The Prince and the MacDonalds of Baleshare by Gloria S. Ross

After the disastrous outcome of the Battle of Culloden, one of the families most active in helping Prince Charles Edward Stuart to elude the government forces unleashed by the Duke of Cumberland, was the family of Baleshare. Hugh MacDonald of Baleshare had succeeded his father Ranald, natural son of Sir James Mor MacDonald, as factor of North Uist in 1733. At the time of the Rising, he was made an officer in one of the Independent Companies raised for the Government by Sir Alexander of Sleat, Chief of the MacDonalds. This appointment did not prevent Lady Margaret of Sleat from using Hugh as intermediary in sending newspapers and messages to the Prince during his “skulking ” on the Long Island. Hugh’s merry carousal with the Prince, MacDonald of Boisdale and several Clanranald MacDonalds is well documented in the “Lyon in Mourning”. Hugh later reported the Prince was the best “bowlsman” he had ever seen. Hugh was certainly the “gentleman from the north” who declined Flora MacDonald’s suggestion that he hide the Prince on his North Uist estate, fearing his actions might harm his chief.

Catherine MacDonald of Baleshare, daughter of Ranald, lived on the Island of Scalpay; her husband, Donald Campbell held this tack, off Harris, from MacLeod of Dunvegan. When the Prince sought refuge on the island, even the reward of thirty thousand pounds did not tempt this family to report his whereabouts, but rather, they showed his party true Highland hospitality. It is told that the Prince would rise early in the morning, quietly go to the box-bed and ask Catherine to cook for him, fresh eggs that he had found in the hen’s nest. During their five-day stay, the Prince felt relaxed enough to go fishing with Kenneth, the young son of the Campbells and even helped him rescue a cow which was mired in a bog. It was at the Campbell home where he exchanged his wet plaid, a gift of Lady Borradale, for the dry one of his host. Fragments of the plaid formed the basis of the reconstructed tartan now known as the “Lady Borradale’s Gift”.

Captain Donald Roy MacDonald is perhaps the most famous member of the Baleshares. Like his brother, Hugh, he seems to have been aware of the movements of the Prince during most of his travels around the Outer Hebrides. As the government forces began searchimg both North and South Uist, Hugh sent word by Donald Roy to Lady Margaret suggesting the Prince might find a hiding place on Fladdachuan, a small island off Troternish, investigation proved it was unsuitable. When the Prince landed with Flora near Mugstot, it was to Donald Roy that Lady Margaret turned for help to move the fugitive quickly through Skye and on to the mainland. Every landing place was guarded by soldiers and one of their officers was at that moment being entertained at her home. Donald Roy was just a few miles away at the house of Dr. John MacLean, receiving treatment for the wound to his foot, suffered at the Battle of Culloden.

Donald left Mugstot that night to make arrangements for the Prince to escape from Portree to the Island of Raasay. At the Portree inn of Charles MacNabb, Donald Roy waited for Flora and the Prince who had stayed overnight at Kingsburgh’s house. Flora, on horseback, arrived first. She and Donald Roy anxiously awaited the arrival of the Prince who had walked through the hills with a young boy. He arrived tired and was happy to have a hot meal before the fire. He had entered the inn dripping wet, wearing a plaid without trews, breeches, or feilebeag. They gave him a dry shirt and Captain Donald Roy gave him his feilebeag; he left Skye wearing these dry clothes. On parting, the Prince begged Donald to go along, but he refused as his wounded foot would slow them down and might even result in capture by the pursuers. Their planned meeting later that week did not go as arranged and the Prince sent a cryptic message of thanks signed, James Thomson. Thus, as with Flora MacDonald, after the goodbye at Portree, Donald Roy never saw Charles Edward Stuart again.