Scott’s novel Redgauntlet is made up of correspondence between Darsie Latimer and Alan Fairford—with most of the letters written by Latimer—and is supplemented by journal entries written by both men. The episode of Willie’s tale is reported by Latimer to Fairford, as related to Latimer by Willie. The tale is rendered in Scots dialect, which Latimer faithfully records—a regular feature of Scott’s writing style.
The story makes many references to “the forty-five”—a code name for the Jacobite uprising of 1745 that supported the monarchical claims of the Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart. Willie appears again late in the novel when he fiddles the tune, “The Campbells Are Coming,” to alert those attending a Jacobite conspiracy meeting in time for them to be prepared for the law to enter.