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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XXXII. Our Halbert Glendinnings

HAVING written to Mr Ruskin with reference to a lecture, with the above title, to be given to our Young Men’s Association, he was kind enough to reply as follows:-

"4th February, 1881.

"My DEAR Sin,—I should like to give my day to the answering your letter. All I can do is to answer what I may, before I open the others on my breakfast table. This will be an indulgence rather than a duty, for your deeply interesting letter and its enclosure move every corner of heart in me, that is fullest of old—and coming— days. Forgive my going abruptly into what I would ask you to do. First—at your lecture—to bid those of your audience who have leisure enough, and faculty, to read with extreme attention every word of ‘The Monastery’ and ‘Abbot,’ gathering from them the gist of what Scott tells, or represents to them there, of Scottish life. Broadly, they will find these tales to contain the story of two Scottish shepherd boys, who, their father having been killed in civil war, leave their widowed mother, the one going into the Army, the other into the Church—-the first that he may marry a beautiful young lady above his own rank in life, and the other that he may forget her. The result of this conduct of theirs, for their country, is that the first spends his life in a vain struggle for what you Scotch clergymen have ever since called Antichrist; and the second, so far as his best bodily and mental strength can go, is instrumental in getting the Queen of Scotland beheaded by the Queen of England, and a few years (put in the number, please, in your lecture) the King of England beheaded by a farmer of Huntingdonshire. Possibly both their pieces of life-work may have been good for the Scottish and English nations, but they are both beyond a doubt questionable goods. While had Halbert and Edward stayed with their widowed mother, and both married a maid of the moor or the mill, quite without question they might in that station have promoted (every hour of their lives) the strength and vital happiness of their country.

"Must they in that line of life and conduct have remained country ‘bumpkins,’ and led less happy lives than they found in the castle and the cloister? Is Dandie Dinmont—is even Cuddle Headrigg—a less rapectable person than Halbert Glendinning? Are either of them less happy than Edward? These questions will you help your audience to put and to answer? You will be doing, it seems to me, your clergyman’s most sure duty in such sermon,

"And now I pass to your enclosure. I have underlined a sentence in it—strongly underlined its last word.

"Will you read it to your audience, and ask those of them who, after the above questions have been considered, still desire to be gallant Colonels, and marry Mary Avenels—what they are to do when the entire frontier has been pacificated? and when, by Republican destruction of all chateaux, Mary Avenels have become as much myths as the White Lady.—Ever faithfully and respectfully yours,


The enclosure referred to by Mr Ruskin, with the underlined sentence, is given further on. One of our most notable Halbert Glendinnings was MALCOLM FRASER. Here is the record of his birth and baptism:—"Malcolm, son to Donald Fraser and Janet McIntosh in Bellifurth was born ye 15th and baptised ye 22nd of May, 1732. Witnesses Duncan Cameron and John McIntosh there." Malcolm was educated at the Abernethy School, which was then taught by Malcolm Grant. He was for some time in the service of the minister, Mr William Grant, and afterwards went south to friends at Delford, near Edinburgh. His father was killed at Culloden, but this did not deter young Malcolm from becoming a soldier. The 78th Highlanders were raised by the Hon. Simon Fraser, son of Lovat of the ‘45, and in this regiment Malcolm obtained a commission, 1757. War with France was then going on, and the 78th were ordered to America. Malcolm fought with his regiment in the famous battle won by Wolfe on the Heights of Abraham, 1759, where he was wounded. He was again more severely wounded at the siege of Quebec, 1760. Some time after, with many of his comrades, he retired from active service, obtaining a grant of land from the Government, and settling in Canada. But in 1775, when the Revolutionary War broke out, he again joined the King’s forces, and became Captain and Paymaster in the 84th Highlanders. He obtained promotion, and ultimately retired with the rank of Colonel. Malcolm Fraser appears to have been twice married—first, about 1754, to some bonnie lassie from Nethy side, who died early; and secondly, in another land, perhaps with more of worldly prudence than the ardour of youthful love, to a Canadian lady of some fortune. Colonel Fraser spoke Gaelic, English, and French, and knew some Latin. He held several important public situations at Quebec, and was Seignor of Mount Murray, Islet du Portage, and other localities. By his second wife he had ten children — 1, Angelique, married to John M’Laughlin; 2, Alexander, Seignor of River du Loup, Temisconata, and Madawaska, and five other Seignories; 3, Joseph, surveyor, Seignor of Islet du Portage; 4, Dr Simon, Seignor of Clause; 5, Julia, married Commissary Patrick Langan, Seignor of De Ramsay and Bourcheinn; 6, Honourable John Malcolm Fraser, Legislative Councillor, and Seignor of part of Mount Murray; 7, Dr William, co-Seignor of Mount Murray; 8, Mrs Belaire, only surviving child, 1871, aged 85; 9, Honourable John Fraser, Seignor of Villeray; 10, Ann, wife of Joseph Belanger, merchant at Murray Bay. Colonel Fraser died 14th June, 1871, at Mount Murray, and was buried at Quebec in the St John’s Burying-Ground. The above information as to the family was obtained in 1871 from the late Honourable John Fraser de Berry, son of Dr Simon, Chief of the Frasers of the Province of Quebec, who stated that at that time Colonel Fraser’s descendants numbered more than 150, and that most of them spoke French, and were Roman Catholics. Doubtless, in the interval since then, they have greatly increased.

Another of our Halbert Glendinnings was PATRICK MACGREGOR. His father, James, married Marry Grant of Tullochgorm, and was for some time factor of Strathspey, and resided at Balliemore. He was held in repute as a man of ability and enterprise, who did much for the improvement of agriculture in the district. Patrick entered the medical service, and was appointed surgeon to George IV. He was ultimately rewarded with a Baronetcy, and settled in England. The present representative of the family is William Gordon Macgregor, Leyton, Essex, 4th Baronet—born in 1846.

The STUARTS of Lethnachyle (now called Lainchoil) were one of our oldest families (chap. IX.) Donald and John were the family names. In 1739 there was a John, who was an elder of the Church. His son John married Marjory Stewart of Lynchurn, who died at Grantown, 7th November, 1830, aged 101. Their son Donald married Janet, younger daughter of Robert Grant, Wester Lethendry, Cromdale, and had three sons, John, Robert, and Peter, and two daughters, Barbara and Marjory. Marjory died at Grantown in 1844, aged 72, and Barbara married Alexander Smith of Archiestown Cottage, Knockando, father of the late Dr Stuart Smith, of the 55th regiment, and Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal. The fortunes of the sons were very diverse. Patrick went into the army, and was for some years Fort Major at Belfast, Ireland. John and Robert went to North America. Robert was in the service of the North West Company, and came quickly to the front from his ability and courage. One day, going down the Columbia River, his canoe was upset, and he and the three men with him were thrown into the water. They succeeded in getting upon a rock, but this was but temporary relief. Stuart was a powerful swimmer, but none of the others could swim. He bade them be of good cheer—that, if God permitted, he would save them. Then, taking one of them on his back, he struck out for the shore, which with difficulty was reached. He was now safe, and he had rescued one of the men, but this was not enough so long as the others were in danger of perishing. So he dashed again into the water, and brought the second man ashore. The tremendous effort told upon him, and, if he had listened to the voice of self, he would have said, "I have done what I could; to try again would be to throw my life away." But the man on the rock, alone amidst the surging billows, appealed to him. The third time he plunged into the river, and again he reached the rock. Resting for a little, he set out for the shore. But alas! his strength failed, and, after a brave struggle, he and the man he bore sank down in the mighty waters and were seen no more. John, the elder brother, was more fortunate. He found employment in the Hudson Bay Company. Being a man of much shrewdness and of indomitable pluck and perseverance, he soon rose to high position, and did great service in establishing trading ports and exploring the country. The Stuart Lake and Stuart River, which has recently been so often noticed in connection with the Klondyke Gold Country, are called after him. Mr John Stuart was for some years chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He died at Springfield House, Forres, in 1847, having directed in his will that he should be "interred in the tomb of his ancestors in the Parish Church-Yard of Abernethy, south-east corner of the Church."

Early in the twenties there were four James’s, born in the parish, whose fortunes are worthy of notice. JAMES STEWART was the son of Lieutenant J. Stewart, 78th Regiment, Pytoulish. He became a cotton planter in South America, and died at St Joseph, Mississippi, in 1896.

JAMES FORSYTH was the son of William Forsyth, Dell of Abernethy, for twenty years manager of the Seafield Woods and Wood Manufactures. He entered the Caledonian Bank as Clerk in 1539. In 1845 he went to Ceylon, where he was employed for five years as a coffee plantation manager. His health failing, he returned home, and in 1854 he entered into the employment of the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Banking Company. In 1864 he was appointed manager, which office he held till 1895, when the Bank was amalgamated with the Birmingham and District Companies Bank. On his retirement he was presented by leading men in Wolverhampton and neighbourhood with a handsome silver bowl, a purse of 400 sovereigns, and an illuminated album and address.

JAMES CHARLES GORDON was the eldest son of Captain Gordon, Revack, by his first wife, Margaret Knight. He entered the Queen’s service, as Ensign in the 92nd Gordon Highlanders in 1839; subsequently he sold out, and in 1847 he was appointed to the 4th Bengal Native Infantry. He served in the Punjab in 1849, and died at Wazirabad in 1852. Two of his brothers also served in the army—Robert, who rose to be second in command of the 2nd Sikh Infantry, and died at Dhurmsala in 1860; and Benjamin Lumsden, born 1833, who entered the Madras Artillery, 1852, and in 1863 joined the Royal Artillery. He served through the Indian Mutiny, receiving the medal with clasp. He also served in the Afghan war, 1879-80, and commanded in Lower Burmah in the Expedition of 1886-87, receiving the thanks of the Government and the medal with clasp. He commanded the Burma District during the Chin Lushai Expedition in 1890, and was specially mentioned in despatches, and granted the Distinguished Service Reward. He retired as Lieutenant9eneral in 1890, and was made K.C.B. in 1898.

JAMES DAWSON MACDONALD was the eldest son of Captain Macdonald, Coulnakyle. He was educated at Abernethy, Grantown, and Aberdeen, and obtained a Cadetship in 1836. He served in the Gwalior and Rajpootana Campaigns. He was quartered at Neemuch when the Mutiny (1857) occurred, and his escape, as he used to tell, was due to the loyalty of two Sepoys, who, alone of 1000 men, remained faithful to their colours. Alas! they sealed their devotion with their blood. General Macdonald afterwards tried to discover their families, but failed.

"Soon after the mutiny, the Government resolved to raise a corps of Meenas, and the carrying out of this resolution fell to Captain Macdonald. The Meenas are described in official documents as a lawless hill tribe, by nature turbulent, independent, and vagabond. Plunderers by profession, they had long been known as daring and expert robbers. Sir William Sleeman pronounced them irreclaimable, and according to him they pursued the crime of dacoity more systematically than any other Indian tribe. But they were tall, handsome, athletic, and brave; and, though well known to be bloodthirsty and revengeful, they were believed to be sensible of kindness, obedient to their leaders, and proud of their descent. Out of this raw material there was raised a force, about 1000 strong, now known as the Deolee Irregulars, but long spoken of more familiarly as ‘Macdonald’s Meenas.’ Many inspecting generals have said that no body of men so well illustrates the Indian irregular system as this Deolee force, which is, moreover, believed to afford ‘the only instance of native Indians trained into skilful tank-diggers, gardeners carpenters, builders, and artists, as well as loyal and smart sepoys,’ not inferior in drill and discipline to any native regiment of the line. They built not only a Hindoo temple for themselves, but a handsome Christian chapel for the Europeans resident in the station. Their chief works of utility, however, consisted in the erection of such things as tanks, wells, durbar-rooms, guard-rooms, and hospitals. General Macdonald had an extraordinary influence over the minds and affections of these men, yet he might perhaps be called eccentric in his management of them. He regarded them as he regarded his own Highland ancestors—Highland robbers, as he knew them sometimes to be called. They became a Meena clan: of which he was the chief. Looting, and lying, and insults to women he punished with merciless severity; but he had no irksome punishments, and no wearisome rules as to all sorts of petty details. He had a judicious way of letting the men alone. They were dressed like French Zouaves, but they wore the Glengarry cap. He thought all Highlanders must love the bagpipes, so the music of the force was played, and well played, on that instrument. His six pipers wore plaids of Macdonald tartan. The penants from the drones were embroidered in Edinburgh, and carried on them the Macdonald crest. The force marched to the ‘Pibroch o’ Donuil Dhu,’ and the piper-in-chief bore the name of Fassifern. General Macdonald entered thoroughly into the ways and feelings of his men, and in return they proved faithful to him and jealous of the honour of the corps to which they belonged. It is a common story that when exhorted by an eloquent missionary to embrace Christianity, they informed him that they were ready to be converted on the spot if the Colonel Sahib would pass the order."—Daily Scotsman.

General Macdonald died in London, 25th December, 1879. He left three sons—Dougan, Major in the 91st Highlanders, was accidentally killed by the fall of his horse in Hyde Park in 1893; and Claude, after distinguished service in India, Egypt, and Africa, is now Her Majesty’s Representative in China.

Abernethy can claim two distinguished soldiers, who, though not born amongst us, were by family and residence nearly connected with the parish, and delighted to call themselves "Grandsons of the Manse."

Field-Marshal Sir DONALD MARTIN SEWART, Bart., G.C.B., is the son of the late Captain Robert Stewart of Clachglas, Kincardine. Captain Stewart was married at the Manse, in 1821, to a daughter of the then minister, the Rev. Donald Martin. He was of the Stewarts of Fincastle, but his family had resided for several generations at Kincardine. Some time after his marriage he removed to Dyke, near Forres, and Sir Donald was born there in 1824. He was educated mainly at Dufftown and Elgin. In 1839 he gained a bursary at King’s College, Aberdeen, and passed through the classes of 1839-40 with distinction. In 1840 he obtained a cadetship through his uncle, Sir Ranald Martin, the great Indian surgeon. His career was for a long time confined to Regimental Staff duty, and he was deemed one of the smartest adjutants in the Bengal Army. During the Mutiny he came to the front, and gained much honour for his heroic conduct in carrying despatches to Delhi. He went through the Siege of Delhi, the Capture of Lucknow, and the subsequent Campaign in Rohilcund. He commanded a Brigade in the Abyssinian Campaign, and was appointed to the command of the force which invaded Southern Afghanistan in 1869. On the occupation of Candahar he administered Siat province with marked sagacity and success. He subsequently commanded the Army in Northern Afghanistan until the evacuation of Cabul and the withdrawal to India. His splendid victory at Ahmedkeyl, his disinterestedness in giving place to General Roberts, who won much fame by his glorious march from Cabul, and his distinguished services as Commander-in-Chief in India, and as member of the Indian Council, are well known. Sir Donald is at present Governor of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

Major-General ANDREW ALDCORN MUNRO spent the first fourteen years of his life at the Manse, receiving his principal education at the Parish School. He was for some time apprenticed with the late Dr Creyk at Grantown, being succeeded by another Strathspey man, who served with much distinction in India, China, Sierra Leone, and Paris during the Siege, and was honoured with knighthood in the Jubilee year—Surgeon-General Sir Charles Gordon. General Munro had always a grateful recollection of his early days, and he shewed his strong attachment to Abernethy by generous remembrance of the poor, and by giving handsome prizes for the encouragement of Secondary Education. General Munro went to India in 1846, when he was 20 years of age. After spending some years in the army, he was transferred to the Civil Department of the Punjab Commission in 1855, where he served for 25 years under some of the most distinguished Frontier Officers —as Sir Herbert Edwardes, Colonel Taylor, C.B., C.S.I., and Major James—rising through all the grades to the higher. The following notice of his services is taken from the Punjab Gazette of 2nd December, 1880, where it was published by order of the Hon. the Lieut.-Governor Sir Robert Egerton. This is the enclosure referred to by Mr Ruskin, and the sentence underscored by him is given in italics:-

"On the occasion of the retirement of Colonel Andrew Munro, the Lieutenant-Governor desires to place upon record his high estimation of the services of this officer, whose long and honourable career has been spent in most arduous and responsible post of frontier administration. Coming to India in 1846, Colonel Munro was appointed to the Punjab Commission in 1856; he became Deputy Commissioner in 1859, and at various times in the course of the next twelve years held charge of every border district from Hazara to Dera Ghazi Khan. In 1863, when Deputy Commissioner of Peshawar, he was present throughout the Ambeyla Campaign, for his services in which, as Political Assistant to Colonel Reynell Taylor, C.B., he received the special thanks and acknowledgments of Government. He became Commissioner and Superintendent of the Derajat Division in 1871, and, with short intervals of special political duty, has held this important office ever since. In the reorganisation of Frontier Militia, the new arrangements for the better administration of the Tank Valley, the enforcement of tribal responsibility for guarding the passes, and in other important measures introduced within the past few years to secure the peace of the Derajat border, and improve our relations with its wild hill clans, and also in the final settlement of Khelat affairs, and the events which led to the appointment of a British Agent at Quetta, Colonel Munro’s long experience, sound judgment, and thorough knowledge of border tribes, Biluch and Pathan, have proved of the utmost value and assistance to Government. His career covers a period in which the work of the gradual pacification of the frontier has made notable progress; wild and independent clans have been taught to respect and fear Government, and our own subjects, once lawless and turbulent, have settled down into quiet and peaceful cultivations. This happy change has been due to the ability and unwearied zeal with which the policy of Government has been carried out by a succession of distinguished officers, among whose names that of Colonel Munro will be remembered with honour, both by the Government he has so loyally served, and by the border tribes, whose affairs he has so long and so ably administered."

Our parish has continued to give some of its best blood to other lands. We have sent bankers to England, farmers to Ireland, and parsons to every county in the Highlands. We have sent settlers to Canada and the United States, shepherds to Fiji, stock-keepers to New Zealand, gold diggers to Australia, diamond merchants to Africa, doctors to the army and the navy, and soldiers to fight our cause in all parts of the world. Wherever men speaking the English tongue have toiled and bled, there might be found Halbert Glendinnings who claimed kin with us, as having been born on the banks of the Nethy, and brought up under the shadow of Cairngorm. True, all who have gone forth from us have not prospered. Some have been cut off by disease, some have fallen in battle, and some have become the victims of folly and sin, or like ships that foundered at sea, have been never more heard of.

"Some sink outright,
O’er them, and o’er their names the billows close,
To-morrow knows not they were born.
Others a short memorial leave behind
Like a flag floating when the bark’s engulphed:
It floats a moment and is seen no more.
One Caesar lives—a thousand are forgot."

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