THE SLAYING OF SERGEANT DAVIES
We now examine a ghost with a purpose; he wanted to have his bones buried. The Highlands, in spite of Culloden, were not entirely pacified in the year 1749. Broken men, robbers, fellows with wrongs unspeakable to revenge, were out in the heather. The hills that seemed so lonely were not bare of human life. A man was seldom so solitary but that eyes might be on him from cave, corry, wood, or den. The Disarming Act had been obeyed in the usual style: old useless weapons were given up to the military. But the spirit of the clans was not wholly broken. Even the old wife of Donald Ban, when he was “sair hadden down by a Bodach” (ghost) asked the spirit to answer one question, “Will the Prince come again?” The song expressed the feelings of the people:—
The wind has left me bare indeed,
And blawn my bonnet off my heid,
But something’s hid in Hieland brae,
The wind’s no blawn my sword away!
Traffickers came and went from Prince Charles to Cluny, from Charles in the Convent of St. Joseph to Cluny lurking on Ben Alder. Kilt and tartan were worn at the risk of life or liberty, in short, the embers of the rising were not yet extinct.
At this time, in the summer of 1749, Sergeant Arthur Davies, of Guise’s regiment, marched with eight privates from Aberdeen to Dubrach in Braemar, while a corporal’s guard occupied the Spital of Glenshee, some eight miles away. “A more waste tract of mountain and bog, rocks and ravines, without habitations of any kind till you reach Glenclunie, is scarce to be met with in Scotland,” says Sir Walter.
The sergeant’s business was the general surveillance of the country side. He was a kindly prosperous man, liked in the country, fond of children, newly married, and his wife bore witness “that he and she lived together in as great amity and love as any couple could do, and that he never was in use to stay away a night from her”.
The sergeant had saved fifteen guineas and a half; he carried the gold in a green silk purse, and was not averse to displaying it. He wore a silver watch, and two gold rings, one with a peculiar knob on the bezel. He had silver buckles to his brogues, silver knee-buckles, two dozen silver buttons on a striped lute-string waistcoat, and he carried a gun, a present from an officer in his regiment. His dress, on the fatal 28th of September, was “a blue surtout coat, with a striped silk vest, and teiken breeches and brown stockings”. His hair, of “a dark mouse colour,” was worn in a silk ribbon, his hat was silver laced, and bore his initials cut in the felt. Thus attired, “a pretty man,” Sergeant Davies said good-bye to his wife, who never saw him again, and left his lodgings at Michael Farquharson’s early on 28th September. He took four men with him, and went to meet the patrol from Glenshee. On the way he met John Growar in Glenclunie, who spoke with him “about a tartan coat, which the sergeant had observed him to drop, and after strictly enjoining him not to use it again, dismissed him, instead of making him prisoner”.