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Lairds and Lands of Loch Tayside

TO the west of Tirarthur is the ten-merk land of Finlarig, which has been in the hands of the Glenorchy Campbells for nearly four hundred years. It is bounded on the west by the lands of Craig.

Sir John Drummond, of Stobhall, ancestor of the Earls of Perth, which family acquired other estates in the neighbourhood, held Finlarig at the beginning of the fifteenth century. He was Justiciar of Scotland, and died in 1428. His son, Sir Walter, succeeded him in his possessions. We find sasines of Finlarig and other lands in favour of Sir Malcolm Drummond in 1443, and of Sir John Drummond, his eldest son, in 1464. This Sir John was created Lord Drummond in 1487, by James III. He built Drummond Castle, which became the seat of the family. Sir Duncan Campbell, second laird of Glenorchy, got a charter of the lands of Finlarig, dated 22nd April, 1503. The Drummonds had erected a castle in their time, and it was a desirable stronghold to have. Finlarig henceforth became one of the principal seats of the Campbells, and here they struck terror into the minds of their enemies, and with their heading-stone and gallows tree, administered the last penalty of their law. Several of the persecuted Clan Gregor, among them Duncan Ladassoch and his sons, Gregor and Malcolm Roy, were executed here. Sir Duncan Campbell, who succeeded as seventh laird, in 1583, distinguished himself in many ways. He built seven castles, and one of them was at Finlarig, on the site of the former structure. It cost him ^10,000. In the building he did not neglect to provide dungeons for delinquents, and close by the castle a pit was made, with a heading-block, having a cavity for the reception of the head. Only those of gentle birth suffered death by decapitation. On a neighbouring tree, still flourishing, the common people were hung. It is an oak tree, one of two standing to the north-east of the castle. The branch from which the culprits were suspended was cut down some years ago, and shewed a deep groove caused by the friction of the rope. It is not to be wondered at, that gruesome stories are told in the countryside concerning the doings at Finlarig in the “ good old days,” but in the course of so many generations, through the inventive imagination of the narrators, these have come to be almost as far remote from the truth as the times.

The ruins of the Castle of Finlarig stand on a prominence to the east of a larger one called Dunlochay, and to all appearance had at one time been partly surrounded by a moat. The building is rectangular in shape, having a square tower on the south-west. The main portion runs east and west, and is 55 feet long by 31 feet broad, but the extreme length of the building is 62 feet. On the east, south, and west sides, the walls, now covered with ivy, are standing in fair preservation, and show that the castle was of four storeys. The whole is roofless, and no portion of the woodwork has been preserved. The walls vary in thickness from 3 to 6 feet, which latter is the measurement at the window of one of the dungeons. The kitchen was at the east end of the main building. The fireplace, where the spring of the arch commences, is almost 14 feet in width. At each side are ingle-nook recesses. At the north-east corner of the building there had been a spiral stair, and also one on the west side. Next the kitchen is a small apartment, from which a narrow stair had led to the second storey, where the banqueting-hall had been. The only entrance to the castle left intact is on the south, and above the doorway there is a stone bearing the Royal Arms, and —the initials of James VI. and his Queen. Portions of carved stones have from time to time been turned up around the castle, including rude representations of Sir Duncan Campbell, the founder, and his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, Lord Sinclair. There is a tradition in the district that the lime used in the erection of the castle, was brought from somewhere near the Ochill Hills, the immense deposits on Loch Tayside being then unknown. The gardens lay betwixt the castle and Dunlochay, and the pleasure grounds extended to the river Lochay. There are many fine trees at Finlarig, including chestnut, oak, sycamore, and elm, some of them of huge dimensions. The avenue of the last, called, from its straightness, the Cathedral Aisle, is particularly fine. There is a holly tree of great size beside the castle, believed to be several hundred years old.

It was at Finlarig, in the middle of the seventeenth century, that the festivities in connection with the marriage of James Menzies, afterwards of Culdares, to a daughter of Sir Robert Campbell, were being celebrated, when the wedding guests heard of the approach of a party of the Keppoch Macdonalds, headed by Angus Macdonald, the chief of the clan. The latter were returning home after a harrying expedition to the South, and having crossed the Dochart at Ballechroisk, with the cattle they had captured, were proceeding northward along the slope of Stronclachan. One story has it, that they refused to pay the usual tax exacted from such a band when passing through the lands of another chief, but the probability is that they had rendered themselves obnoxious to the Campbells by their repeated inroads on Breadalbane. At 1 The initial “ I ” is now defaced.

At all events, the wedding party sallied forth from Finlarig accompanied by Menzies, who, having served under Gustavus Adolphus, was skilled in fighting tactics. He endeavoured to prevail upon them to take a circuitous route, and come down on the Macdonalds from the top of Stronclachan, but the Campbells, fresh from the festive board, crossed the Lochay and rushed hot-headed up the hill, and encountered the Macdonalds above Margowan. The conflict was fierce and bloody. Of the Macdonalds, the Chief and Mclan of Glencoe both fell, the head of the former being literally severed from his body by Menzies with one blow; while the Campbells had to bewail the loss of eighteen cadets of the house. The second in command of the Macdonalds fled, and lay in hiding for some time at the Black Shealing of Corrycharmaig, ill of his wounds, where he was tended by the wife of one of the tenants of that holding, a Lochaber woman. Her hushand, becoming suspicious of her movements, followed her one day, and, coming on the place of concealment, hastily despatched the Macdonald, who was unable to defend himself. Some years ago the hilt of a sword was turned up at Margowan, doubtlesss a relic of the fatal day.

During troublous times Finlarig Castle was on more than one occasion occupied as a military garrison. Its position made it a coign of vantage, holding, as it did, the pass at that end of Loch Tay, betwixt north and south. In 1689, after the Highlanders were repulsed at Dunkeld by the Cameronians, General Mackay made it one of his military posts, and during the ’45, it was occupied for the last time by the Royal troops, among others, by the Argyllshire Militia, a detachment of which, in the course of their sojourn there, burned the house of Corrycheroch, on the north side of the Forest of Benmore.

The Forest of Benmore had, up to 1744, when it was disposed in feu to John Stewart, been in the hands of James Drummond, Duke of Perth, who took such a leading part in the Rebellion as an adherent of Prince Charlie. He commanded on the left of the front line at Culloden, and after the battle suffered the loss of seven men, who were all shot by Macnab, the tenant of Innishewan farm, who had watched their movements from a hidden place.

Close by the ruins of the castle, on the east side, is the Chapel of Finlarig, the mausoleum of the Breadalbane family. The present edifice was built in 1828 by the first Marquis of Breadalbane on the site of the former and possibly original building, called the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin, which Sir Colin, the third laird of Glenorchy, who died in 1523, built to be “ane burial for himself and his posteritie.” The Black Knight of Rhodes, the founder of the family, is buried at Kilmartin, and Kilmun is the resting place of Sir Duncan, the second laird, who was buried there with the Earl of Argyll, because both were slain at Flodden. In addition to numbers of cadets of the family, of the houses of Lawers, Glenlyon, and Carwhin, fourteen chiefs are buried at Finlarig—four Knights, four Baronets, four Earls, and two Marquises. Above the entrance to the mausoleum, there is a stone bearing in relief the Glenorchy coat-of-arms, and “ D. C. 1588,” probably taken from the castle.

The lands of Finlarig were formerly divided into three portions, namely, the Upper Town, in which was the mill on Allt na Bailc; the Lower Town or Mains of Finlarig; and Ballecruine. There is a portion of the haugh, bordering on the Lochay, and near the junction of that river with the Dochart, which is still called Islandran. On it there is an eminence or plateau several feet above the surrounding ground, which appears to have been encircled by a moat, now almost filled up. We believe that this “ island ” originally formed part of the Kinnell estate, and that it was here the Macnabs of that Ilk had their stronghold for ages escaped, but died on board ship while on his way to France. The third Earl of Breadalbane acquired Benmore in 1754 from John Stewart. The Perth Estates and superiorities were forfeited ; but in 1784 they were restored to the representative of the family, whose descendant, Lord Willoughby de Eresby, is superior of Benmore. The feu-duty payable is 5 11s. 10d. per annum. until the time of the Commonwealth, when we are told their castle of “Eilan Rowan” was burned to the ground. The Chronicle of Fothergill records the death of “ Finlay McNab of Bowayne at Illarayin, and he was buried at Killin, 13 April, 1525.” lslandran has been long under cultivation, and on it there is no vestige of a building to be seen, but there is a number of stones, apparently hewn, on the bank of the Lochay close by, which have been carried thither when the land was tilled, and these are in all probability, the only remains of the ancient fortalice. The small island in Loch Tay, near the east march of Finlarig is called Eilean Puttychan.

Although the lands of Finlarig are wholly in Killin parish, the minister of Kenmore derives stipend from them, as is also the case from Botuarnibeg in Glenlochay, and Sleoch in Macnab Lands.

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