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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XIX. In The Baron's Chair


At the upper end of Kincardine, there is a projecting crag, on the face of Pytoulish hill, which is called "the Baron’s Chair." From this vantage ground there is a wide outlook. No fairer scene can be found in all Strathspey. Immediately below is Loch Pytoulish, bounded by the meadows of Guislich and the romantic height of the Callart. To the west are the sombre forests of Duthil, backed by the broad Monaliadhs. Southward is the grand entrance to the Strath, with Tulligru and the Ordbain on the left, Craigellachie and Kinrara on the right, the rich haughs of the Dell and the Doune in the centre, with the Spey sweeping past, and Loch-’n-Eilan and Loch Alvie sparkling like jewels in the rich setting of the woods and mountains, while behind the hills of Badenoch and Lochaber rise dimly in the distance. Loch Pytoulish bounds the lands of the Barony, which lie along the Spey to the eastward. First there is a moor ending in clumps of oak and hazel, beyond are the birch-clad heights and warm hollows of Pytoulish, with the sunny fields and pastures of Drumclune, Clachglas, and Achgourish stretching away towards the dense woods of Garten and Tulloch. Then to the east are the hills of Craigowrie, with the grand pass of the Sluggan leading to the forest of Glenmore, famous for its loch, and pines, and hunting grounds. For three hundred years the land was possessed by a branch of the Royal Stewarts, and tradition says that the successive Barons loved to repair to this spot, and to look abroad with pride and delight on their fair inheritance. Cicero said of Ulysses, that he loved Ithaca, not because it was broad, for it was small and not big, but because it was his own. Touchstone, in the play of "As you like it," has a similar sentiment. "An ill-flavoured thing, Sir, a poor virgin, but mine own." So might the Barons have said of Kincardine. We can imagine one and another sitting in the chair and musing sometimes in joy, sometimes in sorrow; and it may be at times pacing to and fro, like the Baron of Bradwardine with offended pride and indignation, "measuring and re-measuring with swift and tremendous strides the length of the terrace" at Tullyveolan.

Walter, the first Baron, was the third (natural) son of Alexander, Earl of Buchan, better known as "The Wolf of Badenoch." He got a charter of the lands of Kincardine from King Robert the Third at Perth, in the tenth year of his reign (1400). This Walter was knighted for his valour at the battle of Harlaw (1411), and was called "an Ridir ruadh," or Red Knight. He married Isobel Fenton in 1436. The pedigree of the family, as given by Duncan Stewart in his History of the Stewarts (1739), is as follows :—1, Walter; 2, Alexander, married Mary, daughter of Maclean; 3, James, m. daughter of Lachlan Mackintosh; 4, Donald, m. daughter of Lochiel, said to have died 1518;

5, Donald, m. daughter of Laird of Macgrigor and widow of the Laird of Mackintosh; 6, James, m. daughter of the Laird of Grant; 7, James, m. daughter of Rose of Kilravock; 8, Walter, m. Margaret, daughter of Robertson of Calvin or Clunie, ancestor to Robertson of Lude. He had three sons, John, James, and Robert. John m. Janet, sister of Mackintosh, commonly designed Sheriff Bane. 9, James, who succeeded, m. daughter of Shaw of Dell, representative of the Shaws of Rothiemurchus, and by her had Donald, to, who m. first, his cousin, Marjory Stewart, d. to Robert Oig, and second, Barbara, d. of John Shaw of Guislich, and by her left an only son, well-known by the name of John Roy. Stewart says—"Robert, third son of Walter, had a son called Robert Oig, who married a daughter of the famous Angus Williamson, tutor of Mackintosh, and by her had three sons—Alexander, John, and Angus, Alexander was father of Bailie Stewart, late Collector in Inverness; and Angus had several sons, one of them Commissary John Stewart in Edinburgh. Most of the Stewarts in Strathspey, Murray, and Inverness are come of Kincardine, and some of them are settled about Kelso. There is one near Newcastle who has a fine estate." It will be seen from this pedigree that the Kincardine Stewarts married well. Perhaps their royal blood made up for their lack of broad lands. As Burton says—"These Stewarts went forth like others, wandering unfortunates, with no hold upon the world but that which their heads and hands and perhaps the lustre of their descent gave them, and in the end they rooted themselves as landed lords and princes." So it was with the Stewarts of Kincardine. For ten descents they held their place and prospered fairly. But then came evil times. The family fell into difficulties. Poverty came like an armed man. Shaw says that they "continued in good repute till about the year 1683. John Roy, the last Baron (a silly ignorant man), was in a manner cheated out of his estate by his brother-in-law, Alexander Mackintosh, Sheriff Bain, who made him sell it to the Marquis of Huntly for a very trifle, and the family is extinct." A MS. genealogical account of the family (about 1720), somewhat mutilated, gives a different account—"John, who succeeded him (Walter, his father), married a daughter to the Laird of Grant, by whom he had Patrick, who was a weak man, and married a sister to Alexander Mackintosh of Connadge, called Sheriff Bain, which Sheriff, being an artfull, treacherous man imposed upon the weakness of Baron Peter, his brother-in-law, and in place of a Factory which he pretended was to doe the Baron great services, he betrayed him to sign a full and formall disposition of all his Estate, which disposition he soon after assigned to the Duke of Gordon, who now possesses Kincardine in virtue of said disposition. This Peter had children by Sheriff Bain’s sister, but all are dead and extinct." That the Barons had been in pecuniary difficulties is undoubted. Lorimer says in his notes that Laird Lewis was pressed by his friends to buy Kincardine, but that he refused out of a point of honour that he would not take advantage of his neighbour’s distress.
The Gordons were not so scrupulous. There is a tradition in the country that certain of the Kincardine Stewarts who had prospered in America remitted money for payment of the debt upon the estate, but that it was appropriated by Sheriff Bain, who alleged that he had invested it in houses till the mortgage fell due, and that the houses had been destroyed by fire. Shaw says that the family became "extinct," and this was true as regards Kincardine; but they had, and have still, representatives both at home and abroad. Colonel John Roy Stewart of the ‘45, and Sir John Stuart, Count of Maida, belonged to the family. In our own time, the late Rev. H. C. Stuart, Vicar of Wragby, claimed to be a lineal descendant. He stated that his grandfather came from America, where his ancestors had found a home, and that the late Sir John Stuart was a cousin, whose sister married into a branch of the Tweedale family; that his father was in India (where he himself was born) with the Marquis of Tweedale, who was his intimate friend. Mr Stuart gave his pedigree, taken chiefly from papers in the Charter Chest of Stuart Hay of Newton Hall, as follows:—Starting from the 9th in Duncan Stewart’s Book—Walter had three sons, John, James, and Robert. 10. Robert had a son, Robert Oig Stewart. 11. Robert Oig had three sons, Alexander, &c. 12. Alexander was father to John, a merchant in Inverness. He married twice. By his first wife he had two daughters, Margaret and Marion. Margaret married Captain Wedderburn, and Marion a Mr Reid. By his second marriage, to Christina Macleod, d. of Macleod of Macleod, he had seven sons, John, Henry, Francis, Patrick, Norman, Allan, and William, and one daughter, Anne. John was the father of Sir John Stuart, who died unmarried. Anne married Richard Hay of Newton. John, the eldest son, was a Colonel in the Guards, and afterwards Superintendent of Indian Affairs in America. 13. Henry, the second son, was father of Charles Swede Stuart. 14. Charles Swede was father of Henry William; 15, and Henry William was father of Henry Cumberland Stuart, late vicar of Wragby. Mr Stuart had a great love for the land of his fathers, and visited Kincardine several times. Sir Bernard Burke tells that in searching out the pedigree of the Fyndernes, he visited the village of Fynderne, near Derby, but could find no trace of the family. No stone of the Hall remained. The Church contained no brasses or records. At last he fell in with an old man, and questioned him. "Fyndernes," he said, "we have no Fyndernes here, but we have something that once belonged to them, we have Fynderne Flowers." The old man then led him to a field where there were faint traces of terraces. "There," said he, pointing to some garden flowers growing wild, "there are the Fynderne Flowers, brought by Sir Geoffrey the Crusader from the Holy Land, and do what we will we cannot get them to die." So it was with the Stewarts of Kincardine. Their memory and their name is gone. There are, indeed, some memorials. The names of places associated with their history remain. There is the site of the Baron’s House, with one old apple-tree to mark where a garden had been. There are also Straan-nan-Laogh, the little Strath of the Calves; Cat-nan- Caorach and Cat-nan- Gobhair, the Cot of the Sheep and the Cot of the Goats, telling of their flocks and herds. There is also Cuil Bhardidh, the Bard’s Croft, where the Bards who sung their brave deeds dwelt. There are also Tom-Mhoid, where they held their Courts, and Tom~na-Croiche, the Gallows-hill, where justice was executed. And to mention but one more, there is Lag-nan-Cusbairean, where the archery buchts stood. But there is no stone, no coat-of-arms, no memorial tablet of any kind, to mark that such a family had ever held sway in the district. What brings them nearest, and what touches our feelings most, is the plant in the Churchyard called the Baron Lady’s Flower—the Dwarf Elder. Mr Stuart, when he visited the home of his ancestors, was much distressed that there was no proper memorial of the Kincardine Barons, and be resolved to have this want supplied. His early death prevented this, but through the kind offices of Miss Winn, of Nostell Priory, the wish which he had fondly cherished was carried out. In 1885 a granite monolith was erected in the Churchyard where the Barons buried their dead. The monument bears at the top the motto, " Dominus lux Nostra," and on a polished shield, the following inscription —"Sacred to the memory of Walter Stuart, grandson of Robert II. of Scotland; and his family, who possessed the Barony of Kincardine - 1374 1683, Also of H. C. Stuart, vicar of Wragby, one of their descendants, who died 16th September, 1884. To fulfil his wish this memorial is erected."


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