Sir Walter Scott

This category contains references, in full text, made by Sir Walter Scott to Clan MacLaren in his various books. I haven't read all of Sir Walter Scott's books yet, so the list my not be complete. If one is missed, please leave a comment identifying where it may be located and I'll track it down.

Redgauntlet - MacLaren's Escape

It is often noted that the MacLarens are mentioned in Sir Walter Scott's tale of "Redgauntlet" which is one of the Waverly novels. The story is about a plot of Bonnie Prince Charlie to renew his attempt on the throne of Great Britain. There is a character in the novel with the nickname of "Pate in Peril" whose story is supposed to be that of a certain MacLaren who had been captured in the 1745 uprising and was on his way for trial and probable execution. This is the "mention" the MacLarens get. If you don't know what you are looking for, you'll miss it! Here is the text from Redgauntlet where the daring escape is described:

'Weel, weel,' said the provost, 'a wilful man maun hae his way. What do your folk in the country think about the disturbances that are beginning to spunk out in the colonies?'

'Excellent, sir, excellent. When things come to the worst; they will mend; and to the worst they are coming. But as to that nonsense ploy of mine, if ye insist on hearing the particulars,'—said the laird, who began to be sensible that the period of telling his story gracefully was gliding fast away.

'Nay,' said the provost, 'it was not for myself, but this young gentlemen.'

'Aweel, what for should I not pleasure the young gentlemen? I'll just drink to honest folk at hame and abroad, and deil ane else. And then—but you have heard it before, Mrs. Crosbie?'

'Not so often as to think it tiresome, I assure ye,' said the lady; and without further preliminaries, the laird addressed Alan Fairford.

'Ye have heard of a year they call the FORTY-FIVE, young gentleman; when the Southrons' heads made their last acquaintance with Scottish claymores? There was a set of rampauging chields in the country then that they called rebels—I never could find out what for—Some men should have been wi' them that never came, provost—Skye and the Bush aboon Traquair for that, ye ken.—Weel, the job was settled at last. Cloured crowns were plenty, and raxed necks came into fashion. I dinna mind very weel what I was doing, swaggering about the country with dirk and pistol at my belt for five or six months, or thereaway; but I had a weary waking out of a wild dream. When did I find myself on foot in a misty morning, with my hand, just for fear of going astray, linked into a handcuff, as they call it, with poor Harry Redgauntlet's fastened into the other; and there we were, trudging along, with about a score more that had thrust their horns ower deep in the bog, just like ourselves, and a sergeant's guard of redcoats, with twa file of dragoons, to keep all quiet, and give us heart to the road. Now, if this mode of travelling was not very pleasant, the object did not particularly recommend it; for, you understand, young man, that they did not trust these poor rebel bodies to be tried by juries of their ain kindly countrymen, though ane would have thought they would have found Whigs enough in Scotland to hang us all; but they behoved to trounce us away to be tried at Carlisle, where the folk had been so frightened, that had you brought a whole Highland clan at once into the court, they would have put their hands upon their een, and cried, "hang them a'," just to be quit of them.'

'Aye, aye,' said the provost, 'that was a snell law, I grant ye.'

'Snell!' said the wife, 'snell! I wish they that passed it had the jury I would recommend them to!'

'I suppose the young lawyer thinks it all very right,' said Summertrees, looking at Fairford—'an OLD lawyer might have thought otherwise. However, the cudgel was to be found to beat the dog, and they chose a heavy one. Well, I kept my spirits better than my companion, poor fellow; for I had the luck to have neither wife nor child to think about, and Harry Redgauntlet had both one and t'other.—You have seen Harry, Mrs. Crosbie?'

'In troth have I,' said she, with the sigh which we give to early recollections, of which the object is no more. 'He was not so tall as his brother, and a gentler lad every way. After he married the great English fortune, folk called him less of a Scottishman than Edward.'

'Folk lee'd, then,' said Summertrees; 'poor Harry was none of your bold-speaking, ranting reivers, that talk about what they did yesterday, or what they will do to-morrow; it was when something was to do at the moment that you should have looked at Harry Redgauntlet. I saw him at Culloden, when all was lost, doing more than twenty of these bleezing braggarts, till the very soldiers that took him cried not to hurt him—for all somebody's orders, provost—for he was the bravest fellow of them all. Weel, as I went by the side of Harry, and felt him raise my hand up in the mist of the morning, as if he wished to wipe his eye—for he had not that freedom without my leave—my very heart was like to break for him, poor fellow. In the meanwhile, I had been trying and trying to make my hand as fine as a lady's, to see if I could slip it out of my iron wristband. You may think,' he said, laying his broad bony hand on the table, 'I had work enough with such a shoulder-of-mutton fist; but if you observe, the shackle-bones are of the largest, and so they were obliged to keep the handcuff wide; at length I got my hand slipped out, and slipped in again; and poor Harry was sae deep in his ain thoughts, I could not make him sensible what I was doing.'

'Why not?' said Alan Fairford, for whom the tale began to have some interest.

'Because there was an unchancy beast of a dragoon riding close beside us on the other side; and if I had let him into my confidence as well as Harry, it would not have been long before a pistol-ball slapped through my bonnet.—Well, I had little for it but to do the best I could for myself; and, by my conscience, it was time, when the gallows was staring me in the face. We were to halt for breakfast at Moffat. Well did I know the moors we were marching over, having hunted and hawked on every acre of ground in very different times. So I waited, you see, till I was on the edge of Errickstane-brae—Ye ken the place they call the Marquis's Beef-stand, because the Annandale loons used to put their stolen cattle in there?'

Fairford intimated his ignorance,

'Ye must have seen it as ye came this way; it looks as if four hills were laying their heads together, to shut out daylight from the dark hollow space between them. A d—d deep, black, blackguard-looking abyss of a hole it is, and goes straight down from the roadside, as perpendicular as it can do, to be a heathery brae. At the bottom, there is a small bit of a brook, that you would think could hardly find, its way out from the hills that are so closely jammed round it.'

'A bad pass, indeed,' said Alan.

'You may say that,' continued the laird. 'Bad as it was, sir, it was my only chance; and though my very flesh creeped when I thought what a rumble I was going to get, yet I kept my heart up all the same. And so, just when we came on the edge of this Beef-stand of the Johnstones, I slipped out my hand from the handcuff, cried to Harry Gauntlet, 'Follow me!'—whisked under the belly of the dragoon horse—flung my plaid round me with the speed of lightning—threw myself on my side, for there was no keeping my feet, and down the brae hurled I, over heather and fern, and blackberries, like a barrel down Chalmer's Close, in Auld Reekie. G—, sir, I never could help laughing when I think how the scoundrel redcoats must have been bumbazed; for the mist being, as I said, thick, they had little notion, I take it, that they were on the verge of such a dilemma. I was half way down—for rowing is faster wark than rinning—ere they could get at their arms; and then it was flash, flash, flash—rap, rap, rap—from the edge of the road; but my head was too jumbled to think anything either of that or the hard knocks I got among the stones. I kept my senses thegither, whilk has been thought wonderful by all that ever saw the place; and I helped myself with my hands as gallantly as I could, and to the bottom I came. There I lay for half a moment; but the thoughts of a gallows is worth all the salts and scent-bottles in the world for bringing a man to himself. Up I sprang, like a four-year-auld colt. All the hills were spinning round with me, like so many great big humming-tops. But there was nae time to think of that neither; more especially as the mist had risen a little with the firing. I could see the villains, like sae mony craws on the edge of the brae; and I reckon that they saw me; for some of the loons were beginning to crawl down the hill, but liker auld wives in their red cloaks, coming frae a field preaching, than such a souple lad as I was. Accordingly, they soon began to stop and load their pieces. Good-e'en to you, gentlemen, thought I, if that is to be the gate of it. If you have any further word with me, you maun come as far as Carriefraw-gauns. And so off I set, and never buck went faster ower the braes than I did; and I never stopped till I had put three waters, reasonably deep, as the season was rainy, half a dozen mountains, and a few thousand acres of the worst moss and ling in Scotland, betwixt me and my friends the redcoats.'

'It was that job which got you the name of Pate-in-Peril,' said the provost, filling the glasses, and exclaiming with great emphasis, while his guest, much animated with the recollections which the exploit excited, looked round with an air of triumph for sympathy and applause,—'Here is to your good health; and may you never put your neck in such a venture again.'

[The escape of a Jacobite gentleman while on the road to Carlisle to take his trial for his share in the affair of 1745, took place at Errickstane-brae, in the singular manner ascribed to the Laird of Summertrees in the text. The author has seen in his youth the gentleman to whom the adventure actually happened.]

The Death of Rob Roy

[Ed. This is from the Introduction to the Sir Walter Scott novel, Rob Roy, which gives information about the actual person of Rob Roy rather than the fictious version in the novel itself.]

The time of his death is not known with certainty, but he is generally said to have survived 1738, and to have died an aged man. When he found himself approaching his final change, he expressed some contrition for particular parts of his life. His wife laughed at these scruples of conscience, and exhorted him to die like a man, as he had lived. In reply, he rebuked her for her violent passions, and the counsels she had given him. "You have put strife," he said, "betwixt me and the best men of the country, and now you would place enmity between me and my God."

There is a tradition, no way inconsistent with the former, if the character of Rob Roy be justly considered, that while on his deathbed, he learned that a person with whom he was at enmity proposed to visit him. "Raise me from my bed," said the invalid; "throw my plaid around me, and bring me my claymore, dirk, and pistols—it shall never be said that a foeman saw Rob Roy MacGregor defenceless and unarmed." His foeman, conjectured to be one of the MacLarens before and after mentioned, entered and paid his compliments, inquiring after the health of his formidable neighbour. Rob Roy maintained a cold haughty civility during their short conference, and so soon as he had left the house. "Now," he said, "all is over—let the piper play, Ha til mi tulidh" (we return no more); and he is said to have expired before the dirge was finished.

Note D.—Author's Expedition against the MacLarens.

The Author (Sir Walter Scott) is uncertain whether it is worth while to mention, that he had a personal opportunity of observing, even in his own time, that the king's writ did not pass quite current in the Braes of Balquhidder. There were very considerable debts due by Stewart of Appin (chiefly to the author's family), which were likely to be lost to the creditors, if they could not be made available out of this same farm of Invernenty, the scene of the murder done upon MacLaren.

His family, consisting of several strapping deer-stalkers, still possessed the farm, by virtue of a long lease, for a trifling rent. There was no chance of any one buying it with such an encumbrance, and a transaction was entered into by the MacLarens, who, being desirous to emigrate to America, agreed to sell their lease to the creditors for L500, and to remove at the next term of Whitsunday. But whether they repented their bargain, or desired to make a better, or whether from a mere point of honour, the MacLarens declared they would not permit a summons of removal to be executed against them, which was necessary for the legal completion of the bargain. And such was the general impression that they were men capable of resisting the legal execution of warning by very effectual means, no king's messenger would execute the summons without the support of a military force. An escort of a sergeant and six men was obtained from a Highland regiment lying in Stirling; and the Author, then a writer's apprentice, equivalent to the honourable situation of an attorney's clerk, was invested with the superintendence of the expedition, with directions to see that the messenger discharged his duty fully, and that the gallant sergeant did not exceed his part by committing violence or plunder. And thus it happened, oddly enough, that the Author first entered the romantic scenery of Loch Katrine, of which he may perhaps say he has somewhat extended the reputation, riding in all the dignity of danger, with a front and rear guard, and loaded arms. The sergeant was absolutely a Highland Sergeant Kite, full of stories of Rob Roy and of himself, and a very good companion. We experienced no interruption whatever, and when we came to Invernenty, found the house deserted. We took up our quarters for the night, and used some of the victuals which we found there. On the morning we returned as unmolested as we came.

The MacLarens, who probably never thought of any serious opposition, received their money and went to America, where, having had some slight share in removing them from their paupera regna, I sincerely hope they prospered.

The rent of Invernenty instantly rose from L10 to L70 or L80; and when sold, the farm was purchased (I think by the late Laird of MacNab) at a price higher in proportion than what even the modern rent authorised the parties interested to hope for.

The Duel

[Ed. What follows is the description of the famous duel between Rob Roy MacGregor and Alasdair Stewart over land that is held by the Chief of Clan MacLaren. The scene was told to Scott by Alasdair Stewart himself, though as Scott admits himself, it was not written down immediately by him, so some of the facts may be somewhat inaccurate. It is slightly at variance from the story told to me by Donald MacLaren of MacLaren, Chief of Clan MacLaren as we sat in his back garden overlooking the scene of the duel. But, in general, the stories are consistent. Perhaps the biggest variance would be ownership of the land (owned by MacLarens, not Stewarts) and the fact that there were a goodly number of MacLarens assembled as well as Stewarts. Also of interest here is that the author describes Alasdair Stewart as "of Invernahyle." Invernahyle lies just to the south of the town of Appin and on the coast. My family is from Glennahyle, which is just up the stream from Invernahyle. It may be a small extrapolation to imagine that one or more of my near relatives, if not a great grandfather, may have been present at on this occasion. Also noted in my conversation with the Chief on this topic was that if the fight between the clans had actually taken place, this would have been the last major clan battle in the Highlands by several decades! Update: In a more recent conversation with Chief Donald, I learned that Rob Roy actually died from his wounds suffered in this contest. This point is not made clear by Scott in his book.]

 In the last years of Rob Roy's life, his clan was involved in a dispute
with one more powerful than themselves. Stewart of Appin, a chief of the
tribe so named, was proprietor of a hill-farm in the Braes of
Balquhidder, called Invernenty. The MacGregors of Rob Roy's tribe claimed
a right to it by ancient occupancy, and declared they would oppose to the
uttermost the settlement of any person upon the farm not being of their
own name. The Stewarts came down with two hundred men, well armed, to do
themselves justice by main force. The MacGregors took the field, but were
unable to muster an equal strength. Rob Roy, finding himself the weaker
party, asked a parley, in which he represented that both clans were
friends to the King, and, that he was unwilling they should be weakened
by mutual conflict, and thus made a merit of surrendering to Appin the
disputed territory of Invernenty. Appin, accordingly, settled as tenants
there, at an easy quit-rent, the MacLarens, a family dependent on the
Stewarts, and from whose character for strength and bravery, it was
expected that they would make their right good if annoyed by the
MacGregors. When all this had been amicably adjusted, in presence of the
two clans drawn up in arms near the Kirk of Balquhidder, Rob Roy,
apparently fearing his tribe might be thought to have conceded too much
upon the occasion, stepped forward and said, that where so many gallant
men were met in arms, it would be shameful to part without it trial of
skill, and therefore he took the freedom to invite any gentleman of the
Stewarts present to exchange a few blows with him for the honour of their
respective clans. The brother-in-law of Appin, and second chieftain of
the clan, Alasdair Stewart of Invernahyle, accepted the challenge, and
they encountered with broadsword and target before their respective

* Some accounts state that Appin himself was Rob Roy's antagonist on this occasion. My recollection, from the account of Invernahyle himself, was as stated in the text. But the period when I received the information is now so distant, that it is possible I may be mistaken. Invernahyle was rather of low stature, but very well made, athletic, and an excellent swordsman.

The combat lasted till Rob received a slight wound in the arm, which was the usual termination of such a combat when fought for honour only, and not with a mortal purpose. Rob Roy dropped his point, and congratulated his adversary on having been the first man who ever drew blood from him. The victor generously acknowledged, that without the advantage of youth, and the agility accompanying it, he probably could not have come off with advantage. This was probably one of Rob Roy's last exploits in arms. [As noted from the "Update" above, McGregor apparently suffered more than a "slight" wound unless it festered as he apparenlt died from it several weeks later.