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Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times and Other Papers
Chapter II. The “Water-Poet’s” visit to the castle in 1618—Capture of the castle in 1647—The Macphersons and the wars of Montrose—Men of Badenoch arraigned by Synod of Moray


IN 1618 Ruthven Castle was visited by the eccentric genius, John Taylor, the so-called Water-Poet, and the author of a curious pamphlet entitled, ‘The olde, olde, very olde Man; or, The Age and Long Life of Thomas Parr.’ Taylor had come to Scotland at the same time as Ben Jonson did, with the design of proving whether he could peregrinate beyond the Tweed without money—a question which he solved in the affirmative, as vouched by his well-known ‘ Pennyless Pilgrimage.’ He found his “approved good friend” Jonson living with Mr John Stuart at Leith, and received from him a gold piece of the value of 22s., a solid proof of the kind feelings of honest Ben towards his brethren of Parnassus. Crossing the Grampians in the train of the Earl of Mar, who had equipped him in the Highland garb, in which he would, no doubt, cut a remarkable figure, Taylor passed into Badenoch, and paid a short visit to Ruthven Castle. After minutely describing a hunting expedition in the Braes of Mar, and the “good cheere” with which he had been entertained, Taylor proceeds :—

“Thus having spent certaine dayes in hunting in the Brea of Marr, wee went to the next county called Bagenoch belonging to the Earle of Engie, where having such sport and entertainement as wee formerly had after foure or five dayes pastime, wee tooke leave of hunting for that yeere; and tooke our journey toward a strong house of the Earles, called Ruthven in Bagenoch, where my Lord of Engie and his noble Countesse (being daughter to the Earle of Argile) did give us most noble welcome three dayes.

“From thence we went to a place called Ballo Castle,1 a faire and stately house, a worthie gentleman being the owner of it, called the Laird of Grant; his wife being a gentlewoman honourably descended, being sister to the right honourable Earle of Atholl, and to Sir Patricke Murray, Knight; she being both inwardly and outwardly plentifully adorned with the gifts of grace and nature; so that our cheere was more then sufficient and yet much lesse then they could affoord us. There stayed there foure dayes, foure Earles, one Lord, divers knights and gentlemen, and their servants, footmen, and horses; and every meale foure longe tables furnished with all varieties. Our first and second course being threescore dishes at one boord; and after that alwayes a banquet; and there if I had not forsworne wine till I came to Edenborough, I thinke I had there dranke my last.

“The fifth day with much adoe we gate from thence to Tarnaway, a goodly house of the Earle of Murrayes, where that right honourable Lord and his Lady did welcome us foure days more. There was good cheere in all variety, with somewhat more then plenty for advantage; for indeed the countie of Murray is the most pleasant and plentifull countrey in all Scotland; being plaine land that a coach may be driven more then foure and thirtie miles one way in it alongst by the sea-coast.

“From thence I went to Elgen in Murray, an ancient citie where there stood a faire and beautifull church with three steeples, the walls of it and the steeples all yet standing ; but the roofes, windowes, and many marble monuments and toombes of honourable and worthie personages all broken and defaced: this was done in the time when ruine bare rule, and Knox knock’d downe churches.

“From Elgen we went to the Bishop of Murray his house which is called Spinye, or Spinaye; a reverend gentleman he is, of the noble name of Dowglasse, where wee were very well welcomed as befitted the honour of himselfe and his guests.

“From thence wee departed to the Lord Marquesse of Huntleyes, to a sumptuous house of his, named the Bogg of Geethe,4 where our entertainement was like himselfe free, bountifull, and honourable. There (after two dayes stay) with much entreatie and earnest suite, I gate leave of the Lords to depart towards Edenborough; the noble Marquesse, the Earle of Marr, Murray, Engie, Bughan, and the Lord Erskin; all these, I thanke them, gave me gold to defray my charges in my journey.”

So much, indeed, was the “ pennyless ” Waterman impressed with the liberality of the people that he exclaims :—

“Yet (arm’d with truth) I publish with my pen,
That there th’ Almighty doth his blessings heape
In such aboundant food for beasts and men,
That I ne’er saw more plenty or more cheape.”

In 1647 the castle was captured from the Marquis of Huntly by General David Leslie. The’ Marquis then disbanded his forces in Badenoch, reserving only a few as a body-guard for himself and his son, “showing them that he was resolved to live an outlaw till provident Heaven should be pleased to change the king’s fortune, upon whose commandments his life and fortune should always depend.” By an Act of the Scots Parliament in 1647, it is declared that “the wadset of the lordship to the Marquis of Argyll and the Earl of Southesk was not to be prejudiced by the forfeiture of the Marquis of Huntly.” In the subsequent battles and expeditions of Montrose on behalf of the king, the Macphersons, with Ewen Macpherson, younger of Cluny, at their head, took a prominent and active part. “Though the Mackintoshes as a body,” we are told, “remained at home,” the Macphersons flocked to the banner of the clan under the leadership of young Cluny, who held the rank of colonel in Montrose’s army, and “did comand the hale of the men of Badzenoche.” On the ascendancy of Cromwell, young Cluny and a large number of his clan, although they had been loyally engaged on the side of the king, were arraigned as “bloody enemies” by the Synod of Moray at Forres for taking part in what the Synod termed “ the rebellione.” Here are full transcripts from the Synod records of the proceedings on the occasion :—

“At Forres, the 12 of Jcinudr 1648, Sess. zd in the afternoon.

“After incalling the name of God, and a roll of those of Badyenoche who were engaged in the rebellione, given in be Dougall mcPhersone, Captain of the Castle of Rivven, who were cited to this dyet—Compered Ewen mcPhersone of Clunie and t:<?/zfessed he did joyne with Alaster mcDonald, James Grahame, and the late marquies Huntlye in rebellione; That he was at the fight of Tippermuire and Aberdene, in which he did comand the hale of the men of Badzenoche, as also hade the same comand under the late marquis of Huntlye ; At the directione of the Ld Gordoun he raised fyre at Dacus and was in service at the siege of Lethen.

“Donald mcPhersone, sonne to the guidman of Noid, Compered and cewfessed he was in the rebellione foresaid; At the battle of Afurd, with the marquies of Huntlye in Murray, at the siege of Lethen, and at the persewing of Aberdene.

“Lachlane mcintosche of Kincraig cewfessed he was in the late rebellione; at the siege of St Jonstoune, and with the late marquies of Huntlye in Murray.

“Lachlane mcPhersone of Delfure cewfessed he joyned in the late rebellione, was at the fight of St Johnstone, Auldearne, Alfurd, and qll the late marquies of Huntlye was beseiging Lethen.

“William mcPhersone in Pitchyrne confessed he had his hand in the rebellione, was at the siege of St Jonstoune, Aberdene, and Kilsythe, and a night at Lethen. Donald mcQueen of Dunachtine confessed he was in the rebellione at the fight of Afurd and besieging of Lethen.

“James mcintosche of Strone confessed he was brought against his will to the siege of Lethen. Angus mcintosche, portioner of Bannachar, confessed he was joyned in the rebellione, and in abscence of the guidman of Stroane was Captain over the mcintosches at the retreat at Inverness, at the siege of Lethen, and at the battle of Afurd and St Jonstoune.

“Williame mcPhersone in Pitmeane confessed he joyned with the enemies at the fights of Kilsythe and Afurd, and was at the siege of Lethen.

“Williame mcPhersone in Bannachar confessed he joyned with the enemies at the battells of St Jonstoune and Afurd, and the onfall at Aberdene.

“Williame mcPhersone in Boilid moir confessed he was in the rebellione, at the intaking of Aberdene, in Murray at Lethen, and with the late marqueis in rebellione since the remissione.

“Angus mcPhersone in the bray of Badyenoche confessed his rebellione, that he was at the fight of St Jonstoune, at the falling in on Aberdene, and also at Lethen.

“Johne mcPhersone in Boilid more confessed, he was joyned in the rebellione at the fight of St Jonstoune, the intaking of Aberdene, and with the fd marqueis in Murray.

“Hutchone mcPhersone in Bracachie confessed he was in the rebellione at the Intaking of Aberdene wl the fd marqueis at Lethen, and in ye late rebellione at Craigall.

“Sorle mcPhersone in Nyssintilloche confessed he was in Murray at Lethen.

“Alexander mcPherson in Crobinbeg confessed he was in the rebellione at the fights of St Johnstoune, Aberdene, and Afurd, and at Leathen.

“William mcPhersone in Crobinbeg confessed he was at the fight of St Jonstoune, the intaking of Aberdene, in Murray at Lethen, and with the oftin fd marqueis in the last rebellione.

“Malcome mcPhersone of Phones confessed he did meet with the enemies, bot was never at a fight with them.

“Donald mcPhersone appeirand of Phones confessed he was at the fight of Auldearne, at the intaking of Aberdene, and in Murray at Lethen, as also wc ye fd marqueis since the pacificacione wl ye states.

“Thomas mcPhersone of Etteris confessed he was at the fight of Afurd, the intaking of Aberdene, and at Leathen, did subscryve papers at the fd marqueis desyre, and was in the last rebellione.

“Jhone mcPhersone of Innerawin confessed he was at the fights of St Jonstoune and Aberdene and Afurd; at the intaking of Aberdene, and in Murray at Leathen.

“Alaster mcPhersone in Riven confessed he was onlie with the enemies and Murray at Leathen.

“Thomas mcPhersone of Innertromie confessed he was at the fights of St Jonstoune, Aberdene, and Afurd; at the intaking of Aberdene, at Lethen, and in Craigall in the last rebellione.

“Malcome mcPhersone in Bellinespick confessed he was at the fights of St Jonstoune, the intaking of Aberdene, and in Murray at Leathen.

“James mcintosche in Kinrara confessed he was at the bloodie fights of St Jonstoune, Auldearne, and intaking of Aberdene, and hade the office of Comissary in Murray at Leathen, and was captaine somtyme under the guidman of Stroane.

“Donald mcPhersone in Presmukkarach confessed being drawn hither against his will; he was at ye intaking of Aberdene, and at Lethen.

James Shaw in Dunachtan-beg confessed he was at the fight of Jonstoune, the intaking of Aberdene, and at Lethen.

“Donald mcJames mcintosche confessed he was at the fights of St Jonstoune and Afurd, and at the intaking of Aberdene.

“Januar 13, 1648.

“After incalling the name of God, the malignants of Badyenoche compertmd. they might receive thair censure according to the measure of thair guilt, were classed as follows :—

“L.-Coll. Ewen mcPhersone; James mcintosche, a Comisary; Captaine Thomas mcPhersone of Innertromie; Captaine Donald mcPhersone, fear of Phones; Angus mcintosche in Bannachar, Captaine in abscence of Stroane. The abouenamed for a part of thair censure were ordained to tak on sackloth, which they did accordinglie, acknowledging their heartie sorrow upon thair knees, willinglie subscryved the rwzfessione emitted be the comission of the gene rail Assemblie at Aberdene, as they were ordained, and solmnlie promised in tyme coming to amend thair former miscariage.

“Lachlane mcPhersone of Delfoure; Williame nrcPhersone of Pitchryne; Donald mcQuein in Dunachten; Williame mcPhersone in Pitmeane; Williame mcPhersone in Bannachar; Angus mcPhersone in ye bray of Badzenoch ; Jhone mcPhersone in Boilid moir; Alexander mcPhersone in Crobinbeg; Jhone mcPher-sone in Innerawin; Malcome mcPhersone, Bellinespick; Donald mcPhersone,

Presmukkarach; James Shaw in Dunaghtan-beg; Donald mcJames mcintosche. These, in respect they were not leaders bot joyned in ye rebellione under the comand of others, yrfor were ordained in thair owne habits on thair knees to acknowledge thair deep sorrow and humiliatione for thair rebellione, and to confess thair earnest purpose and resolution to amend and refrain from such wicked Courses in tyme coming, and presentlie subscryve this fd confessione composed be the comission of ye getterall Assemblie at Aberdene; which all they did according to the ordinances, and such of them as could not subscryve themselves gaue comand by touching the pen to the Clerk of ye Assemblie to subscryve for them.

“Donald mcPhersone, Neede; Lachlane mcintosche of Kincraig; Sorle mcPhersone in Nyssentulloche; Alexander mcPhersone in Riven ; and Donald mcPherson in Presmukkarach, being found less malicious than the former, acknowledged thair faults ut supra, were ordained to subscryve the aboue-mentioned confession, which accordinglie was done, and to mak thair publick repentance in their own paroche kirk.

“Jhone mcGregor Roy, Alexander mcLeane, Alexr mcPhersone in Kingusie-beg, and Callum mcKoule mcean, having hand both in the first and last rebellione, and being absent from this meeting without excuse, The Presbyterie of Abirloure ordained to process them with all the deligence they can use, and Intimation is ordained to be made in all Paroche churches of yis province that none receive them.

“James mcintosche of Stroane, and Malcome mcPhersone of Phones, being found of anie others in Badyenoche least guiltie of complyance and joyning with the enemies, were graulie admonished to look narrowlie to thair ways in time coming, and to mak thair repentance in thair paroche kirk.

“James mcPhersone, fear of Ardbrylache, and Alexander mcintosche of Kinrara, thair absence was excused in respect they ar in Edinburgh.

“Angus mcintosche of Gargask; Bane mcPhersone of Stramassie; Ewen mcPhersone of Corie-earnisdeall, being detained in Ruthven as pledges, thair absence also excused.

“Andrew mcPhersone of Clunie; Angus mcPhersone of Inneressie ; Johne mcPhersone in Druminard; Jhone mcPhersone of Neede; Alexander mcintosche in Pittourie, excused for thair ages and inabilitie to travell.

“Donald mcPherson of Dunachtan moir, and Angus mcintosche in Eister-reate, thair abscence also excused becaus of thair present sickness.

“Alexander Gordoune in Rait; Lachlane mcintosche in Pittourie; Donald mcPhersone in Oevie; Jhone mcPherson of Crathicroy; Ewen mcPhersone of Tirfadowne; Williame Shaw in Belnastl; Jhone mcPhersone in Sherabeg; Jhone mcintosche in Crathimoir; Malcome mcPhersone in Kingusie; Williame Gordon in Kingusie beg; Farqr mchomach, yr; Andrew mcPhersone in Need; Jhone and James mcPhersones in Innermarkie; Donald mcPhersone in Dunachtan-moir; and Malcome mcPhersone in Pytchirne, being absence without excuse, together with all others not now censured, were referred to the Presbyterie of Abirloure to process and censure them as they sal be answerable to ye provinciall next.

“L.-Coll. Ewen mcPhersone; James mcintosche, Comisaryj Thomas mcPher-sone of Innertromie, a Captaine and in ye last rebellione; Donald mcPhersone of fiar of Phonas, and a Captaine and in ye last rebellione; Angus mcintosche, also a Captaine; Lachlane mcPhersone of Delfoure; William mcPhersone, Pitchyrnej William mcPhersone in Bannacharj and Jhone mcPhersone in Innernahaan, having confessed they were with the enemies at the fight of Auldearne, Theirfor were ordained first to mak thair repentance in sackcloth in the kirk of Auldearne, where Mr William Falconer is appoynted to preache Sunday next for that end. Donald mcQuein in Dunachten ; William mcPhersone in Pitmeane ; Angus mcPherson in the bray of Badzenochej Jhone mcPhersone, Boelid-moir; Alexr mcPhersone in Crobinbeg; Malcome mcPhersone in Bellinespick ; Donald mcPherson in Presmukkarach; James Shaw in Dunachten; and Donald mcJames mcintosche, being found also to haue joyned with the enemies in bloodie fights, were ordained Sunday next to mak thair repentance in sackcloth in the kirk of Caddell: Thairafter thir, together with the rest of the bloodie enemies, sail com-peir befr the Presbyterie of Abirlour and acknowledge thair guiltiness ; and uppone the saxt day of Februar next they ar ordained to mak thair repentance in the Kirk of Kingusie, and Mr Lachlane Grant and Maister 'Williame Fraser appoynted to preach there that day and receive them 3 and in case either of these two be sick, power is given to Mr Jhone Annand to direct either Mr Patrick Dunbar or Mr Alexr Ros to supplie thair vice, and after thair repentance they are ordained to subscryve the covenant and league at Kingusie.”

In 1649 the castle was captured by a force under the command of Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine. The same year the Scots Parliament made a grant of 500 Scots to Evan Macpherson of Cluny and Lauchlan Macpherson, in consideration of their losses caused by the invasion of Badenoch by the Laird of Pluscardine. An Act was also passed regarding the garrison under the charge of Lieutenant-Colonel James Menzies, the monthly pay of the garrison being then 300. In 1650 “ thirty men of the Marquis of Argyll’s Regiment were appointed to be left in the Ruthven of Badenoch ; ” and by a subsequent Act of the same year the forces raised in Badenoch were to be commanded by the Laird of Lochiel, Dougall Macpherson, and the Laird of Macintosh or Lauchlan Macintosh. In July 1657 one company of foot formed the garrison.

After the battle of Worcester and the flight of King Charles II., Ruthven Castle was garrisoned by the English. In 1653 the Earl of Glencairn, who had taken up arms in the cause of the Royalists, was lying in Cromar when Colonel Morgan, who was at the time in Aberdeen, having made an attack on them, obliged them to retreat through a long narrow glen leading to the forest of Abernethy, when Morgan, overtaken by night, desisted. Glencairn remained in Badenoch for about five weeks, till he was joined by Lorn and a large gathering; but Lorn had scarcely remained a fortnight when he left the army, together with his men, and took the way to Ruthven Castle on New-Year’s Day 1654. Glengarry was despatched either to bring them back, or to attack them in case of refusal. He came up with them within half a mile of the castle. Lorn and most of his horse escaped, but the foot halted on a hill, beat a parley, and offered to return. They laid down their arms, took an oath to serve the king, but within another fortnight they had all disappeared!

“After Worcester, Cromwell’s soldiers overran the greater part of Scotland, and ruled the country, establishing, among other garrisons, one at Inverness—at the Citadel or Sconce—and another at Brahan. Certain Highland chiefs, however, including Lochiel and Glengarry, still held out for the Stewarts, and when the Earl of Glencairn raised the royal standard in 1653, they hastened to join him. Glencairn wasted time in aimless marches, and before long he had to yield the chief command to the more energetic General Middleton. Lilburne, who commanded Cromwell’s forces in Scotland, proved, notwithstanding the famous Colonel Morgan’s assistance, unable to suppress the Royalist rising. Cromwell, therefore, resolved to put a stronger man in his place, and in April 1654 Monck arrived at Dalkeith in the capacity of Governor of Scotland, and armed with the fullest powers. He at once prepared to follow the Royalists into the Highlands. In May he moved to Stirling, from whence he advanced into the district of Aberfoyle, where, after repeated repulses, he dispersed the forces of Glencairn. He then marched northward to meet Middleton, having arranged that he should be joined by Morgan, who was stationed at Brahan, and by Colonel Brayne, who was despatched to bring 2000 men from Ireland to Inverlochy. His movements were extraordinarily rapid. He started from St Johnstone’s [Perth] on Friday, 9th June, with a force of horse and foot, which included his own regiment, now the famous Coldstream Guards.” 1

Here is the despatch which Monck addressed to Cromwell from Ruthven Castle in July 1654:—

“May itt please Your Highnesse,—

“Wee are now returned back thus farre after the Enemy under Middleton, who by a teadious march have harras’t out their horse very much; both Highlanders and Lowlanders begin to quitt them. They are now about Dunkell, but wee heare they intend to march towards the Head of Lough-Lomond. Wee shall doe our best to overtake them in the Reare, or putt them to a very teadious march, the which wee hope will utterlie breake them. I desire your Highnesse will be pleased to give order That care may bee taken that the Irish forces that are att Loughaber may continue there, for a yeare: I finde they are very unwilling, being they were promist (as they say) to returne within 3 or 4 monthes; but being that providence hath ordered That that partie should come into those parts itt will bee a great deale of trouble to shippe them away, and to shippe other men to Releive them in that place; and truly the place is of that Consequence for the keeping of a garrison there for the destroying of the stubbornest enemy wee have in the Hills, that of the Clan Cameron’s and Glengaries, and the Earle of Seafort’s people, that wee shall not bee able to doe our worke unlesse wee continue a garrison there for one yeare; For in case we should withdraw that Garrison towards the winter from thence, these 3 clans doe soe over awe the rest of the clans of the Country that they would bee able to inforce them to rise, in case wee should withdraw our garrisons, and nott find them imployment att home the next Summer before there will be any grasse for us to subsist in the Hills : In case we should putt in some of our owne forces there and return the others into Ireland wee shall not have shipping to doe both, besides the unsetling of one and setling the other will be a great inconvenience to us : This I thought fitt humbly to offer to your Highnesse, concerning which I shall humbly desire to have your Highnesse speedy Answer what you intend to doe with the Irish forces, and in case you doe intend the Irish forces shall stay there, I desire you will please to write to L. Col. Finch who commands the Irish Forces under Col. Brayne that they may stay there, for I finde they are something unwilling unless they putt your Highnesse to that trouble, and therefore now the letter may be speeded to him as soone as may be if your Highnesse thinke fitt. Col. Morgan is att present about ye Bray of Marre, and Col. Twisleton neere Glasgowe with Col. Pride’s Regiment.—I remain, &c., George Monck.

“Campe at Ruthven in Badenoch,

7th July 1654.”

In the narrative of Monck’s “Proceedings in the Hills from June 9 to 29 July 1654,” it is stated that “the Enemy having quitt Garth Castle, a small Castle and nott considerable, leaving 30 armes (most charged) behinde them, order was given for the burning of itt. From thence I marched to Ruthven in Badgenoth, where I had notice of Middleton’s being with his whole force about Glengaries Bounds, which hasten’d my March the 20th to Cluny, and from thence the next day to Glenroy, which being the first Bounds of the Clan Camerons I quarter’d att, and they being uppe in armes against us, wee began to fire all their houses. I had there notice Middleton was in Kintale.”


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