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Scottish Gardens
Manse Of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire


HE Ythan, beloved of trout-fishers, flows through a fair strath enriched with many memories and set with many an ancient fortalice. Transcending all others in Aberdeenshire—perhaps in all Scotland—for architectural interest is the magnificent castle of Fyvie, whereof the history has its source in days long before Edward I. of England made it his lodging in 1296, and bids fair to outlast by many centuries the visit of Edward VII. of Great Britain and Ireland (and a good deal else besides) in 1907. When the annals of a house extend over so many centuries, trifling chronological inexactitudes may be treated with leniency; still, it taxes our credulity rather beyond its limits to be shown in the fifteenth century Seton tower at Fyvie the actual bedroom occupied by the first Edward in the thirteenth century! In truth, there is no part of the building which can be declared confidently to have belonged to the original stronghold, so completely has the whole castle undergone reconstruction by successive

owners. Nevertheless it remains almost without a rival as an example of the peculiar Scottish style.

So sweetly the woods and fields smile under the fleecy clouds, so blue are the hill-crests and so sparkling the streams, that we cannot grudge the hours as the leisurely "local" wends its way from Aberdeen on this perfect summer day. In due time we alight (in literature people do not "get out" of trains and carriages, they "alight") on the platform of Fyvie station. There is a choice of ways thence to our destination—the legitimate one by the high road, but that has been robbed of much of its charm by the interminable park wall which Lord Leith of Fyvie recently caused to be built for the relief of the unemployed; so we take the other, illegitimate perhaps, to mere wayfarers as we are, but Scottish landowners are never illiberal in the matter of trespass. Entering the "policies" of Fyvie at the lodge gate, a delightful woodland walk leads across the little river, under the walls of the castle and out along the margin of a lake till we reach the open country again.

Below us on the right is the bridge of Sleugh where Annie of Tifty Mill [Her baptismal name was Agnes, but she always appears as Nanuie or Annie in the various versions of the ballad.] parted for ever with her lover—a tragedy commemorated in a ballad which became dearer, perhaps, than any other to Aberdeenshire people. It tells how pretty Agnes, daughter of the wealthy miller of Tifty, lost her heart to a handsome trumpeter in the suite of the Lord of Fyvie.

"At Fyvie's yett there grows a flower,
It grows baith braid and bonnie;
There's a daisy in the midst o' it,
And they call it Andrew Laramie."

No backward lover was the said daisy, for the maiden tells us how

"The first time me and my love met
Was in the woods o' Fyvie,
He kissed my lips five thousand times
And aye he ca'd me bonnie."

The miller, whose name does not appear in the poem, but who is known to have borne the homely one of Smith, took a very firm line with his daughter from the first. He declined even to entertain the idea of her wedding with a mere trumpeter. She should look far higher for a mate with her " tocher " of five thousand merks. The miller's wife and sons were of the same opinion, and between them they led poor Annie a terrible life. If the poet is to be credited, when argument failed, they tried violence and beat the girl unmercifully. They even showed Lord Fyvie the door when he came to plead the cause of the lovers. Annie remained true to her troth, and before Andrew's duty called him away to Edinburgh he met her in a last tryst at the Bridge of Sleugh, and vowed he would come back and marry her in spite of them all.

Now there is an old Scottish belief that lovers who part at a bridge will meet never more ; and so it proved with this fond couple. Annie died, some say of a broken heart, others of a broken back owing to her brother's brutality.

"When Andrew hame frae Embro' cam
Wi' muckle grief and sorrow
'My love is dead for me to-day,
I'll die for her to-morrow.

"'Now will I speed to the green kirkyard,
To the green kirkyard o' Fyvie;
With tears I'll water my love's grave,
Till I follow Tifty's Annie.'"

No doubt was ever cast on Andrew's fidelity; but although he may have mourned over his sweetheart's grave, he did not stay in the kirkyard, for it is told of him that long after her death he was in a company in Edinburgh where the ballad of Tift/s Annie was sung, which so deeply affected him that the buttons flew off his doublet! A stone in "the green kirkyard of Fyvie" bears the following inscription:

while Andrew Lammie is commemorated by a stone figure of a trumpeter on the battlements of one of the castle towers.

But our errand to-day is not to gather up on the spot the threads of this sad story, nor to view the lordly castle, nor yet to explore the foundations of S. Mary's Priory, built by Fergus Earl of Buchan in 1179 for the Tironensian monks of S. Benedict, or to deplore the completeness of its demolition. There stands the castle, but there does not stand the priory, though its site is well marked by a tall Celtic cross, set up in 1868 on a green knoll, and far seen up and down the strath. The object of our mission lies close to "the green kirkyard of Fyvie," whither Miss Wilson's instinct for fair flowers directed her, with the result shown in Plate XIX.

A keen instinct it is shown to be, for it is a melancholy but general truth that the manse garden is about the last place in a Scottish parish that one expects to find well-tended borders. Iu England it is different; it is among the English clergy that you may look for some of the most accomplished amateurs, and, as high authorities in horticulture, it would be hard to beat Dean Hole for roses, Mr. Engleheart for daffodils, or Canon Ellacombe for all sorts of flowering things. The Scottish clergy, as a class, are strangely indifferent to the fluctuating hopes and fears, joys and woes, of horticulture. There are notable and praiseworthy exceptions, but I speak of the class, with the necessary caveat about generalising. I scarcely think that our pastors of to-day can be deterred from seeking solace in an occupation so natural and congenial to men whose avocation keeps them in country homes throughout most of the months, or that they have any such apprehension of censure as induced good Dr. Nathaniel Paterson seventy years ago to withhold his name from the title-page of the first edition of his delightful Manse Garden.

"The following work," he explained in the introduction, "though nowise contrary to clerical duty, is nevertheless not strictly clerical ; and as nothing can equal the obligation of the Christian ministry, or the awe of its responsibility, or its importance to man, the writer trembles at the thought of lessening, by any means or in any degree, either the dignity or the sacredness of his calling; and as the following pages might more properly have been written by one bred to the science of which they treat, or by some leisurely owner of a retired villa, an inference, not the best matured, may be drawn to the effect—that surely the Author can be no faithful labourer in the Lord's Vineyard, seeing he must possess such a leaning to his own. He therefore expects, by hiding for a little, to give the arrow less nerve, because the bowman can only shoot into the air, not knowing whither to direct his aim."

It may be deemed presumptuous for a layman to criticise the recreations of his spiritual masters. Assuredly I do so in no carping spirit, but out of sheer concern for the neglect of so harmless and convenient a hobby. For is not every man happier with a hobby? And in riding this particular hobby gently, a country clergyman may lead the way for his parishioners to do the like. Hear what comfortable words the aforesaid Dr. Paterson spoke upon this matter.

"When home is rendered more attractive, the market-gill will be forsaken for charms more enduring, as they are also more endearing and better for both soul and body. And 0! what profusion of roses and ripe fruits, dry gravel and shining laurels, might be had for a thousandth part of the price given for drams . . . Thus external things, in themselves so trivial as the planting of shrubs, are great when viewed in connection with the moral feelings whence they proceed and the salutary effects which they produce... Wherever such fancy for laudable ornament is found (and it is a thing which, like fashion, spreads fast and far), the pastor, by suggesting this guide to simple gardening, may do a kindness to his flock."

Now let me descend from the pulpit which I have usurped, and enter the manse garden which I have brought the reader so far to see. Favoured by fortune as few gardens of this class have been, it has passed successively through hands which have carefully tended it. Various stories are told to account for the amplitude of the kitchen garden and the high walls enclosing it. According to one version, these walls were the gift of his wife to a former incumbent, Mr. Manson, and, scarcely was the mortar dry in them when the Disruption of the Kirk came to pass (in 1843), and Mr. Manson "went out," surrendering his benefice and forsaking his beloved garden—for conscience' sake. Another variant attributes these walls to another lady, wife of the Rev. John Falconer, who was minister from 1794 to 1828, immediate predecessor of the aforesaid Mr. Manson. After Mr. Manson's resignation, Dr. Cruikshank was translated from Turriff to Fyvie, and married Mr. Falconer's widow, thus inheriting the walls. [Mrs. Cruikshank is buried in the apse of the parish church between her two husbands.] Dr. Milne followed Dr. Cruikshank in 1870, and there remains ample ocular evidence to the pleasure he took in his borders during his ministry of five and thirty years. By him and his family the garden was greatly enriched with a pretty extensive collection of shrubs and herbaceous and alpine plants.

And now, in the person of the Rev. G. Wauchope Stewart the garden owns a new incumbent who is not too proud to take honest pride in fruits and flowers of his own raising, or to soil his hands with spade labour. Under his care and that of Mrs. Stewart there is no fear that the well-stocked garth will be impoverished or that the borders will be allowed to run wild. Much and sedulous attention is required, for the grounds are full of nooks and unexpected spaces, each with its store of choice things. Specially deserving of thoughtful tending is a bit of wall garden—"a garden of remembrance"—where saxifrages of many sorts, stonecrops, Rarynondia, bellflowers, and other pretty flowers are well established —gifts from friends to the departed pastor and his family. Sure no fitter or more touching remembrance can be devised than these lowly herbs, for is not a flower the true symbol of the resurrection? And does not each one, re-appearing season after season, seem to breathe the prayer—"Will ye no come back again?"

Before leaving Fyvie, leave should be obtained to enter the parish kirk to view a truly beautiful west window which has been placed there to the memory of Lord Leith of Fyvie's only son, a subaltern in the Royal Dragoons, who died in service in the South African war in 1900, aged only nineteen. This window is quite the most beautiful bit of modern stained glass I have seen in any country, and its effect is enhanced, if anything, by the surprise of finding such a fine work of art in a building which, externally, is very unpromising.


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