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The Bailie’s Great Adventure
Grant vs Fife

The Bailie’s Great Adventure

While at McKimmie’s house, the bailie expressed a wish to go to the door and make water. Farquhar told him he would not allow him to go directing him to go into a closet. Taylor insisted on going out and did so, to the end of the house but Farquhar went with him, again holding him by the tails of his coat

Taylor thought they were about an hour at New Duffus before he was then put into the chaise and driven to Hopeman. Apart from young Francis, James Grant was the only person in the carriage with Taylor on their journey from Duffus to Hopeman. At Hopeman they were taken to the house of a man of the name of McKimmie, son of William McKimmie, New Duffus; they stopped there for a considerable time.

At Hopeman, Taylor inquired of the men the meaning of stopping so long there. Grant and Farquhar, who were present, said they had sent a messenger by the name of Robert Mitchell, Weaver or labourer in Elgin, to Burghead to see the coast was clear there. The bailie understood they wanted to see there was no person there that would rescue him and take him from them. Grant and Farquhar also said at this time, in order to prevent a rescue of Taylor, people had been sent to raise all Lord Fife’s tenants in the county.

Taylor asked his captors what they meant to do with him at Burghead. They said they had first intended to take him to Rosevalley, the residence of Alexander Sutherland but this person was Sir Archibald Dunbar’s Factor and they did not consider Taylor would be safe there. They had therefore resolved to put the bailie into a boat at Burghead and it was their intention now to transport him to Sutherland.

Alexander Russell, Merchant in Elgin, came to Hopeman from Burghead where he had seen Councillor Robert Dick, an Elgin Merchant and Town Councillor, put to sea and set sail with a fair wind. (16) Russell remained at Hopeman some time with Taylor and he went on with them to Burghead. Taylor recollected seeing John Reid, Farmer in Loanhead of Kintrea and one of Lord Fife’s tenants that day at Burghead. (17)

At Burghead, Taylor was taken to the house of William Henderson, Innkeeper there. They went into the house and, soon after, dinner was brought. This must have been ordered by one of the men because Taylor claimed he ordered or paid for nothing, nor was he asked to do so. The men told Taylor they would take dinner while the boat that was to transport them was getting ready. The whole or most of the men sat down at the table at which Taylor dined.

During the dinner Russell sent out messages to see when the boat would be ready and, after dinner, a messenger came into the room saying the boat was now almost ready. The men then asked Taylor to choose what men he would like to go along with him in the boat. The bailie was satisfied any resistance now was useless and no other choice was left to him. He said Brander, Christie and Russell would be more acceptable than the others. A few minutes after this they all went out.

Accompanied by an enormous crowd they proceeded to the back shore at Burghead. Great numbers of people were there, with great difficulty, launching a boat that had lain for months on the beach. In doing so they made a hole in the side of it and she went to sea in this state, which occasioned her to leak considerably and dangerously during the voyage, so much so it required great exertion to keep her dry. (18)

Taylor was carried into the boat on some person’s back. Along with him were his son Francis, Alexander Christie, William Brander and the boat crew of six or seven men. Taylor did not know any of the seamen by name except one man of the name of Dick but it was established later James McDonald, Seaman in Burghead, was another member of the crew. They put to sea without covering except an old coat and a part of old carpet some person had thrown into the boat when they were leaving Burghead.

When the boat set sail, three cheers of “Lord Fife for ever!” were given from the immense crowd on the shore. This was returned by all in the boat, excepting the bailie and his son, who sat silent.

They proceeded so far with a favourable wind but when it became quite dark it began to blow a hurricane. This drove them to a lee shore on the coast of Sutherland and they did not at this time know at what particular part of the coast they were opposite. The crew discussed whether they would run the boat ashore or row off to a short distance and cast anchor. They adopted the latter expedient, supposing the coast was rocky.

After lying some time at anchor, the hurricane increased and broke the cable. The sailors exclaimed, “For God's sake, to the oars and keep the boat off the shore!” This they did, rowing till daylight when they found themselves about two miles from Brora. The storm was then so great they could not make the harbour of Brora so they were obliged to run the boat ashore. At this time the surf was terrible, the bailie was carried ashore on a seaman’s back.

While at sea the bailie and the rest had the greatest fear of being drowned every instant. After landing Christie talking of the perilous voyage, observed, “What, if the whole had perished but himself, would he have said to Mrs Taylor on his return home.”

They repaired to Brora where they were ushered into the house of Alexander Christie's father-in-law, James Scott, Vintner there. This was between 6 and 7 o’clock in the morning of Sunday, 12th March and they remained at Brora from that time till Monday after breakfast.

Monday & Tuesday

On Monday morning, Taylor expressed a desire to see the coal works at Brora. Walking with his son and James Scott, Christie and Brander following a little behind them, the bailie requested to know from Scott whether he thought he could make his escape. Scott said he could step out of the house and get a horse. Taylor said that would do very well but unless his captors were secured it would not have the effect. Here, Christie and Brander then came up and interrupted the conversation.

After breakfast on Monday, Alexander Russell came to Scott’s house. He brought the bailie his best hat from Elgin and at the same time mentioned he had brought a bundle of clothes for him, these being left with Mr Craig, Farmer in Sutherland. Craig was a nephew of William Young Esq., Maryhill. (19)

In the course of Monday the whole party then walked to Golspie and, arriving about 12 o’clock, they went to the house of Mr Duncan, Innkeeper there. Alexander Russell then pressed Taylor to take a few notes he then had in his hand. Russell observed it looked curious to see the men paying for everything for him and a gentleman should have no money. Taylor refused saying he would have nothing to do with their money. (20)

The bailie had formerly known Duncan’s wife a little and on reaching the house he mentioned he was there a prisoner. Mrs Duncan appeared much surprised, she always understood Taylor to be a man of character and could not understand what he could be a prisoner for. The bailie explained he was a political prisoner and it was Lord Fife’s party who had carried him there.

They dined at Duncan’s house and were taking a glass of punch after dinner when Patrick Sellar of Westfield came into the room. Sellar was married to a niece of William Young of Maryhill. He pressed Taylor very much to go and visit him at his house. Taylor explained the circumstances and the reason for his being there. He said to Sellar he meant to prosecute Christie and Brander for false imprisonment and carrying him away in the manner they had done. Sellar said to Taylor he had a good right to do so and if he did prosecute them he would get them banished for what they had done. Christie then said he “Would suffer banishment for Lord Fife any day.”


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