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Braemar Highlands
Part the Third - Chapter V


The Inverey Farquharsons—William the first Chief, and John the Black Colonel.

THE traditional account of the Inverey branch of the Farquharsons, who claimed the chieftainship of the clan after Donald Oig’s death, may be fitly introduced by an extract from a very interesting letter, which I have by me, from one of their descendants :—

In the time of Montrose, Donald Farquharson of Monaltrie called by the country people Donald Oig, raised the Mar men, and joined Montrose at Crathes Castle. Next day, Montrose marched all the army within two miles of Aberdeen. Farquharson of Monaltrie and other officers slipped from the camp, and were, drinking in, a public-house. Some others went to the Covenanters’ camp, on the other side of the Dee, who immediately sent out a party and surrounded the house. Farquharson rushed out, and was killed in the street. He was a brave man, and greatly lamented by Montrose. Next morning, Montrose called out in front of the Highland army, “Who is to take up the sword of Donald Oig?” William Farquharson of Inverey made answer, and said he would, and it belonged to him by kindred rights. Montrose immediately engaged the Covenanters, and cut them to pieces. William Farquharson of Inverey behaved so well at the head of his Mar men, that Montrose that very evening cried him round the Cross of Aberdeen “the first Colonel in Scotland!” He afterwards fought with Montrose at Alford, A It earn, Inverlochie, etc. He afterwards died an old man, and was interred in the burying-ground beside the castle.

The next that was buried there was his son Col. John Farquharson, who was at the killing of the Baron of Brachlie, and, as you heard yourself, would not rest until he was taken up from the churchyard at Castleton of Braemar, and interred at the burying-ground of Inverey. Afterwards his son, Colonel Peter Farquharson, was interred at Inverey; and the last that I know was a brother of theirs, a barrister-at-law in Edinburgh, who died there, and was taken to the burying-ground of Inverey. Thus I have given you all my mother’s traditions about our friends. May their souls rest in peace!’

This William, first chief of the Invereys, was the eldest son of James Farquharson, who obtained possession of Inverey after the sad death of poor Lamont. The new laird seems to have settled down pretty quietly, as there seems little remembered of him but an amusing little incident in connection with his second marriage to Agnes Ferguson, the minister of Crcithie's daughter.

He was sixty when he paid his court to that young lady of sixteen; and imagining, I suppose, that he would succeed best by proxy, sent his eldest son William on the important mission. William was not so honest as the friend of ‘Miles Standish,’ and perhaps, as a punishment, the results were equally different. The old man was the successful suitor, and the young one went to the wars, and, as we have heard, was with Montrose at the time of Donald Oig’s death.

William got over his disappointment, however, and married a daughter of Invercauld’s. She was the mother of John the Black Colonel. By a second marriage to a daughter of Abergeldie’s, William had another son, Charles of Balmoral.

After the Restoration, William went to London to the king, and got an order to be refunded of all his losses and expenses during' the civil war ; but by some quibble neither he nor his family reaped any advantage from it. He lived, as before stated, to a good old age, and was buried at Inverey. The sword of Donald Oig, which had been claimed so willingly and wielded so vigorously by him, was carried on his coffin to the grave, and on that of all the successive chiefs until the race became extinct.

I come now to the most celebrated of all the Invereys—John the Black Colonel. Some time before the death of his father, and consequent succession to the estate, he joined Viscount Dundee, and was with him both at Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge, etc.

The Black Colonel was the very beau ideal of a rough cavalier: tall, of commanding presence, dark complexion, a set of features faultless in form and expression, and an impetuosity of character that carried everything before it.

In 1690, when Dundee summoned out the Jacobites, he sent a letter to John, appointing him Colonel of the Mar men. This letter was by no means unwelcome; and as in those days letters were not sent but on important occasions, it created a little sensation.

‘What news, laird?’ said his henchman Alastair M'Dougal, as he was yet deeply engaged in deciphering his missive.

‘Good news! good news!’ replied the Colonel with his usual impetuosity, ‘for we are going down to the lowlands to harry the Sassenach!’

The fiery cross was immediately hurried through Braemar. The rendezvous appointed was the Colonel’s own castle. The fiery cross, as is perhaps sufficiently known, consisted of two pieces of wood in the form of a cross, one end of the horizontal piece being either burning or burnt. To the other end was suspended a piece of white cloth smeared with blood. Two men, each with a cross in his hand, were despatched by the chief in different directions; and while they ran at their greatest speed, kept shouting the war-cry of the clan, and the place of rendezvous, if different from the usual place of meeting. The cross was given from hand to hand; and as each fresh bearer ran at full speed, the Highlanders assembled with wondrous celerity.

Thus was the fiery cross hurried through all the glens of Braemar. No time was lost. Major Charles of Balmoral at once obeyed the summons. The captains of Auchendryne and Coldrach were equally ready; and every glen poured out its bravest men, ready to face danger and death at the bidding of their superior. The highest honour to which they aspired was to be the slaughterers of hundreds—thousands if possible!

Everything contributed to make this rising like a gala day. From the top of the castle streamed the Colonel’s standard, while pipers almost innumerable played with 'might and main.’ The men thus collected were in time for the battle of Killiecrankie. The loss they sustained was trifling, but Major Charles Farquharson of Balmoral was so severely wounded as to be unfitted ever after for active service.

Though this rising was suppressed, the Black Colonel was not a man of peace ; and when he had no quarrels of his own or his Royal master’s, he was ready to aid by his prowess any one who needed his assistance. And just at this time an instance of this occurred, which led to most tragical consequences.

The Earl of Aboyne and the Baron of Braichley though both Gordons and neighbours, did not live on good terms, nor did they scruple to annoy each other as much as possible. The two differed very much both in person and character: the Baron was a tall, portly man; the Earl thin, and rather diminutive in stature, poetical also in his tendencies, which was considered in those days anything but a manly accomplishment.

The Baron, to vex Aboyne, prided himself in fishing in that part of the river which belonged to his lordship. Aboyne, on being informed of this, was very angry, and ordered his water-bailie, on the next occasion of his doing so, to say that he would not allow it. Braichley’s answer was very impertinent.

‘Tell your white-faced lairdie that I’ll fish where it likes me; and tell him also, that if he only dared to come here himself, it would give me great pleasure to pitch him into the river to be a feast for the gads.’

This insult was too glaring to remain unrevenged; so the Earl applied to Inverey for assistance. But the Earl, pawky as usual, did not speak of his own grievances until he had informed Inverey of Braich-ley’s very bad treatment of his own tenants of Tullich, and impertinent speeches regarding the veritable Black Colonel himself. Then, having done that, he proposed that if Colonel Farquharson would drive away the Baron’s cattle, and give the Gordons in that quarter a good poinding, his tenants of Tullich, who were very poorly off for fuel, should have the moss of Easter Morven; and as the Colonel had a special regard for his Tullich tenants, he agreed to the proposition.

On his way home the Colonel called at Tullich to learn the truth of the Earl’s report, and found that the Baron’s alleged ill-treatment of his tenants, and malicious sayings regarding himself, had been exaggerated to such a degree as to' make it very evident that he desired only the spulzie of the Baron’s lands, and that by nothing else would the right to Easter Morven moss be acquired.

The Colonel was not easily outdone in cunning; and he resolved that he would possess himself of the much-needed moss without injuring Braichley. So he communicated with the Baron, explained the whole matter, and arranged that he and twelve of his men were to drive away all the cattle of Glen Muick. No resistance was to be made, as all was to be restored in the course of a week.

This was all arranged before the summons came to join Dundee; and on his return with his men from Killiecrankie, he proposed to them, as they were together, that he and a few' of them should drive away the Glen Muick cattle, and that the rest of them were to remain where they were, and settle with the red-coats who were coming up the river to pay them a visit. The Colonel not having made his submission like the the other Highland chiefs, a thousand men under Colonel Cunningham were on their way to burn his castle, and take himself, if possible.

His men being perfectly willing, the arrangements were soon made. From the assembled clan he chose twelve of the best men to accompany himself to Glen Muick; and Lewis Farquharson of Auchendryne, who had been elected major in place of Charles of Balmoral, marched away to oppose the  red-coats,’ while the Black Colonel went on his mission of spulzie.’

Inverey drove away all the cattle of Glen Muick; and from his arrangement with the Baron, expected that he would remain unmolested.’ To his astonishment, therefore, Braichley, with a' party of the Gordons, came upon the Farquharsons ‘at the head of Etnich!

The Colonel repeated his former explanation, and again assured him that all would be returned in a week. But the Gordons, not trusting the Colonel, grew clamorous; and one of them, mad with passion, fired on the Inverey men. This altered the whole state of matters, and both parties, with drawn swords, rushed at each other like tigers.

While passion thus raged, the Baron and Inverey met. After a little, as the Black Colonel gave back a few steps, the wind, it is said, caught his plaid, and whirling it from his shoulders twisted it round his feet. At that moment the Baron pressed hard upon him: his peril was imminent, as he could not move without falling, and to fall was death.

One of the men seeing his danger, shouted ‘Help the chief!’ So Alastair M'Dougal, his henchman, having cut down one of the Gordons, seized the fallen man’s gun and shot the Baron, on which the Gordons fled. The Colonel did not pursue them, but went on with the her ship and having disposed of them safely, returned with his followers through Glen Muick. When passing Braichley, the Barons lady invited him and his men to pass the night, and it was one of extraordinary revelry.

I well remember the bitter invective into which the old lady—one of the Black Colonel’s descendants— broke on reaching this part of her narrative. The substance of it was that the vile Kate M'Intosh, the Baron’s wife, had been at the bottom of it all; only the Colonel, it was admitted, ‘was no good man mair than she. There was nae denying that he was at the killing of the Baron.’

There is an old ballad commemorative of the event; but it does not keep to the simple facts of this case, but mixes up with it the incidents of the murder of a former Baron by the spies of the Clan Chattan in the time of Donald of Castleton, some hundred years before. The Baron who was slain by the Black Colonel’s party was descended from the usurper, who took the old Baron’s place by marrying his young widow, she being ignorant that he had procured the death of her husband.

While the revelry was going on at Braichley, Colonel Cunningham and his men were quietly and quickly moving up the Dee, and early in the morning surprised the Farquharsons at Culbleen—dancing, it is said, the famous Race or Reel of Tullich—and cut them to pieces. The Gordons, on the other side of the water, justly incensed at the conduct of the Baron’s lady, and smarting under their defeat, hastened across the river to inform the soldiers of Colonel Farquharsons whereabouts. The result was, that by the time the Colonel was rising, Cunningham and his men were at the castle gates.

The alarm was given. The lady had one of the fleetest steeds saddled. The Colonel mounted and fled, the besiegers following hard in pursuit. Never was wilder chase. Through Glen Tanerand Birse he directed his course, then struck across the Dee. Over the Moor of Dinnet his foaming steed flew, through Tullich, and entered the Pass of Ballater. Now there seemed no hope of escape. The whole country was raised behind him. Precipices almost perpendicular rose at every side. The party who had defeated the Farquharsons in the morning were rushing to meet him from the other end of the Pass. But just as the two companies were to close, with the Colonel in their midst, he shot aside, up the precipitous sides of the Pass.

The company below stood amazed, and every |moment expected to see horse and rider dashed to the bottom. But no; up, up, up they went, and anon the Black Colonel and his black steed had reached the summit, and stood beyond all danger of pursuit

The pursuers stood looking at each other in silence. At length one of the- officers, addressing another who had barred the upper end of the Pass, said, ‘If they had told us that he could fly as well as ride, we might have spared ourselves the roughest ride I ever had.’ It was also sagely concluded, that without help of a very doubtful character no man could have ever accomplished such a feat. Colonel Cunningham, contented with his success at Culbleen, did not penetrate farther into Braemar; so Farquharson for a time escaped without further molestation.


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