Not much is known about Mary MacNab's background. She has been married twice, though she admits that she did not experience true love with either of her husbands.
Events of the Novels
Mary's husband, Ronald MacNab, was angered by Jamie's actions and eventually betrayed Jamie to the Watch, leading to Jamie's capture by redcoats and subsequent imprisonment at Wentworth Prison. As justice, the tenants of Lallybroch executed Ronald MacNab by setting fire to his house, and Mary and her son came to live in the manor with the Murray family, working as kitchen maid and stable boy respectively.
Dragonfly in Amber
Claire tends to Mary's son, Rabbie, after he experiences an epileptic seizure which, according to his mother, had afflicted the boy for about two years. Claire surmises that the fits are a result of damage inflicted by his late father, who took a violent hand to his son, but Mary remains convinced that her son is somehow possessed by demons. Knowing that there is no available treatment for the boy, other than to protect his head while a seizure happens, Claire finds inspiration to allay at least the mother's worry: Claire instructs her to sew a small charm stone into Rabbie's pocket, which will protect him from "the devils" that afflict him during a fit, and ensure that he comes out of it all right.
The night before Jamie gives himself up to the English, Mary visits him in his cave to bring him supper, and to offer him her body – not to make him forget his dead wife, but to give him "something [he] can use; something to keep [him] whole."
Mary is a small, fine-boned woman with dark brown hair, which by 1753 is heavily streaked with gray, and her face is lined by the difficulties of life. She has soft brown eyes, and lips that are full and gently curving.
- Mary is the English form of Maria. The meaning is not known for certain, but there are several theories including "sea of bitterness", "rebelliousness", and "wished for child". However it was most likely originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love".
- MacNab is derived from the Scottish Gaelic Mac An Aba, which means "child of the abbot".
Anglo-Scottish actress Emma Campbell-Jones portrays Mary MacNab on the Outlander television series.