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History of Aberdeen and Banff
Chapter III


The wars of succession and independence — attitude of the Cumyns and the earl of Mar — Robert Bruce and the Mar earldom — Macduff and the regents — Aberdeen and the French alliance—Buchan's border raids—Edward I. in Aberdeenshire—Wallace  popular support of the national cause —Edward's second visit — coronation of Bruce—his wanderings : in Aberdeen : illness—battle of Barra and devastation of Buchan — disappearance of the Cumyns — the part taken by Aberdeen—"bon-accord"—second partition of the counties —king Robert's charter to Aberdeen : municipal government— civil war — Aberdeen sacked and burned — battle of Culblean—Beaumont and Mowbray—the parliament of Aberdeen— progress of the burgh—the wolf of Badenoch—lady Lindsay's defence of Fyvie — Caterans — close of the fourteenth century.

We now approach a time when Aberdeenshire men were foremost actors in more than one of the great crises of Scottish history, and when scenes that were to be turning-points in that history took place within the borders of the county. With the death of Alexander III. the bright and prosperous epoch of the national life came to an abrupt termination. First there was a brief pause; then came the beginning of the contentions, tumults, and wars, and for centuries Scotland's energies were to be wasted, its people impoverished, its civilisation stunted, and its blood poured forth. In the regency that was appointed on the death of Alexander the three northern " Guardians" were Alexander, Earl of Buchan ; Duncan, Earl of Fife; and William Fraser, Bishop of St Andrews, all connected with the north-east; while of the southern three one was John Cumyn of Badenoch. An early act of the regents was to appoint a commission to meet at Scone and to hear and terminate a dispute between Aberdeen and Montrose concerning the fairs of the two towns. From a petition by the aldermen (propositi) and burgesses of Banff it appears that the Aberdeen fa^rs were attended every year by Montrose merchants, to the prejudice and injury, as was alleged, of Aberdeen and the whole northern province. The question at issue appears to have turned upon the construction of King William's grant of a Free Hanse to Aberdeen and his trans - Grampian burgesses ; but the troubles that came upon the country must have diminished the importance of the fair, and the question of privilege ceased to be agitated.

Of the northern regents, the Earl of Fife was assassinated, and the aged Earl of Buchan did not long survive. The son and successor of Buchan, Earl John, attended the Parliament of Brigham in 1290, and was a party to the treaty or contract for the marriage of the Maid of Norway, now Queen of Scotland, to the heir to the English throne. The death of the queen on her voyage from Norway was a new calamity for Scotland, followed as it was by the appearance of the ten claimants for the crown and their unanimous acknowledgment of Edward's claim of overlordship. Most of them were already his vassals in respect of estates in the north of England, but their resolution was confirmed by the general body of the nobility and higher clergy, who at the Norham conference agreed to the formal surrender into Edward's hands of the kingdom and its fortresses pending his decision on the question of who should be king. The Castle of Aberdeen, with that of Kincardine, was accordingly committed to the charge of John de Guildford, and held by him during the seventeen months that elapsed before Baliol was declared to be rightful King of Scots. The claims of John Cumyn of Badenoch, founded on descent from King Donald Ban, having been set aside in favour of those of the descendants of Malcolm Canmore, Cumyn exerted his influence on the side of Baliol, to whose sister he was married. John, Earl of Buchan, who had fallen heir not only to the national offices but also to much of the influence of his father and grandfather in the country between the Dee and the Spey, identified himself on the whole with Edward's policy, though he took up arms against it during the brief interlude of Baliol's French alliance. Bishop Henry Cheyne, or le Chen, another eminent member of the Cumyn family connection, likewise supported the Baliol and English interests.

The Earls of Mar were now of the party opposed to the Cumyns. Earl Donald, son of Earl William who had acted with them in 1255-1257, was with King Edward at Perth and at Berwick, and appealed to him from a decision of the regents on the old subject of the territorial possessions of the earldom. Alan Durward was now dead, and through his daughter the Earl of Fife, her husband, had obtained a portion of the Aberdeenshire lands that had belonged to the Earls of Mar. Earl Donald went back to the old question of more than a century before, and complained that when William the Lion restored the earldom to Morgund, the son of Gyloclery, there were withheld " more than three hundred pounds of land," partly in demesne and partly in tenandry, and he asked, through Sir Robert de Brus, Lord of Annandale, that justice should be done him. One of Edward's first acts after the crown had been awarded to Baliol, now known as King John, was in the character of overlord to address a letter to him requiring that Earl Donald should have leave to collect the arrears due from the bailiary of Aboyne and Glenmuick. Light is thrown on the intervention of Bruce and the drift of West Aberdeenshire politics in this trying time by an intimate connection that was springing up between the Bruces and the family of Mar. Earl Donald's daughter became the wife of young Robert Bruce, whose sister Christian married Gartney, Mars son and successor.

On the accession of Baliol King Edward ordered his keeper of the castles of Aberdeen and Kincardine to give seisin of them to the new King of Scots; but Edward was exacting in the matter of the homage incidental to feftment, and the nobility and people of Scotland were slow to render the required obeisance. Mar's appeal to Edward was followed by one from Macduff, uncle of the assassinated regent, respecting the guardianship of the earldom during the nonage of the heir, the result of which was that the Scottish king was ordered to pay damages. Edward now declared war against the King of France, who had refused to obey a summons to appear as vassal before the English king. Baliol, as an English landlord, attended an English Parliament on the subject of this war, and consenced to yield up for it the revenues of his English estates for three years. As Scottish king he was ordered by Edward to lay an embargo on all Scottish ships and to furnish troops for an expedition into Gascony ; and the presence and aid of the Cumyns, Bruce, the Earl of Mar, and other Scottish magnates were demanded by special writs of summons. A Scottish Parliament or Convention which met at Scone is of interest in relation to this history as the first Parliament in which the burgh of Aberdeen is known to have been represented; and one of its resolutions was that all Englishmen holding office at the Scottish Court should be dismissed—a committee of four bishops, four earls, and four barons being appointed to look after national affairs, and to keep an eye on Baliol himself, whose Scottish patriotism was compromised by his position as an English landlord. Thereupon followed the offensive and defensive league with France (1295), to which the seals of Aberdeen and five other Scottish burghs were affixed. The next step was a futile expedition into Cumberland and an attack on Carlisle, led by the Earl of Buchan, but participated in by most of the Scottish nobles, and it was followed by a second raid into Northumberland with equally poor results. Not only are the names of the Bruces absent from the list of those by whom Buchan was accompanied, but Carlisle Castle was held for Edward by Robert Bruce, son of the competitor and father of the king. Baliol, when he found that Bruce would not take part with him against England, declared his estates in Annandalc forfeited and conferred them on the Earl of Buchan. Henceforth there was no goodwill between the Bruces and Cumyns, though a dozen years were to elapse before their final conflict in Aberdeenshire.

These r;ads and the independent spirit manifested in Scotland brought Edward north in the summer of 1296 at the head of a large and well-disciplined army, and after his easy victories at Berwick and Dunbar he had a triumphal march through the country. At Montrose, where King John made his surrender, the Earls of Buchan and Mar paid their homage to the English king; "Kincardine in the Mearns," Glen-bervie, and Durris "among the mountains," were the next stages of this royal progress; and Aberdeen, described by the chronicler of the journey as "the city of Aberdeen, a fair castle and a good town Upon the sea," was reached on the 14th of July. During his five days' stay in the city Edward exacted the homage of the burghers and barons with abjuration of the French alliance. He arrived on Saturday, and on Sunday he received the homage of Sir Norman de Leslie, Sir Alexander de Lamberton, Sir Patrick de Eggilvyne (or Ogilvie), Sir John de Garviagh, Sir William de Cluny, Sir Thomas Durward, Gilbert de Mar, and William Cumyn, provost of the church of St Andrews; on the two following days that of Sir Gilbert and Sir Hugh de la Haye, Sir Duncan de Ferenderach, Sir Reginald le Chen, Sir Patrick de Berkeley, Sir John de Mowat, Robert le Falconer, and Robert de Elmsley. On the Tuesday also "the burgesses and community of Aberdeen" put their common seal to the record of their allegiance. The bishop d d not present himself till Thursday, on which day Walter Blackwatre, Dean of Aberdeen, and Sir John Fleming also took the oath.

An incident of Edward's visit was the capture by one of his knights of Sir Thomas de Norham and twelve followers, possibly at Lumphanan. The Durward country was at this time in possession of the widow of the murdered Earl of Fife, and by a deed of 1299 the countess conveyed to John de Hastings, Lord of Abergavenny, her lands of Coull and Lumphanan, with other lands in Perthshire and in England, in discharge of a debt which she was not able to meet because of the war in Scotland and the violence of Sir Herbert de Norham, who had seized her goods and chattels. From Aberdeen the English king proceeded to Kintore, and thence by day's journeys to Fyvie, Banff, Cullen, the Enzie on the Spey (where there were only tents for shelter), and Elgin, returning south by Rothes, Cabrach, Kildrummy, Kincardine O'Neil, and the Cairn-a-Mounth. It is probable that his cavalry scoured the country, and that supplies for his army were brought in by foraging parties; and we find that compensation was granted to the Earl of Buchan for ravages committed in his territories by English foragers on their northward march.

The patriotic efforts of Wallace were directed towards the north in 1297, when he made a successful raid upon the English in Angus and Mearns, stormed Dunnottar Castle, and surprised Edward's garrison in Aberdeen, though it succeeded in repelling his attack upon the castle. He may have destroyed some shipping in the harbour; but Henry the Minstrel must be exaggerating when he says that a hundred ships were burnt, for so great a destruction could not have escaped the attention of less imaginative chroniclers. The Earl of Buchan had lately arrived in the north with a safe-conduct from Edward, and whether from inability, with the resources at his disposal, to deal with the English garrison in Aberdeen and the other opposition with which he was threatened, 01 from the urgency of affairs in the south, Wallace hastily withdrew from this part of the country. We next find Buchan reporting to Edward the outbreak of an insurrection against William Fitzwarine, the English constable of the Castle of Urquhart, on Loch Ness, led by Andrew the son of Sir Andrew de Moray, with other " enemies of the king's peace." Sir Andrew was almost the only prominent man who thoroughly associated himself with the efforts of Wallace. Letters from Edward enjoined Gartney, son of the Earl of Mar, and Henry le Chen, Bishop of Aberdeen, his wardens of the sheriffdom, to hasten to the relief of the castle and restore order. The insurrection spread, and the Earl of Buchan took the field along with Gartney and the bishop. They marched to Inverness, and, calling in the aid of the Countess of Ross, put down the national resistance beyond the Spey, as they duly reported to the English king in letters still extant.

Shortly after Wallace's departure the proceedings of the commandant of Aberdeen Castle, Henry de Lazom on Lathom, drew from the Earl de Warrenne, who was at the head of Edward's affairs in Scotland, a complaint that he was consumed by self-importance and not attending to his duties. From a letter from Edward to Lazom we gather that armed bands were wandering about the country and harassing the English, and orders, were given to repress this brigandage. Apparently the citizens had received Wallace favourably, and while his followers were not of sufficient note to engage the attention of the chroniclers, there is probably truth in Blind Harry's assertion that the common people rallied to his standard.

"Yett pur men com and prewyt all their micht
To help Wallace in fens of Scotland's richt,"

says the Minstrel, and a remark which he makes about Cumyn's hostility seems referable to the assistance which. Wallace received from the north. Sir Adam Brown, the knight of Madmar, was, however, a supporter of Wallace, and fell in the battle of Falkirk.

Little is known of the history of the counties during the period between Wallace's visit to Aberdeen and the emergence of Bruce as head of the patriotic party. In his last march through Scotland, in 1303, Edward reached Aberdeen on August 24, and passed through the two counties on his way to Lochindorb, the Moray stronghold of John Cumyn, now the principal warden of Scotland. At this time the attitude of the people seems to have been that of sullen passiveness. Kildrummy is again mentioned as one of the castles where Edward halted. It was at this time closely connected with the family interest of Bruce, and actually in his possession.

The cause of independence must have seemed desperate indeed when, having dissolved, in 1304, the commission of barons, with John Cumyn of Badenoch at its head, which had still kept up the semblance of a separate government, Edward assumed direct rule, assisted by a council of which the Bishop of Aberdeen, the Earl of Buchan, and Sir Duncan de Ferenderach were members. Close upon this came the betrayal and execution of Wallace, the flight of Bruce from the English Court, his assassination of John Cumyn in the Greyfriars' Church at Dumfries, his coronation at Scone, and the commencement of the long struggle which was to end in his unchallenged possession of the Crown and the triumph of Bannockburn. From the outset the two counties, with the exception of the earldom of Buchan, had their sympathies actively enlisted in Brace's behalf, and contributed not a little to the success of his efforts. After the wanderings in Athole that followed his defeat at Methven, along with a few of his followers he arrived in Aberdeen secretly, and in a state of destitution. Here he was joined by the queen and her ladies, one of whom was the Countess of Buchan, who, in spite of her husband's feud with Bruce, had attended the coronation at Scone, and as representative of the Macduffs had, according to ancient usage, placed the crown on his head. Bruce and his party lived quietly in Aberdeen for some months, enjoying the hospitality, it is believed, of one of the religious houses, perhaps the monastery of the Trinity Friars on the bank-of the Dee. At last a change of scene became necessary. The presence of the king began to be noised abroad, and an English army was on its way to the north. His brother, Sir Nigel Bruce, was to proceed to the Castle of Kildrummy with the ladies; but the approach of the English, under the Earls of Gloucester and Hereford, compelled them to seek an asylum farther north. The fiege of Kildrummy, its gallant defence by Sir Nigel and the Earl of Athole, and its betrayal by an English sympathiser named Osborn, are described in the vivid pages of Barbour, who states that the garrison were hanged and drawn except Sir Nigel Bruce, who was taken at the castle, and Athole, who was afterwards captured as he was attempting to escape by sea. Sir Nigel Bruce was executed at Berwick and Athole in London, where also Sir Herbert de Norham was put to death as a rebel against the English king. The queen, with her party, was delivered over to the English by William, Earl of Ross. She was treated with consideration and courtesy; but the Countess of Buchan, by Edward's express orders, was confined for four years in a cage of lattice-work attached to one of the towers of the Castle of Berwick. Bruce's daughter Marjory was similarly imprisoned at Roxburgh; the Countess of Mar is said to have been sent to a convent, and her son, the young earl, was first sent to Bristol and other places, and ultimately taken into the royal household to receive an English education and imbibe English sentiments.

It was in the autumn of 1307 that Bruce, after his wanderings and adventures, recrossed the Mounth, where he was joined by Sir Alexander Fraser and others of his northern friends. He is,believed to have returned for a time to his old quarters in Aberdeen, and those .cordial relations between him and the burghers were confirmed, of which there were to be marked tokens on both sides in the "course of his reign. The hardships of his lot during these anxious years had told upon his health, and we next hear of him lying ill at Inverurie.

For safety he was carried to Slevach or Sliach, an obscure place in the parish of Drumblade, where his followers formed a camp and intrenched themselves. The Earl of Buchan, with Sir John Mowbray, an English commander, and Sir David of Brechin, Bruce's nephew, had been collecting an army at Slains to oppose him. The Cumyns discovered the camp at Drumblade, and at Christmas-time for three days it was harassed by their archers. Sir Edward Bruce, who commanded for his brother, seeing that his men were badly provisioned, and being unwilling to risk a battle until the king should be able to command in person, retired with his force to Strathbogie, where Bruce had a powerful adherent in David, Earl of Athole.

The king's convalescence was now making progress, and after a time he moved down to Inverurie, where a skirmish took place with a reconnoitring party under Sir David de Brechin from the Cumyn camp, which had been established near the site of the modern village of Old Meldrum. Bruce's outposts were driven in by Sir David de Brechin, and the king at once determined to give battle to the Cumyn who in Baliol's day had usurped the Annandale estates. The force under Buchan and Mowbray, according to Barbour, was 1000 strong, while that of Bruce was only about 700 — no very large array on either side. The conflict took place on ground now forming part of the farm of North Mains of Barra. Bruce promptly attacked, and Barbour tells us that the sight of the king, who was supposed to be still on his sick-bed, made such an impression upon the enemy that they wavered and broke. It is certain that they did not stand Bruce's charge, and in spite of their superior numbers were speedily put to flight. The battle in itself was on quite a minor scale, and Barbour gives no warrant for the exaggerations of which it has been the subject; but its consequences for Aberdeenshire were great, and it is historically important as marking the turning point in the national cause.

Complete as the victory was, it is not easy to understand why, in its consequences, it should have been so overwhelming, except on the supposition that there had been a large element in the Buchan population indifferently affected towards the Cumyn interest, if not actually betraying it to its foes. Sir Edward Bruce -pursued the vanquished band, which appears to have fled to Fyvie, where the royal castle would afford a temporary refuge. With more deliberation the king proceeded to wreak a terrible vengeance on the territory of the great family which roused in him a spi-it of relentless fury. He put forth all his energy to compass its destruction, and the means which he now adopted to that end were long remembered as the " harrying of Buchan," a ruthless exercise of fire and sword which even in an age of violence was regarded as unprecedentedly savage. Barbour, who was a contemporary of Bruce's son, and whose parish of Rayne is close by the scene of the battle, so that he must have known many eyewitnesses of the scenes which he describes, tells how the victor

"Gert his men burn all Buchan Fra end till end, and sparit nane, And herryit thaim in sic maneir That efter that weile fifty year Men menyt the herschip of Buchan."

Ruin and desolation overspread the whole district. The house which had been supreme for more than a century and a half, which in the persons of its successive heads and chief collateral members had exercised a predominant sway iii national affairs, and which for all but a hundred years had presided over the destinies of the north-east, was irretrievably crushed in this single conflict at Barra. The poets and historians of Scottish independence have loaded the name of Cumyn with such obloquy as made it for ages a synonym for falsehood and treason. But modern history can discover no just cause for execrating the Cumyn Earls of Buchan beyond their too faithful adherence to their alliance with Edward. We have a considerable number of their charters, which are the record of numerous benefactions to the Church and the poor. It was under their rule that the transition from the Celtic order in population, customs, and language mainly took place. They were liberal and considerate lords to their own people. They specially protected the native race, their lordship over which was first established by peaceful means and not by the sword; and Buchan at the time of the devastation was probably the most Celtic part of Lowland Aberdeenshire.

With the downfall of the Earl of Buchan the whole of the north-east of Scotland turned to Bruce's side. The citizens of Aberdeen, who are believed to have contributed to the victory of Barra, now rose against the English garrison and succeeded in seizing the castle. Tradition says that the watchword- of the townsmen on this occasion was "Bon-Accord," the motto subsequently adopted for the arms of the city. Hector Boece states that Bruce's partisans stormed the castle, which had been held for several years by the English ; that they put the garrison to death, and that shortly after, in order to leave no place of refuge for the English in Aberdeen, they removed the fittings and demolished the castle itself. It is certain that on July 10, 1308, about seven weeks after the battle of Barra, an order was signed by Edward II. directing Captain William le Betour, as captain of the royal fleet from Hartlepool to Aberdeen, to proceed with his ships to assist in raising the siege of the castle. Kildrummy and the other fortresses in the counties were captured and cleared of their English garrisons; but the Castle of Banff appears to have remained in the hands of the English, for we find Edward issuing victualling orders for its garrison in 1309. During the rest of King Robert's reign the counties suffered little from the war, though they were constantly menaced with a descent by sea.

With the establishment of Bruce's power came the second great partition of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire. The forfeiture of Buchan, Bruce's own domains of Kildrummy and the Garioch, and the Crown lands still classed as thanages and disposable at the will of the king, provided ample means of rewarding the followers who had stood by him throughout his vicissitudes of fortune. New families appear upon the scene — the Hays, who had been Bruce's fastest friends from the time of his coronation; the Erasers, one of whom was his brother-in-law; and the Gordons, who as Border lords were somewhat later in finally declaring themselves. William of Irwyn, son of Irwyn of Bonshaw, a Dumfriesshire neighbour of the Bruces, had cast in his lot with the king in the days of struggle and strife, and received his reward in charters of 1323 and 1324 of the whole of the royal forest of Drum beyond the Park, with the exception of the lands granted by the king to Alexander Burnard. Burnard, the ancestor of the old Aberdeenshire family of Burnett, baronets of Leys, with its numerous branches, had by one of the missing charters of King Robert the western part of the forest, with the lands of Leys and Crathes. The Irvines and Burnetts have now for nearly six hundred years remained' in unbroken possession of the adjacent Deeside estates conferred upon them by Robert Bruce for services rendered to his cause. The new lords brought with them a new stream of followers sufficient to obliterate what remained of the decaying Celtic population in all the Lowland districts. The resettlement of Buchan was wholly from non-Celtic sources, and Strathbogie, which had been mainly Celtic under the native family, was soon to be flooded with vassals and followers of the Gordons from their former seats on the English border.

The rise of the Keiths, another family that played a great part for centuries in the affairs of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, likewise dates from this period. Before 1318 Bruce conferred upon Gilbert de la Keith the office of Constable of Scotland, which since the Cumyn forfeiture had been held for a time by the versatile David de Strathbolgin; and in 1320 Parliament awarded to Sir Robert Keith a large portion of the Cumyn heritage in Buchan, where he had for neighbours in one direction the Hays, now lords of Slains, and in another Sir John de Ross, who through' his wife, a Cumyn, had also become possessed of part of the earldom lands. The Fraser interest became important on Deeside about the same time, and included besides Durris and Strachan, Aboyne, Glentanar, Tullich, Glenmuick, and Cluny. These possessions passed with an heiress to the Keiths about the middle of the fourteenth century, and by her daughter to the Gordons shortly after the close of that century. The Cheyne lands of Inver-ugie were inherited by Mariot Cheyne, wife of John de Keith, from her father, the third Sir Reginald Cheyne, who had been made a prisoner at Halidon Hill, and was more a rudest barbarian of a rude age than a polished Norman knight. The Forbeses were established on Donside in the fourteenth century, but no remarkable events are associated with their early career in these parts.

After Bannockburn and the final establishment of King Robert's power the two counties had repose during the remainder of his reign and recovered a portion of their former prosperity. The king visited Aberdeen in September 1319, and three months afterwards he rewarded its loyalty by a grant of the burgh itself to the burgesses and community, with the forest of Stocket and all their revenues, subject to a feu-duty of 213, 6s. 8d. Scots and reservation of his right of hunting in the forest. The revenues handed over included the lands, mills, fishings, and petty customs of the burgh. This charter of 1319 laid the foundation of the city revenues known as the Common Good. Henceforth no person, " of whatsoever condition or rank he be," was in any way to interfere with or take cognisance of the admin:stration of their revenues by the burgesses and community. Aberdeen was the first burgh to be placed on such a favourable footing. Similar privileges were conferred on Edinburgh ten years and on Dundee forty years later, but the other burghs remained under the old system of being farmed out by tacks.1 Prior to this time, nideed, the community had a definitely organised civic life with an alderman at its head. The first alderman of Aberdeen whose name has come down to us is Richard Cementarius, who was in office in 1272, but there is no reason to suppose that he was without predecessors. With the alderman were associated four propositi, each with charge of a district of the town as steward of its revenues, hence called bailiff, "bailie," or (in Aberdeen) "baillie/' and also with judicial authority, all these being appointed by a common council elected by the community assembled in its guild court. Hitherto the burgh revenues had been accounted for to the king's chamberlain, but they were now to be paid into the city treasury. The beginnings of municipal government are discernible in the earliest glimpses we get of the history of the city, but by this charter of King Robert it received an all-important extension.

In the course of King Robert's reign the town was placed in a condition of defence, with walls and six ports, but a serious fire in 1326 destroyed a large number of the wooden houses of which it still for the most part consisted. Henry Cheyne, who had been deprived of his see for adherence to the policy of his relative the Earl of Buchan, was restored to the royal favour in 1318. The erection of the picturesque single-arched bridge across the Don at Balgownie is credited to him, but whether the expense was defrayed out of the sequestrated revenues of the see or was a voluntary outlay is not quite apparent. It is more certain that the king caused a portion of the episcopal revenues to be applied to the completion of the choir of the new church which, before the commencement of the war, the bishop had begun to build on the old site associated with the name of St Machar. King Robert showed himself a liberal benefactor to the Church in the counties, as in the case of the Earl of Buchan's Abbey of Deer, to which he gave a charter confirming in free gift all its former possessions, and that of the church of St Mary which he founded at Cullen; but he kept up the practice of granting lands and churches to outside foundations, as in his charter of the lands of Tarves in favour of the Abbot of Arbroath.

The firm and steady rule of Robert I. was hardly ended when the counties began to experience again the miseries of invasion and domestic strife. During the minority of David II. the country was under the regency first of Randolph, Earl of Moray, and then of Donald, Earl of Mar—the English-trained nephew of the late king. Donald was a weak ruler, and the banished lords sought to regain their lost possessions by putting forward the claims of Edward Baliol for the crown. One of these lords, David de Strathbolgin, Earl of Athole, who had married Joan Cumyn, daughter of Bruce's victim at Dumfries, was aiming at the recovery of his Strathbogie lands. Two others, Alexander de Mowbray and Henry de Beaumont, quarrelled about the lands of the earldom of Buchan, Beaumont claiming to be earl in right of his wife, a daughter of the dispossessed nobleman. A fourth, Sn Richard Talbot, another son-in-law of John Cumyn, was made Lord of Mar by Edward Baliol. Talbot's descendant of the third generation was first Earl of Shrewsbury, and the Earls of Shrewsbury long numbered the lordship of Badenoch among their titles and still carry the Cumyn arms. The defeat of Mar at Dupplin by Edward Baliol in 1332 was followed by the coronation of the victor, by his doing homage to England, and by the march of Edward III. against the Scots in 1333 at the head of a large army to establish hrS vassal on the throne. After the disastrous reverse at Halidon Hill it seemed for a time as if the independence won by Bruce were about to be lost. Edward overran the country as far as Inverness, but Aberdeen appears to have held out until 1336, when a force under Sir Thomas Roscelyn, who had landed at Stonehaven, marched north to reduce the town. The burghers gave him battle outside the walls, but were driven back with great loss and in disorder, leaving the town an easy conquest to the English, whose leader, however, was slain in the engagement. Aberdeen was sacked and set on fire, burning for six days,—" a doleful sight to the spectators," says Boece. Many of the inhabitants were put to the sword, and in Old Aberdeen the residences of the bishop and canons were given to the flames.

David, Earl of Athole, had already laid siege to the Castle of Kildrummy, which was held for the young king by hi s aunt, Lady Christian Bruce, who since the death of her first husband, Gartney, Earl of Mar, had been married to Alexander Seton, and was now the wife of Sir Andrew Moray, who had succeeded her son. Earl Donald, in the regency. Moray hastened towards Kildrummy, and Athole, anticipating his arrival, crossed over to Cromar, taking up a position on the eastern skirts of the hill of Culblean. If Wyntoun the chronicler may be trusted, Athole bore himself like a hero, and when he saw his men yielding to Moray's forces, apostrophising the rock by which he stood, in words modernised in "The Lady of the Lake"—

"He sayd, ' Be Goddes grace we twa
The flight on us shall samen ta'.' "

His wife, a daughter of Henry de Beaumont, was blockaded by Moray for several months in the Castle of Lochindorb, until relieved in August 1336 by King Edward. By the death of Earl David, who combined in himself the representation of the houses of Macduff, Strathbogie, Badenoch, and Athole, and who was also lord of estates in England, a pillar of the English cause was broken, and a possible claimant of the Scottish crown removed.

The contest in Buchan between the two ambitious English barons was still in progress. Beaumont was besieged in the Castle of Dundarg by Mowbray, who, failing to oust his rival, and receiving no assistance from Baliol, went over to the Scottish side. After disposing of Athole at Culblean, Moray hastened to Dundarg, and Beaumont soon afterwards capitulated on condition of being allowed to retire to England on his parole that he would never enter Scotland again as an enemy. The successes of Moray in the north, and Sir William Douglas and the Stewart in the south of Scotland, compelled the withdrawal of the English forces from Aberdeenshire, and by the time that David II. returned from France and took the reins of government in his own hands, the country was free of invaders. David resided for some time at Kildrummy and elsewhere in the north-east before visiting the southern portion of his dominions. He held his first Parliament in Aberdeen in February 1342, when he confirmed the grants and privileges conferred by his predecessors on the city, and re-established the mint, which had been started by William the Lion. David was much in the city during the years preceding his capture at Neville's Cross.

The Mar earldom, with its estates, was forfeited on Earl Thomas's adherence to England, but restored on his submission. Buchan, as we have seen, was partitioned among the supporters of Bruce, and by the death of Athole the Gordons obtained undisturbed possession of Strathbogie. David did much to encourage the rebuilding of Aberdeen and the restoration of its commerce. The establishment of a staple for the Scottish ports at Middelburgh and the exclusion of Flemish merchants were of special advantage to Aberdeen and its growing shipping. In the contribution levied for David's ransom from the English in 1357 Aberdeen is rated third among the royal burghs.

The anarchy which spread throughout Scotland during the reigns of the first two Stewart kings extended to Aberdeen-shire. Bishop Adam de Tyninghame, who as Dean of Aberdeen had been one of the ambassadors who negotiated a treaty with the King of France at Vincennes in 1371, embroiled himself with the Court in the controversy regarding the legitimacy of the sons of Robert II. by Elizabeth Mure, and in consequence incurred the enmity of one of them, Alexander Stewart, the notorious ;Wolf of Badenoch." The Wolf had been invested with the Cumyn earldom of Buchan and the lordship of Badenoch, while in right of his wife he held the earldom of Ross, and as king's lieutenant in the north he wielded almost unlimited power both in law and lawlessness. In pursuit of his quarrel with the bishop he let loose a host of his vassals, Shaws and Macintoshes, and broken clans from Strathspey and the regions west of Brae-mar, upon the diocese, and especially upon the bishop's lands and forest of Birse. In 1382 the king issued an order to the Wolf to take steps against Ferchard MacIntoshy, the leader of the outlaws J but the order does not seem to have been attended to, and the Wolf's son, Alexander, whom Boece confuses with the Wolf himself, continued to disturb the lands of the bishopric for some years to come. Excommunication had no effect upon him, and he advanced with his Highlanders into Aberdeen to slay the bishop. The result of an interview between the bishop and his enemy was that the Highlanders with their leader withdrew in peace; but they continued to harass the western parts of Aberdeenshire, particularly the Church lands formerly held by the king's thanes.1 The same anarchical spirit is seen in connection with the feud between the Keiths and Crawford Lindsays. In 1395 Lady Lindsay was chatelaine of the Castle of Fyvie for her husband, Sir James of Crawford, who held the thanage of Fermartyn; and a quarrel arose between her and Robert Keith, her nephew, who thereupon besieged the castle. Lady Lindsay melted all the lead in the castle and held the besiegers at bay by means of it until her husband came from Angus to her relief. Keith went to meet him, and in a fight at Bourtie was defeated with the loss of fifty of his followers.

The close of the fourteenth century saw the feudal system established in Aberdeenshire as fully as it can be said ever to have been. But here it differed widely from the feudalism of England, and even from that which prevailed in the south of Scotland. The tendency of the Anglo-Norman lords in the north was to revert to the clan system which had existed before them, and to substitute the idea of the lord of the soil for that of the chief of kindred blood as the proper and natural leader of the people, with moral claims to their obedience. In the two great houses of Gordon and Forbes the adoption of the clan and family system was so complete that their foreign origin was speedily lost sight of. This compromise involved abatements in usage from the feudal powers with which the great barons were clothed by royal charter. In lieu of the rights allowed them by Norman feudal laws they accepted the equivalents to which the people had been accustomed. The Celtic payment of "can" or "kain" was an instance of this, and existed in the north down to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Subinfeudation, on the greater baronies, among families and kindred, resulted in what was practically a clan, whereas the feudal system knows nothing of blood, but only of connections through the land.

In the end of the fourteenth century, too, we find the distinction between Highlandmen and Lowlanders very sharply accentuated. The natives ousted from their lands when Earl David settled the Garioch with strangers, had been pushed back to the hilly regions of West Aberdeenshire and Upper Banffshire, or into Badenoch. They kept their own language and their ancient customs, and became aliens to those who, though of their blood, had accepted the rule and language of the stranger. Hating those who had dispossessed them, and with predatory habits developed by their scanty means of subsistence, they became in the hands of their enterprising leaders formidable as a power of annoyance to their Lowland neighbours. In the War of Independence they escaped notice, taking part, doubtless, with one side or the other; but when the country was restored to peace their depredations became a national question, and were felt nowhere more keenly than in Aberdeenshire.

In 1384 was enacted the first of a long series of penal laws against Highland depredators, or "caterans," who were described as going about eating up the country, consuming the resources of the sheriffdom, and by force and \iolence taking property and victual. All men svere authorised to bring these caterans before the sheriff, by force if necessary, and should the cateran be killed in the exercise of this force his slayer would not have to answer for the act. But under such leaders as the Wolf of Badenoch and his son Alexander, who became Earl of Alar, the Highlanders of Badenoch were becoming a serious danger to the country and an object of detestation to the inhabitants, whether high or low. The struggles and turmoils of the fourteenth century had weakened the predominance of the Teutonic population in the upland districts. Freedom from an external yoke had indeed been secured, but it was at the expense of civilisation. On the other side of the account, however, has to be placed the disappearance of "natives" or bondmen from the charters before the close of the fourteenth century.


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