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History of Loch Kinnord
Chapter IX. Civil War, to 1647 A.D.


Montrose was doomed very soon to feel the loss he had sustained in the death of Lord Gordon; for the Marquis of Huntly, now living in concealment in Strathnaver, hearing of the death of his eldest son, and of the brilliant career of Montrose, of whose fame he was always jealous, returned to his own country, and the Gordons were never undividedly true to Montrose afterwards. His defeat at Philiphaugh gave Huntly a pretext for acting an independent part, of which he was not slow to take advantage, but though he had the ambition he had not the talent to take the place of Montrose; and his jealousy and family pride ruined both, and ultimately brought both to the scaffold in the same cause.

Trusting to be supported by the Gordons, Montrose proceeded to the north, and, for appearance sake, was joined by some of the clan headed by the Viscount Aboyne, now the eldest surviving son, and Lord Lewis Gordon, his next brother; but the influence of their father, who never ceased to upbraid them with overlooking the importance of their family, and lending their assistance to his rival, in a short time weakened the attachment of the young men to Montrose, whom they soon afterwards deserted with the whole of their followers.

The noble minded Montrose, however, did not retaliate, but marching from Alford, through Cromar, passed Loch Kinnord, pursued his course up Deeside, and crossing the Cairnwell, pitched his camp in Strathardle, and there waited for the reinforcements which had been promised him both by Viscount Aboyne, when he took his leave, and by other Highland chieftains. These failing to arrive at the appointed time, and his own army being too weak to carry out any successful invasion of the south, he again directed his course northward, in the hope that if he could obtain a personal interview with Huntly, he might be able to induce him to co-operate with him in bringing the country over to the interest of the king. Huntly greatly dreaded a personal interview with Montrose, and had taken steps to evade it; but they were rendered ineffectual by the skill and activity of his more experienced fellow general Leaving his little army near Kinnord, and selecting, a small body guard of light cavalry, he struck across the country; and one morning while Huntly, believing that the royal army were lying with their general somewhere in Athole or Eraemar, was, in fancied security, sitting down to breakfast, who should ride "p to the door of the Bog of Gight, but Montrose with fifty o ? sixty horsemen % There was no avoiding the interview; and he made the best of the untoward meeting, promising, though in a half-hearted way, co-operation. A plan was arranged between the two for the reduction of the Castle of Inverness. They were to approach it from different points, Montrose from the Highlands, Huntly from the Lowlands of Morayshire. The former directing his army from Cromar, through Strathspey, was soon at his post; but the latter, leaving to his rival the task—hopeless in the circumstances—of reducing the Castle of Inverness, wheeled round and marched towards Aberdeen, which he intended to surprise and capture, and thus emulate his military glory.

When he had proceeded as far as Kintore, he was joined by the Earl of Crawford with Montrose's horse; but hearing that General Middleton was approaching to the relief of Aberdeen, with a parliamentary army, ho suddenly changed his plan, and broke up his forces into two divisions, with the one of which he and Crawford retired to Banff, while the other, under Viscount Aboyne, marched up Deeside, and fixed their head-quarters near Loch Kinnord, the castle and fortifications of which they were employed for the next three months in repairing and strengthening. This work was set about in the end of February, or early in March 1646; and the farce employed on it is estimated at not less than a thousand men; but as many of them were Highlanders, who considered manual labour an indignity, the work performed, it may well be supposed, was not commensurate with the hands employed. However that may have been, there is reason to believe that th6 place was rendered one of considerable strength.

Ever since the removal of the family residence to Kandychyle, the fort of Loch Kinnord had been allowed to fall into decay. This would appear from the fact that, although both royalist and parliamentary generals had, during the wars of the Covenant, several times passed and repassed the lake, and encamped in its vicinity, it is only but once mentioned by any of the writers who record these events. During that period it would seem therefore to have been of small importance in a military point of view. The Marquis of Huntly now (spring of 1646) restored it, and garrisoned it with a body of soldiers in name of the king.

When the Marquis found himself relieved of the presence of General Middleton, who, about the end of May, set out from Aberdeen in pursuit of Montrose, he resolved to carry out his plan of capturing that city, which was now defended only by a small cavalry force, under Colonel Montgomery. " Accordingly, he ordered his men to march from Deeside to Inverurie, where he appointed a general rendezvous to be held." He succeeded in capturing the town, with a loss on his side of only about twenty men in all. He has been severely blamed for allowing it to be plundered by his soldiery; but there is at least this excuse to offer for him, that although the "brave town" did not deserve it at his hands, it was probably not in his power to restrain the marauding disposition of his wild Highlanders, whose sole motive for being under arms was spoil, and who looked upon the spoil as their rightful reward. Laden with plunder, these Highlanders escaped to their homes to deposit the spoilzie, and Huntly suddenly found himself, with greatly reduced numbers, liable to be cut off by General Middleton, who might very soon be expected from the north. Leaving Aberdeen, therefore, he moved back to his old quarters at Loch Kinnord, whither he was very soon followed by Middleton, and, after some skirmishing at the Pass of Ballater, compelled to retire to Braemar; and Middleton, not caring to follow him thither, returned to Aberdeen. This occurred about the middle of June, 1646, and before the month had closed the King, who had surrendered to the Scottish army, ordered both Montrose and Huntly to disband their forces. The war for the moment was therefore at an end.

Had the war finally ended here, the lives of both these noblemen might have been saved, and their estates in great part secured to them and their descendants; while the Fort of Loch Kinnord, crumbling slowly under the weight of years, would still have presented a magnificent ruin, with a drawbridge which might even yet have afforded sure footing to the astonished visitor. A very different fate awaited it.

Before six months had passed, the King, who was then under a sort of honourable confinement with the Scottish army near Newcastle, perceiving that he would be surrendered to the English Parliament, and in that case dreading the worst, sent a secret message to Huntly to raise his forces, and he would attempt to escape and join him in the north. The Marquia did so, but the plot was discovered and frustrated. This placed him in an exceedingly difficult and dangerous position. He was now a rebel in the eyes of the law, for the King had surrendered his authority to the Scottish Estates, against whom he had again drawn the sword after having come to terms with them. In these straits he continued to keep his forces together, and was even successful in defeating Major Bickerton, who had been sent to capture him.

At the approach, however, of General David Leslie, he disbanded his little army, and with a few staunch followers fled to the mountains of Lochaber for shelter. "Leslie thereupon reduced the castles belonging to the Marquis." He first took that of Strathbogie, in which house was Lord Charles Gordon (afterwards Earl of Aboyne), who, with the Governor, Newton, were made prisoners; then the neighbouring Castle of Lesmore; then, marching northward, he took Gordon Castle, or Bog of Gight, as it was then called. Marching southward, he "next took the isle of Lochtannar, in Aboyne, which had been strongly, fortified by Huntly." [The accounts which we have of the taking of these strengths in "Gordon's Continuation" are provokingly meagre. Enough is said to show that some of them at least were bravely defended, while not a single detail of interest is given.]

Thereafter General Leslie marched into Badenoch in quest of the Marquis, but not finding him there, he captured the Castle of Ruthven, another strong fortress of the Gordons, and proceeded into Lochaber, where he took in their remaining Highland stronghold, the Castle of Inverlochy; and thence advanced to the subjugation of the "Western Isles, leaving the pursuit of his lordship to General Middleton. Huntly succeeded for several months in eluding the hot pursuit of his enemies, living in dens, caves, and the recesses of deep forests in the most inaccessible parts of the Highlands. A reward of 1000 sterling was now offered by the Committee of Estates to any person who should apprehend him—an exploit which was accomplished by Colonel Menzies in the following manner:—Middleton was lying with his army in Strathbogie, while his officers with their dragoons were scouring the country far and wide in quest of the fugitive, who but a few years before was almost absolute lord of all that region. In one of these excursions, "Menzies, having received intelligence of the place of the Marquis's retreat, got the command of a select body of horse, consisting of three troops, with which he proposed to surprise and capture his lordship. Huntly's place of concealment was well chosen. It was the farmhouse of Dalnabo, at the junction of the rivers Allanach and Avon, three miles below Inchrory. Close by the house was a deep narrow defile, cut out of the old sandstone rock by the impetuous torrent of the Allanach. In case of danger he might retreat thither, where he would be safe from the pursuit of any species of cavalry, and where a few resolute followers might defend him against almost any number of assailants. Menzies was probably aware of this, and made his arrangements accordingly. It was in the dead of winter, towards the end. of December, 1647, when the season of the year, and the inaccessible nature of the hiding place produced a feeling of security, and a remissness in the watch. About midnight, just as the Marquis was going to bed, the tramp of horsemen was heard at the door." Huntly was attended by only ten gentlemen and servants as a body-guard, who, notwithstanding the great disparity of numbers, made a brave attempt to protect their master, in which six of them were killed and the rest mortally wounded, among whom was John Grant, the landlord. On hearing that the Marquis had been taken prisoner, the whole of his vassals in the neighbourhood, to the number of 400 or 500, with Grant of Carron [This was the notorious "Hamish na' tuim," one of the most daring of outlaws, who had long held the post of Captain of broken, or hill men, in these parts.] at their head, flew to arms to rescue him. Menzies, dreading a rescue would be attempted, canied the Marquis in all haste to Blairfindie, in Glenlivet, where his lordship received secret intimation that his followers had solemnly sworn that they would either rescue him or die to a man. However, he dissuaded them from the intended attempt, and sent them word "that, now almost worn out with grief and fatigue, he could no longer live in hills and dens; and hoped that his enemies would not drive things to the worst; and, if such was the will of Heaven, he could not outlive the sad fate he foresaw his royal master was likely to undergo; and, be the event as it would, he doubted not but the just providence of God would restore the royal family, and his along with it."

From Strathbogie, the Marquis was carried under a strong guard of horse to Leith, where he was delivered to the magistrates and thrown into jail The committee pressed for an immediate execution, and his life was spared till the meeting of Parliament, by a majority of only one vote.

The Marquis languished in prison from December, 1647, till March, 1649; for during the lifetime of the king, the Parliament had not ventured to bring him to the block; but the king himself had during the interval been put to death; and the Parliament, no longer under restraint, on 16th March ordered the Marquis of Huntly to be beheaded on the 22nd of the same month, at the Market Cross of Edinburgh. When the fatal day came he ascended the scaffold with a firm step, and turning "to the people, he told them that he was going to die fur having employed some years of his life in the service of the king, his master; that he was sorry he was not the first of his Majesty's subjects who had suffered for his cause, so glorious in itself that it sweetened to him all the bitterness of death." He then declared that he had charity to forgive those who had voted for his death, although he could not admit that ho had done anything contrary to the laws. He then offered up a prayer, and embracing some friends around him, submitted his neck without any symptom of emotion to the fatal instrument. [A fine portrait of his Lordship, styled "Marquis of Gordon," is in Pinkerton's Scottish Gallery; another, perhaps a copy from this, is in Fessandarroch Lodge, belonging to William Cunliffe Brooks, Esq., M.P.]

During the time Huntly lay in prison, Argyle bought up all the " comprisings " on his estates, " and caused summon at the Market Cross of Aberdeen, by sound of trumpet, all his wadsetters and creditors to appear at Edinburgh in the month of March following the Marquis's imprisonment, calling on them to produce their securities before the Lords of Session, with certification that if they did not appear their securities were to be declared null and void. Some of these creditors sold their claims to Argyle, and having thus bought up all the rights he could obtain upon Huntly's estate at a small or nominal value, under pretence that he was acting for the benefit of his nephew, the Viscount Aboyne, he granted bonds for the amount, which Spalding says he never paid. In this way did Argyle possess himself of the Marquis's estates, which he continued to enjoy for upwards of twelve years, viz., from 1648 to 1660.

And where was this nephew of whose interests he took such, tender care 1 Although the father was hunted down at Dalnabo, his four surviving sons managed to escape from their pursuers, and Hed the country. The two eldest, James, Viscount Aboyne, and Lord Lewis, went to Paris; Charles, afterwards created Earl of Aboyne, had as already noticed, been taken prisoner, and narrowly escaped the fate of his father, and his youngest brother, Henry, went abroad, and ultimately took service under the King of Poland. When James heard of the execution of Charles I. he sunk into a melancholy, and in a few days after died of the grief it gave him; and with him, who died without issue, the Viscounty of Aboyne became extinct.

Argyle's management of the property of his brother-in-law, the Marquis of Huntly, was of a piece with his tender regard for the life of him and his family. Probably still apprehensive that a counter-revolution might arise, which might restore their fortunes, his first object was to see that the fortresses in which their strength had lain should be destroyed. General Leslie, who had captured these in 1647, had no instruction to dismantle them, and he probably did them little injury. In the month of June, 1648, just fourteen months after the capture by Leslie, and six months after the apprehension of the Marquis at Dalnabo, Argyle procured an Act of Parliament to effect his object, in which "the fortifications of Loch Kender are ordered to be slighted." The slighting ordered by the parliament meant their utter demolition, which was soon after very effectually executed. Time and the utilitarian hands of engineers and others have done the rest, and left this once and long celebrated lake and fortress as it is this day.

Here ends the Ancient History of Loch Kinnord.


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