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Reminiscences of Cromar and Canada
Chapter II - The First of the Farquharson Clan

MEANTIME the Farquharsons had appeared on the banks of the Dee. Their origin is understood to be traceable to the German Catti or clan Chattan. At what time they emigrated from Germany, or when or where they finally landed in Scotland, I have no information. In Buchanan's "Rise of the Clans," I understand the author finds that some of their descendents who bore the name of McDuff became Thanes, one of whom eventually became the first Earl of Fife, and that a grandson of that Earl named Sheagh or Shaw McDuff, who was known by the country people as "McIntosh," or "Thane's son" was a captain in the service of Malcolm IV in expeditions against the Murrays in the province of that name in 1163 and was handsomely rewarded for valour then displayed. Some of his descendents were known as Mclntoshes, while others retained the family name of Sheagh or Shaw. On the authority of the same author one of the latter was Shaw of Rothimurcus whose offspring settled in Strath-Dee, deriving from an ancestor named Ferquard Shaw the name of "Ferquardson" or "Farquharson."

Whatever may have been the rank or station of his ancestors, nothing of rank, wealth, or other adventitious circumstance attended the first of the name who, according to tradition, made his appearance on the banks of the Dee some time in the fourteenth century. His sole dependence was his two hands and his one only eye, together with his skill as a willow worker. In those days this was a business of some importance, including as it did, the manufacture from willow wands, not only of baskets but also of reins, harness, currachs and even houses, the latter probably daubed with clay, mud or mortar as were those to which Shakespeare refers when he says "Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay might stop a hole to keep the wind away." His name was "Fearchar Shaw," but on account of his one-eyed condition and the nature of his occupation, he was popularly known as "Fearchar Cam Nan Gad" or One-eyed Farquhar of the wands. The raw materials for his humble calling were abundant and free, gathered from the Bauch or willow bushes, which, first of all the trees, unfolded yearly the flag of Spring along the bonny banks of the swift flowing Dee. One day while gathering willow twigs near the Lynn o' Dee, he had the misfortune to fall from a tree into the river which in its rapid current bore him along to a watery grave. After diligent but for sonic time fruitless search, his body was at last found through, as was believed, the importunate intercession of his widow during a whole night at the Virgin's well at Glen-ey, and buried in the kirkyard of Inverey.

Donald, his son was thenceforth known as "Farquhar's son," or, in Gaelic, which was the language of the time, "McFearquhair," in which form, slightly corrupted, it is still preserved in the branch of the clan now known as McKerracher.

Compelled, by reason of poverty, to seek employment for her son, young Donald's mother found a place for him as herd or errand-boy in the household of Stewart, the Laird of Invercauld. There he often met and played with a little girl of his own age, the only child of his employer, to whom the sometimes crude and arbitrary barriers that separate into different compartments the various grades of human society had not yet been revealed. As time went on, the intimacy became closer and closer, and soon ripened into love in earnest. That of course could not be allowed, and a stern interdict was put upon their intercourse. But love, it is said, laughs at locksmiths, and the young people, determined to have their own way, eloped and were clan-destinely married.

The lady's new home was a rude sheiling which her husband had prepared for her in a lonely spot, far from neighbours. In due time the young wife was about to become a mother, and the husband in all haste hied forth in search of help and skill befitting the situation. It was all in vain. Before his return, a baby boy was born, help, kindly and efficient having been heartily rendered by the ministry of the fairies who it was believed in those early times were wont to come in seasons of extremity to the relief of suffering humanity. Before leaving the happy mother, the little folk in green had taken her Promise not to allow any other person to interfere with the wrappings of the child until they should return, as they promised to do on the following day.

Soon after their departure the husband and his lady helpers arrived. They found everything seemingly quite right, but to make sure that no mistake should he made insisted on an examination. With some hesitation the mother consented and everything was found most satisfactory. Next day the fairies returned and finding that their solemn warning had been disregarded they were highly displeased as well as disappointed, for they said they had intended for the baby a great future which was now marred by the young mother's disobedience. They nevertheless assured her that the young child and his descendents should prosper until the tenth generation. Soon a reconciliation between the young wife and her parents was effected, and she and her husband and child thereafter made their home happily in her father's house.

When the old gentleman died, Donald succeeded him as Laird, though not without opposition which, however, he was able to overcome in the fashion of the times, by the sturdy use of the Highland claymore.


Donald seecins to have left two sons and Finla or Finlay the elder of the two on the death of his father succeeded the latter as lain! of Invereauld and became the founder of the clan Farquharson, being known as "Finla Mor (or Finla the great).

Finla's ownership and chieftainship were contested in the manner common to the times by the laird o' Rothimurcus, who, as a relative of the former laird Stewart, regarded his own right as superior to that of the Farquharsons whom he regarded as usurpers. Finla was, however, a man of ability as well as of supreme courage and bravery, and at the head of his retainers met the enemy on his own estate and cattle off victorious. That victory is commemorated by the name then given to the estate, and by which it still is known, "Invercauld" meaning in Gaelic "The mouth of the burn of defeat."

Following this, came further troubles. A number of small proprietors in the glen of Aberairder, being jealous of Finla and his success, made many attempts to dispossess him by force of arms. While thus menaced, Finla obtained from the Earl of Mar the appointment to the high office of Bailie of Strath-Dee which made him president of a Court of Regality. Each of these Courts within its own territorial limits exercised jurisdiction equal to that of the Court of Session which is the highest Court in the Kingdom of Scotland. Each of these therefore, in the language of the time, was invested with ''power of Pit and gallowsó"That is imprisonment and death. associated with the President, it is true, were fifteen assessors or jurors, but from these, humble "tacksmen" as they were, little independence could be expected, and without doubt, the President would practically have his own way, especially when it is considered that according to Scottish law, only a majority vote is required for either acquittal or condemnation. It is interesting to note that these hereditary jurisdctions were not abolished until the year 1748 when the sum of fifty-two thousand pounds was paid to the Baron, as compensation for the surrender of their so-called rights.

Soon, in the interests of justice it may have been, but certainly not without reference to his own personal advantage. Finla summoned his opponents to appear before the Court of which he himself was President. What the charges were, or how the citation was framed, I have not learned. The men do not appear to have been arrested as prisoners, for they appeared voluntarily, nineteen in number.

The Court was held in a large barn constructed of wicker work, partitioned off into two compartments of unequal size. The nineteen suspects were assembled in the larger area where probably the Court had been formally opened. Wherever opened, the trial, if such it may be called, was held in the smaller compartment, and each suspect was tried separately there, while those awaiting trial were detained in the larger room. Eighteen of the accused responded to the summons to appear in the inner room, but the nineteenth, noticing that none of his fellows were returning, became suspicious that the atmosphere of the Courtroom was not healthy and made his escape. The others being found guilty on the evidence submitted, were each successively hanged as soon as sentence was pronounced.

For this action Finla was brought before a court of competent jurisdiction in the city of Aberdeen. The charge was not, however, that innocent men had been hanged, but that Finla had been guilty of trying and having them executed in private. His defence was that in the building in which the proceedings had all taken place, there were as many windows as there are days in the year and that every thing had therefore been conducted publicly and in proper and legal manner. This explanation was accepted by the Court, while from his superior, the Earl of Mar, he received commendation and valuable reward for the vigorous manner in which he had performed his duty. This put an end to all troubles as to possession of his estate.

It would not be fair to our ancestor to mention only this one incident, which, to our modern ears seems rather doubtful, to say the least, notwithstanding great provocation, without giving others which would seem to show him in a better light.

It is told of him that on one occasion he found five young fellows from another part of the country in the act of stealing cattle. They were armed, while, even if armed, he was single-handed, but, taking them at unawares, he made them all prisoners and marched them to Invercauld. On the way they pleaded hard for their lives, stating that it was want at home that had driven them to such a crime. On their promise that they would never come hack again he fed and let them go. Later, while alone on the hill, he lay down to drink at a spring. While in that undefended position, a stranger of gigantic proportions leapt upon him exclaiming, "Grip hard for you will find now that you have a man to deal with," which was met with the rejoinder, "Not a man, but a cowardly dog who steals behind to attack his foe." "An advantage," replied the kern "that Finla Mor did not despise when he attacked boys." "I understand," said Finla, "And so one of those boys has conic hack to repay me." So each man tightened his grip, the kern above and Fiala below. It was an equal struggle in which for a time it seemed that neither could master the other. By and by the superior activity and endurance of Finla began to tell, and at last the stranger said, "I am at your mercy." "Do you yield yourself toy prisoner?" asked Finla. "Yes, since I can do no better," was the reply. On their way to Invercauld the stranger confided to his captor that he was the heir to one chief and was about to be married to the daughter of another, and hearing from the five young men the story of their capture by Finla as above related, the thought had come to him that if he could, all alone and unaided, overcome and carry off Finla Afor as his prisoner, and for his release exact a ransom, he would have something to show that he was worthy of his bride. The outcome was that the young man was hospitably entertained over night, and next morning left for home with a very exalted opinion of the prowess and character of his new found friend.

On an evening some time after this, a very suspicious looking character asked for hospitality at the House of Invercauld. Mrs. Farquharson, who was alone, did not like the appearance of her visitor and went about her preparations for his entertainment with ill-concealed annoyance. In the meantime her husband came in and, taking a hasty look at his visitor, quietly warned his wife to mend her manners. Accordingly the best that the house could afford was set before the stranger, who after supper retired to rest evidently much pleased with his entertainment. Next morning Finla accompanied him a considerable distance, giving him needed direction as to his route, while meantime the conversation revviwed Finla's circumstances and prospects. At length they parted with mutual expressions of good will. Soon thereafter there came to Invercauld a letter bearing the royal seal and intimating to Finla that he had been appointed to the proud position of Royal Standard Bearer of Scotland, whose king had been his visitor.

In this new capacity it became his duty, after the death of the King, to respond to the call of the regent to resist the English king, so, with a number of his followers, he proceeded to Edinburgh. The royal city of that time was noted for the narrowness and dirtiness of its streets. Along the centre of the street, which itself was too narrow to accommodate a two-wheeled conveyance, stretched a narrow causeway just wide enough for one foot passenger at a time, while along the muddy. filthy street on either side plodded horses bearing their loads on panniers, threading their way through herds of garbage-hunting swine. When two foot passengers happened to meet on the central causeway, it became the duty of the less exalted personage to give place to his superior. When neither would acknowledge inferiority by stepping aside, the custom was to fight it out, when the vanquished, if alive, had perforce to yield. It was Finla's fortune to meet a gentleman who dared "crop the causeway," as maintaining stoutly the right of a superior was called. Finla's Highland blood disdained acceptance of inferiority, and so each man drew his blade. Finla was all alone, while his antagonist was supported by several others, but he plied his claymore with such skill and effect that opposing blades were broken or sent whirling in the air, and within range of its flashing circle none dared intrude. A private signal was, however, increasing dangerously the number of his assailants, while his own shout of "Braemar" seemed to bring no response. For a time it seemed that the proud spirit must yield, but as once more he raised his battle-cry the door of a neighbouring hostelry opened and through it emerged a stalwart Highlander, who at a glance taking in the situation placed himself by the side of the gallant Finla, raising as he did so his own battle-cry. This brought to the rescue a number of Highlanders to whom such work was by no means uncongenial, and soon the causeway was cleared, and over it in pride, escorted by his new-found friends, Finla marched to his lodgings. On his enquiry as to whom he was so greatly indebted, Finla was told, in a voice which he immediately recognized as that of the young chief who had surprised him at the well, that this was not the first time that he had met Finla Alor. On closer examination his surprise was still further increased in finding that among those who had so gallantly come to his rescue were the five young men whom he had arrested as cattle lifters and generously pardoned. A few days later, the gallant semi-savage Finla Mor fell at the battle of Pinkie. (1547)

Finla Mor had several sons some of whom were known by the name of Farquharson, while others adopted the name of McFinla, which latter became in time corrupted into McKinlay or McKinley, this branch of the family in recent times gaining the high honour of contributing a scion of the name to the Presidency of the United States. It would seem that Finla had but one brother, whose male descendants appear to have soon become extinct. One of them lost his life by drowning, but most fell in one or another of the sanguinary feuds of the day, which were sometimes inherited, and often arose from their own cupidity, or from that of a neighbour.

Finla was twice married. In the first family were four sons but none left an heir to perpetuate the name. The family name is therefore preserved solely through the four sons of the second family, each of whom became the owner of real estate. To which of these families the Coldstone Farquharsons owe their origin I have not been able to aiccrtain. One of the advantages arising from sttclt uncertainty i4 that each is free to select as ancestor any of the lot that best may suit his taste ; for it must be confessed that out of those who stand out in the sun-light there would certainly be difficulty in finding a succession of men
in the intervening generations who should in all respects be acceptable in that capacity. Actor after actor passes across the scene only to show the turbulence of the times and the dare-devil character of the performers.


Such a character would appear to have been Donald Farquharson of Monaltrie who, according to legend, made a visit to London in 1640. On his arrival there, so the legend goes, he found the city in consternation over an Italian champion whose sword had been sweeping to death all who dared accept his challenge, and whom, until a successful opponent could be found, according to the rules of chivalry then prevailing, the city was in honour bound to maintain in splendour befitting his dignity, as an unwelcome visitor at its own expense. Here was the prospect of a job with accompanying reward which Donald was not slow to inquire about. Soon the king and queen who had been searching in vain for a champion, hearing that a Scot just arrived might be induced to try conclusions with their insolent guest, immediately sent for the intrepid Highlander. On his way to the palace, Donald met the champion, preceded by a drummer who had just proclaimed anew his master's challenge, and was again commencing to beat his drum when Donald, drawing his claymore, thrust it through the drum, saving, "There, hae deen wi' yer din." The proud Italian, stepping forward, demanded to know who had dared so to insult him. Donald gave his name, title and address and declared his readiness to meet the champion in such wise, place and time as he might see fit to appoint. Accordingly the engagement was set for an early hour next morning.

After an audience with the king, Donald found opportunity to interview his antagonist's servant, from who he got the astounding information that his master had a compact with the evil one, in terms of which no man bearing iron on his person could hurt him, nor man walking in leather shoes overcome him; that no sword that had come in contact with iron, or that Ieather had ever received would pierce him, and that should he ever he pierced, the wound should immediately heal on the withdrawal of the weapon, and finally, that on approaching his antagonist, the champion would assume the appearance of three men instead of one. If this extraordinary information somewhat cooled Monaltrie's ardour, he made no sign to that effect. He put to work overnight and with the aid of willing helpers provided himself with arms and clothing befitting the peculiar exigencies now disclosed.

At the hour and place appointed, Donald was promptly on hand to meet his redoubtable opponent. Whatever their mutual thoughts may have been, swords were drawn and the contest commenced in deadly earnest. Immediately to the right and left of the Italian there appeared to Monaltrie's vision a warrior grim and terrible, though each slightly' less substantial-looking than the central figure. This formidable trinity assailed their single antagonist with fearful downward plunges which Donald met with skilful parry addressed alone to the central sword, while at the same time embracing every opportunity for an alternating thrust at his central opponent. So, with triple plunge parry and thrust the terrible contest raged, while the spectators, fascinated, looked on in breathless silence. At last, Monaltrie's flashing blade pierced and took unwelcome rest in the side of his antagonist, who, in horror at so unexpected a denoument, called out "Withdraw your sword, Scot." To this Monaltrie made the laconic reply "Let the spit gang wi' the roast."

The victor was greeted with loud applause until the promised measure of gold was being put in his hand, when, before the echoes of the loud acclaim had died away, a shout was raised, "See how the Scotch beggar pockets our English gold." On hearing this, Donald in scorn immediately threw the gold scattering among the crowd. When there was a scramble for the coins, Donald shouted, in turn, "See how the English dogs gather up the gold they are too cowardly to win for themselves." Donald would seem to have been a favourite with his associates, but perished at last in the city of Aberdeen on March 15th, 1644 by the hands of the Covenanters of whom he had been a bitter opponent, if not a persecutor.


An even less reputable, though not less bold and intrepid character was John Farquharson, popularly known as "Black Jock," or "Black Colonel," of Inverey. In 1689 he obtained from the famous (or rather infamous) Viscount Dundee, otherwise known as "Claverhouse," under whose iron heel the Covenanters suffered so severely, a commission as Colonel of the Mar men. Among other battles, he had figured previously at those of Drumciog and Bothwell Bridge. Immediately on receipt of this commission, he hurried the fiery cross through all the glens of Braemar and assembled together a large proportion of the available citizens, ready at their chief's command to do or die. He and his command took part in the battle of Killicrankie in which the troops of James the former King were victorious, though the victory was dearly won by the death of Dundee who was the brains of the army, and whose personality was the attractive force that unified and consolidated the unstable elements of the Highland clans. After the Revolution the spirit of Black Jock found frequent exercise in local feuds which were many all over the Highlands until after Culloden, Jock made no submission to the government and continued to be treated as a rebel. On one occasion, a small force which he had led in bearing off some cattle belonging to the Baron of Braichly had been left for the night on Culbean, a hill in continuation of the Morven range and forming the westerly boundary of the south-westerly corner of Crotnar. Not suspecting danger, the men were carelessly enjoying themselves dancing the reel o'Tulloch when without warning, a detachment of Royal troops under Cunningham attacked and cut them to pieces. Meantime Black Jock had been in less honourable fashion enjoying himself at a Castle some few miles distant across the Dee, and before he got up in the morning a section of the royal troops were waiting for him at the castle gate. Being hastily furnished with a fleet horse, he fled through Glentaner and Birse, crossed the Dee, fled along the Moor of Dinnet, soon left behind him Tulloch and its old Kirk and entered the Pass of Ballater between precipitous rocks but a few rods apart. In this narrow pass, he found himself trapped between two detachments of royal troops---one in front and the other behind. Escape seemed impossible and already the gleeful shouts of his exultant foemen were heard. To delay was death, to dare the impossible was but to die, so without a moment's hesitation he turned his foaming horse to the right, and using his dirk as a spur, breasted the frowning rock, and to his own surprise and the mortification of his pursuers, made his escape.

Many stories are told of Black Jock---black within as well as without which need not here be recorded. At last, the end came, and his body was interred, contrary to his last instructions, in the church-yard at the Castleton. Then his friends were satisfied that his wild career and extraordinary performances were at an end, but in this they were disappointed, Jock's body refused to rest apart from the remains of a woman whom he had guiltily loved; so next morning, coffin and contents were found above the ground. Again he was buried in the same place, and again next morning coffin and contents lay on the surface. For six weeks, this procedure was continued night and morning, while unearthly sights and sounds nightly greeted the eyes and ears of his stubborn relatives. At last his friends were compelled to yield. though well aware that their tardy compliance involved them in a rather gruesome performance. They hit upon the expedient of to yield; the coffin with its corruptable freightage up the Dee to the churchyard at Gleney upon a rudely constructed raft. In that churchyard, and in the grave indicated by the deceased in his life-time, the remains were finally interred, and there await the summons that announces the final assize which none may evade and from which there is no appeal.

In all the generations from that of Finla Mor to the end of the seventeenth century, walked ancestors of the line to which we belong, but none of them, so far as I know, has left a foot-print on the sands of time by which our descent can he traced. From that obscurity they do not emerge until the last year of that century, when out of the mist appears a progenitor in the person of John Farquharson of Carew whose story will come in more naturally in a subsequent chapter.

From the stories of the foregoing pages and many others of like character, gathered from tradition and published by different collectors, some conception can be formed of the terrible wastage of human life in those savage and turbulent times. To the fact and extent of such wastage amongst the Farquharsons, mute testimony is borne by a cairn of stones still existing on the banks of the Dee, known as the Cairn-a-Quheen (or cairn of remembrance) which, tradition asserts, preserves, and in its dumb way declares the numbers slain in battle from the commencement of the feuds with the clan Forbes in 1562 to the end of the wars with Montrose in 1650. On being mustered for battle or campaign it is said, each clansman placed on the cairn a stone representative of himself, which, on his return, he was obligated to remove. In this way the number of the stones left in the cairn represent the number slain or lost to the clan in feud and foray conducted under the leadership of their chief, but would take no account of the numbers slain in private quarrels and vendetta which in those rude and barbarous times must have been numerous. Notwithstanding such losses, and those caused by insanitary dwellings, the ravages of smallpox, and other diseases, then uncontrolled by medical or sanitary science, the Farquharsons had, at the opening of the 18th century, attained to considerable strength and importance.

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