I discovered this article about regional history around Loch Ness that includes the actual recorded story of ‘Leap o the Cask’ and the ‘Dun Bonnet’ as it shows up in Diana Gabaldon’s books. The story IS about a James Fraser. This is the kind of historical coincidence that tends to give one goose bumps.
I found the reference here:
James Fraser, 9th of Foyers, was on very friendly terms with Simon, 13th Lord Lovat, later to be executed for his part in the 1745 Rising, and on that account, Foyers joined Lovat in supporting Prince Charles during his short reign in Edinburgh as King James VIII. After the disastrous battle of Culloden in 1746 the ill-fated Prince Charles fled westwards and took refuge in Gorthleck farmhouse on the Foyers estate but was soon alarmed by a party of Red Coats and effected his escape by jumping out of a window. Foyers also escaped from the battlefield and his efforts to elude capture were every bit as romantic as those of Prince Charles.
Foyers was excluded from the Act of Parliament pardoning treasonable offences committed in the rebellion, and was forced to live in hiding for seven years after the rebellion. One of his favourite haunts was a cave, a mile to the west of the Falls of Foyers. One day, on looking out of the cave, the laird saw a Red Coat secretly following a girl bringing food for him and, as to avoid capture was a matter of life and death to him, the laird shot the soldier who was buried where he fell. So Foyers’s whereabouts could be kept secret, the inhabitants used to speak of him by the nickname “Bonaid Odhair” (Dun Coloured Bonnet).
After the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland’s troops brought much misery and brutality to the district. The estates were plundered and burnt on a scale never before known on account of the proximity of Foyers to Fort Augustus, where Cumberland and his troops were garrisoned. Many people starved to death and many outrages were committed on their persons. At a change-house, An Ire Mhor (a large piece of arable land), on the road to Inverness near Foyers, a group of soldiers, including an officer, raped a young girl living there with her grandmother and, when the old woman tried to defend her grandchild, she was strangled to death. At a funeral, taking place in Foyers cemetery, one of the starving mourners grabbed a loaf of bread off a passing provisions cart heading for Fort Augustus – uproar followed. The offender was arrested and the troops fired indiscriminately into the funeral party, killing at least one and wounding many others. The bullet holes in the grave stone of Donald Fraser of Erchit, buried in 1730, can still be seen to this day. Another outrage was committed on a boy taking a cask of beer to Foyers in his hiding place – when the boy refused to tell of his master’s hiding place, the soldiers cut off his hands.
I’m particularly bemused that one of the bibliographic sources is History of the Frasers by Alex MacKenzie. It makes you wonder if it was printed by A. Malcolm, doesn’t it? 🙂
Here’s a link to some photos of the actual Dun Bonnet cave: