Зображення сторінки



BILLY MARSHAL's account of himself was this: he was born in or about the year 1666 ; but he might have been mistaken as to the exact year of his birth ; however, the fact never was doubted of his having been a private soldier in the army of King William, at the battle of the Boyne. It was also well known, that he was a private in some of the British regiments, which served under the great Duke of Marlborough in Germany, about the year 1705. But at this period, Billy's military career in the service of his country ended. About this time he went to his commanding officer, one of the M'Guffogs of Ruscoe, a very old family in Galloway, and asked him if he had any commands for his native country: being asked if there was any opportunity, he replied, yes ; he was going to Keltonhill fair, having for some years made it a rule never to be absent. His officer knowing his man, thought it needless to take any very strong measure to hinder him and Billy was at Keltonhill accordingly.

Now Billy's destinies placed him in a high sphere ; it was about this period, that, either electively, or by usurpation, he was placed at the head of that mighty people in the south west, whom he governed with equal prudence and talent for the long space of eighty or ninety years. Some of his admirers assert, that he was of royal ancestry, and that he succeeded by the laws of hereditary succession; but no regular annals of Billy's house were kept, and oral tradition and testimony weigh heavy against this assertion. From any research I have been able to make, I am strongly disposed to think, that, in this crisis of his life, Billy Marshal had been no better than Julius Cæsar, Richard III., Oliver Cromwell, Hyder Ally, or Napoleon Bonaparte: I do not mean to say that he waded through as much blood


as some of those, to seat himself on a throne, or to grasp at the diadem and sceptre; but it was shrewdly suspected that Billy Marshal had stained his character and his hands with humpan blood. His predecessor died very suddenly, it never was supposed by his own hand, and he was buried as privately about the foot of Cairnsinuir, Craig Nelder, or the Cross of Slakes, without the ceremony, or, perhaps more properly speaking, the benefit of a precognition

being taken, or an inquest held by a coroner's jury. During this long reign, he and his followers were not outdone in their exploits by any of the colonies of Kirk-Yetholm, Horncliff

, Spital, or Lochmaben. The following anecdote will convey a pretty correct notion of what kind of personage Billy was, in the evening of his life; as for his early days, I really know nothing more of them than what I have already told.

The writer of this, in the month of May, 1789, had returned to Galloway after a long absence : he soon learned that Billy Marshal, of whom he had heard so many tales in his childhood, was still in existence. Upon one occasion he went to Newton-Stewart, with the late Mr. M+Culloch of Barholm, and the late Mr. Hannay of Bargaly, to dine with Mr. Samuel M‘Caul. Billy Marshal then lived at the hamlet or clachan of Polnure, a 'spot beautifully situated on the burn or stream of that name: we called on our old hero,-he was at home,he never denied himself,—and soon appeared ;—he walked slowly, but firnıly, towards the carriage, and asked Mr. Hannay, who was a warm friend of his, how he was ?Mr. Hannay asked if he knew who was in the carriage ? he answered, “that his eyes had failed him a gude dale;" but added, that he saw his friend Barholm, and that he could see a youth sitting betwixt them, whom he did not know. I was introduced, and had a gracious shake of his hand. He told me I was setting out in life, and admonished me to “ tak care o' my han', and do naething to dishonor the gude stock o'folk that I was come o';" he added, that I was the fourth generation of us he had been acquaint wi'. Each of us paid a

small pecuniary tribute of respect,- I attempted to add to mine, but Barholm told me he had fully as much as would be put to a good use. We were returning the same way, betwixt ten and eleven at night, after spending a pleasant day, and taking a cheerful glass with our friend Mr. M Canl; we were descending the beautifully wooded hills, above the picturesque glen of Polnure—my two companions were napping,—the moon shone clear,--and all nature was quiet, excepting Polnure burn, and the dwelling of Billy Marshal, the postillion stopt (in these parts the well-known and well-liked Johnny Whurk), and turning round with a voice which indicated terror, he said, "Gude guide us, there's folk singing psalms in the wud !" My companions awoke and listened, Barholm said, “ psalms, sure enough ;' but Bargaly said, “ the deil a-bit o'them are psaluns. We went on, and stopt again at the door of the old king: we then heard Billy go through a great many stanzas of a song, in such a way that convinced us that his memory and voice had, at any rate, not failed him; he was joined by a numerous and powerful chorus. It is quite needless to be so minute as to give any account of the song which Billy sung; it will be enough to say that my friend Barholm was completely wrong, in supposing it to be a psalm ; it resembled in no particular psalm, paraphrase, or hymn. We called him out again,-he appeared much brisker than he was in the morning : we advised bim to go to bed; but he replied, that " he didna think he wad be muckle in his bed that night,—they had to tak the country in the morning (ineaning that they were to begin a ramble over the country), and that they were just takin a wee drap drink to the health of our honours, wi' the loc siller we had gi'en them.” I shook hands with him for the last time,-he then called himself above one hundred and twenty years of age : he died about 1790. His great age never was disputed to the extent of inore than three or four years. The oldest people in the country allowed the account to be correct. The


grandmother of the writer of this article died at the advanced age of one hundred and four ; her age was correctly known. She said that Wull Marshal was a man when she was a bitt callant (provincially, in Galloway, a very young girl). She had no doubt as to his being fifteen or sixteen years older than herself, and he survived her several years. His long reign, if not glorious, was in the main fortunate for himself and his people. Only one great calamity befel him and them during that long space of time in which he held the reins of government. It may have been already suspected, that with Billy Marshal ambition was aruling passion; and this bane of human fortune had stimulated in him a desire to extend his dominions, from the Brigg end of Dumfries to the Newton of Ayr, at a time when he well knew the Braes of Glen-Nap, and the Water of Doon, to be his western precinct. He reached the Newton of Ayr, which I believe is in Kyle ; but there he was opposed, and compelled to recross the river, by a powerful body of tinkers from Argyle or Dumbarton. He said, in his bulletins, that they were supported by strong bodies of Irish sailors, and Kyle colliers. Billy had no artillery, but his cavalry and infantry suffered severely. He was obliged to leave a great part of his baggage, provisions, and camp equipage, behind him, consisting of kettles, pots, pans, blankets, crockery, horns, pigs, poultry, &c. A large proportion of shelties, asses, and mules, were driven into the water and drowned, which occasioned a heavy loss, in creels, panniers, hampers, tinkers' tools,and cooking utensils; and although he was as well appointed, as to a medical staff, as such expeditions usually were, in addition to those who were missing, many died of their wounds. However, on reaching Maybole with his broken and disspirited troops, he was joined by a faithful ally from the county of Down; who, unlike other allies on such occasions, did not forsake him in his adversity. This junction enabled our hero to rally, and pursue in his turn : a pitched battle was again fought, somewhere about

the Brigg of Doon or Alloway Kirk; when both sides, as is usual, claimed a victory: but however this may have been, it is believed that this disaster, which happened A. D. 1712, had slaked the thirst of Billy's ambition. He was many years in recovering from the effects of this great political error ; indeed, it had nearly proved as fatal to the fortunes of Billy Marshal as the ever memorable Russian campaign did to Napoleon Bonaparte, about the same year in the succeeding century.

It is usual for writers to give the character along with the death of their prince or hero : I would like to be excused from the performance of any such task as drawing the character of Billy Marshal ; but it may be done in a few words, by saying that he had from nature a strong mind, with a vigorous and active

person; and that, either naturally or by acquirement, he possessed every mental and personal quality which was requisite for one who was placed in his 'high station, and who held sovereign power over his fellow creatures for so great a length of time: I would be glad if I could, with impartiality, close my account bere; but it becomes my duty to add, that (from expediency, it is believed, not from choice) with the exception of intemperate drinking, treachery, and ingratitude, he practised every crime which is incident to human nature,-those of the deepest dye, I am afraid, cannot with truth be included in the exception : in short, his people met with an irreparable loss in the death of their king and leader ; but it never was alleged that the moral world sustained any loss by the death of the man.


A woman of the name of Rachel Bailley, a few years ago, in Selkirkshire, afforded a remarkable evidence of the force of her gipsy habits and propensities. This woman, having been guilty of repeated acts of theft, was condemned by Mr. W. Scott, sheriff of that county, to imprisonment in the bridewell there, on hard labour, for six months. She became so excessively wearied of

« НазадПродовжити »