Monday, October 28, 2013

Discovering Connections, or A Ghost Story for Halloween

Robert Louis Stevenson told the story of Major Duncan Campbell in a long ballad he called Ticonderoga, a Legend of the West Highlands. Written while he was being treated for tuberculosis in Saranac Lake, New York, Stevenson's poem was published in Scribner's Magazine in 1887.

Fort Ticonderoga, New York.
We've stayed several times over the years in the Adirondack resort town of Saranac Lake and often enjoyed walking its hilly streets. Early on, we discovered that the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and many other acclaimed stories and poems, had spent a year in the town as a tuberculosis patient in 1887.

We've seen the "cure cottage" where he and his wife lived and which is today a museum filled with the man's memorabilia. Here Stevenson wrote twelve essays for Scribner's Magazine.
The treatment for TB at the time was a change of climate, and many victims of the disease took rest cures in the clean, cold mountain air, spending eight hours a day sitting in glassed-in porches.
During one long cold winter Stevenson wrote some of his best essays.

We recently took another road trip, this time to Lake George, New York. En route we stayed our first night again in Saranac Lake. We went on to explore some of the historic forts in the Champlain Valley. One of these forts was Ticonderoga, built by the French in 1755 during the French and Indian War. The French called it Fort Carillon.

On a plaque in the parkland that surrounds the fort we read for the first time of a Scottish legend about Major Duncan Campbell, one of the Highlanders who died as a result of wounds he received at Ticonderoga while the British attacked the French fort.

Legend has it that Campbell's death had been foretold sixteen years earlier by the apparition of a murdered man. A stranger had come to Campbell's door in Inverawe, Scotland, begging to be hidden from his pursuers. Campbell gave the stranger his word that he would not reveal the man's hiding place. When the men giving chase came to Duncan's door they told him that his cousin had been murdered. Duncan realized that the man he'd hidden had been the killer.

For three nights afterward he was visited by the ghost of his murdered cousin. On the third night the ghost said, "Farewell, Inverawe, till we meet again at Ticonderoga." It was only years later, when Campbell learned the Highlanders were to attack the French at a place called Ticonderoga, that he knew the meaning of those prophetic words.
The legend also says the battle where Campbell's Black Watch Regiment sustained heavy casualties was replicated in the clouds over Inverary Castle in Scotland on the afternoon of the attack.

Odd how these connections sudden appear to us. I call it serendipity.  

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