The Heart of Mid-Lothian
Although it would be impossible to add much to Mrs. Goldie's picturesque and
most interesting account of Helen Walker, the prototype of the imaginary Jeanie
Deans, the Editor may be pardoned for introducing two or three anecdotes
respecting that excellent person, which he has collected from a volume entitled,
Sketches from Nature, by John M'Diarmid, a gentleman who conducts an able
provincial paper in the town of Dumfries.
Helen was the daughter of a small farmer in a place called Dalwhairn, in the
parish of Irongray; where, after the death of her father, she continued, with the
unassuming piety of a Scottish peasant, to support her mother by her own
unremitted labour and privations; a case so common, that even yet, I am proud to
say, few of my countrywomen would shrink from the duty.
Helen Walker was held among her equals pensy, that is, proud or conceited; but
the facts brought to prove this accusation seem only to evince a strength of
character superior to those around her. Thus it was remarked, that when it
thundered, she went with her work and her Bible to the front of the cottage,
alleging that the Almighty could smite in the city as well as in the field.
Mr. M'Diarmid mentions more particularly the misfortune of her sister, which he
supposes to have taken place previous to 1736. Helen Walker, declining every
proposal of saving her relation's life at the expense of truth, borrowed a sum of
money sufficient for her journey, walked the whole distance to London barefoot,
and made her way to John Duke of Argyle. She was heard to say, that, by the
Almighty strength, she had been enabled to meet the Duke at the most critical
moment, which, if lost, would have caused the inevitable forfeiture of her sister's
Isabella, or Tibby Walker, saved from the fate which impended over her, was
married by the person who had wronged her (named Waugh), and lived happily
for great part of a century, uniformly acknowledging the extraordinary affection to
which she owed her preservation.
Helen Walker died about the end of the year 1791, and her remains are interred
in the churchyard of her native parish of Irongray, in a romantic cemetery on the
banks of the Cairn. That a character so distinguished for her undaunted love of
virtue, lived and died in poverty, if not want, serves only to show us how
insignificant, in the sight of Heaven, are our principal objects of ambition upon