Mitchell Carroll.

Woman: in all ages and in all countries online

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With all her daring and the romance with which tradi-
tion has surrounded her, she was not, nor does the report
of her times represent her as having been, handsome. In
fact, notwithstanding that the Anglicized form of her given
name is Grace, its real meaning is "the ugly." Her first
husband was an O'Flaherty, the terror of which name is
preserved in the litany of the Anglo-Norman, recalling the
capture of the city of Galway and the surrounding country:
"From the ferocious O'Flaherties, — Good Lord, deliver
us." The same words, as a talisman, were inscribed over
the gate of the city. We know little of the representa-
tive of this family who became the husband of Grainne
O'Malley. Her second husband was Sir Richard Bourke,
of the Mayo division of a great Norman-Irish clan. It was
after contracting this alliance that Grainne O'Malley put
herself under the protection of the English rule in Con-
naught. Sidney, the lord-deputy, referring to his visit to
Galway in 1 576, says: " There came to me a most famous
female sea-captain, called Granny-1-Mallye, and offered
her services to me, wheresoever I would command her,
with three galleys and two hundred fighting men, either in
Ireland or Scotland. She brought with her her husband,
for she was, as well by sea as by land, more than master's
mate with him. He was of the nether Bourkes, and now,
as I hear, MacWilliam Euter, and called by the nickname
' Richard in Iron.' This was a notorious woman in all the


coasts of Ireland. This woman did Sir Philip see and
speak with: he can more at large inform you of her."

The personal character of this female buccaneer was
never called into question; saving only her piratical pro-
clivities, she seems to have been exemplary. The cii»-
cumstances of her life at the death of her first husband
forced her, a daughter of a pirate, to the seas as a "thrade
of maintenance," as she apologetically put it to Queen
Elizabeth. She founded and endowed religious houses,
and the attitude she maintained toward the powers higher
than she was in the furtherance of the peace of her coun-
try. Yet her good deeds have not been borne in the same
remembrance as her piratical performances. With this
account of the adventurous Irish woman, we may turn to
a very different picture, taken from Scotland.

The annals of the Scottish border are replete with stories
of cruel warfare and of savage vengeance. The wars of
England with the valorous Scots present hardly more in-
stances of heroism and of brutality than do the accounts
of the feuds which arose between the clans themselves. Of
the first sort was the expedition which Bluff King Hal sent
out to punish the Scots for becoming incensed at the insolent
tone and the humiliating conditions he imposed on the nego-
tiations looking to the marriage of his young son, afterward
Edward VI., and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots.

The English conducted a series of savage forays across
the Scottish border. Their success led the leaders of the
invading army to represent to Henry that, owing to the
distracted condition of Scotland on account of the internal
disorders, the time was peculiarly auspicious for a perma-
nent conquest of a large part of the border. Under com-
mission of the English king to effect such a conquest, they
returned and renewed their attack. The tower of Broom-
house, held by an aged woman and her family, was consigned


to the flames, and she and her children perished in the
conflagration. Melrose Abbey was wantonly plundered
and ruined, and the bones of the Douglases were taken
from their tombs and scattered about. Next, the little vil-
lage of Maxton was burned. All its inhabitants had made
good their escape excepting a maiden of high courage and
deep devotion, who remained with her bed-ridden parents.
The approach of the enemy meant their destruction. The
village maid had a lover, who, on finding that she was not
with the refugees, returned to the town and forcibly car-
ried her off, although he was grievously wounded in the
act of doing so. After he had effected her rescue, the
brave savior, breathing with his expiring breath a prayer
of thankfulness that he had been permitted to yield up his
life for her who was more than life to him, died of ex-
haustion and of his wounds. The measure of iniquity
was complete, and, although many other bloody deeds
were perpetrated in this warfare, the instrument of venge-
ance was at hand; when the hour came that marked a turn
in the tide:

" Ancrum Moor
Ran red with English blood ;
Where the Douglas true and the bold Bucdeuch
'Gainst keen Lord Evers stood."

When the battle was over and the English had been
driven with great slaughter from the field, the body of the
English general was found near that of a young Scottish
soldier with flowing yellow tresses, who was mangled by
many wounds. The delicacy of feature soon led to the dis-
covery that the slayer of the English leader was a woman,
and her identification as the maiden Liliard of the hamlet of
Maxton followed. So had she avenged the cruel slaughter
of her aged and helpless parents and that of the devoted
lover who had laid down his life in her behalf. In a borrowed


suit of armor and weapons she had arrayed herself under
the Red Douglas, that she might seek out him who was the
author of her calamities, to visit upon him the vengeance of
her desolation, and yield up the life she no longer valued.
Upon the bloody field her compatriots interred her who
was thereafter to be held in dear regard as one of Scot-
land's noblest daughters. Above the head of "Liliard of
Ancrum " was erected a gravestone with the following in-
scription to commemorate her valor:

" Fair maiden Liliard lies under this stane,
Little was her stature, but great was her fame ;
Upon the English loons she laid mony thumps,
And when her legs were cutted off, she fought upon her stumps."

Ancrum Moor was fought in 1544. James V. had died
two years earlier, and the crown of Scotland had devolved
upon his infant daughter, Mary. Henry VIII. was bent on
securing the Scotch kingdom, and to that end persisted in
urging the betrothal of Prince Edward to the infant Mary,
Queen of Scots; but the Scots were equally averse to the
alliance, hence Henry continued to harass the kingdom by
armed forces. After Edward VI. succeeded his father, he
continued to sue for Mary's hand, and made use of military
force in the hope of accomplishing his object. The child-
queen's safety being in constant jeopardy, she was be-
trothed to the Dauphin of France, and in 1548 left for the
court of France. In her sixteenth year she married
Francis, making at the same time a secret treaty bestow-
ing the kingdom of Scotland on France, in case she died
without an heir. Francis II., however, died in 1560, and
Mary returned to Scotland the following year. Here, her
Roman Catholic practices soon brought her into conflict
with Knox, but for a time she managed to rule without
serious troubles. Romantic adventure, however, best


describes the life of this lovely queen. She was beset with
suitors and pestered with intrigue for her favor. The most
popularly known story in connection with her life is that
of her relation to Rizzio, her Italian confidant. He it was
who arranged Mary's marriage to Darnley, and it was his
influence over her that finally led to his own assassination
by Darnley and his companions in Holyrood Palace in
1566. Shortly thereafter the queen gave birth to Prince
James; and from this time troubles and conspiracies con-
stantly involved the unhappy queen, until her execution
in 1586 for her association in the Babington conspiracy
against the life of Queen Elizabeth.

It was while the partisans of Queen Mary and those of
her young son James were imbruing the soil of Scotland
with one another's blood, and when all the horrors of
internecine warfare were being perpetrated, there was
lighted a flame that added a heroine to the country's list
of women who have honorably earned that title. There
appeared one day before Corgaff Castle, in Strathdon,
Captain Kerr and a party of men, sent by the deputy
lieutenant of the queen, Sir Adam Gordon of Auchindown,
to capture and to hold it. Between the houses of Gordon
and Forbes existed a deadly feud, although they were
united by marriage. The Forbeses had espoused the
cause of the king, while the Gordons were arrayed on
the side of the queen. This added to the bitterness of
their feeling, and accounts for the stubbornness which
Lady Towie displayed when called upon to surrender.
Her husband, John Forbes, the Laird of Towie, was in the
field with his three sons; the defence of the castle accord-
ingly fell upon her. When the Gordons appeared before
the castle and demanded its subjection, its noble defender
replied in such scornful terms to Captain Kerr, the leader
of the besieging force, that he swore that he would wipe


out the stigma of her insult with her blood. As it was im-
possible to carry the castle by assault without the aid of
artillery, he resorted to fire — not, however, before the
brave lady had shot her pistol at him pointblank, missing
her aim, but yet grazing the captain's knee with the bullet.

In spite of the plea of her sick stepson, she resolutely
determined "to perish in the flames which were spreading
through the castle from the fire started by the enemy in a
breach of the castle wall.

This incident of the siege is described in an old ballad:

"Oh, then out spake her youngest son,
Sat on the nurse's knee :
Says — 'Mither, dear, gie o'er this house,
For the reek it smithers me.'

" ' I would gie all my gold, my bairn,
Sae would I all my fee,
For ae blast o' the Westlin' wind
To blaw the reek frae thee.' "

Next, her daughter appealed to her that she might be
sewed up in a sheet and let down the tower wall. To
this the mother assented. The maiden was thus lowered
to the ground, only to be received upon the spear of the
brutal captain:

" O then out spake her daughter dear,
She was baith jimp and small:
' Oh, row me in a pair of sheets,
And tow me o'er the wall.'

"Oh, bonnie, bonnie was her mouth,
And cherry was her cheeks;
And clear, clear was her yellow hair,
Whereon the red bluid dreeps.

" Then with his spear he turned her o'er;
Oh, gin her face was wan I
He said — ' You are the first that e'er
I wish'd alive again.' "


Of the thirty-seven persons in the castle, Lady Towie,
her stepson, her three young children, and her retainers,
none escaped the holocaust; the roof of the keep fell in
and carried them down into the flames. So perished one
of the bravest and most spirited women of her times. The
retribution which, in the later circumstances of the feud,
was wrought upon those responsible for this massacre
does not concern us here. The heroism of Lady Towie's
defence of Corgaff Castle has furnished a theme for other
poets than the obscure bard whom we have quoted; the
bravery to the point of rashness which she displayed
endears her to the heart of the Scotchman who glories in
the deeds of courage of his race.

One of the sweetest stories of devotion to be found in
the history of Scotland's women is that which centres
about the knightly house of Cromlix and Ardoch. Sir
James Chisholm was born in the early part of the six-
teenth century, and, as a youth, was sent to France for
the completion of his education. Before his departure he
had exchanged with fair Helen Stirling, of the house of
Ardoch, vows of undying affection. This young lady,
because of her beauty, had achieved wide local celebrity,
and throughout the countryside she was called "Fair
Helen of Ardoch." The two young people had been
brought up in each other's society, and, as they grew in
years, began to feel for each other that tenderness of senti-
ment which, while they were yet in their teens, led to
mutual avowals of love. Their parents were not averse
to the match, after the young people should have arrived
at a more suitable age for marriage. The course of their
love ran smoothly, until the separation came by Sir James
going abroad. As their relatives were not favorable to a
correspondence between the young people, the good offices
of a friend were invoked. He received the letters of both


parties, and saw that they were sent to their respective
destinations. The correspondence went happily on; his
letters were full of pleasing gossip about the belles and
beauties of France, of society and manners, everything,
indeed, that a young lover of reflective and poetic tem-
perament would be likely to pen to the lady of his heart
from whom he was separated by a distance which could
be made communicable only by correspondence.

Almost a year had sped away when the letters received
by Helen became less frequent and then stopped. She
wrote again and again, but in vain; she received no re-
plies. The agent of the young people then professed to
write himself to her recreant lover, and informed her that
he had discovered that the attachment of the young man
for her had waned and that he was to marry a French
beauty. His condolence was apparently so sincere and
delicately phrased that when he proffered her his love
there was in her breast some degree of kindly sentiment
toward him, which, while of a very different nature from
her feeling for the one who had discarded her, was yet such
as to lead her to assent finally to his suit; not, however,
before many considerations had been skilfully brought to
bear upon her, not the least of which were the desires of
her kindred.

The wedding day was set, and before the assembled
guests, forming a brilliant gathering, the bride appeared in
rich adornings, but pale, her bosom heaving with sobs.
The ceremony was performed. Then occurred a dramatic
scene; some whisper seemed to reach the bride's ear; to
the amazement of the guests, she turned upon her husband
and denounced him as the blackest of traitors. She de-
clared that her own letters and those of her lover had been
kept back, and that she knew that her lover had landed in
Scotland and would vindicate his honor. She vowed in the


presence of Heaven that she would never acknowledge as
her husband the man she had just wedded, nor would she
ever leave for him her father's roof. Amid shouts of
derision, the false bridegroom hastily left the house. The
young lover had indeed landed in the country, and was
hastening to his beloved that he might prove to her that
he had been grossly slandered and she grievously deceived.
The knowledge of the situation did not reach him in time
to forestall the plans of his rival, and not until his arrival
home did he find out the full facts of the case and have his
mind entirely relieved of the thought of his love's perfidy.
Legal measures were speedily taken for the dissolution of
the hateful bonds, and the young lady was united to the one
to whom, notwithstanding her acquiescence in the wishes
of others, her heart had been true.

The maid of Ardoch's story has been variously told.
The most familiar form of it is that found in Robert Burns's
Observations on Scottish Songs. The romance has taken
strong hold upon the hearts of the Scotch race, through
a simple melody which has held the interest of the people
for nearly three centuries. This ballad was written by
the young lover himself on board the ship that was bear-
ing him back to Scotland. The first verse is as follows:

" Since all thy vows, false maid,

Are blown to air,
And my poor heart betrayed

To sad despair,
Into some wilderness,
My grief I will express.
And thy hard-heartedness,

O cruel fairl"

As fearless as the Scotch heroine Lady Towie in the
defence of her castle was the Irish heroine Lettice, Baroness
of Ophaly, in the famous defence of the castle of Geashill


in Queen's County. The one lived in the sixteenth, the
other belonged to the seventeenth century. The Baroness
Ophaly was of the famous house of Geraldine, heir in
general to the house of Kildare, and inherited the barony
of Geashill. She married Sir Robert Digby, and after his
death returned to Ireland. She was a model mistress to
her household and her tenantry. Although a woman of
brilliant attainments, she was yet content to live in a quiet
way, performing the congenial duties of administrator
of the affairs of her household, and being held in affec-
tionate regard by all those dependent upon her. In 1641,
however, the quiet current of her daily life was broken in
its flow; civil war devastated the land. The rebels thought
to find in the defenceless situation of the widowed lady, with
her brood of young children, an opportunity for plunder
and ravage with little prospect of serious resistance. A
motley throng appeared before the castle and demanded
possession. They then presented to her a written order as
follows: "We, his Majesty's loyal subjects, at the present
employed in his Highness's service, for the sacking of
your castle; you are therefore to deliver unto us the free
possession of your said castle, promising faithfully that your
ladyship, together with the rest within your said castle
resiant, shall have reasonable composition; otherwise, upon
the non-yielding of the castle, we do assure you that we
shall burn the whole town, kill all the Protestants, and
spare neither woman nor child, upon taking the castle
by compulsion. Consider, madam, of this our offer; im-
pute not the blame of your folly unto us. Think not
that here we brag. Your ladyship, upon submission,
shall have safe convoy to secure you from the hands
of your enemies, and to lead you whither you please.
A speedy reply is desired with all expedition, and then
we surcease."


To this demand she sent a reply temperate and dignified,
but unyielding. It was as follows:

"I received your letter wherein you threaten to sack
this my castle by his Majesty's authority. I have ever
been a loyal subject and a good neighbor among you, and
therefore cannot but wonder at such an assault. I thank
you for your offer of a convoy, wherein I hold little safety;
and therefore my resolution is that, being free from offend-
ing his Majesty, or doing wrong to any of you, I will live
and die innocently. I will do the best to defend my own,
leaving the issue to God; and though I have been, I am
still desirous to avoid shedding blood, yet, being provoked,
your threats shall no way dismay me."

The rebels took no notice of her answer, but kept up
the siege. After two months. Lord Viscount Clanmalier
brought to bear against the castle a piece of ordnance.
Before using this formidable instrument, which was cast
by a local ironworker out of pots and pans contributed for
the purpose, Clanmalier, who was her kinsman, sent her
a letter repeating the demand for the surrender of the
castle. She replied to this missive, which was signed
"your loving cousin," by saying that she had not ex-
pected such treatment at the hands of a kinsman, repeat-
ing her innocence of wrong-doing, and expressing her
adherence to her position as stated in her former reply to
similar demands.

After this answer had been delivered to his lordship he
discharged the home-made cannon at the castle, and it
promptly exploded at the first shot; to which fact was
due the ability of Baroness Ophaly to hold the castle
against all attack through the long months until the rebel-
lion had waned and the besiegers withdrew. What she
must have suffered during all the dangers of the siege, in
which ingenuity was taxed to the utmost to effect an


entrance within the strong wails, can never be stated; on
the one hand was the terror of famine, on the other,
death. When she was rescued from her perilous situation
by Sir Richard Greville, she went to her husband's late
property of Colehill and there spent the remainder of her
life, dying in 1648.

Among the Scotch Covenanters, the names of Isobel
Alison of Perth and Marion Harvie of Bo'ness take high
rank because of their undaunted courage and the strength
of conviction displayed by them. It was in 1679 that a
band of horsemen slew Archbislrop Sharp upon Magnus
Moor and tlien dispersed. Four of them, among whom
was John Balfour of Kinloch, — the redoubtable Burley of
Old Mortality, — took refuge in the house of a widow of the
vicinity of Perth. Here they remained hidden, to watch
as to what steps would be taken in regard to their appre-
hension. Afterward they retired to Dupplin, thereby
escaping seizure. On June 22d the battle of Bothwell
Brig was fought and lost to the Covenanters. At about
this time the first subject of this sketch, Isobel Alison, an
obscure maiden, comes into the stream of historical occur-
rence. She was about twenty-five years of age, resided
at Perth, and was of excellent repute. She had been
trained in the strictest Presbyterian faith, and was well
versed in the Scriptures. She had occasionally had the
privilege of hearing field preaching, although field conven-
ticles were not common in the country. Her sympathies
with the persecuted ministers of her faith and her personal
acquaintance with several of them enlisted her aid for the
fugitives in hiding them from the authorities, whose search
for them was relentlessly pursued. The work of bloody
persecution continued for eighteen months, during which
many of the Covenanters died in the maintenance of their
convictions. But it was not until the end of 1680 that


Isobel attracted attention by reason of her outspoken
utterances against the tyranny under which the country
suffered. It was not long, then, before she was arraigned
for her sentiments, and, in the simplicity of her nature,
volunteered the confession that she was in communication
with some of those who had been declared rebels. The
magistrates, however, charitably sought to shield her from
the effects of actions the serious purport of which they did
not believe that she fully realized, and so dismissed her
with a caution to be more circumspect in her speech. But
she was not to escape thus easily; some busybodies
speedily reported what she had said to the Privy Council,
which issued a warrant for her arrest. Under a charge of
treason, she was carried from the peaceful seclusion of her
humble home, and immured in the prison at Edinburgh.
At her hearing before the Privy Council, she acknowledged
to acquaintance with all those for whom the authorities
were seeking as assassins of Archbishop Sharp. When
asked if she did not know that she was aiding those whose
hands were dyed with the blood of murder, she replied
that she had never regarded the death of the " Mr. James
Sharp " as being murder. Her testimony was so self-
condemnatory that, according to the law of the day, there
appeared to be no recourse but to sentence her to hanging.
She says: "The Lords pitied me, for [said they] we find
reason and a quick wit in you; and they desired me to take
it to advisement. I told them I had been advising on it
these seven years, and I hoped not to change now. They
asked if I was distempered.? I told them that I was always
solid in the wit that God had given me." She was then
remanded for trial before the Judiciary Court. Leaving
the thread of her story for a while, we will take up that of
another young woman, who at about this time had come
under a like accusation and was suffering imprisonment.

41 8 WOMAN

She was but a poor serving woman, who had been a
domestic at the house of a woman who had sheltered one
of the same fugitives whose cause had gotten Isobei Alison
Into her straits. The story of her relations with the Cov-
enanters, as told by her to the authorities, was a simple
one. From the age of fourteen she had heard the field
preaching of the Covenanters, and finally she had been
informed against and arrested. Her demeanor during the
ordeal of examination was firm and composed. The ques-
tions put to her she answered without hesitancy or reser-
vation. The result of the examination showed her full
sympathies with those who were under the taint of rebel-
lion and treason. She justified their acts by affirming
that the king had broken his covenant oath, and it was
lawful to disown him.

She and her older sister in misfortune were brought
together before the Judiciary Court, and both of the young
women declined to acknowledge the authority of the king
and lords. There was nothing remaining to do but to put

Online LibraryMitchell CarrollWoman: in all ages and in all countries → online text (page 29 of 30)