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Annals of Auchterarder and Memorials of Srathearn
The Castle of Kincardine in Srathearn


EAUTIFUL in situation the massive walls of the ancient Castle of Kincardine stood frowning over that glen. It was the principal seat of the noble family of Graham—Earls, Marquises, and Dukes of Montrose. From its position and the solidity of its masonry, which ten days defied the artillery of Middleton, it must have been a place of considerable strength. It was quadrangular in form, the walls being fifteen feet thick, and of large dimensions.

The estate came to the Graham family from Malise, Earl of Strathearn, as a dowry to his sister Amabil, on her marriage with Sir David Graham, circa 1250, when by his charter he gave, granted, and confirmed "Amabilie sorori mee, ad ipsarn maritandam, totam terram de Kynkaroyn in Kather leuenas, que est juxta Huctcrhardour, sine aliquo retinemento, in bosco, in piatno, in pratis, in pascuis, in moris et mariscis, in stangnis et molendinis."

Kincardine Castle was frequently honoured by visits from the Sovereign. Queen Mary stayed at Kincardine and Tullibardine on a journey which she made to the North in 1562. Having left Edinburgh on the 11th, she continued at Stirling till the 18th of August, when she set out from thence with a part of her train, and dined and supped at Kincardine. On the return journey, leaving St. Johnston on the 16th November, she "slept at Tulliebarne." Or. the 17th she proceeded after dinner to Drumrnond. Twenty years later these castles were again favoured with a Royal visitor—King James VI. The visit to Tullibardine happened in August, 1584, and the motive of it was characteristic of that monarch. Moysie's Memoirs, which chronicle the visit, narrate that the King had been living ten days at Ruthven "or ever he knew there was sex houssis infectit in Perthe, his seruandis being theare; land thairfor with a few number the samyn nicht departed to Tullibardin, and from that to Sterling, leavand his liaill housald and seruandis enclosit in Ruthven." The visit to Kincardine is inferred frum a letter written by Thomas, tutor of Cassillis, to the Laird of Barnbarroch, dated 10th October, 1585 :—"As for newis, it is trew my Lord Arrane was to have been in Kincarne upone Saterday last, and thair to have given his presens to the King, and the King thocht guid to stay him thairof for the ambassa-douris causa being with His Majestie, sua my Lord hes nocht presentit the King as yet."

In 1579, the Earl of Athol, Chancellor of Scotland, stayed at Kincardine on his way from Stirling, and suddenly took ill and died there. As usual at the time when cases occurred of sudden death, grave suspicions arose, which were not, however, substantiated, that his death was caused by poison given him in food at Stirling.

James Graham, the great Marquis of Montrose, was born in 1612. There is no record of the place of his birth, and although tradition assigns it to the town of Montrose, it may have taken place at the Castle of Kincardine, the principal mansion of the family. Be that as it may, he spent his youthful years there. His mother was Margaret Ruthven, the eldest daughter of William, first Earl of Gowrie, and brother of the Earl of the Conspiracy. She died before her eldest son completed his sixth year, and was buried at the Church of Aberuthven upon the 15th day of April, 1618.

The following letter of Earl John, addressed from his Castle of Mugdock, in Strathblane, to his factor of Kincardine, in Strathearn, is interesting:—

"Laurence Graham

''I doubt not but you have been careful in causing haste the making of my daughter Beatrix her gown as I directed you. I have sent this bearer, Hurry Blackwood, to bring her to me, as he will shew you. It is my will, also, that the tapestry in my upper chamber in Kincardine be taken down, and packed well, to come to me at Mugdock. I have sent Margaret Stirling and Robert Taylor word to be careful of it, which you shall see well done, and send a good carriage horse with it, with all expedition, and send Robert Taylor to convoy it. Farther, it is my will that you deliver to Harry Blackwood eight bolls of meal and four stone of cheese. From Mugdock the 25th July, 1625. Montrose."

"I have directed, as I told you that I would do, my two grey hackneys to be put to the grass in Kincardine, and have directed Robert Mailer to wait on them. So, you shall answer him his bob (of meal) according to use and wont.

"To our servitor, Laurence Graham, factor of Kincardine These."

Laurence Graham, the factor of Kincardine, had enjoyed that appointment for a considerable time. He was tutor of Callander, and bailie of the Burgh of Auchterarder. On 27th April, 1596, we find a complaint made against him to the Privy Council by James Watt as follows :—

Thomas Smythe, at Aberutnven, shod the horses when the family was living at Kincardine. His account, dated 29th September, 1620, contains an item of "twa gang of shoon to Lord James's two nags." At this time the future hero had about completed his eighth year. The blacksmith's accounts are continued for successive years in the same style. Henry Blackwood was the Master of Horse to his father. This smithy at Aberuthven was perpetually visited by "the grey rnare, grey courser, grey hackney, the brown horse, the surra! naig, the pockmarity naig, and the horse named the Grey Oliphant." When only twelve years of age, in 1624, we find the smith charging six shillings for the dressing of Lord James's fencing swords. At the same period a like sum is disbursed to fames Myln for mending my Lord James's bow.

The smithy at Aberuthven referred to was situated in the open space at the entry to the church, and the honest smith, who, besides exercising the calling, bore the surname of his trade, was the progenitor of the Smiths of Tullibardine and Lavvhill, who still continue there the craft of their forefather. It may also be noticed that this smithy must have been considered a notable place in the district, as it displaced the ancient name of Aberuthven, and substituted that of Smiddyhaugh, by which it was known until recently, when the old name was restored.

John, Earl of Montrose, died at Kincardine Castle on 14th November, 1626, and was buried at the Church of Aberuthven on the 3rd of January following. Among the friends assembled on this occasion were:—John, Earl of Wigtown, Montrose's cousin-german, his mother being Lady Lilias Graham, the only sister of the departed Earl; Lord Napier, Montrose's brother-in-law; Sir John Colquhoun of Luss, his other brother-in-law; Sir William Graham of Braco, only brother to the deceased Earl; Sir Robert Graham of Morphie; Sir William Graham of Claverhouse, great-grandfather of Dundee; David Graham of Fintrie; John Graham of Ochill; Sir Patrick Graham of Inclibrakie; and John Graham of Balgowan.

The burial was earned on; in no niggardly scale for the eight weeks over which it extended. Particulars are given in the account of the household expenses of "Diet and ordinary expenses of Lord James's householding in Kincardine, beginning the 12th day of November, and continuing to Monday, 8th January, 1627, his Lordship being present in Kincardine the whole space, accompanied with his honourable friends." It has been remarked, "whatever may have happened before, we may venture to say that such a bill of fare has never been produced in Scotland in these degenerate days upon any one occasion either at mourning or at feast time." The guests who were invited to pay respect to the memory of the deceased, and to participate in the grief on the melancholy occasion of his obsequies, brought contributions in kind to cheer the hearts and raise the spirits of the mourning concourse. We find, there was presented by my Lord Stormont two birsell fowls, six partridges, and twelve plovers. There was presented by the Laird of Lawers a black cock, five moor-fowls, and the fourth of a hynd ; and presented by Glenorquie a grey hynd. In addition to these complimentary gifts, provisions of all kinds—beef, mutton, Iamb, veal, ham, capons, geese, and other poultry, and wild meat or game of every description, were purchased for the occasion in great abundance. The wild meat consisted of moor-fowls, ptarmigan, black-cocks, and grey hens, capercailzies, partridges, wild geese, plovers, and wood-cocks. To these were added, from the pattie larder, cheese, butter, eggs, herrings, spices, and confectionery. To the viands of the table were added liquors in great abundance. The claret wine and the white wine are reckoned by puncheons, and an enormous quantity of "Easter ale" was also consumed. Amidst this scene of festive mourning the father of the great Marquis was consigned to his last resting-place in the little Church of Aberuthven. It is matter for melancholy reflection to institute a comparison with the first treatment of the remains of his illustrious son.

In the after life of the Marquis, and before he entered on the troublous sea upon which he finally embarked, we find numerous entries in the household accounts of viands and liquors, continued in the same style of regal expenditure, while the cost of apparel showed the magnificence of the attire of himself and his dependents.

It will be interesting to the townsfolk of Auchterarder to be informed that when the young Earl was lying dangerously ill at St. Andrews, while attending the University, beside moor-fowl sent to him from Orchill, he had also trouts supplied from the Ruthven. in his own Glen of Kincardine. The Earl, while exercising such munificent hospitality at the Castle of Kincardine, was not forgetful of the poor, besides being kind to minstrels and pipers. When attending the Kirk of Blackford the poor were liberally remembered; when residing at Orchill he made by his largesse the hearts of the domestic servants there glad; and we find him bestowing upon the servants and nurse in Machanie three pounds four shillings.

Montrose at first inclined to the Presbyterian side. He was returned as representative elder by the Presbytery of Auchterarder at the famous Glasgow Assembly of 1638. Soon thereafter he changed sides, and became the stalwart supporter of Episcopacy and Divine Right, a course which proved equally fatal to himself and to his ancient Castle of Kincardine.

It is outwith our design to follow the Marquis in his glorious achievements in the Civil War; but to return to Kincardine, we find that his brother-in-law, Lord Napier, in company with his cousin, George Drummond of Balloch, and burgess of Auchterarder, and the Laird of M'Nab, descended into Strathearn and occupied the Castle with about fifty men. He hurriedly put it into a state of defence. General Middleton besieged the place in person with his army, consisting of eighteen hundred foot and eleven hundred horse, and battered the walls with cannon, having brought a number of great ordnance from Stirling Castle. For ten days the Castle was held by the small but resolute garrison, and might have held out longer had not the well failed. With the prospect of death before them in the event of the place being taken, Napier and Balloch contrived to break through the enemy, who surrounded the Castle on all sides. A page of the name of John Graham, in attendance upon Lord Napier, well acquainted with the localities of Kincardine, undertook to be their guide. When the moon was down, Napier and Balloch issued from the Castle by a small postern, where they found Graham waiting for them with three horses. They mounted, and, passing quietly through the enemy's force, they escaped, and reached Montrose in safety in the north. On the morning after their escape, the Castle was surrendered on capitulation, and thirty-five of the garrison were sent to the Tulbooth of Edinburgh. General Middleton ordered the remaining twelve of those who had surrendered to be shot at a post, and the Castle to be burned, which was done accordingly on the 16th of March, 1646. It now stands a melancholy ruin, with only a portion of a wall remaining. At the end of last century there were greater remains existing. The accompanying engraving, from a sketch made by the late Mr Carrick, of Kildeis, represents the Castle as it appeared in 1784. There is a large yew tree at the Mains farmhouse, near the old Castle. It is of great age, and probably coeval with the Castle.

The Montrose family seem to have been crippled by the Civil War, and never regained their pristine position at Kincardine. Parts of their possessions there were alienated from time to time, and on 3rd March, 1703, Marquis James sold the greater part of the Brae of Foswell, and croft lands belonging to him in the Burgh of Auchterarder. The Castle and Barony of Kincardine remained, however, the property of the family until early in the present century, when it was sold to James Johnston, Esq., to whose grandson it now belongs. The only connection the present Duke has with the district is being owner of the aisle in the Parish Church of Aberuthven, the last resting-place of the House of Montrose; while around it are the places of interment of cadets of the family of Graham, Orchill, Inchbrakie, Aberuthven, Balwhapple, and others of that ancient name.


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