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THE MACDUFF AND TURRIFF SECTION.
This branch consists of the original Aberdeen and Turriff Railway, and the Banff Extension ; these were promoted by independent companies. The former was sanctioned in 1855 and opened in 1857 ; the Extension was sanctioned in 1857 and opened in 1860. Both form now part of the Great North system. The branch leaves the main line at Inveramsay, 20J miles from Aberdeen, and proceeds northwards through Fyvie and Turriff to Macduff, and Banff 29$ miles from Inveramsay, and 50£ from Aberdeen. At nearly a mile from Inveramsay station we cross the Ury, and pass on our left Pitcaplo Castle (Lumsden), already mentioned.
S3 miles from Inveramsay. 24j „ „ Aberdeen.
On the left, as we approach the station, is Wartle House (Leslie), a handsome modernised turreted building. Beyond the station, on the same side, we pass through the Moss of Leslie, having on the left the Free Church of Rayne and the Episcopal Chapel of Meiklefolla, and further on the House of Kinbroom.
8| miles from Wartle.
To the right, and not far from the station, is Rothie-Norman Castle, the seat of the late Colonel Forbes Leslie of Rothie and Kinbroom. It is a handsome castellated house, beautifully situated in a well - wooded hollow. South-westward is Blackford (J. P.
Watson). On the left the village of Gordonstown, and further on, and close to the line, Rothie - Brisbane (late Charles Chalmers).
81 miles from Rothie-Norman.
The station is about a mile from the village, which, with its Parish and Free Church, Post-office, Bank, etc., lies off to the right on a slope overlooking the river Ythan. From Rothie-Norman to Fyvie there extends the beautiful and romantic Den of Rothie—a narrow valley with woodclothed slopes of great height, and the burn of Rothie meandering through it. Further down the river are the Braes of Gight, with the picturesque remains of Formartine Castle, now the property of the Earl of Aberdeen. '' The house stands on the brink of a stupendous rocky eminence, and overlooks a scene of incomparable beauty. The Ythan courses down the heart of the ravine beneath; and compared with the magnificent features of the surrounding scenery, appears like a silver thread. On the right or the Buchan side are the Braes of Gight; on the left the Braes of Formartine, sometimes called the Braes of Haddo 0r of Blairfowl, both thickly clothed with wood—precipitous cliffs and rugged rocks giving point and character to the scene. The paths through this delicious labyrinth of nature's growth are carried on with the best effect. At one moment we find ourselves on the brow of a steep descent, requiring artificial steps to guide ua down; at another we are buried in a leafy arcade, vistaed by the trunks of gigantic trees, and hemmed in with tangled brushwood, the path bordered with flowers which are strangers to most other parts of Buchan."—(Pratt.)
In 1785, Catherine Gordon of Gight, lineally descended from the Earl of Huntly by the daughter of James II. of Scotland, married the Honourable John Byron, and became the mother of the great poet. But Lord Byron never possessed Gight, the estate having been sold, within two years of his mother's marriage, to Lord Aberdeen, third Earl. His son, Lord Haddo, lived in it for a time. He was unfortunately killed by a fall from his horse, Oct. 2, 1791 His son succeeded his grandfather as fourth Earl, and was from 1828 to 1830, and again from 1841 to 1846, Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and from 1852 to 1855 Prime Minister of Britain.
The castle is a complete ruin, with the exception of two modern rooms which are preserved for the accommodation of parties visiting the glen. Pratt tells us "that the ubiquitous Thomas the Rhymer figures here again, and in this particular instance abounds in rhymes and in prophecies, for we have no less than three touching the future fortunes of the Gordons and the lands of Gight. The first is, perhaps, unrivalled in its quaint obliquity :—
"' Twa men sat down on Ythan brae;
The next has a more direct application; for as the first may be supposed to give only a sort of diffusivejhint that a time would come when the Gordons of Gight shall have become a mere tradition, so the last may be said to point to the more immediate symptoms of their decay :—
"' When the heron leaves the tree.'
We sho*uld scarcely be doing justice to this last without giving the traditionary fulfilment. It is said that when
the Honourable John Byron married the heiress of Gight, the denizens of a heronry, which for centuries had fixed their airy abode among the branches of a magnificent tree in the immediate vicinity of the house, incontinently left their ancient habitation and migrated in a troop to Kelly, where it is certain a family of herons is now domiciled. "The riggs soon followed" is a familiar saying, which aptly enough fills up the tradition, for the estate of Gight is now in the hands of the Earls of Aberdeen.
"The last prophecy is not the least remarkable, since its complete verification has been accomplished within a very recent period :—
'"At Gight three men by sudden death shall dee,
An' after that the land shall lie in lea.'
"In 1791 Lord Haddo met a violent death on the Green of Gight by the fall of his horse; some years after this a servant on the estate met a similar death on the Mains or Home Farm. But two deaths were not sufficient to verify the seer's words. A few years ago the house, preparatory to the farm being turned into lea, was being pulled down, when one of the men employed in the work casually remarked on the failure of the Rhymer's prediction. But, as if to vindicate the veracity of the prophet's words, in less than an hour the speaker himself supplied the fated number,—lying crushed to death beneath the crumbling ruins of a fallen wall! We need scarcely add that the local fame of the Rhymer is now more than ever in the ascendant."
Pratt adds :—" We cannot take leave of the gray romantic towers of Gight in language more appropriate than that of the noble bard whose maternal ancestors occupied them for nearly four hundred years :—
"'And there they stand, as stands a lofty mind,
Worn, but unstooping to the baser crowd, All tenantless save to the crannying wind, Or holding dark communion with the cloud, Banners on high, and battles passed below; And they who fought are in a bloody shroud, And those who waved are shredless dust ere now,
And the bleak battlements shall bear no future blow.'"
Fyvib may be said to be made up of a group of scattered villages, Woodhead, the Kirkton, and the Lewes. The parish church, rebuilt in 1808, contains some interesting and beautiful monuments. '' About the middle of the graveyard there is a humble grave, but one possessed of a certain romantic interest—that of the heroine of the pathetic Scotch ballad called 'Tiftie's Bonnie Annie.'" The date upon it is 10th January 1673.
"Near the church, on a meadow between it and the Lewes, stood the Priory of Fyvie, founded either by King William the Lion, or Fergus, Earl of Buchan, or Sir Reginald Cheyne of Ravenscraig. Some of its foundations were traceable in 1793, when the " First Statistical Account" was written, but these had all but disappeared in 1840 when the "New Statistical Account" ,came out. A handsome cross, erected in 1868 by Colonel and Mrs. Gordon of Fyvie, marks the spot . The cross is erected on a basis of hewn stones placed on a rough circular cairn. On the front is a suitable but brief inscription, from the latter part of which we observe that the cross is partly in memory of James Hay Chalmers, Esq., younger, of Monkshill, whose early death was so deeply deplored."—(Pratt.)
But the point of chief attraction here is Fyvie Castle.
"Fyvie Castle, situated on the northeast bank of the river Ythan, and in the district of Formartine, is alike remarkable for its commanding situation, its antiquity, its connection with interesting events in Scottish history, and as a noble specimen of baronial architecture. There appears no doubt that the present building was preceded by a castle or keep of much greater antiquity, when the domain was a royal chase; but whether the ancient walls were removed, or built upon and enlarged, it is now difficult to determine. Connected with its early history may be stated the fact that in the year 1296 Edward I. of England visited the castle on his progress through the north of Scotland."—(Hay.)
In the reign of Robert the Bruce a royal residence, it has descended
through branches of the royal family — Lindsays, 1380; Prestons, 1397; Meldrums, 1596; then by purchase Setons (Earls of Dunfermline), forfeited in 1689—until it reached, by purchase in 1723, William, the second Earl of Aberdeen. His third wife was Lady Anne, daughter of the Duke of Gordon. On her eldest son Earl William settled the castle and domain of Fyvie. That eldest son, General William Gordon, succeeded to it in 1746, and enjoyed it for seventy years. General Gordon was succeeded by his only son in 1816. That son died without heir in 1847, and the castle and estate went to his cousin, Captain Charles Gordon, son of Lord Rockliffe, who was half-brother to General William Gordon. Captain Charles Gordon was succeeded by his son, Colonel William Cosmo Gordon, who died in 1879, and is succeeded by his brother, Captain Alexander Henry Gordon, R.N.
The main features of the castle are a central tower, flanked by other towers at the corners. The oldest part of the present castle is the south-eastern or "Preston Tower." The central tower, in which is the old entrance, is called the "Seton Tower." "The arms of the Setons are cut in freestone over the gate. The old iron door still remains, consisting of huge interlacing bars fastened by immense iron bolts drawn out of the wall on either side, and in the centre of the arch above the doorway a large aperture, called the 'Murder Hole,' speaks plainly of the warm re ception unbidden guests had in former times to expect." — (New Statistical Account.) The Meldrum Tower is at the south-west angle. The charterroom is in this tower, on the second floor, and underneath it is a closed room. There is no appearance from the outside of either door or window, nor is there any access from the interior. Probably there is a staircase in the thickness of the wall communicating with it from the charter-room. The charter-room is panelled in oak, and, curiously, the, fastenings of the door are on the inner side. This would seem to indicate that it was intended for a place of safety and way of escape. A man taking refuge in it could bar himself in till he had time to open the secret passage to the closed room below, from which it is not improbable that a further secret passage led out to the watergate, or river bank, by which he could escape pursuit.
The fourth tower, the Gordon Tower, built by General William Gordon, forms the northern termination of the west wing, and is said to have been erected on the site of an ancient chapel which had become ruinous.
Access is obtained to the great rooms of the upper floors by a spacious spiral staircase, up which it is hardly an exaggeration to say one might drive a coach, so wide is it, and of such gentle rise are the lowbroad steps. There' are several other narrow spiral stairs in the towers. The dining and morning rooms are in the Gordon Tower. The drawing-rooms, library, etc., are in the Seton Tower.
Fyvie was the subject of one of the Rhymer's prophecies:—
"Fyvyns riggs and towers,
Tradition says that two of the three have been got, but the one beneath the "water yett" is still unknown. "A stone is preserved in the castle and shown as one of the three weird stones. It is called "the dripping stone." It is asserted that this stone at times gives out such a quantity of damp as to half fill the bowl in which it is kept with water, while at other times it absorbs the whole. It is not known how or when this mysterious stone came to occupy the place it now does."—(Pratt.)
It is or was kept in the uppermost room in one of the towers. This prosent editor saw it on two occasions. On the one occasion the bowl was nearly full of water, and the stains on the floor showed that it sometimes overflowed. On the other occasion the bowl was dry and the stone encrusted with a white salty efflorescence.
The gardens and grounds of Fyvie Castle are very fine and well worth a visit. "At the distance of about half a mile north-east of the castle, and in view of its turrets, is Mill of Tiftie, the home of the damsel who figures as the heroine of the ancient and ever-popular ballad 'Andrew Lammie,' or 'Mill of Tiftie's Annie.' The story is commemorated by a stone figure of her lover, placed on one of the turrets of the castle in the act of blowing his horn towards Tiftie. This figure is called The Trumpeter of Fyvie. The spot might vindicate the romance, even if it had not been founded on fact. It is a highly picturesque ravine, full of wild natural beauty,—waterfalls, rocks, and tangled bushes, and abundant in wild flowers. The mill is a ruin in the bottom of the glen, but poor Annie's home was the farm-house, which stands on higher ground, and which, like many others, takes its name from the vicinity of the mill. The Bridge of Skeugh, where Annie last met her lover Andrew Lammie, was in the hollow between Tiftie and the castle, at a point about a hundred yards above that where the present bridge spans the brook. A circular clump of trees, said to surround the spot where the 'Trysting tree ' stood, marks the spot." —(Pratt.)
At Mill of Tifty lived a man,
He had a lovely daughter fair,
Her bloom was like the springing flower
With innocence and graceful mien,
Lord Fyvie had a trumpeter,
He had the art to gain the heart
Proper he was, baith young and gay,
His like was not in Fyvie;
With this same Andrew Lammie.
Lord Fyvie he rode by the door,
His trumpeter rode him before.
Her mother called her to the door, "Come here to me, my Annie,
Did you ever see a prettier man Than the trumpeter of Fyvie?"
She sighed sore, but said no more,
Alas 1 for bonnie Annie; She durst not own her heart was won
By the trumpeter of Fyvie.
At night when they went to their beds,
Love so opprest her tender breast,
"Love comes in at my bedside,
"The first time I and my love met,
"He called me mistress: I said, No—
"It's up and down in Tifty's den,
Where the burn runs clear and bonnie, I've often gone to meet my love, My bonnie Andrew Lammie."
But now, alas! her father heard
That the trumpeter of Fyvie Had had the art to gain the heart
Of Tifty's bonnie Annie.
Her father soon a letter wrote,
And sent it on to Fyvie
By his servant Andrew Lammie.
When Lord Fyvie heard this letter read, O dear, but he was sorry; 'The bonniest lass in Fyvie's land Is bewitched by Andrew Lammie.'
Then up the stair his trumpeter, He called full soon and shortly; "Pray tell me soon. What's this you've done To Tifty's bonnie Annie?"
"In wicked art I had no part,
I "But] woe betide Mill o' Tifty's pride,
For it has ruined many;
"But where shall I find a boy so kind,
"Here you shall find a boy so kind,
"It's Tifty, he has daughters three,
"It's up and down in Tifty's den,
Where the burn rins clear and bonnie, There wilt thou come and meet thy love, Thy bonnie Andrew Lammie."
"When wilt thou come and I'll attend.
My love I long to [greet] thee?" "Thou mayest come to the Bridge of Skeugh,
And there I'll come and meet thee."
II My love, I go to Edinbro',
And for a while must leave thee." She sighed sore and said no more, "But I wish that I were with thee."
"I'll buy to thee a bridal gown, My love, I'll buy it bonnie."
"But I'll be dead ere ye come back To see your bonnie Annie I"
'If you'll be true, and constant too,
'I will be true, and constant too,
"Our time is gone, and now comes on,
"I now for ever bid adieu
To thee, my Andrew Lammie; Ere ye come back I will be laid In the green churchyard of Fyvic.w