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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XX.—Antiquities and Old Buildings (continued)


MARKET CROSS. The Market Cross of Fettercairn— an object of much interest—stands in the village square upon a flight of six concentric octagonal steps, each one foot in height, which have been several times renewed. The shaft, octagonal, fixed into the top base, is, with its surmounting capital, ten feet in height. It has on one side a line cut out, 3 feet 1| inches long, representing the Scotch ell; and into another side is inserted an iron ring and links, to which the old instruments of punishment •called the jougs were fastened. The jougs consisted of an iron collar placed round the neck of the offender, with another part called the branks—a sort of cage over the head with a piece entering the mouth to silence and punish scolds and termagants, who had there to suffer the vile indignities of the multitude. Outside the doors of many old parish churches the fixings of the jougs, and of the stocks for the feet, may yet be seen. The marks of wear on the shaft of the cross bear evidence of frequent use. The capital is four-sided, and has on the west side the arms of the founder, John, first Earl of Middleton, which were a lion rampant within a double tressure; and on the east side, his coroneted initials. On the south side is a sundial, and on the north the date 1670. The history of the cross is more or less a mystery. The popular belief is that it was the market cross of the old town of Kincardine, and that it was removed to Fettercairn in 1730; but of this no record exists. Biscoe, in the Earls of Middleton, asserts that, in 1670, the first Earl erected it in memory of his wife Grizel Durham. But in that very year he was granted a renewal of the royal licence (originally granted, in 1504, to Adam Hepburn and his wife Elizabeth Ogston) to hold markets and erect a cross in Fettercairn; and the probability is that the capital bearing the date of 1670 was made for Fettercairn, and not for the fast-decaying town of Kincardine, which, as the county town previous to 1607, had its own cross, said to have been removed to Fettercairn in 1730; but whether to take the place of a shaft older than the present one cannot now be determined. In any case, it looks very much older than its capital, and may still be the original shaft of the cross erected in 1504.

Other crosses in the Mearns are those of Bervie, Stonehaven, and Mary kirk. The Mary kirk cross stood just within the gate of the churchyard till 1857. Some time thereafter the Rev. Mr M'Clure reported to a writer on crosses: " My predecessor wished to be interred at the spot where it stood, and it was thought good to remove it to its present stance." The same writer, a Mr Drummond, states that in Scotland some seventy-eight crosses remain, and nearly all in the eastern half of the country. Treating of them, he says:—

"Crosses were no doubt originally ecclesiastical, and their transition from this character to their ordinary use is simple. In rude and lawless times, we can suppose a paction of any sort being considered binding if contracted at a cross with its sacred significance. This would perhaps be rendered doubly sure if, while hand-fasting, they touched with the other hand the cross. The place where it was situated thus becoming a place of bargain-making, and gradually losing its religious significance, its very cruciform shape disappeared, until at last it was transformed into the ordinary market cross."

Royal proclamations were also made at market crosses ; like as they are still at the cross of Edinburgh, to which Sir Walter Scott thus refers in Marmion:—

"Dun-Edin's cross of pillared stone
Rose on a turret octagon,
But razed is now that monument
Whence Royal edict rang;
And voice of Scotland's law was sent
In glorious trumpet clang."

Castle of Kincardine. Among the objects of antiquarian interest remaining to be noticed are the ruins of the*Castle or Palace of Kincardine and its adjacent old town, now extinct. Although outside the boundary of the-parish, they are in close proximity, upon the lands of Fettercairn estate, and within the scope of this history-The ruins of the castle, about 1 miles north-east of the-village, stand on a projecting eminence, now wooded, but formerly surrounded on three sides by the waters of the-Ferdur, which were not wholly drained off at the beginning of the century. After the burning of the castle in 1646-the walls, of unknown height, became a quarry to supply stones for the houses, and at a later period for the field dykes and drains of the well-cultivated farm of Castleton. Seventy years ago, when the late Sir John S. Forbes returned from abroad to enter upon his property, he very properly put a stop to these proceedings. He also caused excavations and searches to be made in the ruins for relics of the past, but none were found. According to measurements taken by the late Robert Milne, architect, and the writer, the walls, in some parts, stand 8 ft. high. The outer walls of three sides of the building, constructed on the sloping principle, are 10 ft. thick; and the front wall, with its projecting watch towers and small-sized apartments, is 20 ft. in thickness. The north and south walls are each 130 ft. in length, with an entrance, midway in each, 8 ft. wide. The east and west walls are each 140 ft. Along the interior of the east wall are two apartments 80 ft. by 25 ft. and 18 ft. by 20 ft., and along the north wall are other two 55 ft. by 25 ft. and 27 ft. by 18 ft. The inner walls of all these apartments are 5 ft. in thickness. The rest of the interior formed a court or hall, 90 ft. by 82 ft. The sides of the great fireplace of the hall were, not long ago, entire, and so were the lower steps of a staircase leading to an upper flat, of whose extent or accommodation nothing is known. The time of the castle's foundation is likewise unknown. But the hard and hammer-dressed sandstones point to the time of William the Lion (1165-1214). Upon this elevated site, however, some kind of royal palace stood as early as the tenth century, when Kenneth III. and other kings of Scotland made history in the Mearns. In the reign of Alexander I. (1107-1124) it was a place of note; for the first royal charter, granted by that king to the town of Stirling, was dated "at Kyncardyn, 18th August, 1119." Successive sovereigns, notably William the Lion, Alexander III., and Robert the Bruce, sojourned there. Its designation in Bruce's charter of Auchcairnie arable lands to Sir Alexander Frazer of Cowie is, "Our manour of Kyncardyn."

In 1296 the scroll of John Baliol's resignation of the crown was written there; and Edward I., on his journeys to and from the north, lodged in the castle. In 1341, when David II. and his queen, returning from France, were driven ashore at Bervie, they betook themselves to Kincardine. Robert II. held his courts and juries in the castle, and issued charters from it dated 1371, 1375, and 1383. James IV., the founder of King's College, Aberdeen, and Margaret his queen, paid visits in 1507 and 1511. Queen Mary halted at Kincardine on her northern tour in 1562. By charter of James VI. the Strachans of Thornton occupied the castle from 1601 till its demolition in 1646. They likewise held the adjacent lands. Prior to their time the Earls Marischal were in possession. In 1532 James V. granted a charter to William the fourth earl to make the town of Kincardine the capital of the county. It consisted of a row of straggling clay-built biggins and crofters' holdings along the present old road from its " east port" near the castle, about three-quarters of a mile to the "west port" near Fettercairn House. For lack of proper accommodation and for better security against Highland raiders, the County Courts were transferred in 1607 to Stonehaven. The town decayed; and in 1730 its market cross and the fair of St. Catherine were removed to Fettercairn. In the first decade of the century it was reduced to a few houses with about eighty inhabitants. Nothing is now to be seen but the squared-up fields of Castleton farm; and in one of them stood St. Catherine's chapel, where remains only the graveyard, disused for many years, but preserved from the plough by an edging of trees planted by the late Sir John S. Forbes, Bart. Two small and primitive headstones, with the names and dates, William Ross, 1739, and William Taylor, 1786, are the only monuments left to mark the ground where " the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."

Stone cists have from time to time been discovered in the vicinity of Kincardine. In 1871, at a sand pit on the side of Huntershill, one of these was laid open. The sides and ends were formed of rough slabs placed on edge, and the top of three flat stones each six or seven inches thick. Its length was 3J ft., breadth 2 ft., and depth 2 ft. It contained a bent up skeleton of large size, probably that of a chief or leader buried where he fell. The skull and thigh bones were pretty entire, but they crumbled down on exposure to the air. On the right side, and near the head, was found an empty clay bowl of rude workmanship, 6 in. wide and 6 in. deep, with a black streak round the interior, showing that it had been half filled with the food which, according to the custom of the ancient Britons, was one of the things laid in the tomb beside the dead body.

The Deer Dyke. An interesting object of great antiquity is the Deer Dyke, which surrounded and enclosed the Royal Hunting Park of the palace of Kincardine, and which included within its boundary the Hunter's hill, 600 feet high, the lands of Lammasmuir and Arnbarrow, with the hill above rising to the height of 1000 feet; also the lands of Bogendollo and the Garrol hill, 1000 feet in height. Its eastern boundary was formed in part by the rocky banks of the Knowgreen tributary of the Ferdur water. The northern boundary, in the valley behind Arnbarrow hill, is well defined by a stretch of the dyke which appears as a raised bank, very conspicuous to the eye, on the left of any one ascending the Cairn o' Mount high road. It runs westwards for a short distance, and again reappears crossing the head stream of the Garrol burn that divides the parishes of Fordoun and Fettercairn. Traces of the dyke appear behind the Garrol hill; and on the west side, at the source of the Crichie burn, alongside the Whitestone wood downwards till it disappears on reaching the arable lands above Fasque. Its length all round is not less than eight miles, and it encloses an area of about five square miles. Along the patches of boggy and grassy ground, as well as at the crossing of the burns, no trace of the dyke appears. A stockade of felled trees probably formed the fence, not only in the watery hollows, but more or less on the top of the dyke, as to the animals of the chase an ordinary bank would be no obstacle. We are not left to doubt as to its antiquity; for the old chroniclers relate that Kenneth III., who met his death at Fettercairn in 994, "lodged in his Castell of Fethircarne, where there was a forest full of all manner of wild beasts that were to be had in anie part of Albion." And in an account of the parish of Birse occurs the following:—"On part of the farms of Deerhillock and Kirkton, on the estate of Aboyne, and between the church and Marywell, there appears a narrow slip of ground which is said to have been fenced with a deer dyke by order of King Kenneth III., for confining deer to stock his park near his palace of Kincardine, in the brae of the Mearns." In the Exchequer Bolls an entry is recorded that, in the thirteenth century, when Alexander III. was king, a charge of seven merks was made for fencing "a new park" at Kincardine; but whether it was an addition to the Deer park, or what it was to enclose, is not known.


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