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Joseph Shillinglaw Provides 40 Horses for The Prince

This tale first appeared in The Middlesex Genealogical Society's Newsletter, April 1999. Sorry to be late with the news here but, better late than ....

We are grateful to Canadian Elizabeth Wright-Dods, who is descended via her father-in-law from the Mr Shillinglaw in question, for bringing it to our notice.

by Dorothy Shillinglaw

"In 1955 my husband, Selwyn, traveled to Edinburgh where he stayed with a first cousin of his father’s and met several other family members. He came home with some names, dates and addresses, and a story about the origin of the Shillinglaw name. According to the story, the original Shillinglaw had been a cadet of the house of Kerr, became a follower of Bonnie Prince Charlie, got in trouble for stealing horses from the Prince, ran away and changed his name to Sheilinghill which eventually evolved into Shillinglaw.

"This was a wonderful story and we cheerfully shared it with many people over the years. As I researched the family, however, poring over old records that took me back in time through six generations of Shillinglaws, it became clear that the family’s name had existed before Bonnie Prince Charlie’s arrival in Scotland. As told, the story could not be true. Nevertheless I wasn’t quite ready to discard it entirely because my experience has been that there is usually some basis for the existence of such a story. I hoped for enlightenment at some future time.

"Recently I received a scrapbook that had belonged to Selwyn’s grandfather George Shillinglaw who was born in Edinburgh in 1859 and emigrated to the United States in 1883. The scrapbook, begun around 1873, contains a mixture of poems and news items that caught his interest, miscellaneous odds and ends, and some items that relate to the family.

"I eagerly went through the family items such as visiting cards, announcements, invitations to a few weddings — and found one small peripheral mystery but no great surprises. Then I started to read an unsourced and undated newspaper clipping about Earlstoun (now Earlston), the place where George’s father Thomas Shillinglaw had been born in 1813.

That was when I struck gold

"The typeface used in this article appears to match that of The Weekly Scotsman, an Edinburgh publication to which George subscribed. There is no headline but the first paragraph begins EARLSTOUN—NOTES NEW AND OLD and internal evidence indicates that it appeared during the period that the Messrs. Lawton’s section of the Berwickshire Railway was being built.

"The article summarizes construction progress on the new line and expresses regret that the loss of some charming scenery is attributable to the work. Construction of the first road built in the district in 1745 is mentioned and the conclusion is drawn that even with the unfortunate changes that the railroad brings, it is as necessary to the district as was that first road.

"The article then goes on to relate what it terms an interesting and little known story in connection with the 1745 road...

"It seems that Joseph Shillinglaw of Brideshaugh Milne in Legerwood, Berwickshire (Selwyn’s third great-grandfather, age 20 at the time), was the contractor for the section of the road extending from Blainslie (near Lauder) down the west side of Leader Water, passing Hawickshiel, Kedzlie, Earlstoun and Drygrange to the Fly (ferry) at Leaderfoot.

"According to the article, when Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army marched from Edinburgh to Carlisle in 1745 it started off in two sections. The Prince and one group initially traveled along the coast towards Berwick; the rest moved south through Midlothian then turned past Langshaw, to Earlstoun. There they came upon Joseph Shillinglaw working on the new road and employing 40 horses in its construction. The Prince’s followers promptly confiscated all 40 horses in the name of the Prince and drove them off to where the men were to rejoin their leader and the rest of the army.

The Kindly Prince Acts True to Form

"As you can well imagine, the loss of 40 horses was not something to be borne lightly. Joseph Shillinglaw, determined to recover the horses and certain that only the Prince could effect that happy end followed the Prince’s men and sought and obtained an interview with the Prince himself. Joseph’s presentation of his grievance to the prince must have been extremely effective because the outcome of the meeting was the return to him of all 40 horses.

"So, how reliable was the family story that Selwyn brought home from Scotland in 1955? Not very. Clearly, the events described had become somewhat garbled in the 210 years that had passed since they occurred. Even so, the story did contain elements of truth. Horses were indeed stolen away and Joseph Shillinglaw did for a very brief time follow Bonnie Prince Charlie!"

Published Date: July 4th 2008

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