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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XXIII. The Stewarts of Glenmore


THE Massacre of Glencoe was one of the blackest crimes in Scottish history. It has stained the fair name of William Ill., and has covered the men who were directly concerned in the barbarous deed with infamy. Major Duncanson, under instructions from his superior officers, issued the following order to Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, 12th February, 1692:- "You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebells, the Macdonalds of Glencoe, and put all to the sword under seventy." Let Scott describe the result ;—

"The hand that mingled in the meal,
At midnight drew the felon steel,
And gave the host’s kind breast to feel
Meed for his hospitality!
The friendly hearth which warm’d that hand
At midnight arm’d it with the brand,
That bade destruction’s flames expand
Their red and fearful blazonry.
Then woman’s shriek was heard in vain,
Nor infancy’s unpitied plain,
More than the warrior’s groan, could gain
Respite from ruthless butchery!
The winter wind that whistled shrill,
The snows that night that cloked the hill,
Though wild and pitiless, had still
Far more than Southron clemency."

But there was one man who, to his infinite credit, kept himself clear from complicity in these horrid barbarities. Robert Stewart, of the house of Fincastle, was a subaltern in Argyll’s Regiment. Being a man of known ability and courage, he was chosen as one of those to go to Glencoe, but when he understood what he should have to do, he refused to take part in the work. He was urged and threatened, but he would not consent, and in the end he threw up his commission and fled to the North. The Duke of Gordon gave him protection, and as he could not make him an officer, he appointed him keeper of his Forest in Glenmore. This was a position of some importance in those days, and the salary and advantages were considerable. In an Act of James VI. as to Forest Law, it is declared of Keepers of Forests that they should have power and jurisdiction to convene before them the transgressors of said statutes, and to try them by an inquest, and to execute the said Acts against them, to wit, the "slayers and shooters of Deer, Roe, and Wild Fowl, being landed men, under the pain of five hundred merks, and being unlanded, a hundred merks, &c." Robert Stewart married, and had a large family. Five of his daughters became wives of respectable tacksmen in the district. He is said to have lived to be over a hundred. The accompanying certificate, given to him by the Kirk-Session, and attested by the civil authority, marks his character and worth.

Stewart was succeeded by his eldest son James. He was well-educated, shrewd, and capable, and was able to save money. His neighbours, seeing how much better off he was than they were, jumped to the conclusion that he had found a "treasure." The story was that a certain man called "The Claddach" had dreamed of a pot of gold hidden under a marked stone; that he told his dream to Stewart, who laughed, and said, "Who minds a dream?" But he himself quietly sought the stone, and secured the treasure. In reality Stewart owed his success to his own thrift and industry. It is curious how much similarity there is in these stories, indicating probably a common origin in the East. Grimm tells of a man who dreamt that if he went to a certain bridge, and waited there, he would become rich. He went day after day, but nothing happened. At last he met a merchant, who asked him what he was looking for. He told his story. The merchant said, "Dreams are but froth 1, too, dreamed that under yonder tree lay a kettle full of gold, but who minds such things." The man said nothing, but at night he dug under the tree and found the treasure. Stewart’s’ wife was Christian Robertson, by whom he had three sons and one daughter. His daughter Mary married Stewart, Knock, the representative of the Barons, and he gave her a tocher of £100, a considerable sum in these days. He and his sons were great favourites of the Gordons, and before his death he saw them in possession of the three choicest farms in Kincardine— John at Pytoulish, Charles at Knock, and Patrick at Achgourish. In his last years he was well known in Strathspey and Badenoch as the "Fear Liath," from his venerable appearance and long white beard. In the old Statistical Account, he is thus referred to :—"James Stewart, Keeper of the Duke of Gordon’s Forests and Game, is 93 years of age, a blooming, correct, sensible man, and comes to Church the coldest day in winter." Stewart died on Christmas day, 1795. He was crossing the Altmore to visit his son, when his foot slipped on an ice-covered block, and the fall caused his death. By his will, executed 24th September, 1795, he left the sum of 400 merks for the poor of the Barony, the interest of which was paid for some years by his son, and on his death the principal was handed over to the Kirk-Session. In 1846, the money, then amounting to £70, was, under a mistake, transferred to the Parochial Board, and so while the ratepayers benefited in an infinitesimal way for the year, the poor of Kincardine lost their rights for ever.

John Stewart, Pytoulish, was one of the finest-looking men on Speyside. He was said to resemble his grandfather, who, according to tradition, was counted the third best man in the North Highlands. He was both a great hunter and a great fisher. In the valuation of Kincardine, he is entered as holding Pitgaldish and Clachglas, at a rent of £20 3s 1d; the mill at £2 17s 9d, and the salmon fishing of Pollmarstack at £2 4s 5d. His brother Charles had Knock and Riluig at £19 12s, and his father (to whom succeeded his brother Charles), had Achgourish at £14 8s. Miltown, Lag of Clune, Croftmore, Bellimore, Pitvernie, and Culrannach, Lynmore, and Riaonachan, comprehending also Belnapool, Culvardy, Badyuish, Buchonich, Beglans, and Quarter Kern, were possessed by Messrs Dodsworth and Osbourne at a rent of £67 10s. The whole valued rent of Kincardine was £125 13s 2d, making the teind only £25 2s 7d. But the deer forest appears to have been left out of the valuation. John Stewart was a J.P., and in 1797 Sir James Grant of Grant appointed him a Deputy Lieutenant of Inverness-shire, an honour rarely conferred save on large landed proprietors. He was present at the grand reception given by the Marquis of Huntly to Prince Leopold in 1819, and was introduced to the Prince by the Marquis as an old rebel. Pytoulish replied that if he was a rebel, there might be doubt as to the loyalty of his Grace himself, as he had always been his faithful follower. His grand-daughter, Miss Mackintosh of the Dell, Rothiemurchus, was also a guest at Kinrara, 7th September. The Spey was in high flood at the time, and it was with much difficulty that she and some friends were able to cross at the Doune ford. The next day Prince Leopold made a visit to Rothiemurchus, and called at the Dell, when he asked specially to see Miss Mackintosh, the young lady who had risked her life to attend the ball. There was an English visitor at Kinrara, who was very ambitious to kill a stag. He spoke to the Marquis of Huntly, who said, "O, you must see Pytoulish as to that." He answered that if he had the Marquis’s permission he would take Stewart in his own hand. The Marquis said, "You may try, but I’m mistaken if you don’t repent it." The Englishman set out to Glenmore, where he met Pytoulish, who at once challenged him. He replied rather haughtily, "What is that to you? I come from Kinrara." "If you do," said Pytoulish, "you will have a letter from the Marquis." "No, he had no letter." "Then. if you have no letter, you have no right to be here, and must give up your gun." He refused, but in a moment Pytoulish had him on his back in the heather, and took his gun from him. He went back with an angry complaint, but the Marquis only laughed, and said, "Did I not tell you how it would be?" Pytoulish’s marriage was quite a romance. Mary Grant of Kinchirdy, g. great-grand-daughter of Mungo, fifth son of the Laird of Grant, was a winsome young lady, and had many wooers. The parson of Abernethy was a suitor, and was said to be favoured by her father, but the lady herself leaned towards the gallant Highlander. The parson had been preaching at Kincardine, and stopped overnight at Kinchirdy. He was roused by some stir in the morning, and, looking out at the window, he was surprised to see what seemed a wedding party passing up the other side of the Spey. The secret was that Pytoulish had carried off the young lady. At the ford he and his brother made a king’s chair, with their hands locked, and bore her safely across. The parson of Duthil was in the secret, and the marriage took place at once. This sort of marriage was not uncommon in the Highlands in the old time. Pytoulish had one son and two daughters. His son, Robert, entered the army, and died in the West Indies. There was some mystery about his death, and his father long hoped against hope that he would reappear. The eldest daughter, Margaret, married Duncan Mackintosh, Dell, factor to Rothiemurchus, who was of the sept of Mackintoshes, called Sliochd-a-ghobhainn Chruim, the race of the bandy Smith. His other daughter, Mary, married Lieut. James Stewart, of the 78th Highlanders. Charles Stewart, Pytoulish’s brother, also married, and two of his sons served with distinction in the Peninsular war. Alexander was a Lieutenant in the 42nd Highlanders. At the siege of Burgos he led one of the forlorn hopes. When the party reached the breach Stewart waved his sword, and calling out Dia leinn, God with us, the famous watchword of Gustavus Adolphus, he dashed forward. His comrades were almost all killed, but he escaped with a severe wound. John rose to the rank of Captain in the 53rd Regiment, and retired on half-pay. He was called the oichear mor, the big officer, from his great size. It was said he bad no equal in Strathspey for strength. There are two boulders that lie near the gate of Achernack, Clachan neart, which were used as tests of strength. One man out of ten might lift the smaller over the dyke, but not one in a thousand could do this with the other. The big officer could toss them both over, one after the other, with ease! Pytoulish lived to a great age. The last year of his life he made a pilgrimage to Glenmore, where he had lived so long, and which he loved so well. He reached Sithan-dubh-dà-choimhead, the Sithan of the double outlook, above the Green Loch, by sunrise, and after spending some time looking before and after, he came to Ri-luig to breakfast. Then taking the south side of Loch Morlich, passing the Rabhag, the Osprey’s tree, and the Black banks where he had often fished, he crossed the Luinag at the Sluce and made his way slowly home. Some months after he died. He and his wife were interred in the church-yard of Kincardine, where the Stewarts of the Barony and of Clachglas also lie. The Stewarts of Glenmore were, for their time, well educated. There is an Inventory extant of the contents of the Repositories of James Stewart, Achgourish, dated 15th January, 1796, which not only shews that he was a man of some means, but which also bears the signatures, along with that of the Rev. John Grant and others, of his three sons, all written in a clear good hand.


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