In the latter end of the
autumn of -------, I set out by myself on an excursion over the northern
part of Scotland; and, during that time, my chief amusement was to
observe the little changes of manners, language, &c, in the different
districts. After having viewed, on my return, the principal curiosities in
Buchan, I made a little alehouse, or "public," my head-quarters for the
night. Having discussed my supper in solitude, I called up mine host to
enable me to discuss my bottle, and to give me a statistical account of
the country around me. Seated in the "blue" end, and well supplied with
the homely but satisfying luxuries which the place afforded, I was in an
excellent mood for enjoying the communicativeness of my landlord ; and,
after speaking about the cave at Slaines, the state of the crop, and the
neighbouring franklins, edged him, by degrees, to speak about the Abbey of
Deer, an interesting ruin which I had examined in the course of the day,
formerly the stronghold of the once powerful family of Cummin.
"It's dootless a bonny
place about the Abbey," said he, "but naething like what it was when the
great Sir James the Rose cam to hide i' the Buchan woods, wi' a' the
Grahames rampagin' at his tail, whilk you that's a beuk learned man 'ill
hae read o'; an' maybe ye'll hae heard o' the saughen bush where he
forgathered wi' his joe; or aiblins ye may have seen't, for it's standing
yet just at the corner o' gaukit Jamie Jamieson's peat-stack. Ay, ay, the
abbey was a brave place ance; but a' thing, ye ken, comes till an end." So
saying, he nodded to me, and brought his glass to an end.
"This place, then, must
have been famed in days of yore, my friend?"
"Ye may tak my word for
that," said he. "'Od, it was a place ! Sic a sight o' fechtin' as they had
about it! But gin ye'll gang up the trap-stair to the laft, an' open
Jenny's kist, ye'll see sic a story about it, prented by ane o' your
learned Aberdeen's fouk, Maister Keith, I think; she coft it in Aberdeen
for twal pennies, lang ago, an' battered it to the lid o' her kist. But
gang up the stair canny, for fear that you should wauken her, puir
thing;—or, bide, I'll just wauken Jamie Fleep, an' gar him help me down
wi't, for our stair's no just that canny for them 't's no acquaint wi't,
let alane a frail man wi' your infirmity."
I assured him that I would
neither disturb the young lady's slumber, nor Jamie Fleep's, and begged
him to give me as much information as he could about this castle.
"Weel, wishin' your gude
health again.— Our minister ance said, that Soloman's Temple was a' in
ruins, wi' whin bushes, an' broom an' thristles growin' ower the bonny
carved wark an' the cedar wa's, just like our ain Abbey. Noo, I judge that
the Abbey o' Deer was just the marrow o't, or the minister wadna hae said
that. But when it was biggit, Lord kens, for I dinna. It was just as you
see it, lang afore your honour was born ; an' aib-lins, as the by-word
says, may be sae after ye're hanged. But that's neither here nor there.
The Cummins o' Buchan were a dour and surly race; and, for a fearfu' time;
nane near han' nor far awa could ding them, an' yet mony a ane tried it.
The fouk on their ain Ian' likit them wee! enough; but the Crawfords, an'
the Grahames, an' the Mars, an' the Lovats, were aye trying to comb them
against the hair, an' mony a weary kempin' had they wi' them; but, some
way or ither, they could never ding them; an' fouk said that they gaed and
learned the black art frae the Pope o' Room, wha, I mysel heard the
minister say, had aye a colleague wi' the Auld Chiel. I dinna ken fou it
was; in the tail o' the day, the hale country rase up against them, an'
besieged them in the Abbey o' Deer. Ye'll see, my frien' [by this time
mine host considered me as one of his cronies], tho' we ca' it the Abbey,
it had naething to do wi' Papistry; na, na, no sae bad as a' that either,
but just a noble's castle, where they keepit sodgers gaun about in airn
an' scarlet, wi' their swords an' guns, an' begnets, an' sentry-boxes,
like the local militia in the barracks o' Aberdeen.
"Weel, ye see, they
surrounded the castle, an' lang did they besiege it; but there was a vast
o' meat in the castle, an' the Buchan fouk fought like the vera deil. They
took their horse through a miscellaneous passage, half a mile long, aneath
the hill o' Saplinbrae, an' watered them in the burn o' Pulmer. But a'
wadna do; they took the castle at last, and a terrible slaughter their
made amo' them; but they were sair disappointed in ae partic'ler, for
Cummin's fouk sank a' their goud an' siller in a draw-wall, an' syne
filled it up wi' stanes. They gat naething in the way of spulzie to speak
o'; sae out o' spite they dang doon the castle, an' its never been biggit
to this day. But the Cummins were no sae bad as the Lairds o' Federal,
"And who were these
Federats?" I inquired.
"The Lairds o' Federat?"
said he, moistening his mouth again as a preamble to his oration. "Troth,
frae their deeds, ane would maist think that they had a drap o' the deil's
blude, like the pyets. Gin a' tales be true, they hae the warmest place at
his bink this vera minute. I dinna ken vera muckle about them though, but
the auldest fouk said they were just byous wi' cruelty. Mony a gude man
did they hing up i' their ha', just for their ain sport; ye'll see the
ring to the fore yet in the roof o't. Did ye ever hear o' Mauns' Stane,
"Mauns' what?" said I.
"Ou, Mauns' Stane. But it's
no likely. Ye see it was just a queer clump o' a roun'-about heathen,
wagh-lin' maybe twa tons or thereby. It wasna like ony o' the stanes in
our countra, an' it was as roun' as a fit-ba'; I'm sure it wad ding
Professor Couplan himsel to tell what way it cam there. Noo, fouk aye
thought there was something uncanny about it, an' some gaed the length o'
saying, that the deil used to bake-ginshbread upon't; and, as sure as
ye're sitting there, frien', there was knuckle-marks upon't, for my ain
father has seen them as aften as I have taes an' fingers. Aweel, ye see,
Mauns Crawford, the last o' the Lairds o' Federat, an' the deil had coost
out (maybe because the Laird was just as wicked an' as clever as he was
himsel), an' ye perceive the evil ane wantit to play him a trick. Noo,
Mauns Crawford was ae day lookin' ower his castle wa' and he saw a
stalwart carl, in black claes, ridin' up the loanin'. He stopped at this
chuckie o' a stane, an', loutin' himsel, he took it up in his arms, and
lifted it three times to his saddle-bow, an' syne he rade awa out o'
sight, never comin' near the castle, as Mauns thought he would hae done. 'Noo,'
says the baron till himsel, says he, 'I didna think that there was ony ane
in a' the land that could hae played sic a ploy; but deil fetch me if I
dinna lift it as weel as he did.' Sae aff he gaed, for there was na sic a
man for birr in a' the countra, an' he kent it as weel, for he never met
wi' his match. Weel. he tried, and tugged, and better than tugged at the
stane, but he coudna mudge it ava ; an', when he looked about, he saw a
man at his elbuck, a' smeared wi smiddy-coom, snightern' an' laughin' at
him." The Laird d-------d him, an' bade him lift it. whilk he did as gin't
had been a little pinnin. The Laird was like to burst wi' rage at being
fick-led by sic a hag-ma-hush carle, and he took to the stane in a fury,
and lifted it till his knee; but the weight o't amaist ground his banes to
smash. He held the stane till his een-strings crack it, when he was as
blin' as a moudiwort. He was blin' till the day o' his death,— that's to
say, if ever he died, for there were queer sayings about it—vera queer!
vera queer! The stane was ca'd Mauns' Stane ever after; an' it was no
thought that canny to be near it after gloaming; for what says the psalm—
hem!—I mean the sang -
Tween Ennetbutts an' Mauns'
Ilka night there walks ane.
"There never was a chief of
the family after ; the men were scattered, an' the castle demolished. The
doo and the hoodie craw nestle i' their towers, and the hare maks her form
on their grassy hearthstane."
"Is this stone still to be
"Ou na. Ye see, it was just
upon Johnie Forbes's craft, an' fouk cam far an' near to leuk at it, an'
trampit down a' the puir cottar body's corn; sae he houkit a hole just
aside it, an' tumbled it intil't: by that means naebody sees't noo, but
its weel kent that it's there, for they're livin' yet wha've seen it."
"But the well at the
Abbey—did no one feel a desire to enrich himself with the gold and silver
"Hoot, ay; mony a ane tried
to find out whaur it was, and, for that matter, I've maybe done as foolish
a thing mysel; but nane ever made it out. There was a scholar, like
yoursel, that gaed ae night down to the Abbey, an', ye see. he summoned up
"The deuce he did!" said I.
"Weel, weel, the deuce, gin
ye like it better," said he. "An' he was gaun to question him where the
treasure was, but he had eneugh to do to get him laid without deaving him
wi' questions, for a' the deils cam about him, ' like bees bizzin' out o'
a byke. He never coured the fright he gat, but cried out, ' Help! help!'
till his very enemy wad hae been wae to see him ; and sae he cried till he
died, which was no that lang after. Fouk sudna meddle wi' sic ploys !"
"Most wonderful! And do you
believe that Beelzebub actually appeared to him?"
"Believe it! What for no?"
said he, consequentially tapping the lid of his snuff-horn. "Didna my ain
father see the evil ane i' the schule o' Auld Deer?"
"Weel I wot he did that. A
wheen idle callants, when the dominie was out at his twal-hours, read the
Lord's Prayer backlans, an' raised him, but coudna lay him again; for he
threepit ower them that he wadna gang awa unless he gat ane o' them wi'
him. Ye may be sure this put them in an awfu' swither. They were a'
squallin', an' crawlin', and sprawlin' amo' the couples to get out o' his
grips. Ane o' them gat out an' tauld the maister about it; an' when he cam
down, the melted lead was rinnin' aff the roof o' the house wi' the heat;
sae, flingin' to the Black Thief a young bit kittlen o' the schule-mistress's,
he sank through the floor wi' an awsome roar. I mysel have heard the
mistress misca'in' her man about offering up the puir thing, baith saul
and body, to Baal. But. troth, I'm no clear to speak o' the like o' this
at sic a time o' night; sae, if your honour be na for anither jug, I'll
e'en wus you a gude night, for its wear-in' late, an' I maun awa to
Skippyfair i' the mornin'."
I assented to this, and
quickly lost in sleep the remembrance of all these tales of the olden
time. — Aberdeen Censor, 1823.