The extraordinary and unprecedented preparations that
were made for this visit of James VI. may be seen in the eleventh volume
of the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland. The Marquis of Huntly
when in Edinburgh had promised to the Council to send John Anderson, a
painter, who attended to his works at Strathbogie, to attend on the works
in progress at Falkland Palace, preparatory for the King’s visit. "Yet
John Anderson is not come here, so that His Majesty’s works which were to
be committed to his charge are like to be frustrated, highly to His
Majesty’s displeasure. Therefore the Lords of the Privy Council order
letters to be directed charging George, Marquis of Huntly, to demit John
Anderson from his work and service, and to set him forward on his journey
hither within twenty-four hours, and also charging the said John Anderson
to address himself, with his worklooms and other necessaries, to His
Majesty’s master of works at Falkland Palace, so that he may be employed
by him in His Majesty’s service, within six days, under the penalty of
In 1629 the Marquis was deprived of the office
of Sheriff of Inverness and Aberdeen for a composition of £5000, which was
never paid. The following year he was much affected by the unfortunate and
sad tragedy at Frendraught.
The old tower of Frendraught stands on a haugh on the
north side of a streamlet, about a quarter of mile above the distillery of
Glendronach, in the parish of Forgue. A fragment of the old tower still
remains. Frendraught was a lordship and regality, and embraced a large
part of the lands at Forgue, Inverkeithney, and Marnoch. At an early
period it belonged to Dunbar, a branch of the Moray family of that name.
But in the reign of James II. it came into possession of a son of Sir
William Crichton, Lord High Chancellor of Scotland. About 1626, John
Gordon of Cairnburrow, purchased the lands of Rothiemay from James
Stewart, Lord of Ochiltree, and his son, William Gordon, became Laird of
A dispute arose between Gordon of Rothiemay and James
Crichton of Frendraught touching fishings in the river Deveron; Crichton
carried the case before the Lords of the Privy Council, who decided in his
favour. This appears to have greatly offended Gordon of Rothiemay; and he
mustered a company of men, and attempted to waste the lands of Frendraught.
But Crichton received a commission to apprehend him and his associates.
Accordingly Crichton, accompanied by James Leslie, a son of the Laird of
Pitcaple, John Meldrum of Reidshill, and others, proceeded toward
Rothiemay on the 1st of January, 1630.
Gordon advanced and faced them, a conflict ensued, in
which Gordon was seriously wounded, and died in a few days. The Marquis of
Huntly intervened, and on Crichton paying 50,000 marks to the young Laird
of Rothiemay, peace seemed to be restored. Yet John Meldrum apparently
imagined that Crichton had not fully rewarded him for his service, for he
carried off two of Crichton’s horses. Crichton then took steps to
apprehend Meldrum as a robber; on hearing this he took refuge with his
brother-in-law at Pitcaple. When Crichton came in search of him, James
Leslie, a son of the laird, came out and remonstrated with Crichton
touching Meldrum. From words they soon came to blows, and Robert Crichton,
a relative of Frendraught, shot Leslie through the arm.
Crichton of Frendraught immediately proceeded to Bog of
Gight, and requested the Marquis of Huntly to terminate the feud. Leslie
of Pitcaple also went and placed his case before the Marquis, but insisted
that he could not agree to any terms with Crichton until he saw whether
his wounded son would live or die. Fearing bloodshed between the two men,
Huntly requested his son, Viscount Aboyne, and the Laird of Rothiemay, to
escort Crichton home, which they did. On their arrival at Frendraught on
the evening of the 18th of October, 1630, Crichton and his wife, to show
their friendly feeling, desired them to stay overnight and enjoy
themselves after their long ride. After supper they went to bed in one of
the high chambers of the tower. About midnight the tower took fire, and
Viscount Aboyne, the young laird of Rothiemay, and six attendants were
burned to death. The scene is well described in a ballad, which appears to
have been written shortly after the tragic event, of which a few verses
may be quoted:-
When mass was sung, and bells were rung,
And a’ men boun’ for bed,
Then good Lord John and Rothiemay,
In ae chamber baith were laid,
They hadna lang keist their claies,
And were but new asleep,
When the weary smoke beguid to rise,
Likewise the scorching heat.
"Oh! wauken, wauken, Rothiemay,
Oh! wauken, brither dear,
And turn ye to oor Saviour—
There is strong treason here."
When they were dressed in a’ their claes,
And ready for to boun’,
A’ doors and windows were secured,
The roof-tree burnin’ doon.
When he stood at the wire window,
Maist dolefu’ to be seen,
He did espy her Lady Frendraught,
Wha stood upon the green.
Cried, "Mercy, mercy, Lady Frendraught,
Will ye not sink wi’ sin?
For first your man my father killed,
And noo ye burn his son."
The Gordons believed that the fire was wilful, and the
Marquis of Huntly proceeded to prosecute Crichton. In 1631 he went to
Edinburgh, accompanied by a number of his friends, and presented a petiton
to the Privy Council. The council commissioned the Bishops of Aberdeen and
Moray, Lord Carnegy, and Colonel Bruce to make inquiry into the matter.
They met at the burnt Tower of Frendraught on the 13th of April, 1631. The
Earl of Enzie, the Marquis’s eldest son, Lord Ogilvie, Lord Deskford, and
others were also present. They searched and investigated the burnt tower
internally, and the vault below it; and came to the conclusion that the
fire had been kindled inside the building, but by whom they could not
discover. Huntly stayed in Edinburgh till the Commissioners presented
their report to the Council, and then returned to the north.
The Gordons, however, were far from satisfied. They
commenced a series of forays upon the lands of Frendraught and the
Crichtons and their friends, and bloodshed and slaughter became almost a
daily occurrence. At last the Government interfered, and summoned the
Marquis of Huntly to appear before the Council and answer for not
restraining his kinsmen and vassals. Having failed to appear, he was
outlawed. Afterwards, the Marquis proceeded to Edinburgh, and was accused
as the chief mover of the raids and depredations on the Crichtons. He
pleaded innocence, and asserted that the rebels were neither his tenants
nor servants, and, seeing that he was not then Sheriff, he had no right to
interfere. The outlawry against him was withdrawn, on his giving assurance
that he and his allies should keep the peace.
When he returned to the north, the disturbers of the
peace dispersed for a time. In the winter of 1635, the Marquis was
again summoned to appear at Edinburgh. Though no definite charge was
brought against him he was imprisoned in the Castle of Edinburgh.
Subsequently he received permission to live in his own lodgings, and to
walk in the gardens of Holyrood. The Marquis felt himself to be
approaching the end of his eventful career. In the beginning of June,
1636, he left Edinburgh to return to Strathbogie, and having reached
Dundee, he died there on the 13th of June. He was interred at Elgin.