Walter Scott

Stones of Remembrance

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Craig Wallace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Craig Wallace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Throughout the country, there are stones which commemorate instances in history. The Chisholm Stone at Struy is just one of them. It is perhaps pertinent to recall

the tale connected to it on this, the 270th anniversary of Culloden.

This is the spot where Christiana Fergusson took leave of her husband, William Chisholm. Chisholm was a standard bearer for Chisholm of Chisholm, and was leaving to fight at Culloden. Like so many, he never returned. It was said that she did not give up hope of his return until she recognised her husband’s coat on the back of an itinerant beggarman.

The tale associated with it has become one of the myths which now represent 1745 The Rising, as much as history, and such tales ignited sparks of imagination in

following generation, including one of our esteemed antiquarian muses, Walter Scott. Scott, and others, developed the myth of the Highlander, which replaced the Lowland distrust, fear and cultural dismissal which existed before and certainly perpetuated through the mid 18th century.

That said,  the stone remains, and Christiana Fergusson went on to author one of the most poignant songs associated with the ’45 – Cumha do dh’Uilleam Siseal or Rùn Geal Òg

In recent years, the inscription has been restored, and some may think added to, but such is the way of the world, and the only way, at times, that the importance, emotional or cultural, of such local icons are recalled.

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Mr Salkeld’s ongoing good health (onwards from 1596)

“I love a ballad in print o’life, for then we are sure they are true”

I would exhort caution in the extreme with regards to the above statment, although I would never suggest that the contrary view is the only attitude ever taken. However, let us consider the fate of Sakelde in “Kinmont Willie”, first published by Walter Scott in his Minstrelsy. Sakelde, in print, and indeed in the hearts of many generations of ballad singers, is ever “fause Sakeld” – the man who captured Kinmont Willie during the Day of Truce, and who subsequently paid for that lack of Border honour with his life. For, as anyone who has heard (or indeed read) the ballad, Dickie of Dryhope runs Sakelde through with his lance, eradicating the black-hearted officer from the tale – and confusing history in the self-same action.

“Kinmont Willie” tantalises with its blend of fact and fiction. Sakelde’s death, however, is one point within the ballad where the facts, as they are known, can be said to be inaccurate.

While Lord Scrope, the March Warden, was humiliated by the rescue of William Armstrong of Kinmont from the apparently impregnable Carlisle Castle in April 1596, much of his subsequent ire was directed not upon the Armstrongs, but upon Walter Scott, “the Bold Buccleuch”, and Ritchie (Richard) Graham. The Graham was the more accessible target, shall we say, and Scrope pursued the misdemeanours (alleged or otherwise) of Ritchie Graham and his clan with stubborn diligence. Their collusion with the Armstrongs, Buccleuch et al may have sown the seeds of the downfall of the Grahams, as it seems to have fired the desire within the officials more than ever to eradicate the Grahams from the West March. Arrest, accusation and  counter-accusations and retributions flourished, as seen in this extract from the Calendar of Border Papers from  Spetember 1600:

 

1600kidnap

The full Calendar extract may be read here.

Here, then, is an account of the kidnap of Thomas Salkeld’s son, who must have been specifically targeted. The boy’s father was a signatory to another document relating to the dreadful behaviour of the Grahams later on in the same month –

noprivate-malice

 

(the full Calendar extract may be read here)

– although we would contest the declaration that the signatories had inserted nothing “on private malice”. Mr Salkeld was sufficiently well and active four years on from the Kinmont Willie incident to be partaking fully in everyday matters of the English West March. Accounts of his demise – at Dickie of Dryhope’s hands at least – can confidently be taken as fictional retribution.

 

Supping with Jacobites – the tale of Broughton’s Saucer

Walter Scott’s predilection for squirrelling ‘out of the way things’ away appears to have started young. In Lockhart’s Life, an undisclosed female relation of Scott’s detailed a number of treasures displayed within the teenager’s ‘den’ in his father’s house at 25 George Square, Edinburgh:

“Walter had soon begin to collect out-of-the-way things of all sorts. He had more books than shelves; a small painted cabinet with Scotch and Roman coins in it, and so forth. A claymore and Lochaber axe, given him by old Invernahyle, mounted guard on a little print of Prince Charlie; and Broughton’s Saucer was hooked up on the wall below it.” (Lockhart I: 106)

Incongruous as it may seem, Scott’s passion for all things Jacobite stemmed from his straight-laced upbringing in urban Edinburgh and had a direct connection to his father. As a solicitor, Walter Scott senior had various clients of this political persuasion, including Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle, mentioned above, who had apparently once had the honour of kissing Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hand.. As a boy Scott adored Invernahyle’s stories. He would write to Robert Surtees* in 1806:

“His tales were the absolute delight of my childhood. I believe there never was a man who united the ardour of a soldier and tale-teller – a man of ‘talk’ as they call it in Gaelic – in such an excellent degree, and as he was as fond of telling as I was of learning; I became a valiant Jacobite at the age of ten years.” (Grierson, Letters I: 343)

‘Broughton’s saucer’, however, belonged to a less favoured character altogether. This item was a china tea saucer from a set which belonged to Scott’s mother, Anne Rutherford. The tea cup which had originally rested upon it had come to a violent end upon being unceremoniously hurled out of the window by Scott’s father.

lopin tea

Jean- Etienne Liotard, Still Life: Tea Set, 1781-3

But this was no ordinary domestic altercation. The tea cup’s crime was to have touched the lips of John Murray of Broughton. Also known as ‘Mr Evidence Murray’ and one-time secretary to Bonnie Prince Charlie, Murray’s provision of incriminating evidence in the aftermath of Culloden is alleged to have enabled a host of executions including that of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, in 1747. Murray saved his own skin at the price of adopting the ignominious labels of traitor and turn-coat; he took up residence in England shortly afterwards and returned infrequently (and well bundled up) to his native Scotland. The following tale, detailing the downfall of an innocent cup of tea, unfolds thus…

“Mrs Scott’s curiosity was strongly excited one autumn by the regular appearance, at a certain hour every evening, of a sedan chair, to deposit a person carefully muffled up in a mantle, who was immediately ushered into her husband’s private room, and commonly remained with him there until long after the usual bed-time of this orderly family. Mr Scott answered her repeated enquiries with a vagueness which irritated the lady’s feelings more and more; until, at last, she could bear the thing no longer, but one evening, just as she heard the bell ring as for the stranger’s chair to carry him off, she made her appearance within the forbidden parlour with a salver in her hand, observing, that she thought the genteman had sat for so long they would be the better of a dish of tea, and had ventured accordingly to bring some for their acceptance. The stranger, a person of distinguished appearance, and richly dressed,bowed to the lady, and accepted a cup, but her husband knit his brows and refused very coldly to partake the refreshment. A moment afterwards the visitor withdrew  – and Mr Scott, listing up the window-sash, took the cup, which he had left empty on the table, and tossed it out upon the pavement. The lady exclaimed for her china, but was put to silence by her husband’s saying, ‘I can forgive your little curiosity, madam, but you must pay the penalty. I may admit into my house, on a piece of business, persons wholly unworthy to be treated as guests by my wife. Neither lip of me nor of mine comes after Mr Murray of Broughton.’ ” (Lockhart I: 107)

Enlightened Edinburgh of the 1770s and ’80s would have harboured many characters with first-hand memories of Jacobite unrest. After all, the Battle of Culloden was more recent than the Second World War is today. Just as William Burnes, Robert Burns’s father, could relate his memories of the battle of Culloden to his son of the previous generation, so too did  Scott’s childhood abound with recollections and objects of special significance which passed into family lore and anecdote. The influence of Scott’s novels on the Highlands and Jacobitism need little rehearsal. In going on to produce Waverley, Scott hit upon a winning formula which combined the romance of Jacobitism with a judiciously firm endorsement of the Hanoverian government. This was to catch the imagination of a reading public more than ready to re-remember the Jacobite past and in 1822, Edinburgh would throw open its gates to a tubby George IV in tartan and pink tights (to safeguard the royal knees against prying eyes) in a show of Highland pageantry famously stage-managed by Scott himself.  June, 1824 saw George IV issuing an offical pardon and restoring lands to several well-known Jacobite families including John Murray Nairne, the husband of Jacobite poetess and song collector Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne.

The First Laird in Aw Scotia, a satirical print of George IV's 1822 visit to Scotland

The First Laird in Aw Scotia, a satirical print of George IV’s 1822 visit to Scotland

As restoration work on Scott’s Abbotsford nears completion, who knows what may turn up in its attics? Perhaps ‘Broughton’s saucer’ may be restored to its place beneath Bonnie Prince Charlie. Or perhaps in the 220-odd years since it hung on the teenage Scott’s ‘den’, it has met the same fate as its one-time partner, the tea cup.

Waverley

Frontispiece to an early edition of Scott’s ‘Waverley’

Sources

ODNB entry, ‘John Murray of Broughton’

John Gibson Lockhart, Life of Sir Walter Scott’ Vol. 1 (1837)

Herbert Grierson (Editor), The Letters of Sir Walter Scott (1932-37)

*More on the dastardly Surtees to come…