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History of Loch Kinnord
Chapter VIII. Civil War, to 1645 A.D.


The Aboyne Peerage, with the holders of which the Castle of Loch Kinnord and surrounding lands are henceforth mainly associated, took its rise in 1627, when King Charles L, by letters patent, created Lord John Gordon, second son of the 1st Marquis of Huntly, Viscount op Melgum and Lord Aboyne. But the young Lord did not long enjoy his new title, having been burnt to death in the house of Irendraught, in October, 1630; and with his death the peerage became extinct.

Two years after a new peerage was created by patent, dated at Whitehall, 20th April, 1632, reciting that "We being informed of the lamentable death of the late Viscount of Melgum, and well knowing the good service performed to us by his elder brother, George, Lord Gordon, and being willing that the fonner title of Viscount should be revived in the family, &c." The patent then proceeds in due form to create George, Lord Gordon, eldest son of the (1st) Marquis of Huntly, Visoount op Aboyne, during the life of his father, with a limiting clause to the effect that, should he survive his father, and succeed to the Marquisate, the title of Viscount of Aboyne should then descend to his second son, James, and his heirs male bearing the name of Gordon. On the decease of his father, the 1st Marquis of Huntly, in 1636, he did succeed to the estates and honours, and the Aboyne Peerage descended in terms of the patent to his second son, James, who now became Second Viscount op Aboyne. He may be said to have been a man of war from his youth, for scarcely had he succeeded to the peerage when he had to draw the sword, as leader of the clan in defence of the King against the Parliament. His father and elder brother being then prisoners in Edinburgh, he mustered their vassals for the purpose of repelling an invasion of their lands by the Earl of Montrose. A battle took place at Bridge of Dee near Aberdeen, 19th June, 1639, in which Aboyne was defeated, and whence he soon afterwards escaped by sea into England; "And to the king goes he."

A lull now occurred in the military operations of both parties, during which the Marquis and Lord Gordon were liberated from their imprisonment in Edinburgh Castle; but it'was only the calm before the storm. The House of Huntly was at this time unusually strong in military talent; but it had also unusual difficulties to contend with. The clan was by far the most powerful in the north, but then the whole military strength of the south and west was arrayed against it; and though the chief and his four eldest sons were able commanders, they were seldom all agreed in counsel, and often acted in opposition to each other. With such sources of internal weakness in the presence of watchful and powerful enemies, the house of Gordon could not stand; and so it proved.

Hostilities were renewed in the north by the Marquis of Argyle, who, under pretence of putting down some Highland marauders, invaded the lands of Lochaber and Badenoch. "This done, he disbands his army and comes down Deeside, about twelve hundred men, but what order he took of the broken men, oppressors of the country, was not mickle heard of; so forward was he for the Covenant." This was the first visit Deeside had the honour of receiving from the Argyleshire men during these troubles, and it occurred in the month of June or July, 1640. There was little damage done to the Gordon lands by this invasion. The two great lords, Huntly and Argyle, were as yet on good terms, and brothers-in-law, Huntly having married Argyle's eldest sister, so there was no "spuilzie" committed this time.

Next year, 1641, a great calamity befell the Huntly property on Deeside. The fine mansion which the late Marquis had built at Kandychyle (Dee Castle) for his summer residence in these parts had been let to a military officer of the name of Garden, who had been stationed here with some soldiers to take order with the broken men. Whether it was through the negligence of Garden, or as some with better reason suppose, by the hands of these broken men, who naturally desired to be quit of his presence, certain it is that "upon the night of the 23rd of March, the place of Kandychyle, by a sudden fire was recklessly burnt and destroyed, and the haill plenishing consumed to the Marquis's great skaith." Huntly was not disposed quietly to submit to this great loss in whatever way the fire might have originated; and "Crowner (Major) Garden was compelled to agree and pay the Marquis" for the damage his mansion had sustained. Kandychyle was not again rebuilt till after the troublous times of the Civil War were ended, soon after which it again appears, though only as a shooting box, the old Castle having become a ruin.

Three years later, namely in 1644, the two great parties, Covenanters and anti-Covenanters, having become irreconcilable enemies to each other, both prepared to draw the sword in terrible earnest. Huntly, holding the Koyal Commission of Lieutenancy of the north, assumed the command of the latter, and set vigorously about marshalling his vassals and clan for the coming struggle. For this purpose he came to Deeside, and fixed his headquarters at Aboyne. We may form some idea of the power of the Gordons at this time, when we learn that their chief, at the great gathering of the clan on this occasion, "came from Aboyne, where he had many Highlandmen and footmen there, and in the country about, attending his service. He came to Aberdeen with about two hundred horse and eight hundred foot, which were reckoned in the Links when they were drilled." Spalding, the contemporary historian, adds that "he had few commanders besides himself, Crowner King, and Major Nathaniel Gordon." If the reader should ask where were his brave sons, we have to answer that his eldest son and heir, the Lord Gordon, was with the Covenanters; the second son, James, Viscount Aboyne, was with the king in England; the third son, Lewis, had terribly offended his father, who refused to repose any trust in him ; and the fourth, Charles, who many years after became 1st Earl of Aboyne, was a young lad at school in Aberdeen.

On the approach of an army 6,000 strong, led by the Marquis of Argyle, the Earl Marischal, and the Lord Gordon, Huntly disbanded his followers, and retired, first to Strathbogie, and afterwards to a lonely isle in Strathnaver, in the extreme north-west of Sutherlandshire, where he lay concealed for a long time. " Meanwhile there came to Cromar-Braes, Aboyne, Strachan, and the countries about, eight hundred High-landmen of Argyleshire, where they had an allowance ilk day, to be taken off the country, of twenty-four bolls meal, an hundred and twenty wedders, and (many) marts, with sixty dollars of money. They took up the rents and monies, and lived upon the Marquis of Huntly's lands in Cromar, Glenmuick, and Glentanar, f rae their incoming, whilk was upon the day of May to the 3rd day of June." They did not, however, leave on the 3rd of June, as had at fiist been intended, but continued to infest the country for a month longer. Spalding's account of their conduct, though a little prolix, is graphic:"Argyle's Highlandmen, called the Cleansers, lay in Birse, Cromar, Glentanar, Glenmuck, Abergeldie, Aboyn, and other places about, where indeed they cleansed all frae their coming there, which was upon the day of May till the 1st of July, then they departed, leaving only behind them a captain with eighty soldiers. This regiment of Argyle's men was counted eight hundred footmen, with their commanders; they neither spared Covenanter nor anti-Covenanter, minister nor kick. The haill country people filed that could flee, and left their houses desolate. They plundered and spoilzied the house of Aboyne and the house of Abergeldie, with their ground ; they spoilzied and plundered the haill Birse, Cromar, Glentanar, Glen-muick, and left neither horse, sheep, nolt, ky, nor four-footed beast in all these brave countries ; nor victuals, corn, goods, or gear that they might lay their hands upon; and seeing they could not live longer in these harried bounds, they got orders and moved home upon the foresaid 1st of July (1644)."

During the next month a split took place among the Covenanters. They had already been diverging into two parties, whom we may call the Moderates and the Radicals. At the head of the former was Montrose, and at the head of the latter, which was the stronger party, was Argyle. The Lord Gordon strongly sympathised with the opinions of Montrose, but he was for some time restrained from taking part with him by the influence which his uncle, Argyle, possessed over him. When the rupture could no longer be avoided, Montrose hastily broke with the party and went over to the king, by whom he was graciously received and appointed his lieutenant in Scotland. Viscount Aboyne, as already stated, was also at Court; and it is likely that he and Montrose concerted the plan of a rising in the Highlands. The Gordons were now without a head, but their fiery spirits could not brook the daily insults and spoilzies to which they were subjected, and no sooner did Montrose set up the Eoyal Standard than they hastened, though in detached and independent parties, to join him. In consequence of this the Lords of the Covenant issued an order for the demolition of the castles and houses belonging to such of the clan as were suspected or known to be anti-Covenanters. Among these are mentioned Abergeldie, Aboyne, Whitehouse in Cromar, and Auchterfoul (now Wester Coull), "which by the Parliament were ordained to be casten down to the ground;" "yet it pleased God that the houses were not casten down but yet stand still."

Montrose being now at the head of a considerable body of troops marched northward, while the covenanting, or parliamentary army, lying at Aberdeen, under command of Argyle, Marischal, and the Lord Gordon, prepared to dispute the passage of the Dee. The wary Montrose, however, gave them the slip, crossed the Dee at Crathes, and marched boldly into the heart of the Gordon lands, taking care that his soldiers should commit no act of spoliation or oppression. Argyle and his company followed at the head of a superior force, but always at a safe distance from the enemy; and in this way the two armies passed through the Garioch, Strathbogie, and Speyside. Here Argyle lost sight of his foe, who next appeared in the Carse of Gowrie, marching to the seige of Dundee.

Meanwhile Argyle's foot army scattered themselves over the land of the anti-covenanting Gordons and others, "cutting down the pleasant garden plantings to the huts, destroying the corns, and left not a four-footed beast in the lands of Drum, Cromar, Auchterfoul, Aboyn, Abergeldie, and the country about." This was a much heavier loss and oppression to the poor people than the visitation of the Cleansers in the months of May and June; for as it was now the month of October, and the ingathering of the harvest nearly completed, such a spoilzie and destruction placed them face to face with famine and starvation during the winter.

Before the winter came on, however, Montrose wheeling about from Angus, in a few days swooped down upon these marauders, who fled in all haste, some to Aberdeen, some home to Argyleshire. It was a case of "Chevy Chase." Again the two armies followed each other very nearly as before; and neither appeared again on Deeside till the spring of the following year; before which time Lord Gordon end his third brother, Lord Ludovic or Lewis, had separated themselves from the Covenanters, and were serving the king under Montrose, who then lay encamped at Kirriemuir.

"Understanding some enemies were risen and growing to an head (i.e., collecting their forces) sic as Frendraught, the Frasers, Forbeses, and their kin and friends, and chiefly against the house of Huntly and their friends and followers, Montrose most wisely directs from Kirriemuir the Lord Gordon's brother, Lewis, or Lord Lewis, with about a hundred and sixty horsemen, to go home and defend his country and friends." By this time, however, the Covenanters in these parts had gathered to a great head, and were holding their committees in Aberdeen for uptaking of the excise and laying additional burdens upon the king's subjects. The Lord Gordon himself was therefore despatched with orders to dissolve the committee. Passing the Mounth, still white with snow, he crossed the Dee at Mill of Dinnet upon the 8th day of April, 1645, and directing his course down Deeside, the committee suddenly dispersed like pigeons at the approach of a hawk. Lord Gordon then passed through the country taking order with his enemies; and strengthening his castles, fixed the head quarters of his army in Morayshire, whither the parliament sent Major Hurry in pursuit of him, while General Baillie was directed to keep his eye upon Montrose, who still kept moving about in Angus and Perthshire, with the view of effecting a junction with the Viscount Aboyne, who with other gentlemen were, he had been informed, on their way from the king to join him if possible. As soon as Aboyne and his company arrived, Montrose gave Baillie the slip, passed the mountains, and crossing the Dee with his whole force at Mill of Crathie, sent Aboyne with a detachment to Aberdeen to procure ammunition, moving himself by way of Skene to effect a junction with the Lord Gordon, now threatened by Major Hurry. All these movements having been successfully executed, Baillie, thus out-generalled, hastened to the succour of Hurry, who by this time was as far north as Morayshire, on rather a wild goose chase, as the Lord Gordon had doubled round and was now united with Montrose. On the 10th of May, 1645, Baillie's army, about 2000 foot and 120 troopers, passed the Cairn o' Mounth, and encamped in Birse. Next day, which was Sunday, they marched into Cromar, and encamped on the flat ground betwixt the kirks of Tarland and Coull. Here he resolved to await reinforcements, and sent directions to Hurry so to move his forces as that the two parliamentary armies should approach each other; but in the position of the armies no messenger could reach Hurry, as he would have to pass through the enemy's lines; and Montrose was too wise a general to let his enemies communicate with each other, if he could prevent it. Montrose had thus the fullest information regarding their purposes, while Baillie at least was even ignorant where his colleague lay. He therefore kept his camp in Cromar, "plundering, and eating the green corn scarce yet come to the blade," while Montrose dealt with his colleague, Hurry, at Auldearn, where he utterly defeated him, in a "bloody battle in which the Lord Gordon and the Viscount of Aboyne, and their name and followers, fought so valiantly that they deserved eternal praise."

As soon as Baillie heard of this defeat "he lifts frae Cromar with all speed, and hastens to Strathbogie," with the view of affording protection to the scattered remnants of Hurry's forces. This was a judicious movement, and gave Montrose no little trouble; because for some weeks after the battle of Auldearn he was almost as weak as the general he had vanquished; "for his Highlanders must needs have time to rin hame wi' the spoilzie."

A series of manoeuvres now took place between the two armies, Montrose evading battle till his Highlanders should return, and Baillie wishing to draw him into action. In the course of these movements Montrose lay for a time encamped in Cromar, in the vicinity of Loch Kinnord, while Baillie approached him from the direction of Aberdeen. Montrose then moved his forces to the old Castle of Corgarff, where he awaited the incoming of his Highlanders. When these had assembled in sufficient numbers he resolved to give his adversary battle, and drawing him into a favourable position for himself near the village of Alford, he attacked and signally defeated him; the Gordons on this occasion, as at Auldearn, bearing the brunt of the battle and achieving the victory.

The victory, however, brilliant as it was, was dearly bought by the death of the young chief of the Gordons. As I consider the character of the Lord Gordon, who fell in the battle of Alford, in the flower of his age, inferior in bravery, generosity, and magnanimity to that of very few of his noble ancestors, I shall not scruple even in this brief historical sketch, to give at some length the opinion formed of him by competent contemporary writers:"Lord Gordon was a very hopeful young gentleman, able of mind and body, about the age of 28 years." "There was," says Wishart, "a general lamentation for the loss of the Lord Gordon, whose death seemed to eclipse all the glory of the victory. As the report spread among the soldiers, every one appeared to be struck dumb with the melancholy news, and a universal silence prevailed for some time through the army. However, their grief burst through all restraints, venting itself in the voice of lamentation and sorrow. When the first transports were over, the soldiers exclaimed against heaven and earth for bereaving the king, the kingdom, and themselves of such an excellent young nobleman; and unmindful of the victory or the plunder, they thronged about the body of their dead captain, some weeping over the wounds and kissing his lifeless limbs, while others praised his comely appearance even in death, and extolled his noble mind, which was enriched with every valuable qualification that could adorn his high birth or ample fortune; they even cursed the victory bought at so dear a rate. Nothing could have supported the army under this immense sorrow but the presence of Montrose, whose safety gave them joy, and not a little revived their drooping spirits. In the meantime he could not command his grief, but mourned bitterly over the melancholy fate of his only and dearest friend, grievously complaining that one who was the honour of his nation, the ornament of the Scots nobility, and the boldest assertor of the Royal authority in the north, had fallen in the flower of his youth."


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