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Summer at the Lake of Monteith
Traditional Battles, Betty’s Field


It was morning, and the eastern sun had thrown his first golden rays over the scattered crags of the heath-clad hills of Monteith, whose shaggy sides sent their dark shadows deep into the lake, whose waters reflected back the glories of the blue-vaulted heaven. All was peace in the walls of Talla. Zephyrs played around its shores, and the finny tribe sported on the surface of the peaceful waters; the fox sought the thick copse of Glenny, and the ospray floated over the lake. There was no sound to disturb the lonely sentinel, save the quack of the wild drake, or the plunge of the otter, as it dashed through the blue water after its finny prey. Suddenly, dashing through the copsewood, there appeared on the distant shore the picturesque form of a Highlander. Sword in hand, and dressed only in his kilt, the youth, without waiting for a boat, plunged amid the silvery breakers, and was soon within the tower of Talla, telling his chief that the Murrays of Atholl were plundering the glen. Instantly the war-cry sped along the valley, and soon

The fiery cross proclaimed,
And bugle sounded far—
Rise up, ye kindred of the Grame!
Follow thy chief to war.

Soon the whole followers of the Graeme in the vale of Monteith were assembled to repel the northern invader, headed by a younger son of the Earl, who addressed them thus:—

“Men of Monteith! yonder’s the foemen!
Bare your claymore and follow the bowmen.
See yonder dark host up by yon rill—
The Murrays of Atholl, who cover the hill!
They’ve come from the north to feed on thy spoil,
And see how proudly they tread on thy soil.
But now you will meet them, and drive them afar—
For the kindred of Graeme are gallant in war;
The life of Blair-Atholl ye’ll spill like a flood,
Till the eagles of Glenny be drunk on the blood.
On to the fray! and stay only when
The corpses of Atholl lie thick in the glen;
For the Graeme he will conquer or die on the heath,
That glory may dwell on the Lake of Monteith!”

So saying, onward rushed the eager youth up the tangled slopes of his native Mondhuie, and over the rocks that had oft rung with his hunting horn, and re-echoed back the war-cry of his fathers. Graeme was surrounded by his hardy clansmen, all eager to meet the “men of the north,” who were hurrying down the hill side,

“Plaided and plumed in their tarian array.”

As soon as the Murrays saw the approaching Grahams, it is said they looked upon them with a sort of disdain, as birds of inferior plumage—as the eagle looks down upon the tenants of nether air, — and their chief exclaimed, “Take the eagle’s feathers off your arrows and put on the goose’s feathers; that’s good enough for the Monteith fellows.” Ha! ha!—

“Proud bird of the mountain! thy plume shall be tom.”

A very severe hand-to-hand contest ensued, and many fell on both sides. The Grahams, led by their young chief, were pursuing their enemies over the hill, when a wounded Atholl man, standing behind a tree, saw the leader of the Grahams approach the spot where he was concealed, drew his dagger, and, as Graeme was hurrying past, plunged it into his side. The Grahams were so exasperated at this act, that the perpetrator was instantly dispatched, and his friends driven off with great loss. The Grahams had their wounded chief carried from the hill, and Talla opened her halls to receive her bleeding lord. With his last breath he sung—•

“The blood of the slain is tinging yon rill,
For the dead thick are lying;
But in peace I am dying,
For the Murrays are flying Far over the hill.”

There is another version of this battle, as follows:— The chief of the Atholl men, being on friendly terms with the Earl, called at the island to pay him a friendly visit. Unfortunately, however, the Earl chanced to be out hunting, and the Atholl men finding the boats on the north side of the lake, a number of the party sailed over to the island, where they found a well-cooked dinner, consisting of a large number of finely dressed fowls, &c., all laid out, waiting the Earl’s return. The Murrays swept the hall of everything eatable, and took their departure. The Earl soon returned, and found that his roasted fowls had taken wing, with the exception of an old cock, which had “craw’d” the clan to arms for ten years; and, on being told by the cook what had taken place, he instantly ordered his retainers to pursue the fugitives, and led the pursuit in person. Coming up with the Atholl men on the hill of Mondhuie, he was about to fall on them and revenge the insult, when the leader of the pursued turned round, and, presenting his arrow, cried, in a friendly tone, “ Over me and over you?” —meaning, that each should shoot his arrow over his opponent’s head, and thus end the matter without loss of life. “Na, na,” exclaimed the insulted chief, “in me and in you.” “In you be it then!” thundered Murray; and, instantly raising his arrow, shot the Earl through the heart.

This fray gained for this branch of the Grahams the appellation of the “Hen Grahams.” A member of this branch quarrelled with a M‘Gregor on the hill overlooking the lake. M‘Gregor being angry, was about to cal out “Hen Graham!” perceiving his intention, Graham instantly drew his sword and severed his head from his body. It is said that the head rolled to the foot of the hill calling out “Hen Graham, hen Graham!”

Another battle was fought on the shores of the Lake of Monteith, in the year 1653, between the Highlanders on one side, and a detachment of Cromwell’s army on the other. The Highlanders consisted of men of the following clans, viz., Grahams, M‘Gregors, M'Naughtons, and a num-number of horsemen under Lord Kenmure, all stationed at Duchray Castle, and under the command of Graham, Laird of Duchray, and the Earl of Glencairn, numbering in all about three hundred.

Colonel Kidd, then governor of Stirling Castle, being apprised of the meeting of the Royalists in Aberfoyle, marched at the head of a regiment of foot and a troop of horse, with a view to crush Duchray and his hardy little band, and, if possible, annihilate the enterprise. Graham of Glenny, hearing of the advance of Kidd, hastily collected his men, and hid them in ambush in the pass on the front of the hill overlooking the lake. Graham, having but a mere handful of men, was unable to take the advantage his position offered, but kept up a galling fire on the enemy. Among the Grahams was a young man, of the name of M‘Queen, who was very conspicuous in emptying Kidd’s saddles. Kidd, annoyed at the loss of his men, ordered his horsemen to dislodge the enemy. The horsemen instantly charged up the hill, and one of them singling out M‘Queen, cut him down. The spot where he fell is still pointed out, and bears the name of “M‘Queen’s Pass.” One of Kidd’s horsemen singling out a Graham, galloped after him right up the steep pass and over the hill. Graham, running for his life, fled towards Portend Glen, a wild and rugged glen on the shores of the lake. As he approached the brink of the precipice, and the horseman was about to cut him down, Graham suddenly darted to one side, and in a moment afterwards the horse and his rider went thundering over the rocks. This part of the glen is still pointed out to tourists as “the Horseman’s Rock.” Glenny, on the first approach of Kidd, had sent notice to Duchray of the intended attack, and to prepare him for the enemy. Duchray, on learning this, instantly marched to meet him, and took up a strong position near the foot of Loch Ard, hiding his foot on the rising ground on each side of the road, and posting his horse in the centre. Presently Kidd arrived, and the unwary commander walked deliberately into the lion’s embraces. At the word of command, the Highlanders sprang from their native heather,

“As if the yawning earth had given
A subterranean host to heaven;”

and, sweeping from the hill-sides like a mighty avalanche, overwhelmed his flanks, while the horsemen charging in front, threw the whole of the enemy into such wild confusion that it was impossible to rally them, and, fleeing in disorder, they became an easy prey to the broadswords of the Highlandmen. One of Kidd’s officers was shot by a private gentleman from the window of his house, which then stood near the foot of Loch Ard, and his body was interred in a little knoll, which still bears the name of “Badden Cass-nock,” or “The Englishman’s Thicket.”

Regarding the early dilapidation of the Priory, I have been unable to gather the smallest information either from history or tradition. There is no doubt, however, that the Priory would share the fate of all other religious houses of the same kind at the period. We are told by Spottiswood “that no difference was made, but all the churches were either defaced or pulled down, and that the very sepulchres of the dead were not spared.” The mischievous inclinations of the inhabitants, however, and the plundering raids of the modem natives, have done more towards the destruction of the sacred edifice than the excited multitude of John Knox, or the roar of Cromwell’s cannon.

The Priory of Inchmahome had four dependent chapels attached to it. One of these stood at the east side of the lake, on what is now part of the farm of Inchie, and a little to the north of where the Water of Goodie flows out of the lake. There is no part of the ruins visible, but a small point jutting out into the lake is still pointed out as the burying-ground attached to this religious house. Another was at Arnchly, that is “The Field of the Burying-ground,” situated about a mile to the west of the lake. The ruins of the chapel and part of the burying-ground are still visible. Another was at the “Chapelaroch,” that is, “The Foundation of the Chapel,” about a mile below the village of Gartmore, and situated on the banks of the water of Kelty. The other was at Balquhapple, near Drymen. All these places, with the exception of Arnchly, still retain the name of Chapel.

There is a curious prophecy connected with a stone situated near the ruins of the chapel of Arnchly, and which is worth recording. From time immemorial this stone went under the name of the “Peace Stone,” and it was held in great reverence by the natives. One Pharic MTharic, a noted Gaelic prophet, foretold that, in the course of time, this stone would be buried underground by two brothers, who, for their indiscretion, were to die childless. By-and-by the stone would rise to the surface, and by the time it was fairly above ground, a battle was to be fought on “Auchveity,” that is, “Betty’s Field.” The battle was to be long and fierce, until “Gramoch-Cam” of Glenny, that is, “Graham of the one eye,” would sweep from the “Bay-wood” with his clan and decide the contest. After the battle, a large raven was to alight on the stone and drink the blood of the fallen. So much for the prophecy then; now for the fulfilment. About fifty years ago, two brothers (tenants of the farm of Arnchly), finding that the stone interfered with their agricultural labours, made a large trench, and had it put several feet below the surface. Very singular, indeed, both these men, although married, died without leaving any issue. With the labouring of the field for a number of years, the stone has actually made its appearance above ground, and there is at present living a descendant of the Grahams of Glenny who is blind of one eye, and the ravens are daily hovering over the devoted field. Tremble, ye natives! and rivals of the “Hero Grahams,” keep an eye on Gramoch-Cam!

There is another very interesting tradition regarding “Betty’s Field.” I leave the reader, however, to take it for what it may be worth. In early times, when Inchmahome was a royal residence, the country to the west of the lake was a royal forest, and the stag, the wolf, and the wild boar found a safe retreat amid its dark solitudes, when the glens rang with the hunter’s horn, and re-echoed back the cry of royal sportsmen. One morning the retainers of the King were summoned to join the royal chase, and to follow the train of his son, to hunt the stag. On the border of the forest a stag was sighted, but instead of keeping on the high ground, it broke off towards the marsh, and was instantly followed by the Prince, who, heedless of the danger, kept thundering on till he reached the banks of a small but beautiful loch in the vicinity of Arnchly. Here his horse got “bogged,” and the royal rider was in imminent peril of his life. A young “Hielan’ lassie,” however, chanced to be attending her cattle at the sheals of Gartrench, a locality close by, and seeing the danger of her royal master, with great presence of mind rushed to his aid, and bore him off in her arms to a place of safety. For her “distinguished services,” the Prince was glad enough to be able to grant her for life the portion of land still called, and no doubt after her own name,

“Betty’s Field.” The little sequestered loch, on whose banks the incident occurred, is still called “Loch Mackinveigh,” that is, “The Loch of the King’s son,” which gives a colouring of truthfulness to the story. It is said that it was in this royal forest the last wolf seen in Scotland was killed, and that at a place called the “Claggans,” on the farm of Miling. It is also said that the same wolf attacked a girl near the village of Gartmore, a short time previous to its death at Miling. The girl was carrying meat to the harvest people, when the animal rushed out of the “Fir hill.” Being afraid, the girl threw the “beef and tatties” on the ground and fled. The wolf was content with the dinner, and thus the girl escaped.


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