The Munro Family
The first draft of Turn of the Tide had Hugh Montgomery as the main character, but 70,000 words in a friend suggested that Munro, who was at that time a two-bit messenger boy, who appeared briefly in chapter 3, would make a fabulous mc and would free me to write about both factions from an outsider perspective.
It was a bit of a wrench to ditch 67,000 of those 70,000 words and start again with chapter 3 as the opening, but I am so glad I did.
Munro is a man of much more integrity than his superiors, who cannot reconcile committing murder with his conscience, and his wife, who in common with Elizabeth Montgomery has no patience with blood feud, is instrumental in the choices he finally makes.
I had fun writing about his whole family, from his mother, who has a strong Christian faith which Kate Munro envies, to the children who squabble and play together like children throughout the ages. I had most fun working out how to incorporate a 16th century ‘babywalker’ into the story – they did exist and looked very like the one I had for my own children, only of course it was wooden, with a cambric seat, rather than the metal and cotton of the one I had.
The Cunninghames, especially Glencairn and William are cast as the villains of the tale. Although this was my choice rather than a reflection of documented fact, there are several reasons why it was reasonable to make this choice. William, who was heir to the Cunninghame Earldom did not become earl until the last year of his life – aged c 60, so he had spent most of his life ‘ in waiting’ for a status that came too late for him to enjoy it. In an age when many died young – through illness or murder- this was highly unusual and must have been frustrating.
The on-going ill-feeling between William and Hugh Montgomery is documented and it can’t have helped that Hugh becomes Laird of Braidstane as a result of the murder of his father by the Cunninghames.
Alexander Montgomery was indeed James VI’s ‘master poet’ and it is likely that he helped Hugh to gain the ear of the king.
Grizel Montgomery is my invention, but only because although it is documented that Hugh had sisters, I was unable to find any detailed records of them, not even their names.
The fate of those members of the Cunninghame faction who appear briefly in the opening chapters and who are involved in the massacre at Annock in 1586 is as documented – real life (as so often the case) just as interesting as any fiction could be.
Not much is known of Elizabeth Shaw at this period of her history but when she later accompanies her husband to Ulster she is very forward-thinking in the way she manages his extensive estates and is instrumental in developing linen trade, in establishing water mills in every parish for the convenience of her tenants and in ensuring that they have good housing and enough ground to enable them to grow vegetables etc. A model landowner in fact, so my depiction of her as someone with an interest in the plight of lesser folk is in keeping with the evidence we do have of her character.
In real life Patrick Maxwell was much more unpleasant than I have painted him, being noted for two things – an over-weaning pride and the abuse of his wife – she sought an injunction from James VI to keep him away, a staggeringly brave thing to attempt at this time.
It was a challenge to write a story using primarily historic characters – and of course the motivations / thoughts / and many of their actions are of my invention, but I have sought to remain true to what is known and to restrict myself to what is at least possible in the light of known facts.