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Summer at the Lake of Monteith
Tradition regarding the Decline of the Earldom


Connected with the Earldom were some of the bravest warriors and most accomplished statesmen of the ages in which it flourished; and at Court the holders of the title took precedence over most other sister titles, while many of the Earls enjoyed, in a remarkable degree, the confidence of their Sovereign. “But every dog has its day;” and although we can trace the history of those feudal lords over a period of five hundred years, and that during a time when Scotland was boiling with internal divisions, yet the day arrived when the Earldom passed away and was known no more. Among the first Earls of note was Murdacus,- who held the title about the year 1260. He had two daughters; the eldest was married to Cumin, Lord of Badenoch, who succeeded to the Earldom by right of his wife. Cumin was succeeded in the Earldom by Walter Stewart, brother of the High Steward of Scotland, who was married to the youngest daughter. Walter had two sons, Murdoch, his successor, and John Menteith of Rusky. Murdoch the Earl had one son, Allan, who married the heiress of Macduff, Earl of Fife. Allan had one daughter, married to Patrick- Graham of Kilbride, second son of Patrick Graham of Kincardine. This Patrick Graham was the founder of the Earls of Menteith of the name of Graham, and whose posterity were Earls thereof for nine successive generations.

The Earldom became extinct in the year 1694. The last Earl, William, dying without issue, bequeathed his estates to the family of Montrose. The first cadet of the Menteith family was Sir John Graham of Kilbride, ancestor of the Grahams of Gartmore; and the last of any note was the ancestor of the Grahams of Gartur.

Local tradition assigns the decline of the Earldom to the cruelty of its last possessor, and among current stories the undernoted is believed to be the most authentic, while it illustrates, in a remarkable degree, the character of the times. A man of the name of Graham having stolen a horse in the neighbourhood, exposed the animal for sale at St. Michael’s fair, then held on Miling farm, on the shores of the lake. Some of Graham’s friends being present at the fair, told him the owner of the horse was on his track, and advised the thief instantly to leave the market. Graham, acting on the advice, asked a young lad of the name of Blair, who was standing by, to hold his horse till he transacted some trivial business, and immediately took to the hills. Meantime the owner of the horse arrived, and finding the unsuspecting Blair in possession, had him handed over to the tender mercies of the Earl, who was present at the fair; and in those “good old times” the Earl, who had the power of life and death in his own hands, the executioners *in his own household, and the gallows on his own domains, ordered the lad to be instantly hanged. The Blairs at this time were a numerous party, both in Monteith and Aberfoyle, and many of the lad’s friends being present at the fair, they made a strong remonstrance, but in vain. The sentence was instantly carried into effect on the Gallows hill, a small eminence on the farm of Miling. The Blairs were so enraged that they mustered in strong force, and tore down the gallows, declaring that it should never “hing” another man in Monteith; while an old woman prophesied the downfal of the Earldom. She is said to have told the Earl to his face that he would be the last of his race, and that no other Graham should ever enjoy the title; that his estates would pass away to the stranger; that briars and thistles would grow rank in his rooms—the otter make his home in the broken walls—and the jackdaw and the owl build their nests amid the ruins. What effect this imprecation had on the decline of the Earldom, I leave the reader to judge; but the writer has had proof enough that the latter part of it has been fulfilled with a vengeance. Briars and thistles certainly grow rank around the crumbling walls, and the otter roams free amid their dark recesses; while the jackdaw and the owl flap their wings at pleasure in the once lordly halls of Talla.


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