Macfarlane, Mrs. (DNB00)

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MACFARLANE, Mrs. (fl. 1716–1719), murderess, was daughter of Colonel Charles Straiton, a zealous Jacobite. When about nineteen she married John Macfarlane, writer to the signet and law agent of Simon Fraser, lord Lovat. At the time Macfarlane was in middle life, many years his wife's senior. Soon after the marriage Mrs. Macfarlane made the acquaintance of Captain John Cayley, a commissioner of customs, and son of Cornelius Cayley of the city of York. On 29 Sept. 1716 he called on her in her house at Edinburgh, when, for reasons known only to herself or him, she fired two shots at him with a pistol, one of which pierced his heart. Her husband asserted that she fired to save herself from outrage (letter in Swintons of that Ilk, p. 89), and she affirmed that this explanation was 'only too true' (ib. p. 91). Her husband also affirmed that she wished to send for a magistrate and tell the whole story, and that he advised her against it. Not appearing to stand her trial in the ensuing February, she was outlawed. She obtained refuge in the mansion-house of the Swinton family in a concealed apartment opening from the parlour by a sliding panel. A child of Lady Swinton, while her mother was at church, discovered Mrs. Macfarlane one day in the parlour, and this incident suggested to Scott is description of the concealment and discovery of the Countess of Derby in 'Peveril of the Peak,' Scott says 'it is certain she returned and lived and died in Edinburgh' (note to Peveril of the Peak). If, however, she returned, her life in Edinburgh was comparatively short, for her husband married again on 6 Oct. 1719 (Appendix to {sc|Fergusson's}} Major Fraser's Manuscript).

[Chambers's Domestic Annals of Scotland; Scott's note to Peveril of the Peak; Fergusson's Major Fraser's Manuscript, App. No. 3, ii. 170-181; A. C. Swinton's The Swintons of that Ilk.]

T. F. H.