The location of Maclaren's Leap can be found on the A701 just south of the Tweedsmuir parish and Peeblesshire County Boundary. This is at the edge of the topographical feature known as Devil's Beeftub at co-ordinates NT 056 127 - shown in the image below.

DevilsBeeftubview

Captain Donald Maclaren of the "Leap" is a hero in the lore of the Clan Maclaren.   He fought at the battle of Culloden where he was wounded.   He managed to escape after the battle but was eventually captured, after being wounded again, at the Braes of Leny.   He was then held in the prisons of Stirling and Cannongate Edinburgh.  During August 1746 while being escorted by the Redcoats from Edinburgh to Carlisle, for trial and probable execution, he managed to evade his guards.  The group had just passed the Tweed's Cross, the Pilgrim's Wayside Marker at the county boundary and reached the spot where the road passed close to the edge of the Devil's Beeftub. Here Maclaren siezed his opportunity and in the mist hurled himself off the precipitious edge and rolled down the very steep and extensive slope to the bottom and escaped evading the ensuing musket fire.

There are slight variations as to what happened next.   Oral tradition from his descendants have him under cover of darknes making his way to an old aquaintance who provided him with food.   Bishop Forbes, a regular visitor at the Crook Inn, writing in 1769 has Donald staying in George Black's house for the night, about twelve miles north before making his way to Balquidder. (12 miles north would be the location of the Crook Inn).  It has been established that the tenant innkeeper at the Crook at that time was indeed George Black - this from the Tweedsmuir Parish Register - Nov 9th 1778 Died at Crook and buried in the Church yard here, George Black innkeeper there aged 79.   Also from headstone in Tweedsmuir Kirkyard - George Black late tenant innkeeper at Crook died ...1778....  The headstone also records that Mary Wilson wife of George Black died 01-06-1771 aged 63.  George Black and his wife were therefore both still alive when Bishop Forbes wrote his piece in 1769.  An abbreviated extract from Robert Chambers book History of the Rebellion of 1745 published in 1840 states that "he spent the night in the Crook Inn where the party had been the night before, and where he obtained concealment, although there was another party of soldiers in the house".1 It is evident that both George and Mary put their liberty if not their actual lives on the line to help the fugitive Jacobite.

(This Bishop Forbes must be Robert Forbes 1708-1775 an ardent Jacobite and author of The Lyon in Mourning a collection of speeches, letters, journals etc., relative to the affairs of Charles Edward Stuart.)

The "leap" incident was immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in his novel Redgauntlet. Sir Walter probably heard the story during one of his many visits to the Crook.

Full text from Chambers History of the Rebellion of 1745-6.  

One McLaren, a Balquidder man, who had been concerned in cattle-dealing, and had aften travelled this road before in more peaceful style, contrived to make his escape amongst the hills at the head of Dumfriesshire. There in that district a deep hollow called the Marquis of Annandale's Beef-tub, because the Border thieves used to keep their stolen cattle in it. The road skirted along the top of the steep-down sides of this pit. Seizing a lucky moment, Maclaren enveloped himself in his plaid, and rolled down into the hollow, regardless of the shot which the soldoers sent after him. Being received into the mist which lay at the bottom, he was instantly lost to pursuit: and it is said that he spent that night in the Crook Inn, where the party had been the night before, and where he obtained concealment, although there was another party of soldiers in the house.

 

 

Tony Hope