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Clan Donald Magazine No 5 (1971) Online

A Culloden Refugee by Mairi A. MacDonald.

I have often been asked if I knew what happened after the battle of Culloden to Ranald, only son of Major MacDonald of Tirnadris. Major MacDonald himself had been taken prisoner after the battle of Falkirk, when he fell into the hands of a party of General Hawley's force whom he mistook for Lord John Drummond's French piquet, and was eventually beheaded at Carlisle. His first wife had been Miss MacKenzie of the Earl of Cromarty's family by whom he had one son, Ranald, and three daughters. His second wife was a daughter of MacDonald of Killiechonat, by whom he had two daughters. His whole family was left in the care of his second wife when he left to fight for Prince Charles.

There is a letter extant, which gives a vivid picture of the adventures of this family. It is written by the boy Ranald himself, when only seven years old - and though difficult to follow, tells an interesting story. (The spelling of place names has been modernised. -Ed.)

After the battle of Culloden Major MacDonald's wife and six children were concealed in the valley and hills of Glenfintaig, and were most benevolently protected by Campbell of Achallader, who had been appointed by their dying father as sole trustee of any property they might be allowed to retain. Through the whole of their wanderings Campbell protected them until they were placed amongst friends and relations.

Ranald's letter tells us how on the first night of their wanderings his stepmother, sisters and himself drove all their cows and sheep, horses laden with provisions, bed-clothes and anything else they could carry to a hide-out in a valley two miles away from Tirnadris, at the bottom of two hills - and here they spent the night. Next morning they went to Loch Treig remaining here for six days, when they were eventually joined by one - Ronald Angus by name - whom everybody thought had been killed at Culloden.

The home of Ronald Angus was on the opposite side of Loch Treig to where they lay in hiding. One day, Ranald's stepmother and himself paid a visit to this house - and accompanied by a maid from here walked two miles to see his stepmother's sister, who was ill with smallpox. On the way home he felt a pain in his back and could not continue to walk. The maid carried him home, and he became very ill with smallpox. "There was no whisky available." states Ranald - so he had to get well again as best he could. He was blind for about a week, but eventually recovered sufficiently to travel with the rest of the family to Rannoch.

On this trip his step-mother, eldest sister, himself and a strange gentleman whom he did not know, took a road through woods and over mountains, whilst four servants and his two youngest sisters went with cows, sheep, goats and horses, driving them by pathways until they reached their destination. Walking mostly by night, within earshot of the redcoats, they scrambled over the heather, lying on the tops of mountains for short rests - the strange gentleman rolling him in his plaid to keep him warm. One night they spied their relations, Keppoch's son and his family on a nearby hill, but could stay with them only for a very short time, as the redcoats were heard very near at hand.

After an all night march they reached Rannoch where they stayed for about three days in a small shelter which they had built for themselves with sticks and sods - some of the party travelling four miles to fetch wood and water for their requirements. On the third day they were surprised to see Ronald Angus appear along with his brother Samuel and another strange man - and back again they all went to Ronald Angus' house.

Next morning, about 6 am, they set out for home. Ranald himself mounted on a little Galloway. About eight o'clock, however, they saw a drove of cattle and some men who had been in the Prince's army fleeing from their homes, so they decided once again to remain in hiding in the woods, building themselves hut, and storing their milk and curds from which to make cheese, to supplement their diet of fish caught in a nearby loch.

When they got word that the soldiers were gone they once again set out for home, driving their animals over a river on the other side of which they built themselves yet more huts in which they hid for a fortnight before starting out afresh for Loch Treig.

On reaching Loch Treig they lay in hiding opposite their own home for four days, and then returned to Ronald Angus' house for a further fortnight. Here young Ranald narrowly escaped drowning whilst driving the cows on to an island in the middle of the river running out of the loch - being saved by Samuel.

Some militia [1] occupied a house on the opposite side of this river, and these, strangely enough, got their food from Ronald Angus. They assured them that they would not be harmed - their leader giving Ranald a shilling which he gave to Ronald Angus' mother - so at last back they came to Tirnadris, where they found their home burnt to the ground. Here they built themselves a hut of wood and turf and settled in.

Suddenly the tempo quickens.

One day Ranald was told he was to travel to England, and two gentlemen arrived to accompany him. That same afternoon his uncle, a lad who could speak English, Ranald and these gentlemen travelled back the fourteen miles to the house of Ronald Angus, and next morning set out for Rannoch, Ronald Angus and Samuel accompanying them for twelve miles of the way.

Eventually they arrived at the outskirts of Edinburgh, and put up for the night at a house where they met a Mr Rose and a Mrs Douglas. Next morning Ranald was taken to Edinburgh by the lad to get some English clothes - and these he did not like. Mrs Douglas then accompanied him on certain visits. One was to a lady who gave him a guinea which Mrs Douglas promptly confiscated much to his disgust. Another visit was to Glengarry. Next morning Mrs Douglas and Ranald set out by chaise for Carlisle. After dining with some French officers there they immediately returned to Edinburgh, where they stayed for almost a fortnight.

At the end of this time they both travelled about fourteen miles to Traquair, where they remained for eight months, attending school there and learning English. One day, however a stranger came to Innerleithen to take him away - he knew not where. The schoolmaster made a kind of holiday of the event - a fiddler playing almost all day long to whose music everyone danced country dances and reels.

The next part of the journey occupied three days - and everywhere the stranger and himself stayed overnight there was more dancing to fiddle music. Eventually they reached Langholm, and could have got to Warwick that night, but feared the journey might prove too much for their horse.

Next morning they arrived at their destination - Warwick Hall, four miles from Carlisle, on the banks of the river Edin. Warwick Hall was the home of Sane and Francis Warwick - and Jane, who was the daughter of Thomas Howard of Corby, had entertained Prince Charles in November 1745, and at parting had been heard to exclaim, "May God bless him!" On that occasion her husband had kept out of the way. Both were horrified at the bloody assize of Carlisle, however, and were anxious to befriend the orphaned boy.

This worthy couple bad no children of their own, so adopted Ranald, sparing no expanse for his education, to complete which he was sent to the college at Douai, in France. Here he felt an impelling desire to become a priest. His sister Isabella strongly objected to this choice, as their father had left a written directive that his son should become a soldier, Ranald refused to comply with his father's wish, however, and presented himself for the priesthood. Sad to relate he died at Douai, before he was old enough to be ordained.


[1] These must have been part of Argyle's Militia - and we can see clearly the hand of Campbell of Achallader behind all these manoeuvres quietly guiding and protecting. (Return to text).

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