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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Prince Charlie’s Pilot


Lord Rosebery has called the ’45 “the last burst of chivalry.” In its militant phase it was not only the last but the greatest burst of knightly chivalry. But with the Prince’s failure to escape from Scotland, three weeks after Culloden, in the ship which brought the Arkaig treasure and took off the dying Duke of Perth, there begins a page without a parallel in secular annals. For five months Charles’s life was to depend absolutely upon the readiness of poor tacksmen and crofters and fishermen Jacobites and Hanoverians alike, not only to resist the bribe of £30,000 offered for his capture, but to risk their own lives by helping him to evade the sleuth-hounds of an exasperated Government. Those five months revealed something undreamt of by political philosophers; a people, a nation almost, of Bayards and Jeanne d’Arce. It was the first great bui>t of popular chivalry.

Father and Son.

For the thrilling details of the Odyssey of the Rebellion we are indebted mainly to the good Bishop Forbes, most romantically loyal of Scottish Jacobites, who, immediately after the Act of Indemnity was passed, sought out as many as possible of the participators in “the late Rebellion,” and took down from their lips the narratives which are to be found in his monumental work, “The Lyon in Mourning.” Decidedly the most valuable of his informants was Donald Macleod, tenant of Gualtergill, on Loch-Dunvegan, in the island of Skye, whose story has been admirably recounted in Mr Evan Macleod Barron’s “Prince Charlie’s Pilot” (Inverness): Robert Carruthers and Sons). Like Flora Macdonald, he was of a Hanoverian branch of a clan, and his was the far from exceptional case of a cliansman who did not simply follow the lead of his chief. He was a man near 70, with, apparently, “a boat of his own,” when, in the spring of 1746, he came to Inverness to take a cargo of meal to Skye, and to see his son Murdoch, a lad of 15, who was a pupil in the Inverness Grammar School. Lord Loudoun’s “Independent Companies,” including that of Donald’s chief, the Laird of Macleod, were then in the town. When they were retreating on the approach of the Prince’s army Donald met his chief on the bridge, and responded to his command to follow him by passing back “over the water to Charlie.” And instead of taking meal to Skye he took banker AEneas Macdonald to Barra to fetch some gold that had been landed there in December. They got it safely to Kinloch-moidiart, and were about, to go to Inverness when AEnoas received the news of Culloden and orders to meet Charles at Borodale. A day or two later Donald was also summoned thither, and with the episode of the Prince meeting him alone in a wood and throwing himself on his protection, Donald’s story merges in the main plot of the Jacobite drama. And not only his story, but that of his son. Donald’s surprise at seeing Murdoch at Borodale is easier to imagine than the paternal mingling of pride and deprecation with which he heard the boy tell how he “got himself provided with a claymore, dirk, and pistol, ran off from the school, and took his chance in the field of Culloden Battle”—just as many another stripling was to do on the battlefields of South Africa. The wide scope of Donald’s pilotage is shown in the Prince’s acceptance of his advice not to send to Macleod or Sir Alexander Macdonald. But all his skill in his narrower sphere was required to save from shipwreck the boat in which on that dreadful Saturday nicht 167 years ago to-day, the Prince and his misfortunes were borne across to Benbecula by the stout arms of the brave oarsmen, Roderick Macdonald, Lachlan Macmurrich, Roderick Maccaskill, John Macdonald Duncan Rev, Alexander Macdonald. Edward Burke the Edinburgh chairman, and young Murdoch
Macleod.

The Wanderings

As for what befell the Prince and his companions during the 61 days he was under Donald’s protection — their wanderings from island to island, their feasts of fresh-killed beeves, derelict fish, “dramach,” and cold brandy-punch, their perilous chances by land and sea—are these things not written in the pages of Mr Sanford Terry, of Mr W. B. Blaikie, and of Andrew Lang? But they are detailed rather more fully in those of Mr Barron, who is also commendably explicit in regard to geographical detail, and never leaves us in doubt as to whether his personages are in Barra or Benbecula or North or South Uist. He throws considerable light, too, on Donald’s mission to the mainland, in connection with which he takes occasion to apply a light and perhaps deserved coat of whitewash to Murray of Broughton, leaving him, indeed, rather a shining figure in comparison with the officious informer to the Government of Charles’s arrival in the Outer Isles, “a Presbyterian minister in whose soul the chivalry of his race found no abode--the Rev. John Macaulay, minister of South List, and grandfather of Lord Macaulay.” But the chief value of the book is that it brings Donald Macleod’s name out of the relative obscurity into which it has been undeservedly thrown by the romantic aura surrounding the name of Flora Macdonald. Only the comparative narrowness of the stage on which he was acting prevents his appeal to the Highland honour of the 500 Hanoverian Mackenzies at Stornoway from ranking among the great heroic utterances of history. “He has only two companions with him, and when I am there I make the third. And let me tell you, gentlemen, if Seaforth himself were here, by God! he durst not put a hand to the Prince’s breast.”

The Prison Ships

It was on the evening of June 21, that memorable evening on which he was to meet Flora Macdonald, that Charles bade farewell to Donald Macleod and his boatmen. Murdoch made his way safely to Gualtergill. After a fortnight’s wanderings on the Long Island Donald was captured and taken on board the Furnace for examination by General Campbell, to whose reminder of the sum that was on the Prince’s head he replied indignantly— "Though I could have gotten all England and Scotland for my pains I would not have allowed a hair of his body to be touched if I could help it.” When the Furnace reached Tilbury the ill-treatment which, the old man received from the merciless Captain John Ferguson, was exchanged only for the lingering miseries of the prison ships. The prisoners were confined in the dark and foul holds, and slept without covering amid stones and cables or the litter of homes. Many of them were almost naked, the food served out to them included the flesh of cattle that had died of rinderpest, and they were occasionally hoisted out of the hold with a rope, half-drowned in the sea, and then tied to the mast and flogged. To Donald it seemed that the object of the Government was “to pine away their lives, and by piecemeal to destroy every single man of them. And indeed the design had great success, for many of them died,” among others, 60 of the 80 or 90 Grants who had surrendered at Inverness on a promise of indemnity. Donald, however, survived the ten months of his imprisonment. During his parole in London he was entertained by John Walkingshaw (of whom and of his probable connection with the Walkinshaws of Barrowfield we should like to hear more), who bestowed upon him a silver snuff-box and the name of “the Faithful Palinurus,” a rather strained allusion, since though Donald had been the pilot of adneas as well as of Charles, he had been very wakeful at the helm. On his arrival at Leith in 1747 he was sent at once to Bishop (then the Rev. Mr) Forbes, who in tho course of several long interviews took down details of Donald’s story. He was feted in Edinburgh, and with £10 in his pocket, raised for him by Forbes, set out for Skye on October 23. Four yearn later the following paragraph, by Forbes, appeared in the Edinburgh papers—“ ‘Aero Perennius,’—Some time last month died at Givdtergill, in the Isle of Skye, aged 72, Donald Macleod, of late so well known to the world by the name of the Faithful Palinunus.

In the decline of his life he gave a strong proof how much he despised the gilded dust, that idol of the times.” “Quantum cedat virtutibus aurum! ”—“Glasgow Herald,” April 26.

Prince Charlie's Pilot
A Record of Loyalty and Devotion by Evan MacLeod Barron (1913) (pdf)


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