In The Wind in the Willows the irrepressible Mr Toad escapes from gaol by dressing as a washerwoman. My 7th great aunt Margaret Lady Ogilvy is said to have escaped from Edinburgh Castle, where she had been confined after the failure of the ’45, in much the same way, disguised as a washerwoman.
It happened like this.
Margaret (1724-1757) was one of 14 children of my seventh great grandparents Sir James Johnstone (1697-1772) and his wife Barbara née Murray (1703-1773). In 1745 Margaret married David, Lord Ogilvy (1725-1803), who had raised a regiment in support of the Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart. Margaret accompanied her husband during the rebellion.
Ogilvy’s clansmen were cut to shreds at Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746, and in the aftermath Margaret Lady Ogilvy was captured and kept at Edinburgh Castle. In November 1746 she escaped, “disguised as a washerwoman”.
Margaret Ogilvy made her way to France where she was reunited with her husband, who had survived Culloden and fled to Paris. He later became a general in the forces of the French king.
So the story goes, but it is suspiciously similar to a tale told about David Ogilvy. He too had been captured after the failure of Culloden and is said to have escaped St Andrews Castle dressed as a woman, in his sister’s clothes.
My sixth great grandfather, Charles Kinnaird (1723-1767), brother-in-law of Margaret Ogilvy née Johnstone was also imprisoned during the rebellion. In November 1745 Kinnaird was committed to prison by the solicitor of His Majesty George II for holding treasonable correspondence with the Highlanders at Carlisle, but was released a few weeks later on 19 December 1745. He is described in family stories as having “eaten his commission in prison”, destroying in this way the documents and correspondence he was carrying. Kinnaird was imprisoned with Walter Scott, a servant of his future father-in-law, Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall, Dumfries.
In 1748 Charles Kinnaird married Barbara Johnstone (1723-1765), Margaret’s sister. I am descended from Charles and Barbara Kinnaird through Charlotte Dana (1820-1904), my third great grandmother.
- Rothschild, Emma The inner life of empires : an eighteenth-century history. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. ; Woodstock, 2011. Page 318. Note 28 refers to the imprisonment of Charles Kinnaird and Lady Ogilvie and states The family stories “of Lord Kinnaird eating his commission in prison—Of Westerhall being a refuge for the fugitives & of Lady Ogilvie’s escape”—were recounted by Betty Johnstone, many years later, to her great-niece Elizabeth Caroline Johnstone.
- Bernard Burke (1854). Family romance: or, Episodes in the domestic annals of the aristocracy. Hurst and Blackett. pp. 264–274
- Stamford Mercury 26 June 1746 page 3 retrieved from FindMyPast.com.au quoting a letter from Edinburgh dated June 16: “Yesterday Lady Ogilvy, who attended her husband, and was remarkably active in the present Rebellion, was brought to this Place by a Party of Soldiers, and confined in the Castle.”
- Newcastle Courant 22 November 1746 page 3 retrieved from FindMyPast quoting a letter from Edinburgh dated November 24 : “The Lady Ogilvie made her Escape last Friday [18 November] from the Castle.”
- Walton, Geri. “Daring Escape of Jacobite Woman Lady Margaret Ogilvy.” Geri Walton unique histories from the 18th and 19th centuries. November 10, 2017. https://www.geriwalton.com/daring-escape-jacobite-woman-lady-margaret-ogilvy/.
- The Scots Magazine 7 March 1757 page 53 retrieved from FindMyPast : “Lately in France, in the 32nd year of her age, Mrs Margaret Johnston, wife of Lord Ogilvie, leaving issue one son and two daughters. This lady’s husband is the lineal heir of the family of Airly, became attainted in 1746 [viii, 269.] and is colonel of a regiment in the French service.”
- Ogilvy David, entry in the Dictionary of National Biography 1885-1900 vol 42 by Thomas Finlayson Henderson, transcribed at Wikisource
- Charles Jobson Lyon (1843). History of St. Andrews: Episcopal, Monastic, Academic, and Civil, Comprising the Principal Part of the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, from the Earliest Age Till the Present Time. W. Tait. pp. 32–33 states David Ogilvy dressed himself in the clothes of one of his tiers and escaped disguised as a woman.
- Stamford Mercury 12 December 1745 page 2 retrieved from FindMyPast.com.au quoting a letter from Edinburgh dated November 28 about the imprisonment of Charles Kinnaird