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Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social
(Second Series) Inverness-Shire, Parish by Parish
Chapter XXIX. Duthil


JOHN BEG MACANDREW AND SOME OF HIS EXPLOITS.

THE greater part of this parish lay within the lordship of Badenoch and was, and I believe is, held in feu by the Grants, of the Gordons.

The upper part of the strath of Dulnan is very beautiful, but for a long time, from its inaccessibility, little known. The highest dwelling presently is at Eil, while at one time, people lived as high up as the lands behind Dellifour and Raitts hill grounds. When the railway through Duthil, Strathdearn, and Strathnairn is made, I anticipate that Strath Dulnan will be opened up and become an important fishing centre, and the whole country wakened up from the torpor following upon the virtual disuse by strangers of the Highland Road between Inverness and Kingussie.

Glencharnich is the cradle of the Grants, and broad as their borders extend, it is still essentially their duchus.

The caterans of the west returning from their forays went by the valleys of the Dulnan or Findhorn, as they found most convenient, and the remains of their tracks, "Rathaid na mearlach," can still to some extent be traced.

In the Commissary Court Records are to be found names of some of the family of John Beg MacAndrew, Dalnahatnich, establishing that this person, regarding whom so many startling traditions, chiefly connected with the Lochaber raiders, existed.

I cannot do better than give a fuller account than perhaps has yet appeared of one of the bloodiest and latest of these affrays, as written about a hundred years ago, when the story was a common one among the dwellers along the banks of the Findhorn and Dulnan.

The last creach or the lifting of cattle to any extent which occurred in the county happened prior to or about 1670, and was committed by Macdonell of Achluachrach, in Lochaber, and a party of twelve men. It was then the custom in the Highlands that a man of any consequence, before his marriage, should take a creach, or commit some other equally daring deed. Achluachrach was engaged to be married, and accordingly he set off with a party to carry one of these attempts into execution. They fell upon the lands of Kilravock and drove away the cattle of the Baron and his tenants, in the course of one night. The low country people rose in a body and pursued, but being overcome by fatigue they obtained the assistance of those of the Braes of Strathnairn and Strathdearn to follow up the pursuit, headed by William Mackintosh of Kellachie, commonly called "William Maclachlan," who at that time was the Captain Freiceadan, or Captain of the Watch, from the march of Lochaber to the River Spey, and he was accompanied by his faithful attendant on such occasions, John beg MacAndrew, in Dalnahatnich, on Dulnan-side, an active man, of small stature, and an excellent bowman.

The robbers had settled for the night in a small hut or bothy in the heights of Strathdearn and the Glen of "Croclach." Here they had lighted a fire and killed one of the cattle for provisions. One of them, the Gille Maol Dhu, was picking the shoulder blade, and, observing by the light of the fire drops of blood in the bones, he remarked to his companions that he was sure their followers would soon be up on them and that they would all be killed. They did not, however, attend to his prediction, but so strongly was he impressed with what he had seen that he made his escape. They had left the hide of the animal killed by them outside the hut.

Kellachie and his party, suspecting that the robbers would take shelter here, made for the place, and having seen the cattle near it, they prepared their plan of attack. John Mac Andrew placed the hide (which was in a bundle) with the hairy part towards the ground, at the door of the bothy, with the side towards the flesh facing upwards. An arrow was then thrown into the hut. Achluachrach came out, and falling upon the hide, which was slippery, instantly received an arrow from Mac Andrew, which killed him. Kellachie killed the next that came out, and then by a shower of arrows poured into the hut at the door, window, and some holes, all the band were killed. And the Gille Maol Dhu, who escaped, was the bearer of the news to the bride, who must have been waiting with anxiety the return of her betrothed. The stolen booty was thus redeemed and restored to the Baron of Kilravock. The dead bodies were afterwards buried by their own countrymen, who came for the purpose, and the graves are still to be seen, it is said that one of the Strathdearn men went next day to the scene of action and saw one of the robbers who had crawled out of the bothy, half dead in quest of water. He asked the man as a favour to give him a drink either in his bonnet or in his shoe, but such was the spirit of revenge that, as the Strathdearn man was handing him the water, he attempted to stab him with his dirk.

In general there was an understanding amongst those who pursued these marauders that their names should not be mentioned upon any occasion when within hearing of their opponents, but more particularly in a night attack. This precaution was necessary for the purpose, if possible, of preventing the robbers or those of them that might escape, or their friends, from afterwards coming and attacking in revenge any of the pursuers (in their houses when unprotected), at that time a common practice with Highlanders.

Upon the above occasion Kellachie forgot the usual precaution, and when Achluachrach was killed by Mac Andrew he called out, on account of his dexterity, "WelI done John Mac Andrew in Dalnahatnich," and when Kellachie had killed another John said, "Well done William Maclachlan of Kellachie, your hand is equally sure when you have the opportunity." This was to show the Lochaber men that John had a good protector. But some of Achluachrach's friends soon came after poor John, when he made a singular escape at his own door, through the cleverness of his wife.

John beg Mac Andrew, who resided at Dalnahatnich, on Dulnan side, was a man of low stature, but uncommonly active and of a bold and daring mind. He was an excellent marksman, particularly with the arrow, and William Mackintosh of Kellachie, while Captain of the Watch of the whole land from the borders of Lochaber to the River Spey at Fochabers, seldom would go to the field against the foe, without the assistance of his faithful friend John, their principal expeditions being the guarding of the country people against the invasion of the Lochaber gentry.

Always on these occasions it was a necessary precaution for the pursuers never to mention their own names in cases of night attacks upon the freebooters, as should any of the latter be killed, the attacked would not know by whom the deed was done, and thereby the friends of the deceased could not show their revenge by coming after them.

John's name, however, was discovered on several occasions, and thus in such constant danger that at night he generally betook himself to a very large fir tree, which grew near his house. Here he had a kind of bed made of its branches, his bed-fellows being his bow and arrows. Shortly after his return from one expedition, where the Lochaber men suffered, particularly by his hand, three of their number and friends came upon the "Toir" or Search after John, in order to be revenged for his killing their kinsmen. These three men entered John's house and asked his wife "if John MacAndrew was at home." Her answer was, "that he was not far away, and that if they would sit down it would not be long until he came back." She knew well the errand they were upon, and appearing as if in a rage she said in Gaelic to a little figure lying upon the bed, "Get out you little rascal and see that the cattle are put out ere your master comes home." This was no other than John himself, who had a red plaid wrapped round him, and although he passed the men in the house on his way towards the door, they never took him to be the object of their journey. John having got safely out, he went to a small window or aperture in the west end of the house, and his wife, being there waiting, handed out to him his bow and arrows. Without loss of time John took possession of his favourite tree and prepared for the future. One of the men soon came outside to see if he could observe John coming home, when he was instantly killed by an arrow. The others coming out to see what detained their companion were also shot down.

It is said that on another occasion John killed seven men, and as none of these seven, or of the three previously mentioned, ever returned to tell tales, John was afterwards left at peace by the Lochaber men, dying in his bed, fortified by the approval of the church.


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