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Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social
(Second Series) Inverness-Shire, Parish by Parish
Chapter XXVII. Rothiemurchus


The name of Rothiemurchus is found as early as 1226, when the lands were granted by Alexander II. to the Bishop of Moray. In 1476 Alexander Mackintosh or Shaw, gets a judicial transurnpt of the charter of 1226 made, but whether the original charter or transumpt is still in existence I do not know—the oldest document in my possession not going back farther than 1572.

In the MS. History of the Mackintoshes it is recorded that the estate departed from the Mackintoshes or Shaws, after it was possessed by them for nearly 360 years."

Lachlan Mor Mackintosh, according to the Grant History, had made a pathetic appeal to the laird of Grant to allow him to re-acquire for the family their ancient Duchus. This was not only refused by Grant, but a later connection with that family involved the loss, not only of many of the Mackintosh papers, h" the almost crushing loss of Glenlui and Loch Arkaig. Charred skins of parchment presently existing bear witness to the Grant doings after the battle of Culloden in attempting to destroy the Mackintosh writs and titles, stolen furth of the Isle of Moy. There is indeed a heavy score yet to settle between the Mackintoshes and the Grants.

"The clan that would hang its chief;
And the chief that would hang his clan."

—Ancient Highland toast, not unknown of old in S1rathspey and neighbourhood.

Long before the fight at the North Inch of Perth in 1396, the Mackintoshes had become possessors of Rothiemurchus, and in course of time settled it on one of the family named Shaw, which Shaw, called "Corr-Fiaclach," led at that famous battle. Holding of the Bishops of Moray as superiors, Shaw's descendants were some times called Shaws and sometimes Mackintoshes. The history of the Shaws has been given by the late Rev. Mr Shaw of Forfar, and others, so fully that I will merely give the names of some of the owners, jotted down at different times. At the battle of Harlaw, Mr James Mackintosh of Rothiemurchus fell in command of one of the companies of Clan Chattan. In 1500, is found John Mackintosh, the epithet "Kier" becoming hereditary. In 1521, Allan Kier Mackintosh is entered in Rothiemurchus as heir of his father, John Kier. In 1542, James Kier Mackintosh, son of Allan is found. In 1536, the above Allan Kier wadsets half of Guislich and the Hacnach (?) to John Grant of Culcabock, for one hundred merks, and thereafter assigns his right of reversion to George Gordon of Baldornie, Constable of Badenoch. As Patrick Grant of Glenmoriston, son and representative of John Grant of Culcabock, declined taking the wadset money, George Gordon took the necessary legal steps to redeem, and summoning Patrick Grant to the choir of the Parish Church of Inverness, where consignation was appointed to be made, he, on the 23rd of October, 1572, deposited the amount in the hands of James Paterson, Provost of Inverness; Sir William Anderson and William Cumming, notaries public, being witnesses; and Sir Alexander Clark, Procurator. In 1567 the Gordons appeared to have bargained with the Grants, and in 1568 Duncan Grant of Freuchie is absolute owner. In 1574, Patrick, the laird of Grant's second son, receives Rothiemurchus from his father. In 1581-86 the Mackintoshes are busy harassing Patrick Grant in his lands of Rothiemurchus, Balnespick, Ard Inch and Laggan, but without avail, and in 1586 they finally gave up the struggle. Except one fight as to marches between Rothiemurchus and South Kinrara, the Mackintoshes and Grants have for over 300 years been excellent neighbours.

The noted and picturesque ruined castle—Loch-an-Eilean—goes back to the time of the Shaws, when most of the stormy events that still cling around the castle Occurred. There is one Grant incident, however, which may be mentioned, and is thus recorded in the Farr Collections—" During the troubles in the year 1688-9 the family of Rothiemurchus and some of the neighbours were obliged to take refuge in the castle of Loch-anEilean, their own property. During their residence there they were attacked from the shore, while a smart fire of musketry was kept up from the castle on the enemy, which it required all the men then in the castle to carry on. Grizel Mor, the Lady Rothiemurchus, daughter of William Mackintosh of Kellachie, who was a clever, active woman, was busily employed all the time of the attack in casting leaden balls for the defence."

The history of the Grants is neither eventful nor startling, but like all old Highland families they have their stories and traditions. Some regarding Patrick Grant (MacAlpine) may be repeated, one being that during the Civil War he declined to take any side, his view being—

Upon the banks of the Spey,
Lies my Duchus,
Who e'er may be King,
I'll be Rothiemurchus."

Patrick was so much troubled with law suits, and demands for medicine and medical aid, that in despair he exclaimed -

"God keep us
From law and leeches."

The burial ground of both the Shaws and Grants lay in the lower part of the Churchyard of Rothiemurchus near each other. Patrick Grant ordered his body to be interred in the very highest ground of the churchyard, and being asked why, replied that by doing so, he on the Great Day would be ascending the hill of Torbane by the time the Shaws (his abhorrence) could only be having the flags over their graves removed, and thus have a clear start of them.

Perhaps the best story of Patrick is that concerning his treatment of his ancient mother, Grizel, before named. "Grizel Mhor, on account of her great size, lived to a very advanced age. Patrick MacAlpine had to pay her a small sum annually out of the estate as her jointure, and which sum in these times pressed so hard upon him that he was thinking very long to be free of the burden. It at last struck him that the Almighty might have forgotten her, and so he had her carried up to the top of a hill near Rothiemurchus, so that she might in his opinion be nearer Heaven than she ever was before." This outing and exposure does not seem to have inconvenienced the old lady, for it is recorded that "she lived for many years afterwards."

Another story about Grizel Kellachie may be given. Quite unexpectedly two great men, one Catholic, the other Protestant, accompanied by their chaplains, arrived at the Doune to dinner. Grizel was at her wits' end which of the chaplains, to avoid offence, should be asked to say grace. The difficulty was solved by her saying grace herself, and in Gaelic, but unhappily her words, probably unique, are not recorded.

There is a line painting of Grizel Mhor and her two sons, Patrick and William, at the Doune, which was specially pointed out to me in 1868 by the late William Patrick Grant of Rothiemurchus.

Under 1732 I have note of James Grant, Younger of Rothiemurchus, and in 1787 Patrick Grant-was proprietor. He executed an entail which has preserved the estates to the family, though at great suffering for many years to the two next heirs who succeeded.

The most noted of the later owners was John Peter Grant, advocate, nephew of Patrick the entailer, who, with James Grant of Corrimony, were two of the ablest and most successful pleaders in the Criminal Circuit Courts held in the north.

Rewarded for his politics and removed to India, knighted, and placed at the head of a legal Court, Sir John's legal career was not a success. Admirable as a pleader or counsel, he was unbearable and unsatisfactory as a judge. He was summoned before the Privy Council, under charges detailed in a print of the time. I have been informed by an East Indian that the two minor judges composing his Court were specially selected so as to muzzle as far as possible the head of the Court. Meantime the estate of Rothiemurchus was put under trust, grossly mismanaged by Edinburgh leeches, while the magnificent timber, unequalled in the Highlands, was not merely cut but slaughtered. The administration, like that on many other Highland estates, was everything it should not be, resulting in the fact that while tens of thousands of pounds worth of wood were sold, the creditors were glad, after years of waiting, to accept a dividend in 1841, of 5s 6d per pound.

Better times dawned. The last Sir John Peter Grant was a most honourable and useful public servant, and able in his old age to live at the Doune as long as he liked or found it convenient to do so.

The estate of Balnespick is held in feu of Rothiemurchus.

The Doune, for many years, while tenanted by the Duchess of Bedford, was visited annually by many of the highest and most renowned of the age. The Duchess in particular was as much attached to it as to Glenfeshie, and secretly erected a monument, with suitable inscription, in honour of her husband near their favourite walk on the Ord Hill. To this, all unconscious, the Duke was led, and to the surprise of the Duchess said very little in appreciation of the compliment. But the Duke, though he said little, thought much, and the following season he led his wife to a monument in her honour, and with suitable inscription.

The last time I was on the hill I visited these monuments, most interesting memorials of peoples and times gone for ever, around which cling the halo of romance.

Rothiemurchus, as also Tullochgorum, are very difficult words to rhyme. Both were tried, I think, by Sir Alexander Boswell—

"See the Grants of Rothiemurchus
Ever ready for to dirk us,

. . . . . . . .

Lo the Grants of Tullochgorum
Proud the mothers are that bore 'em,"

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