Friday 5 August 2011

An Anecdote about Bonnie Prince Charlie

Berneray, Harris / Beàrnaraigh na Hearadh
Anecdotes and legendary accounts of Bonnie Prince Charlie were legion in the Western Isles and Alexander Carmichael was particularly fortunate to have collected quite a few of them. Although Carmichael is given rather scant acknowledgement by William Jolly, a school inspector and close friend, in his book Flora MacDonald in Uist: A Study of the Heroine in Her Native Surroundings (1886), it may be assumed with some degree of certainty that Carmichael would have supplied him with as much historical information as he had then to hand. In any case, this short anecdote tells of the Prince in the isle of Harris and his involvement with the Campbell of Srannda. He is said to have stayed, while on the lam, for six nights in Donald MacLeod’s house. Subsequently, or perhaps during the Prince’s visit, the host felt it expedient to make himself scarce and fled for safety to the nearby Cave of Ulladale. This would have been a wise move given that he did not wish himself to be associated with harbouring Public Enemy Number One at least as seen in the eyes of the Hanoverian Government. Nevertheless, MacLeod had clear Jacobite sympathies – he had been out – otherwise the Prince would not have been invited to have stayed in his house. For his trouble in offering such generosity despite the risks involved Berneray house was threatened by Captain Ferguson to be blown to kingdom come, a warning which came via the intermediary of Iain Laith mac ’ic Choinnich (a Campbell). It would seem that such a dire consequence was avoided as the house, it would seem, remained intact. The personalities mentioned were well-known in Jacobite circles: Dòmhnall mac Iain Òig, was Donald MacLeod (1671–1781), perhaps better known as Old Beneray or Old Trojan and Iain Mòr Liath mac ’ic Choinnich was John Campbell. The Captain Ferguson mentioned was a naval officer who originally hailed from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire and more details of his career can be found in John S. Gibson’s Ships of the ’45: The Rescue of the Young Pretender (1967):

Prince Charlie live[d] 6 nights in Don[ald]
Mac Iain oig[’s] ho[use]. Old Bearn[ar]y
fled to Ua[mh] Ulladail Capt[ain] F[e]rg[uson] set
his guns & casks of powder at the
house. Gen[e]r[al] Campbell came
to see Iain mor lia[th] mac
mhic Coinnich (Campbell)
(Strannd) then blind who told him
of their com[in]g & if he blew up Bearn[ar]y
house that he might levy Harris of
all the Camp[bells]. Gen[eral] took Iain lia[th] out
to see the long chog[aidh]. On their arri[val] F[e]rg[uson]
cursed Campbell insolentl[y] what
kept him.

CW90/63, f. 24v.
Berneray, Harris / Beàrnaraigh na Hearadh.


  1. My thanks, for a most enjoyable read!

    Charles MacLeod Stuart
    UK, USA and Canada.

  2. The journals of those who accompanied him in the Isles(the Lyon in Mourning) make no mention of the Prince ever spending time in Donald of Berneray's house.

    Interestingly, descendants of Donald of Galtrigill also claim the Prince spent time in his house - again contemporary accounts(including Galtrigill's) make no mention of this.

    Donald Macleod of Galtrigill was also a Domhnall mac Iain Oig.

  3. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed in the house of Donald Campbell of Scalpay, the Lyon in Mourning records this. Donald Campbell was the Domhnall Mac Iain Og from the anecdote above.

    D K Morrison.


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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]