Clan Donald Magazine No13 (1995) Online
The Prince's Pilot
by Neil MacDonald.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart, after his defeat on Culloden Field on
the 16th April 1746 made his way (accompanied by a few of his
followers) to the West Coast of Scotland where, near Borrodale he
met Donald MacLeod, a native of Galtrigil in Skye.
question often asked; how did the Prince and Donald come to meet at
such an isolated place; this is how it happened; early in April,
of the Kinlochmoidart family (a banker in Paris) was asked by the
Prince to go to Barra in order to recover some gold which had been
landed on the island. The banker required someone who knew the area
well and Donald MacLeod was his choice.
Shortly before the Battle of Culloden they set off for Barra, and
landed back safely with the gold at Kinlochmoidart, ready to be
transported to Inverness. However, as they were about to leave for
Inverness, a letter was received from the Prince conveying the news
of events at Culloden, and that Aeneas had to meet him at Borrodale.
We have no information regarding the interview, but the banker
returned to Kinlochmoidart, and Donald MacLeod was sent to Borrodale
by the Prince's orders.
first task Donald was asked by the Prince to undertake was to go to
the Isle of Skye with letters to MacDonald of Sleat and MacLeod at
Dunvegan (two Chiefs) as he was sure they would help him in his hour
of need; MacLeod did promise at one time that he would help him.
Donald MacLeod refused to go to Skye. "What, does your Excellency
not know that these two have played the rogue on you already," said
Donald. After a brief discussion it was agreed to seek refuge in the
Outer Isles. In the Outer Isles they might be able to procure a
vessel that would take the Prince back to France.
Donald the care of the expedition was entrusted, and he, without
further delay set about finding a suitable boat for the purpose. He
had known the waters of the Minch and the West Coast all his life,
he was a sailor born and bred.
stout eight-oared boat which belonged to John, Borrodale's son was
put at his disposal to take the Prince and is companions across the
Minch. His next task was to find a crew. This was not difficult as
there were many willing hands. The oarsmen were, Roderick MacDonald,
MacDonald, Duncan Roy, Alexander MacDonald (the Jacobite Bard),
Edward Burke, and Murdoch MacLeod, the Pilot's fifteen year old son.
Murdoch a pupil in the grammar school at Inverness, fought on
Culloden Field, escaped unhurt and joined his Father at Loch nan
Uamh. At the helm was staunch Donald MacLeod now in his 68th Year;
at his feet sat the Prince, and scattered about the boat were; -
Captain John William O'Sullivan, who was adjutant and
Quarter-Master-General, Captain Felix O'Neill of Lally's Regiment
and Captain Allan MacDonald of the family of Clanranald; a clergyman
of the Church of Rome.
dusk on Saturday 26th April this little company sailed out of Loch
nan Uamh on the first stage of an adventurous voyage. After a stormy
night they arrived at Rossinish in Benbecula early the following
happened that Clanranald had the Rev. John MacAulay Presbyterian
minister in South Uist, (grandfather of Lord MacAulay) and Neil
MacEachainn parish schoolmaster as his
guests at his
home at Nuntown (about seven miles from Rossinish). One of
Clanranald's herdsmen tending cattle saw the boat with some strange
ashore. He immediately
set off for Nuntown to give this piece
of news to his
Chief. Clanranald sent one of his best servants to find out who the
strangers were. The minister's suspicion was aroused, and he
secretly sent a servant (most probably his own servant) to inquire
and find out as much as he could about the arrivals. Clanranald's
servant soon came back with the news that among the men in the boat
was Prince Charles.
Chief and MacEachainn set off for Rossinish, and after some
discussion the Chief advised the Prince to go to Stornoway where he
would most likely find a boat that would take him to France. They
were to pose as a shipwrecked crew, now looking for a boat to go to
Orkney for a cargo of meal. When the Rev. John heard who the
strangers were, and their destination, a messenger was sent post
haste to the Island of Harris, where his father the Rev. Aulay
MacAulay was Parish Minister. Rev. Aulay was the great-grandfather
of Lord MacAulay the Historian and a staunch Hanoverian.
the evening of the 29th April the Prince and his followers set off
for Stornoway. Early the next morning approaching the Island of
Scalpay in East Loch Tarbert, Donald MacLeod decided to call on
Donald Campbell tacksman on the island.
passing, I should like to mention that Donald Campbell's wife was a
sister of Donald Roy MacDonald from North Uist who fought on the
Princes' side at Culloden, where he was wounded; also, Donald
MacLeod's wife was a first cousin of Flora MacDonald. Donald took
the Prince and his companions to Campbell's house, where they were
hospitably received. There were no secrets. Campbell and his good
Lady were told who the visitors were.
morning Donald MacLeod and the oarsmen set off for Stornoway. Donald
took Campbell's boat for the journey, being much lighter and easier
to handle than the Borrodale boat. Donald had every hope of getting
a suitable craft in Stornoway. O'Sullivan and the others were left
in the care of Donald Campbell. In the meantime the Rev. Aulay
MacAulay had received his son's message from Benbecula, and now
hearing of the shipwrecked crew in Scalpay he had a good idea who
they might be.
mustered some of his henchmen in Harris, and made for Scalpay. When
Campbell saw the Rev. Gentleman approaching his house he had no
doubt as to what his intentions were; to lay his hands on Prince
Charles, which would entitle him to the huge reward of £30,000
offered by the Hanoverian Government for his capture. Campbell
admitted to the Rev. Gentleman that the Prince was under his roof.
After an exchange of a few words the Minister and his companions
took their leave of the island.
boy in Harris I heard the following story recited many times,
although I must admit I never saw it in print. One fine morning in
May, Donald Campbell spied a boat-load of Redcoats approaching the
shore and with the Prince in his house he had to do something about
it, and time was not on his side; it was peat
cutting time and
Campbell saw a glorious opportunity of deceiving the Redcoats. In a
matter of minutes he had the Prince dressed with some of his wife's
old clothes; they walked out of the house, and Campbell carrying a
peat iron, they made their way to a peat bank a short distance away,
where as the Redcoats passed by they were cutting peats. Campbell
heard one of them say in Gaelic, "bha latha eile aig fear buain na
monadh," "the peat cutter saw better days," a saying which can still
be heard in Harris.
the evening of the 3rd of May the Prince received by the hand of a
messenger the great news that Donald MacLeod had secured a boat.
Next day the Prince left Scalpay, accompanied by O'Sullivan,
O'Neill, Ned Burke, and a guide. They landed at the head of Loch
Seaforth whence a long walk lay before then to Stornoway.
Unfortunately the guide lost his way, night came down, and in the
found themselves in an area of bogs
of water. At
last they reached a point some three miles from Stornoway where they
took shelter by the side of a loch, known since as "Lochan a
Phrionnsa," the Prince's Loch. The guide made his way to the town to
down Donald MacLeod,
and inform him of their plight.
Donald lost no time in coming to the aid of the fugitives with food
and drink, and immediately conducted them to the house of Mrs
MacKenzie of Kildun, where they were received with true Highland
last their troubles seemed well-nigh over. But it was not to be.
Before very long they became wanderers by sea and land once again,
and this is how it came about.
Rev. Aulay MacAulay already mentioned whose attempt to capture the
Prince in Scalpay had failed, had warned the Rev. Colin Mackenzie
Minister at Lochs in Lewis of the Prince's intention to
obtain a ship in
Stornoway, an intention he had learned from his spying son the
Minister in South Uist.
the 5th of May Donald MacLeod returned to Stornoway to make the
final arrangements for the ship he intended to hire; the Town was in
an uproar. Donald could not understand what it was all about, but he
soon learned it was something to do with the Prince. His reception
from some of the town's gentlemen was everything but pleasant. News
had been received that the Prince was marching on Stornoway at the
head of a large army. Donald admitted the Prince was in the area
with an army of three men. Under no circumstance would they give
Donald a ship, and he was told in no uncertain language to take the
Prince off the island. Here, the Prince was a helpless fugitive, in
their very grasp with £30,000 on his head. No effort was made to
capture him. They nominally were his foes. In one sense, to capture
him was their duty; by letting him go they were running the risk of
the Hanoverian Government's wrath; but to their honour they took
that risk. Donald MacLeod relating the story afterwards said, "it
was that Devil of a Minister that caused all the mischief:" the Rev.
Aulay MacAulay of course.
midnight on the 5th of May the rowing boat with its crew was brought
round to just below Kildun House; a cow was killed that day and
various portions were put aboard the boat, along with some meal,
sugar, brandy and bread. On the morning of the 6th of May they took
their leave of Kildun House and set out on their travels once again.
only hope was to get back to Clanranald Country. They followed the
Lewis coastline until they came to Iubhard Island at the mouth of
Loch Shell. Here, Donald was taken by surprise when he observed four
men-of-war close by, and with all speed they made for the island. As
they drew near to the shore some fishermen were observed spreading
out their fish to dry on the flat rocks - a common practice in the
Hebrides. The fishermen seeing the little craft coming towards them,
and thinking it might be a press gang of sailors from one of the
men-of-war, immediately fled to their boats leaving the fish behind
them. For four nights Charles laid himself down to rest on his rough
bed of heather in this lone Hebridean island, and slept soundly as
he had done on the soft down in his father's palace in Rome. On the
10th of May the coast being clear of ships the Prince and his
companions left this island and sailed for Scalpay. Before leaving
Iubhard Island the Prince wished to leave some money for the fish
they ate during their stay so that the fishermen could find it on
their return, but when Donald pointed out to him that the money
would be far more likely to fall into the hands of chance visitors,
he was prevailed upon not to leave any.
Scalpay was reached without further adventure, and when about to
land they saw a group of suspicious looking men making towards them.
They made off and headed south once again. It was getting dark as
they left. They heard some time
their host Donald Campbell had left the island. It became known that
he gave refuge to the Prince. This was a treasonable action in the
eyes of the Hanoverian Government.
daybreak they were approaching Rodel, South Harris. A warship was
spotted close by and Donald managed to elude her by going into
shallow water at Rodel. Here they waited till the coast was clear.
Donald MacLeod wasted no time and was now on his way to Benbecula.
the party landed on a small island. They spent three nights in a
bothy on this island. A messenger was sent to inform the Chief at
Nuntown. The Chief duly arrived and promised to find the Prince a
better place to hide in, and the place selected was Glen Corradale
in South Uist, which lies between Heckla and Beinn Mhor.
MacEachainn to whom the Glen belonged was appointed as guide, and
late that evening on the 14th of May, crossed the mainland of
Benbecula and safely arrived at their new sanctuary in South Uist.
The Prince stayed in a small cottage in this glen till the 5th of
June, (22 days). By now the whole area was swarming with Redcoats
and the Prince had to move once more.
boat that took them back from Arnish was not abandoned; Donald
MacLeod brought it safely to Corradale; and this he did while Neil
and his party were tramping the moor to Corradale, some 20 miles.
next task for Donald MacLeod was to go to the mainland and search
for Cameron of Lochiel and Murray of Broughton and deliver letters
the Prince had written; a very difficult and dangerous task;
Murdoch, Donald's son was a member of the crew. They landed at
Moidart, and Donald left Murdoch in charge of the boat while he
himself and James MacDonald, a cadet of Clanranald, began the search
for Lochiel and Murray.
didn't take them long to gain information of their whereabouts; a
number of Jacobites had been in the area recently. Donald and his
companion finally tracked down Lochiel and Murray at Kinlocharkaig.
Lochiel was told of the Prince's plight and his hiding place in
South Uist. It is clear at this stage that Donald knew nothing of
the Locharkaig Gold, or rather that at this stage Donald knew
nothing of the Locharkaig Gold which had been landed from the French
ships which had been transported to Locharkaig. He had been charged
by the Prince to bring a supply of money, and it was not until he
returned to Moidart that he asked Murray to provide him with it.
Murray refused to hand over the money saying that he knew neither
Donald MacLeod nor his companion.
return journey to Corradale was accomplished, and on the 2nd of June
Donald was with the Prince again, and at an opportune moment. Hugh
MacDonald of Baleshare, North Uist, an Officer in the Hanoverian
Militia searching for the Prince, and MacDonald of Boisdale arrived
at Corradale by different routes with alarming news of the enemy's
movements. Hugh MacDonald was a brother of Donald Roy MacDonald
already mentioned. Hugh had been sent by Lady Margaret MacDonald,
Monkstadt, Skye to warn the Prince of the enemy's movements. She was
the second wife of Sir Alexander MacDonald, who at that time was
with the Duke of Cumberland at Fort Augustus. Lady Margaret was
alone at Monkstadt, to plot and plan with Donald Roy, the Prince's
safety. This lady sent six of her husband's best shirts to the
Prince insisted that Baleshare and Boisdale stay the night at
Corradale. Baleshare related afterwards that all of them had a real
jolly night. Donald MacLeod when at Moidart managed to purchase two
ankers of Brandy at one guinea an anker.
Hanoverian net was closing in on the Prince, and it was only a
time till South Uist
was overrun and his hiding place discovered.
the night of the 6th of June, reluctantly, and in low spirits, the
Prince, O'Sullivan, O'Neill, Burke, Donald MacLeod and the boatmen
boarded their small craft and put to sea once more. They landed on
the Island of Ouia a rocky uncultivated island lying off the
south-east coast of Benbecula. They spent three nights on this
island; their only shelter was a cave on the side of a cliff. As a
last resort they decided to return to the former shelter at
was at that hut that Clanranald's herdsman spotted them that Sunday
morning on their arrival from Loch nan Uamh. On the 10th of June the
Prince accompanied by O'Neill and Burke were ferried across the
narrow strait and proceeded to Rossinish on foot. Here the Prince
was visited by Lady Clanranald who had longed to visit her husband's
distinguished friend. On the third night at Rossinish the Prince
received secret information advising him to leave as soon as
possible. Fortunately Donald MacLeod and O'Sullivan who had remained
with the boat at Oiua got timely notice of the Prince's predicament.
Under cover of darkness the Prince was once more back in the boat,
and once again heading for Corradale, but the weather forced them
into a cove near Loch Skiport.
following night it was decided to go to Loch Boisdale, in the hope
of finding MacDonald of Boisdale, but alas he had been taken
prisoner a few days before. The net was closing tighter than ever
before and it was agreed that the party should split up. It was then
suggested that the Prince should go to Skye.
the 21st of June, Prince Charles bade farewell to his faithful
followers on the shores of Loch Boisdale. For seven long weeks they
had borne hardship and privation together. But not even at the hour
of parting did the Prince forget the duty he owed them that stood by
his side so nobly. Calling the boatmen, he ordered O'Sullivan to pay
to each of them a Shilling sterling; a large sum in those days, for
every day they had been with him. To Donald MacLeod he gave a draft
for 60 pistoles to be paid by John Hay of Restalrig (his Secretary).
We don't know if Donald ever got that money. Murdoch the 15 year old
boy fades out of the picture here. We don't know how he got back to
Donald MacLeod himself after hiding in several places in South Uist
and Benbecula was taken prisoner in the latter on the 5th of July by
a fellow islander, Allan MacDonald (Ailean a Chnuic) from Knock in
Sleat. Allan was a Captain in command of a company of m ilitia
searching for the Prince. Although Allan was a blood relative of
Donald, he treated him with the utmost severity, taking from him the
sum of 60 guineas, and refused to give him even a shilling to
purchase any small item with. From Benbecula, Donald and two priests
also taken prisoner, were sent to Barra, in order to be examined by
General Campbell, (Cumberland's Commander in the West) but the
general had left the island and they were accordingly sent to
Portree. Here they were joined by Captain Malcolm MacLeod, Brae,
cousin of MacLeod of Raasay. From Portree Donald and Malcolm were
presently sent to Applecross Bay, where General Campbell was now
ascertained to be. To their misfortune he was on board the sloop
Furnace commanded by Captain John Ferguson, one of the most
barbarous men whom the Government had turned loose in the Highlands.
Ferguson was a native of Old Meldrum. General Campbell had come
north in command of the Argyllshire Militia, and he and his men had
proved invaluable to the Hanovarian troops. The General was
described as a Highland gentleman; he afterwards became 4th Duke of
Donald MacLeod said afterwards that the general treated him with
respect, The interview took place on the Furnace. Donald admitted to
the general being with the Prince, but as to his whereabouts at that
moment he was unable to say. Donald gave nothing away. "Had General
Campbell stayed on the sloop we
would have been
treated fairly well," said Donald, "but he left shortly after we
came on board, and Ferguson had the ordering of things his own way."
prisoners of whom there were many, were confined in a dark quarter
under deck where they were not allowed light of any kind. "The
food we got,"
said Donald, "was brought to us in nasty buckets, where the ship's
crew used to urinate in front of the hungry prisoners, for a piece
of ill-natured diversion." Donald MacLeod was aboard the sloop
Furnace from the 1st August 1746 till 9th April 1747. For beds they
had the choice of lying without any covering upon cables, boards, or
stones. On the 9th of April the prisoners were transferred to
another ship called The James and Mary; this took place on the
Thames. Conditions on this ship were even worse. The only exercise
allowed was from 9 till 10 in the morning each day, when they were
permitted to walk among a number of sheep with sentries on both
sides of them. Donald had as his companions Malcolm MacLeod, Brae,
and the MacKinnon Chief. They were all treated with the utmost
barbarity and cruelty. No attention was paid to their bodily needs;
they were Rebels, let them die like vermin; that was the attitude of
the Hanoverian powers that be.
ten long months did Donald endure the hardships of the prison ships,
but he left them with his spirit though not his health, and for
those who treated him and his friends so cruelly, he had only one
wish; "God forgive them," he said "but God let them never die till
we have them in the same condition they had us, and we are sure we
would not treat them as they treated us. We would show them the
difference between a good and a bad cause."
Donald spent the last few weeks of his imprisonment in a messenger's
house in London. He was finally released on the 4th of July 1747.
Though one of the first heroes to be released, he was one of the
last to leave London. For this there were several reasons. He was
weak after his long confinement, he had fallen among friends who had
treated him with the utmost kindness, and he was destitute of the
means necessary for the long journey to Skye. Donald MacLeod
nevertheless found himself on a pinnacle of fame; he became known as
the Prince's Pilot. Among those who were imprisoned at this time
were Clanranald and his Lady, MacDonald of Boidale, and MacKinnon of
MacKinnon. Donald made the acquaintance of a London Scot; John
Walkingshaw who presented Donald with a silver snuff box, measuring
3 3/4" breadth and 11/4" deep. Upon the lid is raised an eight-oared
boat with Donald at the helm, and the four under his care, together
with the oarsmen. It shows a map of the Long Island and Skye. The
motto on the lid reads (from the Latin), "with joy will he in after
years recall these things." Round the edge of the lid, reads, "what
has thou in store 0 Neptune." Upon the bottom of the box, reads,
"Donald MacLeod of Gualtergill in the Isle of Skye, the faithful
palinurus 1746." Also engraved on the bottom is a dove with an olive
branch in her bill.
two months after his release did Donald remain in London, and these
two months offered him some slight compensation for all that he had
suffered. This fine old man found himself the hero of the moment.
the 17th of August we find Donald in Leith at the home of James
MacDonald a friend of MacLeod of Raasay. That evening Donald was
taken to the home of Bishop Forbes. The Bishop described Donald as
the honest and faithful steersman of the eight-oared boat who had
the Prince among his hands.
was not until 23rd October that Donald MacLeod took his leave of the
Bishop to go home to his wife and family in Skye.
so at last Donald finds himself back in Skye. Many months had
passed, and many strange things had befallen him since, in the month
of February 1746
he sailed into
Inverness with a view of taking a cargo of meal for the inhabitants
nearly two years after his return to Skye did Donald live. But his
health was probably undermined by all he had gone through, and this
grand old man passed away in September 1749 at the age of 72.
Prince Charlie's Pilot - Evan M. Barron, Inverness; Robert
Carruthers & Sons, 1913
Jacobite Memoirs of the Rebellion of 1745, by Robert Chambers,
Edinburgh. William & Robert Chambers, Waterloo Place; and Longman &
Co. London. 1834
Life and Adventures of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, by W. Drummond
Norie in four volumes. The Caxton Publishing Company, Clun House,
Surrey Street, London, W.C.
History of the Rebellion inScotland in 1745, by John Home Esq.,
Edinburgh. Printed for Peter Brown, 37 Nicolson Street; and Ogle
Duncan & Co., London. 1822.
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