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In The Days Of The ’15
by [?]

Close on two hundred years back from the present time there stood far up the South Tyne, beyond Haltwhistle, on the road–then little better than a bridle-track–running over the Cumberland border by Brampton, an inn which in those days was a house of no little importance in that wild and remote country.

If its old walls could speak, what, for instance, might they not have told of Jacobite plottings? Beneath its roof was held many a meeting of the supporters of the King “over the water,” James the Eighth; and here, riding up from Dilston, not seldom came the unfortunate Earl of Derwentwater, to take part in the Jacobite deliberations. The young lord and the horse he usually rode were figures familiar and welcome to the country folk around, and at the inn they were as well known as was the landlord himself. It was not long after a secret meeting held here in the earlier half of the year 1715 that the warrants were issued which led to Derwentwater’s flight from Dilston, and precipitated the Rising that within a few months rolled so many gallant heads in the dust of the scaffold.

It might perhaps have been better for Lord Derwentwater had he been less beloved in Northumberland, and had his devoted admirers been unable to send him notice of the coming of the warrant for his arrest. He might not then have had opportunity to commit himself so deeply; and there might have been a romantic and pathetic figure the less in the doleful history of that unhappy period. As it was, he had time to get clear away, and was able to lie securely hid, partly in farmhouses, partly near Shaftoe Crags, till the news reached him that Forster had raised the standard of rebellion. On 6th October 1715, at the head of a little company of gentlemen and armed servants, he joined Forster at Greenrig.

A poor affair at the best, this muster in Northumberland; and though the county was seething with excitement, and a few notable men went out with the Earl, his personal following did not exceed seventy in all. Then followed the march which ended so disastrously in pitiful surrender at Preston that fatal November day. However gallant personally, Forster was an incapable soldier, no leader of men, and General Wills had but to spread wide his net to sweep in the bulk of the insurgents–Forster, Derwentwater, Kenmure, Nithsdale, Carwath, Wintoun, and men less exalted in rank by the score and the hundred. The bag was a heavy one, that day of disaster to the Stuart cause; and alas, for many of those who filled it! Alas, too, for the wives and the mothers who sat at home, waiting! Not to everyone was given the opportunity to dare all for husband or son; to few came such chance as was seized by the Countess of Nithsdale, who so contrived that her husband escaped from the Tower disguised in woman’s clothing. It was boldly schemed, and success followed her attempt. Others could but pray to God and petition the King. She not only prayed, but acted. Would that there might have been one so to act for Derwentwater! More happy had it been, perhaps, for his Countess had she never uttered the taunt that ended his hesitation to join in the Rebellion: “It is not fitting that the Earl of Derwentwater should continue to hide his head in hovels from the light of day, when the gentry are up in arms for their lawful sovereign.” They say that her spirit mourns yet within the tower of Dilston.

Away up the valley of the Tyne, amongst the wild Northumberland hills, news went with lagging gait, those leisurely days of the eighteenth century; even news of battle or of disaster did not speed as it is the wont of ill news to do: “For evil news rides fast, while good news baits.” Tidings, in those good old days, but trickled through from ear to ear, slowly, as water filters through sand. Little news, therefore, of Lord Derwentwater, or of the Rising, was heard in or around Haltwhistle after the insurgent force left Brampton; no man knew for a certainty what fortune, good or bad, had waited on the fortunes of his friends.