« PreviousContinue »
Linlithgow. The authorities on which reliance can be placed for information regarding the battle or "Field," as it was called, of Langside, are neither weighty nor very informing. No letter or despatch from the Regent regarding the encounter is known to exist. The "Memoirs of Melvill" and the "Diurnal," published by the Maitland Club, as well as the "Herries' Memoirs," issued by the Abbotsford Club, although each in their way pretending to the authority of observers or actors concerned in the events narrated, have all had their accuracy questioned. Among the Scottish documents in the State Paper Office, London, is a printed "Advertisement of the Conflict in Scotland," bearing date three days after the engagement; but it is brief, and otherwise imperfect through decay. On only one point are all agreed that the encounter lasted only a short time, not many minutes over halfan-hour. It was long enough, however, to check, if not dispel, any notion Queen Mary might have indulged in of again ascending the throne of her ancestors. Wrung in spirit by disappointment, yet resolute as any Guise of them all, she turned hastily from her exposed resting-place to urge her horse southward, accompanied by a few valued friends like Herries, Melvill, Fleming, and Livingstone, not forgetting even in her grief the page "prettie" George Douglas. Her route and destination on the evening of that day are still matters of conjecture. Historians have said Dundrennan Abbey, near Kirkcudbright. Herries writes of a halt as being made at Sanquhar before proceeding to his own house at Terregles, not far from Dumfries, but on the Galloway side of the Nith. Mary herself, in the pathetic letter to Elizabeth, written from Workington, Cumberland, three days after the battle, says she rode sixty miles across country the first day :-"It is," she writes with touching simplicity, "my earnest request that your Majesty will send for me as soon as possible, for my condition is pitiable, not to say for a Queen, but even for a simple gentlewoman. I have no other dress than that in which I escaped from the field. My first day's ride was sixty miles across the country; and I have not since dared to travel except by night." Sixty miles agrees better with the Herries narrative than any other theory, and it may be that Sanquhar was the first place halted at, and reached by routes not known now, but roughly
marked out by the present road leading through East Kilbride, Strathaven, and Douglas, from which Sanquhar is distant only about twelve miles. Dundrennan could be easily reached the second day from Lord Herries's residence at Terregles, and beyond Dundrennan the Queen's movements can be traced almost daily during the long years of imprisonment which followed on carrying out the ill-advised scheme of submitting her troubles to the gracious consideration of her "Sister" Elizabeth, of England. The Regent, on returning to Glasgow with his forces, received a warm welcome from the inhabitants, attended a special thanksgiving service in the Cathedral, and was afterwards entertained by the Magistrates. Besides renewing or extending former privileges enjoyed by certain crafts, the Regent, before leaving the City, and in consideration of the uncommon exertions made by the bakers, to supply bread to the troops, working as they did not only in the mills but in their own houses, gave them a grant of what was known as the Archbishop's mill at Partick, which had then become the property of the Crown, and also a piece of land adjoining, annexed to the Royalty of Glasgow in the first session of the first Parliament of Charles II.
AUCHINLECK AND THE BOSWELLS.
LYING almost longitudinally across mid Ayrshire, but slightly to the east or Lanark side of the country, the little strip of Auchinleck parish appears as if likely to be crushed down on Cumnock by Sorn, were it not for the soft mossy barrier which "serves it in the office of a wall, or moat defensive." This dreary upland waste, bleak and barren in itself, is yet classic as Marathon to the descendants of those who there contended to the death for religious liberty. Beginning about a mile and a half east by north-east of Auchinleck village, this battle-ground of the Covenant extends nearly six miles north-eastward towards the course of Ayr Water,
a small portion projecting into Muirkirk parish as a boundary on the east, and corresponding so far with the sinuous division made by "winding Lugar," which divides the west point of Auchinleck from Ochiltree, and most of the south from Cumnock. Poor, cold, and thin, even as pasture land, the Lugar in modern days may be looked upon as another Pison compassing treasures beneath the surface more precious than the gold of Havilah. Nor is the parish quite without antiquarian remains of interest, as within its bounds stand the ruined Castle of Kyle, a few miles south-east of the village; and within Auchinleck policies there is what remains of the Boswell's ancient family "keep," along the mouldering walls of which Dr. Johnson himself clambered. Auchinleck (the "Affleck" of natives and neighbours) may claim even a slight additional literary distinction, in so far as it is the birth-place of that keen controversial Protestant, William M'Gavin, and of the smooth-flowing, if somewhat colourless, essayist and divine, “A. K. H. B." Cameron fell on its dark heath, and Peden, after innumerable escapes, was laid in the churchyard, but not before visiting his young friend's lonely grave in the moss, where he knelt and prayed fervently, while "Oh ! to be wi' Ritchie" was "still his bitter cry." To the shame of any Government, except the shameless Government of Charles, the remains of the brave old Covenanter, whom Providence had permitted to breathe his last, concealed in the house of "one of his own people," were disinterred, removed to Old Cumnock, and flung with ignominy into a pit beneath the public gallows.
In the first years of the sixteenth century the lands of Auchinleck, corresponding, it may be presumed, with something like the present parish boundaries, as two-thirds of its rental still remain in the Boswell family, was granted by James IV. to Thomas Boswell, of the Balmuto line, who had married a daughter and coheiress of Sir John Auchinleck of that ilk. The early history of the land or family is not necessary to be set forth here. Exactly 200 years after Auchinleck had passed to the Boswells, or in 1704, the James Boswell of the day, a lawyer of some eminence, married Lady Elizabeth Bruce, daughter of Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine, by whom, besides other children, he had an heir and
successor, Alexander, who was trained for the bar, and admitted advocate 29th December, 1729. He acted for two years as Sheriff-Depute of the county of Wigtown, but resigned in 1750; and on the resignation of David Erskine, of Duns, in 1754, was elevated to the bench as Lord Auchinleck. On the death of Hew Dalrymple of Drummore, a few months later, he was nominated a Lord of Justiciary. He resigned the latter appointment in 1780, but retained the former till his death, which took place on 25th August, 1782, in the seventy-sixth year of his age. This old gentleman seems to have experienced no greater grief in the world than that his son should have become the companion of Dr. Johnson. “There's nae hope for Jamie, mon," the Judge said to a friend, "Jamie is gaen clean gyte. What do you think, mon? He's done wi' Paoli-he's aff wi' the land-louping scoundrel of a Corsican; and whose tail do you think he has pinned himsel' to now, mon?" Here old Auchinleck summoned up a sneer of most sovereign contempt. "A dominie, mon-an auld dominie; he keeped a schule, and cau'd it an academy." When Johnson was at Auchinleck the conversation one evening became more than usually animated between the Covenanting Judge and his Tory guest. "And pray," the latter asked, "what good did Cromwell ever do to his country ?" "God, doctor! he gart Kings ken they had a lith (joint) in their neck." The Judge and his son appear to have been two very different men, the one being solid, composed, and slow; the other vain, frivolous, and volatile. Riding together one day James appeared impatient to get on a little faster, "for," said he, "it is not the exercise that fatigues me, but the hinging upon a beast." "What's the matter, mon," his father replied, "What's the matter, mon, how a chield hings, if he dinna hing upon a gallows?" Lord Auchinleck died 25th August, 1782, aged 76. Towards the later years of his life (or about 1771), he pulled down the old family mansion, and built a new, elegant, and comfortable residence.
James Boswell, son and heir of Lord Auchinleck, and author of one of the most esteemed biographies in the English language, was born in 1740, studied at Glasgow and Utrecht for the bar, and passed advocate 1766. Visiting London in
1763, he made the acquaintance of Johnson at the hospitable table of Mr. Dilly, and though they were never together so long nor so frequently as might be inferred from the "Life," Boswell, in spite of his many frailties, and probably in a great measure because of these frailties, was able to make such good use of his opportunities as to cause all readers to be thankful that one so prone to talk as Johnson, and who talked so well, should have been brought into close contact with one so zealous and able to record. But Boswell did more than record. He suggested and planned for Johnson schemes which Johnson himself would never have thought of, or, if thought of, would have been cast aside through his habitual or rather constitutional indolence. But for Boswell, who suggested the whole project, and accompanied his friend from first to last, there would have been no "Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland," where as a denizen of Fleet Street the sage saw so much that was "surprising in modes of life and appearances of nature." In Boswell he admits to have found "a companion whose acuteness would help his inquiry, and whose gaiety of conversation and civility of manners were sufficient to counteract the inconveniences of travel in countries less hospitable than those through which they passed." To have earned such praise, Boswell must have been something more than a mere fussy, obsequious gossip, the meanest and the feeblest of mankind-" a fellow," the Doctor said, in one of his cross moods, "who missed his only chance of immortality by not being alive when the 'Dunciad' was written." That he was indolent there is other evidence besides his own excessively frank and frequent confessions. Through various causes not necessary to explain here, the casual introduction at Dilly's table began to ripen so soon into close friendship that Johnson that very season insisted on accompanying Boswell as far as Harwich, from which he was to proceed to Utrecht for the purpose of continuing his law studies. A lady passenger with them spoke of never permitting her children to be idle. Johnson replied "I wish, madam, you would educate me, too, for I have been an idle fellow all my life." On her rejoining that she was sure he had not been idle, he resumed, "Nay, madam, it is very true; and that gentleman there (pointing to Boswell) has been idle. He was idle at Edinburgh; his father sent