Tales from the Houses of Maxwell
Edward Maxwell of
Stroquhan and the 1715 Rising.
Edward Maxwell of Stroquhan was a distant cousin of the Earl of Nithsdale, who had joined the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion at Moffat, having missed the gathering at Aboyne. At his trial, the Earl said, that he joined with four personal servants only. It is possible that young Edward was one these four.
The story goes that " Edward, a very strong young man was captured with his chief after the battle of Preston and whilst the Earl was taken away to the Tower of London a court martial was arranged in a barn near Preston for trying prisoners of a lesser degree. When Edward was being marched to the barn he noticed several horses tethered together a few yards from the entrance. One horse in particular attracted his attention for its fine appearance. He was preceded by a soldier, followed by another, and had one on each side of him, all in close order. He suddenly seized the soldiers on either side of him by their necks and knocked their heads together, at the same time, kicking out behind him, he struck the following soldier in the stomach and so floored three of his guards. The soldier in front tumbled over those already on the floor as Edward made a dash for the horses. Whipping out a small knife he cut the tether of the good horse, leaped on its back and was off before the alarm was raised.
He took to the open country between Preston and Fleetwood but was soon being pursued by English troopers. The stolen horse was a good one and kept well ahead of the posse and their pistol shots fortunately fell wide. He came to a bend in a deep ravine, broader than usual, but the troopers were pressing hard behind and on either side of him and there was no other way of escape. Encouraging the horse, he put it to the jump and cleared the chasm. None of the troopers would attempt the jump and it was a mile to any other crossing point, so the young rebel got clear away and soon found hiding places amongst the gentry of North Lancashire who were favourable to Royal Pretender. Edward ultimately got back to Scotland and joined the outlawed Rob Roy MacGregor."
Sir Walter Scott had a dagger and purse which had been given to Maxwell of Stroquhan by Rob Roy; these are still at in the collection at Abbotsford.
Mungo Maxwell and
the buckskin breeks
Mungo Maxwell was a scion of the Maxwells of Orchardton and lived on one of the estates out lying farms. One day out hunting, he got himself a couple fine bucks and carried them home, skinned them for the pot and dressed and tanned the hides. Now the weather not being too kind in the winter months around the Solway coast he decided to have the skins made up into a pair of warm buckskin breeches and took the pelts into Auchencairn to the tailor who agree to make up the garment.
Several month later, Mungo, had forgotten about the buckskins and was surprised one day by the tailor on his door step with the new breeches over his arm. The tailor demanded a groat for making them but Mungo refused to pay the exorbitant fee and a fierce argument broke out between the two. Soon they were exchanging punches and then grappling on the floor in the midst of their outrage. Suddenly a knife was produced and then the tailor lay mortally wounded on the ground. Mungo, realising his foolishness, head off into the the Blackbellie Woods and hid there until nightfall. Venturing down to the farm that night, he discovered that the tailor had subsequently died of his wounds. Mungo gathered some possessions together and made for Kirkcudbright boarding a ship that night he escaped the consequences of his terrible deed.
There the story would end but for the appearance of Daniel Nithsdale. As a surname, Nithsdale, did not exist before Daniel turned up, so it is fair to assume that he was the progenitor. He is reputed to have been a Maxwell who had got into trouble for murdering someone in a fight or a dual. He fled the country only to return after several years abroad and set up on a farm in Galloway. He married and a had several sons who in turn lead to a large progeny who today, live through out the world. The Nithsdales, all have an variations of an oral history of their family and the life of Daniel Nithsdale. Some tell of him being Mungo Maxwell returned from the Caribbean after years of exile, hiding his identity behind a new name, derived from the Chief of Maxwell's title. The late John Maxwell Nithsdale, who was for many years the Maxwell family historian, claimed Daniel was the great grandson of the last Earl of Nithsdale, son of the sister of Winifred Maxwell who died after giving birth to the illegitimate Daniel, who was raised in secret by his uncle, Lord Bellew, in Ireland. There seems little double that Daniel Nithsdale had a curious connection with the Maxwell family but whatever the connection was, time has probably hidden the truth.
Sir John Maxwell
'earns his spurs'
From Froissart's Chronicles describing the defeat of the Percy's by the Earl of Douglas at the battle of Otterburn (Chevy Chase) in 1388. Froissart spoke to many veterans of the battle from both the English and the Scottish sides and recorded the events in his chronicle. The Scots, under the leadership of James, Earl of Douglas, forayed into England and attacked the Percy stronghold of Newcastle. But the country around about was very hostile to the Scots and the castle heavily defended. In an almost continuous skirmish James Douglas came up against Sir Henry Percy, son of the Duke of Northumberland, also known as Harry Hotspur, Henry Percy was one of England's most famous knights. In the fight, Douglas captured Percy's pennon (battle flag) Froissart recounts the resultant exchange: Douglas cried out: 'I will take this token back to Scotland, and fly it from the tower of Dalkeith Castle for all to see for miles around.' 'By God, Earl of Douglas,' replied Sir Henry, 'you will not even take it out of Northumberland, you may be sure that you will never keep it or be able to boast of it.' 'In that case you will have to come and fetch it tonight,' said Douglas. 'I will fly it in front of my tent, and we shall see if you can remove it.'
The Scots withdrew and continued ravaging the English countryside. The following night they set up camp at Otterburn where they had just attacked and destroyed the castle there. Being too late to go on the last few miles to Scottish soil they set up a strong guard. The English under the Percys came late in the evening with a great force and attacked the slumbering Scottish encampment. A mighty battle ensued which went on into the night. In the early hours, the Earl of Douglas was killed but no one know of his death because of the dark and the battle rolled on. In the Earl of Morays squadron was Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollok, then a young knight probably not yet twenty years olds, Froissart continues: The sons of the Earl of Northumberland, who commanded the army, acquitted themselves valiantly. Sir Ralph Percy (brother of Hotspur) narrowly escaped the same fate as Douglas, when he advanced so far ahead that he was surrounded and severely wounded. Being also winded, he surrendered to Sir John Maxwell, who was from the household of the Earl of Moray. On being asked who he was (for it was dark), Sir Ralph was so weak from loss of blood that he could hardly answer. 'Well, Sir Ralph,' was the reply, 'rescued or not, you are my prisoner. 1 am Maxwell.' 'I submit,' said Sir Ralph, 'but attend to me, for I am so badly wounded that my boots and breeches are filled with blood.' Maxwell looked after him, and hearing the cry of Moray nearby, and seeing the Earl's banner approaching, he said: 'My lord, I present to you Sir Ralph Percy, a prisoner. But take good care of him, for he is very badly wounded.' The Earl was delighted, and said, 'Maxwell, you have well earned your spurs.' Sir Ralph's wounds were dressed, and the battle raged on;
Sir Henry Percy was captured by a kinsman of Sir John's, Lord Montgomery and the Scots won the day. Both the Percy's were ransomed for huge sums of money and the Scots returned home much the richer, such was the way of warfare in the age of chivalry.
There are many more stories to come, stay tuned.