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Summer at the Lake of Monteith
Traditions regarding Sir John Menteith


Sir John Menteith was the second son of Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith, and was born on the island of Inchmahome. On the death of his father, Sir John succeeded to the estate of Rusky, and resided

“Where the majestic Grampians spread
Their shadow o’er old Husky’s head;
Where' friendship warms the escutcheoned walls
Of frowning Husky’s antique halls.”

Sir John selected as his place of residence a small island on Loch Rusky—a dark and deep, but beautiful sheet of water, about midway between Callander and Lake of Monteith, having a commanding view of the surrounding country. On this little island he built a strong castle, the ruins of which still remain. Sir John is reported to have kept a fleet stud of horses, for the purpose of carrying out his traitorous designs with the English King; and, in support of this tradition, the course for training the horses is still to be seen on the banks of the loch. Another of Sir John’s castles was the Castle of Monteith, now called Castle of Rednock, a considerable portion of which is still standing. This castle was originally very strong, of great dimensions, and beautifully situated beneath a proud wing of the Grampians, from the summit of which there is one of the most varied and commanding views in Scotland. One roll of the traitor’s eye could view the country from Leith to Lennox—that fertile country, studded with trees, dotted with villages, and rivers rolling through its plains — the very garden of Scotland — the cradle of Scottish patriots. When occasion served, Scotland’s direst enemy—he who was nurtured in her own arms, and who spilt her best blood — swept from his impregnable fortress, like the wild eagle from his eyrie, upon his doomed prey. Many reasons are assigned as the cause of Menteith betraying Wallace. Some assert that he was dissatisfied with the conduct of Wallace on some particular occasion. Supposing this to be true, it is no justification why he should deceive his early friend; for, according to Barbour, Sir John was one of Wallace’s earliest friends. For my own part, I am ready to believe that it is only a glaring proof of the deceitfulness of the human heart, prompted by English gold, which had unfortunately found its way to the shores of the Lake of Monteith. The attempt of Sir John to betray Bruce in Dumbarton Castle is another proof that the man was a base-hearted villain. There is an attempt made by one historian to whitewash Sir John of the crime of betraying Wallace. It is, however, but a miserable “daub,” and not borne out by a single writer except himself; and alluding to the betrayal, other writers declare that he was justly and deservedly hated by the Scotch nation. The manner of the betrayal is well known; how, when they met at Robroyston, the two chiefs recognised each other as old familiar friends; and how Menteith had previously arranged with Edward’s spies about the turning of the “loaf” when the favourable moment arrived for falling on and securing the chief of Scottish patriots. It was for a very long time asserted, that the deepest insult one could give to an individual of the name of Menteith was the turning of the loaf in his presence, thus calling to mind that they were the descendants of the infamous Sir John. I have known, even in my own day, a fiery Menteith take signal vengeance on a fellow-mortal who had the audacity to “whummel the bannock” in his presence.

The tradition regarding the attempt of Menteith to betray Bruce is not generally known. The story, however, varies a good deal, and is told in different forms; but as Buchanan alludes to it, and as his version will no doubt be the most correct, I have followed that historian pretty closely. When the rest of the fortified places were reduced, Dumbarton Castle was held almost alone by the English; and because it was by nature very strong, Bruce entered into negotiation with Menteith, who had received the governorship as the price of Wallace, through his friends and relations, for its recovery. As the price of the surrender, Menteith had the “cheek” to demand the Earldom of Lennox, and would listen to no other proposal. Bruce would listen to no such condition, although he greatly desired the Castle—Lennox being his firmest and almost only 'friend in all his misfortunes. The Earl himself, as soon as he heard this, insisted that the King should not refuse the condition. The agreement was therefore completed on Menteith’s own terms, and the King went to receive possession of the Castle. On his journey, he was met in the wood near Dumbarton by a joiner, said to be named Rolland, who, having obtained an audience of the King on a matter of great importance, discovered to him a plot, projected and prepared by Menteith against him. In an underground cellar a considerable number of Englishmen were hid, who, when the rest of the Castle was given up, and the King seated at dinner, were to rush forth and either kill or take him prisoner. After Bruce had received the Castle from Menteith, he was invited to an entertainment. The King, however, refused to partake until he had searched the concealed cellars. Menteith pretended that the smith who had the key was absent and would soon return, but the door was broken open and the snare discovered. The armed English were instantly put to death; some having confessed that a war-ship was riding in the bay, ready to convey the King to England. Sir John’s life was spared, on condition that he should be put in the very front of the battle at Bannockburn, and take “pot luck.” There, it is said, he served his King faithfully. I have not been able to trace where Sir John died, or where he was buried, though tradition asserts he died in his castle on Loch Rusky, and was interred in the choir of the church of Inchmahome.


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