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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter XXXVIII. - A Population of many Surnames


FORTINGALL has an early Chronicle extending from 1400 till 1579, begun by Sir James Macgregor, vicar of Fortingall, and his brother Duncan, and continued by a Macgregor curate, whose name we do not know. But the records of the post-Reformation period down to Mr Macara's induction have been lost. It would seem that Mr Robertson, the minister who was deposed in 1716 for reading rebel documents from the pulpit, kept the older parish books, as many more of the displaced Jacobite ministers did when not compelled by legal pressure to hand them over. As for the books kept in the time of Mr Fergus Ferguson, they and some later ones perished or disappeared when, at the beginning of the war with France, a mob of furious women from Glenlyon and Rannoch, with a number of old men, surprised and mobbed the parish schoolmaster, Thomas Butter, as well as the local magistrates, with a view of preventing the making out of lists for militia enrolments. Militia riots were numerous at that time, but this particular one was due to an alleged attempt to hand over to the East India Company a regiment raised for service in the American War, and which should have been disbanded, as indeed it had to be, after mutiny and much discussion in Parliament at the end of that war. It was a pity that the parish records were wrecked because of the attempted and frustrated breach of faith. And immediately afterwards who were so ready as the mobbers' sons and grandsons to enlist in the Highland regiments, and to join militia, fencibles, and volunteers? The early Chronicle of Fortingall, written by the three Roman Catholics, contained most of the surnames which the Fortingall people bore in my time, such as Macnaughtons, Robertsons, Macdougals, Menzieses, Macgregors, Stewarts, Maclellaus, Campbells, Irvines. The introduction of most of these surnames could be traced by the procession of proprietors. John of Lorne, who received Glenlyon as tocher with his wife, the neice of King David Bruce, was not indeed proprietor of Fortingall, but he was the "toiseach" or King's representative, and upliffcer of his rents and dues until the next reign, when the Wolf of Badenoch, who placed an eagle's nest up at Garth, "intromitted" with his charge, and got the heiress of Fortingall, Janet Menzies, married to his son James. John of Lorne placed a Macgregor vicar in Fortingall, and introduced Macdougal clansmen of his own there. The Stewarts began to come in with the Wolfs usurpation, and afterwards had additions from the Appin-Innermeath line. They were divided into the "Stiubhartaich Dubh-Shuil-each" and "Na Stiubhartaich Gorm-Shuileach" - that is to say, the black-eyed and the blue-eyed Stewarts. Huntly, on the forfeiture of Neil Ruadh of Garth, had temporary hold of the superiority of that place, and introduced the Irvines. The Macnaughtons, many of whom were called Mackay that is, the Children of Aodh were transported from the North to the banks of the Tay by William the Lion. The Chief of the old Atholl clan afterwards called Robertsons and Fergus, son of Aod or Aoidh, were lessees of Fortingall and other thanages before John of Lome appeared on the scene. As for the Maclellans, named after St Fillan, they came at a later date to Fortingall from Glenlyon. I think the Macnaughtons and Robertsons are the people of longest descent in Fortingall. The Macintyres were late comers from Argyll, and the Andersons and Fishers were also late comers from Breadalbane. So were the Campbells from Glenlyon and Breadalbane, and also the much scattered Clan Charles Campbell branch of the Black Dougal of Craignish stock. With the variations of a small kind which a long period of time must bring about anywhere, the Fortingall population had retained the same complexion and composition for four hundred years.

The Militia riot, in which the Fortingall people took no part, was an abnormal incident due to a particular cause. Law-abiding as the Highlanders had become since Culloden, they had lost nothing of the warrior instincts and qualities of their race. The parish of Fortingall as yet undivided was behind none of the Gaelic-speaking places in sending forth its sons to fight Napoleon by land and sea, and to establish British supremacy in India. While many of those who went forth to fight in their country's cause fell on battle-fields or died of wounds and fever, a goodly number returned home with medals and pensions to keep the military fire alive among boys of the next two generations. Although the number of our veterans was much reduced when the Crimean war broke out, several still survived to gloat and glory over the achievements of the Highlanders at Alma and Balaclava, and to read with sad and angry feelings about the insufficiencies of organisation and the sufferings of the troops during the horrible winter of storms, and the disappointments which nearly culminated into fatal disasters. I was at that time treating myself to the unwonted luxury of a daily newspaper, and before I could scarcely glance over it, a veteran who had fought under Abercromby in Egypt would come to hear the news and to ask for the paper when I had read it. This was John Campbell, called "Iain Caimbeul a Chlaidh" John Campbell of the Churchyard because his house stood near the famous old yew tree and at the churchyard gate. John was a reader of history and a critic of military affairs. Sir Colin Campbell was at that time the hero of all Scotland; but when, on the death of Lord Raglan, people said that Sir Colin should have been made Commander-in-Chief, John, rising above clannishness, thought that it was a wise decision to select another, and that Sir Colin, however good in the open field, would not have been the most fitting man for a siege. After Sir Colin had quelled the Indian Mutiny, John came to the conclusion that he was fit for any military achievement whatever. A gloom fell over Fortingall when the news came that General Sir John Campbell, whom all the population of the village knew intimately, was killed in the brave but abortive attack in the Redan. Sir John's father, General Sir Archibald Campbell, who was a descendant of the Duneaves family, bought the estate of Garth, which he sold again ten years later to the trustees of Macdonald of St. Martin's. Sir Archibald and his wife were Gaelic-speaking people who belonged to the parish by race, and whose children were well known to the Fortingall people. Sir John's death was deeply and universally regretted, but yet some consolation was drawn from the fact that his body was found in advance of those of the others who fell in that assault. They all praised the Russian Commander-in-Chief for chivalrously restoring to the family the ancestral sword which Sir John was wearing when he fell. We were expecting to hear of the fall of Sevastopol two days before the news of it reached us. Postal and telegraph arrangements then were far from being what they are now. But at last the news did come, and so late at night that many people had gone to bed before the mail came in. But when the announcement was read out to the people who were waiting for it, a rush was made to the church, the bell was rung furiously, and from different places, at some distance from each other, bonfires blazed up to show that the message of the bell was understood and welcomed. All next Sunday's sermons were of a thanksgiving character.


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