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Flora MacDonald and the Sandhills/Cape Fear Scots

Flora MacDonald (Gaelic: Fionnghal NicDhòmhnaill) (1722 – March 4, 1790), Jacobite heroine, was the daughter of Ranald MacDonald of Milton on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, and his wife Marion, the daughter of Angus MacDonald.

Her father died when she was a child, and her mother was abducted and married by Hugh MacDonald of Armadale, Skye. She was brought up under the care of the chief of her clan, the MacDonalds of Clanranald, and was partly educated in Edinburgh. Throughout her life she was a practising Presbyterian.[1]

In June 1746, at the age of 24, she was living on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides when Bonnie Prince Charlie took refuge there after the Battle of Culloden. The prince's companion, a Captain O'Neill, sought her assistance to help the prince escape capture. The island was controlled by the Hanoverian government using a local militia, but the MacDonalds were secretly sympathetic with the Jacobite cause.

After some hesitation, Flora promised to help the prince escape the island. At a later period she told the Duke of Cumberland, son of George II and commander-in-chief in Scotland, that she acted from charity and would have helped him also if he had been defeated and in distress.

The commander of the local militia was her stepfather, Hugh MacDonald. The commander gave her a pass to the mainland for herself, a manservant, an Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke, and a boat's crew of six men. The prince was disguised as Betty Burke. He had left Benbecula on June 27.

After a first repulse at Waternish, Skye, the party landed at Kilbride, Skye, within easy access of Monkstadt, the seat of Sir Alexander MacDonald. The prince was hidden in rocks while Flora MacDonald found help for him in the neighbourhood. It was arranged that he be taken to Portree, Skye and from there taken to Glam on the island of Raasay.

The talk of the boatmen brought suspicion on Flora MacDonald, and she was arrested and brought to London for aiding the prince's escape. After a short imprisonment in the Tower of London, she was allowed to live outside of it, under the guard of a "messenger" or gaoler. When the Act of Indemnity was passed in 1747 she was released.

Her bravery and loyalty had gained her general sympathy, increased by her good manners and gentle character. Dr Johnson, who met her in 1773, describes her as "a woman of soft features, gentle manners, kind soul and elegant presence." He also paid the tribute that is engraved on her memorial at Kilmuir:

"...a name that will be mentioned in history, and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with honour."

In 1750, at the age of 28, she married Captain Allan MacDonald of Kingsburgh, and in 1773 together they emigrated to North Carolina. During the American War of Independence he served the British government and was taken prisoner.

Legend has it that she exhorted the Loyalist force at Cross Creek, North Carolina (present-day Fayetteville) that included her husband, Alan, as it headed off to its eventual defeat at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in February, 1776.

In 1779 Flora returned home to Scotland in a merchant ship. During the passage, the ship was attacked by a privateer. She refused to leave the deck during the attack and was wounded in the arm.

Flora MacDonald had a large family of sons, who mostly entered the army or navy, and two daughters. She died at Kingsburgh on the Isle of Skye in 1790, at the age of 68. There is a statue to her memory in the grounds of Inverness Castle.

In Scottish National Dancing - a relative of Highland Dancing, the dance "Flora MacDonald's Fancy" is named after her. It is known for its balletic steps and graceful movements, supposedly based on the dance that she performed for Bonnie Prince Charlie.


  1. ^ Hugh Douglas, Flora (1722–1790)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 8 Sept 2008.

-Source: Wikipedia

North Carolina Scots

Highland Scots


When the Highland Scots migrated to America, North Carolina was a more popular place to settle than any of the other colonies.


In 1739, Gabriel Johnston, royal governor of North Carolina and native Scotsman, encouraged 360 Highland Scots to settle in North Carolina and later provided them a ten-year tax exemption for doing so.  Subsequent offers by Johnston attracted Highland Scots to North Carolina primarily for economic and political reasons, for in Scotland, they had difficulties paying the increasing land rents and had experienced defeat against the English at the Battle of Culloden in 1745.  Also, the Highland evictions, beginning in the 1700s and continuing to the 1800s, forced many Scots to give up their land so that sheep could be raised.  Many chose therefore to settle mainly in North Carolina, yet many sailed to New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and Canada.  In the late nineteenth century, officials promoted working with North Carolina timber among the Highland Scots; but few enjoyed the work, so only a small number came to do so.


Although their exact numbers are unknown, records reveal that countless Highland Scots migrated to North Carolina during the colonial period.  Arriving in Wilmington, most who came had obtained a land grant from the government to settle in the Upper Cape Fear region, because they knew many parts of the Lower Cape Fear had been settled.  In 1754, enterprising merchants from Wilmington had settled Cross Creek, an interior town on the Cape Fear River, so many Highlanders dwelled near the small creeks flowing into the river.   Highland settlements were numerous in this region during the eighteenth century, and evidence of them can be seen today in Anson, Bladen, Moore, Cumberland, Richland, Scotland, and Robeson counties.


The early Scots raised livestock, including sheep and swine, and grew wheat and corn while some worked in the naval stores industry.  Although many preferred to live outside of Cross Creek, they actively traded in the river town.  The Lowland Scots who migrated from Scotland to North Carolina in the eighteenth century primarily settled in the Lower Cape Fear region, around Wilmington. The 1790 US census lists 150 inhabitants of the Upper Cape Fear Valley who named Scotland as their birthplace.  Unlike Highlanders in other colonies, those in North Carolina intermarried with Lowland Scots.  Also, during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Highland families in North Carolina did exchange letters with family’s members in Scotland. Estate records probated in the eighteenth century also reveal that there were a few Highland Scots who owned land in North Carolina as well as Scotland.


Some important eighteenth-century Highland Scots in North Carolina were Flora McDonald, John McRae, and James Campbell. While in Scotland in 1745, Flora McDonald helped save the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and from 1774 to 1778, she later resided with her husband, Alan, in the Barbecue community of Harnett County. In 1754, James Campbell arrived in Cumberland County and established three Presbyterian churches: Longstreet, located on the present-day Fort Bragg Army base; Old Bluff, near modern-day Wade; and Barbecue in western Harnett County.  Hugh McRae, a Gaelic poet resided near Carthage until the American Revolution.  At the outbreak of the war, more than a few Highland Scots in the Upper Cape Fear were Loyalists, including Hugh McRae and Flora McDonald. Yet after their defeat at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in February 1776, Loyalist support waned—as evidenced by the nearly four hundred who took an oath of allegiance issued by Cumberland County in 1778.  As mentioned, not all Highland Scots remained in North Carolina.  After the Revolution, some left for Barbados, Nova Scotia, or Great Britain, because they had lost their property by either being confiscated or emerced by the local government.



In the eighteenth century, Highland Scots spoke Gaelic in church and at home.  Presbyterian ministers conducted services in Gaelic and English, and young children recited hymns and religious songs in Gaelic.  In the early nineteenth-century Fayetteville, a Gaelic press published books that a nearby bookstore sold.  Gaelic speaking in North Carolina declined after the Civil War and virtually disappeared as a spoken language by the mid-twentieth century.  Scottish surnames, however, remained prevalent; some are Bain, Black, Campbell, Clark, Darrach, Gilchrist, McDonald, McDougald, McKay, McLean, McLeod, McNeill, McPhearson, McAllister, Morrison, Patterson, Ross, and Stewart.


In North Carolina, Scottish heritage is still practiced and celebrated.  In the 1950s, a resurgence of the state’s Scottish culture began when Donald MacDonald and Hugh Morton started the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain. Today, over thirty-five thousand people attend the Highland Games every July.  Other Scottish celebrations include the Loch Norman games near Charlotte and the Highland Games at Red Springs. 







Douglas F. Kelly and Caroline Switzer Kelly, Carolina Scots: An Historical and Genealogical Study of Over 100 Years of Emigration (Dillon, S.C., 1998); Duane Meyer, The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1732-1776 (Chapel Hill, 1961); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989); Celeste Ray, Highland Heritage: Scottish Americans in the America South (Chapel Hill, 2001).


By Lloyd Johnson, Campbell University








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