Toad as washerwoman

Illustration by Arthur Rackham of Mr Toad escaping prison dressed as a washerwoman from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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.

Lady Ogilvy

Margaret, Lady Ogilvy from “Illustrations of people and events relating to the Jacobite Rebellions in Scottish history (1715 and 1745-46)” in the collection of the National Library of Scotland

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.


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