Kenneth the HardyMalcolm CanmoreOrigin of the
THE Pictish period (from 446 to 843) was not only marked by the
introduction of Christianity by St. Columba, but also by the arrival
and settlement of the Dalriads, or Scoto-Irish, on the shores ofArgyle.Hence
ensued a series of conflicts, which issued in the complete downfall
of the Pictish monarchy, when in 843 Chionaisith Chruaidh,i.e.Kenneth
the Hardy, placed the crown of both kingdoms on his head.
This Chionaisith Chruaidh had a residence atBraemar,
though all traces of it have now disappeared; the only memorial of
him in the locality being that beautiful hill calledKenneths
which took its name from him.
Passing over a period of somewhat more than 200 years, we come upon
the nineteenth king of the united kingdom of the Picts and Scots
Malcolm Canmore. And now the mist of antiquity clears away a little,
and he appears before us a sort of central figure round which many
traditions culminate. In this and the next few chapters I intend to
notice some of his doings, as they are still intraditionalexistence.
Most people have heard of the great annual gatherings of the clans
under the auspices of the Highland Society, as they have a kind of
celebrity, especially since Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased
to honour them so often with her presence. According to tradition,
these gatherings, races, etc., date their origin as far back as
Malcolm Canmore. The first of them is said to have taken place in
the following manner:
Having a mind to establish a sort of post system by means of
foot-runners, Malcolm summoned his subjects to meet him in the plain
where the presentCastle
stands. When assembled, a purse of gold, with a full suit of dress
and arms, were then offered to the man who first reached the summit
Craig, as seen from the place where the king and people were
Many competitors at once entered the lists, and were placed in
readiness for starting. Judges were appointed. All being thus
arranged, the king gave the signal, and at once they bounded across
the plain towards the hill. They had almost reached its foot, when
another competitor, breathless with haste, came, pleading for leave
to run also.
You are too late, my brave man' said the king.
No, no! only let me run' he cried imploringly, throwing aside his
arms and upper garments as he spoke.
Go, if you wish' was the kings answer; but you are too late. But
the youth had almost cleared the plain while the words hung on his
Who is the stripling? inquired Malcolm, charmed with his
son' was the answer. His two brothers are already up the hill
The foremost of the competitors were indeed far up the hill in
advance, but young Macgregor seemed as much at home on the hill as a
That springal will beat them all' said Malcolm, as he saw him, now
climbing on all-fours, and anon seizing the long heather and
swinging himself forward.
More power to him! cried Allen Durward, of whom we will hear more
Thus the race became more and more exciting. Many had given up, yet
numbers were pressing forward. Foremost of these were the two eldest
Macgregors, while Macgregor the younger was still springing forward
with unabated energy. Passing the others one by one, he reached one
of his brothers.
Halves, brother' he cried, and Ill stop!
'Gain what you can, and keep what you get; Ill do the same, was
the answer of one, while the other was too breathless to speak. Up
and up the springal bounded, until within a few paces of the
Halves again, brother, and Ill yield.
Never! replied the other. Keep what you get.
Now they were in sight of the goal, but every muscle and nerve was
already tightened to breaking. Terribly pressed was the eldest
brother ; but, determined to gain, he put out his hand to impede the
progress of the younger. Feeling nothing, he looked round, expecting
to see his brother on the ground, while at that moment the youngest
leaped forward below the outstretched arm. Furious, the eldest
brother bounded on after him, and fell just as his hand clutched
with maddened grasp the kilt of his rival. Encouraged by this
accident, those in the rear came pressing forward, when, quick as
thought, the youngest Macgregor unbuckled his kilt, saying as he did
so, I have yielded all to you hitherto: take that also'. Then
springing forward, he seized the signal-staff, and throwing it up in
the air, sank down on the earth beside it.
A loud shout rose from the spectators below; but the victor and his
vanquished brother heeded it not, as they lay on the ground in a
state of complete prostration. Nor could it be otherwise, if what
the legend says be true, that the youngest reached the top in three
Now, assuming that this legend possesses just the slightest possible
degree of veracity, how interesting to read in connection with it
(after a lapse of 800 years, fraught with change and countless
blessings to our country), an account from the pen of Royalty of
similar races over the same ground, and as witnessed from the same
point of view :
We lunched early, and then went at half-past two oclock with the
children and all our party, excepting Lady Douro, to the gathering
. . The Duffs, Farquharsons, Leedses, and those staying with them,
and Captain Forbes, with forty of his men, who had come over fromStrathdon,
were there also. There were the usual games of putting the stone,
throwing the hammer and caber, and racing up the hillCraig
which was accomplished in less than six minutes and a half; and we
were all much pleased to see our gillie Duncan, who is an active,
good-looking young man, win. He was far before the others the whole
way. It is a fearful exertion. . . . Eighteen or nineteen started;
and it looked very pretty to see them run off in their different
coloured kilts, with their white shirts .(the jackets, or doublets,
had been taken off for all the games), and scramble up through the
wood, emerging gradually at the edge of it, and climbing the hill'.
Soon after the gathering thus described, to the great joy, not so
much of the runners themselves as those connected with them, the
discontinued. Some had died in former years from the effects of the
exertion, and many had been injured : the victors especially had won
their prize dear.
In 1850, as in former years, it was the same. One of our keepers
(the victor in the race), like many others, spit blood after running
up that steep hill in this short space of time, and has never been
so well since. The running up the hill has consequently been
discontinued/ says Her Majesty in her footnote to the account of
this gathering. Thus we have the traditional account of the first of
these races, and an authentic one of the last.
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