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The Great Historic Families of Scotland 

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THE JOHNSTONES OF ANNANDALE.
page 57

The chief seat of the Johnstones in those days of 'tugging and riving' was Lochwood, in the parish of Johnstone, the position of which, in the midst of bogs and morasses, made it a fortalice of great strength, and led to the remark of James VI., in allusion to the purpose which it served as a stronghold of freebooters, that 'the man who built it must have been a thief at heart.' Lochwood, however, was not the only fastness in which the Johnstones stored their booty. A few miles from Moffat there is a remarkable hollow, surrounded by hills on every side except at one narrow point, where a small stream issues from it. 'It looks,' says Pate in Peril, in 'Redgauntlet,' 'as if four hills were laying their heads together to shut out any daylight from the dark hollow space between them. A deep, black, blackguard-looking abyss of a hole it is, and goes straight down from the roadside as perpendicular as it can do to be a heathery brae. At the bottom there is a small bit of a brook that you would think could hardly find its way out from the hills that are so closely jammed round it.' This inaccessible hollow bore the name of the 'Marquis's Beef-stand,' or 'Beef-tub,' because 'the Annandale loons used to put their stolen cattle in there.' The Beef-stand was the scene of a remarkable adventure to a Jacobite gentleman while on the road to Carlisle to stand his trial for his share in the rebellion of 1745. He made his escape from his guards at this spot in the manner which Sir Walter Scott makes Maxwell of Summertrees, who bore the sobriquet of 'Pate in Peril,' describe in graphic terms as an adventure of his own:—
'I found myself on foot,' he said, 'on a misty morning with my hand, just for fear of going astray, linked into a handcuff, as they call it, with poor Harry Redgauntlet's fastened into the other; and there we were trudging along with about a score more that had thrust their horns ower deep in the bog, just like ourselves, and a sergeant's guard of redcoats, with two file of dragoons, to keep all quiet and give us heart to the road.…Just when we came on the edge of this Beef-stand of the Johnstones, I slipped out my hand from the handcuff, cried to Harry, "Follow me," whisked under the belly of the dragoon horse, flung my plaid round me with the speed of lightning, threw myself on my side, for there was no keeping my feet, and down the brae hurled I, over heather, and fern, and blackberries, like a barrel down Chalmers' Close in Auld Reekie. I never could help laughing when I think how the scoundrel redcoats must have been bum-hazed; for the mist being, as I said, thick, they had little notion, I take it, that they were on the verge of such a dilemma. I was half-way down—for rowing is faster wark than rinning—ere they could get at their arms; and then it was flash, flash, flash, rap, rap, rap, from the edge of the road; but my head was too jumbled to think anything either of that or of the hard knocks I got among the stones. I kept my senses together, whilk has been thought wonderful by all that ever saw the place; and I helped myself with my hands as gallantly as I could, and to the bottom I came. There I lay for half a moment; but the thought of a gallows is worth all the salts and scent-bottles in the world for bringing a man to himself. Up I sprung like a four-year-old colt. All the hills were spinning round me like so many great big humming-tops. But there was no time to think of that neither, more especially as the mist had risen a little with the firing. I could see the villains like sae many crows on the edge of the brae; and I reckon that they saw me, for some of the loons were beginning to crawl down the hill, but liker auld wives in their red cloaks, coming frae a field-preaching, than such a souple lad as I. Accordingly they soon began to stop and load their pieces. "Good-e'en to you, gentlemen," thought I, "if that is to be the gate of it. If you have any farther word with me you maun come as far as Carriefrawgauns." And so off I set, and never buck went faster ower the braes than I did; and I never stopped till I had put three waters, reasonably deep, as the season was rainy, half-a-dozen mountains, and a few thousand acres of the wurst moss and ling in Scotland betwixt me and my friends the redcoats.'
Sir Walter Scott says he saw in his youth the gentleman to whom the adventure actually happened.* [p.56] The Johnstones, unlike the Armstrongs, Elliots, and Grahams, 'sought the beeves that made their broth' only in Cumberland and Northumberland, though they would probably have had no scruples in making a prey of any outlying cattle belonging to the Maxwells, with whom they had a hereditary feud.Lord Maxwell, the head of this great family, was in the sixteenth century the most powerful man in the south-west of Scotland. But the Johnstones, though inferior in numbers and power, were able, through their valour, and the strong position which they held in the mountainous district of Annandale, to maintain their ground against their formidable rivals. In 1585 Lord Maxwell opposed the profligate government of the worthless royal favourite, James Stewart, Earl of Arran, and was in consequence declared a rebel. According to the common, but most objectionable practice of that period, the Court gave a commission to Johnstone, his enemy, to proceed against him with fire and sword, and to apprehend him; and two bands of hired soldiers, commanded by Captains Cranstoun and
Lammie, were despatched to Johnstone's assistance. They were intercepted, however, on Crawford Moor, by Robert Maxwell, of Castlemilk, and after a sharp conflict the mercenary forces were defeated. Lammie and most of his company were killed, and Cranstoun was taken prisoner. In relating this incident Sir Walter Scott says, 'It is devoutly to be wished that this Lammie may have been the miscreant who, in the day of Queen Mary's distress, when she surrendered to the nobles at Carberry Hill, "his ensign being of white taffety, had painted on it the cruel murder of King Henry, and laid down before her Majesty at what time she presented herself as prisoner to the Lords." It was very probably so, as he was then, and continued to be till his death, a hired soldier of the Government. Nine months after the incident in question, the following entry appears in the Lord Treasurer's books, under March 18, 1567-8: "To Captain Andro Lambie, for his expenses passand of Glasgow to Edinburgh to uplift certain men of weir, and to make one Handsenyie of white taffety, £25" [Scots]. He was then acting for the Regent Moray. It seems probable that, having spoiled his ensign by the picture of the king's murder, he was now gratified with a new one at the expense of his employer.'— See Domestic Annals of Scotland, i. p. 156, note, and Border Minstrelsy, ii. p. 134, note.* Maxwell followed up his success by [p.57] setting fire to Johnstone's castle of Lochwood, remarking with savage glee that he would give Lady Johnstone light enough by which 'to set her hood.' Unfortunately, besides the 'haill house, bedding, and plenisching,' Johnstone's charter-chest, containing the whole muniments of the family, and many other valuable papers, perished in the flames.

 

 

   
 

 

 

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