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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XLIV. The Three John Mores


At Castle Grant there are portraits, life-size, of two famous Highlanders. The one is that of a piper, who is represented in full dress, the streamers of his pipes bearing the Grant arms, with the motto "Stand fast." In the background is a view of the Castle. This is said to represent the Champion Piper of the time, who was not a Grant, but a Cumming. The other picture is that of a stalwart Highlander brandishing a claymore, with a shield in his left hand. Alan Hay Stewart was of opinion that this is a portrait of Rob Roy; but the family tradition is that it represents Alastair More, one of the Clan heroes. Both pictures are by Waitt, and are dated 1714. But our business is with the Johns, or lans. One of these belonged to Duthil. It is said that some time in the 15th century there was a fight between the Mackintoshes and the Grants. The Mackintoshes had made a foray and carried off cattle. They were pursued and overtaken in SIochd-muic, near Loch-chearnach. A fight took place, in which the Grants got the worst. Their Chief was badly wounded, and John More, the Duthil hero, carried him off the field and bore him for refuge to the parish church. Here he died, and was buried, and, according to tradition, it was in this way that the Church of Duthil became the burying—place of the Family of Grant.

Cromdale, or Advie, had also its John More. He is known as Ian-na-lite, "John of the porridge," and was famous for his great strength. He was the Ceann-tighe, or head of the branch of the Grants called Clann Chiaran, whose motto is Stand fast, Craig Chrocain (Ballindahloch). None of John’s feats are recorded, save his eminence as to the porridge, but he left many descendants.

Latterly the family were represented by Charles Grant, of Rothiemoon, who had five sons. The eldest, James, was for some years companion to Earl Lewis, amid in 1830 was presented to the parish of Cromdale, where he laboured with much ability and acceptance for 26 years. He died iii 1856, and the tombstone erected to his memory by his parishioners amid friends bears testimony not only to his worth and services, hut also to the singular charm and loveableness of his character: "A man greatly beloved" The second son, John, was in stature worthy of his progenitor of Advie. He stood 6 feet 4 inches high, a stalwart, handsome man. He was painted by Mr Macleav, in his portraits of the Clans for the Queen, as the representative of the Grants. The other sons were Lewis, Robert, and Francis. "Mr Lewis," as he was called, resided all his days in Abernethy, and had been closely associated with all the movements which gave life and interest to the society of Nethy side. In his youth he was remarkable for strength and agility, and took a foremost place in all manly sports. For forty years and more no social meeting would have been held complete from which he was absent. He was one of nature’s gentlemen. His manly presence, his kind—heartedness, his store of tradition and story, and his gift of song, made him a welcome guest with all classes. For the young he had a singular charm. He and they seemed to have a mutual attraction, and were always happy together. Mr Lewis had much of time old clan spirit. He had drunk it in with his mother’s milk. But, though his devotion to his Chief was strong and true, it never degenerated into servility. When the old feeling broke out with such fervour in the days of time late Master of Grant (1835-38), Mr Lewis, then in the prime of his youth, took an active part, and at later times, when attachment to the House of Grant found expression, he was proud, so long as he was able, to take his place as the head of the Abernethy Men. For some years, owing to old age and failing health, and from his living in a more remote locality, he had withdrawn almost altogether from society. He died in 1885. Almost his last words were, "I am going home." The graves of a household are generally, as the poet sings, scattered far and wide, by mount and stream and sea; ‘‘but it is not so with the family of Rothiemoon. Father and mother, and their five sons, once the pride of Nethv side, lie together in the quiet churchyard of Cromdale.

Abernethy, Tradition says that the Baron of Kincardine dreamt one night of seeing a white bull in his cattle-yard. He consulted a wise woman, and she interpreted that his daughter was to bear a Son to the Laird of Grant. Some time after there was a great hunting party in Glenmore, which was attended by the Heir of Grant, then a mere youth. It was followed by much feasting and carousing. In due time the Baron’s daughter bore a son, who was called John, after his father, John 2nd of Freuchie, called "The Red Bard." John was brought up at Kincardine. He was a mart of great stature, and famous for his strength and valour. It is said that his father, and also his kinsman, The Mackintosh, were incarcerated at Edinburgh, under some charge, and that he went to visit them. At the time an English Billie, or prize-fighter, was in the town, and could find no man to match him. The Town Council were concerned about the honour of Scotland, and offered a lippie of gold to any one who would beat the Englishman. John heard of this, and offered to fight the Billie. The encounter took place in the High Street. The Englishman stood upon his defence in the usual way, but John, regardless of science, made a rush, caught the Billie in his arms, and cast him to the ground with such force that he was killed on the spot. The Magistrates were delighted, and offered John payment, but he said ‘‘No." Like his namesake, Johnnie Scott, of the Border ballad-—

I’ll none o’ your gold,’ brave Johnnie said,
‘Nor none o’ your other gear;
But I will have my own fair bride,
For I have won her dear,’

So he would not have the gold, but said, "Give me, instead, what I can carry out of the Castle prison." This was agreed to; then John said, " Bring out the Laird of Grant." This was done, and the Laird put on his back ; then he said, "Bring The Mackintosh now, and put him on the top of the Laird." This also was done, and John bore them both beyond the gates, and gained their freedom. For this, it is said, his father rewarded him by a grant of the lands of Glenmoriston, in Urquhart (1509). As he was passing Moy, on the way to his new home, The Mackintosh paid him high honour. He made twelve of his men lie down in the Burn of Moy to form a bridge, and John walked over them, pipers playing, and men shouting his praise. This curious ceremony seemed a survival of the customs of the East, and may be compared with the Doseh, or Treading Festival, which used to he held at Cairo in celebration of the birth of Mahomet, 60 dervishes lying with their faces to the ground, and the Sheijkh of Sandeyeh riding over them slowly, amid loud cries of "Allah."

Ian Mor was duly installed as Laird of Glenmoriston, and took an active part in the doings of the time. Mr Mackay, in his "Urquhart and Glenmoriston," says (p. 112) : "The death of John Grant, first of Glenmoriston—or ‘of Culcabock,’ as he was better known in his own day—occurred in 1548, his brother of Corriemony having predeceased him in 1533. A man of great energy and prudence, whose counsel was much sought by his neighbours, he attained to a position of great influence and power, and in the end died the proud proprietor of Glenmoriston, Culcabock, Knockintional (on which the Inverness Barracks now stand), The Haugh, Carron, Wester Elchies, and Kinchurdie, in Strathspey, and the holder of less substantial rights in the Western Highlands. His first wife was Elizabeth or Isabella Innes, daughter of Walter Innes, and grand-daughter of Sir Robert Innnes of that Ilk, by whom he had one daughter, Isabella. Divorcing her, he entered into union with Agnes, daughter of William Fraser, son of Thomas, fourth Lord Lovat. This lady and himself were within the forbidden degrees of affinity and so, with the object of removing the impediment, and giving their children the status of legitimacy, he obtained, in 1544, a papal dispensation absolving her and himself from the crime of incest, enjoining on them a salutary penance,’ granting liberty to solenmise their marriage in face of the Church, and declaring their children legitimate, whether born or to be born. Of the union thus sanctioned by the Pope, there was at least one son, Patrick, who succeeded his father in his whole possessions, except Carron and Wester Elchies, which were respectively left to lain Mor’s natural sons, John Roy, and James." The present representative of the Bastard of Kincardine, and the 12th Laird, is lain Robert James Murray Grant of Glenmoriston.


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