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The Parish of Longforgan
Chapter II. Historic Memories


"It must have been early observed that the plain of Strathmore, the Carse of Gowrie, and the Carse of Stirling were worth fighting for, and from the dawn of the historic period onward this becomes clearer."

"Scotland" by John Mackintosh, LL.D,

It may be interesting to recall, briefly, one or two of the historic memories of the parish. For abundant evidence exists in old Scottish Annals that it was once the centre of great historic scenes. The Carse of Gowrie was one of the homes of the Caledonian tribe, the "Venricones." Not far from Invergowrie, just beyond the border of the parish, the remains of a Roman camp used to be seen. It was called Cater Milley. Maitland gives a description of it in his History and Antiquities of Scotland (vol. i. p. 215). He says that in the Carse of Gowrie, "about half a mile benorth the estuary of Tay, is a Roman camp about two hundred yards square, fortified with a high rampart and a spacious ditch; but as the southern side appears to have been fenced with triple ramparts and ditches, these I take to have been the northern fortifications of the praetorium, the other sides being demolished by the plow, the vestigia appear but plainly. However, they are sufficient to show that this fortress was of a parallelogram form, about a quarter of a mile in length, which, from its vicinity to the Firth of Tay, I take to have been one of the camps which occasionally contained both the land and sea forces."

Cater Milley is supposed by many to be a corruption of the Latin quatuor millict, which may either mark its distance from some other station or the number of troops it held. Chalmers (Caledonia, vol i. p. 177) derives ii from " the British cader, a fortress, a stronghold. There is no trace of any other Roman camp within four miles. The area of Cater Milley was large, but it is denied that it could hold four thousand men. Knox, in his Topography of the Basin of the Tay, is clear that whatever be the derivation of Cater Milley, it was the well-known Roman station Ad Tavum, near to, or upon the Tay. The tradition is that it was at Invergowrie that Agricola embarked a number of his men, after returning from the country of the Horestii. General Roy, who, it may be mentioned, had never heard of Cater Milley, calculated that between three thousand and four thousand embarked; and, as it is probable that they embarked at Invergowrie, Knox concludes that " the station may derive the name (Cater Milley) from the temporary camp of these troops being pitched on the spot where the permanent camp was afterward placed. The advantages of the situation, though still considerable, were probably much more so in the first and second centuries. The physical changes hereabout have been great; the tradition, universally prevalent through this part of the country, seems to be borne out by evidence sufficient to warrant the conclusion that the course of the Tay was formerly on the north side of the Carse, that fine river washing the skirts of the Sidlaw Hills from Balthayock to Invergowrie, to the southward of which was the influx of the Earn." Last century, coal was landed at the burn-mouth of Invergowrie. And people still living remember seeing barges load and unload there. Invergowrie may mean the mouth of—almost the port of— Gowrie.

Ochterlony, in his account of the shire of Forfar, 1684-5, speaks of the "Gowrie which hath its beginning in the hills of the Carse of Gowrie, and falleth in the river Tay at Innergowrie, lour myles west be Dundie." "The Burne of Innergowrie" was from ail early time (1565) the recognised boundary of Perth and Forfar. According, also, to charters granted by James VI. and Charles I., the privileges and liberties of Dundee on the Tay extended "fraethe Burn-mouth of Innergarie on the west." There seems to have been in olden times a bridge at Invergowrie. John Monipennie, in An Briefe Description of Scotland (1612), says: "Next adjacent to Gowry lyes Angusse, beginning at the bridge of Innergowrie," etc. Cf. also The Scots Chronicle, which calls the Gowrie the Innergowry: "The rivers in Angus are Innergowry and Dichty," etc. The Tay attains its greatest breadth at Invergowrie Bay. [A Caledonian canoe has just been discovered in the Tay opposite Errol.]

"Yon skiff that quietly leaves the shore
To skim across thy breast,
Must sail, I wot, a league or more
Before her keel may rest."

Many a vessel, some friendly, some hostile, has ploughed its waters. The Roman fleet has anchored at our shores. Pictish crafts have glided along its bosom.1 Centuries later might be seen English ships, French ships, Flemish ships, mercenary or merchant-laden with the instruments of war or the merchandise of peace.

In Pictish times the place was a centre of life and struggle. At the beginning of the twelfth century, Malcolm Canmore's son Edgar was carried from the Carse of Gowrie, where he was superintending the building of the castle of Baledgarno, into Dundee to die.

Scotland's great champion, William Wallace, must have traversed Longforgan more than once on his way from Kilspindie to Dundee. Blind Harry sings—

"His modyr fled with hym fra Elrisle,
Till Gowry past, and duelt in Kilspynde.
In till Dunde, Wallace to scule thai send,
Quhill he of vvitl full worthily was kend."

When eighteen—

"Upon a day to Dunde he was send;
Off cruelness full litill thai him kend."

That day was a memorable one in Wallace's life. In a moment of exasperation he killed the son of Selby, the English Governor of Dundee. Blind Harry (bk. i. 181-276) has a graphic description of the incident, and of Wallace's flight at night disguised as an old woman. On his way back to Kilspindie, he is said to have rested at Longforgan. Not very long ago, there was a weaver in Longforgan of the name of Smith who had in his possession a stone which was popularly known as "Wallace's Stone." It was what was called a bear-stone, "hollow like a large mortar, and was made use of to unhusk the bear or barley, as a preparation for the pot, with a large wooden mell, long before barley-mells were known. Its station was 011 one side of the door, and covered with a flat stone for a seat, when not otherwise employed." Smith's ancestors had been in the village for five hundred years, and according to the tradition, it was one of them who supplied the future champion of Scotland with bread and milk as he rested. The stone is now at Castle Huntly.

This tradition may scarcely warrant our speaking of a patriotic party in Longforgan in those days of struggle. Gowrie sent its quota of gentry, as well as Fife and Strathern, to Scone to witness the coronation of Baliol. But it is worth recalling that Sir David Inchmartin was one of those who were hanged by King Edward's order within a year of Wallace's death. And Keith, who got a grant of land in Longforgan from King Robert the Bruce, was one of the patriots of his day. It will not be forgotten, besides, that Robert the Bruce had a connection with Dundee.

"Syne to Dundd he tuk the way.
He set a sege thar to stoutly;
And lay thar quhill it yoldyn was,
To Strew illyne syne the way he tais."

Barbour's Bruce, bk. vii. 1101-1106.

Further, there was land in Longforgan called "Le Bruy's part," and other land "whilk was John Balliol's."

Castle Huntly has an interesting connection with the early struggles of Reforming times. The Lord Gray of those days was a favourer of the Reformation, who used, as Calderwood tells us, "the companie of those that professed godlinesse and careid small favour to the Cardinall" (Beaton). In 1544, Lord Gray was staying at Castle Huntly along with some of his friends; and it was from thence that he was tempted out by Beaton and fell a prey to his cruelty. Knox, in his History of the Reformation, tells the story thus: "The Cardinall drew the Governour to Dundye; for he understood that the Erie of Rothess and Maister Ilenrie Balnaves war with the Lord Gray in the Castell of Huntlie. The Governour send and commanded the saidis Erie and Lord with the foirsaid Maister Henrie to come unto him to Dundye, and appointed the next day at ten houris befoir none; which hour thei decreid to keap; and for that purpose assemblet thare folkis at Bawgavy or thareby. (Bawgavy is ' Balgavie near Innergowrye'). The Cardinall advertissed of thare nomber (thei war mo then thre hundreth men) thowght it nott good that thei should joyn with the toune, for he feared his awin estate; and so he persuaded the Governour to pass furth of Dundye befoir nyne houris, and to tak the strayth way to Sanct Johnnestoun (Perth). Which perceaved by the foirsaid Lordis, thei begane to feare that thei war come to perseu thame, and so putt thame selves in ordour and array, and merched fordward of purpose to have bidden the uttermost. But the crafty fox foirseing, that in fightting stood nott his securitie, rane to his last refuge, that is, to manifest treasone; and so consultation was tackin how that the force of the otheris mycht be broken. . . . After long communication, it was demanded, yf that the Erie and Lord and Maister Henrie foirsaid wold nott be content to talk with the Governour, providit that the Cardinall and his cumpany war of the ground ? Thei ansuerft, ' That the Governour mycht command thame in all thinges lauchfull, but thei had no will to be in the Cardinallis mercye.' Fayre promisses ynew war maid for thare securitie. r{ han was the Cardinall and hi| band commanded to depart; as that he did according to the purpoise tackin. The Governour remaned and ane certain with him ; to whom came without cumpany the saidis Erie, Lord, and Maister Henne. After many fair woordis gevin unto thame all, to witt, ' That he wold have thame aggreed with the Cardinall, and that he wold have Maister Henrye Balnaves the wyrkar and instrument thairof, he drew thame fordwartes with him towardis Sanct Johnnestoun whither to the Cardinall was ridden. Theibegane to suspect (albeit it was to lett) and tharefor thei desyred to have returned to thare folkis for putting ordour unto thame.' But it was ansuend, ' 7 hei should send back fra the toune, but thei most neidis go forduart with my Lord Governour.' And so, partlye by flatterye, and partlye by force, thei war compelled to obey. And how sone that ever thei war within the toune, thei war apprehended, and upon the morne send all three to the Black Nesse, whare thei remaned so long as that it pleased the Cardinallis graceless Grace, and that was till that the band of inanrent and of service sett some of thame at l'bertie."

Rather an interesting ancedote connects George Wishart the Reformer with the neighbourhood of Invergowrie. In 1545 or 1546, when he set out from Montrose to "meet the gentleman of the west at Edinburgh," Wishart came to Dundee, but there, Calderwood tells us, "he stayed not, but went to the hous of a faithfull brother, named James Watsone, dwelling in Inner Gowrie, distant two miles from Dundie." "That night,' says Calderwood, "before day he went furth to the yard. William Spaldine and Johne Watson followed quietlie, and took heed what he did. When he had walked up and down in an alley a reasonable space, with manie sobs and deepe groanes, he fell upon his knees, his groans increassing, and frome his knees he fell upon his face. The persons forenamed heard weeping, and an indigest sound, as it were of prayers, in which he continued almost an houre, and after beganne to be quiett, and so arose and came to his bed. They prevented him as if they had beene ignorant till he came in. Then beganne they to demand where he had beene ; but that night he would answere nothing. Upon the morrow they urged him again; and whill he dissembled, they said, 4 Mr. George, be plaine with us, for we heard your mourning, and saw you both upon your knees and upon your face.' With dejected visage he said, ' I had rather yee had beene in your beds, and it had beene more profitable for you, for I was skarse weill occupied.' They still urged him to lett them have some comfort. ' I will tell you,' said he, 'that I am assured my travell is neere at an end. Therefore call to God for me, that I shrinke not now when the battell waxeth most hote.' Whill they weeped, and said that was small comfort to them, he answered, ' God sail send you comfort after me. This realm sail be illuminated with the light of Christ's Apostles. The hous of God sail be builded in it; yea, it sail not laike whatsoever the enemie imagine in the contrarie, the very kaipstone,'— meaning, that it sould once come to the full perfectioun. ' Neither,' said he, ' sail the time be long till that the glorie of God sail evidentlie appeare, and once triumphe in despite of Satan. There sail not manie suffer after me. But, alas ! if the people sail be after unthankefull, then fearefull and terrible sail the plagues be that after sail follow.' And with these words he marched fordwards in his journey toward Sanct Johnston and frome thence to Fife and then to Leith."

John Knox himself went, in 1559, with some of his brethren from Dundee to Sanct Johnstoun, "where he beganne to exhort and teache." It is likely that his road led him through Longforgan, Longforgan being in the line of the highway between Dundee and Perth. Three years later, Queen Mary made the same journey. Not long after, Knox was appointed to visit, amongst others, the kirks of Gowrie and Menteith.

James VI. rode through it on the 22nd of May 1617, on his way to Kinnaird, where he spent a wreek.

King Charles II. stayed a night at Castle Huntly in 1650, though not exactly from choice. On the death of his father, Charles obtained the support of the Presbyterian party on a promise to meet their views. He was kept under a mild surveillance at Perth. Charles had little patience with the preachers and the Estates, and determined to leave. So one day, on the pretence of hawking, he escaped. He had 110 change of "clothes or linnings, more then wes one his bodey," and wore but a "thin ryding sutte of stuffe." Crossing the Tay, he rode " at a full carreire by Inchyra to Dudhope in Dundee, from whence he went by Cortachy to Glen Clova, "in al, from Perthe, the way he went, some 42 myles befor he rested." Here, "in a nastie roume, one ane old bolster aboue a matte of segges and rushes, ouerweiried and werey fearfull," the king lay down to rest. The leaders at Perth followed him, and having overtaken him in Clova, "conducted his Maiestie to Huntley Castle in the Carsse of Gourey, quher he stayed all Saterdayes night, and from thence, one Sunday in the afternoone, he came to Perth, the 6 of Octob., and hard sermon in his auen chamber of presence, the afternoon's sermon in the toune being endit before he entred the toune." (Cf. Balfour's Annates.) The incident is known as "The Start."

When General Monk was engaged in the siege of Dundee, his soldiers are said to have used Castle Huntly as a cavalry station, and the church of Fowlis as a stable. Some Athole men are also reported to have come to Castle Huntly in the time of Glencairn's insurrection against the Commonwealth in 1654. I hey meant mischief, and "fired a stack or two." But their rage was shortlived, and they "staid and extinguished them."

A slight link connects the Pretender (James VIII.) with the district. After being in Dundee in 1716, James, with his friends, made a leisurely progress through the Carse towards Perth. ''hey halted for dinner at Castle Lyon (Castle Huntly), and then rode on to Fingask. James had a great reception at Fingask from Lady Threipland, who was a keen partisan. Her hospitalities are sung in a famous song—

"When the king cam' to Fingask,
To see Sir David and his lady,
A cod's head weel made wi' sauce,
Took a hunder pund to make, it ready."

We can believe that the hospitalities of Longforgan were not less generous. The Strathmore family, who were then in Castle Huntly, sympathised with the Pretender. One of the Earls fell at Sheriffmuir. As was natural, the Jacobite rising made a considerable stir in the quiet life of Longforgan. But it died away quickly. Ere long, the Chevalier passed the castle again on his retreat.

An unsigned letter, dated Perth, Feb. 2, 1716, gives us a peep into the state of things in the Carse. After the rebels had left Perth for Dundee, Argyle and Cadogan followed with "the English foot, three regiments of dragoons, and nine hundred and fifty detached foreigners." Along with a detachment they lodged a night at Errol. The letter goes on to tell how the country gentlemen were repenting "their dipping in this affair." Not a thing, "dead or alive, eatable or portable, do the foreigners leave ; and the officers of the British say that to see their behaviour does so make their men's mouths water, that faith they cannot but indulge their men a little." The rebels, we are told, destroyed barnyards, and used whole stacks for firing {Hist. MSS. Report, iii. p. 370). The MSS. of the Duke of Montrose, reported on iii. pp. 368-402, contain some interesting glimpses of the state of feeling at Perth and Dundee.

Prince Charlie was never, that we know of, in Longforgan. He was at Fingask. But in 1745, when he was in Perth, where he stayed a week, a strong body of his followers, the Macdonalds, under Keppoch and Clanranald, who heard that there were two vessels in Dundee, with arms and ammunition, marched down the Carse, through Longforgan, to Dundee, where they seized the vessels and sent them up the Tay to Perth.

Next year the Duke of Cumberland led his army through the parish. The duke had been at Perth, whose obsequious people, anxious to ingratiate themselves with him, had offered him Gowrie House as a gift. The duke was gracious enough to accept the gift, only asking, it is said, as he did, "whether the piece of ground called the Carse of Gowrie did not go along with it?" Next week he started at the head of his army for the north, travelling first to Dundee, and then by the coast road to Aberdeen.

It may be added here that a number of coins have been found in the parish, bearing the royal names of Edward, Alexander, and Robert. About 1790, an earthen pot was found with seven hundred silver coins, inscribed "Edward." Some stone coffins have also been discovered. The most interesting of these were found at the Market Knowe.

This was a knoll in the old muir of Longforgan, where the markets used to be held in the earlier part of last century. According to tradition, although the rest of the ground was covered with broom, the Knowe kept a beautiful green sward. Here some coffins have been found, "consisting of four rude longitudinal stones, and two smaller ones at each end, containing human skeletons." Others have been found in the neighbourhood of Cater Milley.


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