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Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social
(Second Series) Inverness-Shire, Parish by Parish
Chapter XXX. Moy and Dalarossie


THE population of this parish has been dwindling for some years, but it may be reasonably expected that with the opening of the railway to Aviemore, so unhappily delayed for so many years, a new era of life and prosperity will arise.

The parish has been essentially Mackintosh, the Chief alone having nearly 70,000 acres, including not only the upper and highest portion of the Findhorn and its tributaries, where the four parishes of Laggan, Boleskine, Kingussie, and Dalarossie meet, but also both sides of the Findhorn downwards, where the counties of Inverness and Nairn meet.

I will deal first with the small estate of Pollochaig, long the possession of a branch of the Macqueens of Corrybrough. The Macqueens were not only great sportsmen, but were supposed to be on familiar terms and intimate with witches and fairies. "Macqueen's candles" are old acquaintances of Strathdearn children. The following story about the origin of the decay of the Macqueens may be given :-

"John Dhu Macqueen of Pollochaig, generally called lain Dhu vic Coul (son of Dougal) was a famous sportsman and excellent marksman. It is said that he was upon a friendly footing with all the witches, fairies, and warlocks of his day, but more especially those in his own neighbourhood. He lived in the beginning of the 18th century, and had married Anne, sister of Laird Lachlan Mackintosh.

"At one time John went out to enjoy his favourite sport with the view if possible of killing a deer or mountain roe, and had gone a considerable way before he fell in with any. At last a roe appeared within easy shot. John tired, and down came the object of his day's work. He quickly vent up to the spot where the roe fell but it could not be found. Tho' he searched for several hundred yards round the place, the supposed dead roe was nowhere to be seen.

When John got home in the evening he told at his fireside what had happened him, and the hearers marvelled much, John being confident that he had killed the animal. Next morning he set off again to search at the place for the dead roe, but when at the very spot he met an old woman, who at once said to him, speaking in Gaelic, 'Black John, son of Dougall, take the lead out of my foot which you put into it yesterday. This he did accordingly and then asked her for a wish or blessing, which she pronounced in Gaelic, translated thusó'Your best day will be your worst day, and your worst day will be your best day.' Naturally disappointed, John asked for another, but she said she could not alter it. Had he requested it before he took out the lead it would have been different. It is said that no sooner had she finished than she vanished into air, and that it was one of the fairies or witches who had turned into the shape of a roe that John shot at and thought he had killed.

"From that time the family of Macqueen of Pollochaig began to fall off in their circumstances, and writing in Moy writer records that it is not long since they sold the estate, the paternal inheritance which had been in the family for nearly 300 years. Pollochaig, it is further noticed by the same writer, is a pretty Highland place. It lies at the top of the Streens on the river Findhorn, and from 3 to 5 miles below the inn of 1"reeburn. Some of John's successors are still alive (1820), and tell the story."

At one time the whole of Strathdearn in Inverness-shire was possessed by members of Clan Chattan, excepting Daltomich, belonging to the Earl of Moray, but even it was wadsetted to the Kellachie family.
The upper portion of Strathdearn, the home of the famous "pipers," even in these modern days, is occasionally tuned up with shrill effect. The great davoch of "Schevin," commonly called "Coignafearn," or the "Monalia," runs at the back of the parishes of Alvie, Kingussie, and Laggan, and of old the habitat of the red deer, famous when most modern forests were unknown, has again become a forest. It was let at the end of last century to the Black Officer of Ballochroan for fifty shillings of grazing rent. The last Duke of Gordon, when Marquis of Huntly, Lord Saltoun, and Fraser of Culduthel rented Coignafearn at £80 as shooting quarters. This nowadays would be laughed at, but at the time (1824) it exhilarated Alexander, then laird of Mackintosh, so much that he exclaimed in Gaelic, "A big rent for hens." The present rent of Coignafearn is £1000 per annum.

Strathdearn since the Highland road has been practically closed remained stagnant, with its population decaying, but is now certain to awake to vitality and prosperity. It is full of romance and interesting story, on which I do not at present enlarge. With the exception of Pollochaig, all Mackintosh's great possessions in the parish hold of the Crown properly, or as in the right of the Bishops of Moray. The rest of the parish holds of the Earl of Moray, Lord of Stratherne and of Petty.

The following anecdote, relating to one of the Borlums connected by marriage with Strathdearn, shows that expatriation did not quench the "native fires." Benjamin Mackintosh, natural son of Brigadier Mackintosh, emigrated with his wife, daughter of Mackintosh of Holm, and his family to America, where he became a distinguished officer, and conducted himself highly and honourably in the service of some of the American States. At one time he had occasion to go against a party of Red Indians, who annoyed Georgia. The Indians made their appearance at the edge of a wood, ready for the attack. Being much more numerous than Benjamin Mackintosh and his men, his negro servant called out, "Massa, massa, run or you will be killed by these savages." Benjamin Mackintosh merely said in reply, "You may run, but I come of a race that never ran." Assistance coming, the Indians decamped.

A further anecdote connected with Dalarossie. On one occasion eleven Camerons were passing down Strathdearn on a thieving expedition, travelling on the south or east side of the river Findhorn. The valley at this spot is narrow, and the sides of the river and neighbouring haughs were then covered with wood. A man named Mackintosh, living at Daltomich, on the north or west side of the river, an excellent bowman, observed them going along on the opposite side, and having a grudge against them for a previous injury, went down to ft wooded haughs near the river and killed three of them with the arrow at Craig Allister, and the survivors could not see, with the wood, from whence the arrows came, he being on the north side of the river. He fired his arrows generally through every opening in the wood he could find, and in this manner he alone killed the whole eleven. The last fell at a small well in the bank of the river below the new house of Dalmigavie, since known by the name of "Fuaran Cameronich." All were killed within the space of two miles.


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