During the long summer evenings in Wooster, Ohio, the Adair family and neighbors would gather on the veranda, and my grandmother Caroline would relate family legends from her rocking chair.
She usually began with the story of the Adair clan following William the Conqueror to the British Isles in 1066. Later some of those Adair descendants moved from Southwest Scotland to Antrim, Ireland, where they flourished as political leaders, scholars, teachers, and staunch Presbyterians. She had many stories, and of the ones my mother conveyed to me I remember these few.
It was about 1585 when the Reverend William Adair, a professor at Glasgow University, was allianced with the head Lady in Waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots. He and the rest of the Adair clan joined forces, fighting to keep Mary safe; nonetheless, Queen Elizabeth’s soldiers captured Mary and were taking her to London to be executed on charges of treason. At that point the rest of Elizabeth’s soldiers turned to eliminate those who had fought against them.
William Adair fled toward the coast to catch a sailing ship until his horse got bogged down in mire. A friend from the Smilie clan rescued him, hid him in a barrel while finding him another horse, and then rode with him to the coast where they found a ship ready to sail. William leaped aboard the ship, and as it was pulling away from port he shouted to Smilie, “There will be a Smilie in every Adair generation from this day forward. Every generation of my family will name a child Smilie to commemorate your saving my life.” Indeed, three hundred years later, in their then current generation, John Patrick and Caroline Adair named their second daughter, born in 1896, Ruth Smilie Adair. That was my mother.
Back in Ireland the controversy was still ongoing. In the early 1800’s Parson James Adair was being chased by the King’s soldiers, and on foot went to a house near his home. He found an old woman working in her garden and asked to be hidden. She told him to go to the attic, and immediately thereafter the soldiers rode up and asked for Parson Adair. Her reply was, “Faith and I am Parson Adair’s keeper.” Being questioned further she made similar replies until the officer in charge ordered his men to leave, saying the old fool did not know what she was talking about. At that point James sneaked towards his home. When the soldiers returned they made a fruitless search of the house. Meanwhile James found his way to a field near his own home and hid himself in the top of a large thorn bush. His brother came daily to the field nearby, talked with him, and brought him food and drink.
Besides being a parson, James also was a mariner, and had previous shipmates who were aboard a ship preparing to sail for America. He had arranged with them to stow away, and when it was near time for them to set sail his brother brought him a horse so he could get to the coast quickly and sneak aboard the ship.
After they had been at sea for many weeks the compass on the ship went out of commission and the ship was off course. A member of the crew, knowing Parson Adair was on board and that he was an experienced mariner and could fix the compass, prevailed upon the captain to grant Parson Adair immunity if he would fix the compass. The captain agreed.
James did fix the compass, the ship was steered back on course, and they safely arrived at port near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.