Donald Farquharson of Castleton, and
traced the successful career of Finla Mor, and noted the solid
foundation laid by him for the future aggrandizement of his clan, I
may notice next the traditions respecting the history of his family.
They were not by any means slow to avail themselves of the
advantages their chivalrous father had procured for them, or to
strike out new paths for themselves. William, the eldest son,
married a daughter of Lord Sutherland, and probably left Braemar,
as he does not again figure in the traditions. James, the second
son, bought the Castleton from
Cluny Gordon, and settled there. A third son, Alexander, took up his
residence in Glen
the fourth son, left Braemar,
and settled in Craigniety. From
him sprang the Farquharsons of that name.
A second family, of five sons and a daughter, were disposed of in
the following manner. Donald, the eldest, succeeded his half-brother
James in the Castle-ton; Robert,
the second, succeeded to Invercauld
obtained with his wife the property of Broughdearg; George
got Deskry andGlen
Finla, the fifth son, bought with his wife’s dowry A
chreachan, in Glenlivet. From
one of his sons sprang the Allergue family
Beatrix, his daughter, though remarkable for her beauty, was not so
fortunate in her settlement. She had herself to blame, however:
although she had a large choice of partners of suitable rank, with a
perversity by no means uncommon, her preference fell upon her
father’s shepherd, a poor but handsome youth.
Though poor, Kenneth M‘Kenzie was in one respect equal to Miss
Farquharson, as he claimed descent from Kenneth II. Be
that as it may, Finla was very angry when he came to understand the
state of matters. But as the maiden was inflexible in her purpose of
marrying the shepherd, Finla gave in with a good grace. He had not
quite forgotten the result of a like unequal match in the case of
his own father.
The shepherd, when consulted as to where he would like to reside,
replied in Gaelic, ‘ A
ir an Dail Mhorgoram,' etc., i.e. on
that big haugh far west, etc. Thus originated the name and family of Dalmor. The
place is now called Mar
As the first family of Finla left only daughters, the genealogy of
the Farquharsons is continued through the second. The traditional
account of Donald, the eldest, will form the subject of this
chapter, as he succeeded to the chieftainship of the clan.
About the year 1541, Donald Farquharson, on succeeding, to the
property of his half-brother James of the Castleton, was
appointed bailie of Strathdee by
George the fourth Earl of Huntly, who had lately been by special
commission made Lieutenant-General of all the Highlands.
This office of bailie was a great accession of power to Donald. It
has been thus explained : The Lords of Regality, with the great
barons and chiefs, had jurisdiction conferred on them by the Crown.
This power they sometimes exercised in person, and sometimes by
deputy. The persons to whom they delegated their authority were
The office could be no sinecure, however; for every part of the Highlands was
the scene of a constant petty warfare between the different clans,
and often between families of the same clan. Feuds were considered
family property—a sort of sacred heirloom; while all the rancorous
feelings engendered by them were cherished carefully until an ample
revenge was secured.
In illustration of these remarks, I may notice a feud between James
of the Castleton and
Donald of the Coldrach. I
mentioned in a former chapter that Fearchar, brother of Finla Mor,
obtained the lairdship of the Coldrach in Glen
when Fearchar died his son Donald succeeded. His cousin James having
settled on the opposite side of the river, the two quarrelled about
marches; and as might was the only right then, James killed Donald,
and that for a season settled the matter.
Donald of Coldrach left
a son called Fearchar. When he grew up, he married a daughter of the
when he had obtained this increase of power, the 'troubles’
broke out afresh. It was not long until he also lost his life in the
quarrel; for while crossing the Dee in
a corrach (a small framework of wicker-work covered with skin) to
labour a piece of the controverted land, the weight of his arms and
implements upset the corrach, and he was drowned.
The contest even then was not given up, but continued by his son
William Buidhie, i.e. Yellow-haired
William, until he lost his life also, on which the feud ended. The Coldrach family
and the lairdship was sold for a trifle to William Buidhie’s sister,
who, despite all the quarrelling, had married Donald of the Castletoris son,
her cousin William, who acted as fiscal to his father.
Before touching on Donald’s more public character as bailie of Strathdee, I
may slightly notice his domestic history, alliances, and settlements
of his family. Milton’s description of the celebrated banyan tree I
have often thought very applicable to the Farquharsons. He says:
‘The fig-tree, not that kind for fruit renowned,
But such as at this day to India known,
In Malabar or Decca spreads
Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
About the mother tree.’
Donald of Castleton,
like his father Finla, had two families. The first consisted of
seven sons and a daughter; the second, of three sons and a daughter.
A third wife he repudiated, on account of a feud with her clan. She
was the mother of William of Coldrach.
His eldest son and namesake succeeded him in Castleton; his
history comes in anon. The second son, Robert, became the progenitor
of the Fenzean Farquharsons.
As we do not again come across him, I give his history now.
From some disagreement which took place at home, Robert left his
father’s house. As a curious illustration of the customs of the
times, it is said that on finally quitting it he shut his eyes, and,
turning round three times, threw his staff into the air: the
direction in which it fell indicated, of course, the route it was
best for him to follow. It happened to fall so, that. going straight
before him he arrived at Dundee; and
when there, though at first doubtless not a little galling to his
Highland pride, he became first a plodding, but ultimately an expert
Fortune, however, had no intention of dealing harshly with Robert It
so happened that a great man and his daughter, a young widow, came
to Dundee to
visit some relations. It also happened that, in going to and
returning from his work, having to pass the young lady’s window, the
handsome carpenter made, all unconsciously, an impression which
nothing would eradicate.
The lady became ill, and pined away; and though several doctors were
called in, none of them had skill enough to reach the seat of her
disease. But by some means her father began to suspect the real
cause; and on his very peremptory demand to be made acquainted with
it, she made a full confession.
‘Pretty work' said the chief, ‘ but
just let me know the first time you see him passing.’
Next morning, to Robert’s great surprise, he was accosted by a
fine-looking old gentleman, who asked him to go into his house. On
going in, he was informed what mischief he had been doing; but
Robert had not the least compunction, for the old gentleman’s
proposal for a family alliance met with a flat denial.
The old man took it very quietly, merely saying, ‘Very well; only
you must see Maggie, and give her the denial yourself.’ He then
ordered his daughter to make her appearance. No sooner did the
really beautiful Maggie make her entree,
than the father stepped out; but somehow or other Robert never gave
her the denial. Instead of that, he soon after made her Mrs.
Farquharson, and received a very handsome dower on his marriage-day.
Soon after these events he returned to his native place, and set up
as a miller at Crathie. But,
not prospering there as he expected, he went farther down the Dee,
and erected a mill in Birseon
the Fenzean estate. The laird of Fenzean lived
far too fast, and, being often in want of money, had to borrow from
his tenants. The repayment was often rather uncertain.
Mrs. Farquharson was a pretty good tactician ; so she resolved to
take advantage of that circumstance, and as a first step sent her
husband with an overflowing purse on the rent-day. The laird did not
fail to notice that, and, as Mrs. Farquharson expected, soon applied
for a loan. It was given with the greatest alacrity, on the security
of the mill and adjoining farm. Shortly after another loan was
required, and given on the same conditions, the mortgage of another
farm. This was so often repeated, that Robert, who was not in the
secret, got alarmed at the rapid decrease of his gold. His wife’s
explanation, however, relieved him not a little.
At last there came a time when no more farms remained to mortgage,
and Mrs. Farquharson at the same time found that she had no more
money to lend—that, in fact, she would require to have some of the
former sums repaid. That could not be done ; so the laird had to
take his departure from the castle, while the miller and herself
entered into possession of the estate of
To return to Donald of Castleton. Alexander,
his third son, became laird of Allen-cuiach; James,
the fourth son, got Inverey; the
fifth, John, became the founder of the Tullycairn
Farquharsons. The history of these settlements comes out fully in
connection with their father’s public life.
As the Earl of Huntly, from his confidence in the bravery and
prudence of Donald, had appointed him to the difficult office of
bailie, so it was accepted in good faith ; and whatever may be said
of the justice of Donald’s measures, they were vigorous enough, as
the following instances will show.
Two brothers, of the name of Lamont, had come from Perthshire and
settled in Braemar. One
of the brothers had the property of Inverey,
the other that of Allen-cuiach. A
wealthy drover, of the name of Rory, was in the habit of lodging
with Allen-cuiach on
his way to and from the south markets. One evening, after drawing an
unusually large some of money, he arrived at Allen-cuiach,
and was, as on former occasions, hospitably entertained. Next
morning he departed, accompanied by the laird’s son, young Lamont,
who was to show him a nearer cut by the
Bealeachdearg and Strathaven route.
A few days after, the drover’s body was found by two shepherds, with
a deep cut in the back of his head. Rory had been murdered without
doubt, and the great matter was to find out who had done it. As the
young laird of Allen-adach was
the last person known to be in the drover’s company, Donald of Castleton summoned
him to appear.
The Lamonts and Farquharsons had long been on very indifferent
terms. Jealous of the growing power of the Farquharsons, and
doubtful as to the justice of some of the measures taken to increase
it, a spirit of distrust had taken possession of the Lamonts; and
now that the young laird was summoned to appear before Donald,
fearing that he would not get fair play, he refused to do so.
The unfortunate lad, aware that his people could never withstand
their powerful neighbours, and knowing also that William of Coldrach,
the indefatigable fiscal, would soon be in search of him, fled to
the hills. It was not consciousness of guilt which led to this
course (his innocence was afterwards fully proved), but dread of the
Farquharsons’ arbitrary measures.
Just as he expected, a party of Farquharsons, led by the fiscal,
were speedily in pursuit; and as their knowledge of the district
equalled Lamont’s, they soon ferreted him out, and at last succeeded
in hemming him in beside a deep pool formed by the
a little to the east of Cairn-a-quheen. Driven
to I desperation, he leaped into the pool with the intention of
swimming to the other side ; but he never reached it: the poor lad
was drowned. His old father died of grief, and the confiscated
lairdship was given to Alexander Farquharson, Donald’s third son.
Many years after, a number of Katrin were apprehended in Moray for
cattle - lifting. Among them was the gillie who accompanied the
murdered drover. Before his execution he confessed to the murder of
Rory. After Lamont had left them, tempted by the large sum of money
in his master’s sporran, he, while walking behind him, drew his
sword, and with a single blow felled him to the ground. He then took
the money and went and joined a band of Katrin. Although
the innocence of Allen - cuiach was thus fully proved, the
Farquharsons retained possession I of the property until towards the
close of the last century, when it was sold by them to the Earl of
It has been said that the greatest insult which could be offered to
a clan, collectively or individually, was to speak disrespectfully
of its chief, each considering it a personal insult which they were
bound to resent and
revenge. If this was the general rule, Donald
of Castleton made
no exception to it. One instance of this, given at the expense of
personal feeling, brings it out pretty clearly.
In 1562, a great battle was fought between the Earls of Moray and
Huntly (Donald’s master) at Corrichie. Huntly’s
army was defeated, and himself slain by some of the Forbeses, who
were in the opposing party.
On hearing of this, Donald immediately put away his wife, as she was
a niece of the Lord Forbes, which of course led to deadly feud with
her tribe, or clan ; and it was during the wars which ensued that
the war-cry of Cairn-a-quheen was
adopted, though the cairn itself had been in existence earlier, as
from the time of Finla Mor it was the spot where the Strathdee men
assembled for war.
Shortly after the repudiation of his wife, Donald and his men
assembled at Cairn-a-quheen,
and proceeded to Lonach on Donside,
where a fierce battle was fought, the Farquharsons claiming the
victory. The results of it certainly favoured their interest. After
this battle the feud was suppressed for a time, but it broke out
again with great virulence; Arthur, brother of Lord Forbes, and the
laird of Strath-girnock,
being the aggressors.
Donald, as before, took the side of the Gordons ; and when a fierce
battle took place at the Crabstanes between
the Forbeses and Adam Gordon of Auchin-doun,
deputy to his brother the Earl of Huntly, Donald rendered the latter
essential service. At this onset one of the Gordons took Alexander
Forbes, laird of Strathgirnock,
prisoner; and as he had. been a principal means of stirring up the
strife, he was sentenced to death. The sentence, however, was not
carried into execution. Adam Gordon, in virtue of his power as
deputy, after a short confinement at
him at liberty.
Instead of being grateful for his deliverance, Forbes treasured up
the injury of being taken prisoner in his heart, and only waited his
time to take a terrible revenge. To wipe out the stigma of a defeat,
or revenge the death of a relation, were considered sacred and
paramount duties ; and the working out of these perverted ideas gave
full scope to the wildest passions of the human heart. And perhaps
one of the ugliest traits of the Highland character, was the
patience with which they could wait for the fitting opportunity of
revenging themselves, and at the same time conceal their vengeful
intentions under a guise of friendship. Thus waited Forbes of Strathgirnock for
his opportunity. At length it presented itself.
The lands and castle of Knock adjoined Strathgirnock;
and on the death of the laird, Henry Gordon, his brother, the
capturer of Forbes, succeeded to the estate. The new laird had seven
sons ; and as it was not then considered below young gentlemen to
engage in what is now considered menial employments, they went out
one day to cast divots or sods, and all unwittingly set to work on
Here, then, was the long-looked-for opportunity of an ample revenge.
Forbes, calling out a number of his people, surrounded the lads.
Unarmed, of course they could make little resistance ; and with his
own sword he cut off the heads of all the seven, then ordered them
to be attached to the top of the spades they had been using, and set
in a row along the side of the hill.
Such was the fearful spectacle presenting itself when a servant
arrived with their dinner. The sudden return of the servant, and his
terrible state of excitement, brought the laird out of his chamber
to inquire what was wrong. On hearing the dreadful fate of his sons,
Gordon, completely overcome, fell over the banister of the stair on
which he was leaning, and was killed. Thus Forbes was revenged.
Gordon of Abergeldie,
a near relation of Knock’s, hanged Forbes in his own house, to
avenge in turn the death of his relations, and then took possession
of the lands both of Knock and
he did with some show of justice, as Donald of Castletori being
now old and infirm, Abergeldie had been appointed bailie in his
With some account of the raid of the Clan Chattan into Strathdee and Glen
I will conclude this legendary account of Donald of Castleton,
as it accounts for the acquisition of Invereyby
his son James. The great power conferred on the Earl of Huntly as
Lieutenant-General of the north of Scotland, the
promptitude and severity with which he put down the insurrections of
the chiefs, etc., raised him up many enemies. Among them was
M‘Intosh, chief of the Clan Chattan ; and he being convicted of
heading a conspiracy against Huntly, was beheaded by him in 1550.
From that time the clan watched for a favourable opportunity of
revenging his death.
Huntly having retired for a time to his possessions in the north,
resolved on erecting a castle at Ruth-ven,
in the neighbourhood of the forest of Badenoch. This
gave great offence to the Clan Chattan, as they believed his
intention in erecting it was to overawe them; and from being at
first somewhat dilatory, they at last positively refused to render
the service required of them as vassals of Huntly in building it.
This led to an open feud, in which they persuaded the Earls of
Athole and Moray to assist them. This feud, which cost the Earl of
Moray his life, ended in the defeat of the Clan Chattan; but so far
were they from being subdued, that, as soon as they had recovered a
little strength, under the command of Angus Donald M‘William, they
Strathdee and Glen
because they were the friends and allies of Huntly.
Lamont of Inverey,
considering this a fitting time to avenge the treatment which his
relations of Allen-Qnoich had
met with from Donald of Castleton,
joined the M'Intoshes; and having swept Braemar,
they descended the Dee through Crathie,
to visit on a similar errand Glen
and Tullich. They
took, however, the precaution to send spies before them. There is a
legend connected with these spies which will be best told here :
A son of Adam Gordon of Auchindoun had
committed some misdemeanour, for which he was for ever banished from
his father’s presence. Young Gordon, who from that time led a very
unsettled life, came one night upon the old castle of Braichley. As
was customary in the Highlands, he was hospitably entertained; and
so agreeable did Gordon make himself to the baron, that he would not
allow him to depart in the morning.
The baron, an old man, had lately married a young wife, and to this
lady Gordon succeeded also in making himself equally agreeable. In
consequence of this, some dark ideas were forming themselves in his
mind. These incipient plans were suddenly brought to maturity by the
following circumstance : One evening, while about the Milton
he observed two men wandering about; he made up to them, and after
some talk brought them into the hostelry and treated them liberally.
These two men were the spies of the Clan Chattan, and Gordon
succeeded in bribing them to murder the old baron. After committing
the deed they returned to Gordon, who, instead of rewarding them as
he had promised, pretended the greatest horror at their crime, and
with the help of the baron’s servants put the two men to death. A
short time after, Gordon married the young widow, and so became
laird of Braichley. His
share in the death of the old baron at length became known, and
being henceforth shunned and detested both by his wife and tenantry,
he died miserably.
To return to the Clan Chattan. In revenge for the death of their
spies, many of the proprietors of Glen
killed, their castles and houses burnt to the ground. Braichley alone
escaped, as it was well fortified, and garrisoned also by the
About the time of this raid Donald of Castleton died
; and it fell, therefore, upon Abergeldie, now Bailie of Strathdee, Strathaven,
to see that the Clan Chattan and their accomplices were punished for
this outrage. The better to secure the aid of the Farquharsons,
Abergeldie offered his daughter Catherine in marriage to James the
fourth son of Donald ofCastleton.
The proposal was at once accepted ; for, besides the match being in
other respects eligible, the Farquharsons had suffered in the raid
along with the rest of the Strathdee people.
So the whole clan turned out in its strength.
The first offender to be dealt with was Lamont of
the force now assembled, there was little difficulty in seizing him.
No proof was needed of Lamont’s guilt ; his part in the raid had
been too conspicuous for that: so his punishment was summary. He was
led out to a pine tree, not far from his own dwelling, and hanged on
one of its branches. The tree still stands, with the branch on which
poor Lamont was hanged stretching out sternly beyond the others; and
from the tragical circumstance just related, and another which took
place at the execution, it has been named the i Dark
Lamont was the only son of his widowed mother; and when the party
marched him off to execution, she followed them, pleading, as only
mother in such circumstances could plead, to spare his life, and
take all they had in place of it. Seeing all her entreaties to be
unavailing, and believing that the Farquharsons were the principal
agents in the whole affair, she cursed them in the bitterness of her
spirit, and also, in a sort of Gaelic rhyme, predicted the downfall
of the clan. The substance of the rhyme was, that the tree would be
green and flourishing when not one of the Farquharson tribe would be
found on the banks of the Dee.
This prophecy is regarded by many of the people as accomplished, as
of the Farquharsons of Monaltrie, Inverey, Auchendryne, Balmoral' Allen-Quoich,
etc., not one remain, and even Invercauld has
become extinct in the male line. Captain Ross, who married the
daughter and only child of the last laird of Invercauld,
assumed the name of Farquharson. The Fenzean
however, are of the old stock; and as they had nothing to do with
this affair at Inverey,
they are supposed to have escaped the ban.
After the summary proceedings with Lamont, Abergeldie and the
Farquharsons, joined also by the McDonalds, continued the avenging
march, and laid waste all the lands of the M‘Intoshes or Clan
Chattan in Badenoch,
the Grants also in Strathspey. Then,
joined by the Earl of Huntly, they devastated all Pettie; after
which they returned home laden with plunder, or, as they termed it,
‘spulzie.’ James Farquharson, as beforehand arranged, married
Catherine Gordon, and received with her, as a portion, the
confiscated lairdship of Inverey. Besides
being the first laird of Inverey,
he was also the ancestor of the Farquharsons of Atichendryne and Tidlochcoy.
Another and very different version of this raid is given, which is
indignantly repudiated by the Braemar people as a total
misrepresentation of the whole matter; and it must be admitted that
local traditions and historical notices of it bear them out in that.