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Scottish Gardens
Cawdor Castle, Nairnshire


ARIOUS are the elements which go to make a perfect garden, each of them appealing in its degree to different persons according to their temperament and training. Not very numerous are those competent to criticise the technicalities of cultivation, but the pleasure is very complete which their knowledge enables them to derive from a visit to a collection so large and intelligently tended as Mr. William Robinson's at Gravetye Manor or Canon Ellacombe's well-stored grounds at Bitton Vicarage. Historic association or romantic tradition appeals to a larger number, and these will be as agreeably moved by gazing on the bleak formality of Diane de Poictiers' garden at Chenonceaux as by the enchanting groves into which they pass through Ibn-l-Ahmar's Gate of Pomegranates in the Alhambra.

For such persons the ample grace of the gardens at Hatfield will be enhanced by their antiquity, and the recollection that the pleached lime-trees and venerable mulberries were planted for the delectation of Robert

Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury, when he became the reluctant owner of that manor, having been compelled by King James to receive it in exchange for beloved Theobalds in 1607.

Perhaps a majority of practical people agree with Mr. Andrew Lang's opinion that "gardens were devised by Providence for the pottering peace of virtuous eld," and are satisfied with a garden if it soothes their senses by a tasteful disposition of trees, and shrubs, and flowering herbs. The nearest approach to perfection is attained in a garden where the eye is gratified by beauty of form and colour, and the mind is stimulated by historic association; and such is the case at Cawdor Castle. It is as impossible, one would think, to visit this seat of the ancient Thanes and remain indifferent to the strange narrative which men claim to be its history, as it would be to derive no pleasure from the contrast of masses of bright blossom with the grim grey towers which overlook them.

Cawdor Castle stands in the midst of that rich strath which stretches from the foot of Carn-nan-tritighearnan, or the Cairn of the Three Lords, to the sea. On the east, dark Findhorn battles his way to the Moray Firth through the gorges of Altyre and Relugas; on the west, the little Nairn prattles and sparkles along its pebbly channel, parallel to the greater river. We are fully four hundred miles north of Greenwich here, yet the climate of this region, summer and winter, is perhaps the most delightful of any part of the British Isles. No wonder that possession of this choice territory was fiercely contested in days when the sword was stronger than the pen.

The Thanes of Cawdor claimed descent from that brother to whom Macbeth, Mormaer of Moray, yielded the thanedom when he usurped the throne of Scotland in 1040; but it was not until 1454 that the family rose to be important in the person of Thane William, who was appointed by James II. to administer the broad lands of Moray, forfeited to the Crown on the fall of the great house of Douglas in that year.

Thane William's castle at that time was at Invernarne, now called Nairn; but he had also a hunting lodge some six miles inland at Old Cawdor. The narrow tower of Nairn appearing inadequate for his new and lucrative dignity, he determined to build a larger stronghold. More prudent than the generality of Scottish lairds, he laid by the necessary cash in a strong box before a single stone was laid, deliberating the while on the choice of a suitable site. The problem, it may be supposed, occupied much of his thoughts, waking and sleeping. One night a brilliant suggestion came to him in a dream, which bade him bind the treasure on the back of an ass, turn the beast loose at Old Cawdor, and found his castle wherever it should first lie down. In the age of faith, nothing could be more natural than that the Thane should fulfil literally the instructions received in a dream, and this he did to the letter.

Now the ass, being heavily laden with cash, which tradition reports was contained in an iron chest, did not wander far. It browsed its way slowly to a knoll below the confluence of Alit Dearg and the Rierach Burn, whereon grew three hawthorns, under one of which it lay down. The castle keep was built round the tree, which sceptics may handle and see at this day, dry and sapless it is true, but still hard and sound, rooted in the floor and built into the vaulted roof of the donjon. Beside it lies the iron coffer which once held the treasure, and from time to time guests in the castle gather round these venerable relics and quaff—"Success to the hawthorn tree," though it has borne neither leaves nor flowers these four hundred and fifty years.

This keep is but the core of the vast pile which now frowns down upon the beautiful garden represented in Miss Wilson's painting. The greater part of the castle as it stands was the work of Colin Campbell in 1639. How the Campbells came to Cawdor is explained in several versions of a tradition, differing in detail, but agreeing in the main facts. Here, briefly, is one account of the transaction thoroughly in keeping with the times.

Thane William, builder of the keep, was succeeded by his son William, who had five sons, all of whom were childless, except John, who married Isobel Rose of Kilravock. John died in 1498, shortly after the birth of his only child, Muriel, who, succeeding to the thanedom and its ample revenues, instantly became an object of supreme interest to other powerful landowners. Among these was Archibald, second Earl of Argyll, who was particularly anxious to find suitable matches for his younger sons. Being Lord High Chancellor of Scotland and a prime favourite with James IV., Argyll obtained from that monarch the ward of Muriel's marriage. But the child's three uncles were not disposed to admit Muriel's succession, which they claimed as limited to heirs male. They refused, therefore, to surrender the babe to Argyll, who straightway adopted means to enforce his rights in the old manner. He sent his vassal Campbell of Innerliver, [Innerliver or Inverliever was purchased in 1907 by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests in order to form a State forest. It extends to about 13,000 acres.] with sixty clansmen, to capture his ward. Concealing themselves in the wood of Cawdor, they waited till the nurse brought out baby Muriel, scarcely more than a year old, for an airing near the castle. The ambush was a success ; the child was easily taken, but not before the nurse, with a wholesome suspicion of Highland ways, had bitten off a joint from the little finger of her charge, in order to her better identification in future possible contingencies.

The Campbells struck out for distant Lochowe with their precious little prisoner; but the nurse ran back to rouse the castle. The uncles set forth hot-foot in pursuit of the kidnappers, overtook and attacked them with a superior force. Inverliver, seeing his men overpowered, shouted—"'S fhada glaodh o' Lochow! 'S flzada cobhair o chlann dhoaine!" That is, "It's a far cry to Lochowe! and succour is far from my lads in their danger!" Then he had recourse to an ingenious ruse. Having caused the baby to be stripped and her clothes stuffed with straw, he thrust the bundle under a large camp kettle inverted, taking care that the enemy should have full view of the latter part of the proceeding. Then he set his seven sons round the kettle, charging them to defend it to the death, and, drawing off the survivors of his band, escaped with them and the babe into the wilds of Monadh Lia.

The seven young men all perished at their appointed post; but when the bereaved uncles raised the kettle—b! there was nothing but a bundle of straw and some baby's clothing.

When Muriel was brought to Lochowe, the nurse's sagacity in mutilating her was justified.

"What shall we do," asked Campbell of Auchinleck, "if she dies before she is of marriageable age?"

"She can never die," answered Inverliver, "so long as a red-haired lassie can be found on the shores of Lochowe!"

Muriel remained in custody of the Campbells till the year 1510, when, being twelve years of age, she was duly married to John, third son of the Earl of Argyll, from which union the present Earl Cawdor is tenth in direct male descent: and that is how the Campbells came to Cawdor.

Other and later memories people the landscape that rolls, ridge upon ridge, away to the bleak expanse of Monadh Lia. Every glen cherishes its tradition of the terrible spring of 1746, when, after the sun of the Stuarts had set for ever in blood and tears on the fatal moor of Uulloden, Cumberland's troops were dispersed in pursuit of the broken clans. Scores of stout fellows, many of them grievously wounded, were hunted down like hill-foxes and butchered in cold blood. Their children's children will still point out to you the very spots where the horrid work went on, so grievously was Lord President Forbes mistaken when he wrote to Walpole—"If all the rebels, with their wives, children, and dependants, could be rooted out of the earth, the shock would be astonishing, but time would commit it to oblivion."

It were well, perhaps, could that month's work be blotted from the records of the British army; but let us not forget another deed of blood committed in this district about the same time. Two or three miles west of Lord Cawdor's shooting lodge of Drynachan is the place of Pall-a-chrocain, whereof the laird MacQueen died in 1797. He was of gigantic stature, six foot seven inches, they say, in Highland brogues (which have no heels), and a mighty hunter before the Lord. In the winter of 1743-4 a woman was crossing the hill between Cawdor and the Findhorn with her two children, when she was set upon by a large wolf, which carried one of them away. The alarm was sounded; the laird of MacIntosh summoned a " tainchel " or great hunting to assemble at Fi-Giuthas, not far from Pall-achrocain. MacQueen, of course, was invited; indeed, no such hunting could be reckoned complete without that individual and his famous dogs. But on the appointed morning the laird of Pall-a-chrocain failed to appear at the right time. The party waited—the MacIntosh swore—the early morning was the only time when there was a chance of picking up the trail of the nocturnal marauder. At last, Pall-a-chrocain was seen striding across the heather towards them at a leisurely pace. MacIntosh addressed him pretty sharply, complaining that he had kept them all waiting.

"Ciod e a' chabhag? (What's the hurry)," said Pall-a-chrocain, coolly; whereat the impatient hunters gave an angry growl and the chief waxed still more indignant.

"Sin e clhuib! (There it is then !)," said the delinquent, and, throwing back his plaid, flung down the wolf's head at their feet. He had stolen a march upon his friends; but it seems that they were bent on business, rather than sport, for it is recorded that they were all delighted, and that the Maclntosh rewarded Pall-a-chrocain by giving him the land of Seanachan "for meat to his dogs."

This appears really to have been the last wolf killed in all Scotland, for, although Pennant assigned to Sir Ewen Cameron the honour of having put an end to the race in 1680, the animal slain on that occasion was only the last in Lochaber.


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