Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | March 31, 2011

"Logan," an introduction

This is the first half of a biography of my fictional pirate I once sketched out:
Lou Logan is a descendant of the Logans of Restalrig, Scotland, the clan famous for helping to carry the heart of Robert the Bruce to the Holy Land.  Growing up in Leith, Logan learned both the ways of the sea in the Firth of Forth and the North Atlantic and the ways of the smuggler in the difficult times after the Union of the Crowns in 1707.  As a proud Scot opposed to English oppression, Logan stood with the Jacobites in the Battle of Preston.  The uprising defeated, Logan was imprisoned in England.  On a wild chance he managed to escape.  Knowing he was an outlaw even in his homeland, Logan made his way to the busy port of Liverpool and managed to join the crew of a merchant vessel bound for America, where he hoped to start a fresh life.  The ship, however, was attacked by pirates led by Benjamin Hornigold off the Eastern Seaboard.  Knowing he had no country, and valuing above all his freedom, Logan turned pirate himself.”
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So why Logan?  In short, I am a Logan, or at least distantly.  My Mom (whom everybody calls Meems) continually digs deeper into our family history.  She was able to trace Logan to the East Coast in the early 1800’s.  I have no idea where to go in Scotland with this name.  There were both Highland Logans and Lowland Logans.  The former purportedly had their seat in Wester Ross, but around 1350 their chieftain, a man with the great name of Gilliegorm (“The Blue Lad,” first of the “blue” Logans) moved to Easter Ross and a place with an equally great name, t-Eilean Dubh (“The Black Isle,” which is in fact a peninsula, not an island).  There Gilliegorm got into a feud, as Scottish chieftains do, with the Frasers and lost horribly in battle.  The Highland Logans were shorn of their lands and titles.  However, said Fraser had a child by the captured wife of Gilliegorm, a humpback named “Crotach,” who went on to become the great ancestor of Clan MacLellan.  Thus to this day–and every time I head to clan gatherings–Logans are unfortunately considered a subclan of the MacLellans.
The Lowland Logans had a brief, shining moment but fared no better in the long run.  During the reign of the famous Robert the Bruce, the Barony of Restalrig, a small village now absorbed into Leith near Edinburgh, came into the hands of the Logans.  Two of the Restalrig Logans, Sir Robert and Sir Walter, given their support of the Bruce, accompanied Sir James “The Black” Douglas in 1330 in an attempt to take the heart of the slain Bruce to the Holy Land.  They only got as far as Spain, where they were surrounded and outnumbered by the Moors, dying in battle as Douglas tossed the box containing the heart into the fray with the words, “Now pass thou onward before us, as thou wert wont, and I will follow thee or die.”  This very chivalric incident is why a pierced heart has become the center of the Logan clan badge.  Back in Restalrig, a whole series of Sir Robert Logans presided as Lairds of Restalrig for many years.  Unfortunately, the last Sir Robert Logan to hold that title was “ane godless, drunkin, and deboshit man.”  Even before his death in 1606, he had been forced to part with his lands and his title.  Then, to add insult to injury, letters were discovered that implicated him in the Gowrie Conspiracy against the Scottish Crown.  Logan was in fact exhumed, and his body was brought to court.  Forfeiture was eventually pronounced, and the very name of Logan was forever stained.

In 2005, I traveled to the United Kingdom.  Most of the time was in London, but I had an extended weekend in Edinburgh–not nearly enough.  I had already done some research, and since our hosts were in Leith it was a quick phone call and an easy walk to visit Restalrig.  Not much remains of the old village except the chapel above, itself a replacement because, of course, the original was razed by King Henry the VIII and John Knox’s Reformation in 1560.  Fortunately, under the church is the well-preserved 15th century Well of St. Triduana, named for a pious woman who chose to tear out her own eyes rather than succumb to the amorous advances of a heathen Pictish king; the waters of the well purportedly could heal the blind.  The “new” church also has a “Logan Window” in honor of the old Lairds and the lost knights.  I was treated by the staff of the church like a long-lost son, given a thorough tour, access to a big portfolio on the chapel and lots of tea and biscuits.

So, why Logan?  Because “Logan” exists, like my interest in piracy itself, at the border between reality and romanticism.  Genealogy gets me so far, and the rest is a fascination with Scotland to which I have a tiny thread of actual connection.  Then there’s the fictitious Logan’s participation in the Jacobite Rising of ’15, but that’s a tale for another time…


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