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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter V.—History from 994 to 1600


THE next important event in chronological order is the death of Duncan II., in 1094, at Mondynes, in the parish of Fordoun. He fell by the hands of Maolpeder, the Maormor of the Mearns, whose trainband would largely consist of men from his headquarters at Fettercairn. In the subsequent century, the events which affected Fettercairn were the attack in 1107 of Morayshire and Mearns rebels upon Alexander I. in his castle of Hurley Hawkin, near Invergowrie, and in 1130 the defeat and slaughter at Stracathro of the Earl of Moray and his followers by David I. After him the way across the river at Capo is said to have got its name—the King's Ford. In the twelfth century, William the Lion occupied Kincardine Castle, and to it were attached all the offices common to a royal household of the period. His first hawksman or falconer was progenitor of the noble family of Kintore, and the constable of the castle (a Carnegie), so far as is known, was that of the noble house of Southesk. In the thirteenth century, Alexander III. resided occasionally at Kincardine. On his northward journey King Edward I. visited "Kyncardyn en Mernes Meynor" on the 11th July, 1296 and again, on returning southward, on the 4th August following. With him were 30,000 foot soldiers and 5000 mailed and mounted men-at-arms. These royal processions, in conjunction with John Baliol's resignation of the Scottish crown, must have caused no small stir in and around Fettercairn. In 1297 Wallace and a trusty band of followers overran the country, and especially Angus and Mearns, driving along and slaying the Southrons that Edward had left to garrison the castles, until on the rock of Dunnottar, where 4000 of their number took refuger they were beaten with fire and sword or driven into the sea. Blind Harry's account runs thus:—

In plain battail throuchout the Mernyss they ride,
The Inglismen that durst them nocht abide,
Befor the host full fear'dly furth they flee
Until Dwnotter a swape within the sea.

Wallace brynt the kyrk and all that was tharin,
Atour the rock the lave ran with great din,
Some hung on crags ryght dolfally to dee,
Some lap, some fell, some floteryt in the sea.

On a conquering tour through Scotland in 1303, Edward and his forces besieged Brechin Castle, and on the march to Aberdeen they passed through Fettercairn. Although history and tradition now fail to give any detailed account of those troublous times, yet one or two local place-names so far supply some information. On a gentle slope of the hill, along the left bank of Balnakettle burn, and about a mile north-west of Upper Thainston farmstead, may be seen a grassy spot bearing slight traces of remote cultivation. Its name, Ballyvernie, now almost forgotten, means The town of strife or war. At some distance westward are two hollows, one of which has been known as Englishman's den, and the other as Scotchman's den. [On a summer afternoon in 1857, some three or four Fettercairn gentlemen led by a worthy old Celtic antiquarian, William M'Donald Cotton of Thainston, went with picks and spades to explore one or two of the Ballyvernie small mounds that looked like the tumuli of a battlefield. But no remains of any kind other than black earth were found.] These local designations point to the wars of the Scottish Independence, and evidently to the conflict of Bruce and Comyn Earl of Buchan, on the 25th December, 1307, when Bruce and his Army were retiring southward from Inverness.

Buchanan's account is, "That when Bruce was come to the forest through which the river Esk falls down into the plains of Merns, Comyn overtook him at a place called Glenesk." If this encounter took place, not at the head of the glen as some maintain, but at the foot, it must be admitted that Ballyvernie, though considerably eastward on the hillside, was the scene of the conflict. It is not improbable that Bruce, in gratitude for his victory, made additional grants to the Knights of St. John at Newdosk in the vicinity. From a time unknown it belonged to them, and formed a part of the Regality of Torphichen. Newdosk, or Neudos, is a Celtic word meaning either The Holy Shelter or A gift to Heaven.

In 1341, David IL and Joanna his queen, on their return from France, landed at Bervie and visited Kincardine and Fettercairn. The marriage of his sister Margaret to William Earl of Sutherland, took place at Kincardine, and she received a grant of the lands of Fettercairn. Robert II. held Courts and Juries in the palace, and charters from it were dated 1371, 1375, and 1383.

In May, 1452, Alexander, the fourth Earl of Crawford, the Tiger Earl or "Earl Beardie," collected his forces to avenge the assassination of Douglas in Stirling Castle by James II., and tried to intercept the Earl of Huntly and the royalist forces at the foot of the Cairn o' Mount. But, by Huntly's eluding him, Fettercairn and its vicinity escaped being the scene of the bloody and disastrous encounter which took place at Harecairn, on Huntly hill of Stracathro, where Crawford was defeated.

James IV. and Margaret his queen, when on their way to and from Aberdeen, lodged several times at the castle of Kincardine ; and once, in 1507 (if the story can be credited), he rode in a single day from Stirling, by Perth and Aberdeen, to Elgin, galloping hurriedly past Fettercairn and other places. In 1511, Queen Margaret made a more leisurely journey to Aberdeen, when, by order of the magistrates, the streets of the city were cleared of "middings and swine's cruives" for her reception. In 1504, the king, favouring Adam Hepburn of Craggis (Inglismaldie) for his good service, and likewise to suit the lieges crossing the Cairn o' Mount, erected the Kirkton of Fethircarn belonging to the said Adam and his wife, Elizabeth Ogston, into a free burgh, with a market cross, a weekly market, and a public fair annually on the first of August, or the feast of St. Peter. This license was renewed to John Earl Middleton, in 1670. From a subsequent charter to the burgesses of Montrose, it appears that wool, skins, hides, salmon, and other merchandise, were sold at the Fettercairn markets. In 1532, James V. granted a charter to the fourth Earl Marischal to make Kincardine town the capital of the county, which it continued to be till 1607. How this affected Fettercairn is not recorded. Queen Mary, journeying northwards, and accompanied by her nobles, attendants, and men-at-arms, to quell the Huntly rebellion, reached Edzell Castle on the 25th of August, 1562, and proceeded next day through Fettercairn to Aberdeen. James VI. paid visits to Aberdeen in 1582, 1589, 1592, 1594, and 1600, going and returning on some, if not all, of these occasions by Fettercairn and Kincardine.


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