Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Gathering Storm.

The Dalmore lads rode out to the Braighe to clear their heads, bringing their fine horses to a slow canter through the small waves. They discussed the events of last night in the Anchor, saying how amiable were the two men from Inverness. "The Eagle Has Landed," shouted Neil, with more than a hint of irony. "What in the hell was that man on about? Donald shook his head and answered " I don't think anyone in that howff knew or cared what he said. No one pays attention to what a drunk man says, except perhaps another drunk, and he will remember nothing next morning." Neil still wondered about the very words that man used, and the number of times he uttered the same words," The Eagle Has Landed." Two days later a company of marines and government soldiers were landed on South Beach from a ship in the harbour. 'Redcoats' in distant Lewis made the townsfolk very uneasy as peace reigned in Lewis and trade was now flourishing. Cromwell's troops were in Stornoway in 1653 to settle some local issues and to strengthen defences there during the Dutch Wars. In any case the present proprietor of Lewis was Lord Seaforth, Chief of Clan Mackenzie, a supporter of the House of Hanover, and with good reason, it was said. So, what were government troops now doing in town ? The officer in charge of the soldiers was meeting with Seaforth and the bailies of Stornoway. The townspeople were naturally anxious about this situation, and were desparate to discover what lay behind the military's presence, albeit small. Later that evening it was announced on 'a need to know' basis, that the son of the titular King James VIII of Scotland and III of England had landed somewhere in the Southern Hebrides with a handful of followers. He had been transported to Scotland on a French frigate, which had been engaged by a British man-of-war shortly after leaving France. No doubt the word was out, and this French frigate would have been shadowed all the way to the Scottish islands. At that juncture they were not to know that on board that frigate was the 25 year old Charles Edward Louis Casimir Silvester Maria Stuart who was intent on claiming back for his father the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland, which the Jacobites (Latin Jacobus=James) claimed had been usurped be the House of Hanover. Charles Edward Stuart was referred to as "Bonnie Prince Charlie" or "The Young Pretender", depending on where your loyaties lay. Neil and Donald were as amazed as others that a Stuart had come to these shores to reclaim the three crowns of the kingdom of Britain. Neil said that the people of Lewis would have no truck with Charles Stuart,they being fiercly Protestant and also supporters of the government in England, so long as they did not interfere in the prosperity which came with these settled political times. Donald was in thought " Neil, the drunk man in the inn ? When, he kept repeating the phrase "The Eagle Has Landed", do you think he was sharing a dark secret, alluding to the arrival of a Stuart Prince in the land of his royal forebears, after more than half a century?" "You may be right in your conjecture about the Eagle and Prince Charles," said Donald, " but who was the man in the Anchor,and how was he appraised of such dangerous infomation?" It was said that as Charlie stood on the deck of the French frigate at anchor off Eriskay, a companion excitedly pointed to a golden eagle circling above the ship, an omen for sure, said he, that Prince Charles' enterprise would be successful. "The Eagle Has Landed." Strange, makes you wonder about the Second Sight. The militia on the island was put on alert, and drilling and musket practice were taken very seriously indeed. Neil and Donald decided to return home to see their parents in Dalmore, as they felt they had important matters to share with them. They would also be able to gauge the feelings of the country folk at the arrival of Young Charles Stuart, not so many miles away in the Southern Hebrides. It left people feeling uneasy, as they could sense the approach of a gathering storm.

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