[Heroines of Scotland Contents]
It fell on a day, and a bonnie summer day,
When the corn grew green and yellow,
That there fell out a great dispute
Between Argyle and Airlie.
– Old Ballad.
ROBABLY few of our old Scottish ballads are better known throughout the land of their birth than “The Bonnie House o’ Airlie,” which commemorates a remarkable episode in the great civil war of the seventeenth century. This ballad, however, while based on historic fact, sets it out in so confused a fashion that doubtless we will interest the reader by recounting and elucidating the actual incidents, as well as by adducing another and still more striking example of female heroism in the Airlie family during the same distracted times.
The Ogilvies of Airlie are descended from Gilchrist, the first Earl of Angus, whose progenitors were Pictish Mormaers or rulers of that province. Gilchrist was succeeded by his son Gillibride as second Earl, whose third son, Gilbert, obtained from King William the Lion a charter of the lands of Powrie, Ogilvie, and Kyneithin, in the parish of Glammis – that is, the lands known as the Glen of Ogilvie, from which the granter adopted his surname. It was the Lintrathen branch of the Ogilvies that gained the Lordship of Airlie. In 1432 Sir Walter Ogilvie, who had acquired Lintrathen and Airlie, obtained license from James I. to erect a tower or castle on the latter lands. The builder’s grandson, Sir James Ogilvie, a man of worth, who did both Court and country good service, was ennobled by James IV. in 1491, under the title of Lord Ogilvie of Airlie. In direct descent from him was James, the seventh Lord, a cavalier of the highest strain, who “for his own great merit and eminent services done to King Charles I., and for the great loyalty and fidelity of his ancestors,” was raised by that unfortunate Sovereign, under letters patent dated at York, 2d April 1639, to the dignity of Earl of Airlie, Alyth, and Lintrathen. His Countess was Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, second daughter of the first Earl of Haddington, the famous “Tam o’ the Cowgate,” the favourite counsellor of James VI. Three sons and a daughter came of this marriage, the eldest son being James, Master of Ogilvie, of whom we have much to say.
According to the family tradition, the Master became enamoured of Lady Magdalen Carnegie, the youngest of the six daughters of David, first Earl of Southesk, and his affection was returned, but a silly omen, a “trifle light as air,” parted the lovers for ever. One morning the Master mounted his steed to ride to Kinnaird Castle, and formally ask the fair Magdalene’s hand of her father. But when he was about to cross the intervening river his horse shied and backed, and despite a free use of the spur would on no account enter the water. Ogilvie paused, and, in the superstitious spirit of the age, deeming this a bad omen, returned the way he came, and abandoned his matrimonial designs as regarded Magdalene. When she became aware of her suitor’s change of mind she was much downcast, but her father cheered her with the assurance that “he would soon find her a better husband than Ogilvie.” Thus far the tradition. The better husband was found in the person of the young Earl of Montrose, the future hero of the wars of the Covenant. He and Magdalene were married in Kinnaird Kirk on 10th November 1629. She bore three sons, but died shortly after the birth of the third, and before the tempest of war burst over Scotland.
The Master of Ogilvie wooed and wedded his kinswoman, Helen, only daughter of Sir George Ogilvie of Dunlugus, afterwards created Lord Banff. The marriage took place some time prior to 1635, as on the 18th July that year a Crown Charter was granted to Lord Ogilvie in liferent, and to his eldest son James, and Helen, his spouse, in fee, of the barony of Lintrathen, in the shire of Forfar. A son and daughter were born of this union.
When the commotions of the Covenant arose, the Ogilvies of Airlie avouched themselves staunch supporters of Charles I., who, as already said, rewarded their loyalty by the bestowal of the earldom; and in accordance with their armorial motto, A Fin (To the End), they never swerved from their allegiance although it was severely tested. In the beginning of the summer of 1640 a new Scottish army was mustered to invade England; and the Earl of Airlie, fearing that (as honest John Spalding states in his History of the Troubles) that “he should be pressed to subscribe the Covenant whether he would or not,” withdrew from Scotland to attend on the King. In all likelihood he was accompanied in his flight by his Countess and their two youngest sons and only daughter. Their eldest son, now Lord Ogilvie, was left in keeping of Airlie Castle, as well as of the Castle of Fortour, north in Glenisla, which was his own seat. It seems that he had a good garrison in Airlie, and that his lady, who was in a weak condition, abode in Fortour, for the sale of quiet retirement, which however, to her sorrow, was soon rudely broken.
As soon as Lord Airlie’s flight was known, the Scottish Committee of Estates, professing alarm lest when their army crossed the Border the Northern royalists, especially those in Athole and Angus, should raise their heads, determined on speedy measures to bring them under subjection, and therefore appointed the Earls of Montrose and Kinghorn as commanders of an armed force, furnished with “Cartows” or battering cannon, to march to Airlie Castle and seize it for the public interest. This was in the month of June.
Airlie Castle was founded on the summit of the rocky promontory, more than 100 feet in height, at the junction of the river Melgum with the Isla. It was accessible only on the South side, where the rock joins the land, and which the Castle faced: but the front was defended by a deep ditch, 30 feet wide, which was crossed by a drawbridge, and behind was a wall, 35 feet high and 10 feet in thickness. Such a fortress, strong by nature, offered scanty facilities for successful attack, even though battering artillery were brought against it. When the two Earls with their troops arrived they doubtless saw the difficulties of the task which had been assigned to them. The draw-bridge was up, cannons were mounted on the wall and battlement, and it was well enough known that the place was sufficiently stored to stand a siege. The Earls sent forward a message to Lord Ogilvie requiring him to surrender. His answer (as Spalding states it) was to the effect that “his father was absent, and he left no such commission with him as to render his house to any subjects, and that he would defend the same to his power till his father returned from England.” This defiance put the Earls to their mettle. They had recourse to their “cartows,” and discharged some rounds at the fortress; but the fire was vigorously returned, and it was soon apparent that, unless after a prolonged siege, attended with considerable loss of life, the Castle was “unwinnable.” The Earls, deeming discretion the better part of valour, drew off their men, and Montrose hastened to join the Covenanting army on the Border.
Notwithstanding this failure, the Committee of Estates were none the less resolved to crush the Royalist spirit in the North, where the Earl of Athole was making head; consequently the Earl of Argyll, who had not gone with the army to the Border, as it was considered that he would be better employed at home, was empowered to embody 5000 men from his own domains in the West Highlands, and do this work out of hand. The Campbells gathered at the call, and were provided with some pieces of artillery. In July, Argyll, at the head of his little army, marched to Glenlyon, where he found that the Earl of Athole had assembled about 1200 armed Highlanders, who were advantageously posted on the opposite bank of the Lyon river. Gillespic Gruamach (as Argyll was nicknamed in the North from his obliquity of vision), though the superiority in numbers was on his side, had no stomach for a fight, but possessed ample capacity for the exercise of craft. He opened communication with the enemy, and, inveigling Athole and the other leaders into his camp, made them prisoners, and escorted them to Balloch Castle, where Taymouth now stands. Next day they were sent to Stirling, and afterwards to Edinburgh, where they underwent a brief imprisonment in the Castle, which ended in their being released upon sufficient caution.
Having dissipated the danger in Athole, the crafty Earl turned down Strathtay, leading his men “by the back o’ bonny Dunkeld” towards Angus, his destination being the Castle of Airlie. Lord Ogilvie had repelled the attack in June; but now, from some unexplained cause, he regarded the approach of Argyll with so much apprehension that he and his retainers precipitately abandoned the fortress. We cannot tell whither he retreated; but this we know, that his lady was left in Fortour, where she was destined soon to bear the brunt of attack. Her children seem to have been carried to some place of greater safety; but she herself was in very delicate health, and unable to bear the fatigue of a hasty journey, being, it so happened, near her confinement, and therefore she was necessitated to abide in Fortour, probably expecting that under the circumstances she would be unmolested.
Argyll took possession of Airlie Castle, and pitched his camp in the vicinity. What was he to make of his easy acquisition? There was an old feud between the Ogilvies and the Campbells, which, of course, was aggravated by the political antagonisms of the time. The castle was strong, and might return into Royalist keeping, and, moreover, as Gordon of Rothiemay says, Argyll thought that it stood too near “the Campbell lands, for the Ogilvies have lands upon one side of Isla river and the Campbells upon the other side.” Apparently for one or other or all of these reasons, the Covenanting Earl resolved to destroy the fortress. It was first plundered of everything that was removable, and then the work of demolition began. “Argyll,” says Rothiemay, “wrought with his own hands till he did sweat, knocking down the doorposts and headstone of Airlie Castle.” Fire was then set to the ancient strength, which soon became a mass of ruins. Meanwhile parties of the Campbells dispersed themselves over the Ogilvie lands, and ravaged at will, loading themselves with booty, and leaving the country, where “the corn grew green and early,” almost a desert.
Notwithstanding this devastation Lady Ogilvie still abode in Fortour Castle. Argyll did not personally approach it, but he was determined that it should not be spared, although it was only the residence of a noble matron. On the eve of his departure from Airlie, with the main body of his men, he delegated the duty of attack to one of his chief followers, Dougall Campbell, younger of Inverawe, who seems to have conducted the plundering of the country; and the order was given by the following letter:-
“Dougall, – I mind, God-willing, to lift from this the morrow, and therefore you shall meet me the morrow at night at Stronarnot in Strathardle: and cause bring alongst with you the haill nolt and sheepe that you have found pertaining to my Lord Ogilvie. As for the horse and mares that you have gotten pertaining to him, you shall not fail to direct them home to the Stranemoor. I desire not that they be in our way at all, and to send them the nearest way home. And albeit, you should be the longer in following me, yet you shall not fail to stay and demolish my Lord Ogilvie’s house of Forthar. See how you can cast off the iron yetts and windows, and take down the roof; and if you find it will be langsome you shall fire it well, so that it may be destroyed. But you need not to let know that you have any directions from me to fire it; only you may say that you have a warrant to demolish it, and that to make the work short you will fire it. If you make any stay for doing of this send forward the goods. So referring this to your care, I rest, your friend,
“You shall have for your pains of that beis sent hame. You shall deliver back to Bob Greer such of his goods as are not sufficient for present use, and thir presents shall be your warrant,
“For Dougall Campbell, fiar of Inverawe.”
Inverawe was not slack in his obedience. He marched to Fortour, and sent in an imperative command to surrender. Though her retainers were few and her means of defence slight, Lady Ogilvie gave a blunt and indignant refusal, vowing that rather than yield her house to the clansman of Argyll she would perish in its ruins. Inverawe responded that such would be her fate if she did not comply with the summons, and he would not waste time chaffering with her. Sorely against her will, but quite convinced that the place could not resist assault, the lady submitted to the inevitable, and threw open her gate. The Campbells took possession of the castle, and proceeded to hunt everywhere for spoil, which, however, turned out to be small in amount, disappointing their expectations.
“Where is your dowry, lady?” demanded Inverawe, meaning her jewels and trinkets, of which it was known she had good store, but none of which had yet been discovered within the castle.
“Seek for aught you want,” answered she, disdainfully. “But, if my good lord had been here, not a Campbell of your clan would have passed my gate on such an errand.”
“I have heard from sure hands that your valuables have been hidden in the earth somewhere near the Castle,” said Inverawe.
“Then let those sure hands unearth what they say is buried,” returned the lady, with an air of scoffing unconcern.
But the “sure hands” were not there to do so; and the servants were strictly interrogated, with no result. Inverawe, however, was not to be thrown off his quest. He and part of his men set about a keen scrutiny of the grounds, in hopes of finding traces of recent digging; and at length their industry was rewarded by the discovery of indications that the soil had been disturbed near the root of an old plum tree in the bowling-green of the Castle. Immediately pickaxe and mattock were set to work, and in a short space the energetic labours brought to light an iron-bound casket, which on being broken open disclosed the jewels. The eyes of Inverawe glistened at the sight, and bitterly did he taunt the lady with her loss; but she still maintained an unmoved and defiant demeanour, warning the despoiler that a day of retribution might come. She was then driven forth from the Castle, and Inverawe, it is asserted, issued peremptory orders prohibiting anybody to afford her shelter! Rothiemay says “she knew not what way to go,” and nobody would receive her under a roof. In this distress her grandmother, “Dame Marion Douglas, old Lady Drum, sent to Argyll, and demanded license of him for to take in her grandchild, the Lady Ogilvie, to lie in at her house of Kelly; but the Earl of Argyll, though their blood-friend, did forbid it; so that the Lady Drum, without his license, took her into her house in all hazard.” Truly those were hard times!
Fortour Castle was now devoted to destruction. There is a tradition of the district that the Campbells kept possession of it for several months before they destroyed it; but this, we should say, is inconsistent with the cognate facts. We may be sure that Inverawe was diligent in securing the “iron gates and windows” and all other removable effects, and also in tearing down the roof; but he found the process of demolition so tedious and “langsome” that he was obliged to resort to fire; and thus Fortour shared the fate of Airlie.
Leaving the smoking ruins, Inverawe led his Campbells on another incendiary mission. His mark was the house of Craig, also in Glenisla, the seat of Sir John Ogilvie, cousin of Lord Airlie. The only inmates of the place happened to be an invalid lady and some servants, whom Inverawe hesitated to disturb, and therefore he sent to Argyll, stating that the house was of no such strength as to render its demolition necessary. But the answer was that it must be destroyed, and the order was obeyed.
Meanwhile what was become of Lord Ogilvie? He seems to have fled to England; and not until the year 1644 is he again heard of. He followed Montrose when that noble, having forsaken the cause of the Covenant, accepted the King’s commission and hastened to Scotland to head a rising of the Royalist Clans. While Montrose with his Highland levies was about to swoop down upon the lowlands from the Braes of Athole, he employed Lord Ogilvie to carry despatches to King Charles. Ogilvie, well-disguised, passed safely into England; but the bruit was out against him, and he was taken near Hull by Colonel Shuttleworth, a young Parliamentarian officer, who thereupon claimed the reward of £1000 which had been offered by the Scottish Government for the capture, but whether it was ever paid is uncertain. The prisoner was sent to Scotland, and committed to Edinburgh Castle, where he lay for about a year.
During that year great things were done in Scotland. The domination of the Covenant was overthrown by the victories of Montrose. After the battle of Tibbermuir he was joined by the Earl of Airlie – then between sixty and seventy years of age – and his two younger sons, Sir Thomas and Sir David, with all their following, chiefly horsemen. Father and sons fought at Inverlochy, where the Campbells met with a bloody defeat; and it is said that when the old Earl beheld Argyll’s Castle given to the flames, which reddened the dark waters of Loch Eil, he exclaimed that “a spark from the burning of Airlie had kindled the blaze of Inverlochy.” But at the close of the battle Sir Thomas Ogilvie was mortally wounded by a bullet in the thigh, and he died on the way while the army was marching to Badenoch. Bishop Wishart passes a high eulogium on him:- “From the beginning of the Scots war he had adhered closely to Montrose, by whom he was in a particular manner beloved. Besides his reputation in a military capacity, he was likewise well versed in the sciences, and was in every respect an additional honour and grace to the anceint family of the Ogilvies. As he was a main instrument in obtaining the victory, his death was answerable to the great character he had acquired, thus falling in the defence of his king and country.”
At the battle of Kilsyth the Earl of Airlie, who was but newly recovered from a fever, led his squadron of horse in an impetuous charge on the Covenanting cavalry, which considerably helped to decide the fortune of the day. Tradition relates that when the victory was gained, “a Covenanter” rushed up to the Earl “an earnestly beseeched to be admitted to mercy.” The venerable old nobleman granted his request, and desired him, for his own security, to attach himself to his stirrup, and so pass for his servant. But one of the Earl’s troop immediately after came up, suspected the real quality of the pretended servant, and, only remarking that it was too soon to take prisoners, cut him down with one blow of his sword.” Such were the barbarous usages of the civil war! Kilsyth rendered Montrose supreme in Scotland. He advanced to Edinburgh, and released Lord Ogilvie and other friends from their durance in the Castle. But in truth it was only the semblance of power that Montrose now grasped. All the fruits of his victories were dissipated by his fatal surprisal at Philiphaugh on the misty September morning of 1645. Amongst the Royalists of note who were seized there by David Leslie’s cavalry were Lord Ogilvie and his kinsman, Alexander, eldest son of Sir John Ogilvie of Inverquharity, “a youth of scarce eighteen years of age, lately come from the schools.”
Lord Ogilvie and some others were ultimately carried to St. Andrews, and immured in Cardinal Beaton’s Castle, preparatory to being tried for their lives as traitors to the ruling powers in the country. But previous to their arraignment young Inverquharity and two of his compatriots were executed at the Cross of Glasgow. The Scottish Parliament assembled at St. Andrews on 26th November 1645, and invested a Committee of their body with the function of Judges to try the Royalist prisoners: while the “Maiden,” the Scottish guillotine, was brought from Edinburgh to perform its dread work. The tribunal, before which the Earl of Hartfell and Lord Ogilvie were tried, was held in what has been subsequently known as the Parliament Hall of the University Library. They were both condemned to be beheaded at the cross of St. Andrews; but, by a singular combination of circumstances, neither of them underwent that sentence. It was Ogilvie’s fate to be rescued through a noble trait of female heroism, which, as we shall see, was repeatedly rivalled in after times.
Confined in Cardinal Beaton’s half-ruinous stronghold (but not in George Wishart’s bottle-shaped dungeon), and closely guarded by soldiers, Ogilvie seemed to have his last hope cut off. Neither pity nor mercy could be expected from Argyll, who was his mortal enemy; but there were one or two others of the Covenanting nobles who commiserated Ogilvie’s doom – the Hamiltons, to whom he was of kin on the mother’s side, and Lord Lindsay, who was his cousin. They, it appears, devised a stratagem for his escape – the initiatory steps of which were to be his feigning heavy sickness, and petitioning that his mother, his lady, and his sister Helen might be permitted to visit him. His request was granted, though grudgingly, and only by the influence of the friends already named. As for Hartfell, nobody lifted a finger on his behalf. In fact, the Hamiltons hated him, and were eager that he should suffer.
On a winter’s afternoon, when the last rays of the setting sun tipped with fire the ruined towers of the ancient archiepiscopal city, and the keen blast covered the waters of the bay with foam, lashing the billows against the rocky shores, the three ladies were admitted into the Castle, and led to Ogilvie’s cell, where he lay in bed. “Harsh on its sullen hinge grates the dread door.” Out of deference to the rank and affliction of the visitors, the guards withdrew, thereby allowing free intercourse with the prisoner. It was an agitated meeting – love and fear and hope struggling in every breast. While the shades of night gathered in the cold, vaulted cell, and the sea-breeze moaned and blustered at the grated window, the ladies unfolded every detail of the arrangements they had made for the attempt to escape – an attempt, however, which was to compromise the liberty, and might imperil the life of the fair and adventurous Helen Ogilvie. It was grievous to her brother that his safety should be secured by involving her in danger; but this was the dernier ressort – his last chance to elude the heading-knife at the Cross, and she was ready and anxious to run all hazards. As it grew dark a soldier brought in a light, and intimated that the ladies must retire at eight o’clock. This gave leisure for full consultation, yet the hours sped swiftly in the midst of keen anxiety and sorrow.
When the parting time approached Lord Ogilvie arrayed himself in his sister’s upper garments, including her cloak, the hood of which, if drawn down as she wore it on coming in, would conceal his features. The disguise was perfect, for his sister and he were about the same height and similar in figure. She, putting his nightcap on her head over her flowing locks, assumed his place in the bed, and now came the crisis of fate. Measured footsteps were heard without, and the cell door opened, letting in the smoky glare of torches carried by the guards, who, seeing the captive’s pallet occupied as usual, had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong. Affecting to sob and weep, and holding their handkerchiefs to their eyes, the two ladies and the disguised Lord quitted the cell with seeming reluctance, and were respectfully escorted out of the Castle. With what inexpressible feelings of relief did they step forth from the grim portal which martyrs aforetime had passed on the way to the stake! With what delight did they behold the gloomy heavens, through which thick clouds from the sea were scudding inland, and hear the whistle of the blast and the roar of the waves, and inhale the air of freedom that inspired hope! They had “deceived the Senate.” Favoured by the darkness, they hastened to a place where two cavalier friends were waiting with three horses, saddled and bridled, and a proper suit for Lord Ogilvie. There was a hasty farewell. The fugitive and his comrades mounted their steeds, and galloped off “over bank, bush, and scaur;” and the morning light found them on board a bark bound for France.
Imagine the consternation and rage in the Castle of St. Andrews when the well-planned escape was discovered in the morning! At the first burst the ladies were menaced with condign vengeance; and, indeed, affairs looked as if Helen Ogilvie would pay the penalty with her life. But Lindsay and the Hamiltons – “with whose privacy and connivance,” as Wishart say, “it was generally thought this whole matter had been conducted” – fortunately succeeded in mollifying the wrath of their confederates. Helen was liberated, and neither she nor her friends suffered any harm. Moreover, lucky was it for the Earl of Hartfell that his brother-noble had regained freedom, for Argyll, who justly suspected that Ogilvie owed his escape to the Hamiltons, resolved on frustrating their desire to send the Earl to the “Maiden,” and by his all-potent influence induced the Parliament to grant him a pardon.
The Airlies now disappear from history for some years. They had no part in the last expedition of Montrose, who, in the spring of 1650, landed in the Orkneys from Gottenburg with a meagre force of Danish troops, and bearing an ample commission from Charles II. to levy war against the Covenanting Government, notwithstanding that at this very juncture the exiled Prince was treating with their Commissioners for his restoration to the throne of Scotland. The invaders sailed over to the mainland, and disembanked on the Caithness shore near John o’ Groat’s House. But Montrose’s expectations of raising the country in arms for the Royal cause were utterly disappointed, and in marching forward he was but hastening the hour of his final discomfiture. At Corbiesdale, near Invercarron, on the 27th April, he was surprised, as at Philiphaugh, by the Covenanting cavalry under Colonel Strachan, and the foreign bands and forced levies were easily dispersed. Montrose fled to the hills, and wandered about in peasant’s garb for days, enduring the pangs of hunger, until he ventured to discover himself to Macleod of Assynt, who gave him up to his enemies. The illustrious prisoner, bearing several wounds and still clad in miserable habiliments, was led southwards under a strong guard, by whom he was exposed to all the insult and obloquy that they could inflict. We only notice this memorable episode in the Civil War because of the generous efforts of two Scottish ladies to effect Montrose’s escape.
Reaching the parish of Chapel-Garioch, in Aberdeenshire, the party halted for a night at the old mansion-house of Pitcaple, the seat of John Leslie, who was distantly connected with the Grahams, though he sided with the ruling powers. But his good dame, being grieved to behold the pitiable condition of the “great Marquis,” determined to exert herself in his behalf. He was confined in the strongest room of the house, which has since been called “Montrose’s Room.” There the lady visited him, and to his surprise touched a secret spring in the lower part of the wall, causing a sliding panel to sink and disclose an aperture, dark as a wolf’s throat, and somewhat of the form and size of a chimney-vent, descending from the level of the floor.
“This,” she said, “given access to a subterranean passage leading to an outlet at the back of the house, closed with loose stones and hidden by bushes, through which you will have no difficulty in reaching the open air; and Strachan will not find out his loss till morning. Go, and fortune speed you!”
Montrose looked at the darksome opening – mused for a moment, and then shook his head. “Nay, dear madam,” he answered. “I thank you heartily, but rather than venture down that dark hole, and perhaps be smothered, I will take the chance of what awaits me at Edinburgh.”
Lady Pitcaple had done her best at her own peril: he was not to be persuaded, and she could do no more.
“Onwards, always onwards, the dreary pageant laboured,” and on approaching Dundee, which had been stormed and plundered by Montrose’s troops during the war of 1645, the party quartered themselves in the Castle of Grange at Monifieth, close to the broad estuary of the Tay. The Castle belonged to Kames Durham of Grange and Ardounie, who was a zealous Covenanter; but his spouse, Margaret Scott, daughter of the Laird of Brotherton, felt towards the captive the like feelings as the good dame of Pitcaple, and secretly set herself to rescue him out of the hands of his enemies.
The Marquis was lodged in a chamber communicating directly with the hall of the Castle, which was occupied by the main guard. As night advanced Lady Grange proceeded to serve the soldiers indiscriminately with store of good liquor. According to the Memorie of the Somervilles – a contemporary family chronicle – “she ordered her butler to let the soldiers want for no drink, while she herself, out of respect and kindness, as she pretended, plied hard the officers and soldiers of the main guard (which was kept in her own hall) with the strongest of ale and aquavitæ, so that before midnight all of them – being for the most part Highlandmen of Lawers’ regiment – became stark drunk,” and in a short while fell down on the floor and lay “like swine on a midden.” Thus far all augured well.
Lady Grange waited until every one of the soldiers was drowned in sleep and the hall resounded with heavy snoring. No eye saw her as, with one of her own dresses over her arm, she picked her way deftly among the recumbent votaries of John Barleycorn, and entered the prisoner’s chamber. She hurriedly explained her design, of which he approved. He arrayed himself in the feminine attire, and thus followed her into the hall, which they crossed without causing the slightest alarm; and in like manner they passed the outer door, where two sentinels, overcome with drink, were stretched helpless. But at the Castle gate unexpectedly appeared another soldier, who had deserted his post at a little distance, and was coming in to see if any of the good cheer in the hall still remained for him to share. The man was partly intoxicated, but had most of his wits about him, and, encountering the two female figures, he jocosely seized the one whom he supposed to be the lady’s servant, and in so doing discovered that he had his arms around Montrose. “ ‘Twas destiny unshunnable, like death.” The alarm was given, the drunken guards were aroused, and the prisoner was dragged back to his room.
Colonel Strachan, in great fury, commanded the arrest of the Laird of grange and his wife and all the servants, threatening them with immediate death by rope or bullet. In vain the Laird protested his innocence of any plot. Strachan, with doubtless a good deal of the fumes of drink in his head, breathed out nothing but vengeance. The lady, however, withstood him firmly. She avowed that she alone was answerable, her husband and her household knowing nothing of what she had been about. “I am the sole contriver of the attempt, and the only one concerned in it,” she said. “I glory in what I have done, though heartily grieved that I have failed in setting the Marquis free. On my head, therefore, expend the vials of your wrath.” Her courageous spirit damped Strachan’s choler; and, after some consideration, thinking it better to hush up an affair which reflected so much discredit on his men, he lectured the lady on the enormity of her treason, and then countermanded the arrest.
Next day Montrose was brought into Dundee, where the inhabitants, although they had suffered severely from his raid in 1645, treated him with noble generosity. They had his wounds dressed, and gave him suitable attire, and also a handsome sum of money.
During the government of the Commonwealth in Scotland, the Airlies seem to have lived undisturbed in their own country. The old Earl was now dead. The lands had been forfeited; but by an order, dated at Leith, 24th November 1652, the Commissioners of Confiscated estates allowed to Lady Helen Ogilvie, wife of Lord Airlie, a fifth part of what was received as the rents of his lands. General Monk granted a warrant for examining certain Highlanders suspected of the theft of goods belonging to Lord Airlie from Glenisla, and choosing “some honest and famous men who can speak the Irish (Gaelic) language to be interpreters.” The General also granted a license to Lord Ogilvie and the rest of the gentlemen of the shire of Angus, empowering them to raise a watch of 40 men to preserve the country against rebels. The family, therefore, had been living at peace with the Cromwellian power.
After the Restoration there was some hope of compensation being obtained for the ravage in 1640. Among the family papers is a memorandum sent by the Earl of Airlie to Lord Ogilvie, who was then at the Court of Charles II., desiring him “To use means for obtaining reparation for the losses sustained through the down-throwing of the house of Airlie and plundering the goods therein, also by burning the house of Forther and destroying the plenishing therein, by the late Earl of Argyll and his men.” But it does not appear that any reparation was obtained. the ancient castle of Airlie was never rebuilt, and only some fragments of it still remain in conjunction with the modern mansion erected on the same site.