Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Friday, July 22, 2011

Two Sides of A Story

If I wanted to research for a contemporary, let's say a female private eye. I could interview a private eye. I could go to the local community center and take self-defense classes. I could practice shooting at a firing range. I could hop over to the race track and for a large sum, go for one heck of a ride. 

As an historical writer, it's not that easy. Much of our researh information comes from primary and secondary sources. Primary sources, for me being the prime;). Secondary sources often provide a wealth of ideas, but not everything may be accurate. And, it never fails, I find two, sometimes three, maybe even four different sides to a story.

Let's take the events surrounding the Battle of Glen Fruin. It was a battle between the Gregors and the Colquhouns. Both believed they had just cause to go to battle. Both believed they had been wronged by the other. The Colquhouns, which included Buchanans and Grahams, far outnumbered the Gregors, yet the Gregors defeated the Colquhouns. There's no question of who won the battle, but what occurred afterward leaves much to the imagination, at least it did with mine.

According to pro-Colquhoun sources, Laird Luss, Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, had his women folk parade their husband's bloody shirts in front of King James VI. James being weak of stomach embarrassed himself and demanded the annihilation of Clan Gregor.

According to pro-Gregor sources, Laird Luss had his women folk, who, by the way fought in the Battle of Glen Furin, dip their husband's shirts in lambs blood, then parade the bloody shirts in front of King James VI. James being weak of stomach embarrassed himself and demanded the annihilation of Clan Gregor.

Whatever the truth, on February 8, 1603, the Proscriptive Acts of Clan Gregor were enacted. This was an act of annihilation. No clan member could carry the name Gregor, caught doing so meant immediate execution. The women were stripped, they were branded (think hot poker), they were whipped in the streets, then they along with Gregor children were sold into slavery (yes, human trafficking was an issue). I can only imagine that the women were fair game for rape, as were the children.

In the spring of 1604, the Campbells betrayed Laird Alasdair MacGregor, leaving him, along with 30 of his warriors executed. You can find a list of names here http://www.webspawner.com/users/griersonorigins154/index.html

Now, according to many accounts, the Gregors were feared among the clans. They were one of James' biggest problems that needed to be dealt with. In all, many believed the Gregors got exactly what they deserved. I'm not so sure. This was a horrific period in time, there was turmoil all over the land. The act upon the Gregors left a stone crushing my heart. I felt sorrow. I felt compassion. I felt anger. Anger at a devious Luss. Anger at a cowardly king.

Somehow, Clan Gregor wrapped around my heart like a cloak of mist. I have felt their near destruction, as well as their fighting spirit. I have felt their mischief, as well as their honor. I have felt their mysterious elusiveness. They've risen from the ashes and have become timeless heroes. Rob Roy MacGregor wasn't just a man, HE was a CLAN. A clan that survived through trials and tribulations. A clan that persevered through the fires of hell. A clan that was bound together by faith, hope, and love for each other. A clan that never gave up.
Sir Walter Scott
As you can tell, I'm lost in time with an overwhelming passion for Clan MacGregor. But it's easy to become lost, especially since I'm currently writing a series of books surrounding the events of Glen Fruin. Perhaps you're wondering how I could find anything inspirational and romantic in such tragic times, I'm wondering myself. But I did, not with just one story, but with five.

I've taken a creative license with my historical research. I made a choice on how I would view the events surrounding this specific time in history. I also chose how to portray, my characters-hero, heroine, villain(s), and yes, even King James. I've convinced myself of the Gregor's innocence, so much so that I don't think I could write any Colquhoun with redemptive qualities.

How do you chose which side of the fence you stand on? For you contemporary writers, do you ever take historical events and place them in modern times to create a story? If not, where do you gain most of you inspiration? And where do you look for your villain?

Don't forget to check out Sir Walter Scott's, MacGregor's Gathering.

And if you're interested you can see my post Berserkers and Shrooms . It's a rough draft of a scene from my wip Possessing the Highlander. Obviously my hero is a Macgregor. I don't mention the villain but I bet you can guess after reading Two Sides of A Story.



Winona said...

What a fascinating post. As a descendent of the MacGregor clan I can attest to the strength of family loyalty even after centuries. Of course, I think the Gregor clan was unjustly treated. Thanks for the post and for the brief history.

I look forward to reading your series.

Renee said...

Winona, with as strong of a connection I have to the Gregors I keep looking for the link. It's kind of crazy. The only other ones I feel so contacted to are the McDuffees (an old Scottish connection)and the McQuarries.

Emma said...

While I don't do Scottish history, I've gone back and forth on the places and periods I do use. I'm surprised at how much my views and opinions can change. Would that I were as flexible and broadminded in my own time!

Angelyn said...

The Gregor clan fought gallantly at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, the last pitched battle between Scottish and English forces in which the Scots were badly defeated and the infant Queen Mary was smuggled out of the country. Some rough wooing going on there.

Sandy L. Rowland said...

Great post. Primary sources are best, but as a writer, some of the secondary have enough imagination to help spur on a story. The blood stained shirts make for a good read.

Thanks for the info.

Fraoch said...

Thank you for an interesting post. I know that the Gregors (MacGregors) have been the villians in the Borders because of their blackmail but I am curious in your research did you find information on how they changed their surnames in order to remain in Scotland? One of the Border families the Grahams ( on both sides of the border) after 1603 were part of a Border clearance and they were sent to Holland and to Ireland but they came back and changed their name from Graham to Maharg. Did the Gregors try the same?

Renee said...

Jody, I read somewhere that the MacGregors did change their names. If I remember correctly they changed their names to Murray, Campbell and Grahams. There are others too, just can't recall them all. I remember the Grahams because I thought it odd that they'd take on the name of one of the clans responsible for their annihilation. I also read that the Campbells and MacGregors were close allies for a time prior to the back stabbing. Probably why I remember their name as well.

King James was fickle. My apologies if there are any King James lovers out there but he was. Something to note in all of this. Laird Luss had been a 'favorite' of James.

There is no doubt that Luss (Humphrey or his brother Alexander-I've seen both written) had suffered a huge embarassment with his defeat at Fruin. I'm sure he used his knowledge and favortism to his advantages in trying to destroy the Gregors.

Renee said...

Emma, I'm preparing to write a pioneer set prior to the Civil War about America's own border warfare. The heroine from one side the hero's family from the other. I've tossed around the idea of having the hero from the other side but I'm not sure I could find redemptive qualities in him. I'll have to think on that.

Renee said...

LOL, Angelyn. Rough wooing indeed.

Renee said...

Sandy, thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you were entertained.