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History of Loch Kinnord
Chapter X. Recent History


Loch Kinnord having been so long the property of the eldest branch of the Gordon family, it may not be inappropriate to trace briefly the history of the branch of that house into whose possession it now came, and to notice some of the incidents that have in recent times tended to leave the ancient ruins so bare.

At the death of the Marquis of Huntly, who, as already stated, was executed at Edinburgh, there remained alive, of his large family of five sons and five daughters, only three sons and four daughters; and before the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, all the daughters had died with the exception of the youngest, who was the wife of Count Morstain, High Treasurer of Poland, with whom Henry, the youngest son, found refuge during the twelve years of the Commonwealth. Lord Lewis, who, as the eldest surviving son, would have succeeded to the family estates and honours, to which he was titularly restored by Charles II. in 1651, though of course he never received possession, had also died in 1653, leaving a son, George, a boy two years of age, to succeed him when fortune should turn in his favour. When that turn of fortune did come it was thought expedient to issue new letters patent, restoring the estates and honours to this boy, now nine years old.

Charles, now the eldest surviving brother of Lewis, who had been taken prisoner when the Castle of Strathbogie surrendered to General Leslie in 1647, was, after some years of confinement, restored to liberty on parole. In consideration of his great and faithful services during the civil war, the king was pleased to raise him to the dignity of the peerage by the titles of Earl of Aboyne and Lord Gordon of Strathavon and Glenlivet, by patent to him and the heirs male of his body, dated 10th September, 1660, [This is the account according to Douglas's Peerage ; but according to Debrett, the latest authority, the patent creating the Earldom of Aboyne was issued in 1660, and another creating the other title in the following year, when the charter conferring the land was granted.] and in order to support this dignity, a portion of the family property, consisting of all and whole the lands and lordship of Aboyne, was also conveyed to him by charter under the great seal in the following year.

His lordship, who was thus 1st Earl of Aboyne (the previous title connected with the estate was that of Viscount), soon after the acquisition of the property married Margaret Irvine, sister of his brother-in-law, Alexander Irvine, laird of Drum. She was a lady of great beauty and accomplishments, affectionately and poetically remembered as "Bonny Peggy Irvine." It is uncertain whether this lady really fell a victim to grief of heart, consequent upon some misunderstanding with her lord, as represented in the old ballad of "The Earl of Aboyne" or whether, as is more likely, the ballad is to be viewed as merely a fond poetical tribute to her memory by her sorrowing husband, in the style of the elegaic poetry of the time. From whatever cause, "Bonny Peggy Irvine"—a beautiful portrait of whom still adorns the walls of Aboyne Castle—died in or about the year 1664, leaving an only daughter, the Lady Anne Gordon, who was—17th June, 1665— served heir of Lady Margaret Irvine, her mother, late wife of Charles, Earl of Aboyne.

Some years after, he married Elizabeth Lyon, only daughter of the Earl of Strathmore, by whom he left four children—Charles, George, John, and Elizabeth.

At the date of the restoration his lordship had the entire charge of the Huntly estates, his nephew, the Marquis, being then only nine years of age; and from his skilful management of them he may properly be styled the restorer of the fortunes of the family. In 1671 he rebuilt the Castle of Aboyne, and otherwise beautified the grounds. He would now have resigned to the Marquis the charge of his estates, but with much good sense that young nobleman prevailed upon him to continue his trust, which he did till his death in 1681. His character is thus drawn by one who had known him in his age:—"Vigorous and sprightly, he had a naturall and high vein of poesy, was civil to such as lived at a distance, but difficult to his neighbours." That he was difficult to his neighbours—even to those of his own clan—is manifest from the complaints contained in the MSS. of the laird of Tillfoudie and others ; but it must be borne in mind that he occupied a peculiarly difficult position. His great influence at Court raised the expectation among his friends that he could procure for them any favour or redress of any grievance they might desire; if their petitions were refused, the blame was laid on the Earl. And not only were claims innumerable made on the Government, but also on the estates of the Marquis for advances made to, or services rendered, his grandfather in the time of his need. These the Earl seldom entertained, and when he did not, the claimant upbraided him for his ingratitude or some other shortcoming of character.

As to his "naturall and high vein of poesy" he had a little of that by inheritance, for his father, George, second Marquis of Huntly, was, we are told, "a great patron of learning and learned men. He was the author of that so pretty an energick distich to be seen to this day on the royal palace of the Louvre at

"Pans—Non orbis gentem, non urbem gens habet ulla,
Urbsve domum, dominum, nee domus ulla parem,"

which may be thus translated—

The world hath not such a nation,
Nor nation a city like this;
Nor city a mansion can boast,
Nor mansion a lord like this.

It is not often that a couplet immortalises a man; but it must be allowed that for the French capital, king, and people, Lord Huntly's couplet was happy and highly complimentary, and we do not wonder that it became for generations, perhaps is still, the motto for the royal palace of the Louvre. He transmitted the gift in double portion to at least two of his sons, for we are told in the "Lives of Scottish Poets" (London, 1822), that "the heroic and chivalrous Lord George Gordon, who fell at Alford in 1645, numbered among his many accomplishments that of writing verses;" and Lord Charles Gordon, first Earl of Aboyne, a noble author unknown to Walpole, seems also to have escaped the more searching notice of the historians of Scottish poetry. His verses, which occur in several manuscript collections of the period, are not without merit, although too often polluted by the licentious spirit of the loose age in which he lived. A few stanzas may be selected from what seems to have been one of the most popular of his pieces :—

"EARLE OF ABOYN'S LYNES.

"'It 'a not thy beauty nor thy wit
That did my heart obtain,
For none of these could conquer yet
Either my breast or brain.
And if you'll not prove kind to me,
Yet true as heretofore,
Your slave henceforth I'll scorn to be,
Nor dote upon you more.

"Think not my fancy to o'ercome
By proving thus unkind;
No soothing smile nor seeming frown
Can satisfy my mind.

"I mean to love and not to dote,
I'll love for love again;
And if ye say ye love me not,
I'll laugh at your disdain!
If ye'll be loving, I'll be kind,
And still I'll constant be,
And if the time do change your mind,
I'll change as soon as ye!"

These lines are printed from "a Collection of several Satyrs, Lampoons, Songs, and other poems"—a manuscript of the early years of the last century in the library at Skene House, a seat of the Earl of Fife. The same volume contains a "Satyre on the Duke of Lawderdale, by the Earle of Aboyne."

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles, of whom there is not much to record beyond the facts, that he was of a delicate constitution, abjured the Roman Catholic religion, married his cousin, Elizabeth Lyon, second daughter of the Earl of Strathmore, and left by her one son, John, and three daughters. He died in 1702, and was succeeded by his son,

John, as third Earl of Aboyne. This Earl married Grace, daughter of George Lockhart of Carnwath, who bore him two sons, Charles, who succeeded him, and John, whose son succeeded to the Carnwath property. Earl John took a leading part in Mar's insurrection, in consequence of which he left the estates in considerable embarrassment at his death, in 1732.

Charles, born 1726, succeeded to the titles and estates on the death of his father in 1732. He was another man of mark in the family lineage. When a boy he acquired strong Jacobitical propensities, and would probably have come out in the celebrated rising in 1745, had not the wiser heads among his friends managed to get him conveyed to Paris under pretence of completing his education. After he came of age, finding the property so heavily burdened, he made an effort to clear it of debt by selling the Glenmuick portion (1749) to John Farquharson of Invercauld, a cautious and shrewd old Highland chief, who, tradition says, rather took advantage of the inexperience of the youthful Earl, who "now becoming apprehensive that, from the smallness of his estate, he could not live in Scotland," sent his baggage to Paris, intending soon to follow and live abroad. Unwilling, however, to abandon his native country he ordered it to be brought back; and he carefdlly attended to the improvement of his landed property, forming plantations, building, it is said, forty miles of stone fences above five feet high, extremely well executed, to enclose and subdivide his estate, and introducing improved means of agriculture among his tenants, who were then enabled easily to pay an advanced rent. His lordship soon cleared the estate of debt, enjoyed the respect and esteem of his neighbours; and after a life remarkable for activity, intelligence and steadiness, died in St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh, 28th December, 1794, in the 68th year of his age.

"His Lordship married first, at Edinburgh, 22nd April, 1759, Lady Margaret Stewart, third daughter of Alexander, Earl of Galloway, and by her, who died at Aboyne Castle, 12th August, 1762, had a son, George, and two daughters.

"He married secondly, 23rd April, 1774, Lady Mary Douglas, only surviving daughter of James, ninth Earl of Morton, and had by her a son, The Hon. Douglas Gordon, born 10th October, 1777, who, on the much lamented death of his cousin, the Hon. Hamilton Douglas Hallyburton of Pitcur, in 1784, succeeded to his extensive property in the county of Forfar, and in consequence assumed the name and arms of Hallyburton of Pitcur.

Charles, 4th Earl of Aboyne, was succeeded in 1794 by his eldest son, George, as 5th Earl of Aboyne, who was born in Edinburgh, 28th June, 1761, and also became a distinguished member of his house. "His Lordship married, 4th April, 1791, Catherine, second daughter of Sir Charles Cope of Brewern in Oxfordshire, and Orton in Huntingdonshire. By this lady, with whom he got the estate of Orton, which he very considerably enlarged by purchasing, in 1803, the two adjoining parishes of Chesterton and Haddon, he had issue six sons and three daughters."

In 1815 his lordship was created a British peer by the title of Baron Meldrum of Morven, and henceforth sat in the House of Lords in right of that peerage.

In 1805, the oak piles of the ancient drawbridge of Loch Kinnord were carried off in great numbers, to lay the foundation of the stone bridge then being erected over the Dee at Ballater.

The great drought of the summer of 1826 caused such a scarcity of water, that to supply the mill of Dinnet with moving power, Loch Kinnord was utilized as a reservoir, and its surface lowered by about 2£ feet. This draining of the water brought to light many relics of the ancient buildings that had hitherto lain concealed in the lake, owing to the depth of water over them; and many finds were then made. The Castle Island, which had been improved for arable purposes, as early at least as 1781, was this year (1826) under a crop of bere; but such multitudes of sea fowls and other birds frequented the lake that summer, that before harvest came, the whole produce was eaten up or destroyed by them ; and no attempt has since been made to lay down another crop of grain. The same year his lordship's eldest son, Charles Lord Gordon of Strathavon, was married to the Lady Elizabeth-Henrietta, daughter of the first Marquis Conyngham, and great rejoicings were in consequence held over the estates.

On the death of George, fifth Duke of Gordon, and eight Marquis of Huntly (28th May, 1836), the Earl of Aboyne succeeded to the title of Marquis of Huntly,. and became chief of the Gordons, as the representative of the eldest male line of that ancient house; and his title to these honours was proved before the House of Lords on that occasion.

In 1839, the Lady Elizabeth-Henrietta, wife of his eldest son the Earl of Aboyne, died without issue; and in 1844 his lordship married Mary-Antoinette, daughter, of the Rev. P. W. Pegus, by whom he had issue, seven sons and seven daughters; the eldest son, the present Marquis, was born 5th March, 1847.

George, 9th Marquis of Huntly, having died 17th June, 1853, was succeeded by his eldest son,

Charles Gordon, as 10th Marquis of Huntly. Of his numerous family there are now alive, the present Marquis, Lord Douglas, Lord Esme, Lord Granville, and Lady Mary-Catherine Tumor, Lady Aveland, and Lady Grace-Cicelie, Lady Margaret-Ethel, Lady Elena-Mary, and Lady Ethelreda-Caroline Gordon.

On 18th September, 1863, Charles Gordon, 10th Marquis of Huntly, died in the 71st year of his age, leaving his estates and titles to his eldest son, the present Marquis. Held in very high esteem in the elevated circle in which Providence had cast his lot, he had been appointed Lord Lieutenant of the county of Aberdeen, on the death of the Earl of Aberdeen, in 1861; while his many excellent qualities as a landlord had so endeared him to his numerous tenantry, that they erected to his memory the monumental pillar now to be seen on the summit of the hill of Mortclach, behind the Castle of Aboyne.

On Wednesday, 14th July, 1869, the marriage of Charles Gordon, 11th and present Marquis of Huntly, with Amy, eldest daughter of William Cunliffe Brooks, M.P., Esq. of Barlow Hall, Lancashire, was solemnized in Westminster Abbey by the Right Rev. the Bishop of Oxford, assisted by the Very Rev. Dean Stanley and the Rev. J. Slade; and the auspicious event was celebrated by unusual rejoicings over the whole of the Aboyne estates.

In 1859 another drainage of Loch Kinnord took place, and discovered a good deal more timber belonging to the old drawbridge and Crannog. Among other relics then recovered was a canoe measuring 22 J feet in length, and 3£ feet in width at the stern. This canoe, after being exhibited at the meeting of the British Association in Aberdeen, was removed to Aboyne Castle, where it is still preserved.

The last recovery of important relics from the waters of Loch Kinnord was made on 10th August, 1875; when Lord and Lady Huntly met the inhabitants of the surrounding district for the purpose of taking to land a canoe, which had previously been discovered by Mr. John Simpson, Mickle Kinnord. Its position was about 80 yards from the north shore, and 200 yards due west from the Castle Island. While the people were engaged in fixing the hauling tackle, they discovered a second canoe very near the same place. But so deeply were they sunk in the mud which had been accumulating over them for ages that the task of bringing them to land was far from easy. Under the skilful directions of Lord Huntly, however, both were brought ashore without the least injury.

These canoes, which are hollowed out of single logs of oak, measured respectively 30 ft. 2 in. and 29 ft. 3 in. in length. The width of both is somewhat irregular, varying, in the case of the longer, from 3 ft. 5 in. at the stern, to 3 ft. 7 in. at the centre, and tapering thence to the prow. The other is somewhat wider. The sides—except quite near the prows—are so much worn away that it is impossible to ascertain, with any degree of exactitude, how deep they may have been in their original condition. The thickness of the keels of both is about 7 in., but< they are also much worn away. Each has four ribs or ridges across the bottom at nearly equal distances from each other, apparently the remains of what had once afforded resistance to the feet of the rowers. In respect of shape and construction, though larger in size, they are very similar to the canoe recovered in 1859.

At the same time there were brought to land two large oak beams that had belonged to the drawbridge, and two smaller coupling beams, one of which was found inserted into a larger beam by means of a mortised hole, and fastened by a wooden pin. The largest of these beams is 37 ft. in length, has seven mortised holes, and measures on the sides 15½ in. by 12½ in. They may still be seen on the northern shore of the lake, nearly opposite the Castle Island.

Later in the same season another canoe was discovered by a boating party near the smaller or Crannog Island. It appears to be filled with stones ; and may have been swamped while conveying its cargo to the island, or intentionally sunk by overloading it with these stones. It has not yet been brought to land.

Besides those mentioned in this little work, many other relics of antiquity have been found in and around Loch Kinnord, of which no accurate description can now be obtained. The writer, however, believes that those he has noticed in the Appendix, most of which he has seen and examined, present a fair sample of multitudes of others that have been lost or destroyed.


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