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Old faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) online

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Crispin, and used to narrate with great emphasis any of the
victories of the " rebels," and dilate with seeming satisfaction
on the discomfiture of the Royalists, whether an individual or
regiment. He gloried in telling of the " reiving " propensities
of the Highlanders, and expatiated with merriment on the
occurrences which took place between these and plain country
wives when the contents of their " aumries " were laid under
contribution in order to satisfy the invading force.

Patiently listening to these narratives of rapine and injustice
sat his apprentice, William Morrison, a little boy not far in his
" teens," known as " little Willie." Willie's office was to keep
warm at the side of the fire " the blackin " which the " mas-
ters " put on their work when finishing it. One day, while so
engaged, his "master" had been recounting some direful pro-
ceedings with a levity that fairly frightened Willie, who got
quite dumfounded, and capsized the " blacking pot " into the
fire, ran out of the shop, and declared " he ne'er would s'er' out
his time wi' Jock M'Ewen." Young as he was, he had formed
an opinion concerning the Royalist over the Pretender's
claims, and the stories told by his " cork " had inspired him
with the idea that justice would never permit such a cause to
prosper. On no account could Willie be prevailed on to go
back to his employer.

It happened that about that time General Blakeney, Gover-
nor of the Castle, wished to send a dispatch to General Hawley,
who was in the neighbourhood of Falkirk, and Willie was
selected as being trustworthy. Getting the dispatch, he took
off his " chanel pumps " (a shoe whose inside lining was only
fixed at the heel, while the forepart was loose), deposited the
important document under the same, and trudged onwards to
Falkirk without fear of detection. In due time it was safely
delivered, and he returned with an answer.

" Willie " learned his craft under another master than
" Jock," and latterly commenced " cork " for himself, and
married a daughter of "Tarn Garland," the predecessor of


"Jock Rankine," the "hangman." Garland was in office in
1745 and 1746. Willie Morrison had an only daughter, who
was familiarly known as Miss Morrison, " the mantuamaker,"
a very respectable young lady, highly patronised by the elite
of Stirling. Her father was a little, particular sort of a body,
nicknamed " Beau Morrison," but a strictly honest man, who
used to boast that " he burned his ledger every Saturday
night," meaning by that that he was never in debt, and that
no one owed him anything at that time. His house was where
now stands the Star Hotel, at the foot of Baker Street.

As a proof of William Morrison's hatred of debt, it may be
best illustrated by his independent treatment of old Mr Glas
(father of Provost Glas, who died in 1814), who lived in that
building opposite the Bank of Scotland belonging to Provost
Forrest. One day Mr Glas' servant went across to William to
get a shoe repaired, the time being specified when it was to
be ready. Punctual to his word, the job was done, and the
servant, calling to get the shoe, asked the charge. " Twa
shillings " (twopence), says the cobbler. She " would bring it
ower the 1100." " Na, na," says Willie ; " it'll be as weel lying
aside me dry, as oot o' the hoose." The consequence was that
the maid had to get the "twa shillin's," and pay it before she
got the mended shoe. Old Mr Glas sometimes in his merry
moods used to relate the affair, alleging that he had no credit
for "twa shillings " with his ain door nei'bour, but could get
credit for 10,000 worth of wood from Memel " frae folks he
ne'er saw wi' his twa een, and without a grudge."

Mrs. Leckie :
A Stirling Story of the '45.

" Old times are changed, old manners gone :
A stranger fills the Stuarts' throne."

On the retreat of the Highland army to Stirling in 1746,
after the battle of Falkirk, a young French officer, named
Louvois, appeared there, said to have been attached to the


engineering department of the rebel forces. He was not
alone, his companion being a tall, handsome young woman,
who might be from twenty-five to thirty years old. Indepen-
dently of being attired in the most fashionable mode, it was
easy to see that her features were of that delicate French cast
of which the Scotch and English cannot boast, and that her
manners were at once unconstrained and elegant. According
to the stranger's own statement, her mother was the favourite
waiting-maid of the celebrated Sarah Jennings, Duchess of
Marlborough, and her father a man of distinction, named Le
Croix, who held a high place on the personal staff of the re-
nowned Prince Eugene, commander-in-chief of the Austrian
armies, who gained brilliant victories side by side with

At the time of which we speak the chief or only inn in Stir-
ling was the Coffee-House, situated in Bow Street, approached
by a narrow, dark close, and kept by a person of the name of
Hexboy. At the period of the Rebellion it formed the head-
quarters of Lord John Drummond and the principal officers in
the Pretender's army.

The attempt to take Stirling Castle by the rebels proving
abortive, they found it expedient to call a hasty muster-roll
and proceed northward. The friend of Mdlle. Le Croix had
also to depart, but for scmie reason he found it inconvenient to
take her with him. The friends did not meet again, the
gallant officer being with good reason supposed to have fallen
bravely at Culloden, and Mdlle. Le Croix was thus left in a
situation strangely yet simply romantic poor and beautiful.

In this state of matters she resolved to remain in the house
of Hexboy, which she was the more induced to do in conse-
quence of her liberal education having included the art of
preparing 1 , with singular delicacy, venison, pastry, and con-
fectionery, commodities then in great demand by the wealthy
and luxurious. At this her new employment she continued
for six or seven years, at the end of which period the death of
Hexboy took place, and the establishment was broken up. On
this event occurring, Mdlle. Le Croix found it necessary to
apply her cunning in the preparation of confectionery to the
purposes of support. She therefore opened a place of business


in that house known as Fisher's Laud, 011 the east side of
Baker Street or, as it was then called, " Baxter's Wynd."
To realise the appearance of this shop, the reader will be
pleased to learn that at this time any shops which were in
" Baxter's Wynd " were little above the level of the street,
and were known by the name of " Vouts," or Vaults, to which
access was only obtained after a descent of seven or eight
rugged stone steps, at the manifest risk of getting a compound
fracture or mishap. In this place Mdlle. Le Croix settled down.
It contained within its walls, besides the front shop, a
" spence " or parlour, bedroom, and bakehouse. In no long
time this strange personage acquired a considerable trade in
Stirling, more especially as the preparation of the sweets she
vended was gone about in a much more recherche manner
than in general. But besides her town business, she acquired
the patronage of the county families, whose old lumbering
carriages were often to be seen standing at her door. These
had, however, a more important object than the mere pur-
chase of pastry.

Shortly after Mdlle. Le Croix began business her strong
Jacobite views became known, and at that time not a few
county men participated in these popular political predilec-
tions. Hence it became an almost daily occurrence to see the
carriages of the "gentry," as they were called, at the little
shop, and many a bluff old coachman looked down with an
exclamation of impatience at being too long detained, saying,
" What can keep his honour sae lang wi' the wife the day ? I'm
thinking there's something else gaun on than the eating o'
Queen's Breakfast" (a peculiar kind of French pastry).

Mdlle. Le Croix's political views placed her in a peculiar posi-
tion. The retainers and followers of the exiled House of
Stuart had many friends in blood and sentiment in this part of
the country, who were, of course, anxious to communicate with
each other on the subject which had their unqualified sympathy
the Pretender's fortunes. They therefore easily induced
Mdlle. Le Croix to become the medium of communication by
receiving letters from disaffected persons, who called at her
shop very frequently in disguise. The shop was well suited for
visitors incognito, as during the day, from the smallness of the


window, there was only sufficient light to allow a customer to
discern where he was, while in the evening the flickering light
of a single farthing candle rendered this somewhat doubtful.
It was said that on one occasion, while a little boy was in the
shop purchasing " Queen's Breakfast," a tall man dressed as a
beggar entered, and, after asking some charity, handed a letter
to Mdlle. Le Croix. He then addressed her in French or some
other foreign language, to which she replied fluently, but made
a movement indicating that some one was present. At this
moment the eye of the stranger fell upon the little boy, whom
he had not apparently previously observed. The discovery had
an instantaneous effect, for, without another word, the
stranger hurriedly disappeared. His disguise, however, was
not altogether complete, for the little fellow afterwards said
the man wore a " bricht " hoop ring on one of his fingers.

Shortly after commencing business Mdlle. Le Croix assumed
the Scotch name of Mrs Leckie. This, it is supposed, was in
order to lull the suspicions of Loyalists, who, though their
jealousy was less keen than heretofore, looked upon a Jacobite
with a feeling akin to distrust. She wore a black gown with
high " pocket holes," through which the skirts were drawn half
a yard on each side. She also wore on all occasions a large
black bonnet, or, as then called, a " cap," the size of which was
in marked contrast to modern millinery productions. One
particular feature in her dress was the necktie or cravat, very
generally worn by elderly ladies, and composed of pure white
muslin stiffened. Mrs Leckie always wore the cravat above
her chin, and even when near her very little more of the lower
part of her countenance could be seen than the mouth. When
she appeared abroad she wore high-heeled scarlet slippers,
which raised her nearly an inch off the ground. Her style of
walking was graceful, and even at eighty there was something
elastic and ballroom-like in her step. Indeed, there was a tone
of quiet dignity about her whole personality, rendered, if
possible, more imposing from the fact of her carrying a gold-
headed " staff " or cane, fully five feet high. She carried the
staff, not by the top, but rather nearer the centre, and from
her tall figure and deportment it seemed quite appropriate for
the wearer. We have said that in youth Mrs Leckie's carriage


was distinguished by elegant ease. Age came and wrinkles
claimed a place on the once smooth brow, but it did not alter
her lady-like demeanour, her courteous address, or her winning
smile. Young and old alike, irrespective of rank, approached
her with pleasure, and generally left her with regret.

In the latter end of her career, and when in an amiable
mood, she narrated many strange and interesting stories
illustrative of Jacobite doings , which none but a person
immediately concerned could have told.

During the last years of Mrs Leckie's life she numbered
amongst her more intimate friends and customers, Lady Kin-
loch of Moidart, an old Catholic personage who resided at the
Howff (in the Shore Road, now occupied by the site of the
railway bridge). The old lady, with her lovely daughter, Mrs
Macdonald, supported that rank which naturally belonged to
them, surounded by the infinite accessories of luxury. These
ladies were deeply interested in the fortunes of the Chevalier,
but not more so than another ancient dame, known as Lady
Glenbuckie, widow of Colonel John Roy Stewart. This re-
markable personage was, at the time we speak of her, old
enough to be called venerable. Her pride, her prejudices, her
hopes, were all centred in " Charlie,'" and to the latest period
of her life she dreamt of the restoration of the House of

Mrs Leckie, although holding a very different rank from
the ladies mentioned, possessed their confidence and friend-
ship, and on many occasions was invited to meet them at Lady
Kinloch's, where the subject of conversation was almost en-
tirely Jacobite topics. Besides these dames, Mr Macdonald, an
old Highland gentleman returned from America, and who
resided in Stirling, was generally a guest at Lady Kinloch's.
He was universally known as the " Papist," in consequence of
his being a Roman Catholic, of whom there would not then be
more than half-a-dozen in Stirling. At these convivial meet-
ings the health of " the King over the water " was drunk in
large glasses of cognac, as well as in a less potent beverage
called " orange water." When the loyalty of this hearty group
waxed warm, the " Papist," who, although verging on eighty,
was a hale old man, contributed to the happiness of the meet-


ing by singing in real Highland fashion, " Although his back be
at the wa'," and the air of the " Auld Stuarts back again,"
which stood in the place of our " God Save the Queen."

In the summer of 1798 Mrs Leckie was seized with a linger-
ing sickness, which, after several months, terminated fatally.
Many kind friends were not awanting in this most trying period
of her life. These friends were not of her own class, for many
a lady in silk rustled down her narrow little stair, bringing
cordials and other tokens of esteem. Nor did some of the then
county ladies think their white hands soiled when they clasped
those of the venerable admirer of '' The Young Chevalier."

As we have seen, Mrs Leckie's early life was tinged with
romance, and, as if in conformity with her former existence,
romance followed her to the grave. She was interred in Stir-
ling Churchyard, her funeral being conducted under the
management of a wealthy physician in Stirling, whose father-
in-law lost his head at Carlisle for adherence to the house of
Stuart. The funeral procession was large, and included
almost every rank. It was remarked that the members of
most of the Jacobite families of the district were conspicuous in
the solemn procession, and that they seemed to mourn a tried

Immediately before her death Mrs Leckie requested one of
her more intimate acquaintances to go to a particular part of
her house and bring her a small casket or box. This box or
its contents had never before been seen by any of her friends,
however intimate. It opened on touching a secret spring, and
contained some gold lockets and other articles of jewelery,
which Mrs Leckie said were of no ordinary historic and intrinsic
worth. The appearance of these relics amply confirmed this
statement, and seemed to say that their antecedents were more
than ordinarily curious. These articles were few in number,
but, so far as they went, Mrs Leckie distributed them to her
more attached friends as parting tokens of regard. Where
they are, or who now own them, none can say, but from the
description we have got of them we are sure many an
antiquarian society would now give them a distinguished place
in their hall of curiosities as valued links of the past.


The Jacobite Ladies of Murrayshall.

Some years ago there lived in an old Scottish farmhouse
three maiden ladies Miss Marion, Miss Jenny, and Miss Lily

W . Their father, a staunch Jacobite, had been a lawyer

in Edinburgh. Upon his death they had found a home in the
house of their brother, whose political opinions also favoured
the Stuart cause. In their brighter days the family possessed
a comfortable little estate the Sands on the banks of the

Forth; but after the troubles of "the '45" Mr W the

younger had been obliged to retire with his excellent wife and
large family of sons and daughters to Murrayshall Farm, and
had accepted the post of factor or land steward to his relative,

the Laird of P , from whom he rented the farm on a long

lease. In time certain of his daughters married, while his
sons pushed their fortunes in different ways in trade, in
medicine, and other honourable callings ; the church, the
army, navy, the law being closed professions to them since
they could not conscientiously take the oath of allegiance to
the House of Hanover.

Mr W 's income was very small when he settled at

Murrayshall, so small that people in our luxurious days would
regard his condition as one of real poverty. But although
there was much self-denial, there was certainly no want in that
picturesque farmhouse. Mr W reared his family credit-
ably, gave a home to his maiden sisters, and supplied shelter
and hospitality to many another friend and relative.

Years went past. Miss Marion and her two sisters were at
length left alone at Murrayshall with their old aunt Katharine,
who was bedridden. Every night Mrs Katharine enjoyed her
glass of whisky toddy there was no sherry or port wine negus
for invalids of limited means in those days and then the youth-
ful nephews and nieces, some of whom were generally staying
at Murrayshall, were admitted to say good night, and receive
the grand-aunt's blessing. Much some of them wondered when
she rehearsed her nightly list of toasts the healths respec-


tively of all at home, of such members of the family as were
in foreign parts, and last, not least, of him " ever the water."
Aunt Katharine died the children grew up, married and
settled their children again gathered around the home hearth
of Murrayshall, and listened with eager faces and loving hearts
to the old world stories of their good grand-aunts, Miss
Marion, Miss Jenny, and Miss Lily.

It was a home to love and remember, with its quaint nooks
and corners, where, among old strange relics of a bygone age,
childish eyes looked with wonder on hoops and high-heeled
shoes, and treasures of rare books and old pictures ; its best
bedroom, whose chief ornament was the back of an old chair
hung against the wall a sacred chair, for had not Prince
Charles Edward sat on it ? its stone-floored laigh (low) room,

once the lady's chamber, where more than one Laird of P

first saw the light ; and its garden with its broad, grassy walks,
gnarled apple and pear trees, beds of homely vegetables
bordered by bright, old-fashioned flowers, and walls clustered
over with the white Prince Charlie rose, honeysuckle, and
spreading currant bushes.

There was always " rough plenty " with a hearty welcome at
Murrayshall. No fancy dairy, but a plain milkhouse, where
large boweiis (round, flat, iron-hooped wooden basins) threw
up the richest cream, and stores of cheese lined the shelves.
The butter was the yellowest, the eggs the largest, in the
countryside ; both fetched good prices at the market town of

Orphan and invalid and youthful relatives alike found a home
and tender care at Murrayshall. The sad-hearted became
cheery, the sickly became strong. Old friends maiden ladies
and widows, with or without a pittance were honoured guests
at the primitive farm-house. The Episcopalian clergy and
their families were very welcome there ; and welcome, too,
were those of other denominations. The poor were cared for,
no matter what their creed ; the sick were nursed ; the troubled
in heart or spirit were helped and comforted. The most stiff-
necked Cameronian could hardly look grim, though the Mur-
rayshall ladies, in antique silk gowns, short ruffled sleeves, and
long black mittens, drove past him on Palm Sunday on their


way to " the chapel," with a bit of palm willow in their hands.
Had not Miss Jenny taken calf's foot jelly and mutton broth
to his sick child only a few weeks before? And had not Miss
Marion knitted a warm woollen cravat for the invalid boy with
her own hands ?

There were great gatherings at the old house at Christmas
time friends and relatives, long parted, met again at board
and hearth. There was also a feast in the kitchen, not only
for the servants, but for the cottagers and humble neighbours
of the district. There was no stint of roast meat, shortbread
and Scotch bun, and the lower guests were not permitted to
return to their homes empty-handed. Certain of the more
privileged housewives were taken upstairs to see " the ladies,"
who thoroughly interested themselves in promoting the happi-
ness of all. Above stairs there were games, music, and cheery
talk among the young folks, while the old people enjoyed
many rubbers at whist.

Miss Marion, with her shrewd common sense and kindly dis-
position, was the mainstay of the home. She was lame,
unfortunately, and so remained much at home, spinning,
plying her needle, and writing letters. Miss Jenny had been,
it was said, a great beauty in her youth, and indeed was beauti-
ful in old age. She possessed literary tastes, and super-
intended the education of the many young people who were
frequently gathered under the roof-tree of Murrayshall. Miss
Lily was the housekeeper of the establishment, and famous for
her preserves and currant wine.

The servants were quite fixtures ; they were regarded as part
of the family, and shared both its joys and sorrows.

Miss Marion died at a great age in 1821.

Miss Jenny, though much her junior, followed her sister to
the grave in the great snowstorm of February, 1823.

Miss Lily was then left alone with two elderly nieces, Miss
Phemie and Miss Mary, who took charge of the household
when their aunt became incapacitated by age and infirmity.
But she was only old in years, not in heart. Those who fre-
quented Murrayshall could not readily forget the good old lady
in her simple cap, her homely gown crossed in front over the
clear white muslin 'kerchief, and a small Indian shawl thrown


over her shoulders. In winter her chair was drawn close to the
fire ; in summer her place was at a sunny window where the
bees hummed among the honeysuckle, and the birds cheered
her with their song. Her knitting-basket and snuff-box lay
beside her Bible on the broad window ledge. She worked
wonderfully for so old a woman. In her youth she had
elaborately embroidered more than one gown, by always
taking advantage of the odd ten minutes which so many of us
let slip past, because they are only ten minutes.

Kind, simple, and charitable as. were the ladies of Murrays-
hall, party spirit, though not affecting their intercourse with
their poorer neighbours, most certainly influenced their re-
lations with the magnates of the county. Far closer was the
intimacy kept up with the Episcopalian and Jacobite families
than with those who, besides being Presbyterians, had been
staunch in their adherence to the Hanoverian succession.
When visited by one of the latter class, more state and cere-
mony was observable in the bearing of the good ladies. The
conversation was more guarded on both sides in the courteous
anxiety of each party not to offend the other's prejudices.

Many a well-appointed equipage slowly ascended the steep,
richly-wooded bye road, dignified by the name of avenue, and
drew up in the yard or court at the low, massive door, the chief
entrance to the house.

The Laird of C , who had fought when a boy at Minden,

returned to Scotland in 1827, a grand-looking old man of
eighty, after a strangely chequered life spent more on the Con-
tinent than in his native country. He deemed it right to call
and pay his respects at Murray shall, and was duly ushered into
the quaint parlour, delicately scented with roses, which in
summer filled every flower-vase in the room, while through the
open casement came the mignonette from the boxes on the
window sills. As Miss Lily, then over ninety, but in the
possession of her faculties, rose to meet him, he stepped for-
ward with the alacrity of eighteen and all the grace of "la
vieille coeur," and astounded the sedate old dame by saluting
her in the French fashion with a gentle kiss on each cheek.
She bore the greeting, however, with more apparent equan-
imity than did her niece, Miss Phemie, who was scandalised


and indignant that the head of a strict Presbyterian family,
faithful to the reigning dynasty, and himself, it might be, a
disciple of Voltaire, should have presumed to take so great a

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Online LibraryWilliam DrysdaleOld faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 25)