Posts tagged ‘Jacobite’

May 13, 2022

The First Scotsman to carry an Umbrella

Johnny Macdonald’s peaceful revolution.

I don’t think I knew any man who carried an umbrella when I was young. Not sure I know any now. Scotsmen are not given to wielding umbrellas, except perhaps on the golf course.

Scotsman John Macdonald aka Beau Macdonald aka the Scotch Frenchman is said to have been the first Scot’s bloke to walk about with an umbrella in Britain. This was in the 1770s when it was considered unmanly to carry an umbrella.

Umbrella from the Italian word ombrella from the Latin umbella, as in clustered blossoms at the extremities of grouped spokes radiating from a stem.

From Urquhart near Inverness, Johnny Macdonald was one of the Keppoch Macdonalds; his father was a cattle grazier. When young Johnny was two years old his mother, a Mackay, died in childbirth. Heartsick the father, already inclined towards adventure persuaded a number of his cattle drovers to join him and off they went to join the forces fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Their Jacobite cause took them down through Scotland into England and back. A letter arrived at the family home from the father in Edinburgh – at Goolen’s Inn and Livery Stables in the Canongate. A reply sent by the children went unanswered – mail sent to and from Jacobite supporters was routinely intercepted by government spies.

In mid-September 1745 young Johnny’s fourteen-year-old sister, Kitty, set off for Edinburgh to search for the missing father. She took her three youngest brothers with her – Johnny aged four, Alexander, two and Daniel seven years old. Ten-year-old Duncan was already working and remained at Urquhart. The youngsters had fourteen pounds Scots with them (twenty-three shillings and four pence English) and their father’s letter. They set off after dark to evade their neighbours who would have tried to stop them undertaking such a hazardous journey. They walked through the first night, some twenty miles to Inverness with Kitty carrying Alexander on her back.

From Inverness the children headed south towards Edinburgh. They were at the mercy of strangers – some hostile but most kind who willingly shared what food they had with the children and sometimes provided an indoor place for them to sleep. The young Macdonalds were well-dressed in woollen plaids which they used as blankets when sleeping, with additional warmth provided by branches of broom picked by Kitty and essential when they slept in the open.

The route they took across country avoided main thoroughfares and entailed them having to cross many bodies of water; still and moving. Then Kitty would have to carry the smallest boys, one at a time, and hold Daniel’s hand to guide him safely across. Once she and two-year-old Alexander were swept into a whirlpool and only saved from drowning by a man who happened to be working his potato patch nearby and witnessed their predicament. He took them home so they could dry their clothes and fed them and put them up in warm straw beds in his barn for the night.

The longest the children stayed anywhere on their journey was at Dundee where they waited for three weeks with a blacksmith and his wife who provided them with food and shelter. By the time they got to Edinburgh the Jacobite army had left for the south. They found Goolen’s Inn run by Jacobite sympathisers who put them up but they were keen to find their father and walked on in pursuit of him. They failed to track him down for the Jacobite army was moving quickly and by April of 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie’s bedraggled force was close to the Macdonald’s home in the north of Scotland. The children remained in Edinburgh where Kitty and Alexander were involved in an accident with a coach and six horses owned by the Countess of Murray. The Countess was herself a Jacobite supporter and she arranged for little Alexander to be fostered and Kitty found with work as a servant. Daniel and Johnny continued their itinerant life; begging and sleeping where they could. Many of Edinburgh’s tenements had spaces under stairs that were popular with the homeless at night but for young boys they were dangerous places and the brothers took it in turns to sleep and lookout when they used them. Their predicament was all the greater because they were Highlanders and so despised by many Lowlanders around Edinburgh. In addition, orphan children were frequently kidnapped in Scotland and sent overseas to work on plantations in British colonies and the boys were careful to avoid this fate. They got to know one or two fellow Highlanders, older youths and men, enlisted men who were part of the city guard. The troops arranged with Mr Goolen of the Inn to provide the boys with safer shelter which worked out better until a woman stole their 6-yard-long plaid which deprived them of clothing and their night blanket.  

The boys found odd jobs. Johnny was hired to rock a cradle which he hated and took his resentment out on the baby so was sacked. He then was taken on to turn a roasting spit and that satisfied him for a while – remember he’s only about four-years-old. After this he spent four months as the eyes of a blind fiddler walking from place to place so he could earn money playing at fairs and events. When he left that role little Johnny was offered a job as a postilion by another Jacobite family. As a postilion the boy rode on the back of one of the leading horses pulling a coach or carriage. He was given a uniform of a green jacket, red cape, red waistcoat and a leather cap. He loved horses and enjoyed the work that took him out and about across the country. In his journal he writes proudly of being ‘the littlest position in Scotland or anywhere.’ So began Johnny Macdonald’s working life.

The children kept in touch with one another and Johnny discovered through a message from his older brother, Daniel, that their father had been killed at Culloden. In the aftermath of battle it was highly dangerous to be a Highlander or live in the Highlands, then and for years to follow. Jacobite sympathisers or those suspected of being sympathisers were hunted down and brutalised. Many, many were summarily killed and others arrested and removed south for execution or to await transportation to one of the colonies. Homes and farm steadings were set alight and crops destroyed or stolen. The Macdonald’s neighbours rallied round to protect their late father’s farm still worked by Duncan, to prevent their house and its belonging being stolen and wrecked by government troops under Prince William, Butcher Cumberland. With Cumberland’s men pillaging and attacking everywhere Duncan decided to escape and followed his siblings to Edinburgh (where Highlanders were no less despised it has to be said) where the ever-dependable Mr Goolen arranged for him to be apprenticed as a stonemason at Falkirk.

Johnny Macdonald moved from employer to employer, mostly fellow-Scots – landowners with private wealth and businessmen involved in overseas trade. It is clear there was a Scottish web of contacts in south Britain, on the continent of Europe and elsewhere in the world. Wherever his masters went, for business or pleasure, Johnny went along too. James MacPherson of Ossian1 fame was Johnny’s master for a time. They met through a mutual friend, Colonel Alexander Dow, originally from Crieff. Dow had fled Scotland after killing a man in a duel and ran away to the East India Company in Calcutta which in turn led him to making translations of Persian literature. Macdonald and Dow spent two years together in India.

Despite having lived a huge chunk of his life abroad Macdonald did not forget his home. When with Sir John Stuart in Spain and Stuart waxed lyrical about the Spanish countryside ‘I never saw a finer sight; such a fine country and fine river’ Macdonald turned to him and said, ‘Sir, there is a finer sight in Scotland.’

‘Where, for God’s sake!’ asked Stuart.

‘Sir, from the castle of Stirling.’

The Irish author, Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy), did not employ Macdonald but at the end of his life, in 1768, he and Johnny Macdonald were living in London. Macdonald was a servant to John Crauford of Errol, a vile toadying man, a Scot who hated his native country but was content to use it to further his political career. As a MP he represented various constituencies – although representing communities is not what being an MP was about in the 18th and early 19th centuries. MPs rarely or never went near their constituencies; they were just names on the political map that ticked a box of frogs called democracy. Anyway, when Crauford sent Macdonald to Sterne’s lodgings to ask about his state of health Macdonald found the writer at the point of death. He waited with him, later reporting that just before he died Sterne raised his hand ‘as if to stop a blow’ and with his last breath gasped, ‘Now it is come.’

A more usual duty for Johnny Macdonald was to prepare food for his employers. Queen of Scots soup was a dish he frequently made. And here’s the recipe. Cut six chickens into small pieces, rinse out hearts, gizzards and livers. Place the meats in a pan and cover with water. Stew until the chicken is cooked. Season with salt and cayenne pepper and add finely chopped parsley then stir through eight beaten eggs and serve immediately. Macdonald’s varied his soups and his herb seasonings and sometimes substituted barley with rice.   

From when he was a tiny boy, Macdonald led a colourful life, mixing with some of society’s most illustrious characters. He absorbed some habits and dress from places he visited around Europe such as tying back his long hair with a silk hanger and wearing lace ruffles at his neck – and, of course, carrying an umbrella, the very mark of effeminism in England and Scotland. Umbrella’s were for women. In the eighteenth century when it rained men who could afford it hired a carriage. Those who couldn’t, got wet.

Beautifully turned-out and ready for all weathers, Johnny Macdonald attracted cat-calls in London’s streets because of his appearance. Being rude and opinionated has a long pedigree among taxi drivers – Hackney coachmen didn’t shrink from voicing their narrow prejudices, more so for taking him for a foreigner, a French man.

What, Frenchman, why do not you get a coach?

Frenchman! take care of your umbrella.
Frenchman, why do not you get a coach, Monsieur?

At these times if his sister Kitty was with him she would be embarrassed by the attention he attracted but Macdonald took it in his stride, answering back in French or Spanish, as though he didn’t understand their mocking calls.

Johnny was in his own way a kind of revolutionary. Although not a ‘gentleman’ he and a handful of other men led a change among that class in Britain influencing them to carry an umbrella in place of a walking stick which had replaced swords as the well-dressed gentleman’s accessory when out in town. By 1780, shortly after Macdonald took to London streets under his umbrella the first patent to manufacture umbrellas in England was taken out, in 1780. They were not initially very popular and much caricatured in the press.  

While Johnny Macdonald seems to have been the first Scotsman to brave carrying an umbrella the man attributed as the first male umbrella user in London was Jonas Hanway – ‘friend of chimney-sweepers and the foe of tea’. Like Macdonald, Hanway was well-travelled. A merchant, his trade took him as far as Russia and Persia, not without incident. After his merchandise was stolen by a Turkish Khan, Hanway was attacked by pirates. Unsurprisingly, he decided this life wasn’t for him and settled in London where he railed against drinking tea which he claimed caused bad breath, ugliness and nervousness and consequentially made Britons who drank the stuff ugly, halitosis-breathing wrecks. In the umbrella stakes Hanway may have beaten Johnny Macdonald to opening his ombrella in rain-swept London but as a role-model for men he can’t hold a candle to the charismatic and handsome Johnny Macdonald.  

Being considered effeminate did not bother Johnny Macdonald. He was proud of his dandy-like appearance and the attention he got from women such as happened a lot in Edinburgh. So much so he asked a friend why young women were so attracted to him. Her reply was,

Johnny, there is nothing in it further than this – they think you have so good a temper, and never hear you say an ill word…But you are always praising their beauty.” However, she added, “If you don’t take care women will be your ruin.

Johnny wasn’t ruined by his attractiveness to the opposite sex but it’s very possible some of the  women he encountered in his life were through their encounters with the beguiling Johnny Macdonald. That said, he was a decent man by the sounds of it. One time when in Spain he had a relationship with the daughter of an inn keeper in Toledo called Malilia. On his return the following year he discovered she had a baby four months earlier. She was relieved to see the child’s father again and he was equally happy to discover he had a family there. Despite the age difference – Malilia was eighteen and Macdonald thirty-eight they arranged to live together in Britain. However, Malilia’s mother dissuaded her daughter from following her husband so Macdonald eventually returned to Toledo where he was surprised to find she had given birth to a second son. A happy Johnny commented,

The Macdonalds grow in Spain.

And they lived happily ever after. Or so I assume as I’ve read nothing to the contrary. And that’s the tale of the first Scotsman to walk under an umbrella in Britain – and one of a very few who have since.  

1Macpherson published The Poems of Ossian he claimed came from ancient Gaelic poetry. This body of work is linked to the emergence of the Romantic movement and interest in Gaelic. Macpherson was only a few years older than Macdonald and also from a Highland Jacobite family. After going into hiding as a child post-Culloden, he studied literature at Aberdeen’s two universities.

Travels published in 1790, later republished as Memoirs of an 18th Century Footman in the Broadway Travellers series (London: George Routledge & Sons, 10s 6d).

Internet Archive Hints to the Bearers of Walking-sticks and Umbrellas. John Shute Duncan, 1769-1844

Jan 17, 2019

Scots Outlanders and their Integration into Native American Life

lachlan

Lachlan MacGillivray

It’s fairly well known that some Scots who turned up on the shores of America during the early years of European migration whether from choice, sanctuary or coercion integrated with Native Americans. Among this group were MacGillivrays from Dunmaglass in Inverness-shire who married into Creek Indians and proved duplicitous, becoming instrumental in the re-allocation of land in the years before and after the American Revolution.

The first male MacGillivrays to arrive first established themselves as traders and then as plantation owners and slave dealers. They were also involved in the indentured servant trade – some possibly being taken to the colonies as indentured servants and freed after years of servitude.

Highlanders such as MacGillivrays were among the first European migrants to cross the Atlantic and undoubtedly some were enticed by the likes of Essex man James Oglethorpe who was recruiting settler-soldiers to protect British crown interests in Georgia and resist Spanish and French ambitions beyond Florida and Alabama. What a nasty and destructive concept colonialism is.

One of the MacGillivrays to arrive from the Highlands was Lachlan MacGillivray (the name later contracted to McGillivray or M’Gillivray.) Fresh off the ship Prince of Wales in 1735 he, along with women and children, settled in Georgia. They called their settlement New Inverness (later its name changed to Darien after Darien in Panama the 17th century Scottish colony crushed by England’s government and merchant class.)

A rather fanciful tale of Lachlan MacGillivray’s life in America is taken from a source provided at the end of this blog –

“’A Scottish boy, of sixteen years of age, who had entered a ship in Dunmaglass and had arrived without accident at the Port of Charleston.’ It was here that he set foot upon American soil.
Pickett goes on to describe him for us:
He only had a shilling in his pocket, a suit of cloths upon his back, a red head, a stout frame, and honest heart, a fearless disposition, and cheerful spirits, which seldom became depressed.

Lachlan had come to this country around 1735 and was able to get along with everyone. He had lived in the forest with the Indians and he had enjoyed his life. He had been happily married and had raised five children here. They were all grown and married and had children of their own. Heartache and strife came to them and it does everyone.

His family in Scotland has always fought for the King of England. Lachlan had uncles who gave their lives in the battles of Culloden. When the Revolutionary War started he helped the British with supplies. The people, up until that time, had truly been free. However, the Indians resented the white people from the outside, coming in and taking their land. Lachlan McGillivray was called a Tory.

The state of Georgia had put Lachlan on the top of the list of Loyalists who were to be killed. He, at that time, deeded his land to his children and left what money he could before going back to Scotland. By this time Sehoy [his wife] had passed.”

sehoy, wife of lachlan and mother of william weatherford

Sehoy, wife of Lachlan and later mother of William Weatherford

Lachlan MacGillivray was to become one of the biggest plantation owners in the south, a slave importer and a member of the Georgia Assembly. Straight off the Prince of Wales Lachlan MacGillivray began trading along the Chattahoochee River (that runs through today’s Georgia and Alabama) dealing with Native Americans, mostly from the Muscogee, and French traders – and he established a string of trading posts. He married Sehoy Marchand, daughter of a French officer and Sehoy, a Muscogee Indian princess. Lachlan MacGillivray opposed American independence and at the outbreak of the American Revolution he abandoned his family and returned to Scotland at which point his property was seized by the federal government.

alexander mcg

Hipothel Mico said to have been murdered by Alexander McGillivray for calling him a usurper

One of Lachlan and Sehoy’s children was Alexander. Born in America into his mother’s Wind Tribe, his Muscogee name was Hoboi-Hili-Mico (Good Child King.) This tribe was organised as a matrilineality with kinship traced through the female line – regardless of the husband’s family. However, Alexander was educated at Scots Presbyterian schools and drawn into European culture rather than that of his Creek kin’s. In 1783 Alexander became chief of his mother’s Creek nation but he chose to live in the white migrant’s style in a permanent log house with a chimney surrounded by orchards which alienated parts of his Wind family. As chief, in 1784, he came to an agreement with Spain over 12,000 km of land occupied by the Muscogee while at the same time he was negotiating with Scottish migrant fur traders and slave dealers, Panton, Leslie & Company.

Panton, Leslie & Company had a long pedigree with varying personnel. Traders in the Bahamas, British East Florida and the southern American states – their interests began in the usual way, with animal pelts. Merchants from northeast Scotland – Panton was from Aberdour near Fraserburgh on the Moray coast. He was introduced to the trade while working as a clerk to John Gordon from Aberdeenshire who was a hugely successful trader in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Another member of the company, Thomas Forbes, was John Gordon’s nephew. Thomas and his brother, John, were sons of James and Sarah Gordon Forbes from the County of Banff. John who was christened in 1767 near Gamrie died in Matanzas, Cuba in 1823 where he ran a sugar mill.

Panton’s Company was much involved in the triangular trade – buying, selling and transporting slaves and goods (rum, sugar, salt, indigo, firearms, gunpowder, lead bullets, hides, cotton, tobacco, rice and, principally, men, women and children) between the west coast of Africa, Europe and America (and West Indies.) Panton and Thomas Forbes set up their company in Savannah to cash in on the great influx of white migrants crossing the Atlantic and pouring into the southern states. Speculatively the company bought up huge tracts of land in Carolina and Georgia for European settlements.

Like Lachlan MacGillivray these men were loyalists to the British crown so when the American Revolution broke out they had their lands confiscated. Retreating to British Florida Panton’s company re-established itself despite Spain’s grip on much of Florida and prospered trading with the Spanish there. It was here they came into contact with John Leslie. The three along with a Charles Maclatchy bought up thousands of acres of land and 250 slaves to work mainly on plantations.

By the 1780s Panton, Leslie & Company’s headquarters transferred to the Bahamas while retaining their American activities. By 1795 the company dominated the southeast’s massive fur trade between Memphis and New Orleans. They linked up with Alexander McGillivray regarding his position within the Creek peoples as an advantage to them in the area.

Ruthless and ambitious Panton’s company not only traded legally though disreputably but was not averse to outright illegality as smugglers and content to practise every nasty business scam on the go such as price fixing and manipulating markets. The association with McGillivray paid off and Panton was appointed the official trader for the Creek Indians.

panton, leslie and company

Panton, Leslie and Company HQ

At Panton’s death in 1801, the company was taken over by the Forbes brothers, John and Thomas. In 1803 they were joined by John Leslie. Their main sphere of operation was between Georgia and the Mississippi with the company acquiring huge tracts of land from Creek and Seminole tribes – the Forbes Purchase comprised 1.4 million acres in West Florida between 1804 and 1812. John Forbes along with later business partners in West Florida, James and John Innerarity*, assumed Spanish citizenship and names. John Forbes became Juan Forbes.

*John Innerarity who was a brother-in-law to William Panton would become a Vice Consul of France at Pensacola, Florida.

trail of tears

The Trail of Tears

During the War of 1812 British troops looted the Innerarity trading post and freed slaves. More of an annoyance than anything else the company continued – buying up land. Private land purchases were challenged in the courts and in 1823 when it was established that only the federal government could acquire territory from Native Americans not private citizens land prices dropped from lack of competition meaning less money was paid in compensation to local tribes. In the 1830 Native American people were cleared to west of the Mississippi River – the Indian Removal Act – the Trail of Tears saw the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole, original Cherokee Nations all forcibly moved off their lands by Andrew Jackson’s Act. All of this very similar to the Clearances in the Scottish Highlands and interestingly as more recent history has shown us – in the likes of Israel –  the very people who suffer under repression sometimes go on to impose almost identical acts of cruelty on others.

Alexander McGillivray was a British crown loyalist, like his father. He was instrumental in persuading President George Washington of the need for the government to take over  Native affairs instead of the practice of ad hoc treaties made between individual tribes and individual states. The resulting Treaty of New York (1790) gave the government’s War Department management of Indian strategies.

The first treaty made after this involved the removal of illegal white settlers from Indian territory and the handing back of refugee black slaves sheltered and living with Native Americans. Fingers were pointed at McGillivray for his duplicity over this issue but what the Creeks did not know at the time was McGillivray was employed on a substantial salary as a brigadier general with the government – a role that gave him with trading benefits and he was compensated for his father’s confiscated plantations. Cash rich, McGillivray setup three plantations of his own worked by slaves. And it may surprise no-one that the government did not turn any illegal settlers off Creek lands. Two years later wheeler and dealer McGillivray renounced the Treaty of New York so he could deal with the Spanish government then occupying Louisiana. Sometime known as the Emperor of the Creeks and Seminoles, Alexander was appointed Superintendent General of the Creek Nation by the King of Spain. As chief of his Muscogee people Alexander McGillivray was at the same time being paid by both the US and Spanish authorities to work on behalf of both countries.

Alexander McGillivray died on 17 February 1793 at Pensacola, Florida and was buried in William Panton’s garden until his remains were removed to Choctaw Bluff on the Alabama River. Several times married – to Creek and European women – he was regarded as a polygamist back in Scotland but his other activities were far worse.

weatherford surrenders to jackson

Weatherford surrenders to Jackson

Other members of the McGillivray clan were as involved with Native American affairs such as kinsmen William Weatherford and William McIntosh. Weatherford aka Lamochattee or Red Eagle was the Creek chief who led the Red Sticks’ offensive against the US in 1813-14, the Red Stick War, on the opposite side from his cousin, William McIntosh, Taskanugi Hatke or White Warrior who, like Alexander McGillivray supported European ways over Creek. British and Spanish traders supplied weapons to the Red Sticks to defy the expansion of the United States into their colonial interests. It resulted in defeat for the Creek confederacy with it having to give up 21 million acres of land in now Georgia and Alabama to the US government and was one in the eye for those Creeks who fought on the government’s side. The Cherokee Nation also lost vast areas of hunting grounds as well. McIntosh’s behaviour was regarded as treacherous by some among the Upper Creeks who killed him in 1825.

murder of mcintosh

The murder of McIntosh

The bulk of activities carried out by Scots traders such as the MacGillivrays in these early years involved trapping and shooting animals for their pelts but weapons, too and, of course, people – men, women and children kidnapped and trafficked were fair game as well as their exploitation of Native Americans who were paid a pittance for big profit goods or given cheap items in exchange to boost profits made on the European markets.

The extent of slaughter taking place in the early years of European immigration into America was staggering. Beavers for example – one beaver pelt was exchanged for one metal axe head in north America while that same beaver skin was worth dozens of axe head back in Europe. Around 1720 a beaver pelt cost around 5 shillings in Britain. By 1740 the price had doubled and that trend continued. The demand for felt hats made from beaver pelts was insatiable until beaver populations dwindled so much availability of skins was depleted. Profits were vast and wealth came fast for those European colonists who controlled trade.
fur hat industry

The Scots mentioned don’t scratch the surface of those who integrated with Native Americans. Many while born into native societies used their advantages e.g. could speak and write English to influence and in some cases sell-out their own people, trade away land, establish permanent farming and private ownership of animals as well as built and land property and, of course, deal and own people – slaves.

Unlike their brother, Alexander, Lachlan MacGillivray’s other children Sophia and Jean (Jeanne) did not receive anything from their father’s will. His estate was divided between his son Alexander and others from the MacGillivray clan.

It has been a matter of some conjecture whether or not Lachlan MacGillivray supported the Jacobite cause back in Scotland. We know he sided with the British crown and government against the American Revolution – as did many a Jacobite. As we’ve seen, for his actions he had lands confiscated in America by the newly formed US government and analogous to London’s German Hanoverian royalty’s land grab of estates belonging to Jacobite supporters in Scotland.

culloden macgillivray

We do know that MacGillivrays, as part of the Chattan Confederation, were Jacobites although their chief was an officer with the British Black Watch. His wife, Lady Anne Farquharson-MacKintosh, however, rallied the Chattans to the Jacobite cause and put Alexander MacGillivray (a different one) in command of the clan at Culloden. He was killed in battle along with many of his fellow-clansmen and boys. There is a simple memorial stone to the MacGillivrays on the Culloden battlefield and another at Dunlichity in Strathnairn, the mustering point of clan MacGillivray. A wall there that bore marks from clansmen sharpening their swords before battle was recently destroyed when a vehicle crashed into it. Such is the fragility of historical evidence.

Just as Jacobites fled Scotland for American earlier in the 18th century so Lachlan MacGillivray when he abandoned his family crossed the Atlantic the other way round, returning to Dunmaglass near Inverness with as much of his fortune as he could muster. He died in 1799 aged around 80 years. His half-Creek daughter Jean married a French officer who fought for Napoleon and his other daughter, Sophia, was married to a Benjamin Durant and is suspected to have been killed at the Fort Mims massacre. Peter A Brannon wrote in a newspaper article on August 2, 1931. “It was during the siege of Savannah in 1792 that Sophia, her husband and little boy, Lachlan Durant, went with her father to say good-bye. When the city surrendered to the Americans, she said good-bye to her father through a flood of tears. Lachlan sailed back to Scotland with the British soldiers.”

In an already confusing tale Sehoy Marchand, Lachlan’s wife, had a daughter, also Sehoy, with another man. This Sehoy married a Weatherford whose son William was Red Eagle who is mentioned above.

red eagle

Red Eagle

Confused? You should be.
Sources as promised –

 

https://www.bernethy-eby-scribner.com/getperson.php?personID=I616715240&tree=Eby

https://www.lib.lsu.edu/sites/default/files/sc/findaid/1271m.pdf

Dec 27, 2016

Are you the Laird of Udny’s fool? Aye. An fa’s fool are you?

The Laird Of Udny’s Fool
220px-jamiefleeman

Of all the sayings about fools I’ve come across Jamie Fleeman’s is the most perceptive. Who was Jamie Fleeman? He was employed as a fool – a clown – by the Laird o’ Udny at Knockhall Castle near Newburgh, up the coast from Aberdeen.
When asked,

“Are you the Laird of Udny’s fool?”

“Aye,” Fleeman said, “an fa’s fool are you?”

Except Jamie Fleeman would have said “feel” spikkin Doric as he did – which gives rise to that everyday expression in these parts, g’wa ye feel.

Court jesters and fools have gone, I think, but clowns are still with us although I suspect they are far less popular as entertainers than they were once. Royal court or big hoose clowns were not usually chosen for their sharp wits, although surely some were, but mainly because of something odd in their appearance that made them the butt of jokes. Painters have recorded scenes from European court life that reveal a penchant for males and females of stunted growth who were kept for as long as they were amusing, not only for their looks but how well they danced and sang and sometimes for their witty or silly talk. Such was the clamour for short-legged court jesters in the middle ages unfortunate children who were selected for that part had their growth stunted so they could better fit the bill; in Russia it was de rigueur for court clowns to be chosen because of their unusual appearance, the uglier the better.

No very prosperous or powerful household in the middle ages (and much later), conscious of its status, was complete without a jester or fool to boost its army of servants pandering and catering for their every whim and incapacity or as one of Aberdeen’s local newspapers put it,

In those days every laird had his ‘feel,’

and the greater the ‘feel’ the more the laird was respected.

jane-the-fool-perhaps-on-far-left-background

Jane the Foole is perhaps the figure on the far left 


Usually fools were male but not exclusively. Two prominent female fools were Jane the Foole at the English Tudor court in the sixteenth century and in France Astaude du Puy hired to amuse Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, a century later.

As late as the nineteenth century Mongkut, King of Siam, employed Nai Teh to fool around, perform gymnastics and generally help him endure life’s long idle hours while his people wore out their fingers maintaining him in wealthy boredom.

Court fools could become confidants of their masters or mistresses because they lived cheek-by-jowl with them and so could get away with being open and critical in their opinions because of their special relationship. They, alone, among staff and hangers-on were not expected to exhibit lackey deference, general fawning and ass-licking that royals, aristocrats and other sub-species generally expect from them.

Fools, as I’ve said, were often sought out as children and trained for the position. Claus Narr was ‘appointed’ in this way. This little German boy was herding geese when he was spotted by a courtier and his father happily accepted 20 guilders for his child.

The prospect of living in a palace as an alternative to sucking on stones throughout their lives probably held a certain appeal for some fools with a thick skin. It was not for everyone, however. Paul Wüst had no qualms about turning down Duke Eberhard the Bearded of Württemberg –

My father sired his own fool; if you want one too, then go and sire one for yourself.

And, looking around, who’s to argue they haven’t done just that?

Back in Scotland King James VI* took on Archie Armstrong, a sheep stealer from Eskdale in the Borders as his court jester but he never made the mark in life that Jamie Fleeman did despite being attached to the royal Stewarts. 

Jamie Fleeman’s renown stems mainly from his one brilliant utterance but how many of us will be remembered for anything we say, far less anything so insightful?

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Knockhall Castle ruin

Jamie lived in the eighteenth century (that is the 1700s for those who are confused over centuries) and conformed to the idea of odd-looking fools for he reportedly had a big round head and sticking-up hair. He trebled up as the Laird o’ Udny’s cow and goose herd and as a goose herder he is remembered for another anecdote. One day walking home with the Laird’s special geese Jamie was anxious not to lose any and so he tied straw ropes around their necks to lead them back home. He walked on tugging on the ropes as he went and when he arrived back at the laird’s house he discovered he had unwittingly throttled the geese and had dragged back a herd of carcasses. Panicking over how to explain the loss Jamie stuffed feed into the birds’ mouths and when asked how the geese were he replied:

Safe! and gobble, gobble, gobblin as if they had nae seen meat for a twalmonth. Safe! I warran they’re safe aneuch, if they hae nae choked themsells

Another Fleeman anecdote tells how he went up to a minister with a horse shoe he found and asked the minister what it was. The minister replied –

“Why Jamie, any fool would know that it is a horse shoe”

Fleeman said –

“Ah, what it is to be wise – to ken it’s no a meer’s shoe.”

Famously when dying he said, poignantly –

“I’m of a gentle persuasion, dinna bury me like a beast”

or perhaps –

“I’m a Christian, dinna bury me like a beast”

Fleeman was said to have been immensely strong which proved handy when Knockhall Castle went on fire in 1734. Jamie’s barking dog alerted him but not the folk inside the castle so Jamie picked up and threw a large wooden chest through a window and none of them slept through that.

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Mary Hay, Countess of Erroll

Mary Hay was the Countess of Erroll, a Lord High Constable, Knight Marischal of Scotland, Senior Great Officer among the Royal Officers of Scotland and Chief of the King’s Household in Scotland – oh, and a supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie. She raised an army in support of the Jacobite uprising in 1745 with Slains Castle (inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula) a focus for the Jacobite cause. Hay used Fleeman to run messages for the Jacobites, including ones to and from Lord Pitsligo during the time he was in hiding at Auchiries from government troops under Butcher Cumberland who were ruthlessly hunting down Jacobites not slaughtered at Culloden. Jamie Fleeman was such a familiar sight in the neighbourhood and being the person he was did not raise suspicion he might be a courier. Hay lost her Slains estate following the failure of the ’45 when it was seized by the government in London and sold off.

Despite being a mere pauper gowk Jamie Fleeman did not just disappear as might be expected instead he left a remarkable impression on the world. He had a biographer, John Pratt, who wrote this of him in his The Life and Death of Jamie Fleeman:

Before the eighteenth century, about the middle of which Jamie Fleeman flourished, matters wore a very different aspect. Jamie was perhaps the ultimus Homanorum, the last of the race of Scottish family fools—a class of beings which the author of Waverley has rendered so familiar to every one by his picture of ” Daft Davie Gellatly.” Jamie differed from his brethren and ancestors in this, that whereas the great majority of them were ” fenyet fules,” he was, in most respects, naturally what he appeared to be, and by chance fell into the very situation in which he was capable of acting a conspicuous part.

Pratt believed a fool’s character was partly real and partly feigned.

Apart from Walter Scott’s Waverley character of Davie Gellatley, Fleeman got a mention in Bram Stoker’s, Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories:

‘Na! Na!’ came the answer, ’there is nae sic another fule in these parts. Nor has there been since the time o’ Jamie Fleeman–him that was fule to the Laird o’ Udny. Why, mon! sic a heathenish dress as ye have on till ye has nae been seen in these pairts within the memory o’ mon. An’ I’m thinkin’ that sic a dress never was for sittin’ on the cauld rock, as ye done beyont. Mon! but do ye no fear the rheumatism or the lumbagy wi’ floppin’ doon on to the cauld stanes wi’ yer bare flesh? I was thinking that it was daft ye waur when I see ye the mornin’ doon be the port, but it’s fule or eediot ye maun be for the like o’ thot!’

(Bram Stoker, Crooken Sands)

Caught on the road in the cold and torrential rain one day in 1778 Jamie Fleeman became feverish and in his desperation to find shelter he broke into a barn at Little Ardiffery at Cruden injuring himself in the process. He was patched up and set-off the eight miles to his home at Longside. Normally he would have covered this distance in no time but because of his injury and the sickness that had struck him he took a whole day to get back home. Two days later the Laird o’ Udny’s feel was deid.

Born in 1713 at a croft at Longside near Peterhead Jamie died not so far away at Kinmundy, in 1778. There hasn’t been a published volume of his wit and wisdom but from accounts he did have a way with words and wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions. As a young man his quick wit was noticed by many but it didn’t earn him riches. He was listed as a pauper in the Statistical Account for Longside.

Nearly a century later, in 1861 a tombstone was erected to Jamie Fleeman, the Laird of Udny’s fool when funds were raised in the northeast of Scotland by those who thought it wrong Jamie was buried in an unmarked grave – normal for very poor people. The stone was sculpted by George Donaldson of Aberdeen and inscribed –

Erected in 1861, to indicated the grave of Jamie Fleeman,
in answer to his prayer, “Dinna bury me like a beast.”

220px-jamie_fleemans_grave_longside_-_geograph-org-uk_-_261867Reporters at Aberdeen Journal were sniffy about erecting a memorial to a simple pauper and suggested to readers the money raised should have gone to repair the tablet over the grave of the Rev. Mr Skinner, author of Tulloch-gorum.

The decline of the European court clown was slow in coming given they were still around in the nineteenth century but by then they were uncommon. Shemus Anderson was one of the last of them. He worked for the Bowes-Lyons some of you might know as the Queen Mother’s family – and the last to own a full-time jester in Scotland.

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Jamie Fleeman’s brother is thought to have died on HMS Serapis. This ship fought against the rebels in the American Revolutionary War before being used as a pirate ship by the French. I don’t know when Jamie’s brother was killed – it may have been when the ship exchanged fire with an American ship under command of John Paul Jones. The Serapis was subsequently taken by the Americans then transferred to France and eventually lost following an accidental fire off Madagascar that involved a huge explosion.

Incidentally Fleming is the Anglicised equivalent is Fleeman.

The Life and Death of Jamie Fleeming: the Laird of Udny’s fool. by John Burnett Pratt was published by Lewis and James Smith in Aberdeen in 1859

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/640914.html

*James VI or James I, as colonists know him.