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Reminiscences of Cromar and Canada
Chapter I - The Dawn of History in Logie-Coldstone

THE families of Farquharson--Fletcher, Stewart—Maitland and the related family of Forbes, and others with whom this narrative is chiefly concerned had all, early in the nineteenth century, established themselves in the parish of Logie-Coldstone which is situated in the vale of Cromar in Western Aberdeen-shire, Scotland. Indeed, the Farquharsons and Fletchers had had there, or in that neighborhood, their habitat for some generations previous to that time.

Logie and Coldstone had been originally separate parishes, but, in the year 1618, they became united under the hyphenated name of Logie-Coldstone. The name Logie is said to have been derived from the Gaelic word "lagan," meaning a stretch of low-lying land---generally beside a stream having high ground on both sides, and is descriptive of that part of the parish now known as "the Burn-side of Logie," which, afterwards had given its name to the whole Parish. The name "Coldstone," also, as indeed the names of most of the farms and hills in the district, is derived from the Gaelic, though, unlike Logie which, as "Logy" or "Logic" has always preserved the same form, Cold-stone has, at different times, been spelt in at least five different ways—"Colessell," "Colcoyon," "Codilston," "Colquhaldstane" and finally "Coldstone" as at present.

The parish of Coldstone, in the state of Nature, had been extremely wet, a large portion of its surface being marshy or entirely covered with water, fed from mountain and other streams from different directions. The late Rev. J. G. Michie, who, while school-master of Logie-Coldstone was the present writer's respected teacher, points out in his "History of Logie-Coldstone," that the original name had most likely been ''Cullstruan," derived from the Gaelic words "cull" a corner and "struan," a running stream, and would mean "watery corner" or "a corner of streams." That, at any rate, should have been truly descriptive of the parish, not only as to its then condition, but also as to its unchanging geographical situation as the Northwesterly corner of the vale of Cromar. The names of both Logie and Coldstone in their original and respective forms as given above, are very old, both dating back, it is believed, to about 1100 A.D.

The Vale or District of Cromar is bounded or enclosed by its four hills—Morven on the West, Pressn'dye on the North, Ledilick on the Last, and Mulloch, with connecting hills, on the South, and measures from East to 'Vest some four or five miles, and from North to South about six miles. Its name, according to Rev. Robert Farquharson, in his contribution to "The Old Statistical Account of Scotland" which he dates in 1793, is a corrupted form of the Gaelic word Cruievar, which, in the original signifies "The bught or cattlefold of Mar," the surrounding hills, no doubt, suggesting such an enclosure.


In the district are found many traces of ancient times reaching back to the stone age. To that period, without doubt, belong the forts or strongholds, today represented only by their remains in the form of huge cairns still standing--one on the summit of Morven, another on the hill of Mulloch, and a third across the river Dee in Glen Taner which were all in sight of each other and admirably suited for, and not improbably used as, watch-towers. In addition to these chief forts, strongholds of less importance seem to have been scattered here and there through the district, huge cairns still giving mute testimony to their former greatness. One of these which I remember well, known as Cairn More of Migvie, had fallen a victim to the march of agricultural improvement, under my own eyes before our departure from the district in 1866. Another cairn more, or big cairn, existed, before my day, on a farm not far from the parish church, still known by the name of Cairnmore (of Blelack) but this one, like many others of its kind, occupied land too valuable to be left undisturbed, and for that reason has given place to the plough and is kept in memory only by the transference of its name to the land or farm on which it had stood. Mr. Michie, in his history, mentions several which I must have seen but which I no longer remember.

Scattered along the hill-foot, from Knocksoul to Pitellachie towards Balgrennie and beyond, on uncultivated moor-land, I remember many cairns to whose lay-out or origin I gave little consideration at the time. In these and others of their kind, antiquarians have, of late, been taking an intelligent interest and find them to be "larachs" or remains of ancient dwellings. It seems that they are all circular in form, and of all sizes from five or six to a hundred feet in diameter. They are usually found in clusters, the smaller cairns, representing the dwellings of the common people, being clustered around a central larger cairn which is supposed to represent the strong-hold of the chief.

Loch Kinnord, or Kinner, as it is locally known, took its name from Malcolm Canmore King of Scotland (1058 to 1093), who, on one of its two islands had a summer palace in which he sometimes resided. Here it was, according to tradition, that Malcolm, after his victory over the Danes in a terrible struggle on the hill of Mulloch just overlooking the loch, sought repose, but, by reason of some noise which His Majesty believed to be the yelping of dogs, was unable to sleep. Soon learning from a retainer who had been sent to '`conch" or "coots' the (logs that the offenders were some boys who had been holding a hilarious time around the castle and not dogs, he bestowed upon his youthful disturbers the cognomen of "Coutts,' and thus is said to have originated the family name of Coutts, common yet in the district, and not unknown to fame in the wider theatre of human life.

From the bottom of Loch Kinnord have been recovered in recent times many ancient and interesting articles, some of which point to its occupation as a "cranog" from times as early as the stone age. It is interesting to know that this loch was in its day one of the strongest fortresses in Scotland and that it continued to be regarded as of considerable importance up to the time of the Reformation, when it was dismantled. Being within sight from the top of Knockmaud, a knoll on my father's farm, this little loch was ever an object of interest to all our household.

Not the least interesting, though the most puzzling of all the prehistoric remains in the locality are the "eirde," or earth houses, locally known as "Pict's houses." Only one of these came under my personal observation, but several of them have been found in Cromar, and no doubt, some remain yet undiscovered. The one on the farm of Cuish examined by me when a little boy, in common with all its kind, was entirely under ground. Its floor, as well as its side and end walls were all of stone. Its depth was probably about six or more feet, and its width, perhaps six feet or more. Its earth roof was supported by large stones laid horizontally crosswise. I remember no opening except from the top which had been made by removal of one of the roof-stones, so that from memory, I am unable to say by what means access was had to the interior. Hundreds of these, I understand, have been discovered in Scotland but their use does not seem to have been ascertained.

From such remains we can picture to ourselves something of the abodes and manner of life of our remote ancestors. By the balls and spear and arrow heads which have been unearthed in the locality' we can see how they hunted the game animals which were no doubt plentiful, and also how they fought their battles in defence of their homes or for the destruction or possession of those of their neighbours.

Besides warlike weapons, it is pleasing to note even in that remote and barbarous age a reaching forth to the conveniences and refinements of more civilized life. In proof of this, cups, bowls and knives for domestic use, some very rude, others artistically carved, have, in modern times, been brought to light, as have also tools such as axes or "celts," as they are called by antiquarians, hammers and wedges for cutting, splitting and shaping timber—some rough, some polished—but all of stone. The spear and arrow heads recovered are of different sizes—some large, others small. Some of the spear heads found are barbed and beautifully shaped. From the bottom of Loch Kinnord have been recovered balls or round stones varying from two to eight pounds in weight. Some are plain, some have encircling grooves, while others are ornamented with figures and knobs. None of these have I ever seen, but I understand that they are being collected and carefully preserved in museums.

In that rude age the chief means of subsistence was, no doubt, animal food, as few implements other than weapons used in war or hunting have been found. Agriculture had, however, at a very early period been pursued to a very limited extent, as is evidenced by the recovery of rude mills or devices for the grinding of grain. The earliest and crudest of these devices consisted of a gritty stone hollowed out like a mortar with a round stone for a pestle. This was followed by the quern which held its own until modern times.

Rude and barbarous as they were, these early ancestors of ours are understood to have had a curious alphabet now called "Ogham," but they have left no literature, nor indeed writing of any kind except on stones, and such specimens as are thus preserved are now read only (and that imperfectly) by learned antiquarians. Adjoining, and partly encroaching upon our former farm home in Coldstone, is a broom and heath clad knoll projecting like a peninsula into what, in early times must have been a swamp or lakelet. On this knoll, which is known as "Tamachar," meaning, as Mr. Michie thought, "Chair Mound," the name, supposedly having reference to some Court or seat of authority which had issued thence its mandates, was found before my day, a sculptured stone of pagan times, the only specimen of its age and class known to exist in Cromar. It had been built into a barn or stable wall, with its sculptured face outwards towards the public highway, and was an object of interest to myself and boy companions on our way to and from school. It contains only pagan symbols, but its lines are so beautifully drawn that it cannot he said that the stone sculpturing art was quite unknown to the Picts of its day. That stone, I understand, has since, been removed by a proprietor of the district to Tilliprony House, under the guardianship of Sir .John Clark, Bart.


So far, our information is confined entirely to the mute remains of our ancestors, of whom we have no other record. Even the Romans, who at the beginning of the Christian era, cast the torch-light of their civilization on the paganism of England and the Southern part of Scotland, either failed to reach Cromar or did not impress upon its vide denizens any of their culture. The long night of darkness is therefore unrelieved by any ray of light until six centuries had come and gone.

At last, about the year 630 A.D. St. Nathalan opened a Christian Mission at Tulloch, near Ballater, with a station also in the parish of Coull in the Easterly part of Cromar, and no doubt some of his light fell also upon benighted Coldstone, though no trace of hint has been found in that parish.

St. Walock, whose Iatin name was Volocus, is believed to have been the first Christian missionary to reach Logic and Coldstone. The date of his arrival there, as well as that of his birth, I have been unable to discover, but he seems to have died in the year 733 A.D. In The Saint's Calendar he is described as a foreigner who left his native land and his parents, lived in a little house of woven reeds and wattles, flourished with remarkable miracles in the northern part of that country, chose for himself a dwelling among the high rocks, followed his Lord's example as far as the frailty of his nature allowed, voluntarily submitting himself to the greatest hunger, thirst and cold that he might satisfy for his own sins and for those of others in his church, led a life of poverty, and shunned dignities in order to achieve a higher reward in Heaven. "But," (quoting in full from Mr. Michie's report, as taken from the calendar), "the race whom he preferred to convert to the faith of Christ and whom actually, by his preaching and exhortation, he did convert, no one would hesitate to describe as fierce, untamed, void of decency of manners and virtue, and incapable of easy listening to the word of truth, whose conversation was rather that of the brutes that perish than of mien. For they had neither altar nor temple nor any oratory in which they might return thanks to their Creator, but, like brute beasts, were given to eating, sleeping and gorging. Nor in the meantime, by Divine Power, were wonderful miracles wanting in their presence; but notwithstanding that these miracle, belonged not to the human race but were of God, more than I can count were, by means of blessed Volocus, converted to Christ. At length, in extreme old age, on the fourth day before the Kalends of February, with angels standing round, this soul passed away to Christ."

The memory of this good man is still preserved in different parts of the wide field of his activities in such local names as St. W'4'allach's Baths, Wallach's Kirk and St. Wallach's Well. Of him no monument has been discovered in Cromar, unless a sculptured stone found on the North side of Loch Kinnord, one in the Churchyard of Migvie and a rude unsculptured stone in the churchyard of Logie, still known as "St. Wallach's Stone," or any of then, be traceable to his time and influence. In the churchyard of Coldstone is a sculptured granite stone supposed by antiquaries to belong to the eighth or ninth century, by which Mr. Jarvis the antiquary was so impressed that he had a drawing of it inscribed on the cover of his "Epitaphs and Inscriptions." This stone is about 12 by 24 inches in size, is roughly dressed on one side and presents, within an oval, a beautifully incised cross. It is supposed to mark the grave of some old Ecclesiastic who may possibly have been St. Wallack, himself, though that is rendered less likely by the fact that the stone is understood to be of the Iona or Culdee type, to which order St. Wallach is not known to have belonged. This stone would appear to be the oldest monument commemorative of Christianity so far discovered in the parish of Coldstone.

From that time onward to the present—from humble homes and through consecrated lives the true light has shined, but the feeble glow from hovel or from cloister for long made slow impression upon the gross darkness of pagan superstition and ignorance in which the community was steeped. In the slow march of the centuries, however, some tokens of progress began to emerge, although for many centuries succeeding the death of Volocus, my information as to the progress of events in the parishes of Logie and Coldstone is almost nil.

Since the decease of good Volocus five centuries had come and gone, when Alexander the Third ascended the throne of Scotland. By that time (1239-1286) the darkness had begun in feeble measure to apprehend the light, and during his reign with its enlightened policy the country enjoyed peace and prosperity. As a consequence wealth began to accumulate and to flow into the laps of the Barons, who, to their credit be it said, contributed liberally out of their increase to the funds and possessions of the Church. Out of the means so contributed the Church expended large sums for the purpose of erecting churches throughout the country. For the support of religious ordinances tiends or tithes in pre-Reformation days were contributed by the State also, but in the course of time such provision, from various causes, became inadequate. In this condition of inadequacy of support the two parishes of Logie and Coldstone found themselves in early Reformation times. For the purpose of saving expenses the two were united and from and after the 17th of July A.D. 1618, became one parish under the hyphenated name of "Logie-Coldstone."

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