Raasay: The Island and Its People

By Norma Macleod | Go to book overview

4
The History of Raasay, C.1750-C.1800

AFTER THE 1745 REBELLION

When the repercussions of the 1745 rebellion had passed, life in the north-west Highlands settled down again. Although his father was still alive, John MacLeod was now Laird of Raasay. Ownership of the estate had been passed from father to son before Malcolm 'went out' in 1745, to avoid the possibility of forfeiture. The tactic worked well in that respect. As might be expected, however, it caused other problems.

Matters were not helped by the fact that the estate was not financially sound at this time. An allowance for Malcolm had been agreed. In all probability this would have been a tack or farm granted to him for life.

On 10 May 1748, Malcolm MacLeod, with the consent of John, married his second wife, Seonaid or Janet MacLeod, the daughter of a tenant on the estate. Dr John Maclnnes tells the story as he heard it from Seonaidh Dhòmhnaill Iain Bhàin, John MacLeod from Balmeanach, Raasay.1

When Seonaid was a girl, probably in her late teens, she went to work in the
tigh-mór [big house - Raasay House]. There she fell in love with a young
man, one of Mac Gille Chaluim's servant lads. The lad, however, did not
show any sign of interest in her. So she went to the cook to ask for advice
and this woman said to her: 'That lad always comes in here for his meal at
such and such an hour every evening. You stay here with me and just before
he comes in - I'll let you know myself - go and stand behind the door there.
As he comes in through the doorway, you jump out and steal a kiss from him.
He'll notice you after that!' And so it happened. The cook saw the young man
approaching, she told the girl, and the girl went and stood behind the door.
But unknown to the cook Mac Gille Chaluim himself was there too and it
was Mac Gille Chaluim who came in first. The girl jumped out from behind
the door and kissed Mac Gille Chaluim. And that was how the affair began.

During their visit to Raasay in 1773, Dr Johnson and Boswell met Seonaid MacLeod, who was by then a widow. Boswell's description of her is rather disparaging. Her son, Charles, had taken the visitors to meet her. She lived in a small comfortable house at Ard na Bràthan, between Clachan and Oscaig. They were treated to cream and barley-bread. Boswell said of Seonaid, 'She was a stout fresh-looking woman, very plainly dressed, and could not speak a word of English.' He goes on to say

It was not amiss to see the difference between her house keeping and that of
Raasay's [John's]. Folly on one side, and probably interested cunning on the
other, had produced the second marriage. She was called only Mrs MacLeod

-59-

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