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Braemar Highlands
Part the Fourth - Chapter III


Changes in Braemar—Earl of Mar’s Estates sold—The Ephiteach.

WHILE Gillespie Urrasach and his brother Donald were pursuing their adventurous course, many important changes were taking place in Braemar, some of which I now proceed to notice. On the 15th of July an Act of Grace was passed, which released those who were in prison, and the others from fear of further punishment. John of Invercauld’ and all who had been in durance vile,’ returned home; Colonel Peter Farquharson of Inverey also, who had been in France. But most of those who had been transported to the West Indies, etc., died abroad.

The next great event was the disposal of the sequestrated estates of the family of Mar. A full account of that transaction, so far as the lairds of Braemar were concerned, is found in the following letters of Lord Grange, who with Lord Dun had the disposing of the property and rights:—

Lord Grange to Thomas Erskine of Pittodry.

*Edinburgh, 2'id March 1730-1.

*The parting with those things in Aberdeenshire gives me a great deal of uneasyness. But what can we do? Better to part with some, and save the rest, than lose all. . . . The bargain about the forest has gone so oddly, that you should know it.

‘We resolved to give the offer to the gentlemen whose lands lay nearest to it,—namely, Inverry and Dallmore. The first came here himself, and the other commissioned his brother about it. Lord Dun thought fit to call Invercauld hither to give advice, and to him allso he proposed to buy the Davach of Castletown, who was for it, but regreated he was to have no share of the forrest for grazing to it. Dall-more’s people have shunned me, as afraid ever since the impertinence of James last deceast, and applyed wholly to Dun, and Lord Dun in this affair transacted all, both with Dallmore and Inverrey; and the price he asked, by Invercauld’s advice, was fifteen years’ purchase of the rent it has been set at these two years passt. At length Dun, with Inverry and Charles, came to me ; and his share of the forrest, and what he was to pay for souming and rouming of the shiels and gleimings, came to ten thousand merks. They pretended not that it was too dear, but said that they were not able to pay for it, and had even on that pretence proposed before to Lord D. to let them have all for five thousand merks; and Lord D. believing that if they did not, none else would purchase it, nine thousand merks was agreed to on both sides. The proportion of this for his part of the forrest (the same that he has in tack) was four thousand five hundred merks. Dallmore, after much jangling with Lord D. for that part he has in tack, would not give the seven thousand five hundred merks, which at fifteen years’ purchase it amounted to, and Dunn gave up with him, which he told me in the forenoon; and I told my Lord that I would not consent to his getting another offer for it, but let Invercauld have it, who had been more useful to us, and might be so still, and proceeded more handsomely, to which Lord Dun agreed. And I assured Invercauld in the afternoon that he only should be the man. He no sooner parted with me than he told this to Dallmore’s brother, who came to me almost out of his wits, and said he did not think he had given up with Lord D.; that his brother might leave the country if Invercauld got this, and insted of fifteen had better give fifty years’ purchase than want it ; and almost with tears begged me to let him have it still. I told him how unworthy he was, knowing the value of it so well, yet to strive so much to beat down the price, that he had had it several times in his offer at that low price, and rejected. He answered that it was only to learn whether Inverrey should get an abatement, that he might ask it too. I replyed that it was nothing to him though we had sold it to Inverry for sixpence; and since he had been thus on the sharp with us, he had been deservedly trapt; that I had given my word to Invercauld, and would not break it at any rate.

‘Then Lord Dun and I met with Invercauld and Inverrey, and his brother Charles and he and J. Thomson were to draw minutes; and Lord D. to go from town next day. The minutes Charles made were perplexed nonsense, like his looks, and, I believe, like the inside of his head too. Therefore, just after Dun went away, I drew the minutes myself, and sent them to the lairds and their writer, and met with them about two hours afterwards. They were displeased with them, and none more than that bitter little villain Charles. I added some things on the margent, which pleased them. So we parted, and were to meet next day and sign, when the minutes were transcribed on stampt paper. When I came from them, a gentleman, exceedingly responsible, told me he heard of the bargain ; that I was vastly cheated by these villains ; that he was not at freedom to tell me his man, nor did I need to care, for he would give me for Invercauld’s part seven hundred guineas above the seven thousand five hundred merks. I told him I suspected that Dallmore was his man, who therefore was still the greater villain, since he had strove to cheat us even of a part of the seven thousand five hundred merks. He would not tell me his man ; but, in short, he offered me four thousand five hundred merks above the seven thousand five hundred, and to give me his own bill for it, payable for it at Whitsunday next; and assured me of a merchant for Inverrey’s part, at a proportionally higher sum than Inverrey’s. I told him, had I known as much when they impertinently and sawcyly jangled with me about the minutes, I could have broke with them, but now could not honourably do it, should he give pounds sterling for merks Scots; that I had never broke my word in any bargain, and never would.

‘When Invercauld came to me next day I told him this, and that we were ill-used by all of them, and expected it not at his hand, and would think it very odd if he came not up to the price, or at least make a handsome compliment; but he was deaf.

The thing began to be talked of; and Sir H. P happening to meet the two Invers, told them so, and that it filled everybody with indignation to see Lord M.’s family in the present circumstances treated so by those who ought, least of all men, to do so. . . . Inverrey and his brother seemed not a bit moved. Invercauld was in a sort of agony, and his lip trembled (as you know it does when he is in great concern), and he hasted to get away from him. Much pains was taken to persuade me that I was not tyed in honour; but I hate, to drive too near that point, or to do anything that looks like shirking, or playing fast and loose, whatever be the consequences.

‘At length I again met with the two lairds and writer, the minutes being ready for signing. I composed myself to great calmness, and observed it, though inwardly very angry. But I told them calmly and plainly that I was a frank dealer, as they knew, and would without any commotion tell them the truth; that I was ill-used by them, and Lord D. and I plainly imposed upon by those that, as gentlemen, and who had received not a few former favours, and still protest great kindness and respect to the family, would not have hurt it so signally in its present circumstances. They said the rent would never answer in money to the agreed price, and that they would gladly give a nineteen years’ tack at a smaller rent; but they acknowledged that they valued the priviledge of killing deer and roe, being heritably deputy-forresters, and thereby entitled to the generall’s war-rands for carrying arms, and were afraid of strangers, and especially men of power, getting the forrest, which hurt them vastly; and hoped I would be so good as not to do it. I answered, that as their goodness to me had been very extraordinary, it was merry enough to talk so on this occasion; that if all these things were so valuable to them, and that others would pay for them, why should not they? And they knew the family could not spare such summes at present. That by holding me to my word, Lord Mar lost on the forrest about £500 sterling; and since I took not the legal priviledge of resiling, if they came not up to the price, or made a handsome compliment, I would declare them the most ungenerous men alive; and that I hardly believed there were other two gentlemen in the shire of Aberdeen who would use me so. Their answer was, that I had made the bargain with them already. In short, we signed the minutes, and left them with that worthy gentleman, Charles, the writer (whom I may probably remember), to be sent to the country to Lord D. to sign them. As I left them, Invercauld was so modest as with trembling voice to entreat me still to get Alnaquoich and some servants of his kept out of the Porteous roll, which before he had desired of me without any concern. When I left these three, they got their cousin, young Fenzean, and went to the tavern, and made merry.

Let me end this long story by another passage. When Lord Dun proposed the Castletown to Invercauld, he made some objections to the terms, but it was plain he was for it. I told Dun we should end that with him before he got the forrest, without which he thought none would buy the Castletown for want of grass ; and therefore, if both were not ended at once, he might think to put his own terms on us for the Castletown. But Lord Dun seemed not touched with this, and hurried out of town. When I spoke with Invercauld about the Castletown, after I saw he was resolved to hold me fast about the forrest, he told me plainly that he would not come up to our terms. But he will be disappointed, for I think to get our own terms, though his honour should have the forrest; and if another will but give as much as he, can any mortal say that his honour of Invercauld should be the man after what has passt ’

Lord Grange to Thomas Erskine of Pittodry.

‘Edinburgh, 14th June 1731.

‘I believe your conversation with Invercauld has made him ashamed of the affair about the forrest, for Lord Dun tells me he gave up his minute. I am glad on’t, on account of his own character, for I think him the best of the set.’

Lord Grange to Thomas Erskine of Pittodry.

‘Edinburgh, i%th June 1733.

‘I hear Monaltrie has owned his being in the wrong to Captain Grant, and has given bond for the bygones, etc. He might once have had a better bargain. He certainly must be what he called himself, “a very weak man!” But I am glad that affair is at an end, and I wish that they may now be very good friends.’

The end of all this altercation was, that all the three lairds, Invercauld, Inverrey, and Dallmore, got the property they wanted. The lands thus disposed of, an offer was made to the proprietors of Deeside above Culblean, that each should buy up the feudal rights of the lord superior over their different holdings, and pay in all, between them, for these the sum of ;£iooo. A meeting of the lairds was called at Pannanich Lodge to take the offer into consideration, and, if they should decide on accepting it, to assign what proportion of the sum each should have to pay. The proprietors had, I may state, a right to every third tree on their estate, to the whole pasture, divots and peats. They were hereditary foresters, and therefore allowed to carry arms and kill game: the military service, and the small tribute of money as an acknowledgment of superiority when the lands changed hands, were of little moment. So they ended their deliberations by refusing the offer; and Duff of Braco became the purchaser. At this point, therefore, another noble family comes upon the scene, a slight sketch of which I give ere proceeding further with the legends.

The following account of the noble family of Duff, of which the Braemar legends speak at first somewhat slightingly, as narrated to me, was professedly taken from a MS. history, written originally in Latin, and translated into English about the year 1746.

‘The country of the Vermicenii, or, as it is sometimes called, Venricons, that whereof the kingdom of the Picts chiefly consisted, was at first called Ross, which, in the ancient language, signified a peninsula, which agrees exactly with the nature of the place, as it is separated from other counties of the island by the Ochil Hills, the Firths of Forth and Tay, and the German Ocean. At length it was called Fife, from a prince named Fifus, who governed the land. He was cousin to Kenneth II., by whose valour the Picts were entirely subdued ; and as a signal mark of royal favour, and in reward of his extraordinary services against the Picts, was by His Majesty made Thane, Governor, or rather Prince of Fife, in 838.

‘This Fife, surnamed Duff, continued during the life of Kenneth II. and his brother Donald V. to enjoy his exalted position, and used his power so as to be lamented by high and low when he died in 858. Duff M'Duff succeeded him in virtues as well as in honours and estates, in the reign of Constantine II., and died with him, fighting against the Danes in defence of his country, 878.

 Fife the warrior was the third thane. He made great havoc among the Danes during the reign of Gregory, whom Fife survived even to the reign of Donald VI., and was then succeeded by Duff, who

held the dignity during the reigns of Constantine III. and Malcolm I., and died in the reign of Indulph. Colban, Malcolm, and Constantine held the dignity successively, with all the glory of their ancestors.

‘To Constantine succeeded M‘Duff—“a man who surpassed all encomiums.” In 1056 he slew the tyrant Macbeth at Lumphanan, and set Malcolm III. on the throne of his ancestors ; and was afterwards, in a public convention of the Estates, created by him Earl of Fife. He was also made general of His Majesty’s forces ; and when he died, was buried among the kings at Icolmkill.He was succeeded by his eldest son, Duff II., who flourished during the reigns of Edgar and Alexander, and on his death was interred in the royal sepulchre belonging to his father.

‘Constantine, second of that name, and third Earl, died young, and was buried at Iona, and was succeeded by Michael, son of Galeus, “ a man justly admired for his virtues and was chosen by His Majesty as tutor to the prince who, for the beauties of his mind, was termed “ the angel incarnate.” He was succeeded by his son Duncan, who in noble endowments, etc., if possible, surpassed his father. He died in 1154, and was succeeded by Duncan, who was made Lord Justiciary of Scotland, and, on marrying a niece of Malcolm IV., received large additions to his estates. After founding a convent of nuns at North Berwick, he died in 1203.

He was succeeded by Malcolm, second of that name, and seventh Earl, who founded the Cistercian Monastery of St. Servian at Culross. He married Maud, daughter of the Earl* of Mar, and with her obtained large possessions. He died at Culross 1229, when his estates and honours devolved on his nephew Malcolm III., who married Winifred, daughter of Llewellen, Prince ofWales. Colban, the next and i ninth Earl, after a short possession of the dignity, I gave place to his son Duncan in 1270, who on the death of His Majesty Alexander III. was appointed Regent of Scotland. He was slain by the Abernethies in 1286. Duncan V. of that name, and eleventh Earl, died in battle 1299, and was succeeded by Duncan , VI., who married Maria Mortimer, niece to Edward of England. This marriage proved the ruin of the illustrious family, as from that day they aided the , English.

‘Duncan VII. of that name, and thirteenth Earl, was I the author of a lampoon termed My Letter, which j was presented to Pope John xxii. by the Scottish I nobility in 1320. Duncan was made Governor of I Perth by Baliol, but was apprehended by the Brucian I party, and conducted with his wife and daughter to Kildrummy Castle, where he died in 1336. Isabella, his daughter, married Walter Stuart, a prince of the blood-royal ; but as both died without family, the I honours and estates devolved on his brother the I

Duke of Albany, and regent of the kingdom. He »vas succeeded by M‘Ducus his son, who was be-lieaded by James I. So ended for a time the Thanes md Earls of Fife, who had flourished for a period of 4.98 years.

‘In 1401, David Duff, a collateral branch of the noble family of Duff, obtained from Robert III. the Barony )f Muldavit, and was afterwards made Earl of Fife.’ In July 28, 1735, William Duff, who is connected with the Braemar traditions, was created Lord Braco Kilboyde; and on April 26, 1759, he was created Viscount M‘Duff and Earl of Fife, at which point this brief sketch of the Duff family closes, as the few traditions given of it occur about or after that period.

Braco, shortly after his purchase, came to Braemar with a number of workmen to cut down some of the wood. Looking about, he determined to begin in Glen Quoich. Allen-Quoich accompanied the woodmen through the glen, and saved every third gigantic pine from their hatchets. When they had cut down some sixty, they began to consider how they were to be got to the Dee.

‘Ay, ay, Braco' said Allen-Quoich, ‘there is your wood; shoulder it, and away ye go; but mark you, I won’t allow earth to be broken on my land, or my pasture destroyed. Do you it therefore at your peril; and meanwhile there is an interdict.’

This was no joke ; and Braco, completely nonplussed, had to return home, minus wood of course. But, according to current traditions, he soon and often returned to Braemar. On these occasions he assiduously cultivated the acquaintance of all the proprietors, but especially that of Allen-Quoich. This resulted first in a great change in the old laird and family’s style of living; secondly, in embarrassed circumstances; and ultimately in the sale of Allen-Quoich to Braco, who was his principal creditor.

A saw-mill was soon established on the Quoich after Duff’s accession ; and as there was none now to serve an interdict, or save every third tree from falling, the woodman’s axe made quick work among the forest glories.

There is yet another story regarding the manner in which Dalmore was acquired by Braco. A sort of wordy war had for some time existed between the followers of Inverey and those of Dalmore. As was customary in the Highlands, each great family had its bard; that of the M‘Kenzie family had his nose cut off at Sheriffmuir. The bard of Inverey was one of the Marcaich M‘Intoshes. So the two companies used to encounter on the banks of the Dee. Each party, keeping its own side, hailed across the river the praises of their own chief.

These ‘tournays of poesy’ had an unhappy effect. From the praises of his own chief, the bard generally ended in the bitterest satires on the rival family.

This war of words continued to rage until it took the more material form of feud and lawsuit; and somewhere between 1726 and 1733 it came to open war. Both parties—M‘Kenzies and Farquharsons—levied their fighting men, and met in Corrie Bhni. When it came to the point, the sages in both camps wished for a peaceable termination, and deputies passed between them with the intention of effecting this. But among the M‘Kenzies ‘ one voice was still for war.’ A tall, dark, powerful man kept pacing up and down, demanding blood, ‘as little good/ he thought, came of the battles that ended in peace.

Invercauld, who was at the head of the Farquharsons, wished to know who that wild fellow was.

‘That' replied the deputy, ‘is the Ephiteach; and he has sworn that if a ball be shot to-day, it will be his endeavour to send the second through your heart.’ Donald Dubh an-t-Ephiteach, i.e. Black Donald the Egyptian, had the reputation of being a ‘crack shot;’ and as Invercauld felt that he was at an unchancy near range, it was found quite possible to come to an understanding.

But the days of good fellowship between the families were at an end. They soon after went to law, instigated, tradition says, by Braco. The legend of this affair concludes by saying: ‘One court of law was tried after another; and as their means got done, Braco’s purse supplied them both. M‘Kenzie always lost, but on getting a fresh supply began again. But there is a limit and an end to everything; and the limit came in McKenzie’s means, and an end in his complete defeat by Inverey. The lawyers were now to pay. Inverey, in repayment of his supplies, gave over to Braco his costs against Dalmore. As for M‘Kenzie, it was the case of Allen Quoich over again; and for another£2000, which would have been about a penny I for every tree on the estate, Duff came in, and the laird stepped out. M‘Kenzie got a tack of lands on Gairnside from Aboyne, and set up at Lary.

Some of the M‘Kenzies, however, remained in Braemar: among them was the Ephiteach, or Egyptian, I so called from having been in Egypt. He was something of a character; and with his cousin Domhnull MacRobaidh Mhoir, i.e. Donald, son of Robert the Mighty, succeeded Gillespie Urrasach and his brother Donald in the championship of Braemar.


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