In his memoir, Tempus Fugit, MacGregor wrote, There is nothing as enduring as hope or as mutable as the spirit. It is only our belief that is frail. He was describing events at New Year 1861 when, at the instigation of a close friend, he met Mrs Helena Northwood. She was recently widowed and it seems each found in the other a perfect understanding of their situation. Following a brief courtship, they married in June 1861 and soon after MacGregor broke his two-year silence with Lays of Brigadoon. At Christmas that same year Helena discovered she was with child and within weeks MacGregor began work on Acts of the Servant.
The birth of Lorcan, MacGregor’s son, passed without difficulty in June 1862, but publication of Acts of the Servant proved troublesome. Although completed in late 1862, MacGregor’s publishers objected to its content and style and he had to rewrite it several times over before its eventual publication, as three volumes, in 1865. Works of the Master and Devices & Executions completed This Iron Race in 1867 and 1869, respectively, while MacGregor’s family increased as Lady Helena bore him six more sons, including two pairs of twins, and a daughter.
MacGregor had found happiness in his private life, but Acts of the Servant and its sequels sold poorly and he never recovered his status as Scotland’s foremost novelist. In Tempus Fugit, he wrote that his aim in This Iron Race was to take magick out of the past and set it among the steamships and railways of the contemporary world to show that Iron need not and should not be the death of magick. We must decide what we want from magick, what role it is to play in our lives. Alas for MacGregor, public opinion determined that, along with the divine right of kings, feudalism, and knights in armour, magick had no place in the modern world.
Devices & Executions was MacGregor’s last completed major work. Soon after publication his health deteriorated and he spent his final years working on a History of Scottish Magick, revising early poetical works and editing his memoirs. He died on All Hallows Eve, 1872 and was buried alongside his first wife in the grounds of Arbinger Abbey.