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History of Aberdeen and Banff
Chapter I


The place of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire in history — physical features —earliest history: the Romans — the Taixali and Devana — Severus's expedition: supposed roman camps — Eirde houses, pit dwellings, and crannogs — duns, raths, and cathairs— "druidical circles" and " standing - stones " — sculptured monoliths—flint implements—early population— legends of the saints and the researches of the Aberdeen historians—the 'book of deer '—St Columba and the conversion of the northern Picts : traces of him in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire—other saints—ecclesiastical controversy and the expulsion of the columban monks — St Fergus — st rule and king Hungus at Braemar — king Grig's connection with aberdeenshire and his services to the church—St Manire and religious decay — the Viking age: inroads of Sscandinavians — Thorfinn and Macbeth — final overthrow of Macbeth at Lumphanan — Lulach and Maelsnechtan — power' of the northern kings in Buchan.

Separated from central Scotland by the Mounth or Eastern Grampians, and bounded on two sides by the sea, the territory between the Dee and the Spey occupied a position of comparative isolation from the rest of the country until steam navigation and railways broke down all the old territorial barriers. From the earliest days when history has anything to tell us concerning it, this north - eastern province, consisting of the two modern counties of Aberdeen and Banff, has played a distinctive and important part in the affairs of Scotland. Unconquered, if not uninvaded, by the Romans, it formed after their departure one of the seven provinces into which Pictland or Alban of the early middle ages was divided, and it long continued to assert for itself a semi - independent political existence. Throughout the range of its history it has been the home of a sturdy population, warlike in its early Celtic and perhaps pre-Celtic days, and more forceful in the arts of peace as well as war when the new Teutonic elements came in. When southern Scotland up to the two great firths was linked with South Britain, and its future capital was rising up around the stronghold of an Anglo-Saxon prince, this north-eastern territory was the mainstay of independent Alban. In the eleventh century, as in the nineteenth, the picturesque upper valley of the Dee was the favourite retreat of the sovereign, and many of the recorded transactions of the Scottish kings took place within these counties. They were crossed and recrossed by Edward I. in his vain endeavour to impose the English yoke; and in the great war of national independence Robert Bruce, himself, it may be said, an Aberdeenshire magnate, as guardian of his nephew the Earl of Mar, won his first decisive victory in the battle of Barra, where he annihilated the power of the Cumyns and the English interest in the north. A century later it was Aberdeenshire men, under another Earl of Mar and the Provost of Aberdeen, that repelled the invasion of Celtic barbarism at Harlaw. At three subsequent crises of Scottish history this district was to be the centre of national conflict. Here alone the Reformation of the sixteenth century and the Covenant of the seventeenth met ivith strenuous and sustained resistance, and it was here that the first Jacobite rebellion of the eighteenth century was organised. In this north-eastern province of Scotland, moreover, the native endowments of mind and character have been developed and turned to account by a singularly effective system of education. As scholars, as soldiers, as civilians in the public service, in professional life, and in the various walks of commerce and industry, Aberdeenshire men have done their part in the work of the world, and the same sound stock still contributes its output of mind and energy to the manifold activities of the empire. Some of the elements and forces that have developed and moulded the character of the people of these north-eastern counties will become apparent in the course of this brief survey of their history.

In fortunes and in history the two counties of Banff and Aberdeen may be regarded as one : there is no natural or recognisable line of demarcation between them, and in these pages the name Aberdeenshire is frequently used as an inclusive designation for both. The extreme length of the territory is about ninety, and its breadth about sixty miles. Every variety of highland and lowland country is to be found within its limits. Beginning with the low ground of Buchan and the fertile districts of Formartine, Garioch, and Lower Banffshire, it rises through Strathbogie and Mar to the highest tract of land in the United Kingdom, culminating in the Cairngorm range. Less than half the land of the two counties is under cultivation. Woods and plantations occupy less than a sixth part of the uncultivated area. The rest is mountain and moor, yielding pasturage for moderate flocks of sheep, or for deer, and at the lower elevations for cattle. In former days the woodlands were much more extensive than they are now, and, well within the range of modern history, the large forests of Stocket, Hallforest, and Drum existed in the immediate neighbourhood of Aberdeen. The upland glens afforded shelter and precarious subsistence to populations driven back from the low country by the immigration of robuster races. Ethnologists tell us of indications of an early people of Iberian type preceding or partly contemporaneous with the Celts in the north • and different Celtic branches prevailed at different periods. In the meagrely recorded middle ages the Scandinavian sea-rovers began to ravage the low country. Frisian and Flemish immigrants arrived, and, with the Anglo-Saxon inflow from England at the Norman Conquest, changed the whole character of society.

Aberdeenshire first emerges above the horizon of history in the early days of the Roman occupation of Britain. Whatever may have been the site of the battle described by Tacitus, the country north of the Mounth must be believed to have contributed its quota to the confederated Caledonian host under the commander whom the historian calls Galgacus. Fought somewhere to the south of the Mounth, the battle may have been less calamitous to the country we now call Aberdeenshire than to the Scottish midlands, by which its brunt had been chiefly borne; and this has been suggested as a reason for that adjustment of the balance of power which gave the northern or transmontane Picts their ascendancy in the history of Alban. The fleet which Agricola sent round the north of Scotland must have sailed along this coast and learned something of the geography of the region. Certain it is that within the next half century the Alexandrian geographer, Ptolemy, had published his Tables containing scraps of information that must have been derived from Roman sources. Here Aberdeenshire bears the name of Taixalon; and Kinnaird Head, or possibly Rattray Head, is the promontory of the Taixali. The Taixali had a "city" called Uevana, the site of which has been a theme of much controversy. At one time the uncritical patriotism of local historians easily identified it with the city at the mouth of the Dee or the one near the mouth of the Don ; but there is no evidence that any city existed where Aberdeen or Old Aberdeen now stands until many centuries after the time of Ptolemy. More critical writers, and among them George Chalmers, Prof. John Stuart of Marischal College, and Dr Joseph Robertson, held it to be clearly established that Devana was at Peterculter, in Lower Deeside, where Prof. Stuart discovered, at Anguston, about three miles from the ancient camp of Normandykes, what he and others conceived to be its remains. In recent years, however, Devana has been transferred by Mr W. F. Skene to the vicinity of Loch Davan, about two miles from the Dinnet station of the Deeside railway. It is argued that this site agrees with Ptolemy better than the other, and a point is made of the abundance of traces of ancient habitation in the locality. The same view is strongly supported by an accomplished local antiquary, Air John G. Michie, minister of Dinnet and author of an exhaustive monograph on Loch Kinnord, who not only finds in Devana the latinised form of Davan, the " town of the two lakes " (Davan and Kinnord), but lays stress on the ancient remains just referred to, and on the recovery from the bottom of the lake of weapons of war and articles of household use that seem to be of Roman manufacture. Except that Peterculter is nearer the supposed track of the Romans, there is little to be said in opposition to the considerations that would lead us to connect the ancient Devana with Loch Davan.

During the second century of the Christian era several punitive expeditions were sent against the Caledonian tribes, but nothing is known to have occurred that has any direct bearing upon Aberdeenshire until the Emperor Severus came north at the head of a large army in 208 for the purpose of finally subduing the whole of independent Caledonia. In his campaign of roadmaking and warfare Severus pressed on till he reached " the farthest end of the island." The inhabitants of the country beyond the Roman frontier are now spoken of as two nations, the Meatse and the Caledon... The latter would seem to have been in possession of Aberdeenshire, though not confined to it, and they are described as a hardy people who dwelt in huts, neglected the cultivation of land and the fish within their reach, and lived by pasturage, the chase, and the natural fruits of the earth. In battle they were unencumbered with clothing and fought with a short spear and dagger from chariots drawn by small fleet horses. Such a country, without agriculture of cities in the Roman sense, was ill-suited to be the winter quarters of an army of invasion, and immense numbers of the Romans are reported to have perished in these northern wilds.

The testimony of written history is to a certain extent reinforced by that of archaeological remains. Supposed Roman camps and roads were brought into vogue in Aberdeenshire, as elsewhere, by the enthusiasm of General Roy, who had made a study of Roman military works and examined all kinds of ancient remains during the survey of Scotland in which he was engaged about the middle of the eighteenth century, but who unfortunately relied on the spurious work attributed to the monkish chronicler Richard of Cirencesler. As regards Aberdeenshire, Roy was seconded in his views by another distinguished officer, who had his residence in the county, Colonel Shand of Templeland. The camp at Ardoch, in southern Perthshire, was taken as an undisputed Roman starting-point, and there was a theoretical north-eastward route by Perth, Battledykes, the Vale of Strathmore, and the Mearns, to Stonehaven or Urie, from which it passed to the ford of the Dee commanded by the camp of Normandykes at Peterculter. Until Roman camps came into fashion this camp, in accordance with its name, had been traditionally associated with the Northmen. It is now nearly undistinguishable, but was carefully surveyed in 1807, when its outlines were more distinct, by Prof. Stuart and others, and was found to measure about a hundred acres, and to form an " oblong square." A similar but larger camp at Glenmailen, or Buss, on the upper water of the Ythan, about thirty miles north of Normandykes, was surveyed by Colonel Shand, and it is contended that no native army of numbers sufficient to require so large camps can ever have been intrenched in these parts.

But while it may be regarded as a possibility, if nothing more, that a large Roman army had for a time its quarters at Glenmailen, the course of its progress thither and its farther progress towards " the farthest end of the island" can only be matter of vague conjecture. One of the ancient routes in middle Aberdeenshire crossed the Don and the Ury at a point where the Bass commanded the passages, and, beyond the Ythan camp, Colonel Shand made one of his discoveries of military remains at a ford of the Deveron at Auchengoul. Another supposed Roman camp is found near the western extremity of the parish of Marnoch, whence the route is carried by Deskford and Cullen to the Spey below Gordon Castle. No confidence, however, can be placed in these hypothetical routes, nor is the occasional discovery of Roman coins or medals—as on the road between Stonehaven and Culter and in the Red Moss of Crathes, at one extremity of our territory, and in Lower Banffshire at the other—any evidence that they had been deposited there by their original possessors. Aberdeenshire men may have been among the Caledonians punished by Carausius, towards the close of the third century, after he had organised a fleet of galleys for the repression of the sea-rovers already beginning to ravage the North Sea coasts. Once more the attacks from the north were repelled in 368-369, but Gibbon is apparently guilty of one of his flights of imagination when he asserts that the strong hand of Theodosius  confined the trembling Caledonians to the northeast angle of the island," even though the panegyric of Claudian on this noted general (the father of a still more noted emperor) makes him stain the region of Thule with the blood of the Picts and vanquish the Saxon pirates in the waters of Orkney. The restoration of the Roman power was short-lived, and within forty years, though Stilicho flourished during that time, the last of the Roman eagles had quitted the British Isles.

Of positive Roman influence in the north-east no indication has come down to us, and it is evident that no real conquest of the region can have taken place. The long-continued wars with a powerful foe would tend to weaken and deteriorate those native populations upon which it bore most heauly, and this effect would be accentuated by the systems of slavery and impressment; but Aberdeenshire, suffering less by this struggle than provinces farther south, may have gained in relative importance and strength in the latter days of the Roman occupation.

But if the literary documents of its oldest history are meagre, Aberdeenshire is rich above all other Scottish counties in relics that serve in some slight degree for guidance in the darkness that overspreads its early life. Prominent among these are the "eirde" or earth houses, in use in Roman and post-Roman times, which were entered by a small and easily concealed opening, and were connected with dwellings above-ground of perishable materials long since obliterated. Such subterranean recesses are described by Tacitus as in use among the Germans of his time as shelters from the cold of winter and repositories for the concealment of valuables. Nowhere in these islands are they so abundant as in the districts of West Aberdeenshire, bordering on the Highland line. Lake dwellings or crannogs existed at Loch Kinnord, the Loch of Leys, now drained, and Loch Goul in New-Machar. Down to the days of the Anglo-Saxon colonisation the defensive structures of the country were represented by hill-forts, or duns, occupying commanding positions, while raths and cathairs were more closely related to the ordinary life and dwellings of the population. The rath, or residence of the chief, gave place to the feudal castle, and the cathair to the undefended homestead or "farm town." Many traces of the greater fortifications survive, as on the Hill of Durn, the Convals, Dunecht, Barra, Bennachie, and Tap o' Noth. The stronghold of Dunecht, on the summit of its conical hill, encloses an area of more than two acres, and consists of five concentric walls, three of earthwork and two of stone. The space within the fortification had been occupied by wooden or wattled dwellings, and is large enough to have been an asylum for women, children, and cattle. The so-called "Druidical" circles and "standing-stones," which still abound, were associated in historic times with the administration of justice and other public business. They were also connected with the disposal of the dead whether by burial or incineration. Another class of standing-stones are the sculptured monuments depicted and discussed in the magnificent volumes edited for the original Spalding Club by its secretary and joint-founder, Dr John Stuart of the Register House. These belong chiefly to the early Christian period. Yet more distinctive as a speciality of Aberdeenshire archaeology, and found more abundantly in the northeast of Scotland than in any other part of the country, are the arrow-heads, spear-heads, and other flint implements, the fine workmanship of which bears witness to the industry and skill of a martial population. The raw material of these implements is found in detrital masses at Cruden, on the coast of Buchan, and less abundantly at Belhelvie and elsewhere; and remains of flint workshops have been discovered not only in the vicinity of these sources of flint but at inland places, as Barra, Inverurie, and Alford. Ages after they had been superseded by metallic weapons the flint arrowheads continued to be objects of superstitious dread as "elf shots " or " elf bolts "—a survival, we may infer, from days when they imparted a new sense of terror and power as the most efficacious weapon of war and the chase.

The population, when history dawns upon it, is rude if we are to judge by modern standards, but there had been ingenious and skilful men in its ranks. Under conditions which seem unpropitious, man had more and more asserted his mastery, and in spite of his own strifes and wars had been gaining ground in his perennial contest with the forces of nature. He was an artificer and huntsman, and in his degree an agriculturist, for in the eirde houses the evidences have been found of the cultivation of the domestic animals and the cereals. Aberdeenshire in those early times was evidently occupied by an active and resolute people, perhaps as advanced as any "barbarians" who never came under the sway of Rome.

In another direction the early history of Aberdeenshire is distinguishable from that of Pictland as a whole. The legends of the saints, widely as they differ from exact records contemporaneous or nearly so with the events they describe, are not entirely devoid of historic value. The great repertory of early legend relating to persons who played a considerable part in the life of the two north - eastern counties is the ' Breviary of Aberdeen,' and though its biographical memorials are of much later date than the lives with which they are concerned, they at least preserve the names and fame of men whose memory was cherished by the Church.

As regards the general data of Aberdeenshire history, inestimable service has been done by the publication of its original documents in the extensive library issued by the two Spalding Clubs. For no other part of the country, indeed, are the authentic materials of territorial history so ample and so accessible. Earliest and most valuable of all is the ' Book of Deer,' the one literary relic of ancient Pictland. Written at the old Columban monastery on the banks of the Ugie, it is in origin as well as substance an Aberdeenshire document—in form the parchment service-book of the monastery, its margins and blank pages inscribed with a body of memoranda of the gifts of land and concessions of privilege to the monks by the Celtic rulers of the district, the latest entry being a summary of a charter by David I. Incidentally a great deal of light is thrown by these notitiae on the social organisation of Buchan in the middle ages.

About the period of nearly two centuries between the departure of the Romans and the conversion of the northern Picts to Christianity, there is little to be gleaned of particular events in Aberdeenshire. Christianity had reached the south of Scotland before the Romans left. The first missionary who crossed the Mounth of whom we have any certain knowledge is St Ternan, who died at Banchory, called after him Banchory-Ternan, and whose relics were treasured both there and in the Church of Aberdeen. We also find traces of St Kentigern, otherwise St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, who at one period of his life was associated with St David in Wales, and had St Asaph for one of his disciples. In West Aberdeenshire the Church of Glengairn was dedicated to him, and a Welsh connection is implied in the dedications of Migvie and Lumphanan to St Finan and of Midmar to St Midan, two Welsh saints likewise associated in adjacent parishes of Anglesea. St Kentigern, however, was a sixth - century saint and contemporary of Columba, and the presence of his disciples in Aberdeenshire shows that to a certain extent it was a meeting-place of two great currents of Christianity—one from the south, and the other, which was by far the more important, from Iona. The conversion of the northern Picts as a people was unquestionably due to the initiative and influence of the great man known as St Columba, St Colm, or Columcille.

Having persuaded Brude mac Maelchon, King of the Picts, whose seat was on the Ness, to become a Christian—so runs the legend in the ' Book of Deer'—Columcille, accompanied by Drostan, arrived in Aberdeenshire in pursuance of his mission. He first appears at Aberdour, an early centre of population, where numerous hut-foundations have been found deeply embedded in peat; and here he receives from the Pictish ruler of the district the gift of a cathair or "town." From Aberdour he passes on through Buchan, and wishing to establish a central station on the Ugie, he asks the mormaer Bede for a second cathair. It was at first refused, but the story goes on to say that presently Bede's young son became dangerously ill, and that, beseeching the prayers of the clerics for the recovery of the sick child, the anxious mormaer now freely granted the desired cathair, and with it the lands between the stone landmarks Cloch-in-Tiprat and Cloch-pette-mic-Garnait. Having established the Monastery of Deer and left Drostan in charge of the mission, Columcille passed on to other fields of labour. Such is the story in the ' Book of Deer.' The name of Columba is borne by the Buchan fishing village of St Colms, or St Combs; the parish of Lonmay, in which the village is situated, was also formerly St Colms; and St Colm's Kirk stood at the east end of the village, overlooking the sea. As at Aberdour, so in Lonmay and the adjacent parish of Rathen, the traces have been found of early population on a considerable scale. Farther along the coast, St Columba was held in reverence as tutelar saint of Belhelvie. The inland churches of New-machar and Daviot were dedicated to him, as was also that of Alvah in Banffshire, while a chapel at Portsoy connects his name with the coast of that county. Thus we obtain an indication of the method by which the Picts were brought under the influence of Christianity. Beginning with the heads of the kingdom, the province, and the clan, and obtaining cathairs in central places for the protection of the Christian brotherhood and infant church, St Columba* passed through Pictland on his missionary tour.

We are dealing with tradition and legend, but that it has an underlying basis of truth seems clear. The ' Breviary of Aberdeen,' as well as the ' Book of Deer,' brings St Drostan into personal relations with St Columba, but some of the annalists give him a later date. He was of the " family of Iona." For a time he lived as a hermit in the lone valley of Lochlee, among the Grampians just outside the southern limit of Aberdeenshire, while from his monastery of Kil-drostan or Aberlour, on the Spey, Christianity was carried to the adjacent highlands of Upper Banffshire. Maluog of Lismore, otherwise known as St Moloch, appears to have introduced it at Mortlach, one of the earliest ecclesiastical foundations in these parts; and St Machar came to the banks of the Don with a special commission from Columba; St Marnan laboured from Aberchirder to Leochel; and to Keith is traced St Maelrubha or Malruve, whose name, when his fame was forgotten, became curiously disguised in the "Summer Eve" fairs held at Keith and other places about the beginning of September. To Adamnan were dedicated the churches of Forvie, Aboyne, and Forglen, the last-mentioned distinguished as having the custody of the mysterious brecbannoch or banner of Columba.

The split in the Columban Church at the beginning of the eighth century over the questions of Easter and the form of the tonsure, followed as it was by the expulsion from Pictland by King Nectan of the clerics who clung to the Columban usages, had no doubt affected the northeastern monasteries; and there is reason to believe that Faelchu, who after the banishment headed the Columban party at Iona, is identical with Wolok (or Volocus of the Aberdeen Breviary), the zealous missionary whose sphere extended from Glass and Balvenie, in Banffshire, to Logie-Mar, the ancient seat of population around Lochs Kinnord and Davan.1 The Roman influence received an impulse at Longley in Buchan from " Fergus the Pict, a bishop of Ireland." who was at a Council at Rome in 721, and it is seen in the numerous dedications that began to be made to the apostle Peter. A somewhat later incident is the arrival of Regulus or St Rule at Braemar with the relics of St Andrew, and his meeting there with King Hungus on his return towards his seat in Forfarshire from a Highland expedition.

In the ninth century, after the union of the Pietish and Scottish thrones by Kenneth mac Alpin in 843, a rather shadowy hero, at once mythical and real, comes upon the scene in the person of King Grig, Girg, Giric, or Cyric, sometimes dignified with the title of Gregory the Great. Chalmers says he was mormaer of the country between the Dee and the Spey, but gives no authority for the statement; and Buchanan, following the fabulous chronicles, makes him overwhelm the Picts, crush the Britons, conquer England, and subdue Ireland. The ' Book of Deer' mentions a Giric as father of one of the benefactors of the monastery; but in history King Grig's activity seems to have been exerted from Fortrenn, or central Scotland, then the regal and political headquarters. He came to the throne by means of a successful rebellion against Eth or Hugh "of the swift foot," the last of Kenneth's sons, who was wounded in battle at Strathallan and died at Nrurim, "in a dangerous pass." It has been contended that "Nrurim" is Inverurie, but no evidence can be adduced for such a conclusion; and though Fordun, the fourteenth-century chronicler and canon of Aberdeen, makes Grig's own death occur at Dunnideer, other chroniclers, with more appearance of warrant, place it at Dundurn, the principal stronghold of Fortrenn. Grig's fame turns chiefly upon his success in winning over the clergy to his side. "This is he who first gave liberty to the Scottish Church, which had been until now under servitude according to the law and custom of the Picts," says the Chronicle of the Picts and Scots; and " In freedom from mormaer and toisech " is the refrain of the ' Book of Deer.' Lay exactions and servitudes were repugnant to the Church, which Grig, an adventurer and usurper, conciliated by issuing in its favour a decree of relief from these liabilities.

In the earlier part of that century Christianity in Aberdeenshire seems to have fallen on evil times. The narrative of St Manire's work in the Aberdeen Breviary discloses the existence in the wilder districts of a "wood folk," still addicted to old superstitions, and speaking a language or dialect differing from that of the low country and of most of the Christian teachers. Manire was skilled in both tongues. He encountered the prejudices of the Columban Christians, who seem to have been relapsing into paganism but preserved sufficient memories of the Iona ritual to furnish them with an excuse for opposing his innovations. But in spite of hostility and personal danger, Manire, who was founder of the church of Crathie, persevered until success attended his labours. The difference of speech, as indicating difference of race or history, is an interesting point with regard to the upland and remoter districts, which are significantly prominent in Scottish hagiology.

An external influence powerfully affecting the course of events had now come into operation. It was in the latter part of the eighth century that the Scandinavian Vikings began to ravage the British coasts. The beginning of the Viking age, indeed, is of much earlier date. Long before the close of the Roman power the maritime tribes of the North Sea began their long buccaneering expeditions, some of which extended even as far as the Levant. It can easily be understood how Scotland, and even England, in the early ages should offer little temptation to the adventurous seamen whom pressure of population on both sides of the Cattegat and Sound sent forth to roam the seas and live by the spoils of war. The earliest Scandinavian descents on the Scottish shores were directed against the monastic communities, which had gathered some wealth and thus offered temptation to the pagan sea-rovers. Aberdeenshire had few inlets for their long-boats, which must have been constantly cruising along its coast; but the Moray Firth (or "Fiord") on the one side afforded them stations and settlements, while by the Firth of Tay, on the other, the Viking steersmen found a way of access to the political headquarters of the country, where their ravages among the southern Picts were a main cause of the seating of Kenneth mac Alpin on the Pictish throne. The alliance of the Scottish King Constantine with Athelstan of England checked for a time the Scandinavian raids; but on Constantine rebelling against the Anglo-Saxon pretensions, Athelstan invaded the country as far as the foot of the Eastern Grampians, while his fleet scoured the coast along by Buchanness and as far as Caithness. Malcolm I. (942-954) made an expedition to the north to wrest the country beyond the Spey from the Norse, and the reign of Indulph, who succeeded him, is memorable in Scottish history for the evacuation of Edinburgh by its Anglo - Saxon founders, while the Pictish Chronicle assigns to it the first Scandinavian raid into Buchan. The north-eastern province, enjoying at least comparative immunity from the turmoils of the time, had grown in relative importance and become worth the attention of the hungry followers in Orkney of Eric of the Bloody Axe, whose descent on Buchan in Indulph's time seems to be identical with the inroad at Cullen in 961 which led to the battle of the Baads, of popular tradition, and to the death of Indulph as recorded in the later chronicles. Traditionary story also tells of a battle of Gamrie on the same coast during the same epoch of history.

Sigurd the Stout, upon whom Olaf Tryggveson, the first Christian king of Norway, had forced a nominal acceptance of the new faith, continued the raiding expeditions; among those with whom he fought being Finlay, son of Ruadri and father of Macbeth—three mormaers of Moray, who each received the title of "Ri-Albain," or King of Alban, and yielded but scant obedience to the greater King of Scotland, whose power was south of the Mounth. These northern kings, with the': forces, were a buffer against the Norse of the northern mainland, and they exercised authority in the country east of the Spey.

Several conflicts are mentioned in the later chronicles as having occurred on the coasts or in the interior of the two counties during the reign of Malcolm II. (1005-1034), and Malcolm himself fought with the Danes in this province. The chronicles are probably inexact, and in some cases there may be a confusion between Malcolm the general King of Scotland and Malcolm the local king, who slew Finlay and reigned in his stead (1020-1029). One of the fights is said to have taken place at Mortlach in 1010, after a retreat before the victorious Scandinavians from the western side of the Spey, but the details of this alleged battle rest wholly upon late and untrustworthy authority. The Sagas record that Sigurd married Malcolm's daughter, by whom he had a son, the famous Thorfinn—a connection of which the Scottish annalists say nothing, and it seems at least quite as likely that the northern as that the southern Malcolm was Thorfinn's grandfather.

Swegen, King of Denmark, was busy in the affairs of England with his ships and men. In 1012 an expedition under his young son, Cnut, soon to be one of the most powerful of kings, landed at Cruden Bay with the object, as would appear, of checking the tide of Scandinavian evil fortune in Scotland which had culminated in the battles of Barry and Aberlemno. The popular story in Abcrcromby's ' Martial Atchievements' about Malcolm making up his differences with Cnut, and ordering a church to be built and dedicated to St Olaf, the patron saint of Norway, must be purely imaginary, for Olaf was at this time a youth of seventeen ; he was slain in battle with Cnut in 1030, and his canonisation did not take place till the following century.

Aberdeenshire bore a notable part in the great and final trial of strength between Pagan and Christian, Scandinavian and Celt, which took place at Clontarf in 1014. The Irish King Brian Boru had carried on a long and successful struggle with the Scandinavians. Both sides sought allies wherever they could find them. Christian though he nominally was, Earl Sigurd took part with his pagan kindred, while among King Brian's allies was Donald, mormaer of Mar. In West Aberdeenshire Donald had suffered less than his seaside neighbours from the Danish and Norwegian raids, but his sense of the gravity of the issue was sufficiently strong to take him all the way to the shore of Dublin Bay to bear a hand in the cause of patriotism and religion represented by the Celtic king. Earl Sigurd, the mormaer of Mar, and the aged Brian Boru himself, with most of the leaders on both sides, were among the slain; but the battle was the severest blow which the Scandinavian interest had yet received in these islands.

Thorfinn was a boy of five at Earl Sigurd's death, when his grandfather, King Malcolm, gave him Sutherland and Caithness, his older half-brothers dividing or fighting for the Orkney earldom held of the King of Norway; in manhood he was a foremost warrior of his time, reunited the Orkneys with his Scottish earldom, and went sea-roving like all his kindred. His sway extended over the western seaboard as far as Galloway, and on the death of his grandfather he had his fights with King Duncan, who belonged to the rival family of Scottish kings. King Cnut came to Scotland after visiting Rome in 1031, and received the submission of Malcolm and two other kings—namely, Macbeth and Jehmarc or Imergi; and for the time all Scotland was nominally under the over-lordship of the Scandinavian King of England. Macbeth was a subordinate king in his own right, and his wife, Gruoch, granddaughter of Kenneth IV., had become heir to the Scottish throne, since Duncan had killed her brother to secure the succession in his own family. Duncan went north to deal with Thorfinn, and had Macbeth ostensibly helping him; but Macbeth. turned traitor, put him to death, and, making his peace with Thorfinn, hurried south to seize the reins of power. Thorfinn also went south, d iving the remains of Duncan's army before him and subduing all the country as far as the Tay. In this victorious march he would pass through Aberdeenshire, and over the Cairn-a-Mounth, presumably by way of Torphins, the name of which may be a memento of the episode.

With the support of Thorfinn and his Norsemen, Macbeth, after being a petty king in the north for about a dozen years, was for seventeen years King of Scotland. With his career terminated the political influence of the Northmen in Aberdeenshire. Duncan had left two young sons, one of whom, Malcolm, called Canmore, had found refuge with his uncle Siward, the Danish Earl of Northumbria; and in Malcolm's interest Siward came north in 1054 with armed forces by sea and land and fought a successful battle on the Tay, but had to return south without effecting his purpose of driving Macbeth from the throne. Malcolm himself, now King of Cumbria, led an army against Macbeth in the summer of 1057. Fordun's report is that Macbeth, seeing his forces daily diminishing, and those of his adversary increasing, suddenly fled to the north, w here he hoped to find safety in the depths of the forests. Malcolm followed him across the Mounth and overtook him at Lumphanan. The Shakespearean story is taken from Hollinshed, whose narrative is a paraphrase from Hector Boece, while Boece's authority is Fordun. But of Macbeth's discomfiture and death at Lumphanan there can be no doubt. " Macbeth's Cairn," on the southern slope of the Perk Hill, is now marked by a clump of trees in the midst of cultivated land. In the period of agricultural improvement early in the nineteenth century it was depleted for the erection of stone fences round the adjacent fields, but was afterwards added to again as the fields were cleared of stones. A " Macbeth's stone," on the adjacent Brae of Strcttum, is said to mark the place where he received his death-wound, and the farm of Cairnbethie, which has been formed around it, is a memorial of his name. Kincardine O'Neil, where Wyntoun makes Malcolm Canmore await the issue of the search and fray in the " Wode of Lunfanan," was of early importance as commanding the ford of the Dee on the ancient route of travel by the Cairn-a-Mounth Pass.

The kingship, so far as Macbeth's party was concerned, devolved on Lulach, his stepson. Queen Gruoch had been previously married to Gilcomgan, brother of Malcolm mac Maelbride, the two brothers being concerned together in the insurrection of 1020, in which Finlay perished. On the death of Malcolm in 1029 Gilcomgan became his successor as local king, and three years afterwards was slain in his rath with fifty ot his men, his cousin Macbeth taking his place both as local king and as husband of Gruoch. Lulach was unfit for the position to which he fell heir, and after a nominal reign of six months was slain at Essie in Strath-bogie, perhaps in the Glen of Noth, where the Cairn of Mildewen marks " the grave of a thousand." The local kingship held by Macbeth in his younger days did not yet pass from the family, for we learn from the ' Book of Deer' that Maelsnechtan, son of Lulach, gifted land to the monastery. Thorfinn, whose sway, in some shadowy form at least, had extended over Mar and Buchan, has an unrecorded, and therefore presumably peaceable, disappearance from the scene. It has been supposed that the loss of his support had hastened the fall of Macbeth. The Orkneyinga Saga tells us that he was much lamented by his own people, but that in those lands which he had conquered his rule was irksome, and that after his death many of those who had been under it transferred their allegiance to their former chiefs, whereupon "it soon became apparent how great a loss Thorfinn's death was to his dominions."

There is some little evidence in the ' Book of Deer' that throughout the greater part of the eleventh century the northern claim of kingship over Alban had some reality in Aberdeenshire. One of the entries is to the effect that Malcolm mac Kenneth (Malcolm II.) gave the royal share in specified lands to the monastery, and in the next entry we are told that Malcolm mac Maelbride gave the Delerc while Mael-snechtan gave Pett Malduib. Malcolm mac Maelbride was ri or king in the north, as we have seen, when Malcolm mac Kenneth was King of Scotia, and both appear to have claimed kingship in Buchan and to have made grants in virtue of the claim. If the obscurity attending the wars of Malcolm II. is partly due to confusion between him and his northern namesake, it may also be gathered that one result of the wars was to extend the authority of Malcolm mac Maelbride in Aberdeenshire at the expense of that of the King of Scotia. Dr John Stuart, in his preface to the ' Book of Deer' (p. li), remarks that it is not easy to understand how lands presumably in the neighbourhood of Deer could have been at the disposal of the mormaers of Moray,—"lands," he says, " obviously subject to their rivals the kings of Alban." But the so-called mormaers of Moray were, or claimed to be, the kings of Alban, and the southern kings were now called kings of Scotia. The division of the country between Macbeth and Thorfinn would be more intelligible were it certain that the latter was the grandson of Malcolm mac Maelbride, as also would the power of the Moray kings in Aberdeenshire.


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