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Conflicts of the Clans

The Troubles Betwixt Forbeses and Gordons in the Years 1571 and 1572

The two families of Gordon and Forbes were of great power and authority in their country, both of them valiant, wise, and wealthy; both harbouring deadly feud, long rooted between them. The Gordons then lived with great concord and unity among themselves; and, by the tolerance of their Kings, had, for many years, governed the people adjoining unto them, whereby they became wealthy and of great power, and purchased strength among themselves, together with the attendance and following of other men towards them. When, on the contrary, the Forbeses were at war one with another, they daily impaired their own strength, with their own slaughters, and, in end, wrought their own harm by pressing to strive against the Gordons.

These two surnames did live together at this time, rather in secret emulation than open envy; because they had (in a way of reconciliation) by marriage intermingled their families together; but their hid and long-rooted rancour did now burst forth, not only by following contrary factions during these civil wars betwixt the King's party and the Queen's, but chiefly because that John, Master of Forbes (eldest son to the Lord Forbes), had repudiated and put away his wife, Margaret Gordon, daughter to George, Earl of Huntly, which he did by the instigation of his uncle, Black Arthur Forbes, who mortally hated the Gordons. This Arthur was a man of great courage, ambitious, and ready to undertake anything whatsoever for the advancement and reconciliation of his family. The Forbeses, from the first time of these civil discords in Scotland, did follow the King's party; the Gordons did always remain constantly faithful to the Queen, even unto the end.

The Forbeses, by persuasion of Black Arthur Forbes, had appointed both day and place of meeting, where they should assemble together, not only for their own general reconciliation among themselves, but also to enterprise something against the Gordons and the rest of the Queen's favourites in these parts; whereof Adam Gordon of Achindown having secret intelligence (his brother, the Earl of Huntly, being then in Edinburgh), he assembled a certain number of his kindred and followers to cross the proceedings of the Forbeses, who were all convened at Tillieangus, above Druminour, in the beginning of the year of God, 1572. The Forbeses perceiving the Gordons coming up towards them, against the hill where they then were, they did intrench themselves within their camp, which they had strongly fortified, dividing their army into two several companies, whereof Black Arthur Forbes commanded that which lay next unto the Gordons.

Adam Gordon (far inferior in number to his enemies), presently, without any stay, fiercely invaded the first company; his brother, Mr. Robert Gordon, set upon the other; so, breaking their trenches, they ran desperately upon the spears of their enemies. After a sharp and cruel conflict, courageously fought a long time on either side, Black Arthur Forbes, with divers others, gentlemen of his surname and family, were slain; the rest were all overthrown, put to flight, and chased even to the gates of Druminour, the Lord Forbes' chief dwelling-place; few of the Gordons were killed, but only John Gordon of Buckie, father to John Gordon of Buckie, now living.

The Forbeses attempted nothing afterward in revenge of this overthrow, until the time that John, Master of Forbes (Black Arthur's nephew and chief of that family), hardly escaping from his enemies, hastened to Court, where the Earl of Mar, then Regent, had his residence, hoping by him to be relieved. The Regent gave him five companies of footmen and some horsemen, with letters to such of the adjoining nobility as favoured and followed that party, desiring them to associate and join themselves unto the Forbeses.

These then being confederated and assembled together with certain other families of their affinity and neighbours, so advanced the spirit of this John, Master of Forbes, that he now thought himself sufficiently furnished against the forces of his adversaries, and so presently went to Aberdeen, to expel Adam Gordon from thence, the year of God 1572, who, knowing the preparation of the Forbeses, and understanding the approach of the enemies so near at hand, assembled such of his friends and followers as he could soonest find at that time, and led them out of the town.

He sent a company of muskateers, under the conduct of Captain Thomas Carr, to a convenient place where the Forbeses must of necessity pass, there to lie in ambush, and not to stir the battle did join; then he sent certain of the Sutherland bowmen (who had retired themselves out of their country during the Earl of Sutherland's minority), and desired them to draw a great compass about, and so, to set upon the back of the Forbeses' footmen and muskateers; he himself, and his brother, Mr. Robert Gordon, with the residue of his company, stayed the coming of the Forbeses at a place called Craibstane, not far from the ports of the new town of Aberdeen.

The Forbeses, being in sight of Aberdeen, began to consult among themselves what was best to be done; some were of the opinion that the fittest and safest course was to go to Old Aberdeen, and there seat themselves, and from thence to molest the new town, and compel Adam Gordon to depart from New Aberdeen, by the aid and assistance of these experienced footmen which were sent from the Regent; but the Master of Forbes and his kinsmen would not hearken thereto, desiring present battle, which was then concluded; and so the Forbeses advanced with great courage against the Gordons, who received them with like resolution. At the very first encounter, Achindown's muskateers, who lay in ambush, killed a number of the Forbeses; then both the armies joined with great violence.

After a cruel conflict, with incredible obstinacy on either side, the Laird of Pitsligo (Forbes's) two brethern, with divers other gentlemen of the surname of Forbes, were there slain; Captain Chisholm was slain, with three other Captains, which the rest of the Forbeses perceiving, they fled apace; many of the principals were taken, with their Chief and General, John, Master of Forbes, whose father was then very aged, lying sick at Druminour, expecting the sorrowful news of this overthrow. Adam Gordon used this victory very moderately, and suffered no man to be killed after the fury of the fight was past. When all was ended, he returned to the Church of Aberdeen, and there gave thanks unto God for his happy success.

Alexander Forbes of Strathgarnock (author of all the troubles betwixt these two families, and the chief stirrer-up of Arthur Forbes against the Gordons) was taken at this battle, and, as they were going to behead him, Achindown caused them to stay his execution. He entertained the Master of Forbes, and the rest of the prisoners, with great kindness and courtesy; he carried the Master of Forbes along with him to Strathbogie; and in end gave him and all the rest leave to depart.

The next ensuing summer after this conflict at Craibstane, Adam Gordon of Achindown, following his victory, entered the Mearns, and besieged the house of Glenbervie, putting all the Regent's party within that province into a great fear and tumult. The Earl of Crawford, the Lords Grey, Ovilvy, and Glamis, taking part with the Regent against the Queen, assembled all the forces of Angus and Mearns to resist Achindown, and to stop his passage at Brechin, where they encamped; but Adam Gordon, being advertised of their proceedings, left the most part of his men at the siege of Glenbervie, from whence he parted in the dead time of the night, with the most resolute men of his company, to invade these lords; and being come to Brechin, he killed the watch with divers others, surprised the town, set upon the lords, chased them, and made himself master of the town and castle of Brechin. The next morning, the lords understanding Achindown's small forces in regard of theirs, they assembled their men together, and came near until Brechin to fight against him, who met them with resolute courage; but, as they were ready to encounter, the lords, not able to endure the first charge of their enemies, fled apace with all their companies. There were slain of them above 80; and divers of them were taken, amongst whom was the Lord Glamis, who was carried to Strathbogie, and, being detained there a while, he was set at liberty with the rest. This conflict was called the Bourd of Brechin.

Then returned Adam Gordon back again to the siege of Glenbervie and took it; from thence he went to Montrose, and took that town. In his return from thence, he took the Castle of Dun, which appertained to the Regent's cousin, and so marched forward into Angus. The inhabitants of Dundee hearing of his approach, and despairing of their own abilities to resist him, they sent for help into Fife; but Achindown, having done his pleasure in Angus and Mearns, returned home into the North, being contented for that time with what he had already done against his enemies. By this good success of the Gordons, the Queen's favourers in all the parts of the kingdom were highly encouraged at that time.


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