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Rhymer's prophetic couplets, preserved in a MS. of Sir James Balfour, Lyon King at Arms in 1660—
"When Deo and Don ran both In one,
This Bass was probably the fortress of Inverurie in primeval and prehistoric times.
Near to it is the very old churchyard called Polnars, an abbreviation of St. Apollinaris.
In the immediate neighbourhood are many interesting antiquities, such as the remains of Roman camps on the hills of Crichie and Barra, circles, ancient tombs, etc., accounts of which may be read in Dr. Davidson's "Inverurie and the Earldom of the Garioch."
We may note, however, that here in 1308 (or 1306 ?) did Robert the Bruce win one of his victories, which, though not so noted in history as those over the English, had nevertheless a great influence on the course of events. His adversaries were the great House of Comyn, whose two branches, those of Buchan and Badenoch, were then supreme in the north. The king felt that the reduction of his rival? power was a necessary preliminary to the final struggle with the English, and for that campaign made his headquarters in the Garioch, where he ossessed hereditary estates. Against im from Buchan came Sir John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, and Sir John Moubray, who, resting at Old Meldrum, sent forward "Schyr Davy of Breechyn," who drove in the outposts of the king, then lying sick at Inverurie. Barbour tells how, when the king rose from his sick-bed to go to the field of battle, his followers remonstrated with him, and how he replied that the temporary success of his foes had driven away his illness :—
"Than said sum of his preve men,
So he defeated the Comyns, pursued them into their own realm of Buchan, and, as we shall have occasion to notice in another place, ravaged their possessions and proscribed their name.
Inverurie was also the scene of another battle at a much later day, when Lord Lewis Gordon, who was acting on behalf of Prince Charles Edward in the north, and who displayed the same dash as a former Lord Lewis Gordon, the companion of Montrose, defeated a force of Government forces in 1745. The action was a sharp one, and was remarkable for its inversion of the ordinary circumstances of that struggle. For at the battle of Inverurie King James's troops were mainly Lowland levies, raised by some of the gentlemen of Aberdeenshire, while King George's men were MacLeods and Munros, detached from the Highland army under Lord Loudoun in the north, and the Highlanders were beaten. The contest took place a little to the west of the Bass, and was as decisive as it was short . It did not last half an hour, and ended in the total overthrow of the Royalist troops, who were completely overpowered. The MacLeods were surprised in their quarters in bed, and fought at a great disadvantage, being scattered all about the town of Inverurie, and a portion of them at Ardtannes, some distance oft MacLeod fought in his shirt, having no time to dress. It was thought he had lost his life in the action. But it would appear that he did not, but retreated towards the north, and lived for at least seven or eight years after his unfortunate defeat. "It is recorded of him that one day in the winter, about seven years after the skirmish, MacLeod was passing through Huntly on his way south, when, there being a heavy fall of snow on the ground, he urged the innkeeper to procure him a guide to Inverurie. The host, old John Mellis, well known for his attachment to the Stewarts, said to MacLeod in his own dry way, in allusion to the retreat of the latter, 'I think I recollect a gentleman of your name and appearance once coming through Huntly from Inverurie without a guide.'"
The house and grounds of Eeithhall are worthy of a visit. The house has been built at various periods, but retains much of the old style. It has been sufficiently modernised to make it a comfortable residence. The grounds, lawns, and gardens are extensive and beautifully laid out.
"The estate of Keithhall, like most of the parish (Keithhall), passed at an early period into the hands of the Keiths, Earls Marischal, from whom both estate and parish received their name. The Kintore family, who now possess it, derive their origin from the Hon. Sir John Keith, fourth son of the sixth Earl Marischal. Sir John is said to have assisted in the secreting and preservation of the Scottish Regalia, when the Castle of Dunottar, to which the royal insignia had been sent for safety, was besieged by General Lambert, one of the officers of Cromwell, who, had he got possession of them, would in all likelihood have converted into hard cash such "baubles." Sir John's share in the transaction does not very clearly appear (for it is well known that the Regalia was conveyed from the castle by night, by Mrs. Grainger, wife of the minister of Kinneff, assisted by her servant, who buried them beneath the pulpit of the church of Kinneff, where they remained till the Restoration), but having gone to France, he was on his return apprehended on a charge of having conveyed them thither, and his admission of this charge was at least the means of staying search for the missing jewels. In consideration of his services, Sir John was at the Restoration in 1660 appointed Knight Marischal of Scotland. In the following year he had a charter of the lands of Caskieben, the ancient name of Keithhall; and in 1677 he was created Earl of Kintore, and Lord Keith of Inverury and Keithhall.
"Dying in 1714, the first Earl was succeeded by his son William, who had two sons and two daughters. The sons were successively third and fourth Earls; but both dying without issue, the estate passed in 1761 to their relative George, tenth Earl Marischal. This nobleman having been attainted
and again restored, opposed the insertion in the Act reversing his attainder of any clause empowering him to succeed to titles. The title of the Earldom of Kintore was therefore in abeyance for seventeen years, from the death of the fourth Earl to the death of the tenth Earl Marischal. At the decease of the latter, in 1778, the Kintore titles, as well as the estate, were inherited by Anthony Adrian, eighth Lord Falconer of Halkerton, who was the grandson of Lady Margaret, the second daughter of the second Earl of Kintore. This nobleman, who thus became fifth Earl, was the direct ancestor of the present holder of the title who unites both the Kintore and the Falconer peerages, being (1881) ninth Earl of Kintore and twelfth Lord Falconer. Besides the Keithhall estate there is property belonging to the Earl in the counties of Kincardine and Forfar."
A little to the east of tho house of Keithhall is to be seen the site of the old Castle of Caskieben, the ancient name of this estate. The present Caskieben is a modern assumption of the old name. "Previous to its com ing into the hands of the Keiths, Caskieben had been a possession of the family of Johnston, of whom one member was the famous Latin poet Dr. Arthur Johnston, to whom reference has been already made. This personage, who has in truth by his latinity created for himself a Horatian monument— every parish in the surrounding district putting in some claim to connection with him either from education or residence—was a man of no little eminence in his day. Born at Caskieben in 1587, he studied medicine on the continent, residing for many years in France, and, returning to this country was named physician to Charles the first. Johnston was a large contributor to the Latin poems issued in 1637 under the title of 'Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum hujus Mri Illustrium.' He also attempted a competition with Buchanan in a Latin version of the Psalms which he issued in 1637, entitling the production 'Paraphrasis Poetica Psalmorum Davidis.' Johnston's merits its a poet are of a very high order, though from his use of ' the tongue of the learned,' the admiration of his productions must ever be confined to 'fit audience though few !'"
miles from Inverurie.
Inveramsay is the junction for the Macduff and Turriff branch. Before coming to the station you pass to the east of the railway some quiet-looking cultivated fields. Quiet and still as they are now, they showed a different scene one bright morning in July 1411,— Provost Robert Davidson of Aberdeen, the Laird of Drum, and many more, lying bloody corpses on the hard-fought field of Harlaw, when Donald of the Isles, with more than 10,000 men, was beaten back, though with terrible loss, by a hardy band of about 1000 under the Earl of Mar. "The supremacy of Lowland authority was permanently secured by this terrible trial of strength at Harlaw." The memory of the great fight and the impression it produced are preserved in a ballad which continued to be sung in the Garioch until the present generation.
As I came in by Dunideer, And down by Netherha', There were fifty thousan' Hielanmen, All marching to Harlaw. Chorus.—Wi' a drie, drie, drie, di dronlie drie. As I came on and further on,
And down and by Balquhain, Oh there I met Sir James the Rose, Wi' him Sir John the Graeme. "Oh came ye frae the Hielans, man, And cam' ye a' the wye? Saw ye Macdonal and his men, Come marching frae the Skye?" '' Yes, she came frae the'Hielans, man, And she came a' the wye, And she saw Macdonal and his men, Come marching frae the Skye." "Oh were ye near and near aneuch? Did ye their numbers see? Come tell to me, John Hielanman, "What might their numbers be." "Yes, she was near and near aneuch, And she their numbers saw; There were fifty thousand Hielanmen, A' marching to Harlaw." "If that be true," quo' James the Rose, "We'll no come mickle speed; We'll cry upon our merry men, And turn our horses' heids."
"Oh no, oh no," quo' John the Graeme,
As I cam' on and further on,
And down and by Harlaw, They fell full close on ilka side,
Sic straiks ye never saw.
They fell full close on ilka side,
Sic straiks ye never saw; For Hielan swords caed clash for clash,
At the battle of Harlaw.
The Hielanmen wi' their lang swords,
They laid on us full sair:
Three acres breadth or mair.
Brave Forbes did to his brittter say—
"Oh no, oh no, my brither dear,
"Oh no, oh no, my brither dear,
Brave Forbes unto his men did say,
Brave Forbes's henchman then did ride,
And his horse did not fail 1 For in twa hours and a quarter,
He brought the coat of mail.
Then back to back the brithers twa,
Gaed in among the thrang;
With swords baith sharp and lang.
Macdonal he was young and stout,
Had on his coat of mail,
To try his hand himsel'!
The first ae stroke that Forbes strack,
The second stroke that Forbes strack,
And sic an a pilleucherie,
The like ye never saw,
When they saw Macdonal fa'.
And when they saw that he was deid,
They turned and ran awa',
A lang mile frae Harlaw.
They rode, they ran, and some did gang,
They were of sma' record, For Forbes and his merry men
Slew maist all by the road.
On Munonday at morning
The battle it began:
Ye'd scarce telt wha had wan.
And sic a weary burying,
The like ye never saw,
On the muir down by Harlaw.
And if Hielan' lasses spier at ye
For them that gaed awa',
They're sleeping at Harlaw.
Another version, and there are more than one, gives the closing verse thus:
Gin ony body spier at ye,
For the men ye took awa',
P the howe aneath Harlaw.
Sir Walter Scott has introduced into his tale of The Antiquary some imitation of this ancient ballad, and the whole passage is so beautiful that it cannot be out of place to introduce it here. It is this:—
"As the Antiquary lifted the latch of the hut he was surprised to hear the shrill tremulous voice of Elspeth chanting forth an old ballad in a wild and doleful recitative—
'The herring loves the merry moonlight,
The mackerel loves the wind,
For they come of a gentle kind.'
A diligent collector of these legendary scraps of ancient poetry, his foot refused to cross the threshold when hi3 ear was thus arrested, and his hand instinctively took pencil and memorandum-book. From time to time the old woman spoke as if to the children,— 'Oh ay, ninnies, whisht! whisht! and I'll begin a bonnier ane than that—
'Now haud your tongues, baith wife and carle,
And listen great and sma',
That fought on the red Harlaw.
And doun the Don and a', And hieland and lawland may mournfu' be For the sair field of Harlaw
I dinna mind the neist verse weel— my memory's failed, and there's unco thoughts come ower me—God keep us frae temptation I'
"Here her voice sunk in indistinct muttering.
"'It's a historical ballad,' said Oldbuck, eagerly, 'a genuine and undoubted fragment of minstrelsy 1 Percy
would admire its simplicity—Ritson could not impugn its authenticity.'
'''Ay, but it's a sad thing,' said Ochiltree, 'to see human nature sae far o'ertaen as to be skirling at auld sangs on the back of a loss like hers.'
''' Hush! hush!' said the Antiquary, 'she has gotten the thread of the story again.'—And as he spoke she sung—
'They saddled a hundred milk-white steeds,
They hae bridled a hundred black, With a chafron of steel on each horse's head, And a good knight upon his back'
'''Chafron!' exclaimed the Antiquary, 'equivalent perhaps to cheveron; the word's worth a dollar ;' and down it went in his red book.
'They hadna ridden a mile, a mile,
A mile, but barely ten, When Donald came branking down the brae Wi' twenty thousand men.
'Their tartans they were waving wide,
Their glaives were glancing clear, Their pibrochs rang frae side to side, Would deafen ye to hear.
'The great Earl in his stirrups stood,
That Highland Host to see;
'" What wouldst thou do, my squire so gay,
'" To turn the rein were sin and shame,
Yo maun ken, hinnies, that this Roland Cheyne, for as poor and auld as I sit in the chimney-neuk, was my forbear, and an awfu' man he was that day in the fight, but specially after the Earl had fa'en, for he blamed himself for the counsel he gave, to fight before Mar came up wi' Mearns, and Aberdeen and Angus.'
"Her voice rose and became more animated as she recited the warlike counsel of her ancestor—
'" Were I Glenallan's Earl this tide,
'" If they hae twenty thousand blades,
'" My horse Bhall ride through ranks sae rode,
'"Do you hear that, nephew?' said Oldbuck,—' you observe your Gaelic ancestors were not held in high repute formerly by the Lowland warriors.
"' I hear,' said Hector, 'a silly old woman sing a silly old song. I am surprised, sir, that you, who will not listen to Ossian's songs of Selma, can be pleased with such trash. I vow I have not seen or heard a worse halfpenny ballad; I don't believe you could match it in any pedlar's pack in the country. I should be ashamed to think that the honour of the Highlands could be affected by such doggrel.' And tossing up his head he snuffed the air indignantly.
"Apparently the old woman heard the sound of their voices; for ceasing her song she called out, 'Come in, sirs, come in,—good will never halted at the door stane.'"
And so we have no more of Sir Walter Scott's version of the battle of Harlaw.
Over against the field of Harlaw are the ruins of the old castle of Balquhain mentioned in the ballad,
"And down and by Balquhain."
They lie to the south-east of the Church of Chapel of Garioch. The old castle is a structure of great antiquity and an ancient seat of the Leslies. The court, or quadrangle, is in ruins, but the tower or keep still stands. Hay says, "There is no tradition as to the date of the original building, but the square tower, now extant, was erected about the year 1530 by Sir William Leslie, seventh Baron of Balquhain, to replace the more ancient castle, burned by the Fortieses in 1526." The Leslies received the lands of Balquhain and others from David II. in 1340. Mary Queen of Scots visited the tower on 9th September 1562, previous to the battle of Corrichie, when, having returned from France, she was making her first progress through her kingdom. The New Statistical Account informs us that the Duke of Cumberland
ordered Balquhain to be burned in 1746; but there is a local tradition that this calamity was averted by one of the tenants named John Kicoll, who offered to the soldiers sent to set fire to the castle his broad bonnet full of silver pieces, and said to them, " My lads, I'll gi'e ye a' this if ye winna burn the auld place." They took his money, filled the vault with wet straw, and when from the road the Duke beheld the dense smoke which enveloped the castle he was satisfied that his orders had been executed, and proceeded northward on his way to Culloden. The castle is "placed picturesquely on a rocky knoll, which overhangs the Natrick, a mile or more eastward from the older rude Balquhain fastness on the summit of Bennachie." This older Balquhain is a fortress said to have been built by the Earl's "Master of Horse at Harlaw"—Sir Andrew Leslie of Balquhain. It is approached by a rude causeway which leads to it over the marshy ground on its only accessible side. "To that lofty stronghold he carried off young women, whose beauty excited his unbridled passions, and he had himself to take refuge in its fastness from the displeasure of his lord superior, the Earl of Mar, after some lawless proceedings of his family." No doubt this is pure and idle tradition. The remains of the fort on Bennachie are similar to those of other numerous hill-forts in many parts of the country, and are probably attributable to the ancient Celtic inhabitants. It is possible enough, however, that this turbulent "Sir Andro" may have made use of it as a residence in time of need.
A mile or so beyond the station, on the right, is Pitcaple Castle (H. Lumsden, Esq.), beautifully situated in a hollow, and embosomed among fine trees. A portion of the house is very ancient; the date of its erection, however, is not exactly known ; a large part probably dates from about the beginning of the 17th century, whilst there are also modern additions.
Queen Mary is said to have visited Pitcaple and spent a night in the house. In memory of this visit she planted a