Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

P. 18. His wife did not long survive him.—She was killed on the 2nd of August i'jçi, in a carriage accident, whilst travelling from England to Rothiernurchus with her daughter and son-in- law on a first visit to their northern home. They stopped at the inn of Feshie to water the horses, and whilst the bits were out of their mouths, a herd of pigs dashed round the corner of the inn, and knocking down a ladder leaning against the wall, startled the horses, who set off at full speed towards the bridge over the Feshie; the bridge had no parapets, the wheels went over the side, and phaeton and all fell over down the steep rocky banks to the bed of the river. The landlord, who had rushed after, arrived in time to save the laird by catching hold of his heel as he was disappearing over the brink; he was severely injured, but Mrs Ironside was killed on the spot. Mrs Grant, with her baby, Eliza, was in another carriage, and witnessed the accident; it is still remembered in the countryside how the poor lady scrambled down through the shrubs and rocks, crying on her mother, to find her lying dead below.

P. 24. A long low hill.—The Doune hill is supposed to be inhabited by one of the numerous Brownies of tradition. This one was a friendly little fellow who used to come out nightly from his hill, and work hard in the kitchen tinkering the pots and pans in return for "the cream-bowl duly set." But one unfortunate night the laird was kept awake by the hammering, and cried out peevishly to the Brownie to stop his noise and be off with him. The Brownie, in high dudgeon, retired within his hill, and has never resumed his service at the Doune, though he is supposed to account for the occasional disappearance of milk left standing in the offices. He may still be heard at work inside the hill, and there is a belief that in time his resentment will subside and he will return to his former haunts. One of the babies of "the family," born in 1843, was peculiar-looking as a new-born child from having marked features and unusually long dark hair; at first sight of her one of the old women who had come for the occasion cried out, "Eh, sirs I it's the Brounie come back againI"

P. 64. Where they came from . . I really do not know. —In 1701 four brothers Raper, Richard of Langthorne, Henry, Matthew, and Moses, were entered at Heralds' College as grandsons of Richard Raper of Bodesley, county of York, and entitled to bear his arms. Moses married Martha, daughter of Sir William Billings, Lord Mayor of London, from whom he bought the manor of Thorley in 1714. Dying without issue, he left Thorley to his brother Matthew of Wendover Dean, in the county of Bucks, who married Elizabeth, sister of Sir William Billings. This Matthew had seven children, of whom the eldest succeeded him at Thorley, and is the great-uncle Matthew of the Memoirs; the fourth was John of Twyford House, ancestor of the Grants and Freres; the sixth was Henry, father of Admiral Raper.

P. 64. Descended in the direct line from Sir John Beaumont—There is a mistake here. Elizabeth Beaumont, though of the same stock as the Beaumonts of Grace Dieu, did not (alas I) descend from them but from an elder branch. Sir Thomas Beaumont, the second son of John, first Viscount Beaumont, married Philippa Maureward, heiress of the Manors of Godesby and Cole Orton. He had two sons, John, who succeeded him (d. 1459), and Thomas, ancestor of the Beaumonts of Grace Dieu. The fourth in descent from John was Sir Nicolas of Cole Orton (d. 1502). The descendants of his eldest son, Sir Henry, carried on the main Cole Orton line for a time, when it reverted to the descendants of his second son, Sir Thomas of Stoughton Grange; the male line of the Beaumonts of Cole Orton came to an end with Sir George Beaumont, the friend of Wordsworth, fifth in descent from Sir Thomas of Stoughton Grange. Elizabeth Beaumont was fourth in descent from the same Thomas; she married Dr William Hale, and died 1726; he died in 1758, aged 84. Their only child, Elizabeth, married John Raper of Twyford House.

P. 68. He must have been the Admirars father.—He was the Admiral himself, and figures as a boy of ten or twelve in his cousin's diary. There are, however, various passages in it concerning "Dick," afterwards Lord Howe, who seems to have loved and have sailed away. When his sister-in-law, Mrs Howe, has to inform Miss Raper of Captain Howe's marriage elsewhere, she enters in her diary: "Thought I should have died. Cried heartily, damned him as heartily, and went about loose with neither life nor soul." Another curious entry under 10th October 1758 describes how a largish party of ladies went to the fair at Blackheath, and continues, "Got out again safe and sound, a pretty good crowd, got kissed three of us in coming back." The diary is mostly in cipher.

P. 108. Sir William Grant, the Master of the Rolls.—The story goes that on one occasion, when Dr William Grant arrived from London late at night, he was met at Aviemore by his brother, the laird, who bade him go at once to the help of one of the floaters' wives, who was in sore trouble. He did so, and before morning a lad-bairn, the future Master of the Rolls, was safely born. Perhaps he owed his fore-name to this circumstance.

P. 174.—Among the skits of this witty satirist was a doggerel ballad rhyming all the crack-jaw names of the Highland clans. One of the verses runs thus:—

Come the Grants of Tullochgorum
Wi' their pipers gaun before 'em,
Proud the rnithers are that bore 'em,
Fee fa fudle fum.
Come the Grants of Rothiemurchus,
Ilka ane his sword and dirk has,
Ilka ane as proud as a Turk is,
Fee fa fudle fum.

P. 181.—.The kirkyard at Rothiemurchus contains the tomb of the Shaw who was captain of the Clan Chattan in the battle between the clans at the Inch of Perth. On the slab covering him stand five curious cylinder-shaped stones, one at each corner and one in the middle, which tradition says disappear and reappear with the ebb or flow of the fortunes of the family in possession of Rothiemurchus. While the Duke of Bedford rented the Doune, one of his footmen, an Englishman, carried off one of the stones for a frolic, causing great indignation among the people, not appeased by his being made to bring it back and when, a few days after, the poor fellow was drowned in fording the Spey, no doubt was entertained that he had brought on his doom by his temerity in meddling with the Shaw's stone.

P. 184. In the year 1556, I think.—It was in 1570 that Patrick received from his father a charter of the lands of Muckerach and others; in 1580, upon his own resignation, he received another of the same lands, in which he is designed "of Rothiemurchus."

P. 184. The Shaws having displeased the Government by repeated acts of insubordination.—Allan Shaw, the last of the Shaws of Rothiemurchus, was outlawed and his estates confiscated for the murder of his step-father, Sir John Dallas. There was bad blood between the two, his mother's marriage being highly displeasing to the young man. One afternoon, as Allan was walking along the road, his dog, seeing Dallas enter the smithy, followed, and was kicked out by him. Allan drew his sword, entered the smithy, cut off Dallas' head, and returning to the Doune threw it down at his mother's feet. The room she was sitting in is still pointed out. The scene of the murder was a spot now included in the garden, and every August the scent of blood is said to rise there in memory of the deed committed in that month. Shaw fled from justice, and met with his death shortly afterwards. The Chief of Grant purchased for a large sum his estates, or rather the right to hold them if he could, and bestowed them with the same condition on his second son Patrick. The Mackintosh, as Shaw's chief, considered the defaulter's property should have fallen to him, and Patrick's possession was by no means an easy one.

P. 186. Grizzel Mor.—During the troubles of 1688 this lady successfully defended the Castle of Loch-an-Eilan from an attack made upon it after the Battle of Cromdale, by a party of the adherents of James II. under General Buchan.

P. 186. Surnamed Macalpine, I don't know why.—He was formally adopted into the Clan Alpine, and given the name, in recognition of his friendliness and good offices to the unfortunate Clan Macgregor.

P. 186. Lovat.—There is a story well known in the north that Macalpine and Lovat, playing cards together, and Macalpine hesitating long over his play, Lovat grew impatient and urged him to go on with the game. "Well, Lovat," said Macalpine, "the truth is, I have a hand that puzzles me; you'd be fitter to play it yourself, for it's a knave between two kings."

P. 187. Stories of Macalpine's days.—They are still to be heard by those who bring an ear for the Gaelic. Here are one or two.

The Mackintosh set up a mill just outside the Rothiemurchus west march, and threatened to divert the water from the Rothiemurchus lands. Macalpine, having received Rob Roy's promise to back him, sent a haughty letter to the Mackintosh, who thereupon vowed to march in his men and burn the Doune. Macalpine was at this time at variance with his chief, and could not expect assistance from him, and, being unable to cope alone with so powerful a chief as the Mackintosh, grew very uneasy as time passed and Rob Roy made no sign. The Mackintoshes were assembled in force on the march, and Macalpine sat one night in his room with his head down on his arms on the table, when he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, and a voice spoke, "What though the purse be empty the night, who knows how full it may be in the morn?" He started up, and there was Rob Roy, alone, with no sign of followers. After a hearty greeting, the laird asked "But where are your men, Rob?" "Take you no heed of that," said Rob, and called for his piper. Up and down in front of the Doune house paced the piper playing the "Macgregors' Gathering"; and as he played, on the opposite side of the Spey in Kinrara appeared two Macgregors, and then three Macgregors, and then two Macgregors, till at last a hundred and fifty of the prettiest men in Rob Roy's band were standing there fully armed, And the piper had orders not to stop playing till all were out, and it nearly burst him. And as the Macgregors came out by twos and threes, the Mackintoshes on the opposite side stole off by fours and fives, until, as the last Macgregor took his place, the last Mackintosh disappeared. Then Rob Roy wrote a letter to the Mackintosh (which is repeated from beginning to end in the original Gaelic), in which he threatened to go through his country and leave not a man alive nor a house unburned if any further displeasure were offered to Rothiemurchus. And he bade Macalpine send for him if occasion arose, and he would come, no matter how far. "But," said Rob, "it's a far cry to Baiquhidder, and no one here who knows the way"; so he left behind him two of his young men, great runners, who would go to hell if he bade them, to be despatched to fetch him if need were, for they would do a hundred miles in twenty-four hours. The Mackintosh's mill was destroyed, and a song was made of it called "The Burning of the Black Mill." The tune is one of the best reel tunes in the country-side.

Macalpine had a daughter (natural) called Maine bhuie, or yellow-haired Mary. One of the young men left behind by Rob Roy fell in love with her, and she with him, but Macalpine would not hear of it. So Macgregor and she ran off together, and hid themselves in a distant part of Rothiemurchus. About five or six years afterwards the laird was Out hunting and lost his way. Presently he saw a bothie, and Maine, looking out, saw him, and bade her husband run quickly Out at the back and hide. And when Macalpine came in she warmed and comforted him, and gave him good food and good drink, until, when he was rested and refreshed, he said to her, "Noo fetch me the guidman's heid in your apron." "Na, na, Laird," she answered, "I've ower mony heids at my fireside for me to spare you his heid." "Hoot, lassie," said Macalpine, "gae 'Wa and bid him come ben," So Macgregor was called in, and Macalpine gave him the farm of Altdru. They lived there from generation to generation till the time of Hamish Macgregor, who was the last of the race. He died in the Doune Square in 1890.

It is said that Macalpine never slept at night without praying for two men, Rob Roy and the Duke of Gordon.

P. 188. His second bride.—The story goes that Macalpine, being determined to marry, asked Tullochgorm if he had any marriageable daughters, and was answered two, who were entirely at his disposal. So Macalpine went wooing to Tullochgorm, but the two young ladies, brought in one after the other, declined the old laird's proposal. Nothing daunted, Macalpine asked if there was no other daughter of the family, and was answered, "Ay, there's a bit lassie rinnin' aboot." Macalpine bade them send for her. "So Rauchel was fetched in from the byre, and when she came ben she just made a graan' curtsey, and said, 'Deed, Macalpine, it's proud I'll be to be Leddy Rothiemurchus.'" So they were married, and she became the mother of several fine sons.

Macalpine's age both at death and at his marriage with Rachel has been greatly exaggerated by tradition. Their eldest son, William, received a commission in the Highland Regiment in 1742; he was probably a year older than his brother Lewis, who was born in 1728. This would bring Macalpine's second marriage to 1726 at latest, at which date he was sixty-one years old. His first wife was the daughter of Patrick, tutor of Grant, second son of John Grant, sixth of Freuchie, Chief of Grant.

P. 252. He was long regretted.—"The Captain" is so well remembered that he is still seen at times looking out of the upper windows of the house at Inverdruie.

P. 263. A certain William Grant.—It was when Dr William Grant was living at the Doune that there befell a quarrel in the kitchen between the cook and the turnspit; she came crying to her master that the boy had raised a knife at her and cut off her hair; he meanwhile took to his heels, and Dr William, coming to the door, saw him running down the avenue at top speed. "Come back, you black thief, till I give you your wage!" shouted the Doctor in Gaelic. "Wait you till I ask for it," called back the boy. This was how General William Grant came to enlist.

P. 369. Sir Walter Scott.—Scott has a reference to one of the Rothiemurchus traditions in the fourth canto of Marmion

And such a phantom, too, 'tis said,
With Highland broadsword, targe, and plaid,
And fingers red with gore,
Is seen in Rothiemurcus glade,
Or where the sable pine-trees shade
Dark Tomantoul and Auchnaslaid,
Dromouchty, or Glenmore.

The gigantic figure is said to offer battle to the belated traveller through the woods; to him who boldly accepts it no harm is done, but a display of terror is punished by death.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus