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Deeside Tales
Chapter XV

ALTHOUGH the story of Muckle Fleeman has now been told, his doughty deeds, only a few of which have been here recorded, so connected him with the family of Strathgirnock, that it would be unwarrantable to break off the narrative at this point* more especially as George Brown was not in the way of doing so, and as his account of the fate of Forbes differs in several important particulars from that given in Grant’s “Legends of the Braes o’ Mar,” and more recently in Taylor’s “Braemar Highlands.”

Aweel, ye see, continues the authority on which the above narrative rests, the times were gettan’ very troublous. Broken men were buman’ houses, an’ slaughteran’ people, an’ the law couldna, an’ their chiefs wouldna, put a stop to them. The laird had to flee f’ae Strathgirnock, an’ took up arms under his chief, the Lord Forbes, who was g&theran’ his men to defend the lives an’ properties o’ the clan f’ae the raids o’ the Gordons.

A demand was made that Strathgirnock should be brought to justice; but Lord Forbes wouldna gie him up, an’ as good reason had, for there were as black crimes against many o’ the Gordons that they would gie nae satisfaction for.

Weel, things came to a head, an’ there was a battle between them ower about Donside. The Glenmuick men were there, an’ like the Syrians to Ahab at the battle of Ramoth Gilead, they held at Strathgimock an’ naebody else; and at last he was ta’en prisoner. It’s no unlikely they would soon hae made an end o’ him hadna Lord Forbes’s brother sent word to the laird o’ Auchindoun that, gin Strathgimock were slain, he would richt himsel’ by takan’ the life o* the young laird o’ Newton, that was then a prisoner in his hands.

This laird o’ Auchindoun was a grdat man among the Gordons, nearly related to their chief, and a mighty man o’ valour.

When young Knoc was cryan’ loud for the blood o’ Forbes, says he to him—

“Alister Og, Strathgimock’s case must be decided at head quarters. Go ye away home, my man; and tell your father that, if he gets the lands of Strathgimock, it’ll answer him better than the blood o’ Black Arthur, and he can hardly expect both.”

Auchindoun weel kent that auld Knoc wanted naething but this out o’ the marriage o’ his son wi’ Forbes’s dochter; an’ he kent likewise that this way o’t would please the young laird better than the other, as that might hae put the land past himsel’. So hame he goes rejoicing that he had got, as he thocht, a good richt to the property o’ Strathgimock.

But there was ane at Strathgimock as soon *s him— Wattie M'Rory, Black Airter’s henchman—that took possession o’ die house o’ Strathgimock, an’ keepit it in spite o’ the Gordons.

The laird was never brought to trial, but lay a prisoner in Auchindoun Castle for mair than a year. At the end o’ that time there was some exchange o’ prisoners, and he was released. Coman’ to Deeside, the first news he got was that Knoc had taken possession o’ his land, an’ had put awa’ some o’ his auld tenants. So, to see how matters stood, he put on disguise, an’ came ae evening to his ain house o’ Strathgirnock seekan’ lodgings as gin he had been a beggar man; an’ fa should open the door to him but Wattie? Wattie kent him for a’ his disguise, an’ nearly gaed out o’ his wits wi’ joy to see him again.

“Ah me! laird,” says he; “changed times here noo ! Ochone, ochone! Foo did ye pairt wi’ your lan’? Oh, that my auld een had been i’ die mools afore this day I The bonnie Strath i’ the grip o’ yer fae! your auld friens oppressed an’ driven out o’ house an’ hauld, an’ the richtfu’ heir seekan’ quarters wi’ the wallets on his back at the house far ance he yms the braw, braw laird! Ochone, ochone! ” An’ he danced about him like a dog about his maister fan he comes hame after bean’ lang awa’.

“Never mind, Wattie,” says the laird, “it’s not so bad as it might have been. I thought I might perhaps not have got lodgings in my own house, but it seems I may. How long I shall want them I shall tell you to-morrow; and as for the wallets, I’m nae sae duddy’s I look,” says he smilan’.

Wi’ that he cast aff the wallets an’ his gaberloonzie cloak, an’ Wattie saw that he had his claymore, skeandhu, an’ a’ his graith ready.

“I’m your laird again, you see, Wattie; and though I’m now getting old, this hand has something to do yet before it stiffens into day.”

As he said this he drew his sword, held it up at arms length, turned it about an’ look’d at it, syne put it to his lips an’ kissed it, an9 then put it back into its sheath again.* Wattie looked on wi’ admiration, an’ thought it was unco grand behaviour o’ the laird. He kent weel the meaning o’ kissing the sword—he kent that he that did it had sworn in his heart to trust only to it for his life an’ richts, and he thought that very brave o’ the laird.

Next day the twa went up the glen, the laird intendan’ to call on his favourite tenant at Loinchork. But when they came in sight o’ the town Wattie tell’t him that the auld tenant had been driven awa’, an’ was ower livan* wi’ Fleeman’s folk at Greystone; an’ what should he see wi’ his ain een but the laird o’ Knoc’s seven sons castan’ divots on his Ian’ ?

“My hour is come,” says he, an’ then lookan’ to the ground as gin he had forgot something an’ was trying to mind what it was, “ but there’s something to be done first,” he adds.

Wi’ that he placed seven stanes, ane abeen the ither, at the bumie side, an’ then says he to M*Rory—

“Do you remember what took place last night, Wattie?” “ Brawly that,” says Wattie, lookan’ at the sword that was hangan’ at the laird’s side.

“Well, then,” says the laird, “I’m to take a sleep here. You keep watch; and the moment these stones fall, you waken me. Wattie, I’ve kissed my sword ! ”

“I understand,” says Wattie, "you needna fear me.”

“I can trust you, Wattie,” says the laird, coveran* his head in his plaid, and lying down amang the heather.

*This was generally the manner of taking the vow of a broken man—one who held at nought all authority whether of chief or law, relied solely on his own swoid to redress his grievances and avenge his wrongs, a follower in theory and practice of

“The good old rule, the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can.”

Noo, thinks Wattie to himsel’, gin I didna do his biddin’, I put nae doubt he would tak’ aff my head the next moment, for as lang’s I hae been wi’ him. He’s awfu* changed since this troubles brak out, but it’s like to be a lang watch. What could mak’ the stanes fa*?

As these thoughts were in his head, there came an eddy of wind up the glen, an* down fell the uppermost stane.

“Gude preserve’s a’,” says Wattie, “this is nae canny.” Syne there came another puB, an’ down fell the next stane. And before the laird had been half an hour sleepan’, they were a’ down. Then Wattie instantly wakened him.

Jumpan* to his feet, the first thing he did was to look at the stanes, an’ seean’ that they were a’ lyan’ in the direction o’ the men that were castan’ the divots, “ It’s well,” says he, “ we’ll go and see what the Gordons are doing.”

They were close upon them before they noticed.

“Hear me, ye thieves and spoilers!” roared Forbes, “you are caught in the very act Within this very hour, the ground you are riving has cried for your blood; and it shall have it Prepare to meet your doom.”

Then drawing his sword, he killed the whole seven, stuck their heads on the fiauchter spades, and set them up in a row on the hillside.

"They wouldna want blood, Wattie,” says he when the job was done, “but I’m thinkan’ they’ve got enough of it now.” Syne turnan’ about he went to his ain house o' Strathgimock as gin naething had happened.

It wasna lang after this when a servant came f’ae the Knoc wi’ the young lads’ dinner. How soon ’s he saw the fearsome sight o’ the heads set up on the fiauchter spades, back he runs wi’ a’ speed to tell what had happened. The auld laird was sittan’ on a step o’ the stair, an’ when he heard o’ the slaughter o’ his sons, he fell backwards like auld Eli, ower the railing an’ brak his neck.

There was nae man i’ the hale country sae proud o’ his family as auld Knoc, an9 nae man thought to be mair prosperous in his warldly affairs. His castle was the brawest an’ strongest, less Abergeldie, o’ ony gentleman’s house abeen Culbleen. A man’s riches then o’ days was his family, an’ nane could compare wi’ Knoc in that respec’. But in ae waefu* day they a’ fell before the avenger, root and branch, an’ their seed has perished fae the earth. But it fared nae better wi’ the destroyer.

Black Alister Gordon o’ Abergeldie was the Baillie Mor o’ Deeside. How soon’s he heard what Forbes had done, down comes he upon Strathgirnock wi’ a hand o’ well armed men, surrounded the house, and called upon the laird to surrender. But he wouldna surrender, an’ dared them to take him. Wi’ that they fired shots into the house, and brak open the door. Forbes was just ga’an’ to rush out upon them when a ball struck him in the breast, an’ down he fell to the ground. Then they brak in upon him, an’ hanged him an’ his henchman, Wattie M*Rory, on the balks o’ his ain house.

Thus ye see, as George Brown used to say, how true are our Saviour’s words, that u all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.”

To recompense himsel’ for his trouble, Abergeldie served himseF heir to the lands o’ Strathgirnock, an’ came in to the lands o’ the Knoc as nearest o’ kin; and baith properties hae been in the family aye since syne.

The house o’ Strathgirnock was never afterwards inhabited. It stood at the foot o’ Craigphipie, an’ George Brown used to tell that, when he was young, the larach (foundation) was quite distinct; an’ I mind mysel’, when there was a clomp o’ auld ash trees there that I put nae doubt were planted by Black Airter Forbes himsel’.

As to the Knoc, George Brown used to say that there was a bigging o’ some kind there afore the days o’. Wallace an’ Bruce, an’ that a family o’ the name o’ Durward lived in’L The tribe o’ the Durwards was very strong at that time, an’ had anither castle at Abergaim on the north side o’ the Dee, an’ he had heard it said that there was some kind o’ underground passage between the twa. But George didna believe in the passage, but said that, in very ancient times most o’ the large castles had underground chambers, an’ passages, as ye may see yet at the auld castle o’ Kindrochet in Braemar. But for passages miles lang, an’ in below roaran’ rivers, there was nae sic thing, but only imagined by folk that ken’t nae better, an’ when they got a hair would mak’ a tether o’t

I’ve heard George say that the best account he ever got o’ the Knoc was f’ae an auld man that lived in Loinmuie, whose grandfather had great routh o’ auld warl’ stories, an’ was in the way o’ tellan’ them to this man when he was a laddie.

Weel, the history, as far’s I ever heard George tell’t, was this—

Some kind o’ a fort was built there by command o’ James I., or James II., I couldna be sure which he said, but it was Car back among the Jameses, an’ was held by commission Tae the King to check the depredations that were rife on Deeside at that time. The surrounding lands were given for behoof o’ the garrison which was commanded sometimes by ae man, sometimes by anither, as was the King’s will.

In the time o’ James IV., the Gordons had risen to such power that they got the filling up o’ a’ posts o’ that kind in this country, Aweel, the Earl o’ Huntly, that was the King’s gude-brother, appoints a son o’ his ain to be commander o’ the fort o’ Knoc. But this son was killed alang wi’ hisfather, fighting against the English at the fatal battle o’ Flodden.

Next, George the Gross succeeded, an’ being High Chancellor to King James V., he giants a charter o’ the lands of Knoc to a brother o’ the laird o’ Abergeldie, that was his ain cousin, an’ so the property became his. This was the father o’ the Henry Gordon that was murdered by the clan Chattan, an’ o’ his brother Alister that biggit the present castle, an’ met his death as ye have heard. So ye see the Abergeldies an’ them were very sib.”


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