Culture

The Baronet of Burra: Episode III

Continuing the story of the fatally injured Captain and Sir James Stuart…….


The dastardly assassins betook themselves to their horses, which were ready saddled; galloped with the utmost rapidity to one of the numerous bays which indent the island of Pomona; embarked on board of a vessel which had been in readiness for the occasion, and arrived safely in London, where, by the influence and intercession of certain masqued Jacobites, then in power, they procured a pardon.

Highland_soldier_1744

A private and corporal of a Highland Regiment, circa 1744. The private is wearing a belted plaid in the Government tartan

Whilst Lady M., in the depth of her affliction, was bewailing her violent and untimely bereavement, her eldest son, a fine boy about ten years of age, pointing to his father’s sword, declared, that if ever he lived to be a man, with that weapon he would sever the murderer’s head from his body; – and faithfully he kept his word, if not to the letter, at least to a more honourable equivalent.

Many years afterwards, it was discovered that Sir James had been in treasonable correspondence with the Pretender; and after the battle of Culloden his intrigues and letters were brought to light. Troops were immediately ordered down to the Orkney islands to seize on the persons of the rebels, and lay waste to their estates; and the cloud which twenty years previous had been no bigger than a man’s hand, now came,

“Thickening and blackening/O’er his devoted head!”

Young Captain M., who had already distinguished himself in the service of the reigning family, petitioned for, and readily obtained, the command of the transport fleet, who crowded every inch of canvass for the scene of their destination. The fleet proceeded to Kirkwall; but M____, with a chosen band, left them off the island of Copinsha, and secretly landed on the south side of Burra.

Sir James had that day been out fowling, and seeing the red-coats defiling by an unfrequented path to his mansion instantly suspected the cause, and immediately endeavoured to gain his own house, where he might have kept the party in play, until stratagem or succour might have assisted him; but M., sprung from his party like an arrow, and seized the trembling tyrant within an hundred yards of his own threshold. The hoary assassin, on his knees, implored M. to allow him to take leave of his wife and family; but M. sternly replied.

“Such time as you allowed my brave father to prepare for eternity, like time you shall have now;”

…..at the same time he was hurried to the boat, which proceeded with alacrity to Kirkwall. The humbled despot was sent in manacles to Edinburgh Castle, where he was tried and condemned; but during the night previous to his execution, he swallowed poison and perished. Such was the unhappy end of one, who, had he had an opportunity, would have waded

“Through slaughter to a throne,/And shut the gates of mercy on mankind.”


Mind on David Vedder published this  in Orcadian Sketches 1832

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