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having been removed, and the pathway clearly traced out, no appearance of an entrance to the underground parts of the castle, if any such existed, could be discovered. The great hall in the northern part of the building can Btill be traced with great accuracy, forming an oblong of 73 feet by 40. The chapel, with its great window to the east, is also distinctly marked, its length being 35 feet and breadth 20. The hall here contained four windows facing to the north; and at its northeast angle are the remains of a spiral staircase. The eastern front, including the towers, extends to the length of 180 feet, the northern to 262. The distance from the chapel window to the nearest wall of the Snow Tower is 200 feet. The Snow Tower is 55 feet in diameter, that to the north-east being in diameter 34 at its base. There appears to be no satisfactory record of tne first construction of the castle. The original building was undoubtedly of great antiquity, nor can the additions and alterations made from time to time be authenticated until the reign of Alexander the Second, who having appointed St. Gilbert, Bishop of Caithness, to be his treasurer in the north of Scotland, that prelate, during his tenure of office, made great additions to Kildrummie, comprising the seven towers, of which the ruins are now extant. The history of the castle is full of interest. To it were sent the ladies who had shared the wanderings of Robert the Bruce, Sir James Douglas, and their faithful band, when their fortunes were at the lowest, and after a gallant defence by Nigel Bruce, the king's youngest brother, it was taken by King Edward in 1306, who cruelly put to death its defender. It was the prison of Duncan, Earl of Fife, after the battle of Dupplin. In 1335 it was attacked unsuccessfully by David Comyn, Earl of Atholl, about which time it came from the Bruces by marriage into the possession of the Earls of Mar. In 1731 it was purchased from the then proprietor of the estates of Mar by Gordon of Wardhouse, in which family it now remains.
"At some distance to the south of
the castle a cairn conspicuously marks the spot where, in the reign of James the Fifth, Sir James the Rose fell in combat with Sir John Graham." — (Hay.)
A few miles further on are the ruins of Towie Castle, " of which the insignificant keep alone is left. In 1571 it belonged to Alexander Forbes, and in his absence was besieged by Adam Gordon, brother of the Earl of Huntly. On Forbes's wife refusing to surrender, Gordon set fire to the town, and burnt herself, her children, and servants, twentyseven in all. Upon this tragic incident is founded the ballad of 'Edom o' Gordon.'" This fine old ballad is as follows:—
It fell about the Martinmas,
When the wind blew shrill and cauld, Said Edom o' Gordon to his men,
"We maun draw to a hald.
"And whatna hald shall we draw to,
She had nae sooner buskit hersel',
And putten on her gown.
Were round about the town.
They had nae sooner supper set,
Nae sooner said the grace,
Were round about the place.
The ladye ran to her tower-head
As fast as she cou'd hie,
She cou'd wi* him agree.
As soon as he saw this ladye fair,
And her yetts a' lockit fast,
And his heart was all aghast.
"Come down to me, ye ladye gay,
"I winna come down, ye false Gordon,
"Gie up your house, ye ladye fair,
"I winna gie up, ye false Gordon,
'' Set fire to the house!" quo* the false Gordon,
"Wae worth, wae worth ye, Jock, my man,
'And e'en wae worth ye, Jock, my man,
I paid ye weel your hire;
To me lets in the fire?"
'Ye paid me weel my hire, ladye,
Ye paid me weel my fee;
0 out then spake her youngest son,
Sat on the nurse's knee: Says, "Mither dear, gie o'er this house,
For the reek it smothers me."
'But I winna gie up the house, my dear,
To nae sic traitor as he;
0 then out spake her daughter dear,
She was baith jimp and small: '0 row me in a pair o' sheets, And tow me o'er the wall."
They rowed her in a pair of sheets,
And towed her o'er the wall; But on the point of Gordon's spear
She got a deadly fall.
0 bonnie, bonnie was her mouth,
And clear, clear was her yellow hair,
Then with his spear he turned her o'er,
Oh, gin her face was wan!
I wished alive again."
He turned her o'er and o'er again,
1 might hae spared that bonnie face,
H Busk and boun my merry men all,
"Wha looks to freits, my master dear,
Oh, then he spied her ain dear lord,
As he came o'er the lea;
Ab far as he could see.
O sair! 0 sair! his mind misgave,
"Put on, put on, my wighty men,
Then some they rade, and some they ran,
Full fast out o'er the bent;
Baith ladie and babes were brent.
And mony were the mudie men
Lay gasping on the green,
Lay lemanless at hame.
And mony were the mudie men
Lay gasping on the green;
There were but five gaed hame.
And round and round the walls he went,
Their ashes for to view;
And bade the world adieu.
We have proceeded far beyond the point reached by the railway, but the tourist should not leave Alford without driving up the Don, and visiting Craigievar, Kildrummie, and Towie.
We are now done with the Alford Valley Railway. The next branch in order is the Old Meldrum Railway, which branches off to the right at Inverurie.
THE OLD MELDRUM RAILWAY.
This short branch of 5f miles from Inverurie to Old Meldrum was originally constructed by a separate company, was opened in 1856, was leased to the Great North Railway in 1858, and amalgamated along with the other branches in 1866. Ii runs north-east through a very fertile portion of the Garioeh. Leaving Inverurie, it crosses the river Urie near Howford, and passes up the vale of the Lochtie Burn to
2£ miles from Inverurie.
To the right of this station lies the Hill of Barra, an isolated eminence rising some 600 feet above the level of the sea. "On its summit are the remains of a circular camp, surrounded by three ditches. It is called 'the Cummins's Camp,' as it is said the Cummins or Cummings, who had joined the Earl of Buchan against Robert the Bruce, entrenched themselves there after the defeat of the earl at Inverurie, but were driven from their entrenchments with great loss by the victorious king. Some antiquaries, however, hold the camp of Barra to be of much remoter origin." The ruins of the Castle of Barra are on the westward slope of the hill; on its eastern is the Manse of Bourtie, in the churchyard of which "there is the rudely cut stone statue of a man, which tradition says was executed in memory of the celebrated Thomas de Longueville, the companion of Wallace and Bruce, who was killed in storming the Cummins's Camp at Barra, and buried at Bourtie."
The owner of Barra Castle gives me these notes. "We do not know when
the castle of Barra was built, but the lower range of rooms are all vaulted and loopholed, so it must be very much older than either of the dates on the castle near the roof, which are 1614 and 1618. The estate has been in the possession of my family since 1753 or thereabouts. The north wing was built by my great-grandfather.
"The main historical interest of that part of the parish lies in the battlefield where Robert Bruce beat Cummins's forces. The battlefield is almost traversed by the railway, and lies between the line and the farm-steading of North Mains of Barra.
"The camp on the top of the hill has been described in all local histories, and is worth a visit, while for tradition there is a legend attached to a huge boulder stone on the hill-top, which William Wallace is said to have thrown from the top of Bennachie.
"There are also remains of stone circles in the parish, one of them on the farm of Kirkton of Bourtie, being within sight of the railway."
Lethenty is a station for the important meal mills there belonging to the Cruiekshanks, and for the farms in the neighbourhood. In reaching it we have passed the farmhouse of Harlaw to our left, famous for the battle and ballad already referred to.
Three miles more bring us to Old Meldrum.
46. Old Meldrum.
3 miles from Lethenty. 5} „ „ Inverurie. 22J „ „ Aberdeen.
'' Five minutes' walk brings us from the station to the village of Old Meldrum, which stands on the slopo of an eminence overlooking the Garioch. The town - house, with the market square in front, stands in the centre of the town, and is ornamented with the Meldrum arms and a spiral tower and weathercock. It bears the date of 1712." It is the centre of a large and fertile agricultural district, with markets once or twice a month. A little to the north-west is the mansion of Meldrum House (Urquhart of Meldrum and Byth). "Meldrum House and estates were anciently possessed by the Meldrums of that ilk, and passed by marriage of the heiresses, first to the Setons, and next in 1670 to the Urquharts, who now possess them."
For the following notice, which appeared in the Free Press of June 27, 1856, I am indebted to the kindness of the writer, Mr. William Alexander :—
"Old Meldrum is a burgh of barony dating from 1672. The population of the town is about 1100. It is situate in the bend of a range of low hills, running to the south-east and southwest respectively from the town, with a southern exposure. The place has long been one of considerable local trade. A chronicler of the latter part of last century, indeed, tells us that its weekly market for all kinds of provisions was 'the best in the county north of Aberdeen;' and although weekly markets have long since ceased to be held, there are yet fortnightly markets during winter, and others occasionally during summer, which are well attended, and at which a good deal of business is done in grain and cattle ; the grain being generally driven to Lethenty Mills and Port Elphinstone, or forwarded from Inverurie direct per Great North of Scotland Railway. Dealers from Aberdeen and elsewhere attend the markets regularly for the purchase of cattle. The town is well located for being the depot of a rich agricultural district, the farms on every hand being both extensive and valuable, such possessions as those of Balcairn, Ardconnon, Barra, Lochend, Ardfork, etc., in the immediate neighbourhood, being equal to almost any farms of like extent in the north of
Scotland. The energies of Old Meldrum have, however, been very much cramped from want of ready means of intercommunication. Its position, 20 miles north of Aberdeen on the Banff turnpike, laid it under a considerable disadvantage compared with Inverurie, where the Aberdeenshire canal terminated, in the transit of heavy geods such as coals, lime, etc. This disadvantage the railway now opened will completely remove, and were it but in affording a ready means of procuring coal alone as fuel, and for the service of the gasworks, distillery, etc., it would confer a great boon on the inhabitants. But this it need hardly be said will be but one item in its benefits, and in addition to the others we doubt not Old Meldrum will attract its share of tourists, for its environs are by no means destitute of fine scenery, as witness the Den of Gowner and the beautiful policies of Meldrum House. One branch of industry, very successfully pursued at Old Meldrum, lends to the vicinity a rather pictorial appearance about the summer season of the year. We allude to the rearing of turnip seed. A great many acres are occupied in ripening those useful plants, and the fields about the town may be seen from far shining in all their yellow glory. The approach to the town by the railway is ve^y picturesque, the view embracing, besides the town and its accessories, the hill of Barra (on the summit of which are the remains of the Cummins's camp, said to have been stormed by King Robert Bruco after the battle of Inverurie), together with the old castle at the foot of the hill on the one hand, and a pleasant and fertile vale stretching out on the other.
"A word more as to the railway. The terminal station is at Strathmeldrum on the south side of the town, and about five minutes' walk from the centre of it. Here a handsome stationhouse is erected, and other suitable accommodation for the traffic is being provided. For three-quarters of a mile after leaving the station the line is quite straight, passing through rich meadow-land; it then bends to the southward, through one of the deepest cuttings on the route, which occurs on the estate of Fingask, belonging to John Manson, Esq. The beautiful mansion-house of Fingask lies to the west of the line, and in the immediate neighbourhood are the wool mills of Fingask, where a considerable business is done in carding wool for local consumpt, spinning, and weaving. Further on, and after passing several fine farms, the line runs close by the mill of Lethenty. Here a large trade has been for many years carried on in the manufacture of oatmeal, originally by the late Mr. Glennie, and now by his son. The meal produced at Lethenty mills bears a high character both for local consumption and export. Grain to supply the mills, which are capable of manufacturing 600 to 800 bolls weekly, is drawn from the surrounding districts. There is a station here to accommodate passengers and the traffic to and from the mills. To the west of the line stand the ruins of the old castle of Lethenty, and on the opposite side the mansion-house and handsome farm offices of Collyhill belonging to Mr Duguid. A little to the westward, too, lies the battlefield of Harlaw. Onward and we cross the 'burn of Lochter,' whose course the railway very much follows, crossing it some five or six times, and pass through another cutting on the part of the farm of Balhaggardy, belonging to James Morison, Esq., of Kingseat. The winding Ury is crossed by an elegant bridge of 50 feet span, with cast-iron girders, and the line joins that of the Great North, parallel with which it runs about a furlong to its terminus at Inverurie."
We abridge the following description of Meldrum House from the "Banffshire Journal "of July 1, 1856, kindly lent us for that purpose by Mr. Ramsay, to whom for other help we are also much indebted :—
About half a mile from the town of Old Meldrum, on the Banff turnpike, the traveller sees upon the right! an elegant gateway, in the old English I style. Above the entrance are em-'
blazoned the arms of the proprietor (Urquhart of Meldrum and Byth)—Or three boars' heads, erased gules; the crest a dagger and branch of palm disposed saltire ways, proper; this crest and the motto, "Weigh well," being those of the Byth branch of the family. Supporters, two greyhounds argent, collared and leashed gules; below the shield the motto, "Mean, speak, and do well;" this sentiment, with another, "Per Mare et Terras," sometimes displayed in the arms, as in the one on the Burgh Town - House, being the mottoes of the Meldrum family.
The drive is about half a mile long, and is enlivened by a sheet of water on either side. The house stands upon a gentle rise looking towards the south; and with its bold projecting wings, the numerous groupings of buttress, turret, and pinnacle, it is an imposing specimen of architecture, and takes rank as amongst the finest residences in Aberdeenshire. It is in the old English" style, and was erected some 40 or 50 years ago, after designs by the late Mr. Archibald Simpson of Aberdeen. Though the greater part of the building is modern, yet, as it stands upon the site of the old house, it has incorporated with it on the west side a staircase that formed part of the old mansion, and which, from its antique appearance, has a pleasing effect. A stone from the old house, built into the wall above the western entrance, bears date 1625. The entrance to the new house is from the south, and under a handsome portico surmounted by the Meldrum arms. The hall is large and handsome, with a row of polished granite pillars on either hand. A magnificent staircase leads to the public rooms; the doors and ceilings of theso are of oak, richly carved and gilt; the chimney - pieces are of sculptured marble. The dining - room contains numerous family portraits.
The family is a very old one, running back through Urquharts and Setons to the Meldrums, who date from the time of Alexander II. in the 12th century.