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January 29th 1750

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The beautiful Helen Gloag

Helen Gloag was born close to the village of Muthill in 1750. The family soon moved to the Mill of Stepps on the Mechany water where her father had a blacksmithís business. Here Helen grew up to be a striking beauty with golden-red hair and green eyes.

When she was quite young her mother died and her father re-married, but as so often happens step daughter and step mother did not get on well. There were constant quarrels and in particular her step mother did not approve of her friendship with John Byrne, a local farmer. John was certainly much older than Helen but their friendship seems to have been quite innocent.

Because of the friction at home, Helen, with several other girl friends decided to emigrate to South Carolina. They set sail from Greenock in May 1769 but off the coast of Spain they were boarded by a party of the notorious Salle pirates of Morocco. Salle had a fearsome reputation as a centre for the slave trade. It was also a city where Christians were regarded as being of very little account and were treated with the greatest cruelty. Many embraced Mohammedonism to escape slavery and at least some joined the xebecs, the swift three masted boats used by the pirates.

It was here that Helen and her companions were brought and taken to the slave market. Helenís beauty attracted great attention and one of the more astute merchants of the town purchased her and then gifted her to Sultan Sidi Mohammid ibn Abdullah, the ruler of Morocco.

He soon became infatuated by Helenís beauty and perhaps her good Scottish common sense and before long she had graduated from the position of concubine to that of fourth wife with the rank of Empress. Possibly because of her influence, British captives began to be released and allowed home.

The Salle pirates were officially abolished (though it was early in this century before they were finally stamped out) and trading treaties were made with Britain and other countries. Among those who visited Morocco was her brother Robert and through him she retained her links with Scotland sending many gifts home to her family and to her friend John Byrne.

In 1790, the Sultan died and the throne was seized by Mulai Yazeed, a half mad son by a German concubine. Helen sent her two sons by the Sultan to the town of Teuten in an attempt to secure their safety but it seems probable that they were killed by Yazeedís troops.

Helenís fate is unknown but it is thought that she survived Yazeedís short but bloody reign.

Her brother retired to Mill of Stepps and died there in 1830 aged 77.

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