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Deeside Tales

THOUGH Michie was not bom till two years after Brown’s * death, he had good opportunities of picking up the Sennachie’s stories. There were three sources in particular, besides the common “forenicht” talk of the district, from which he drew much of his knowledge of Deeside traditions, as handed down by George Brown. These were James Brown, of the Lebhal; his own grandmother, who was a half-sister of the Sennachie’s; and his grandfather, who lived at Torgalter, and knew him intimately.

The high estimate of George Brown’s talents, which is given in the work, might perhaps raise a suspicion that the author saw his relative with a somewhat partial eye, but it is confirmed by the reviewer of the Deeside Tales in the “Daily Free Press” when the book appeared in 1872. He writes anonymously, but evidently with personal knowledge, and his remarks are worth quoting:

“Those who are familiar with the mouth to mouth histories of such men as George Brown and Sandy Davidson will be ready to swell some or other of the biographies with incidents not narrated in the book. Many such occur to us. But at the same time it must be admitted that the incidents that have been given, and they are not few, are not only authentic, but sufficient for the modelling of the characters whose lives they illustrate. The writer, into whose library has fallen a goodly portion of Mr. Brown’s books, is in the position to corroborate to the full the author’s estimate of the character and acquirements of this remarkable man.”

One correction, however, may be ventured In calling him “the last of the Sennachies,” Michie is not strictly accurate. The designation has its artistic merits no doubt, and is true enough for that part of the Dee valley to which Brown belonged, but the race survived to a much later period further west in Braemar proper, and many now living could mention individuals whose stories they have listened to, and who, though their abilities might be inferior to Brown’s, were genuine representatives of this ancient Celtic type. It was to them, and especially to one of them, that Grant owed many of his Legends of the Braes o’ Mar, published in 1861. Grant himself was bom at Abergaim, not far from Ballater, but he spent some years as schoolmaster in Braemar, and there collected the materials of his book. The “old worthy” whom he mentions as the source of the excellent chapter entitled, “ Long, long ago,” was John Brown (again a Brown!), who died less than thirty years ago. The conclusion of that chapter is enough to show that not only the matter but the traditional manner of the Sennachie still survived in him.


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