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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XVII. —Disclune, Arnhall and The Burn

OF the lands and Barony of Disclune the earliest existing record is dated 1359, when the rents of Durrysclune were rendered by William the Keith, Sheriff of Kincardyn. An entry appears, one hundred years later, in 1456, bearing that a precept of sasine of the feu farm of Dusclune was made to Alexander Stratoun, Sheriff of Kincardyn; and another, in 1471, that, with others of lands in the Mearns, was granted to John de Strauchachtin of Thorntoun. In 1503, a charter of the same was granted to Alexander Straton of Lauriston and Elizabeth Ogstoun of Eglismaldys (Inglismaldie), and, in 1506, James IV. confirmed this grant to Alexander Straton and Agnes Ogilvy his wife, naming the lands of "Aurinhall, Discluny, Inche," &c, and a croft of land in the town of Kincardine. About 1527 some change of ownership took place, and Robert Bruce, Sheriff of Kincardine, accounted for the rents of Disclune. In 1580 Alexander Straton, heir of George Straton, was infefted in the barony and lands. In 1615.a Robert Gardyne, son and heir of Thomas Gardyne of Blairton, was returned in the lands of Chapel ton as part of Arnhall. In 1631 Alexander, son of John Straton of Lauriston, had, in addition to the lands and barony of Newdosk and the advocation or church patronage of Fettercairn, a charter of Disclune, the peat moss, the mills, and salmon fishings on the North Esk, at a valuation entry of 12; also, the Villa (town) de Chapellon, entry 5 merks 12 pence; the lands and fishings of Daledis, of Steelstrath, and commonty in Moor of Luther, entry 5m. 20d. Besides the Woodtons, all these lands shortly thereafter became the property of David, first Earl of Southesk; and at his death in 1658 he was succeeded by his son and heir James, the second Earl, whose sister Magdalene married the Marquis of Montrose. James went in 1639 with his brother-in-law Montrose to enforce the Covenant upon the people of Aberdeen, and, as quaintly described by Spalding, they, with the other commanding officers, squatted on the links; the army of 9000 men encamping round about. Eobert, third Earl of Southesk, succeeded in 1669, but two years previous his cousin, David Earl of Northesk, was retoured in the lands of Dalladies, Steelstrath, and the Moor of Luther. In 1688 Charles, fourth Earl of Southesk, succeeded his father as heir of the said lands, including the Hill of Dalladies, the peat mosses, grazings, mills, and fishings on the North Esk. According to the Southesk Rental Book, 1691 to 1710 inclusive, in possession of the Earl of Southesk, the barony of Arnhall consisted of the following farms:—"Mayns, Milne Eye of Disclune, and Milne Lands, Inch, Chapeltoune and Hill of Dillydyes, Bogge-side, Moss-end, Dean-Strath, Steill-Strath, Tilly-togles, Burne, Satyre, and Wood-Myres." The number of tenants on these was nearly seventy; and the gross rental amounted to 185 bolls, 2 firlots, 2 pecks and 3 lippies bear; 296 bolls, 3 pecks meal; 906 0s. 8d. Scots; 74 capons, 65 hens, and 440 poultry. In 1700 James, the fifth Earl, entered into possession of the Southesk estates. He joined the Rebellion of 1715 and fought at the battle of Sheriffmuir, being the hero of the Jacobite ballad, "The Piper o'Dundee." He fled to France, and died there in 1730. His wife, Lady Margaret Stewart, daughter of the Earl of Galloway, had an allowance off the forfeited estates for herself and her infant son, who died young. In 1716 the estates were purchased for 51,549 stg. by the Thames Water York Buildings Co.

On the death of James, fifth Earl, his cousin Sir James-Carnegie of Pittarrow, at the age of thirteen, became male representative, and but for the act of attainder would have been sixth Earl. His cousin Andrew Fletcher of Salton (Lord Milton) and Sir Alexander Ramsay of Balmain were his guardians, and they took means to secure his being brought up a loyal subject, although against the wishes of the Countess dowager, a Jacobite. In his behalf they memorialised Sir Robert Walpole, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and represented that in 1690 his grandfather Sir David Carnegie of Pittarrow had, by a Commission of the Privy Council, raised and armed a company of 400 men, with which he defeated the Highland rebels assembled at Cuttieshillock; after which the Highlanders reassembled, to the number of 3000, came down upon Sir David plundered his house, robbed his tenants, and laid waste the lands of Pittarrow. In consideration of these losses, he was partially compensated by Government. Sir James was served heir and successor to his father in 1735, and through the excellent management of Lord Milton he was able, after the insolvency of the York Buildings Co., to purchase a large part of the Southesk estates. Arnhall was held on lease and occupied for a few years by Sir James, in succession to a previous occupier, Robert Stewart, Provost of Aberdeen. From 1741 till his death in 1765 he was Member of Parliament for Kincardineshire. In a letter to Lord Milton, in 1742, he wrote, "That catching fish in the river at Arnhall would have been a better trade than supporting a decayed administration is like to ber at least for this session." He entered the army as a captain in 1744, and in the following year served in Flanders, was at the battle of Fontenoy, and afterwards with the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden; while hi& younger brother George of Pittarrow fought there on the side of the Pretender. In 1752 he married Christian, daughter of Dbig of Cookston, Provost of Brechin. She survived till 1820, and died at Montrose, at the age of ninety-one. Towards the end of his career Sir James interested himself in the promotion of two famous lawyers, Lord Gardenstone and Lord Monboddo. Another intimate friend was Robert Barclay of Urie, the well-known agriculturist. On one occasion, in 1761, Barclay rode to Montrose to see Sir James before leaving for London; but having missed him, he wrote a characteristic letter, of which the concluding words were:—"I humbly join you, Sir James, in your prayer that we both be delivered from trials, lawyers, doctors, and from having dealings with unreasonable men." Sir James was succeeded by his son Sir David Carnegie, grandfather of the present Earl of Southesk. He bought Arnhall and The Burn, in 1779, for 7300; and, in 1780, sold The Burn section, lying north of the Gannochy Bridge road, to Lord Adam Gordon; and in 1796, Arnhall for 22,500 to Alexander Brodie, who had amassed a fortune in India. He was the third son of James Brodie of Spynie, Sheriff-Depute of Moray. Sir David Carnegie was from 1784 to 1796 Member of Parliament for the Montrose district of burghs, which then included Aberdeen; and in later years, till his death in 1805, he represented the county of Forfar. A kinsman, Captain John Carnegie of Tarrie and Seaton, still retained the right, till his death in 1880, to vote in county elections, as a nominal freeholder of Denstrath. In the early decades of the century the old people of the parish spoke with kindly feelings and pleasant memories of the Carnegie lairds and families.

Lord Adam Gordon, fourth son of Alexander, second Duke of Gordon, purchased the Wood tons, as already stated, from Captain Forbes of Balfour in 1774; and The Burn from Sir David Carnegie in 1780. For both together lie paid 5250, the annual rent being 113 lis. lljd. For The Burn the price was said to be 300, and the rent 100 merks Scotch or 5 lis. ld. sterling. His lordship •entered the army in 1746, and was promoted to a captaincy of the 3rd Foot Guards in 1755; was in the unfortunate expedition of General Bligh to France in 1758, and greatly distinguished himself in that campaign. He next became Colonel of the 66th Regiment of Foot, and served for several years in America. On his return home he was entrusted by the colonists with a statement of their grievances, which he laid before the Secretaries of State. In 1775 he was appointed Colonel of the 26th, or Cam-eronian Regiment; and in 1782 the governor of Teign-mouth Castle. Lord Adam sat in Parliament for many years, having been first returned for the county of Aberdeen in 1754. He represented Kincardineshire from 1774 till 1788, when he vacated his seat, and in the following year was appointed to the command of the forces in Scotland, and took up his residence in Holyrood Palace. In 1798 he resigned the command in favour of Sir Ralph Abercromby, retired to The Burn House, which he built in 1791, and there he died suddenly on 13th August, 1801, from violent inflammation, produced by drinking lemonade while overheated. His wife was Jane Drummond of Megginch, widow of James, the second Duke of Atholl, she who jilted the gifted Dr. Austin of Edinburgh, and is the heroine of his song—

"For lack of gold she left me, O!
And of all that's dear bereft me, O!
For Athole's Duke she me forsook,
And to endless care has left me, O!

Her Grace died at Holyrood in 1795. When Lord Adam took possession of The Burn, the lands were in the wildest state of barrenness. The whole was an expanse of bare heath, without a single tree or any semblance of cultivation; the gravelly soil and water-worn stones showing that, in ages far remote, the river, now confined to its deep and rocky bed, overflowed the surface. For twenty years his lordship went steadily on with his operations; planted 526 acres of ground, converted much of the moor into arable land, and so completely changed the appearance and increased the value that it became a subject of wonder how so much could have been effected in so short a time. With much good taste the rocky banks of the river were thickly planted; the opposite side, on the Panmure estate/ to the extent of ninety acres, was planted simply for ornament. The gravel walks, winding along the side and through the rocks overhanging the river, were formed at great expense; and from them the combined beauties of wooded cliffs and running water may be seen to advantage-Let the reader refer to the descriptive quotation from Her Majesty's Journal; and, at the same time, ponder over the fact that Lord Adam never dreamt his walks would ever be trodden by a "throned monarch," by a queen of these realms—the greatest of earth's sovereigns. This-account of Lord Adam's improvements may best be summed up in the following words of Robertson, in hi& Survey of Kincardineshire, written by him early in the century:—"Comparing The Burn in its original state with the splendid appearance which it now makes, with it& dignified mansion, extensive groves, beautiful lawnsr elegant walks, shrubbery, gardens, vistas, lakes, etc., we might fancy ourselves almost transported into fairyland, or treading the regions of romance. It is a dreary desert made an Arcadian grove."

The following anecdote about Lord Adam and one of his workmen may be here related. A group of his riverside labourers were in the habit of taking a short siesta in their work hours, and of setting one of their number to watch any approach of his lordship. On a certain day the man appointed also fell asleep at his post. Lord Adam came •down npon him, and taking in the situation, said: " You are a faithful sentry. Had you been a soldier under me in the army, and falling asleep on the watch, I would have sent you to be shot; but in this case I can only dismiss you. Go, therefore, from my service."

On the death of Lord Adam Gordon, the estate, so greatly improved, was sold for 20,000, including 1000 for household furniture, to Mr Brodie of Arnhall. He carried on the improvements begun by Lord Adam, reclaimed some 400 acres of moor and moss land, built 500 roods of stone dykes, planted 200 acres of waste ground, and formed five miles of roads, one of which is the "Lang Straucht" leading from the North Water Bridge towards Glenesk. By his wife, a daughter of the Honourable James Wemyss of Wemyss Castle, he had a daughter, Elizabeth, to whom he left the estates, and who became the wife of the fifth and last Duke of Gordon, who died in 1836, and whose statue stands in Castle Street, Aberdeen. The widowed duchess piously devoted her life to works of faith and labours of love. John Shand, a West India merchant, purchased the estates of The Burn and Arnhall, in 1814, for 70,000, and continued the improvements effected by his predecessors. In 1818 he began operations on the moss of Arnhall. He cut the large drain called the "Muckle ditch," 2 miles long, 9 feet deep, 18 feet wide at top and 4| at bottom, as well as many smaller drains running into it at right angles. Upwards of 600 cartloads •of gravel per acre were mixed with the moss to make a proper soil; and thus more than 200 acres of waste ground were converted into productive land. The belts of wood that now adorn the district were planted, and the roads that run alongside were also made. Mr Shand died in 1825, and was buried in the Arnhall enclosure of Fetter-cairn churchyard. He was succeeded by a brother,. William Shand, who married, in 1827, Christina Innes of Dyce. From the failure of his West India business he became bankrupt, and the estates were purchased in 1836 by Captain, afterwards Major, William M'Inroy of the 91st Regiment, now the Argyleshire Highlanders, and he latterly ranked as Lieut.-Colonel of the Kincardineshire Volunteers. He was the second son of James M'Inroy of Lude, and married Harriet-Barbara, elder daughter of E. Isaac, Esq., banker, of Boughton, Worcester. She predeceased him on 2nd July, 1890, leaving a memory cherished for quiet and unostentatious acts of kindness and charity. Colonel M'Inroy was one of the most respected gentlemen of the Mearns. His genial and kindly disposition endeared him to all with whom he was brought in contact. His own saying that "He beat his sword into a ploughshare" was truly verified by his diligence as a practical manager of his home farms, and by the setting of a good example to his tenants, who regarded him as a kind and liberal landlord. He took a deep interest in the business of the Fettercairn Farmers' Club, of which he was many times president. In appreciation of his services and his zeal as an agricultural improver, the members and others subscribed and presented him with a valuable piece of silver plate, at the Christmas meeting of the Club in 1849.

It is interesting to note that the presentation was made in a long and eloquent speech by Mr W. E. Gladstone, who at the time had been on one of his visits to Fasque. In parish and county business the Colonel took a leading part. He was for twenty-one years chairman of the Fettercairn School Board, for thirty years convener of the County of Kincardine, and also for the seventeen years to his death Vice-Lieutenant of the County. He was a promoter of The Burn and Fettercairn Curling Club already noticed and continued till far advanced in years to be a keen curler. He died universally regretted on 29th April, 1896, at the age of ninety-one, and was buried beside- his wife in the lonely old kirkyard of Newdosk on the Braes of Balfour. He left the estates to his nephew, Colonel Charles M'Inroy, C.B., of the Indian Staff Corps, who with his wife, the •eldest daughter of the late Alexander Hamilton, Esq., W.S., Edinburgh, and their family, reside at The Burn House.


A barren moorland, about thirty acres in extent, on the •south side of the parish, formerly a part of Mary kirk Parish, but recently annexed to Fettercairn, formed a detached portion of The Burn estate. In 1852 Colonel M'Inroy sold it to William Airth, a retired ship captain, residing in Arbroath. On taking possession, he trenched and drained the land and brought it into a fair state of cultivation. He carried on a brick-work for a few years on a corner of the ground. Besides a farmhouse and offices, a smithy and one or two dwelling-houses were also erected. Mr Airth gave the place the name of Primrose-hill ; but, in reference to its original barrenness, some of his waggish neighbours dubbed him "The Heather Laird" and he himself humorously owned the title. At his death, in September, 1872, he left the property to his nephew, William Airth, M.A., Accountant, Manchester, now residing at Lochlands, Arbroath.

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