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Deeside Tales
Or Men and Manners On Highland Deeside since 1745 by John Grant Michie (1908)


IN his will Mr. Michie nominated as his literary executors the late Dr. Robert Neil of Cambridge and myself, with full discretionary powers to deal with his literary remains. Dr. Neil having predeceased him, it fell to me to examine a large number of manuscripts in varying degrees of completeness. The principal items are “Annals of Deeside,” “History of the family of Gordon,” and “Annals of Mar.” The first is a large and ambitious project, on which Michie worked intermittently during the greater part of his life, but of which he completed only a preliminary excursus on the topography and geology of the Dee basin. The History of the Gordon family extends to two closely written volumes, but it has been superseded by the “Records of Aboyne ” and by Mr. J. Malcolm Bulloch’s accurate and exhaustive investigations. The Annals of Mar was partly utilised for the contribution which Michie made to “Under Lochnagar.” After careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that none of these are of sufficient value to warrant their publication. In a class by itself is an autobiographical fragment, which unfortunately stops short at the beginning of his career, but which is of interest both for the account of his early struggles and for the vivid picture which it presents of peasant life in Crathie in the earlier half of last century. It is included in the present volume, and I have added a few paragraphs giving the chief facts of the remainder of Michie’s life, which it may be interesting to have put on record regarding the author of “Deeside Tales,” a book which seems likely to retain a permanent position among works of local history.

Weir's Way - Royal Deeside

Whatever may have been Mr. Michie’s wishes with regard to the writings already mentioned, it was certainly his desire and intention to issue a second edition of “ Deeside Tales,” and for this he had been making preparations before his death. There is no evidence that he proposed making any substantial alterations on the body of the work, but the memoranda and jottings which he left indicate that he intended to make some additions to the historical side. As his notes unfortunately were in too fragmentary a state to be used in the present edition, the editor has contributed a few historical articles by way of enlarging the scope of the work in the direction which the author contemplated.

J. Macpherson Wattie.


THE aim of this little work is to present the reader with a picture of Highland manners and customs as they existed on Deeside during the century subsequent to the Rebellion of 1745. It does not pretend to be a connected history of the period, but merely a sketch of five phases of life, all of them now things of the past, though some of them probably not yet uninteresting or unworthy of recollection. These are— 1 st, The Cateran Life; 2nd, The Military Life; 3rd, The Life of the Sennachie; 4th, That of the Man of Superstitious lore; and 5th, That of the Free Forester.

The individuals of whom short accounts are given as representatives of these classes are real characters, and the particulars stated regarding them are neither legendary nor imaginary, but such as the writer has reason to believe are substantially true.

The sources of his information have been very various, while his opportunities of collecting it have been numerous and extending over many years. For the materials of the memoir of Alexander Davidson, and in great part also for the form in which they are presented, he has been indebted to a friend who probably knew that singular man more intimately, and understood him better than any one now living.

[School of Coldstone, 1872.]



Introductory Chapter
Difference in the character of the people and to what owing— Difference in the aspect of the country—Agriculture a century ago—Servants—Landlords and Tenants—Morals

Section I—The Catena Life

Chapter II
The House of Gordon during the reign of James VI.—The arrival of the Macgregors on Deeside—Their spulrie of Cromar— Their share in the insurrection of 1715—State of the country after 1745—Cattanach of Bellastraid—Settlement of the Macgregors in Glengaim and Morven.

Chapter III
Morven Jamie—His theft from MacRobbie—His manner of life —Lifts cattle from the minister of Strathdon—His intercourse with John Coutts—His departure from Scotland.

Chapter IV
Morven Jamie (coni.J—His career in India and interview with Duguid—Newspapers of the time—Supposed advertisement regarding Morven Jamie—Surmises as to his wealth and heirs.

Section II—The Military Life

Chapter V
The “Black Watch"—Highland mode of warfare prior to 1745—First enrolment of the “Black Watch” the suggestion of President Forbes—Earl of Crawford first colonel—Peter Wright—Conduct of the Government towards the “Black Watch”—The mutiny—Execution of Malcolm and Samuel MacPherson and Farquhar Shaw—The Rev. Adam Fergusson of Crathie and Farquharaon of Invercauld—Adam Fergunon the historian—Connection of ancestors of Robert Fergusson the poet with Deeside.

Chapter VI
The "Black Watch" (cont.)—The Officers—Conduct of, in the rising of 1745—“Colonel Anne”—The rout of Moy—State of Deeside after 1745—Farquharson of Invercauld— Feeling of the Highlanders towards the French—“ Young Monaltrie ”—Outbreak of the American War.

Chapter VII
Recruiting on Deeside—The population a century ago— Highland clearances—Relief for over-population—Decline of the patriarchal system—Lord Chatham and Highland regiments.

Chapter VIII
Recruiting on Deeside (cent.)—Mistaken impression of the conduct of the Government towards the Highland regiments— Manner of raising them—Enlistment of the 77th or Atholl Highlanders—Col. Murray—CapL Gordon of Abergeldie— Regiment enrolled at Perth and sent to Ireland—Attempt to force the men to embark for India—“ Selling the men " —Mutiny—Regiment disbanded—Effect on after enlistments —Mistaken policy—The Marquis of Huntly commissioned to raise soldiers—John Shewan—John Coutts.

Chapter IX
Ian Allanach—The 87th or Keith’s Highlanders in Germany— Account of, in the Vienna Gazette—Micras—Ian’s opinion of the Prince of Brunswick—Compared with Napoleon—Ian’s habits and manner of recounting his German experiences—His account of the battle of Fellinghausen—Major Pollox—His attempt to carry off the French Marshal—Repulse of the British.

Chapter X
Ian Allanach (cont.)—How he shot a French sharp-shooter— Leaves the army—His accident and indifference to pain—Death.

Section III—The Sennachie

Chapter XI
George Brown—Torgalter and Greystone—Parentage—Education—Literature at his command—His introduction to the Rev. Murdoch M'Lennan—M'Lennan’s influence on him—His manner of reciting tales.

Chapter XII
George Brown (cont.)—His acquaintance with Ossian—The Claigeann—He adopts the trade of a weaver—His marriage —Annual visits to Aberdeen—Acquaintance with a family at Culter—His tales.

Chapter XIII
Mucklb Fleeman—Origin of the quarrel between the Clan Forbes and the Clan Gordon—Battle of Corrichie—Period of Muckle Fleeman—Black Airter Forbes of Strathgirnock —Henry Gordon of the Knoc—Quarrel regarding bridge over the Girnock—Gordon poinds Strathgirnock’s cattle— Muckle Fleeman interferes and discovers an intended cateran raid—Intercepts the cattle—Donald Farquharson, the “Baillie Mor”—Restitution of Stratbgirnock's cattle—The great clan Chattan raid—Note on Farquharson of Inverey and Forbes of Craigievar—Donald Farquharson’s revenge—Strathgirnock under cloud—Attempt to apprehend him defeated—Truce between the lairds of Strathgirnock and Knoc.

Chapter XIV
Muckle Fleeman (cont.)—Secret love between Francie Gordon of the Knoc and the heiress of Strathgirnock—Old marriage customs—Black Airter’s revenge—His visit to Muckle Fleeman—The head court at foot of Gairn, and challenge.

Chapter XV
Forbes of Strathgirnock—The breaking out of the Civil War—Forbes captured and confined in Auchindoun—Young Knoc takes his lands—Wattie M'Rory keeps the house of Strathgirnock — Forbes liberated, and takes the vow of a broken man—His slaughter of Knoc’s seven sons—“Black Alister Gordon” of Abergeldie takes possession of the lands of Knoc and Strathgirnock—Traditional history of the Knoc.

Chapter XVI
George Brown (concluded)—His knowledge of traditional lore—His acquaintaince with theology—The Diet of catechising—Babby Brown and Peter Frankie—A bogle story—Fatal accident at the “cradle,” Abergeldie—Bruce the exciseman—Death of George Brown.

Section IV—The Men of Mystical Lore

Chapter XVII
Wattie “Plants”—Remarks on superstitious lore—Wattie’s manner of life—His garden—His peculiarities of mind— Anecdote—His religious notions—His ideas regarding women and physical phenomena—The flood of 1829 and Wattie’s opinion of it—His intercourse with George Brown.

Chapter XVIII
Wattie “Plants” (conl.)-His manner of telling goblin stories—A walk with him at night—Witch met—Return journey..........

Chapter XIX
Wattie “Plants” (concl)— His last companion described— Religious discussions—Dispute regarding Purgatory and method of settlement — Failure to implement agreement— Inference—Extract from Lord Brougham's diary.

Section V—The Free Forester

Chapter XX
Alexander Davidson—His notions of the lawfulness of poaching —Ancestry—The story of the “Black Han"'—Sandy’s father’s character—Acquaintance with Capt. Gordon— Manner of death and burial.

Chapter XXI
Prize shootings—Sandy becomes gamekeeper to Lord Kennedy— Disgusted with his service—Takes to smuggling—His personal appearance—The forest of Mar—Glen Derry—He becomes a timber merchant—Floating—Affair with Roy, factor to Invercauld—Sandy’s loss in the timber trade.

Chapter XXII
Sandy takes to the profession of poacher—His habits—Anecdote of his generosity—Skill as an angler—Dress—Peculiarities of mind—His admiration of the grand in nature—Note on a thunder-storm on Benavon—Sandy’s tastes in food—His politics—Love of liberty—One night in prison—Dancing competition in Edinburgh.

Chapter XXIII
His system as a poacher—How he spent the produce of his rifle—Skill in eluding keepers and conduct when caught—His generous treatment of a keeper—Mode of stalking deer—His belief in fairies — “Pouting” — Grouse shooting —Caught by Sir George MacPherson Grant of Ballindalloch.

Chapter XXIV
Sandy’s endurance of hanger and affection for his dog—Snow storm in Glenrinnes—Adventure on the Loch of Skene—Esteem in which he was generally held by gentlemen—How he resented an insalt from one—His regard for the Earl of March.

Chapter XXV
Sandy’s end approaching—Found dead on the hills of Glenbucket —His dog—Notice of Sandy by the Rev. Robert Scott of Glenbucket.

APPENDIX—The Burn of Torgalter, with an Account of the Flood of 1846.


I. The personal names of Highland Mar
II. Gaelic on Deeside
III. The Deeside Macgregors
IV. “Colonel Anne”
V. Braemar after Culloden
VI. The name Glen Tanar
VII. Depopulation in Mar
VIII. George Brown
IX. The Farquharsons: Clann Fhearchair or Fhionnlaidh
X. Alexander Davidson

Dictionary of Deeside
A Guide to the City of Aberdeen and the Village, Hamlets, Districts, Castles, Mansions and Scenery of Deeside, with Notes on Antiquities, Historical and Literary Associations, etc. by James Coutts, M.A. (1899) (pdf)

Annals of Lower Deeside
Being a Topographical, and Antiquarian History of Durris, Drumoak, anb Culter by John A. Henderson, Author of "The History of Banchory-Devenick" (1892) (pdf)

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