north of Stirling…..and he had seen starving half-naked men and women coming out of their hovels to surrender to the troops, only to be put to the sword where they stood. He narrowly escaped capture only because of the coming darkness of nightfall. He made his way to this area near Glen Lyon on the journey to his home near Loch Eil some one hundred miles away.
This information regarding the route to the ports of Aberdeen or Dundee dashed any hopes William might have entertained to sail from there. He was positive he was being hunted and that a price had been placed on his head….just as surely as if he himself had fought along side the Prince at Culloden.
“What are the chances of going to the western shores?” he asked of the Scotsman from Loch Eil.
“Depends…..if you are of a Highland Clan and speak the Irish tongue then you’ve only got two enemies searching for you, the English dogs and the Argyll Campbells. Otherwise, the whole world is after the reward for bringing in a suspected Jacobite.” As the stranger from Loch Eil spoke, William guessed that the man was about the same age as he, and was as tall but a bit huskier.
The lack of the Scot brogue that was so typical of Highlanders conversing in English made William think that this man was well educated. There was also something about him that implied a military discipline, his posture, his ability to have others follow his suggestions.
The Loch Eil man continued, “I heard tell that the Government is paying five shillings for every Jacobite head brought into their camps. The bounty hunters care not whose head they take….even some of the heads of their own family are sold for the coin they can bring to line the pockets of those despicable blackguards! After all, the heads can’t talk to dispute the claims.”
“What is your name stranger?” William asked, “You speak the King’s English as well as the King himself and I noticed you also speak Gaelic to the others.”
“It would be better if we used no names, to keep at bay anyone with a thought of blackmail or reward. I know you to be the brother of Jonathan MacCullough so I know of your loyalties but I know nothing of the others.” In a hushed tone he confided to William that he had attended the University at Dunedin and the Academy de Geneva studying letters and Religion.
MacTavish returned in three days with most of the supplies but complained that the army was taking every thing they could lay their hands on. He also brought William back a letter from Mairi indicating that “things” would be tolerable and for him not to worry. Tibby, Aunt Fiona and she would get along nicely, as they intended to keep a very low profile.
Certainly, Cousin Fiona would not publicize the fact that they were staying on the farm. They were in dire fear for their lives but the soldiers roaming the area had been more content, at least for the present, to plunder the city homes and businesses than small back-country farms where there was little chance for personal “pocket” treasures.
MacTavish said that he wanted to drift back towards the MacAllister place and see if he could salvage any of his smithy tools. He confided to William that he wasn’t sure of the reception he would get when he arrived.
Many of the nephews couldn’t understand why their uncle Rufus MacAllister did not himself go to support the prince at the final battle but ordered all of his sons and all of their sons to show up on the battle lines alongside the prince. This almost caused a revolt at the family’s spring tithe gathering. Rufus’s reasoning was that should the English King prevail, the estate and lands would be safe from seizure. Should Prince Charles be victorious Rufus could claim the vagaries of old age got the better of him. A bit of playing both sides against the middle, but Rufus hadn’t counted on loosing all of his sons and their sons… everything he held dear.
Those who had minor wounds recovered sufficiently to travel. Two of the three remaining badly wounded men had died and were buried just before MacTavish’s return, leaving the count of eight remaining men, plus William. After dividing the rations, they all agreed it was time to leave the shelter and proceed on their separate journeys. At the first light of dawn they began leaving by groups of twos and threes.
MacTavish, the Highlander from Loch Eil and William left the cave and hiked together for several hours until they came to a fork in the glen. MacTavish, wanting to drift towards the MacAllister place and see if he could salvage any of his smithy tools, vowed he would call on Tibby and Mairi at every chance. They shook hands, said their goodbyes and took off in separate directions. William and the Highlander headed west, towards the upper Rannoch Moor.
Hiking the druims above the burns that feed Glen Lyon, the going was hard. Rock ledges had to be scaled and when one ledge was topped or climbed around another loomed to challenge and impede their progress. The pace was slow and deliberate. All the while William searched the mountain sides with his small telescope for any sign of life, for as far as these two men were concerned anyone and everyone represented a threat to their very lives.
The weather was, as every Scotsman could predict with certainty, cold and damp in the morning with clouds hiding the mountain tops and showers in the higher elevations sending torrents of water cascading down the rock slopes. A valley mist, which makes any human being other than a Scot miserable, was their constant companion. Towards mid-day the clouds would start to clear and there would be the possibility of seeing the sun, if only for a few moments. The nights were cold and when the wind howled it got even colder….and these two fugitives could not afford the luxury of a fire, even if they could find fuel to burn.
William had no idea where he was going except that west seemed to him to be the safest direction for the time being. Iain Keith was the name the Highlander finally offered as his own to his traveling partner. William thought that if his uncle had been known as an Irish ‘McCall’, then so shall he be known. The change in names might give some small protection to Mairi and Tibby. “I’ve known of some Keiths,” he remarked to Iain, “but they were from the Borders.”
“If we survive this journey….I’ll bore you with my life’s long strange story….but not now,” puffed Keith as he led the way climbing over the outcropping of rocks.
The travelers were bruised and cut from scaling the mountainous out-croppings with their sharp edges, tired from lack of sleep and exhausted from the quick pace to travel the rugged terrain before their meager rations gave out.
Iain suggested, “Ballachulish is on my route home. We can try and seek out what hospitality it has. I remember at one time the area was a stronghold during the uprisings. The people would surely offer us refuge.”
But getting there meant traversing the very inhospitable backbone of the highlands, crossing the River Etive and tramping the straths of peat through Glen Coe, exposing their whereabouts to everyone unless they starting traveling only at night.
The summer solstice, now ever creeping towards the longest day of the year, became another weapon in the arsenal of the redcoat searchers. Additional daylight hours allowed the bush-beaters to extend their search areas further out from their flanks as they combed the glens and braes. Conversely, the twilight before the two or three hour night of darkness and the long coming of the morning dawn, gave the two men additional time to travel great distances without the risk of being seen.
Coming down from the rocky peak of Scorr Mor overlooking Ballachulish, the two men halted to observe the land below and what appeared to be the outskirts of a settlement; but no smoke was coming from the cluster of bothies, the small crofter’s dwellings. On closer examination it appeared that a great disaster had occurred, destroying everything in sight, and there was no sign of life about.
William suggested that one of them sneak closer and, if the way was clear, give a signal for the other to advance. Then, like two children playing a game of lag, they each picked up a stone and agreed that the man who landed a stone closest to a protruding rock would go first.
Iain lost the throw, so he crouched low and started slowly towards the cluster of crofter’s bothies, being very careful not to expose himself for any long period. He scampered from one cluster of heather to another growth of thistle until he reached the stone wall encircling the crofter’s plot of land. He knelt behind the wall and looked in every direction. He finally motioned for William to advance, then hopped over the wall and ran to the closest outbuilding. Not a creature was to be seen, no yard fowl, no animals, but what was most disturbing, no people.
William, being ever cautious, made it to the hovel and called out in a loud whisper, “Iain…..Iain….where are you?”
“Over here at the main house. Don’t come if you’ve a weak stomach. The King’s men have been here in the last day or so doing their dirty work,” he warned.
William entered the partially destroyed hovel and found the bodies of a family; man, woman, and what appeared to be a young girl, thrown in the corner. The bodies had been there for some time, as the blood from the hanger or bayonet wounds was black and crusted and the putrid smell and flies made the bile rise in William’s throat and near gagged him. The woman, certainly, and possibly the little girl, had been brutally molested, they were naked and there were signs of mutilation.
“What kind of animals would do these things?”
“The world has gone crazy and I don’t think we have seen the worst of it yet.” After looking around Iain concluded, “It appears they’ve taken anything of value and then destroyed what they couldn’t haul away.”
Iain grabbed up a handful of straw and swirled their foot prints from the dirt floor, then continued all the way to the stone wall, erasing any evidence that the two of them had been there.
This Highlander had a way about him that disturbed William. He was uncomfortable with all his little tricks. Even on the journey through the mountains he appeared to know more of the routine of the English military than that which a man with only a gentle upbringing should know.
The crofter’s garden, though uprooted, still had some root plants available for the digging. The men gathered all they could and decided to retreat back to the foot of the rocky peak they left earlier that morning. There was a shelter in the crags that would protect them for the night and also allow them to build a small fire.
They roasted all their vegetables and draped their clothes to dry around the fire. Both men took turns walking some distance from the crag to gather brush, twigs, roots or anything that might burn, and also see if they could spot any glow or sign of the fire that might be visible from the glen below.
While relaxing in this moment of warmth and security, Williams’ curiosity about Keith’s background got the better of him and he inquired, “What is so strange about your life that you spoke of the other day when I mentioned that Keith sounded like a Border’s name?”
“It is a Lowland name! Keith’s have entertained Royalty from every throne in the Isles ….if you must know….my mother was a Keith and my father is a Laird of the Clan Cameron,” he bluntly responded.
What an odd and awkward situation this placed William in. His curiosity obviously put Keith ill at ease and they remained silent for a long stretch of time.
“I can imagine just what’s going through your mind, William ….that I’m a bastard…or…that I’m ashamed. Not at all!” Keith finally insisted. “The events of the past month have made me as proud as I’ve been in my whole life. I’ve made decisions regarding my future.” With that, Keith turned away and they both fell silent.
William shrugged his shoulders and nodded. He certainly wasn’t about to promote any further discussion on the topic for fear Mr. Keith might abandon him in this strange country.
With no further conversation they prepared their sleeping area and William soon fell into a much needed deep sleep, leaving Keith to take the first watch.
The first light of dawn found the pair about to vacate their shelter when William noticed a large body of men moving across the crofter’s land, heading in the direction of Glen Coe only a couple of miles to the east. He took out his glass and followed their movements. As they reached the wall, near where Iain and he stole over the day before, they halted and a small foraging party fanned out about a hundred yards. The soldiers started slashing and poking at every growth of bush with their hangers.
Some distance to the left of the settlement, a squadron of horsemen headed towards the body of men who were still milling around the wall of the crofter’s garden. They paused pointing to several areas on the ground, no doubt discussing the sighting of strange new tracks, then horsemen headed towards the approach where Iain and William were camped, fanning out and galloping around searching the ground.
A small detachment of the mounted men rode up to a knoll, dismounted, set up what looked like a tripod with a large spyglass and began searching the mountain side. William watched intently as the intruders pointed to an outcropping of rocks some distance from their own hideout.
Focusing his own glass to the area of their concern, William thought he saw movement amongst the rocks. He offered his glass to Iain, “What do you make of this?”
“I’d say that some of the farmers were hiding from us when we went to their hovels and took to the hills when they saw the troops coming back this morning.”
William agreed with that reasoning and added, “If they’re found they’ll surely tell the troops about seeing us to save their own skins. It might do us well to escape back over the ridge and head towards this Loch Linnhe you mentioned having to cross over before we reach safe territory.
Iain nodded, “The food and rest has given us new energy for awhile, maybe we should take advantage of it while we can…Let’s go now.”
They started climbing back over the pinnacles they had scaled just two days before, when they were so tired and battered.
From their high perch they had a good view of the surrounding countryside and they watched as groups of red‑coated troops thrashed about the peat and thistle, now hot on their trail.
The shortcut through Ballachulish to the Tarbat of Loch Linnhe and then on to Loch Eil was out of the question and so was a longer route past the settlement at Glencoe. Even the eastern route around Ben Nevis presented more obstacles than they felt they could overcome in their present physical condition.
“If you’ve the strength and stamina I know of a back country drover’s trail that leads almost to the outskirts of Fort William. I’ve known of heartier men than we who couldn’t make it, as it means climbing the backside of Big Ben Nevis and it could take a week or so in our physical condition,” said Iain.
“Did the very lives of those men depend on their finishing the climb?” William asked.
“No,” was the only response to the question. Then, as an after thought, Iain asked, “Are you willing?”
“Lead the way,” replied William.
They reached the Strath of Glen Coe and decided to cross the valley and river at twilight because Iain thought that army lookouts might be posted on the heights.
William searched the mountain face in front of them for a pass or at least a large ravine but it looked like they would have to scale the big black face of this mountain if they wanted to put the enemy behind them. Climb they did and on they went, past Kinlochleven where they had hoped to stop for rest, but were unable to do so because of troops they spotted camping by its shores.
Staying in the high country and traversing to the east of Ben Nevis had its good points now and again. Game was plentiful; they wounded a deer with a shot from William’s dag, and then had to chase it down until the animal dropped. They were so desperately hungry they were beyond caring if anyone heard the shot.
What a feast followed their kill. The summer sun dried out enough lichen to allow them to start a fire in their well hidden weem. They stayed up ’til late in the night dressing the deer and roasting strips of meat for their journey.
“The other night I mentioned my mother being a Keith,” Iain said in a somewhat soft and apologetic tone. “She was the daughter and only child of Lord Dunnsmore of Fife. My father; the Laird of the Clan Cameron, attended a gathering of clan chieftains at the castle of Edinburgh to resolve religious problems amongst the Highland Clans. My grandfather and my soon to be mother, were acting as hosts of that long event. When most of the Chieftains returned to their homes my father stayed on near Edinburgh and was invited to stay with the Keith’s until he completed his business. Some time later when my mother found out she was carrying me, she refused to travel and live in the Highlands with my father.
“As I was growing up my father often came to visit, even over the objections of Lord Dunnsmore. When I was six, my grandfather was murdered because of his opposition to the Papists who were at that time in control. They confiscated the Estate and evicted my mother who was in failing health. She sent me to Loch Eil to live with my father when she no longer was able to care for me. All of her friends and family turned their backs on her for fear of retaliation from those in power. I wanted to honor my mother and her family so I took her family name over the objections of my father.”
An interested William listened to Iain’s tale unravel and likened it to his own situation with his brothers and Aunt Fiona.
A good night’s rest and they were on their way again at the first sign of dawn. Several rivers were crossed this day and it seemed that at every bend the men escaped squads of redcoats beating the bushes along the banks. The two became so skilled at bypassing the enemy encampments they often wondered if the English were sleeping as they stood.
It was mid-afternoon when the two men came over a rise. The placid waters of a loch spread out below them. Iain triumphantly announced, “We’ve come to Loch Eil….we’re home. We’ll be sleeping under a roof this night.”
“Good on ya Iain. How much further do we have to go?” William said, clapping him on the back.
“Not more than a two hour march. Providing, of course, we don’t have to dodge the English bush-beaters,” said Iain as he picked up the pace, almost dancing through a stand of young birch trees and hopping nimbly over the rocky ground.
The sun had just begun to set and the darkness in the shadows of the trees sent a chill up William’s spine. He felt as if someone was watching their every move. He wanted to yell out to warn his companion but Iain was so eager to get to his domain that he was twenty paces ahead and widening the gap with every leap ….until he reached a clearing and stopped suddenly in his tracks. William, not knowing what had caused Iain’s abrupt halt, sped to his side and glanced around. In the center of the open space were the remains of what was once a stout house, but now was only a pile of stones strewn around with only the fireplace wall left partially standing.
Iain moved towards the rubble picking up and tossing a stone here and pushing another off a pile there; not uttering one sound for what seemed an eternity. Then he murmured, “We’ll have to sleep under the stars one more night my friend….Maybe we should camp a bit deeper in the growth until I can find out what’s happened here.”
They walked several hundred yards into a stand of young Birch and Iain flopped down on the ground as if all life was drained from his body.
William cut some branches with his dirk and made a lean-to shelter, not so much for protection from the weather but to hide the glow of a fire. He was thinking to himself how adaptable he, a waterfront lad all his life, had become….to exist in the wilderness as he had these past weeks. He then brought out the last of venison to roast a bit more on his cozy little campfire.
A commanding voice called a warning in Gaelic, “Don’t move a muscle or we’ll run you through!”
Iain responded in Gaelic, “Welcome brother, come sit by our fire. We can share some venison but we have little else.”
The moment of the challenging command William took his dag from his waist and shoved it under the tattered rem of his blanket.
A band of four men circled the lean-to, armed with spears, pikes, and their dirks, they didn’t seem to posses any other kind of weapon.
“Have you traveled far?” asked the Gaelic-speaking leader.
“What day of the month is it?” asked Iain, and then added, “I can tell you how long we’ve traveled if I know the date.”
“Do you have a name?” asked the band’s spokesman.
“You ask a lot of questions….is it your intention to rob us or question us to death?” William offered in his feeble attempt at Gaelic.
One of the other intruders stepped closer and spoke to the leader, “Tomas, they can’t be English, they speak our tongue. Maybe they’re Argyll’s Militia.”
“Shut your mouth Pol, I’m asking the questions. Now answer up you two or we’ll run you through!” Tomas demanded.
“My name is Iain, my friend here is William. We’ve been traveling for….if this be sometime in June, near two months….I take it you’re not the militia or English.” Then he added, “You must be that pack of mongrel dogs robbing the families whose men folks are about doing their business for Scotland.”
Pol lunged at Iain with his spear, but instead of dodging the thrust Iain grabbed the shank, drawing it towards him. The man, pulled off balance, fell face first into the small camp fire, releasing his hold on the weapon. Iain turned the weapon and placed the point on the neck of the man who was now screaming in agony as his body roasted in the fire.
“Enough….Enough! Let him up! We’re not here to do you harm,” the man called Tomas yelled as he tried to help the burned Pol away from the fire. Then, turning to the others in his band, he ordered, “Stand back!”
Lucky for them that they stepped away when ordered, because William was about to unload his dag into the band from under his blanket.
Iain took a threatening stance with the spear, ready to plunge it into the first man who looked like he would venture towards them. William threw the blanket down, exposing his pistol, and the incident became an immediate stand-off.
Now, in a more conciliatory tone than that of only a few moments before, Tomas said, “Hold everything…we seem to be of the same circumstances. We arrived back here only last week ourselves. What you’ve seen down in that clearing is what we’ve found of our own homes. We don’t even know where our families are, or if they are safe.”
“You Uilleam,” Tomas said using the Gaelic pronunciation of William’s name, “where do you come from?”
William, deciding to try out the new identity he had fabricated for himself and knowing that a wrong answer might be his life, calmly said in his weak Gaelic, “I’m a ship’s officer, usually sailing out of the Clyde. That is, until my brother sent word that he was injured.”
Pol, in some pain from the burns about his chest and neck and still smarting from his leaders previous rebuke, walked towards Iain and looked him over. He studied Iain’s face then said to his leader, “Tomas….I know this man….it’ll come to me…. I’m almost sure he’s from around this glen.” He then turned to Iain and demanded that he give his family’s surname.
“Iain Keith of Glen Eil,” he responded, “That was my home down in the clearing that was destroyed. Who did it….and what has happened to my family?”
“Ah yes….I remember now.” Tomas paused, watching Iain closely. “I heard that the English destroyed this place not because they thought the owner was a Jacobite….but because he was a Royalist turncoat deserter. Just what is your connection with the English?”
“Take me to Donald Cameron at once. I am of his blood and his Clan,” demanded Iain.
“Mister Uilleam you keep strange company,” Thomas said turning to William, “If you are an accomplice to his acts it will go very hard on you.”
“After many weeks of traveling through the highlands I came to know this man to be most honorable. He stood by and attended my brother until he succumbed to his wounds and he assisted me in our journey through the English patrols.” Then to make his point more emphatic William said in a loud and clear voice. “I trusted this man with my life. I’ll stay at his side.” He stepped closer to Iain, still holding his weapon at the ready.
“Relax mister Uilleam,” said Tomas, “We have reason to be wary of strangers in our glen. The lobster search-parties are out every day and the bounty hunters could have once been our neighbors. Having a Royalist in our midst is the same as a spy.”
Keith stepped forward, “Mister Tomas if you will not take me to the headquarters of the Camerons, then send a message that Captain Iain Keith has returned from Drummossie Moor and wishes to make a report.”
After some huddled consultations, the band agreed to send a man with the message. Tomas indicated that a reply should be returned by mid-morning the following day but only if the present whereabouts of the clan’s camp could be found.
“Last word we had is that the few clan leaders who are left are hiding out….they can trust but a few.”
The stalemate continued through the night and stayed that way until the noon-day sun burnt its way through the dampish overcast. A rustling was heard in the underbrush some distance from the camp. A whistle chirped from the direction of the rustling and Tomas responded with a like chirp. Two men showed themselves to the camp. Everyone was alert to repel the standing figures if they proved to be aggressive. Rapid exchanges of whispered Gaelic challenges were hurled until all were satisfied they were on the same side, and the two approached.
“Victor!” Iain cried out, as he ran to a boy in his mid teens.
“You’ve brought back a child! What kind of message is this?” Tomas demanded. “You were supposed to tell the Cameron’s about Iain Keith.”
“I did Tomas, but now that the clans are trying to reorganize, the leaders have left for a gathering of lairds,” said the tired messenger.
“Oh Uncle Iain….they said you were dead. Uncle Ailean saw you at the battle, he said you proved to be a true Highlander and that many of our clan owe you,” the lad said, smiling through the tears that filled his eyes.
“Who are you boy? Why have you come to this camp?” Tomas demanded.
“Mister Tomas, I know you, but you may only remember me as Victor, whom you saw in the company of my father and uncles. I am a Cameron, Grandson of Donald and son of Artair. The men folk of my family are away on matters of the clans. What is your urgent need of a clan leader?” All this was said with a confident air of authority by the young lad.
“I’m sorry master Cameron, but we believed this man to be an English spy….”
“Which one of these two men?” interrupted Victor, “Certainly you don’t suspect my Uncle Iain! Now, I know not a thing about his friend here but if he is a friend of my uncle’s then he is a friend of mine.” Then, using the gracious charm for which the family was noted, he flashed a wide smile and said, “Come, let us all return to the Cameron encampment and discuss it further there.”
The band of men traveled north from Loch Eil until they came to a monstrous black-faced stone cliff, which they arduously scaled to its top. As they rested they could see for miles in the direction of the glen below. William took out his glass and searched all about for any signs of the English.
“I see a column of redcoats coming down a trail from the west of the Loch….a line of carts and a herd of livestock is at the rear.”
“They must be coming from Loch Shiel to the west. No doubt heading for Fort Williams over there with all the cattle they’ve stolen from Skye,” said Victor as he pointed to a barely visible settlement in the east. “We watch their movements constantly to stay one jump ahead of them.”
After another hour on the trail, the band came on an encampment of tents and other temporary shelters. None of the inhabitants showed themselves until the small band of men stood in the center of the camp for several minutes; then they began to come out, a few at a time, and even then with some reluctance.
“Every time these people make a camp the English come in and destroy everything and haul off anything of value,” explained Victor. “They scatter all of our food on the ground and tell us to go to our clan leaders for help; hoping, no doubt, that we’ll lead them to the leaders.”
Victor was the oldest Sept of the Cameron clan present. Several women (widows possibly, if their men hadn’t made it home by now) with small children were coming to congregate around the strangers with hope in their eyes and despair on their faces; their only possessions were the clothes on their backs.
“Two weeks ago the English offered amnesty to all who would turn themselves and their weapons in at Fort Williams. That woman there,” said Victor, pointing to a frail, hollow-eyed, skin and bones of a mother clutching her toddler’s hand, “she came back and said the English stopped them on their way to the fort. Her husband drew his sword without touching the hilt to lay it on the ground. They ran him through and dragged his body towards the fort. That’s the last she saw of him.”
Victor walked over to the woman and picked up her baby. He took out a grain cake from his cloak, broke off a piece and put it in the child’s mouth. “Now do you wonder that we live like animals? When winter comes we’ll have no crops put away to survive on. Even if we had money….who could we buy the food from? Surely not the English! If they suspected we had any money they’d find a way to steal it from us.”
William thought to himself that if there were very many of the Highland people in this bad set of circumstances come winter, the deaths of many innocent victims would certainly weigh on the English King’s conscience forever…..that is, if the English King had a conscience….which William was beginning to doubt.
The men retreated to the hills so their presence would not be a concern to those so afraid that troops might return and find them there.
It seemed to William that another night without food or fire was becoming a new way of life, and he was getting weary of it. In the morning he would plan some way to flee this great outdoor prison….after all, he still had his own family to worry about.
The next morning the men returned to the encampment and were greeted by several newcomers. Introductions were made all around. Iain and another man grasped each other in a long hug and William was presented to the white-bearded gent Artair who was the father of young Victor and half brother to Iain and also a son of Donald Cameron. A council was held by the twenty or so people, the agenda was mainly the topic of survival.
The gray headed Artair took charge of the group and made his report “It seems the French are no longer interested in our cause and are considering abandoning us. They say they cannot continue to evade the British Navy to land supplies. The worst news is that Prince Charles has not been found and that the English are doubling their patrols in the west of Scotland to search for him. That means we’ll be at their merciless attacks until they find him. My father and older brother are trying to organize some form of relief from our friends but the other Clans are in as bad a condition as we are. My father is in very ill health but he is the only one of us that is known to all the other Clans.”
Tomas stood up before the small group of people, “My men insist on a trial of Iain Keith. Pol here says he overheard that the English called him a deserter and a traitor,” sensing support from some of the new arrivals, he continued, “and we know nothing about this Uilliem that’s with him.”
Artair held up his hand and said. “Mister Tomas you have accused a gentleman of nobility of a most serious charge and neither you or your friend Pol are in a position to level such accusations. If you have any proof I will study that proof and render my decision in good time.”
“For all we know they might be English spies,” blurted Tomas, his followers grunted in agreement to his charges.
“That’s enough!” commanded Artair. “If you and your men had come to Culloden instead of sleeping on the way from Inverness you would have known Iain saved many lives from this glen.”
“You think of us as deserters do ye!” shouted Tomas, “You forget that it was you Regimental Officers who commanded us to march all day without one mouthful of food, promising us a feast of supplies if we’d quick-march to Inverness without rest so we could attack the English whilst they slept…..only to find that the redcoats had already broken camp before daylight. And you wonder why half the Regiment dropped on its way to Culloden? You’re bloody lucky any of us got there at all.”
Tomas knew this outburst would anger the Sept of the Clan but someone had to tell of the events as they really happened. Tomas could have gone on about how many followers of the rebel army were slaughtered as they lay along the side of the road, too exhausted to rise up or lift sword to defend themselves.
“And you, Tomas, should know now that Captain Keith served in the Highland Brigade at the command of my Father Donald Cameron. The English offered peace and self government only if each Clan of the Western Highlands sent a son to join the Royal Highlanders. For your information Iain would not allow his Fusiliers to join in the butchery done by the English and, instead, led them to the rear.”
Pausing, Artair then turned to his half-brother and asked, “What happened after that Iain?”
“We were ordered to search for any rebels that may have fled down the Avin Nairn. While on our march we found that some patrols of the forward companies were unmercifully cruel to people who had nothing to do with the uprising; and may have, in fact, been royalist supporters. I rode to the rear to express what I observed to my Colonel, who refused me an audience and ordered me to return to my post. I deserted that bunch of murderers masquerading as soldiers and have been on the move ever since. As for Mister William….his uncle, Andrew MacCullough, was in the lead ranks of the charge on the Argylls and died leading his brave force out of encirclement. What a battle those MacAllister and MacGregor lads from Glen Lyon and Rannoch put up before they were overcome! I watched William’s brother, Jonathan, die of his wounds weeks later.” He shook his head in despair, “When will the dying ever stop?”
Tomas, who had falsely told tales of his own bravery at Culloden, was obviously surprised that anyone here could know of his lack of participation in the battle and quietly accepted the word of Artair and Iain. His band, taking their lead from him, decided not to pursue any further questions of Keith’s or William’s loyalty.
William, anxious to push on, asked for suggestions on reaching the coast so he might catch a vessel to Ireland.
Artair suggested Oban but noted that getting there might be too hazardous. Someone else said Loch Alsh but that place was also surely staked out with the King’s troops. After much discussion the tiny port called Portree, on the Isle of Skye, was decided to be the safest port to get transportation away from Scotland.
Again, there was much discussion on how to go there. A map was drawn and names were mentioned as possible contacts in case of need. Finally, William was on his way….after bidding farewell to those so much worse off than he.
Several vessels, including a navy ship, could be seen riding at anchor in the shelter of Portree on the Raasay side o’ Skye. Among them was a vessel with familiar lines. William studied the sturdy bark and noticed that her maintop and main-topgallant masts were gone. She appeared to be rigged somewhat different up forward than when he had stepped her masts in his yard over a year ago. He so admired the lines of the Colonial-built vessel that while in the yard he lofted a profile of her measurements in hopes that someday he might find investors to finance construction of a like vessel.
The Goodwill was bark rigged; her foremast and mainmast yards were set with courses, topsails and topgallants. The fore and aft sails on all the masts were more abundant than on any other sailing vessel William had ever seen. The large spanker on the mizzenmast was a new addition, replacing the yards and square sails normally found on a full rigged ship. Offshore cruising took a crew of 26 to 28 to handle her. Her particulars were 121 ft. overall length and 97 ft. on deck. She had a 36 ft. beam, 12 ft. depth in hold with two decks and rated at 240 Tons. Her keel was laid at the Colonial port of Baltimore, Maryland in 1742.
Watching a shore boat approach the nearby quay, he recognized the Owner-Captain of the bark and called out to him, “Ahoy! Captain Mackay! It’s me, William. Can you spare a moment? Can I buy you an ale?”
“Hello William! What in blazes are you doing so far from the Clyde?” The Captain grasped Williams offered hand to steady his balance as he jumped onto the huge granite block. “I sure could use some of your rigging expertise.”
“And you just might be the person that can help me out of a serious predicament,” said William. “I won’t mince words; I need passage to Ireland or somewhere it might be safe enough to take what’s left of my family.”
Hesitant to divulge too many of the circumstances of what had happened with his family until he was certain he could trust the Captain, William described the catastrophe at his house as due to drunken marauding troops. Uncertain of the Captain’s political leanings, he certainly didn’t want to be thought of as a Jacobite, since he was unsure if he was becoming one or not.
“One of their soldiers caught the full brunt of my anger when I found my parents beaten and bloodied then left to die in a heap on the floor. So, from now on my family will have to travel under a name that won’t be recognized. I tried to make it look as if I had died in the house fire, but God only knows if my plan worked.”
“I happen to be short-handed for experienced crew. I can pick up any number of landlubbers, but the press gangs take my good men….”
The Captain paused for a moment in thought while scratching his chin through his thick red beard and stared in William’s eyes. “I just might have a solution that would be good for the both of us….That is, if you’re willing to take a chance.
“Do you think you could repair my rudder and rig the old gal good enough to make her ready for sea? How would you like to become a Bottle? Had me a First Officer….good man he was too….by the name of Battle. Damned scribe made ‘im a Bottle instead of a Battle on his documents!” The Captain guffawed at his little joke and tugged on his mustache. “Damned fool skipped ashore in Liverpool, a month ago, and was done in by a pack o’ back-alley footpads. He’s still carried in the ship’s documents ’cause there’s money owed to ‘im and I haven’t found a replacement. We could slip you aboard ‘n’ nobody’d be the wiser!”
The Captain turned around and studied his ship now lying at anchor. “She’s one hell of a good ship! We went through one of the worst blows I’ve ever been in. Lucky for me I acted quickly on my old theory that, if the thought of reefing ever crosses your mind, don’t hesitate…just do it! As we rounded Cape Wrath and started down the Minch, a great Norther hit us unexpectedly, knocking us on our beam ends. As we tried to claw our way out from the rocky coast another gust hit us and carried away the main topmast and fore tops’ls. We were lucky we reefed when we did or we’d of lost everything.”
“Sounds like you were lucky not to lose your ship in that graveyard with all it’s rocks and cliffs,” William said, giving the ship a closer look, “I noticed some changes to the foremast and mizzenmast rigging. Is it something new?”
“Most of the ships in the Colonies are changing to more fore ‘n’ aft sails, almost all the large coasters are going full fore and aft so they can work closer to weather. Besides, it takes a smaller crew to handle the sails.” Captain Mackay confided to William that he re-rigged her and was giving serious thought to sailing in just the Colonial waters since there was not enough profit going offshore. “I have a good crew, and she’s the finest lady that ever dipped ‘er keel in salt water. Come now…let’s make our way to the pub. I could do with a pint.”
The two men pushed their way across the busy road that adjoined the docks, elbowed their way into the nearest ale house and found a small table near the wall. A mousy barmaid slopped their pints in front of them after the Captain bellowed at her over the din in the dingy room.
After much discussion and several pints, they were finally on the verge of coming to an agreement on the terms and conditions of William joining the ship, when a navy squad entered the ale house and commanded everyone’s attention.
“You….and you at that table!” said the Petty Officer as he pointed to several men about the room, “Get along the bar!”
About seven men got up from their seats, walked over and stood by the bar. They appeared to be fishermen by the way they were dressed; with boots, knit caps and heavy over-jackets.
The Petty Officer looked the men over, shook his head in disgust and wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Sickly lookin’ bunch o’ pukes…..take ’em out!”
He glanced around the room again and spotted William at the table over by the wall. Looking him up and down, he motioned to his three-man squad with his crop. “Take this one too; he’ll be a fine one.”
Two of the sailors grabbed William’s arms and lifted him from his seat.
“Belay, you ugly bilge rats! Take your hands off my First Officer. I’m Captain Mackay, owner of the bark Goodwill, out o’ Baltimore. My ship lies at anchor right behind your ship, the Argo. This is my First Officer, William Bottle, release him…NOW!”
“Let’s see some identification,” demanded the Petty Officer.
“It’s locked in a safe aboard the ship. Mister Bottle just returned from doing an errand for me, and we were about to return to the ship. If you wish you can row out with us.”
The Captain spoke with such an authoritative voice that the Petty Officer thought better than to tangle with him.
“My compliments to you Captain,” the man said, touching his forelock. Then, turning to William who was still in the grasp of the press gang, he said, “and to you Mister Bottle. You are free to return to your ship. We will stop by and go over your papers when we return from our tour of the town.”
The squad exited the ale house with their miserable new “crew” in tow.
“I suggest we go to the ship and get things in order if you’re going to be my new or….old shipmate, Mister Bottle.”
Getting right to work on the repairs the next day, William ordered the crew to move all available ballast forward to trim the ship so that the stern was far enough out of the water to allow the crew to work off a raft. William supervised the repairs to the rudder gudgeons without having to unship the rudder.
After days of waiting for the weather to clear the Goodwill was towed alongside a quay. The stepping of the main top and t’gallant mast became a very involved operation since they had no use of a high dockside derrick.
After removing the foremast main yard, then rigging it like a boom with the topping lifts secured from the upper foremast, they were ready to step the new main-topmast and yards just fashioned by the ship’s carpenters. During the storm when the topmast was carried away it had taken the mast hounds and trestle trees with it, so all had to be fashioned anew.
Unaware of the many eyes from around the docks that were intently watching his every move, William concentrated on the hoisting of the topmast, calling out to the crew in a soft and most confidant manner, “ease that line,” or “all together now hoist her easy”. Progress was slow and deliberate, for one miscue and all the spars and rigging could come crashing down on the men laboring below on deck, and also taking down no less than a dozen men positioned aloft awaiting to secure the topmast with stays, shrouds and hounds as the mast was gently lowered on the trestletree step. William was complimenting the crew with constant chatter so that their minds would stay focused on the task at hand.
The operation started at the crack of dawn when winds and tides were at their most dormant stages. Preparation for the hoist was several days in the making. Even a trial walk-through was executed the evening before. Nothing was left to chance and nothing unexpected occurred; the operation was a total success.
This was not an unusual undertaking for sea-going vessels. In fact, in most ports, it was a common occurrence after a major storm to see damaged ships beached to save from sinking or several dismasted ships anchored in a seaway awaiting their turn for space at a repair facility, if one was available.
The crew never questioned having a different First Officer Bottle aboard; if they were at all suspicious they displayed no signs. William was well liked and the crew respected his abilities. His ship construction knowledge and rigging skills were well suited for his ship-board position and Captain Mackay tutored him in the mysterious and ever-so-secret world of navigation. For six months William Bothwell sailed with Captain Mackay and was listed in the log book as First Officer William Bottle.
After calling at several ports in and around the British Isles the Goodwill headed for the West Indies to pick up and deliver cargo to Charles Towne and up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington in North Carolina and on to her home port of Baltimore up the Chesapeake.
After completing her obligations in the Americas the Goodwill loaded cargo destined for Britain and once again called at Dumbarton on the Clyde. William could hardly wait for the ship to secure her lines to the dock so he could be off and running to the livery stable to rent a horse and carriage for a trip to Cousin Fiona’s farm. He looked resplendent decked out in his ship’s officer’s cap and jacket with brass buttons and gold piping on the cuffs.
Secure and comfortable with his new identity, which had been tested by his months at sea and his many ports of call, and having certificates and warrants that could withstand the closest scrutiny, William took off to Cousin Fiona’s farm to fetch his wife Mairi.
Fiona and her husband came around to the front of their house when they saw what looked like a stranger driving up. As the buggy got closer they recognized it was William and he could hear them calling out for Mairi.
William stayed in the rig and asked, “Am I welcome in your house Cousin Fiona? I’ve come calling for my wife.”
“Of course you’re welcome William. The nightmare seems like it was so long ago. Get down and come in the house and make yourself comfortable.” Cousin Fiona started for the door as her husband, Kelvin, took the rig.
Mairi came running out of the house and flung herself into William’s arms crying excitedly, “You’re safe…You’re alive, thank God you’ve come back! I’ve missed you so much.”
Fiona bustled in ahead and headed for the kitchen. “You two go ahead in the parlor, I’ll get some biscuits and tea.”
When William and Mairi entered the parlor, the sounds of a fussing baby came from a cradle in the corner. Mairi picked him up in her arms and started rocking him from side to side ’til he quieted down.
William walked over to Mairi and tickled the little baby under the chin. “What a cute one this is….and looks as healthy as a horse. Is it a boy or girl….and where’s Tibby?”
“He’s a fine strapping boy. And our poor little Tibby’s not with us any more. She hemorrhaged while giving birth and we couldn’t stop the bleeding. Poor little girl just didn’t have the stamina to go on.”
Mairi was in tears as she described the episode. “I’ve taken to him as if I gave birth to him myself. He’s my baby and I’ll not let him go.”
“Go where?” asked William, “Where’s he going?”
“I was afraid you wouldn’t want him, please say you do.” Mairi was holding the small bundle in her arms and looking at him so adoringly….how could he not agree.
“Have you heard from Mr. MacTavish at all?” The question wasn’t directed to any one in particular. “We said our goodbyes up in the Grampians seven or eight months ago.”
“He’s come by twice. He stayed on when Tibby was showing signs of delivering and until, well…you know,” offered Fiona, who had entered the parlor with the tea and biscuits. “He took Tibby to bury her in the family plot up at the MacAllister place. Why he does these things when he’s not even kin, is beyond me….He’s a strange man.”
“Not at all Cousin Fiona, that tall man almost raised those MacAllister boys. He’s been with the family thirty years or better and even fought in the Clan clashes. In heart and soul he’s probably more MacAllister than anyone else left in the family. He is truly a good man.”
Fiona broke in, “The last time we saw him he had a wagon loaded with all sorts of heavy iron heading towards Dumbarton, and he just stopped long enough to say hello and goodbye.”
“I’ll let you two get reacquainted,” Fiona said as she left the room with the flimsy excuse of, “I have to return to the loom or I’ll not earn a penny today.”
“I’ve come to take you with me, Mairi, but the baby sort of complicates things. What does the little one eat and can he travel?”
“He goes where I go, and is doing fine on either goat’s milk or cow’s milk. He’s even starting to eat some solids like porridge, bread and fruits.” She paused momentarily then asked, “Where will you be taking us? There is nothing left of the old estate….have you seen your brother Robert?”
“Why…Should I have seen Robert? Is he here? Have the Red Coats taken him? Oh God! What’s been going on?” The joy and smiles that just a few moments ago lit up Williams face now turned to a scowl and his lips drew thin as scenes of horror flashed in his mind.
“WILLIAM!!!” Mairi shouted as she tried to stop his explosion of questions, “everything is fine…. The Bothwell family name has been restored….” Then in a more relaxed tone she continued, “Robert was here some months ago to pay his respects to Cousin Fiona. He said that he could only stay a short while as the ship was leaving for his home in the Colonies in just a few days. He even offered to take the baby and me with him, but I couldn’t allow this wee one to travel so close after his birthing. Besides, how would you ever find me if I left?”
A smile came slowly across Williams’ face, “Mairi my love I’d find you if I had to go to the ends of this earth; I would find you! Tibby couldn’t have picked a better friend than you. Now tell me what Robert had to say.”
“Word of the Jacobite uprising in Scotland was the talk of the Colonies, but their crushing defeat at Culloden was a joyous occasion in New York and Boston amongst the Loyal Englishmen.” Mairi noted the hurt in Williams face and offered, “I’m sorry but I’m just telling you what he said.”
“Go on,” insisted William.
“Robert said that word reached him that his whole family had been slaughtered and the home destroyed and all holdings in the Boat Works had been confiscated but no one among his English connections could find out why or just who was responsible. So he booked passage on the next packet to Britain.”
William thought back on his recent trip to Boston and how concerned he had became when he heard that brother Robert had booked passage to England on business; especially in face of all that had happened. William nodded his head to Mairi to continue her report.
“On arriving here he contacted many of your father’s friends trying to piece together the horrible events that took place during the uprising. He said everyone was convinced that the Bothwell family members were loyal supporters of the Crown. Robert said that a court of inquiry judged that the family was victim of a rogue band of looters posing as the King’s Army and that the family was in no way connected to the uprising. It was determined that you, William, died trying to defend your mother and father.” Mairi paused in relating the tale to tend to the baby and tried to remember other important facts “Oh yes… Fiona and I decided to keep it a secret from Robert about Jonathan’s activities, but we did tell him about you not being killed and that you thought the Crown was after you when you stumbled on the horrible scene. We told him you took off for Ireland.”
“Shhh….” William put his forefinger to his lips. “Don’t let Fiona or Kelvin know. I’ve arranged passage for you to America on my ship but I don’t know if we can provide everything the baby needs. Did you use up all the gold coins that were in the traveling case we buried in the corner of the barn that day we came here from my parents’ house?”
“No…and as for the baby I’ll not be leaving him behind. He’s the child we never had. He has become my life and I don’t intend to leave without him.” Mairi had started with a whisper but the more determined she became, the louder she got.
After regaining her composure she continued, “In any event I don’t want to stay here. Fiona is barely able to care for her own without Billy and me imposing on her. I go to the Burgh and purchase our share of things myself and as yet they haven’t questioned where I’m getting the money. Robert did leave us all he could part with.”
“All right dear Mairi, I’ll come up with something. ‘Billy’, did you say?”
At the dinner table that night plans were discussed regarding the possibility of moving Mairi and Billy to the home of a good friend of Nathan’s who lived in Dumbarton. Also, William had to negotiate with Cousin Fiona and her husband any debt that might be owed for taking the two women into their home.
“Robert already settled accounts. It would brighten our lives if you’d leave Billy with us,” Fiona’s husband said, breaking his long silence. “Other than being the good Christians that we are and you being kin, we did our duty.”
William pondered the man’s statement. He thought it was to the point, yet no value was placed on the disruption of their home. Odd, coming from a man who had never hesitated in the past to hold out his hand, but maybe the old man had changed.
“Fiona, if you don’t mind, we’ll spend the night and leave in the morning. Mairi says leaving Billy behind is out of the question….Sorry.”
William had dreamt often of the moment when he could take Mairi in his arms but that night his troubled mind would not permit him to execute his desires. In fact, when he tried to cuddle with Mairi he froze up and turned away, apologizing to his wife for spoiling what should have been a most memorial reunion. “Sweet Mairi, so many things are going through my mind, I feel it necessary to make decisions now which may alter the rest of our lives. Please hear me out, and then I pray you will understand.”
“My tears are for your obvious turmoil, tell me if you wish. You know I will understand,” Mairi pleaded.
“Aside from the murder of my parents and the horrible death of Jonathan, I’ve seen and heard so much bloody ruthlessness directed from Englishmen that I feel the need to leave everything behind. Besides everyone now thinks I’m dead. I’ve got a new identity. I’m now known as William Bottle, First Officer of the bark Goodwill out of Baltimore…. that’s in the Americas. I’ve made arrangements for your passage as my wife under the name of ‘Mary’ Bottle. We also have a home waiting for us when we arrive. I know that with brother Robert’s return to Dumbarton he was no doubt, through his political ties, able to reestablish the Bothwell estate. However, there are no guarantees for us. So you see I must decide if we are to be Bothwell’s or Bottles. Should we try to make a go of it here or try for a new life in the new world? What do you think we should do?”
Without hesitation Mairi blurted, “William and Mary Bottle and little Billy Bottle sounds wonderful.”
“Then we’ll stick with the story I told Fiona about you staying with friends in Dumbarton.”
With the most important decisions made, William started to relax but still spent a fretful night reliving in his dreams his escape across the high backbone of Scotland and remembering the tales of atrocities as told by the survivors of Culloden while holed up in the cairn at Glen Lyon. But the nightmare of Nathan and Mercy’s brutal murders was more than he could endure and he began sobbing; something he had been unable to do until this night as he lay in Mairi’s arms. Mairi comforted him as she had the baby earlier that evening.
The next morning after breakfast everyone helped load the carriage and said their goodbyes. Earlier that morning William had torn himself away from Mairi long enough to dig up the traveling case and the gold, and when he shook hands with Fiona’s husband he placed a gold coin in the palm of his hand.
Poor Cousin Fiona had her apron up to her eyes, wiping away the tears that were streaming down her cheeks.
“I’ll miss you Mairi….and you my sweet little Billy. Oh my dears, I fear I’ll never see you again!”
Aboard ship with a nanny goat in a special pen to supply milk for young Billy, the Bothwells, now known by their new family name, “Bottle”, were soon to be on their way to begin their new life in the Colonies.
Captain Mackay had received instructions by messenger from his agent in Glasgow informing him to proceed to Portree on the Isle of Skye before going to Portrush, near Londonderry, and taking on his paying passengers for the Americas.
This request by the military was for his ship to make Portree and take aboard a small band of pardoned clansmen and their families, to be transported to Wilmington, Carolina for a fee on delivery. These poor devils would be in bondage until the fees were worked off. The agent said he would advise the people waiting at Portrush, Ulster of the short delay.
Three days of miserable weather followed as the Goodwill beat up the Barra Passage and Little Minch towards Skye. Captain Mackay was convinced this was the better choice of routes under the existing weather conditions, remembering his last trip up the Sound of Sleat when he had to spend near a fortnight at Kylerhea for the weather to clear before trying to close-tack up the narrow passage. An uncomfortable wave chop and intermittent rain squalls made most of the people aboard, including the crew, queasy; but Mary and the baby took the bouncing around like old salts.
The smooth downward reach through the Sound of Raasay and the shelter at the harbor at Portree was welcome, but the wind and tidal currents kept everyone on deck throughout the night as the Goodwill swung in every direction on her anchor in the harbor.
After William stayed up all night on anchor watch, the Captain allowed him to sleep in late. The cries of young Billy in the close compartment woke William from his deep sleep. He dressed and went on deck only to find the crew at the capstan about to weigh anchor. Sails were being allowed to flag and the old man was aft, barking orders at the helmsman.
“As soon as she’s free lower your helm and we’ll drop below that coaster,” he shouted, pointing out a small vessel anchored just ahead, “and then come to weather as close as she’ll bear towards the Navy,” he pointed to a Sloop o’ War’, “then if we’ve enough way we’ll tack above her.”
The Captain saw William on deck and bellowed, “Get the anchor in fast or we’ll drag the bottom and hook a rock!”
William looked over the side and saw that the cable was straight up and down and signaled to the Captain with an open hand swung in an up and down motion. The captain waved William aft as the slack sails began filling with the light morning breeze.
“We picked up most of our deportees but I refused to take one group because they had sores and festers all about them. The others are below decks. What a paltry sickly bunch they are… and we have yet to take on the paying passengers in Ulster. Please go below and see if you can settle ‘em.”
William went below to try and organize the people, but when he asked them to stow their gear and choose bunks they stared at him with blank faces as if not understanding a word he had said. He thought that being deportees they might be highlanders and spoke to them in his halting Gaelic. They began chatting and crowding around him, so happy to find someone that understood them.
They were a mixture of families: some Cameron, Macdonald and Mackintosh deliberately intermixed by the military to dilute old tribal ties before paroling them to be transported to America.
William asked the Cameron families if they knew of an Ian Keith….or Artair Cameron, but they would only say that some of the clan escaped to Ulster while others were going to stand trial and were being held prisoner at Stirling.
The ship tacked and took on quite a heel, throwing all the people from one side to the other, which set them screaming and wailing for mercy, as many had never been on a ship before. William was able to get them settled again and assured them that they were not going to sink or drown, and then went topsides.
“Why, the sudden departure Captain?” William asked.
“I told you I refused to take the sick ones and sent them back to the dock in their long boat. I had a glass on them as they reached the dock and I saw uniformed officers get in the long boat and start heading out towards us, so I decided to leave in a hurry. If I have sick ones aboard, no harbor in the world will let us land. I’ve heard of whole shiploads dying looking for a place to land.” The Captain continued, mumbling, “If the Navy catches up to us I could lose my ship….but I’d have nothing left of her if we took them on and they had the pox or plague.”
The downwind passage past Kyleakin and into Loch Alsh started out beautifully as they traveled on into noon, leaving Kyle Rhea behind them. Mary milked the goat and gave the small children and the under-nourished people portions of what Billy didn’t need. Even the Captain, who was originally opposed to bringing the baby along, was finding favor with Billy.
Planning for his arrival to Portrush in the morning hours of the next day and to avoid groping around in the dark in a strange port, Captain Mackay ordered the courses and royals furled after laying Sanna Head, then went below leaving William in charge of the watch.
Even with the reduced canvas they were logging good time. Rolling along on a quartering reach was most exciting but made it very hard to hold a steady course. The westerly wind and large swells heeled the ship over until her leeward bulwarks were fully awash. The need for more ballast was obvious but furling the t’gallants would do for now. The wind seemed to be freshening every time they topped a following sea.
William noticed a sail rapidly approaching from the direction of Tiree. He estimated that the Goodwill was making exceptionally good time but the vessel, with a large spread of sail, was gaining. He was about to go below and inform the Captain when a thunderous explosion froze him in his tracks.
“Put down your helm and keep the wind just off the starboard rail!” William was now shouting through his trumpet, “Bo’s’n, call all hands on deck and be quick about it! Send all hands aloft! Strike fore and main gallants! Ease the course sheets and brace the yards square!” He pointed to the carpenter’s mate, “You there…Go below and wake the Captain!”
Of course most of this was all unnecessary, for the concussion had everyone on deck before William could complete his commands to the crew.
The Captain positioned himself at the after rail and saw the huge vessel under full sail bearing down on their stern.
“Hold steady your present course!” he commanded the man at the wheel. “Give me your trumpet Mister Bottle; it seems the Navy is playing games with us.”
“You don’t think that’s the navy from Portree do you?” William asked.
“Hell no…She’s a ship ‘o th’ line… at least 48 cannon.” The Captain hailed the intruder, “We are the bark Goodwill out of Baltimore, who might you be?”
Just as the large Frigate cleared their stern, the officers and crew could be seen on the quarterdeck manning the weather rail. “Follow us to the lee of IONA,” one of the officers shouted to the Goodwill, “I repeat…lee…of…IONA…do…you…un…der…stand…Acknowledge…ac…know…ledge…Now!”
Captain Mackay raised his right arm and waved above his head until men on the other ship responded likewise as they sailed off ahead of the Goodwill under reducing sail.
“Shake out the courses,” he bellowed to the men in the tops. He turned to the helmsman and shouted threateningly, “Follow that sail and don’t lose sight of it!”
Close to two hours later they rounded the southern head of IONA, skirting her many offshore jagged rocks and heading for anchorage in what lee the sound had to offer. The warship was reaching under fore ‘n’ aft canvas and reefed tops and gallants, making very good time. During a tack to weather they lowered a boat carrying six oars and two officers in the sheets. The Goodwill worked her way up to weather until her leadsman found bottom and the Captain ordered the sails to flag until headway stopped and the vessel started drifting astern. The anchor sounded and the chain was allowed to run to allow for a good scope.
The frigate’s longboat pulled along side and all the appropriate pleasantries were made as the two officers boarded the Goodwill. The Captain escorted them to his quarters. Ten minutes later William was called below and introduced to the two Lieutenants from the frigate, H.M.S. Brixham.
“They have asked a favor of us Mister Bottle, to which I have graciously offered to comply. The Brixham found the dismasted brig ‘Maid o’ the Glens’ in sinking condition with thirty or so survivors, far off the west coast of Barra Head. The Brixham was able to grapple her and tow her to the lee of Tiree. They came after us when she saw us sail by. Mister Cornwell here tried to board the ‘Maid’ but found that the survivors appeared to be near death. They had sores about their faces and told of being without food or drink for nigh on a fortnight. They said the ship’s owner-master was lost along with many of the crew when a squall hit, knocking the ‘Maid’ down and dismasting her. The survivors had indentured themselves to the owner of the ship to pay for their passage but that bond is now broken. The Brixham is offering us the opportunity to take over the indenturing if we want… say for twenty percent of the price received on delivery in the Americas. What do think of the offer?” he said, turning to William.
“Why didn’t they tow them on into Ulster?” asked William.
Lieutenant Cornwell interrupted before the Captain could answer. “We are returning from six months station in the North Colonial Maritimes. We are in short supply of everything and have important Admiralty dispatches to deliver at Bristol. When the towline parted for the second time and with the seas increasing, we doubted the hulk could take much more punishment, let alone the people aboard her. We beached them in a shelter on the southeast tip of Tiree.” Then he admitted hesitantly, “We also feared…that…disease may be aboard… and we couldn’t endanger our crew,”
“How will we, or the Brixham for that matter, know how many will survive?” asked William.
“The Brixham has given us a copy of the ‘Maid’s’ manifest, procured from the ‘Maid’s’ Sailing Master, and we can make final arrangements with the Admiralty when we reach Portrush.” Then turning to the Navy Officers, the Captain asked, “Will that agreeable with your Captain, Mr. Cornwell?”
“I am certain it will be Captain Mackay. I respectfully suggest you get under way before the ‘Maid’ sinks and takes all aboard down with her.” Then, saluting and shaking hands all around, the two officers went topside and disembarked.
“Take up and secure all courses, tops, t’gallants and royals…shake out all fore’n afts…man the capstan! Mister Bottle please make us a course for the sou’east lee of Tiree and mind her rocks ‘n reefs! Ahoy on the anchor, call your marks! Stand ready at the helm!” As the Captain’s commands thundered to every department and individual, the Goodwill came alive with the practiced motion of a well-greased machine.
Then came the steady rhythmic….click-clack….click-clack as the pawl rode over, then bedded into each cog of the capstan’s pawl rim. With two men tailing, two men flaking and six exhausted men, who had been up all day and evening, circling around pushing with all their might on the capstan bars, the ground tackle was slowly retrieved. The men, no doubt, thinking that at this rate they’d be old men before the anchor was free and clear…let alone off the bottom. The vessel finally started drifting astern and then swung to one side. All jibs, stays’ls and spanker filled and headway began as the sheets were hauled or eased to trim the sails for the most efficient use of the wind.
The trip to Tiree required many tacks, as the wind was right on the nose, but good time was made. A fire on a beach was sighted as the Goodwill rounded the head of Ben Hynish. A vessel appeared to be so close to the beach that Captain Mackay feared it was hard aground. There was still enough twilight to see the people milling around on the beach who had started waving their blankets and clothes as they sighted the new vessel approaching.
Captain Mackay ordered the skiff over the side and asked William to go ashore with two of the crew to assess the situation. His only instructions to William were, “See to the people first, separate the crew from the survivors and, if possible, check if the hulk is salvageable. It could be a bonus for us. I’ll lie off ’till you’re ready to return.”
William remembered Lieutenant Cornwell’s evaluation about the apparent health of the survivors and knew he must use caution so as not to carry any disease back to Mary and the baby or others aboard the Goodwill. William had the skiff put him ashore and ordered the two seamen to stand off a few yards until he called to them. Once ashore he was almost mobbed with pleas for help.
Pulling out his pistol he commanded, “Everyone back, we’re here to take you to safety…get back! Who’s in command here?”
“I’m Roger Thomas, sailing master….of what’s left of her.” A husky man of forty or so stepped forward and jabbed his thumb towards the hulk that sat with her bow aground in the sand and rocks. “There’s six of us… all what’s left of our crew as most were aloft trying to reef and furl sails just before the blow hit. After the Brixham towed us into this haven some of the crew took off with a few of the survivor men chasing them. Those of us who stayed behind have been trying to help these poor devils, but they won’t let us come near; they think that we’re out to hurt them.”
“Have your crew stay by that fire over there, Mister Thomas, while I talk with those people over there.” William walked over to the knot of about twenty people huddled around a small fire and looked in their pitiful faces. Many were bleeding from open gashes where the flesh had been torn from their bodies, others had apparent fractures of arms and legs and some suffered both injuries, but William saw no signs of disease.
“Keep them away from us! They robbed us of everything we had and tried to poison us with rotten food. For God’s sake help us!” The man, who spoke in halting English and with a very heavy Gaelic accent, was cradling one obviously broken arm in the other. William doubted that the man even felt any pain; he was so agitated with the crew.
William called for the skiff to land and instructed the two men to return to the Goodwill and inform the Captain that he thought it was safe enough to anchor and take on the survivors. “Tell him that I do not believe they are infectious but they do have many injuries. Also tell him to be cautious. Trouble might break out if, or when, the survivor passenger men return with the crew members who tried to rob these people.”
The skiff headed out in the bay and was intercepted by the ship. The Goodwill, now towing the skiff astern, started working her way into the sheltered cove to anchor. In the meantime William tried to convince the injured that help was coming and they would receive ample food and water soon. The remaining ship’s crew was stripping wood from the hulk to feed their fire and carried some over near the survivors. When they saw the people cringing away, they dropped the wood and backed off.
When Captain Mackay and the ship’s carpenter, the closest thing the ship had to a doctor, came ashore they dispensed blankets and the Captain ordered the carpenter to make splints and start tending to injuries. The Captain sent the skiff back with instructions to the cook to bring bread and broth from the ship to heat over the fires. The ship launched the longboat with men and the food, which was quickly unloaded and set up ashore. Two men with weapons at the ready were stationed near the food to prevent a riot as it was being rationed out, and also to show force to any intruders approaching the encampment.
As it was several hours before morning and the night was very dark and lacking in moonlight, the decision was made that the injured could not be transferred aboard the Goodwill safely. An uneasy truce had been established between the “Maid’s” crew and the survivors as the Captain and the ship’s carpenter tended the wounds of all as best they could. When the Goodwill crew started distributing the food, prayers of Thanksgiving could be heard here and there and were gradually joined in by most all; a sense of calm settled on the camp.
“Mister Bottle, I’ll leave it to you and the carpenter to go back aboard to design and build cubicles or compartments for our passengers….and don’t forget we still have more people to come aboard at Portrush. Use as many crewmen as you need to salvage materials off the hulk, and stay with it. I’ll stay ashore with the guards.”
“Aye sir,” William said, shaking his head, thankful that the Captain was always one jump ahead of any event.
“Chips!” William called out to the elderly ship’s carpenter, reverting back to his days in his boat yard where all carpenters were called ‘Chips’. “We’ve got quite a job ahead of us!”
After much debating back and forth William finally said, “What if we divide the hold into four longitudinal sections…each with four compartments thwart-ship, two to a side and each holding two columns of three berths. That will give us enough area for near ninety berths; thirty for the deportees and sixty for the paying. But only, that is, if they don’t bring along their harpsichords and china cabinets! It’ll give us much better access if we do it in the bin-board fashion, to allow for air to flow…. Come and we’ll see what the hulk has to offer.”
William was sizing up the hulk of the ‘Maid’; she appeared to be a bit smaller than Goodwill but now, without her masts and rigging, she was riding very high out of the water exposing worked and unfastened planks. He thought the storm could be responsible for that damage but, on the other hand, the signs of worm and rotted planks were sure evidence of neglect.
The crew left the Goodwill in the long boat taking ripping bars, axes, saws and any other tool they thought would help them scavenge the hulk. They rowed along side and boarded at the chain plates, now minus the standing rigging. They were being very careful where they stepped even though they had lanterns, as shadows loomed as giant black holes on the deck.
William glanced ashore and saw men casually milling around the fire. “Ahoy ashore….Mister Thomas, gather your healthy crew and come aboard….we have work to do this night!” That’ll bring ’em to life, he thought.
Even though the darkness slowed their progress considerably, William supervised the dismantling of valuable iron and brass hardware and any useful fittings. The hulk turned into a treasure trove of spare parts. The men worked hard through the rest of the night and made many trips between the ships with large loads of lumber, fittings, and rope of every size. Salvaged items and cargo soon had the Goodwill’s decks and hold overflowing with mountains of gear.
The ship’s carpenter and bo’s’n joined forces in starting to frame out compartments in the Goodwill’s hold, scaring the deportees and causing them to huddle in a dark corner thinking they were being imprisoned again.
A shot rang out on the beach and everyone raced topside and manned the rail. Unfortunately the skiff and the longboat were over at the hulk and no one could get ashore from the Goodwill. William rushed aft to the Captains cabin, grabbed a “Bessy”, purse and powder and, as an afterthought, a glass. He then yelled for Mary to stay below, then rushed on deck and headed for the bow.
Handing the gun to the bo’s’n to load, he took the glass and scoured the beach. All the people on the beach were crouching down and some were pointing to a group of six or eight intruders, partially hidden by the hulk, on the far reaches of the beach.
William didn’t know if these men were the absentee crewmen returning to do further plunder or if they were the survivors who had gone in pursuit of them. In any event he was taking no chances. He handed the arms-locker keys to the bo’s’n, instructing him to distribute what arms were left to the crew.
Though the wind had died down he could hear shouting from the beach but couldn’t make out what was being said. Things appeared to be normalizing when the hulk’s survivors stood up and some raced towards the intruders. The Captain could be seen motioning for them to come into the encampment and the crises now appeared to be over.
William asked the bo’s’n to gather and return all the arms to the locker and bring him the keys. He then ordered everyone back to work. The entire incident, from when the shot was first heard to when the Captain signaled all was in order, couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes total, but it was long enough to unsettle everyone.
William went below to assure Mary that the incident was over. He stopped to look in on how the bo’s’n was coming along unloading and storing the weapons.
“This is the last of ’em….Here, I’ll give you the keys, Mister Bottle, and you can lock the locker,” the man said.
“Hold on ‘Boats’ there’s one missing,” William said pointing to a vacant pistol space, “and that pistol was there when I took the ‘Bessy’ out.”
“Ah shit!” the bo’s’n said. Then after a long and thoughtful moment, “If you please Mister Bottle I have a suspicion; please allow me to follow it through.”
“You have until the Captain returns to the ship,” said William and then added, “You better get to it.”
Then, thinking that he may have need of his trusty dag, he went to his own cabin and started rummaging in his trunk. On finding the dag he checked its load and flint then slid it in his trouser belt and started back out the door. Mary was soothing Billie, who had been awakened by all the noise and activity and asked, “Why the dag, are we still in trouble?”
“No need for you to worry. I just don’t want to take chances,” was all he offered.
On deck William saw the skiff returning with several men of the work party and most of the tools. After they unloaded he told them to report to and assist the carpenter in the hold and then had the skiff’s oarsmen row him ashore. The skiff bedded in the sand, William jumped in the water up to his knees, and pushed off the skiff to return to the ship and finish transferring the goods.
He walked up to the fire to rid the morning chill and studied the faces of the newcomers. He was about to ask the Captain what reason these men had for not returning sooner, when he heard someone yell out.
“William….is that you William?”
Startled….yet recognizing the voice, William spoke a blunt warning in Gaelic, “Beware of using names Iain!” He went to embrace his friend from the Highland journey and, speaking in English, said, “Hello old friend I always knew we’d meet again. Captain Mackay, allow me to introduce an old friend from the church.”
Before William could finish, Iain interrupted saying, “Allan Cameron at your service sir. It’s an honor to meet men who are so willing to help people in need.” Allan embraced the Captain.
The Captain, who was obviously uncomfortable at such a physical display, brusquely ordered William, “Call the skiff, Mister Bottle. I have need to return to the ship!”
Walking with the Captain to the skiff landing area, William said in a hushed tone, “Sir! We may have a problem….a pistol is missing from the locker, the bo’s’n is searching for it now.”
The Captain froze in his tracks, “How in bloody hell could something like that happen?”
William explained all the details, but that didn’t seem to pacify the Captain who waded out to the incoming skiff and settled himself in. As William pushed them off the Captain’s parting shot was, “I’ll get to the bottom of this and pity the culprit that took that gun!”
Iain, or Allan as he now wanted to be known, walked up to William and grasped his shoulder. The two men conversed for quite a spell and Allan told of how he lost track of the renegade crew as they separated in the marshes.
William found it hard to refrain from asking question after question, bombarding Allan with so many subjects such as how he escaped, what happened to his brother Ailean, what happened to his half-brother, Artair, and what of Artair’s young son, Victor Cameron, nephew to Allan.
“You, William, more than most men know of the atrocities done by the butcher Cumberland. It was he who ordered my father, Artairn and Vic to Stirling. My brother was killed helping young Vic escape. I took the name Cameron to honor my clan and Allan to honor my brother. What about you my old traveling partner?”
“I made it safely to Portree, through all the efforts of your Kirk friends along the way. The Clan Cameron is well regarded and has many friends. I ran onto an old customer, Captain Mackay, owner of the Goodwill and he found me a berth and gave me a new identity. I am now First Officer William Bottle.”
As their excited conversation slowed, William noticed an eerie silence; until now hammering and general noises of construction from the ship could be heard ashore but now all building noises had ceased. People could be seen milling or running on deck and intermittent shouting could be heard but not understood by those ashore. Something strange was happening. Unexpectedly, a shot broke the silence. William heard more shouting and men quickly boarded the skiff and headed for the shore.
Before the approaching skiff landed on the beach, the carpenter’s mate called out for William to climb aboard and announced that Captain Mackay had been shot and that the bo’s’n was holding the shooter.
“Mister Allan and Mister Thomas, please escort me to the ship!” William shouted as he boarded the skiff, and then added, “I may have need of your talents. The rest of you stay put; I’ll send the boat to transport you as soon as we straighten out the problems on the ship.” With the carpenter’s mate and two oarsmen the six men proceeded to the Goodwill.
On the way back to the ship the mate explained that one of the sail- makers had put the pistol aside when the crisis was apparently over, forgetting about it as he went to help land the skiff alongside when the work crew from the hulk hailed for assistance. As the Captain came aboard he challenged the bo’s’n about the pistol. Hearing the squabble, the sail-maker remembered what happened to the pistol went to retrieved it. While handing it to Captain Mackay, who was angry and grabbed for it, the gun discharged and struck the Captain in the leg.
“Ahoy…Boats!” William shouted to the group of men standing at the rail, “This is Mister Bottle. We’re coming aboard. Who is seeing to Captain Mackay?”
“Your wife and the ship’s carpenter are ‘tending to him in his quarters sir. I’m sorry this had to happen….if only I could have found the pistol before he came aboard….it’s all my fault.” As he helped the men aboard, the bo’s’n kept up a steady stream of words, apologizing and explaining to William. “This is the man responsible sir.” He pointed to the sail maker who was sitting on a pile of lumber with his head buried in his arms. “He feels real bad and he says it was an accident….I tend to believe him sir.”
“We’ll settle that matter in due course; first we have to see to the Captain. By the way Boats this is Mister Thomas, sailing master of the ‘Maid’. This other gentleman is Allan Cameron, a dear friend. Please provide them with all the ship’s courtesies and privileges….And Boats, see to securing or storing all this mess.” William pointed to the mounds of gear on deck and then, as an afterthought, added, “Also, prepare to take on all the people from shore. We can continue building the passenger compartments after we get underway.” William nodded at the men and went below to see to the Captain’s condition.
“‘Lo Mary,” William said, pecking her on the top of her head as she cleaned the blood away from the Captain’s wound and rinsed the rag in a bucket of sea water. William nodded his head towards Chips. How’s the Captain doing; how serious is he?”
Chips wiped his arm across his sweating forehead, “‘E’s lost a lot o’ blood Mister Bottle. Seared the wound with m’ knife, I did, to stop the bleedin’ ’til we can get the ball out. Methinks t’ leg bone’s busted and ‘e’s downed ‘alf o’ bottle o’ whisky, ‘e ‘as, so ‘e’s quiet for now.
“Stay with him Chips; I’ll send someone down to help you.” Then William wearily turned to Mary, “You better see to Billy. I think I heard him fussing when I came down the passageway.”
Ding-ding…ding-ding… ten o’clock by the ship’s bell; William couldn’t believe how fast the night and morning went by. So much was happening, so many events, and so much thinking about the great responsibility being loaded on him now that the Captain was injured. No sleep for him in twenty four hours and some of the crew hadn’t rested for even a longer time.
William thought that food was the most important need right now. With full bellies the passengers and crew would find new energy. As fires were already burning on the beach, he decided to have the cook take makings ashore and prepare a meal of porridge, salt beef, biscuits and tea. A meal the poor survivors would think ‘fit for a king’, and it could be served in shifts. These shifts would allow for parts of crew to go on the beach and eat, and passengers could be transported to the ship on the return trip of the skiff. His plan worked and by eight bells all had been fed and the passengers had either been settled in their new accommodations or were aiding the crew to finish the carpenter work.
In the meantime Chips, with the aid of four seamen, was able to remove the ball from the Captain’s leg and control the bleeding. Of course, the other “ ‘alf o’ bottle o’ whisky” helped in the surgery.
The eight hours to Portrush, on a comfortable reach, gave everyone a much needed rest. Something about being at sea again and the routine of duties and watches is most agreeable to a seafaring man…and this is surely felt by the fo’c’s’l and after-guard alike.
Captain Mackay, though in some pain, was resting as he dozed in and out of sleep. The splint that Chips fashioned for his leg was a masterpiece; the sail maker sewed courses of sailcloth insuring the leg was held secure yet left the wound area with ample room to treat.
Allan Cameron saw to the wants and needs of the passengers. “Thank God,” William thought, “for his decorum as a gentleman and his ability to converse with them in their own tongue.” William witnessed another reason for the passenger’s complete trust and acceptance of his friend later in the afternoon when one of the survivors had died of her wounds. Allan officiated as a minister at the sea burial. His eloquence in the words of the church and his passion were so moving that it brought many to tears. So this was the major decision that changed Allan Cameron’s (born Iain Keith) life.
On entry to Portrush the bumboats were out in swarms hailing the Goodwill, as they did every vessel entering port, hawking their own wares or that of any number of chandlers, cargo brokers, or suppliers of everything under the sun; even trying to entice the crew to come to ‘The Tavern of the Maidens’ for a free grog.
One boat, propelled by six oars, hailed the Captain’s name and pulled along side. A portly gentleman scrambled aboard and introduced himself as the agent for the paying passengers scheduled for the trip to America. He froze in his tracks when he saw mounds of gear stacked about the deck and dozens of people with bandages and splints hovering in the waist of the vessel.
“Good God what is all this?” demanded the agent, waving his arms all about. “Are you Captain Mackay?”
“No sir! But if you will follow Mister Thomas, he will direct you to the Captain.” Motioning to Thomas, William continued, “Mister Thomas please show this gentleman to the Captain’s quarters.”
Just before the two men disappeared below decks, William shouted to the agent, “One moment sir. Shall we continue to sail about, anchor, or is there a wharf available?”
“I’ll speak with Captain Mackay first,” was the agent’s curt reply.
“Yo! bo’s’n,” William called out getting the man’s attention, “Keep a sharp lookout. We don’t want to crash into any bumboats.”
“Aye! Mister Bottle!”
Mr. Thomas returned on deck and informed William that the Captain would like for him to come below.
“Bo’s’n you have the helm. Mister Thomas will assist you.” William disappeared down the companion way.
Upon entering the Captain’s cabin William interrupted what appeared to be a heated discussion. The agent was threatening the captain with every legal description on the books. “I’ll have your ship for this!” he screamed, “I’ll sue you and your agents! I’ll get the Admiralty!”
“Mister William, get this bastard off my ship before I’m tempted to arise from my sick bed and throw him off myself!” The Captain’s face was red as he half rose from his bunk. “The idiot wants me to return the advance money he paid my agent for the passengers we came here to take on board…which he erroneously says are now ‘stranded’ because we took on those poor souls from the Maid o’ the Glen…Balderdash! ”
“Aye, Cap’n.” Without questioning the situation, William saluted and turned to the agent, “On deck, sir; do as the Captain asks now…before I’m forced to drag you up the ladder…Git!” William turned to Chips, who had just come in to see how the captain was doing, “Please escort this “gentleman” topsides and off the ship!”
William was quiet for a time to allow the Captain to cool his temper, then, after careful thought, offered, “With your permission Cap’n, may I suggest that I go ashore, make arrangements to dock then go to the Custom House and make a report on the ‘Maid’? I could also ask if a representative of the Admiralty could come aboard and speak with you regarding the Brixham’s offer.” Still feeling somewhat responsible for his captain’s injury, he added, “I’m only considering your present condition sir. Maybe you should let a doctor have a look.”
William decided to temporarily anchor in the roadstead. He ordered the skiff and two oars over the side and selected Mr. Thomas and Allan to accompany him ashore. Allan declined the invitation without explanation and the shore party took off, leaving the bo’s’n in charge.
The Custom House was well aware of the Goodwill’s presence in the harbor from the many complaints already filed by the irate agent. After considerable and lengthy explanations, William was able to convince the Port Warden that the Goodwill was not refusing to honor their obligations, citing only the need for time to straighten out the situation.
William went to the Admiralty Headquarters. Again he had to rehash the same tale as was told to the Port Warden. Not only did they agree to meet with the Captain aboard the Goodwill but wanted to hear more on the Brixham’s involvement. They decided the H.M.S. Brixham should receive recognition for their brave action and as a bonus for the Goodwill’s part in the rescue they offered a dock until other arrangements could be made for the Goodwill’s wharfage.
Before rushing back to the ship to relay the good news to the Captain, William hired a large bumboat to assist towing the Goodwill to the Navy dock.
A salvager of marine equipment offered to come aboard and appraise the ‘Maid’s’ lot. The Captain readily agreed that twenty percent of the salvage belonged to the Brixham. The rest belonged to the Goodwill; a portion of this 80% would be distributed to the Goodwill’s crew in the usual maritime custom. A percentage of the shares would also be divided amongst the wreck’s surviving passengers.
Captain Mackay left the negotiations with the salvager up to William. The captain, knowing of Williams past shipyard experience, thought he might be a better judge as to the value of the entire load. The Captain and William agreed not to take less than ₤500 for everything with an asking price of ₤1000. The sum of ₤750 was finally agreed upon, making a nice bonus for everyone concerned, including the ‘Maids’ surviving passengers. Unfortunately for the crew of the wreck, maritime law decreed that only surviving passengers, not the crew of the wrecked ship, be compensated as the crew possibly could have been the cause of the wreck.
Furthermore, if the surviving passengers who received a share were to be charged and made advance payment to the Goodwill for their passage to the Colonies at the going rate, they would still have money in their pockets and be free of any indentures. The Brixham would have immediate cash deposited, the Goodwill would have cash-paying passengers and the Goodwill’s crew would have a tidy bonus in their pockets for all their effort.
The agreement was contingent on the Navy’s acceptance on behalf of the Brixham, which they readily agreed to.
All the salvaged materials were cleared from the ship and the carpenters completed the berthing areas in the cargo hatch. The Portrush port agent for the original paying passengers was requested, at the invitation of the Port Warden, to come aboard again and inspect the new berthing arrangements on the Goodwill. A decision was to be made if any of the charges that the he had levied were warranted to pursue; even the Admiralty was interested in the outcome because the Brixham could possibly be tainted for not saving the people aboard the “Maid o’ the Glens” herself and thus incurring an additional hardship on Captain Mackay and his vessel.
It was common knowledge about the waterfront of the nefarious bookings by the irate agent. Upon hearing of the Goodwill’s detour to pick up the bondage passengers in Portree and the indentured survivors from the wreck, he had placed thirty-five of his seventy so called “stranded” paying passengers on vessels which were much inferior to the Goodwill. His hope was to make his commission twice if he could convince Captain MacKay to return the advance money for the thirty-five passengers which was paid to MacKay’s port agent in Glasgow. This also brought up the fact that the agent had violated an agreement by his own actions. No one wanted a long stand-still until a court could be convened and a trial held. Fortunately, Captain Mackay knew a much admired Admiralty Solicitor that he had William engage. When the solicitor contacted the agent and informed him of the military’s role in the delay of the Goodwill and how they and the government were “concerned” of the outcome, the agent was quick to reach an amicable solution and settle the matter quickly.
The doctor attending the Captain informed William that there was still a chance of infection in the wound. He complimented Chips on the thoroughly restrictive splint and indicated that the bone should heal completely in two months or so, barring any complications.
Captain Mackay consulted with William about the possibility of signing on Mister Thomas, the sailing master from the wrecked ‘Maid o’ the Glens’, as a watch officer to assist him since the Captain was incapacitated. The offer was presented and Mister Thomas readily agreed.
William was casually going over the passenger list prior to assigning berthing areas and came across the name McCall; in fact several McCalls. He asked the leader of the new passengers to point out the McCalls. He then approached one family and asked if they could possibly be related to an Andrew McCall, explaining that he had an uncle so called. They denied knowing anyone who went by that name.
Last minute supplies were coming aboard, and friends and relatives were saying their last tearful farewells to the new passengers. It was an emotional time for passengers and visitors alike and as the visitors were ushered ashore some had to be carried down the gangway, crying and kicking.
William ordered all lines singled up and the crew were in the yards awaiting orders to getting under way. Captain Mackay ordered his huge frame to be carried topsides for this festive event. Chips fashioned a lounge chair that could be dragged on planks up the ladders.
Two towing boats were standing at the ready with slack ropes, waiting for the command to help the ship out into the roadway.
William turned to the Captain for his command to get under way. “She’s in your hands now Mister Bottle,” the Captain said.
“Cast off all lines!” William called to the dock workers. “Shake out all canvas!” he called to the men in the tops. “Bo’s’n! Order the towboats to proceed to the roadway.” And then to the passengers, he ordered, “Please go below and remain there until we are well under way.”
Twenty minutes later the sails were billowing. All tow lines were retrieved and the Goodwill was now sailing on her own, as Portush fell astern. Next stop… Wilmington, North Carolina.
On the way west in the North Channel a “Sloop of War” was sighted heading towards Londonderry from the direction of Barra Passage and Skye. She did not give chase, to the relief of William.
Three hours after leaving Portrush the Goodwill was beating her way towards the Atlantic but was making very little headway as the wave chop and westerly winds were just too much for the Goodwill to fight. The Captain checked the mercurial barometer for the second time in one hour. It had been dropping rapidly since they left. For the third time in the month since they left Glasgow, whenever it went below 28 inches there was a blow out of the west. The chances of having another blow was almost a certainty so the Captain decided to set a new course to the lower Grand Circle Route, by way of the Azores, the Windward Islands, then up and across the Great Warm Water Current. This route was, most times, the safest and fastest… providing only fair winds came over the stern.
Captain Mackay ordered the Goodwill to come about, courses were plotted to sail down the North Channel to the Irish Sea. Unfortunately, a heavy fog layer began developing which kept William extremely busy taking bearings on barely visible headlands or islands. Running fixes were almost unobtainable so he had to rely on his own dead reckoning.
William ordered the bo’s’n to post lookouts on the bow and in the trees. Having never encountered such a heavy fog in his short sailing career, his chest felt as if gripped by a giant heavy hand and his stomach was as queasy as a landlubber on his first sail. His doubt of finding a safe course in the smothering fog was almost making him sick. He must have put the glass to his eye a hundred times trying to focus on the many imaginary shapes and forms that seemed to dance in front of him.
The weather eventually moderated and a gentle breeze blew over the starboard quarter. William was almost tempted to go below and seek help from the Captain when a shout rang out from the lookout in the tops, “Land ho! Three points off the Starboard bow! Appears to be about two miles off! She’s a headland with another form behind her!”
“Good eye, lad! Report aft when you’re relieved!” Now all William had to do is identify the land mass from so many on the charts. It could be Mizzen Head, Cahore or Greenmore. He turned to the helmsman, “reach a little closer to weather. Head just off that point of land and call out your new heading.”
All yards were trimmed for the new heading and William searched the coastline for some reference on his chart.
“Make a report lookout! Do you see an island or a sheltered bay?”
“I make out a large bay just to the right of the headland,” the lookout shouted down to William.
“Thank you,” William replied, now certain that the point was Greenore. With renewed confidence he ordered the new course of West South West, hoping eventually to pick up the Equatorial Current past the Azores and on to the warm Gulf Stream.
The Captain had made this run several times and was an accomplished navigator, relying on his three accurate German timepieces and quadrant. His London charts were crisscrossed with lines going in every direction, but every mark on the chart was important to him, as were the instructions and notes at the sides with references to see the ‘Guide’ meaning the ever reliable Waggoner’s and all its chartlets.
It was most fortunate for both men that Captain Mackay had tutored William in the secret science of navigation. With his present condition the captain would be unable to come on deck and take the noonday sights.
Six weeks to two months, weather permitting, was a reasonable transit to the Outer West Indies or even on to the lower American Colonies; two to three months was not uncommon. Bad storms or hurricanes were frequent at certain times of the year. Pirates still operated in the West Indies, and conflicts between the major powers were always a problem; whether it was France at war with the British, Spain verses England, or the Dutch or problems in the Colonies.
Oft times a ship left one port of a friendly nation, then on arrival at their destination found themselves to now be the enemy. That is, if they hadn’t already been intercepted at sea.
Flying any flag could be disastrous, so until a ship was overhauled or was threatened by a strange sail, it kept its identity to itself.
Thirty days from Portrush Mary noticed the diminishing volume of milk the nanny goat was producing and knew that soon there would not be enough milk to feed young Billy. William attributed the reason to poor feed and water, so a decision was made to slaughter the animal to provide a little fresh meat to go with the dwindling supply of what vegetables remained. He thought the goat would serve the ship better for stews and stock for broths, rather than waste feed and water on the animal.
A woman passenger miscarried near full term when the ship suddenly lurched violently and she took a bad fall while climbing the ladder to go on deck to take in some fresh air. The woman, grieving for her lost child and with breasts full of milk, offered to suckle Billy. She reasoned that it was a Christian thing to do which would soothe both her and young Billy. Besides, it was a common doing amongst her clan. She felt honored that she could do something for Mary, as Mary had made friends with all the passengers and saw to their needs, often taking their distresses to the ship’s officers before any problem developed.
One of two serious incidents to occur was in the fifth week of the voyage. A shouting match erupted between the first group from Portree and the Scot-Irish who survived the ‘Maid’ disaster, with others who boarded at Portrush, Ulster adding to the uproar. At issue were the religious prayer services. The Ulster people resented being forced to associate and having to share with the non-English speaking Papists, reviving an old Covenanter hatred between the two sects.
Captain Mackay was an agnostic who only prayed when his life was in absolute peril. William was a Presbyterian with a history of family ties to the Catholic Church through mother Mercy’s side and Allan Cameron was obviously a man of Christian convictions… but of what faith?
Not one of the three men, even though they were respected by all aboard ship, could placate either side. The Catholics refused food or drink and since they were in a great minority, they were totally shunned by the others.
Mary took Billy down into the hold for his nourishment and sensed the mood of silent anger amongst the crowded throng. Looking around and studying their faces Mary slowly shook her head and said, “Every one of you should be ashamed! What would you do,” she pointed to the small knot of Highlanders, “throw these poor souls over the side? Are they not people like you, yourselves? Are we not going to the new world to escape the hatred we have all endured for so long?”
Mary handed Billy to his nanny, who was among the Catholics. Then she turned to the others and in a loud voice asked, “Is this not a Christian deed when that woman nurses my child and not her own? Does my baby care if she’s a Papist or a Protestant?”
None of the clans-people understood a word that Mary was saying but somehow they did understand the sentiment she displayed. Even the women from Ulster saw it in their eyes and faces. An Ulster woman walked over to a clans-woman with arms outstretched and embraced her. Many of the other Ulster women shyly followed behind. Soon the hold was humming with murmurs and chattering as hugs and tears were shared all around. The men folk went topside shaking their heads in disbelief. When William heard of the resolution he was as bewildered as the other men… but very proud of Mary.
The other incident was a near disaster for everyone. Landfall was made exactly as plotted by Captain Mackay, who was now able to go topside on occasion with the aid of a crutch, even though his leg was still secure in the splints.
A course correction put the following sea and breeze directly astern and required extra effort on the part of the man at the wheel to hold a steady course. The helmsman noticed a large slack moment in each direction of the tiller arm as he cranked the wheel from one side to the other.
William scooted under the deck gratings to check the myriad of blocks and tackle needed to move the tiller arm from one side to the other thus directing the angle of the rudder to steer the ship. He checked the tightness of the lines and could find no great slack. He inspected the fastenings and bedding of all the fairlead and angle blocks and found no signs of them working.
The ship’s carpenter unshipped the grating just above the tiller head and at once the seriousness of the steering problem was obvious. The tiller yoke fitting over the square head of the rudder stock had become wallowed from a square to nearly round and was at its last stages of having any bite.
“All hands aloft…brail all sails and be quick about it! Helmsman, allow her to find her own way and do not over-steer! Call Captain Mackay on deck! Chips, find wedges and shims, we’ll try to drive them in to fill the void.” William, seeing the captain approach, announced, “If the tiller lets go we’ll be completely out of control sir.”
“Don’t panic Mister Bottle, we can steer safely by sail.” Then, turning to Thomas the Captain instructed him to go forward and let fly the jibs and stays’ls. “Set them to fly wing ‘n wing. Ease the sheets; that’ll keep us heading down wind.”
Chips and his mate came aft carrying assorted pieces of wood and tools and started fitting shims and wedges into the yolk fitting around the rudder stock, then driving them home with heavy malls.
Captain MacKay was watching the procedure and when Chips indicated he was finished the Captain called out to the man on the wheel, “Give your helm a gentle turn one way and then the other. Hold it…Hold it!” Just as the Captain yelled, the whole assembly spun, throwing all the wood parts out of the damaged area. Shaking his head, he turned to Chips and asked, “Can you rig a jury tiller?”
“Aye sir but it might take some time.”
“Do your best Chips.” The Captain sighed and called out for the bo’s’n to come aft.
“Take the two heavy spars off the gallows and rig them to swing out from the mainmast shrouds.” The Captain was drawing with chalk on the slate used to log the watch course, sea, and wind directions, “Rig them with heavy topping lifts and foreguys. Secure large running blocks outboard on the spars, then reeve the blocks with the strongest lines we have.” His hand drew quick diagrams with the chalk, “Make sure they’re passed outboard of the entire stern to the opposite side. Then have your men bring up a large heavy cask in a cargo net and we’ll launch everything over the side. Do you get the picture?”
“Aye Cap’n, I’ll get right on it sir!” The bo’s’n rushed forward and started issuing orders to direct the men on the project.
The Captain then turned to William and instructed him, “Plot a course for the Bahamian Island of New Providence, Mister Bottle, she’s about the last downwind landfall that we can lay without too much maneuvering. Otherwise we may have to sail on until we make the southern continent.”
“I’ve already taken the liberty to do that sir; we’ve just passed a reaching course to the island.” And, as he evaluated the slow progress of repairs, he concluded, “If it takes much longer we’ll surely have to tack to lay her.”
The two long spars, saved as emergency replacements to damaged yards, were removed from the gallows and swung out from the mainmast shrouds; now assembled and rigged as the Captain had instructed. The cask wrapped and secured in the cargo net was ready to be launched over the side.
“Easy does it….We don’t want to lose it,” cautioned the Captain. “Man your foreguys….everyone else lend a hand on the sheets….everyone at the ready….ease her over the side, bo’s’n.”
When the cask became afloat on the starboard side a tremendous drag was felt and the Goodwill started to veer to the right. “Ease the sheets, let her drift astern….Now you’ve got the hang of it,” the Captain said, congratulating his crew.
“Mister Bottle, take over the helm. Try and steer as steady a course as you can by giving hand signals to the men on the sheets so they can play the drogue from one side or the other.” Captain Mackay hobbled to the rail above the waist and instructed the bo’s’n to send men aloft to experiment putting on more sail.
The additional effort of more sails pulling the ship along eased the need to manhandle the drogue around. Thomas relieved William at the helm so he could assist Chips repair the rudder stock. The cramped space only allowed one man at a time to chisel and fit inlays and all the while the rudder was turning from one side to the other as the vessel wallowed to and fro.
Forty days out from Portrush provisions were already being rationed and it looked like at least another ten days to two weeks to end the voyage. As yet there were no signs of complaining from anyone, even though weevils were appearing in the sea biscuits and the water was beginning to have a fetid taste to it.
The Mackintosh woman who was suckling young Billy became very ill and Mary thought it might be better for the woman and Billy that she stop his breast feeding. Besides, the growing young lad seemed to be thriving on porridge, boiled salt pork and fish. William proudly boasted that Billy was born to be a seaman, much to Mary’s annoyance. Of the twelve young children that started the trip, three were ill when they came aboard and two of those died en route.
Of the seventy-eight passengers and twenty-eight of the crew that started out from Portrush, three of the ‘Maids’ survivors, one of the Portree deportees and two of the paying passengers from Portrush perished on the voyage.
During the morning of the second day of repairs a sail appeared on the horizon from the direction of the West Indies outer islands. The Goodwill, being handicapped with rudder problems, was at a complete disadvantage should the advancing ship turn out to be an unfriendly sail. Captain Mackay kept with his refusal to fly an ensign and the stranger did likewise until they were almost atop of them. The oncoming ship finally hoisted the Royal Jack and, with great relief that she was English, the Captain raised the Goodwill’s Colonial Ensign.
The British Naval ship hailed the Goodwill, demanding her to identify herself. The Captain shouted through his trumpet, “We are the bark Goodwill of Baltimore….Captain Mackay at your service….Eighty one days out of Portrush…One hundred souls aboard….Bound for Wilmington….And who might you be?”
“His…..Majesty’s ship ‘Valiant’… Out of Saint…Kitts…..Windward Islands Squadron…Lieutenant Cornwell, commanding….Greetings Captain Mackay…You seem to be having some difficulty…Can we be of any assistance?” offered Lieutenant Cornwell.
“We’ve nearly completed our repairs….Thank you for your offer…Were you on the Brixham, Mister Cornwell?” asked the Goodwill’s Captain as the Valiant slowly closed the distance between the two vessels.
“I was…Thank you for the bonus money Captain Mackay…The Brixham went in for major repairs…I must caution you…The French are acting up again. It may be war…Good luck, Goodwill! With that warning the Valiant headed off to weather and slowly disappeared over the horizon.
The tiller was fitted to the new squared rudder-head and clamped secure; it appeared to be a stronger assembly than the original. The drogue was hauled aboard and the spars stored in their places on the gallows. All sails were set and the Goodwill, eight days later, arrived at her destination up the Cape Fear Channel with its many sand bars, past the town of Brunswick, and on to the thriving town of Wilmington.
Disembarking passengers after a lengthy voyage was not normally a problem. All that was required was the ship’s manifest, passenger list and a medical clearance; usually after a cursory look-over of the people aboard and the payment of a negotiated landing fee. The Crown had so many rules that if every single one was carried out to the letter no one would ever be allowed ashore. Therefore a few shillings here and there expedited the whole process.
Authorities boarded to take delivery of the pardoned and transported Highlanders from Portree, whose plight had become the concern of everyone aboard ship. Captain Mackay inquired of their future and was informed that Governor Johnson had warrants to give the immigrants a right to file for land grants once they selected the sights in the high country above Cross Creek.
Many of the Ulster passengers already had kinfolk in the highlands far up the Cape Fear River and were making arrangements with the river boatmen for the passage of a week to ten days.
Agents came aboard and claimed their cargo assignments.
Before the Goodwill’s trip to Scotland, William had purchased from its previous owner a land grant twelve miles up the Cape Fear River which overlooked the river and surrounding countryside. He was to pick up the title at the Crown’s Board of Trade on his return to the Colonies. The parcel covered one half (320 acres) of a full grant (640 acres) authorized by the Crown and the Province of North Carolina. It needed to be surveyed before transfer of title and this had been completed while he was away and was only awaiting the payment of ₤2.Sterling to complete the transaction.
Saying good bye to Captain Mackay, who now was able to get around with a crutch, was a most solemn moment for William and Mary. They owed him so much and William almost felt like he was deserting an old friend. He was just thankful that Sailing Master Thomas had proved to be a real asset to the Captain.
Allan Cameron offered to travel upriver to William’s farm and help the family get settled. From there he said that he must leave and try to locate any of the survivors of Victor Cameron’s family who had settled somewhere in the uplands.
The name McCall still weighed heavily on William’s mind and he vowed to seek out his cousins.
As for Brother Robert, he seemed to be a million miles and a thousand years away; maybe in time… maybe someday…
The exhausted Bottle party finally arrived at their destination after two and a half days of pulling, poling, pushing and rowing the barge against a sometimes placid and yet at other times lively river current. In the early stages of the journey the ocean’s tidal current influenced their progress; when the tide flowed the river backed up for many miles and when the tide ebbed, a strong down-stream current oft-times caused the travelers to seek shelter or lay to in calmer areas until the river’s current slackened.
The people in William’s party included Mary and young Billy, Allan Cameron, Chips and the Highland farming couple, James Mackintosh and his wife Sheila, the woman who suckled Billy.
They traveled through marshes and swamps with tall stands of salt grass that seemed to go on without end. When they happened on an island with firm ground they would stop to rest and build fires to prepare the following day’s meals, and then get under way again after only a few short hours of rest. Mosquitoes were always a nuisance. They swarmed at the first sign of daylight and again at sunset. The pests nearly drove the passengers crazy but for some unknown reason they didn’t seem to bother the barge crew at all.
William and Allan took turns relieving the skipper on the large sculling sweep. The crew even made several attempts to sail the unruly 12 by 36 foot rectangular flat bottom barge, but the swirling winds, attacking from every direction, and the threat of an approaching storm ended their futile exercises. William even offered to rig a more efficient sail plan that included a jib, but the crew considered it a waste of time.
The primary reason he selected this barge over the many others that were available was because of her size and her four-man crew, plus it had a cabin for Mary and Billy. The other barges that were offered were built more traditionally with a fine bow and stern, but lacked a large enough cargo area or accommodations for a large party.
On the third day of the trek upriver the barge master announced their arrival at a destination that was described on William’s plat. The barge was tied to a large tree trunk by the water’s edge and the crew began off-loading the cargo.
The Captain of the barge, searching over the large assortment of gear, turned to William and asked, “You have so much here; do you intend to set up a trading post?”
“No,” William chuckled, “this is what I’ve accumulated over the past year sailing and thought I may have need of it on my farm.”
“My friend, if you were of a mind to sell I could make you a rich man. Then I could ship it up river and we’d both become rich men.” The barge Captain was half joking and half serious as he assembled his crew to get underway back down the river, hoping against hope to double his profits by making a delivery of William’s goods to the people starved for supplies who lived up river.
The excited newcomers climbed to the top of the river bank to survey their new surroundings and were faced with the first of many disappointments. On a rise several hundred paces from the bank they could see the burned out remnant of a cabin, with a high stone and log chimney appearing to be its only useful remains. About fifty paces beyond the cabin were the beginnings of what appeared to be a dense forest with very thick scrub brush. Another disappointment was the many tree stumps that peppered the land around the cabin remains. Someone no doubt thought the land abandoned and cut, then most likely floated the logs down river, where they probably sold the timber for a handsome profit.
The grant deed showed three old-growth oaks with a benchmark chiseled on a large stone lying in the center of their common intersection. The plat showed a straight line pointing due west and continuing from that mark up along the curved river bank for forty rods to the next benchmark, amongst a pile of river stones.
“Allan, what do you think of pitching our tents in that wooded area over there?” William pointed to a stand of trees and scrub brush atop the river bank, and then added, “We should bring the gear up before night fall, in the event the river rises.”
“I was thinking the same thing but for another reason. Did you notice that barge group eying the supplies?” There are four of them and if we’re not careful they could overpower us.” Allan began pacing off an outline of the encampment, describing how best to take advantage of the lay of the land for defense as he paced.
Everyone pitched in on the laborious task of lugging up the supplies then the men set up the tents while the women foraged for fire wood and prepared supper. All was completed before dark and arrival of the pesky mosquitoes. William removed two fowling pieces and three Bessy muskets from their canvas wrappings, loaded and made them ready to fire. Allan, in the meantime, was preparing an abatis, made up of sapling branches with their ends sharpened and pointing outwards away from the camp area towards any intruders that might approach their encampment during the night; a rudimentary English Army field procedure Allan learned while in the King’s service. Allan also took the first watch, explaining that he wanted to improve on the defenses and bank the campfires unneeded bright flame.
Around midnight Allan woke William to relieve him to go on watch; he then returned to his station amongst some bushes twenty or so paces from the camp. Just as he was settling in he thought he heard a rustling sound and what sounded like footsteps in the sand below the embankment. It could be an animal…but two-legged or four-legged? Better to be on the side of caution, he reasoned, and decided to follow his instincts. He picked up a stone and tossed it towards William, who was just exiting his tent.
William grabbed his pistol and fowling piece then rushed to crouch beside Allan, who was now trying to focus his eyes on some shadowy movements below the embankment. The night was very quiet and still with a half moon providing a little light as it peeked from behind clouds that had formed as the sun went down. Some distance away a screech owl let out a shrill scream making William glance in its direction. As he glanced around he saw two shadowy figures scamper from one tree stump to another. “There’re two of them out in the field,” he whispered, “They’re on a line between here and the old cabin, jumping from stump to stump….How many do you see on your river side?”
“Two!” Allan whispered back as he aimed his scatter gun.
Almost instantaneously both men fired their weapons at the sneaking figures approaching their camp from both directions. Hollers and screams came from every direction. Down the embankment two men could be heard cussing at each other and at the same time crying in pain. The same scene was being enacted out in the field of stumps as the two shadowy figures turned tail and fled. Little Billy started bawling and Mary’s voice could be heard calling for William. Almost in unison Chips and the Mackintosh couple were out of their tents yelling, “What’s going on? What’s happening?”
“Arm yourselves and stay low!” William ordered.
William and Allan reloaded their weapons and picked their way down the embankment to the sandy area where the two intruders were last seen. While climbing over a large high and dry river log Allan laid his hand on something wet; he put his fingers to the moist spot and rubbed them together. “I got one of mine,” he announced, then added, “From the look of their trail they must have taken off upstream like rabbits.”
Stopping at his tent to reassure Mary that all was under control for the time being, William asked Chips to bring a Bessy and escort him into the field of stumps. They searched the area where William felt certain he wounded someone because of the yells and screaming he’d heard. Finding nothing they returned to their tents and William went on watch for the remainder of the night.
During morning tea, considerable discussion was given to the previous night’s disturbance. Everyone seemed to agree that the river pirates would think twice before returning to such a well-armed camp or one with people who proved that they were ready to use their weapons at the slightest provocation.
An overcast morning greeted the start of a dreary day and plans were made to walk the property, check out the old cabin and then determine the most suitable location for cabins and out-buildings. A skiff with two men was sighted coming down river towards their shore. Upon beaching the skiff the two men stepped ashore and dragged its bow onto the bank. One man took a musket from the bow and the two men started walking towards William, who was now making his own way down towards the river.
Allan, with a Bessy within easy reach, watched the men approach each other. A hand was extended and grasped and much of the tension left over from last night’s excitement was relieved.
The party approached the makeshift camp and introductions were made all around. The two gentlemen turned out to be neighbors from up stream. One was a Mister Homer Grant, the gentleman who had sold William the half section after the original tenants were unwilling, or unable, to maintain the terms of their grant.
Mister Grant said that he suspected the old tenants were the ones who returned and chopped down the trees while he was on a trip above Cross Creek to set up his new domain. He further had a suspicion that they may have also set fire to the cabin in revenge for being forced off the property.
The other gentleman was introduced as Colonel Hagen, a Militia representative from Governor Johnson’s Cabinet.
“My wife thought she heard gun shots during the night; we thought we should come over and see if you might need some assistance,” Grant said.
“Thank you for your concern and my compliments to your wife Mister Grant.” William smiled, “We did draw some blood. I think it was a band of river rats trying to get to our supplies. Somehow I don’t think they’ll be back anytime soon.”
“We came by the river instead by horse in fear that you might fire at anyone approaching from the woods. I see you’ve come well armed Mister Bottle. Were you expecting trouble?” the Colonel asked.
“Where we come from a couple of fowling pieces and a few old muskets would indicate hunters not trouble makers… but if trouble does come we’re always ready.” Then changing the subject, William asked, “Where might we find some livestock for sale; such as riding mounts, a draft horse or oxen, a milch cow or even a nanny goat would be a start?”
“Since the terms in the deed provided for a house in livable condition,” Grant offered, “we might negotiate an exchange for some livestock… if that’s agreeable with you Mister Bottle? In fact if you have the time we can hike over to my house now. It’s but a short distance up this side of the river.”
“If you can offer a work animal to help us bring in felled logs, we can get on with building a cabin immediately. I’d be ever grateful Mister Grant. William added, “Allan and I can follow you right now.”
A question arose if the other people in William’s camp were indentured servants or freemen.
”Mister Grant,” William replied, “these people are free to come or go when and where they please. I really don’t understand the nature of your question at all.”
“Please forgive me if I offended anyone.” Grant went on to explain that large tracts of land further up river were available to freemen at little or no cost to the homesteader. The true reason for this generosity, which was not known by many people, was that the settlements were lacking in population head-counts that were needed to qualify for any new county apportionments required by both the Crown and Governor Johnson’s master growth plan for the Upper Highlands area. The Governor himself had invested heavily of his own money in the project, even going against his own supporters to encourage the Highland Scots and Scot-Irish from Ulster to immigrate into that area.
William went to Mary and explained the need to go to Mister Grant’s place and told her that he shouldn’t be gone too long. He suggested that Chips and James go into the forest and mark suitable trees to cut. He also warned them to carry protection, just in case, and to keep alert for any trouble back at the camp.
Grant led his party by way of a well-worn trail along the river bank and explained, “This trail is used by everyone during the dry season; even pack horses can travel on it. Unfortunately, when the rains come, high water and swamp areas make traveling on the trail impossible.”
Allan began sniffing the air and remarked, “Does anyone else smell smoke?”
“Sometimes the barge people camp along the river… but we saw no barge or boats when we came down river this morning,” Grant said.
“Be cautious my friends,” warned Allan, “it may be the river rats we encountered last night.”
They all stopped and quieted; some smelling the air about them. Allan checked a patch of ground area and cautiously approached the brush that led into the forest. “The smoke seems to be coming from this direction,” he whispered, pointing to a faint trace of fresh foot prints in the damp ground and then to broken branches of the undergrowth. “Shhh…I hear a man talking.” He put his finger to his lips and motioned to the others to stay low to the ground.
“I don’t care…I’m hurting…they should’ve been back by now. That house was only a few hundred yards up the trail.” The pleadings came from a man, obviously in pain, just a few yards into the brush. “I’m going to bleed to death….” he whined, “Please God help me!!
Allan, with his Bessy at the ready, burst into the small camp. “I heard you ask for God’s help…Did you mean it, or was it just the wailings of a coward I heard?” He turned, threatening the other man with his weapon as the rest of the men surrounded the two men sitting at a small fire, “You! Get down flat on the ground and be quick about it!”
“Were you part of that bunch of cutthroats that tried to sneak up on our camp last night?” William snarled at the injured man.
“Yes…For God’s sake, help me….I’m dying!” The blood-soaked man wailed and writhed on the ground.
Allan requested that William return to their camp and have Chips return with him to tend to the wounded man. “Bring some weapons back with you and, please, do not tarry as there may be trouble at Mister Grant’s house”
“I’m on my way….Will you be here when I return?”
Allan turned to Grant, “What distance to your place?”
“We’re almost there. My lower clearing is just ahead and then you’ll see the compound further on.”
“We’ll go on to Grant’s. You follow when you can. Be careful, those other way-layers can be anywhere,” Allan cautioned, adding, “We’ll keep the uninjured man with us and leave the wounded man here by the fire.”
Approaching the clearing Allan cautioned the group to keep low and he began to survey the area for any signs out of the ordinary. “Is there a way to your house without our being seen?” he asked Grant.
“Only by going along the river bank; that’s the shortest approach to the main house,” Grant replied.
“Colonel Hagen,” Allan inquired, “can I persuade you to keep this man prisoner while Grant and I explore the best way to get to the house…We’ll wait a short time to give William a chance to catch up with the extra weapons.”
“I’m persuaded Mister Cameron. Might I also say that I’m impressed with your command of the situation? Please do carry on.” The Colonel made a slight bow and his reply came in a most gracious and gentlemanly manner.
Realizing that he had obviously overstepped his position with the Colonel, Allan offered apologetically, “Please forgive me. I would gladly defer to your military authority Colonel Hagen. I tend to act instinctively in crises.” Allan displayed a yielding posture by extending both hands with the palms up and open in front of his body, an old military and gentleman’s sign of submission.
“I sense no subordination,” responded the Colonel. “You seem to have a certain wherewithal about you. Please continue with your plans Mister Cameron. You can rely on me entirely. I will return to the injured man with our prisoner and advise William on his return.”
Taking every precaution, Allan and Grant made their way to a position abreast of the house. A Negro woman was seen putting out laundry to dry in a yard at the rear of the house and two children were sitting on the ground nearby. Everything looked serene but a few things did seem out of place. The woman was laying the clothes upside down on the bushes even with the threat of rain approaching. The small ones were crying and looking around as if searching for someone or something in the distance and a large dog was lying prostrate in a mud puddle not moving a muscle.
Grant announced that everything looked safe enough for them to approach the house and started to rise from his crouched position.
Allan reached up and pulled him back down. “Take a closer look, Grant. Study the children; do they look like they’re at ease? See that woman hanging out the wash? Does it look plausible to put all that out with the rain almost upon us? And the dog sprawled there in the mud hasn’t twitched for several minutes. Things just aren’t right….Beware!”
“Good God!” Grant exclaimed. “How do you sense all these things? I would’ve walked right into trouble. Come to think of it, my dog should’ve been barking by now….That’s my wife’s slave girl and her two children. They must have my wife and my slave Jocko in the house.
“How many weapons do you have in the house and what kind are they?” Allan demanded.
“Let me think…uh…two muskets, three pistols, one scattergun and a German long rifle….Oh my God! Oh my poor wife! I almost forgot that the Colonel has a brace of hand guns and a new model musket he brought with him…Oh God! Those bastards must have been laying in wait, watching our house and made their move when they saw us leave this morning.”
Meanwhile, the woman seemed to be gathering and hanging out the same clothes over and over, the children sat on the ground near their mother, not chasing around or playing as children would normally be doing. The dog never moved and appeared to be dead.
Allan told Grant to return to the hoodlums’ camp and warn the others of what they had seen and ask the prisoners whether either of the other two were wounded… and if so, how bad.
About twenty minutes had passed when Allan heard the approach of the four men: Grant, William, Colonel Hagen and Chips. He asked about the two prisoners.
“The wounded ‘un… ‘e expired afore I got to ‘im,” exclaimed Chips.
“I tied the live one back-to-back with the dead one so he one won’t ever forget this day’s deed,” said the Colonel. “The prisoner says their leader was hit in his shoulder; it didn’t look all that bad to him but it might’ve busted a bone.”
“Chips…it would be best if you would return to the ladies back at our camp…and please stay alert.” Allan turned to Hagen, “Colonel, please follow my thought for a moment if you will. Since you are familiar with the house it might be best if we split up into two groups. You and William go to the rear of the house. Grant and I will move up from the front. We’ll watch for your signal when you are in position. I think we should all move in together but we must be very careful as they may be using Grant’s wife as a hostage.”
A light rain began to fall, just enough to make the footing slippery. Allan was keeping a lookout for some sign of William and the Colonel at the rear of the house, but nothing was seen of them. He reckoned that they had more than enough time to make it to their position and was about to begin his approach to the front when he saw both of them walking towards the house as if nothing was out of the ordinary. In fact, when they came into a clearing they stopped. That’s when Allan noticed that they were without their weapons and he immediately knew something was awry.
Allan advanced cautiously towards the house; he reached a corner and carefully peeked around. Seeing William and the Colonel just standing still alerted his senses that they were at the mercy of some unseen control. Not willing to jeopardize the two men’s lives in a foolish encounter, he started to retreat when he heard groans coming from within the house. He silently made his way to a window and peered in. A wounded man was lying on the floor with an empty whiskey bottle overturned next to him; no one else could be seen in the room. Allan returned to the river embankment where Grant was waiting.
“Someone seems to have the advantage over William and the Colonel. Tell me everything about your compound; outbuildings or any place that might offer concealment or protection.” Allan handed Grant a stick and smoothed out an area on the ground. “Draw a sketch of everything that could hide a man.”
In less than five minutes the two men had a layout of the area. A small shack that housed the slave family was the only building near where William and the Colonel entered onto the clearing. With that in mind, Allan and Grant looped way above the trail that William and the Colonel must have taken and approached the slave’s home from the forest side, opposite the main house.
Allan asked Grant to go behind a tree on the trail that led to the main house and remain under cover. This was the trail that William and the Colonel most likely took. He then told Grant to wait for a high pitched bird whistle and that, upon hearing it, he should begin to make as much noise as he could by beating the bushes and throwing anything at hand towards the slave’s quarters. And, as a last suggestion, he added, “Keep your weapon ready in case our prey decides to charge in your direction.”
The whistle signal was given. A commotion of banging and yelling came from Grant’s position. A shot rang out from the shack and almost at the same instant Allan fired at a figure in the doorway, hitting him in the chest.
William and the Colonel dropped to the ground. When all had been quiet for a few moments, Allan yelled out, “Is everybody safe?” He then ran to the shack and dragged the badly wounded man out into the open. Motioning for the others to come and see, he showed them how the culprit had been defending himself with Grant’s wife as his hostage and how the slave women and her children had been within his musket and rifle range. When William and the Colonel had made their approach to the rear of the house the man had surprised them and added them to his bait for the returning Grant and anyone who might have accompanied him.
Jocko rushed from within the main house, scooped up the children and ran towards the barn with their mother in hot pursuit. Grant’s wife was weeping uncontrollably as her husband helped her to their quarters. They stopped on their way to check on the dog but seeing there was nothing they could do for the poor animal they continued on to the house.
William and the Colonel, now with smiling faces, crowded around Allan, slapping him on his back and thanking him for their rescue. They began to collect the weapons from the shack to take them to Grant’s house. Allan saw to the wounded men but feared there was nothing anyone could do for either one of them; both men shortly expired and Grant sent Jocko to dig their graves.
William was concerned that the people at his camp could hear the shots and were no doubt anxiously waiting word of the consequences. He asked Allan if he would remain with the Grants to offer any assistance he could. He explained that he would stop by the way-layer’s camp to pick up the last of the river rats on his way returning to his camp and family.
Approaching the way-layer’s camp William could hear the cursing and cries of a very angry or very scared man, and what he saw almost turned his stomach. The man had freed one arm and, not being able to reach the knots of the ropes that bound him to the dead man, tried to free the rest of his limbs by beating the corpse on a tree trunk, splattering blood everywhere. The blood and gore made it hard to distinguish which was the live one. The particular way the Colonel had tied him back-to-back with his dead comrade had not allowed his free arm to reach his tied wrist or legs and it was obvious from the disturbance and swirls on the rain soaked ground that he had been trying every possible way to free himself.
William stood over the horrible scene for a few moments trying to decide the best procedure to free this man without taking the chance that he could be overpowered. He started to implement his plan when the bound man began to strike out at him with his free arm, much like a tethered wild animal, forcing William to jump back.
“Hear me, bastard! I could shoot you or leave you as you are now and let the forest creatures feed on your miserable hide! I don’t care!” William started walking away.
“Come back…For God’s sake, come back! I promise to be your slave…I’ll do anything you say…just cut me free…please! Oh God, please!” The man had obviously become deranged, slobbering and mumbling to himself and beginning to shake uncontrollably.
These actions put fear in William for he saw a sign of madness in this bloody scene and didn’t want his people to witness such behavior. He decided to leave the man as he was until there was more help to control him and struck out for his own encampment.
Everyone congregated around William when he walked into the camp and began asking questions as to what happened after Chips returned with the warning to protect themselves. He told them everything except his experience at the river rat’s camp. Calling Chips aside he described in detail the two bound men and suggested that he row the skiff back to Grant’s place and tell them about what had happened. He further suggested that Chips get started immediately before the storm hit and the river rose, for as the afternoon wore on the weather was becoming evermore threatening and thunder could be heard off in the distance.
As William looked around his camp he found that everyone had been hard at work building large lean-to type shelters with their sloping roofs pointed in the direction of the north wind and the flaxen sailcloth spread and fastened atop each roof.
Chips had been busy building up stone foundations in all the lean-tos. The stones were piled about one foot off the ground to support a floor made up of small diameter logs. In time he intended to adze the surfaces so stepping or sleeping on them would be more comfortable, but this would have to do for now.
Everyone in camp began to busy themselves getting the equipment under cover and out of the steady drizzle that began falling. A tinkling of a bell could be heard off in the distance and seemed to be coming from the direction of Grant’s place. Soon they heard the calls of men driving animals and approaching the camp calling out not to fire. William recognized Allan’s voice even before they came out of the forest’s thick under growth.
“What’s all of this; why so many animals?” William inquired of no one in particular.
“For services rendered, Mister Bottle. Use the draft animals for as long as you need. We’ll settle up later…..” Grant hesitated, wondering if he should openly discuss his personal problems, then he rationalized everyone would soon learn of his situation and continued, “My wife wishes to return to Charles Towne with Colonel Hagen as soon as this storm subsides. She says she lives in constant fear and has seen too much bloodshed in the past three years here in the Piedmont.”
“I’m truly sorry to hear that Mister Grant. Maybe now that we’ll be neighbors things will change. Tell your wife we would love to visit and that she would always be welcome here,” William offered.
Then, turning to Allan and pulling him aside so that the women couldn’t overhear, he asked, “Did you stop by the other camp?”
“It was the most gruesome and inhuman scene I have ever witnessed. I offered to bury them in a Christian burial but the Colonel said they didn’t deserve a proper burial. He wanted to show everyone down-stream what happens to pirates that come up river by putting both of the men on a log raft and setting it adrift. I decline to have any further association with such an animal as the Colonel.”
Colonel Hagen, noticing William and Allan off by themselves talking in hushed tones, approached the two men. Knowing Allan’s sentiments about what had happened at the river rat’s camp he offered a bit of advice. “If you plan to stay in the frontier you will have to toughen your stomachs to the harshness of justice where there is none. It didn’t repulse you to shoot another human being back at Grant’s. Would it sicken you to hang a man for murder or thievery? How would you have punished those rats had they molested, injured or even killed your wives? Wouldn’t it send a better message to those who would think to plunder the under-protected farms in this area to let them see how justice is served when handled by the victims?”
“After an execution a Christian burial is dogma to all civilized men. Are we so far a field of morals that God does not exist out here in the wilderness? Are we not still civilized men?” Allan responded.
After a few moments of deep thought Colonel Hagen bowed to Allan, “Once again I must defer to your command of a situation. After our rather bitter conversation back at those scalawags’s camp and your reasoning now, you have convinced me of my errors and I ask for forgiveness. I have certainly been out here in the wilderness too long that I take on the very characteristics of the savages that I abhor.” He turned and walked briskly away, alone, towards the trail leading to Grant’s place.
Allan took a moment to consider what the Colonel had just said then hurried after the Militia leader. “Colonel Hagen…a moment please…may I join you? I would like to lend a hand as needed.”
Allan stayed with the Bottle family until cabins and barns were built and many of the stumps were burned or dug out. He told William of Colonel Hagen’s offer to him of a Captaincy if he could recruit a company of irregular militia from the highland area above Cross Creek. This company would be used for defense in the event the Indians or the French tried to make life miserable for the Carolina frontier families as they had in the western Virginia and Pennsylvania territories.
Mary and Billy were adapting to the harsh frontier life, as were Chips and the Mackintoshes. Fowl and game were plentiful and fish from the river could be had for the taking. “They don’t rush to jump into my frying pan,” Mary was heard to remark, “as long as I don’t stand too near the river!”
The livestock from Mr. Grant was adequate and the animals were able to forage for their own feed. Unfortunately, the late corn and grain crops suffered from a devastating bug and worm infestation and a late autumn frost arrived making any thoughts of planting a winter crop impossible. With very little reserves of food at hand, William decided to travel down river to Wilmington in hopes of buying enough supplies to see them through the winter.
Allan left to search for his family and start a recruiting campaign. The rest of the men joined in building a fine river boat of 25 feet with sharp bows and a chopped off stern. A mast with fore and aft sails proved to work well in the confines of the river, and a trial run was made up to the river forks just above the settlement at Cross Creek and back.
Recent emigrants to the new world thought they had found Utopia as compared to what they had left behind in their own countries. Scrounging for food and living under crowded and poverty conditions was an all too familiar way of life in their homelands, forcing many to rely on unethical skills to provide the barest of essentials to exist.
The spread of protestant religions had become a major cause of dissension between the landless masses and their Catholic rulers throughout Europe. In many instances church law exceeded the law of the land and people were often charged with heresy for speaking out, be it about politics, religion, or a way of life. England first welcomed the Catholic dissenters, but soon became wary of providing funds to house and feed these foreigners when many of their own citizens were doing without.
England, with large undeveloped territories in their North American Colonies, needed settlers. Parliament devised a plan to alleviate the ever increasing ranks of undesirables and people on the dole by shipping them off to the colonies. Whole clans (families) of Scots, Scot-Irish, Catholics, prisoners (petty and felony), ne’er-do-wells, political dissidents and other undesirables were shipped off to the Americas. A majority of these were sent in bondage to pay for their transport. Well-to-do merchants or farmers throughout the colonies would pay the passage for these people upon their arrival. These “bonded” people then became virtual slaves who rarely were able, or allowed, to pay off their debt and died in slavery. The lucky ones died early or were able to escape and lose themselves in the new territory.
The French Huguenots (Protestants) who immigrated to England were sent to Canada and the upper back colonies of New York and Massachusetts.
German Lutherans and Moravians went to Pennsylvania and became known as the Pennsylvania “Deutsch” (meaning German). The word Deutsch was later bastardized to “Dutch” although none of the immigrants were from Holland or the Netherlands.
Many of Britain’s Catholics were forcibly sent to the colonies under indentured servitude for long periods of time; five to seven years was not uncommon.
The Crown also realized a need for yeomen farmers and skilled craftsmen, and these people were offered large tracks of land if they would develop and remain for a contractual period of time.
Many well-connected people were offered large land grants in Georgia, up through the Carolinas and into the Virginia territory to act as proprietors of tobacco farms using slave labor. The Crown pinned its hopes of developing a profitable import-export trade with the raw materials of the colonies which were obligated to go only to Britain and no other country. Britain, in turn, would ship and sell finished products back to the colonies at a huge profit. This also kept the colonies from competing with Britain on the world market with her own finished products.
There was a hidden agenda for all this human trafficking across the Atlantic and if the French had gotten wind of it, a race of immense proportion would have ensued. The secretive master plan of the English Parliament was to encourage and entice emigrants to settle on the fringes of the colonial frontier. This created a buffer zone to keep both the French and Spanish encroachments at bay from what Britain, justifiably or not, claimed as her territory… though disputed by the French and Spanish.
The French also had a plan of their own and that was to harass the English settlers on the frontier in retaliation for the hostile intrigues developing in Europe, and hopefully cause the English to divide her forces to defend her territories around the world. The French supplied the Indian nations with weapons and modern utensils and were successful in convincing the Chiefs that the English intended to drive the tribes out of their native hunting grounds.
The Indians became convinced of the English’s motives when multitudes of European pioneers set up homesteads and farms on their traditional hunting grounds. Frequent Indian raids to reclaim their territory were the start of the French and Indian conflict and had existed for many years prior to the actual declaration of the French and Indian War in 1756-1763.
Over the ensuing years of settling up the Cape Fear River, the Bottle homestead had expanded and flourished. Mrs. Grant, a lady of gracious upbringing who felt isolated and insecure in the wilderness, had convinced Mr. Grant to return to Charles Towne. Her decision was made in great part because of the incident when the river pirates had taken her hostage. William and Grant reached an agreement for the use of Grant’s large tract of land in exchange for a share of any profits.
William had established a good rapport with homesteaders above Cross Creek through his association with Allan, who had found kinfolk among the Clan Cameron from Scotland and decided to settle in that area. Allan, remembering the offer of Colonel Hagen of a Captaincy, raised a company of men capable of loading and firing their own muskets and trained them to patrol above the, as yet, undeveloped highlands to search for any signs of French penetration east of the Appalachians.
Threats of war actually reaching the back areas of the Carolinas were taken lightly and appeals for money (taxes) to supply the northern colonies created long rancorous debates in the south. Word of battles in the northern colonies was outdated by the time it reached upriver. The slaughter of English General Braddock and his men by the Indians during the French and Indian War had a most chilling effect on anyone living on the frontier, keeping them in fear of all Indians, peace agreements or not.
Suspicions of Indian unrest abounded throughout the local frontier because of a few altercations with supposedly friendly tribes; but those flare-ups were usually dismissed as misunderstandings between two groups of hunters stalking the same herd of game.
On one particular hunt outing in the foothills east of the Appalachians a hunting party led by Allan came upon the sight of a recent campground. Signs indicated to Allan that the French were also amongst the gathering because of the type of food wastes, soiled printed matter, men’s shoeprints and shod hoof prints scattered about. The group retreated towards home being very cautious of any movement in the forest.
This more recent scare aroused everyone for many miles around and a call went out to create an assembly of local squatters, homesteaders and titled land holders to discuss the matter and the options to handle it. Many more gatherings were to follow. An end-product of these meetings established the foundation of a territorial militia to be deployed as patrols in various upland sectors. The evidence that Allan brought back to show to the homesteaders of the French being in the area swelled the ranks of the volunteer militia to well over 100 men. When Colonel Hagen came on an official visit representing the governor he was greatly impressed when three platoons of well-trained men formed ranks in good military fashion for his inspection upon the barked commands of “Captain” Allan Cameron, who had been elected to his captaincy by the volunteer militia. The volunteers and, indeed, all the homesteaders were so in awe of Cameron’s uncanny ability as a soldier and his persuasive orations as a preacher and recruiter that when it had come time to elect someone to lead the militia his name was the only one presented.
Colonel Hagen complimented the parade and promised to inform the Governor of their preparedness and vowed that he would petition for their Charter, plus weaponry and supplies for their defense. After the review and in a confidential conversation with Allan, the Colonel said that the Governor and the Crown were extremely concerned with reports such as their recent scare and that they feared an all-out uprising in the South such as they had been experiencing up north. He warned Allan not to relax his vigil for one moment.
After the Colonel left to return to his command at New Bern, some of the militiamen who had not yet departed for their homes had issues they decided to resolve in public. They were at first observed arguing in a small cluster, and then more and more men began joining into the fray. After what appeared to be a near riot in the making, Allan fired off a shot to get their attention. Then, like a chameleon, he changed from being a military man to that of a respected Bible-totin’ preacher-politician. “Belay your rage,” he bellowed, pulling his Bible from his coat pocket, “we are all of one mind; we can, and will, work things out. All we need is the help of the Lord, common sense, or a bullet at the foot of the next man-jack o’ ye that raises a fist!”
For several years resentment had been gradually building up between the upriver people and the gentlemen tobacco farmers from the low-land areas. The tobacco farmers, using slaves to do their labor while sitting on their verandas sipping tea, complained of the burden of high taxes they must pay for the defense of a frontier (the upriver people) many hundreds of miles away.
A young man in his mid-twenties of good physical stature who was the most outspoken of the small unruly group of militiamen and who answered to the name of Corporal Cahill, came forward and addressed Allan. “Cap’n, many of us have traveled from afar, leaving our wife and kids unprotected. And this be our flax harvesting time, which is in dire need by the Crown so’s they can use the stems for the making of cordage and linen. We can’t gather our crops with one eye on the lookout, one hand on our loaded and cocked piece, ‘n layin’ awake at night listening for sounds of evil approaching! Meanwhile the lowlanders reap their tobacco crops with the help of their slaves and sleep at night, knowing that us highlanders will suffer from any hostile’s first intrusion. We came here hoping to get help but our pleas are going unheard.”
Before the young man had a chance to finish, an elderly gent who was a known ‘Tory’ and a tobacco farmer interrupted, “Does he expect us to go up to the Piedmont and stand guard for him and put our lives in danger? We also have families and crops to harvest; besides he chose to settle in that area because it was free, he pays no quit-rent or taxes, as do we.”
“Hold on…both of you, there’s no need for all this rancor. We are all in the same circumstance…there are several ways this can be worked out.” Allan then turned to Mr. Eddy, the tobacco farmer, and asked, “Would you be willing to pay a few coins to a volunteer to take your place on the patrols on a rotating basis?”
“Only if all the other farmers are willing to go along,” Mr. Eddy replied, “I guess I would also. But if these paid militiamen go up there and start playing war to justify their existence then I’ll stop paying. I petitioned the Governor to provide us with ‘trained’ military for the defense of our frontier.”
Allan nodded and thought so that is why the Colonel showed up with such great interest in the militia development. After hearing both sides of the debate Allan knew he couldn’t rectify a problem in just a few minutes of conversation which had such deep roots and had been festering for years, and he told them so. But he agreed to give the problem a good deal of thought and offered to come up with a possible solution in a few days.
With the defense problem temporarily put aside another topic arose that concerned everyone from the uplands; getting their goods to market in large enough quantities to make it attractive to an interested buyer. The present procedure was for neighboring groups of farmers to get together, reap a product, store it until the harvest period was over and then together they would begin processing and or refining it into transportable lots.
A day’s time was a farmer’s most valuable asset. At present, it took two weeks or better to transport their products down stream and return home, plus extra men to handle the rafts and pack animals and then provide for their safety from renegade Indians and highwaymen. These necessary chores required so much time that it kept the farmer away from his many other responsibilities such as clearing stumps, tilling, planting, scoring and harvesting tree sap. There was only so much daylight and the most had to be made of it.
Again, Allan offered to explore possible arrangements with his good friends the Bottle family below Cross Creek, on his forthcoming visit to the lowlands.
As to the militia problem, after considerable thought and deliberation, Allan called a meeting between the lowland “gentlemen” farmers and the highlanders who had volunteered for the militia. He explained that Colonel Hagen was petitioning the Governor for arms and supplies for the volunteer army. If that great expense was born by the state and if the lowland farmers could see their way to pay for rotating volunteers to fill in so the highland farmers could tend to their crops, a compromise could be made. After days of deliberation the deal was made that would commence as soon as word came from the Governor regarding the military charter and delivery of weaponry and supplies.
On arriving at the Bottles’ Allen explained that his unexpected visit was of a serious business proposition proposed by his upriver neighbors who were in need of coin to purchase farm and forestry tools, initial weapons and powder for defense, and general hardware to make their lives more tolerable. Allan was hoping that William might be willing to help establish an accumulation depot so they might bring down their sawn timber and its by-products prior to sending it down stream to Wilmington for sale.
William heartily agreed to help and felt privileged to be considered as a marketer for the upriver people. He offered to buy their small batches of unrefined pitch, tar and rosin, and then process the crude materials himself into salable lots, and pack them into barrels and casks that Chips, a very talented cooper, would make. He was also willing to deliver the finished products down stream. Or, if they chose, he would just accumulate their wares until enough were gathered to entice any interested buyer. It was understood by all that he would do this for a reasonable fee on the completed sale.
On his last night before his trip back up river early the next morning, Allan, William and Mary were sitting around the dinner table. A conversation evolved between the three of them that had a very emotional and disturbing topic; young Billy. Mary and William beseeched Allan, as a “man of faith and letters” and the most important man, besides William, in Billy’s life, that he might council them on an important decision.
Billy was growing into a husky young lad and couldn’t have had a more devoted family than William and Mary. She tutored him in all the essentials such as reading, writing, arithmetic and manners while William and Chips, who was an old man when they arrived in the Carolinas many years ago and hadn’t seemed to age a bit since, taught him crafts, such as coopering (barrel making), pattern making (for metal casting), boat building and cabinet making.
With assurances from Allan that their secrets would never be revealed from his lips, the details of the problem were laid out. They told Allan of their true identity and of Billy’s true parentage. His response was that they most assuredly needed to sit Billy down and reveal his correct identity. Allan even offered to postpone the trip up river for another day and give any assistance needed. A restless night was spent by the adults in the family, as it was decided to tell Billy of his true identity after the morning breakfast.
Billy sensed something different about the family as they sat looking at him all through breakfast and hardly touched their own food. At first he felt ill at ease, but then credited it to the fact that he was all packed and ready to go at daybreak on what was to be his first trek to the uplands with Uncle Allan. Gradually, his excitement turned into a mood of disappointment and he blurted out, “You’ve changed your minds. You’re not going to let me go with Uncle Allan are you…is it because of the war?”
The silence lasted several moments until William opened with, “Son, you’ve shown us through your studies and discipline that you are approaching manhood. Your mother and I hope that you have the capacity to understand what we are about to tell you, for it may change your outlook on us, your family, and how you will conduct yourself in the future.” He then added, “What you are about to hear must be kept to yourself for fear of any reprisals to our families if your true identity were to be known.”
William’s tale started with the background and tragedies of the Bothwell family of Dumbarton and of his two brothers, Robert and Jonathan, and Jonathan’s lady friend, Tibby. The appearance of Uncle Andrew MacAllister and the influence it had on Jonathan, the battle at Culloden, and the deaths of Jonathan and later Tibby, followed.
Mary was in such an emotional turmoil describing the events at Cousin Fiona’s farm that it brought everyone at the table to tears, including Allan and Billy.
Allan, digging deep into his past theological studies at the Academy de Geneva, suggested to everyone that they sit back and take a deep breath. Then, like the clergyman that he had become, he offered this invocation, “Lord, we come together to pray as a family…let no event or entity come between us.”
As yet Billy had not the time to grasp the very root of what he had been told. His mind was racing through all the exciting and emotional events that he either didn’t want to believe in as being possibly true or his mind refused to accept them as fact. Maybe, since no one came out and actually said he was not their son, it wasn’t really true, so somewhere in the back of his mind he would lock that bit away as if it was never an issue. For several moments Billy’s parents sat quietly, feeling relieved of the burden that they had been carrying for years.
Billy stood up and went around the table, first hugging Mary, “I will always love you mother.” Then he embraced William, “You’re the only father I ever want to know.”
The solemn spell came to an end when Billy turned to Allan and asked, “Uncle Allan, can we go up-river now?”