The marquis of Breadalbane has printed a volume, the materials of which, taken from the charter-room at Taymouth, have been selected more with the view of illustrating the antiquities of the Central Highlands, and the modes of life and thought of their inhabitants in the old time, than for any purpose of public national history, or for the genealogy and antiquaries of the family of Breadalbane. But that family having so long borne sway in the district, their personal affairs are to some extent mixed up with all local history; and a general acquaintance with the early descents of the house of Glenurchy is necessary for the full understanding of the materials thus brought together. It is here supplied by the first article of our collection.
The Black Book of Taymouth has been long known and used as an authority in the Highlands. It is now for the first time printed from the MS. of its author, Master William Bowie, who seems to have discharged the double duty of family notary and pedagogue to the grandsons of Sir Duncan Campbell, the seventh laird of Glenurchy. He dedicates his work to his patron, in the month of June 1598, and though he lived to add some matter of subsequent date, the conclusion, coming down to 1648, seems written by a different hand. His chief object was to record the successive acquisitions of property. In his Latin verses, he instils the virtuous maxim –
… “Dominum haud nobilitat domus,
Antiquissima quanquam et celeberrima;
while in native Scotch he admonishes the posterity of the house of Glenurquhay to follow the footsteps of their ancestors, and, as their chief duty –
“Conques or keip thingis conquest.”1
Bowie’s narrative of the descent of the family has the advantage of being founded, in all material parts, on charters and written evidence in the charter-room, to which, from his employment, he had access. He only alludes to the origin of the race, and its first settlement on Loch Awe,2 and then passes at once to Sir Colin of Glenurchy, the second son of the Lord of Loch Awe, who, on 20th October 1432, had a charter from his father of the territory of Glenurchy, and by the second of two illustrious marriages acquired the third of the great lordship of Lord. Master William Bowie must have taken pride in recording his conquests, as well as his building of the Castle of Inverary for his nephew the first Earl of Argyll, and the Castle of Ilankeilquhirn, long the chief strength of his own descendants. He built also the Tower of Strathfillane, and the barbican wall of the Isle of Loch Tay, whence the canons, who had given shelter and a grave to Queen Sibilla, had been ejected long before. The last two seem to mark the intention thus early, if not rather the natural tendency, of the younger of the great families of Campbell to withdraw from under the shadow of the elder house. That Sir Colin was a Knight of Rhodes, and was “three sundry times at Rome,” we must receive on our chronicler’s testimony, unless it may be thought to have some support from the popular pedigrees of the Campbells, where Sir Colin is styled “Colin duibh na Roimh,” black Colin of Rome; and from the family tradition recorded in the very curious inventory of heirship moveables, made up in Sir Robert’s time, where, among the jewels of the house, we find “ane stone of the quantitye of half a hen’s eg set in silver, being flatt at the ane end and round at the uther end lyke a peir, whilk Sir Coline Campbell first laird of Glenurchy woir when he fought in battel at the Rhodes agaynst the Turks, he being one of the knychtis of the Rhodes.”3
Sir Duncane, the second laird, acquired land by precarious titles all round Loch Tay, and as if destining that to be the future centre of the family possessions, while he built “the laich hall” of Kilchurn, he “bygit the great hall, chapel, and chambers in the Isle of Loch Tay.” Sir Duncane was slain at Flodden with his cousin the Earl, and buried with him at Kilmun, “because in the foresaid field they died valiantly together.”4
Of Sir Colin the third, and Duncan the fourth laird, their historian chronicles little more than that the former built the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin of Finlarg, “to be ane buriall for himselfe and his posteritie,” and that both kept all things left to them by their worthy predecessors.
John and Colin, the fifth and sixth lairds, were brothers of Duncan the fourth. Colin, though inheriting after two brothers, was thirty-three years in possession, and falling in the time of dilapidation of church lands, had time and means to convert the “tack” of many lands of Breadalbane, held of the Charter-house of Perth and of the Crown, into a secure feu-tenure, and to conqueis many other lands in Perthshire, and a town lodging in the county town. He built the Castle of Balloch, where the house of Taymouth now stands;5 and he added the four kernils (corner towers) and the north chambers to the hereditary mansion of Kilchurn. Bowie celebrates him as “a great Justiciar all his time,” in that he caused execute many notable limmers6 (not the least notable being that “Duncan Laideus,” whose story will come afterwards), and even the Laird of McGregor himself, that is, Gregor Roy of Glensthrae, who was beheaded with much solemnity on the green of Kenmore.
The seventh laird, Sir Duncan, our author’s patron, is a person on whose history we dwell with more pleasure. Bowie records a glorious list of conquests of lands and church possessions, and the provisions he bestowed on his children, legitimate and illegitimate. But we have interest of another kind in Black Duncan – Donacha dhu na curich, as he is called, from the cowl in which he is represented in his picture at Taymouth. He was, if not the first of Scotchmen, the very foremost of Highland proprietors, to turn his attention to the rural improvement of his country. His predecessors had indeed built rude dwellings and places of defence, round which time and decay have thrown in picturesqueness little thought of in their erection. But we find no signs of these earlier lords appreciating their beautiful country, or trying to increase its comforts or its productiveness. It cannot be said that Sir Duncan himself had taste for the picturesque, but he knew the profit as well as the beauty that might accrue from clothing the hill-side with timber, and securing shelter round his mansion. He had some feeling for art also, He built the Castle of Finlarg, and ornamented its chapel “with pavement and painterie.” He built the tower of Achalladour, repaired Ilankeilchurn, built the house of Lochdochart, a great house at Barcaldine in Benderloch (between Loch Etive and Loch Criran), defended the grounds of Balloch against the river by a great embankment, He built or repaired the church of Glenurchy, and built a bridge over the water of Lochy, “to the great contentment and weal of the country.” He was enterprising enough to travel abroad, and passed to the courts of England and France, and, in 1602, thought good to take a view of Flanders and of the wars. He took measures for enforcing an old Scotch law which enjoined the planting of a few trees about every tenant’s and cottar’s dwelling; and on the greater scale which became the landlord, he “caused make parks in Balloch, Finlarg, Glenloquhay, and Glenurquhay, and caused sow acorns and seed of fir therein, and planted in the same young fir and birch.” He seems to have imitated his cousin, William Earl of Gowrie,7 in introducing trees of foreign growth, and tradition points to him as the planter of the venerable chestnut and walnut trees at Finlarg and Taymouth. He was probably the first of Scotchmen who brought in fallowdeer; for our chronicler tells us that in 1614 he took a lease of the Isle of Inchesaile from the Earl of Argyll, and in 1615 “put fallow deir and cunnyngis” therein. In another department of rural policy, it is not so certain that he was first, but it is of him that we have the first evidence, in connexion with the rearing of horses. In one bloody foray the McGregors slew forty of Sir Duncan’s brood mares in the Cosche of Glenurchy, and at the same time a blood horse, “ane fair cursour sent to him from the Prince out of London.”8 The horse had come to an untimely end even before his royal master was taken away, but the stud went on increasing under the careful eye and vigorous management of Black Duncan.
Sir Duncan may be thought to have inherited some of these tastes through his mother, a daughter of the accomplished and unfortunate house of Gowrie. I have found only one of her books in the library. It is a copy of Sleidan’s Chronicle, London, 1560. On a fly-leaf she has written, This buke pertenis to Catherine Ruthven Lady of Glenurquhay.
We have abundant evidence that the seventh laird was a man of affairs, and well maintained his place in that age of unscrupulous politicians. In his own territories, castles and family, he practised a very vigorous personal control and the most methodical administration. The estate books and books of household accounts and inventories kept under his direction give us the earliest picture we have of the life of a great Highland lord.
It is not so easy to imagine the rough chieftain cultivating literature; yet, grim as he stands in his picture at Holyrood, the Black Duncan had a taste for books, read history and romance, and is not quite free from the suspicion of having dabbled in verse himself. Several of his books are still preserved at Taymouth, where the frequent inscriptions in his own hand show he took pleasure in them; and we must remember that book collecting was not yet a fashion. One of his favourites, in which he evidently much delighted, was The Buike of King Alexander the Conqueroure, a ponderous romance in MS.9 Some original verses, mostly moral and religious, written on the blank leaves of his books, would be worth preserving, if it were possible more satisfactorily to establish their authorship.
The. influence of Sir Duncan Campbell extended over an unusual length of time. He was forty-eight years lord of the family estates, and was eighty-six years old when he died in 1631.
The next generation carries us a long step forward in civilisation. Sir Colin, the eighth laird of Glenurchy, was as fond of repairing and extending his family castles as his father had been. Moreover, he gave in to the new luxuries of rich furniture and hangings of silk and tapestry, in which England was then showing her wealth. His chronicler records his expenses in arras hangings, silk beds, and damask “napery,” brought out of West Flanders. We learn by his books still preserved, that he was not only a Latin scholar, but fond of French and Italian literature.10 Contemporary portraits are found of Sir Duncan, but Sir Colin is the first of the family who employed artists to paint pictures as ornaments for his house. He “bestowit and gave to ane Germane painter, whom he enterteinit in his house aucht moneth… the soume of ane thousand pundis.” The name of the German artist is not found, nor is it of much interest to ascertain who painted the “threttie broads” and portraits from fancy which still cover some of the walls at Taymouth. Sir Colin could appreciate the more delicate pencil of an artist of his own country. It is to his taste that we owe the largest collection,and perhaps the best works of the pencil of the first of Scotch painters – Jamesone. The notice of Bowie, and the letters of Jamesone himself, preserved at Taymouth, show the rapidity of that artist’s work, and the prices he received for his pictures. He undertakes to paint sixteen pictures between July and the end of September, and he informs his patron that his ordinary price is twenty merks for a half-length, or twenty pounds, with a double gilt muller (frame). These letters also serve to prove that Jamesone was working at Taymouth while Bowie or his continuator was writing the Black Book, and it does not seem unreasonable to conjecture that the fanciful and often grotesque portraits that are found in it are from the ready pencil of one accustomed to paint imaginary portraits, and actually engaged at the time in ornamenting the family tree of the house of Breadalbane. The portrait of Sir Colin, Jamesone’s patron, is more careful than the rest, and is evidently a characteristic likeness.11
If master William Bowie lived to write the memoir of Sir Robert, the ninth laird of Glenurchy, it must have caused him much grief. The house of Breadalbane had fallen upon evil times. Public events and family expenses combined to bear it down, and the notary’s last pages record the legal steps taken by numerous creditors against the unhappy Sir Robert. It is a pity the old man could not have lived to see the family restored in fortune and increased in honours in the next generation, in the person of his pupil.
The second article selected from the charter-room of Taymouth, has been named The Chronicle of Fortirgall, on presumptions afforded by the MS. It is a small 4to book of paper, much decayed and imperfect, giving no name of the compiler or writer. The first part of its contents are almost identical with a cronicle already known and published as Dean McGregor’s Chronicle. The author (a person whom we reverence as the sole early collector of Highland poetry) was James McGregor, Dean of Lismore, and Vicar of Fortirgall. The present compilation notices the death of the Dean himself, which took place in 1551, and brings the record of events considerably lower. We gather from its contents that the writer was a McGregor, acknowledging McGregor of Glensthrae for his chief; that he was a priest, and “said his first mann” at Whitsunday 1531; that he came to the cure of Fortirgall at Beltane 1532; and that he spent the remainder of his life in that neighbourhood. He records chiefly the obits and funerals of Fortirgall and Inchaddin, though mixed with such as interested him of the passing events of the Highlands, and of the public affairs of the country. He records that he began to sow oats in the Borllin of Fortirgall on 23d March of each of the years 1575 and 1576; and the last entry of his journal is dated 25th April 1579.
But though the period of his record is, all things considered, the most interesting and important of Scotch history, there is no comment on public events, and nothing that is new to the student of history. Within the space of two leaves, the deaths of Rizzio, of Darnley, of Murray, of Archbishop Hamilton, are noted; without any new circumstances, and with a remarkable avoidance of any expression of feeling. Somewhat more is elicited by the murder or death of some good neighbour or friend of the chronicler, when he deals a short eulogium, – bonus fuit, – or especially if he can say – non fuit avarus, or Deus diligit hilarem datorem, concluding with a requiescat in pace, or Deus propitietur.
Perhaps it was necessary caution that prevented him from denouncing more openly the Reformation, to which he was no friend. 1558, says he, fuit principium novæ legis hereticorum. In 1559, he records that the summer before, the great steugh came in Scotland against the faith that our progenitors had long time afore that. That same summer (1559) “the charter-house (of Perth) was destroyed, Scone burnt, mekil trouble in Scotland. None durst say mass nor sacrament in the old fashion.” He notes the death of one who was firmus in fide catholica, and of several who died in lege Lutherana, or who “renounced the law and the sacraments,” leaving no doubt of his own principles; yet he occasionally bestows an orate pro anima even upon one of these heretics; and he records with equal impassiveness the day of St. Bartholomew in France, – “the Papetis in France slew and murdreist in the nicht mony men and women of the congregation;” and the death of John Hamilton, – “the said bissop was tayne and justifeit and hangit in Strywelyn.”
Perhaps the part of the Chronicle of the Curate of Fortirgall which may prove most useful, is his record of the weather, – of good and bad seasons, and of the consequent fluctuation of the prices of victuals. The first noticed by him is 1554, when there was frost and snow “whiles” before Andersmas (30th November), and continued frost from 13th December, and great snow from Yule day at even, and every day from thenceforth more and more without any thaw till the 17th of January. “It was the greatest snow and storm that was seen in memory of man living that time. Many wild horses and mares, kye, sheep, goats, perished and died for want of food in the mountains, and in all other parts; and though partial thaw came on 17th January, it began then to snow and freeze till the 22nd day of February, on which day men and women might well pass on the ice of Lyon in sundry places, and little tilth till the 26th day of February, and but in lyth (sheltered) places.”
The winter of 1561-62, there “was mekle snow in all parts, and many deer and roes slaine.” The summer of 1563 he commemorates as “right dear; viz., the boll of meal 5 merks.” In the following summer there was “mekle rain continually, but good cheap of victuals in all parts.” The boll of meal which had been as high as five merks (£3, 6s. 8d.) the preceding year, sold for eighteen shillings, and malt for twenty-eight shillings.
“The summer of 1570 right good, and all victuals good cheap, but the winter and Lentron quarter following evil weather, many sheep and goats died through scarcity of fodder. In the spring of 1571-2, from 15th January till the 22d March great frost, so that no ploughs went till eight days thereafter, and men might well pass and repass on the ice of Lyon the 3d day of March.”
But the following winter struck the chronicler of Fortirgall as more than usually severe. “The 22d day of February there came after noon a great storm, of snow and hail and wind, that no man nor beast might lift up their heads, nor walk nor ride, and many beasts perished without in that storm, and many men and women perished in sundry places; and all kinds of victual right dear, and that because no mills might grind for the frost. All corn came to the mill of Dunkeld out of St. Johnstoun (Perth) betwixt that and Dunkeld, and all other bounds about far and near. The meal gave that time in St. Johnstoun, 43 shillings, the malt 34 shillings; and before St. Patrick’s day (17th March) the meal was 25s. 8d., and the malt for 30 shillings.”
Many other notices of the weather occur, which are always valuable when made at the time and by an eye-witness; and many instances are given of that fluctuation of prices which in times of little foreign trade was ever and anon reducing the people at one plunge from plenty to starvation.
Duncan Laideus’ alias Makgregouris Testament comes next. Pennant saw it at Taymouth in September 1769, and communicated it to Warton, who speaks of it as “an anonymous Scotch poem which contains capital touches of satirical humour not inferior to those of Dunbar and Lyndesay.”12 He inclines to think the hero and supposed speaker of the poem altogether an imaginary personage, a mere type of the Highland freebooter.
The verses are written on the blank leaves at the end of one of the copies of the romance of Alexander, but in a different hand from it. They are unfortunately anonymous, and we have no clue to enable us to conjecture the author. It was a mistake, however, to suppose that the subject of the poem, the person in whose mouth the satire is put, was an imaginary person. Duncan McGregor, called Laideus or Laudasach, was but too well known in Breadalbane and the Highlands for half a century, but the documents and records by which his history is vouched are of the end of it.
He must have been of some standing in the proscribed but powerful clan, although his daring character may have helped as much as his cousinship, to place him in the office of tutor of the young Chief of McGregor. His chronicler informs us that in his youth he led the life of all his clan, – the life of the Arab robber, or the wolf on whose head a price is set. Hunted “through Lorne, Argyll, Menteith, and Breadalbane,” he retired to the wilds of Lochaber, where he hoped to find shelter with Lochiel; but the Earl of Argyll having pursued him hotly, he doubled back to Breadalbane, where he was taken and thrown into prison by Sir Duncan Campbell, the second Laird of Glenurchy. He escaped, and made himself strong with many followers in the confusion that followed the field of Flodden, where the Knight of Glenurchy was slain, with his cousin of Argyll and their royal master. From this period (1513) till his death, he was the terror of the Highlands. Of the injuries he suffered personally, or the wrongs he may have had to avenge, we know little. The story is told by the other party. His last exploits we must take from the formal narrative of the public prosecutor. On the 26th November 1551, the Queen’s Advocate set forth that “Duncan Laudes and Gregour his sone recently, namely upoun Sounday the 22d day of November instant, at sex houris at evin under silence of nycht, be way of hamesukin cam to the hous of Alaster Owir alias McGregour servand to Colyne Campbell of Glenurquhay of the landis of Moreis and be force tuke him furth of his said hous and be way of murthure straik him with quhingearis and crewellie slew him and spulyeit and tuke fra him his purs and in it the soume of fourty poundis; and incontinent thireftir past to the landis of Killing to the hous of ane pure man callit Johnne McBayne Pipare, and thair assegit the said hous and brak the durris thairof and be force tuke the said Johnne furth of the samin and straik his heid fra his body and crewellie slew him and gaif him divers uther straikis with quhingearis in his body,” etc. For this murder on his “awin natioun;” as his historian tells us, he and his son were charged13 and “put to the horne;” which they treated with derision. And the common process of law was not likely to be otherwise treated by such as Duncan. Here, however, it was enforced by others than the Queen’s messengers. Alaster Owir, though a Macgregor, was a “servant” of Glenurchy’s, who was, therefore, bound to avenge his murder. Of one step taken for that purpose we have the particulars in this collection. On the 11th March 1551,14 Glenurchy took a bond of manrent or service from James Stewart of Ballindoran, and two Drummonds, whereby these parties bound themselves “with their whole power, with their kin, friends and partakers, to invcade and pursue to the death Duncan Laudosach McGregour, Gregour his son, their servands, partakers and complices… be reason that thai ar our deidlie enemies and our Soverane Ladie’s rebels.”15 The foxes had still another double for their lives. Notwithstanding the deadly feud that was between them, and although Glenurchy had obtained a gift from Chatelherault the Governor, of the escheat of the outlaws, they found means to avert his wrath, and even to obtain his protection. On the 2d of May 1552,16 Colyne Campbell of Glenurquhai (the zeal of love and good conscience moving him) received Duncane Makgregour and Gregour his son in his maintenance (protection), forgave all manner of actions and faults that they had committed, and gave them back the escheat of their goods which he had purchased when they were the Queen’s rebels; they being now received to the Queen’s peace and his favour. The sole condition stipulated was that the Macgregors should fulfil their bond of manrent (service) to Glenurchy in all points. The subsequent cause of quarrel we do not learn. The wild blood of the Macgregors may have broken out in some new enormity too great for pardon and too clear for trial. On the 16th of June 1552, says the Curate of Fortirgall, Duncan Macgregor and his sons Gregor and Malcolm Roy were beheaded by Colin Campbell of Glenurchy, Campbell of Glenlyon, and Menzies of Rannoch.17
Such was the person in whose mouth the anonymous poet of Breadalbane, following the practice which Dunbar and Lindsay had rendered popular, has put the Testament which the poetical Lord of Glenurchy has transcribed at the end of his favourite Romance of Chivalry.
The reader of modern English poetry will require to make some allowance for the time and the country of the Scotch poet of the sixteenth century. But the student of early English literature will find no difficulty in the mere language and spelling; and much of what now seems uncouth in the thoughts and the management of the poem, is in truth imitated from the great early masters who were writing verse and cultivating the same Saxon tongue in Scotland and England equally and contemporaneously.*
The impersonation, in the beginning, not only of the virtues and vices, but of other abstractions, a practice which may be traced back to the “mysteries” and Church plays of the middle ages, will not seem altogether strange to one familiar with the allegories of Spenser and of John Bunyan. Neither will he want authorities for the inartificial confusion of the persons of the supposed speaker and the poet, though, in the present case, this produces a bad effect. We find it unnatural that the robber and outlaw should patriotically lament the Battle of Flodden which gave him his own liberty;- should describe the hanging of his fellows as a “blessed sacrifice to our Lorde,” and everywhere mix up moral and religious reflections with his triumphant rehearsal of his worst exploits. But after making full deduction for such faults of composition, we find abundance to admire in this short poem.
The testator thus opens his narrative:-
“When passit was the time of tender age,
And Youth with Insolence made acquaintance,
And Wickedness enforced Evil courage,
While (till) Might with Cruelty made alliance,
Then Falsehood took on him the governance,
And me betaught ane household for to guide,
Called Evil Company both to gang and ride.
“My master-household was hight Oppression,” etc.18
He contrasts his past glories with his present state and prospect of death, and sends a message to his comrades, –
“I wot they will say, ‘He that should hawd us
Is gone for ever, good Duncan Laudus.’ “
He describes his progress in crime till King James the Fourth, that royal prince, determined to have him caught. He was hunted through Lorn, Argyll, Menteith and Breadalbane; but, “as a fox, with many a double and wile, from the hounds escapes oft unslain,” so he, till Argyll and Glenurchy combined to trap him, and he was put in duress and doomed to death.
In his prison the news of the field of Flodden reached him –
“The tedious tidings through this realm ran,
The great defeat and final destruction
Of our King with many worthy man.
This heard I all, lying in deep dungeon;
I thought me then half out of my prison,
For I did aye, as does the meikle Devil,
Crabbed of good, and ever blyth of evil.”
He escapes, and assembles his old band; hears with great joy of the death of Argyll and Glenurchy in the fatal battle; and becomes more formidable than before –
“Like a wolf greedy and insatiable,
Devouring sheep with many bloody box,
To the people I was as terrible,
Reiving from them many a cow and ox;
Were the grey mare in the fetterlocks
At John Uplands door knit fast enough,
Upon the morn he missed her to the plough.”
He rejoiced for a time that the king was young and the laws obscured. But anon King James V. –
“Began into this region for to reign,
Maist circumspect, with princely governance,
With manly heart began this awful king
Trespassers to punish with cruel vengeance.”
Laideus is again hounded out, retreats again to Lochaber, wist not in what hole to hide his head, and was driven to dire extremities, when he was once more relieved by the king’s death. On hearing that event he finds his youth restored, gathers his men, harries the country, slays twenty-seven of the Clan Lauren in one place in Balquhidder in Passion week, burns and slays the Clandonachie, and at last, in his pride, even sets himself to destroy Glenurchy, and thinks to rule the country.
“We shaped to fly, but we wanted wings.”
“Makgregour” dying, Duncan is chosen “Tutor.” When he levies black-mail –
“The poor people I put in such a fear,
Till in their hearts they were wonder fain
To give me yearly one part of their gear,
From Saintjohnstown west unto Strathfillan.”
For the slaughter of Alister Ower, Duncan and his son were put to the horn, but affected to hold it in derision, and returned to reive, steal, oppress, and sorne as before. Some of his fellows were taken, and some headed, some hanged, and set up high on a gallows –
“Whilk was ane blessed sacrifice to our Lord,
And right acceptable, I dare stand for it;
For, if he be skant of ky in heaven,
They will him bring I wot each night eleven.”
At length, after escaping from two crowned kings, and governors and lords of great renown, the outlaw was taken by Colin of Glenurchy; and thus he frames his legacy, after an approved form of satire:-
“The time is short that I have now unspent;
Of temporal good nought I do posseid,
While I have space I will make my testament.
My spiritual good I leave it into deed (indeed),
Spiritual men for me to sing and read.
For well I wot they will their rights have,
And I will please them as well as the lave (rest).
To my Curate, negligence I resign,
Therewith his parishioners for to teach:
Another gift I leave him as condign,
Sloth with ignorance, seldom for to preach,
The souls he commits for to bleach
In purgatory till they be washen clean,
Pure religion thereby for to sustain.
“To the Vicar I leave diligence and cure
To take the upmost cloth and the kirk cow19
More than to put the corpse in sepulture.
Have poor widow six grice20 and a sow,
He will have one to fill his belly fou;
His thought is more upon the Pasch fines
Than the souls in purgatory that pines.
“Oppression, the Parson I leave untill (unto)
Poor men’s corn to hold upon the rig
Till he get the teynd all whole at his will,
Suppose the bairns their bread should go thig (beg),
His purpose is no kirks for to big:
So fair a bairn teme God has him sendin,
These seven years the choir will ly unmenden.”
And so he continues, in a strain of fierce satire, against the Churchmen – Dean, Prior, Bishop, the Friars:
“I leave the Abbot pride and arrogance,
With trapped mules in the court to ride,
Not in the cloister to make residence,
It is no honour there for him to bide,
But erar (rather) for a bishoprick to provide,
For well ye wot a poor benefice
Of ten thousand mark may not him suffice.”
The Bishop is to have exemption from lay jurisdiction, “for well ye wot the Pope is far from home.” The Friars, his flattery and false dissembling. Then the poor caged savage breaks into this strain of natural regret, –
“Now fair well Rannoch, with thy loch and isle,
To me thou wast right traist both even and morn,
Thou wast the place that would me noch beguile
When I have been oft at the king’s horn,
Yit may thou ban the hour I was born,
For uncourteously I quitted thee thy hire,
That left thee burning in a fellon fire.
“Now, good Glendochart, for ever more adieu,
That oft has been my buckler and my beild (shelter),
Both day and night to me thou wast right true,
And lately, until when I grew in eild (age),
And durst no more be seen upon the field
Than dare the owlet when the day is light,
Yet thou me keeped with thy main and might.
“Fare well Glenloquhy, with thy forest free;
Fare well Fernay, that oft my friend has been;
Fare well Morinche. Alas! full woe is me!
Thou was the ground of all my woe and teyne (grief);
Fare well Breadalbane and Lochtay so sheen;
Fare well Glenurchy and Glenlyon baith,
My death to you will be but little skaith.
“Farewell Glenalmond, garden of pleasance,
For many fair flower have I from ye ta’en;
Fare well Strathbran, and have remembrance
That thou shall never more see Duncan again;
Atholl, Strathtay, of my death be fain,
For oft times I took your reddiest gear,
Therefore for me see ye greit not one tear.
“Fare well Stratherne, most comely for to know,
Plenished with pleasant policy preclair
Of towers and towns standing fair in row;
I rugged thy ribs till oft I made them rair (roar);
Gar (make) thy wives, if thou will do no more,
Sing my dirige after usum Sarum,
For oftimes I gart them alarum.
“Fare well Menteith, where oft I did repair,
And come unsought aye as does the snaw,
To part from thee my heart is wonder sair,
Sometime of me I gart you stand great awe,
But fortune has lent me such a blaw
That they who dreaded me as death before,
Will mock me now with hethyn (ridicule) shame and scorn.
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
In manus tuas, Lord that died on rood,
Commendo spiritum meum with humility,” etc.
Some of these verses show a breadth and intensity of satire worthy of Lindsay. There is poetry in the wild wail of the chained robber, and, moreover, a sense of natural beauty and a tenderness of feeling which we do not look for in writers of that age, and which no earlier Scotch poet had expressed so well, if we except the admirable Gawin Douglas.
Bonds of Friendship, Bonds of Homage, Bonds of Manrent and Maintenance, are found in greater or less quantity in all old Scotch charter-chests;21 but at Taymouth are some of a different character, and some which seem to present new points of interest for the Scotch Antiquary. We have never before had a collection of such transactions from a Highland chief’s castle. The mixture of the two elements, – of the patriarchal and the feudal, of that system where all property was (by theory) in the tribe, and that where (by theory again) property was in the lord alone, – is here seen for the first time. We have a great chief and ruler of many Celtic tribes, living among them and conforming to their customs, yet holding his own territories and his position in the kingdom as a Feudal Baron. The McGregors and McNabs, like their Celtic brethren, holding property by no written tenures, having perhaps no individual property in the soil, were little addicted to commit their transactions to writing. But with the Norman, came strict rights of property, written tenures, and a propensity to records; and instead of the vague traditions of the poor Celts, we have here preserved definite, though slight, footsteps of their immemorial usages.
In the charter-chests of lowland Scotland there probably is not an instance of a formal deed of adoption of a child, though the practice was evidently common under the civil law. At Taymouth these deeds of adoption are so common, it was evidently an approved way of transmitting property.
On eof them relates how John McGillespie received John Campbell of Glenurchy as his own son, and took him on his knee, calling him filium adoptivum, that is to say, his chosen son, and, he being on his knee, gave to the said John the half of his goods. In like manner John McBay, and Mary Vykfail, his spouse, took the same John Campbell as a bairn of their own, and their special oversman and defender, and delivered a give in token of all their goods and a bairn’s part of their goods after their decease. Many similar deeds in this collection show not only a new form, but a kind of transaction and a state of society unknown in the lowlands.
The Celtic custom of Fostering was in fresh observance through Breadalbane and Argyll, during the period of these deeds, and extended through all classes. The provisions, when reduced to writing, are almost uniform.
On the 5th November 1580, Duncan of Glenurchy agrees that his native servant, Gillecreist Makdonchy Duff VcNokerd, and Katherine Neyn Douill, Vekconchy, his spouse, shall have his son Duncan in fostering, they sustaining him in meat, drink, and nourishment till he be sent to the schools, and afterwards at the schools, with reasonable support, and they and his father settling upon his of “makhelve”22 goods, the value of 200 merks of kye, and two horses worth forty merks, with their increase; the milk of the cattle being the foster-parents’ while they sustain the bairn. There is a stipulation that if Duncan shall die before being sent to the schools, another of Glenurchy’s children, lass or lad, shall be fostered in his stead, who shall succeed to his goods; and he, or the bairn that enters his place, is to have at the decease of the foster-parents, a bairn’s part of gear with their children.
A similar bond of fostering, with more minute stipulations, was entered into between Duncan of Glenurchy and Duncan Campbell of Duntrone; the former “being of before foster-son to Duntrone and Agnes Nikolleane his present wife, “being of the like mind that love and favour should be and continue betwixt the houses of Glenurchy and Duntrone;” they receive Colin, Glenurchy’s son and heir in fostering, and the lady promises “to be to him a favourable and loving foster-mother, in the same manner and condition as the said Duncan Campbell of Glenurchy of before was fostered in the house of Duntrone.”
The stipulation found in all these deeds, for giving the foster-child his share in the moveable succession, is nothing more than reducing to writing what was the customary law of the Highlanders, in common with the other Celtic peoples.23 But the real benefit sought by both parties in those transactions, was mutual support and strength. In times when none counted much on the protection of the law, families endeavoured to surround themselves with friends and allies; and a relation like this of fosterage begot feelings of mutual friendship better than the artificial system of bonds of amity, which were apt to stand or fall with the interest and temper of the parties. In one remarkable case, which does not come within the scope of the present collection, two families agreed to perpetuate the connexion, covenanting that the eldest son of the one should always be fostered by the other. We do not know the result, nor how long it was before that contract, like other schemes for unseen generations, fell to the ground.
In another instance I have lighted on a bundle of correspondence, a few letters of which will serve better than formal contracts to show the feelings of two families of the same lineage drawing closer the bonds of kindred by the still more tender relation of fosterage. The parties, too, are of more than common interest. The father and the child were the Marquis and Earl of Argyll, each subsequently honoured by a death on the scaffold. The person selected as foster-father was the accomplished Sir Colin Campbell of Glenurchy. Even more important in such relation, the foster-mother was Juliane Campbell, daughter of Hew Lord Loudon; but of her we know only what we learn from this correspondence, and her picture at Taymouth, giving the impression of sense and good nature.24 The correspondence begins in 1633:-
From SIR COLIN CAMPBELL of Glenurchy to ARCHIBALD LORD LORNE.
MY NOBLE LORD AND CHEIFF, – I receauit your lordships letter from Archibald CAmpbell, schawing me that syndrie of your lordships freindis wer most desyrous to have your lordships eldest sone in fostering, yet for diuerss respectis your lordship wes better pleasit to have him brought vp with me, quich I acknoeledge is a great testimonie both of your lordships trust and love, and I hop in God evir so to approve myself to be most willing and desyrous to deserue both. And in regard that your lordship and it may be your lordships lady have occsioun to be ane great part of this sommer in the Lawlandis, gif it may stand withyour lordships pleasour, I desyre that your lordships sone may come heir to me about the 17 or 18 of Maii nixt, quhair, God willing, he sall have all the cairfull attendance that may ly in my powar to give him. And in regaird that I am not weill able to travell myself so far a iourney, I intend to send my wyfe and some vther of my friendis to be his convoy, quhairwith I thought guid to acquaint your lordship, hoping that agane that tyme your lordship will provyde some discrit woman and ane sufficient man quha hes bothe Irisch and Englisch and will have a care not onlie to attend him, but sometymes lykewayes to learne him and quhat else may concern him quhill he is in my company. God willing, my wyfe and I sall have a speciall care thairof. As for the rest of the particularis contenit in your lordships letter, I sall ansuer thame at my wyfes coming to your lordship or vtherwayes at my meiting with your lordship the aucht of Junii as your lordship hes desyrit, at Stirling, to quhich time with the remembrans of my humell seruice to your lordships nobill lady, and evir I remane your lordships assurit frend and kinsman to my power to serue,
[COLIN CAMPBELL of Glenurquhay]
LORD LORNE to GLENURCHY.
For my loving cousing the Lard of Gleanorquhay.
LOVING CUSIN, – Man propons bot God dispons. I intended to heave gone presentlie to Inuerraray, bot I had ane letter within thir two or three days from the Thesaurar Traquair, desyring me to be in Edinburgh so soon as I could, quhiche hes altered my resolution that my familie cannot stur till it pleas God I returne. I will assoor you your foster longs very much to see you and doethe not dar to tell he had rather be thair nor her, and I assoor you he shall heave his choice, bot as you may see be this letter of his grandfathers the Erle of Morton that he intends to be in Scotland so shortlie, his mother desyrs if it pleas God to heaue hir childring togither till that tym, to draw her father her; and if wee hear any contrair advertisement of his dyet you shall immediatelie heaue him (as Archie calles it) home. So remembring my service to your lady, I rest your loving cusin,
Rosneithe last May.
ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL of Lorne to GLENURCHY.
To my lowing foster-father and respected freind the Lard of
LOUING FREIND, – Louing foster-father, I thoght good to wryt thir few lyns to yow to shaw yow that I am in good health and am vearie sorie that ye wryt not for me, and I long weri much to sie yow; and as ye wold wis me to be weil and to come to yow, send to me in all the heast and diligence ye can, Duncan Archibald and tuey horse with him, on to Mr Johen and on for my cariage; and prays and requests yow to send them in all the heast ye can,and I wil looke for them that they may be heir a Fryday or at the fardest at Setterday at night; and take it not in anay vncounes that I send not back the ansuere of the letter that I got in Edinbruch. I could not stay because I was in heast; and bring my commendations to your shelf and to yowr wyf, and houpes that I wil seie yow my shelf shortlie, if ye doe yowr deutie, not duting but ye wildoe the same, comiting yow to Gods protection for euer. So I rest, yours at power,
ARCHIBALD LORD OF LORNE.
Wryten at Inderaray,
the thretie day of September.
From the LADY LORNE to GLENURCHY.
To my much respectit and guid freind the Laird of Glenurquhy.
LUEFEIN FREIND, – I haife sent this bearar to know how yea and my sone are in healthe, and to shaw you that all freindis heare are weall. I heair my sone begines to wearye of the Irishe langwadge. I intreatt yow to cause holde hime to the speakeing of itt, for since he hes bestowed so long tyme and paines in the getting of itt, I sould be sory he lost it now with leasines in not speaking of it; bott this I know, yea wilbe more cairfull as in ewerything that concernes him, so that I will fully leaffehim to your awin caire; only prayeing the Lord to giffe ane blessing to all the meanes of his educatioune: And so I shall still remain your most assurett friend,
Rosnethe, the 14 of December 1637.
GLENURCHY to LORNE.
MOST HONOREDE, – I have desyrit my brother Roberte to scnau your lordship in quhat manere Maister Jhone Makleine misbehauis himself. I am sorie that I haue caus to do it, bot the respect I carie to my lorde and to your lordship, and the loue I haue to your lordships sone, makis to do so. Quhen your lordship plaisses your lordship may lede my lorde knau it, and I thinke it may be best remediete be provydinge in deu tyme on to supplie Maister Jhone his place, and your Lordship knauis it is requisit he be ane discreite man that is abe scollar, and that can speike both Inglis and Erise, quharof I think thair may be had in Argyll. Your lordship may do heirine as my lorde and your lordship thinks expediente. Your lordships sone is veill and in guide healthe, praisit be God. The Lord continou the same. So vissinge your lordship all prosperitie, I remain your lordships assurite and affectionat friende to serue you,
Balloch, the [1638.]
ARGYLL to GLENURCHY.
For my loving Cusin the Laird of Glenwrquhy.
LOVING CUSIN, – Since it hath pleased God to call my father to his eternall rest, I doubt not bot you kno als weall as I can desyr you what is fitting for your self to doe. Onli in this I desyr you to suffer your foster with you to wear murning. And so ever make use of me as your most affectionat cusin to my power,
Rosneithe, 4 September [1638.]
THE COUNTESS OF ARGYLE to GLENURCHY.
To my loveing freind the Laird of Glenvrquhy.
LOVING FREIND, – Accordeing to this othre lettre of my lordis, I will earnestlie desyire you to send heire my sonne, and to have him at your house in Glenvrquhy on Frayday at night the tuentie ane day of this instant preceislie, and I shall appoynt folkes to meitt him thair on Satterday in the morneing, for bringing him alonges heir. I hoipe ye wilbee cairfull to send sufficient company with him, and to cause prowyd some secure place be the way, quhar he may be that night he comes from you. So referring all to your cair, exspecteing assuredlie that ye will send him the tyme foirsaid, I rest your loveing freind,
Inverrarey, 14 Junii 1639.26
Among these papers there are none indicating that the native tribes, in making their submission, took the name of the dominant family, either individually or by whole clans – a practice that greatly swelled the ranks of some names not more numerous nor more widely spread than the Campbells. Here, on the contrary, we find families and small tribes choosing Glenurchy for their chief; sometimes renouncing their natural head, and selecting him as leader and protector, yet retaining their own patronymical designations. These new subjects bound themselves not only to pay the allegiance of clansmen, but to give the “caulo of Kenkynie,”27 – the Celtic equivalent for the Heriot of feudal customs; to visit the chief’s house with “sufficient presents twice in the year;” to serve in “hosting and hunting;” and to be ready at all times “to ride and go” in their lord’s affairs.
The Early Rentals and Estate Books of Breadalbane, present the characteristic marks of the country. Much of the rent is paid in oat-meal and malt, the staples for food and drink. The tenants had little capital. The stock on the farms was “steelbow,” the property of the landlord, only the produce belonging to the tenant. The bow-house (cattle-house) was rated at so much “kain” or produce, in butter and cheese, in proportion to the cattle on that pasture. The money which seems to have been appropriated as part of the requisite stock for cultivating the bow-house farm, is called by an unexplained name of “strenth-silver.”28 We are led to think what became of those cattle during the long winter of the Midland Highlands; but no information is afforded. Hay is not once named, and the natural produce of the glens can have been saved only in trifling quantities from the deer.29 Sheep were evidently in small numbers, and the “clip of wool” insignificant, compared with modern produce, probably from the want of winter food, as well as from the deer occupying the outlying pastures, insecure, at any rate, for any valuable stock.30 These books show the attention to the rearing of horses that has been already noticed.
The Household Books show the usual provisions for the table. Oat-meal and malt furnished the ordinary bread and chief drink of the castle, where ale was distinguished as ostler ale, household ale, and best ale. There was beef and mutton, fresh in summer, and for the rest of the year “marts,” killed and salted when fat on the pasture; a small quantity of bacon; salmon of Loch Tay, and Glenurchy salmon. Loch Fyne herring was already appreciated,31 and when other fish got scarce there was the “hard fish” or stock fish, which still forms an article of Scotch economy even in Protestant families. Cheese, counted either by weight or in “heads,” was plentifully supplied by the “bow-men.”
These books have a great additional interest from mentioning the guests visiting the family, and occasionally domestic occasions of more sumptuous housekeeping.32
The Inventories of Plenissing, beginning at 1598, are valuable for the history of Scotch manners and civilisation. Every article is tempting, and if there were room, we could be well pleased to attend “the Lady” with her aide-de-camp. “Magie Peter,” in thier review of the contents of “the great kist in the gallery Wardrobe,” and “the Lady’s kist standing in her own garderobe.” One entry in the “household garderobe” of four wolf skins, might oblige us to turn aside, if there were not to be other opportunities of noticing the last of the great beasts of prey in Britain. But we must pass by the caddois and coverings, the plaids and curtains, the sheets, board cloths, seruiettes, and towels;33 the carpets then not used for the floor, but for table-covers, gorgeous cushions, counter-cloths, stools, the table furniture, and the array of kitchen implements required for the hospitality of Balloch.
Neither must I dwell upon the arms and accoutrements which the porter had in charge. The artillery was not formidable, though, probably, more than required in Highland warfare. The hand guns, muskets, hagbuts of snap-work, of rowet work, or of lunt34 work (match-locks), prove the value in which they were held, by the minuteness of the descriptions of their ornaments, whether stocked with Brissel (Brazil wood), or inlaid with bone or with pearl, or gilt pieces with the laird’s arms. There is the usual array of arms, from the primitive hand-bow and its “bag of arrows,” to horseman’s harness with steel bonnets, plate gloves, corsletts, murrions of proof, steel targes, and two-handed swords. None of the names of arms seem to require explanation. There are Jedburgh staffs, and Lochaber axes, but there is nothing of “the ancient Highland broadsword.” Andrea Ferrara’s name is not found. A “running spear” seems to be a tilting spear, as a “wasp spear” undoubtedly was no weapon of mortal war, but a salmon spear or “leister.” Among the porter’s gear at Finlarg, after a dire enumeration of prison furniture, great iron fetters, and long chains with their shackles, we find one name that suggests even more odious associations. The four “Glaslawis chargeit with four schaikhills,” seem to have been instruments of torture.35 The “heading axe,” which occurs more than once, and which seemed at one time to be the natural fate of the whole race of McGregor, now stands harmless in the Hall at Taymouth.
The most curious, as well as the most careful and formal of these inventories, is the one made up in 1640, when Sir Colin and his sons, a few months before his death, agreed to set aside certain articles as heirlooms. The jewels – the target of enamelled gold, set with three diamonds, four topazes or jacinths, a ruby and a sapphire – the gift of King James V.; the round jewel of gold, set with twenty-nine diamonds and four great rubies, and the diamond ring, both given to the gallant Sir Duncan by Queen Anne of Denmark; even the fair silver brooch, set with precious stones, are, I fear, all gone. It is something if the talisman of the Knight of Rhodes is preserved. The plate is very sumptuous for the time. There were not many houses in Scotland in 1640 which could set on the table twelve plates, twelve trenchers, and twelve “sasers” of silver. But the chief array for the “buffet” was in great “chargers,” “basons,” “lawers,” and all manners and sizes of goblets and cups of silver, plain and gilt or parcel gilt.36 The arms set apart are field-pieces of copper and iron, and a few muskets and pistols; a pair of two-handed swords (one with its hilt overlayed with velvet, evidently a sword of state for processions); three targets, two of steel and one of cork; and a quantity of body armour, all of plate. The furniture consisted of many gorgeous beds of silk and velvet, embroidered or plain, Arras and common hangings, velvet cushions for the kirk, and cushions of Turkey work, damask board-cloths, Dornik serviettes, and others of plainer sort. Carpets for the table, dishes of pewter, a “great acavitæ pot” (a still), kitchen furniture, twenty-four pictures of kings and queens, and thirty-four of lairds and ladies of Glenurquhay and other noblemen; the great “Genealogy board” (painted by Jameson); with clocks, organs in the chapel of Finlarg, and a harpsichord at Balloch. The deed also entailed two charter-chests, with iron bands (not their contents!); “Captain Gordon’s sword,” which no doubt had its history; and a considerable quantity of cattle and sheep.
The acts and proceedings of the Baron Courts, collected in 1621, will be found to present a fair view of the rural economy of the district. There are regulations for muirburn, summer pasture, peat-cutting, mills, smithies, and ale-houses; laws against poaching on moor and river: a rule that smacks of superstition, against cutting briars “but in the waxing of the moon.” Swine are proscribed; no quarter is given to rooks, hooded crows, and magpies. The Laird shows his determination to have trees about his tenants’ houses by numerous regulations; and tenants are bound, under high penalties, to give their cottars the comforts of fuel and kailyards, “with corns conform.” Agriculture is stimulated by rules for sowing “uncouth” oats, or seed better than the common black oat of the Highlands; for collecting of “middens;” even for irrigating – “drawing water through the land” – long before the grand discovery of draining had been made. To avoid the devastation of Highland “speats,” the greensward on the banks of rivers and burns is not to be broken. To save a different devastation, every tenant was obliged to make yearly four “croscats of iron” (probably some sort of dog-spear) for slaying of the wolf. That great enemy of the shepherd was not finally extirpated till the end of the century.
In the records of the Baron Court of Balloch, the legal antiquary will find relics of some antique law, which had disappeared long ago in Lowland courts. Donald Taillour, in Morinch, having fallen in suspicion of stealing ten double angels and forty marks of silver, the Assize ordained him to cleanse himself thereof by the oaths of six persons out of twelve whom they would choose, or four persons of eight; and he accordingly cleansed himself by his compurgators, as the ancient law demanded, and went free.37 In a court held at Killin, it was ordered that no “blocker” or dealer buy cattle from strangers, nor even from the neighbours dwelling between the ford of Lyon and Tyndrum, without sufficient “caution of burgh and hamer.” This is the “borch of hamerhald” required by the statute of William the Lion, and recognised in several of our older laws.38
There are some symptoms of starvation in Breadalbane, when Patrick McWoyllen and the Widow McEwin are convicted of bleeding the laird’s cattle, and John McInteir for letting McKeissik’s bairns die for hunger.
The gear did not prosper with Donald Taillour in Morinch (the same who was suspected for the double angels), and he accused his neighbour NcVane of bewitching him. She brought a pock of earth from Tomnayngell (the name sounds of spirits) to his house; since which, “his gear has not ‘luckit’ with him, and his corns grow not.” The judge, with sense beyond the age, acquitted the woman at this time, but forbade the use of the pock of earth, “seeing it inclines to no good, but to an evil custom.”
There are many regulations and proceedings showing the creeping in of that habit which had become our national reproach. Even so early as these entries, whisky, as well as ale, was too freely used; and, among other attempts to abate the nuisance, a curious law inflicts a penalty and disgraceful punishment for wives drinking in “brewsters” houses without the company of their husbands.
It has been doubted how old the practice of rod-fishing is. On the 6th December 1632, his father becomes caution for Duncan Campbell in Creit garrow, that he shall not burn a blaze, shoot a waspe, nor put out a wand on the water of Tay.39
Of the Muster Rolls preserved at Taymouth, it may be sufficient to observe that they have all apparently been made to satisfy some requisition, and seem intended to convey no more information than was absolutely required.
The articles concluded by the barons and gentlemen of Argyll in 1638, on the eve of the great struggle, show a forethought, a unity of purpose, and a determination to risk all for the cause, very unusual among our countrymen.40
Out of some huge volumes in which the Lairds of Glenurchy registered the charters and leases granted to their vassals and tenants, a few are useful for illustrating incidental points of character or custom. The first is a lease granted for keeping the Castle of Kilchurn, and shows the arrangement of its seneschal and his small garrison. Before that time (1550) it had ceased to be the chief or even the usual dwelling of the family. The second, a feu-charter, brings us acquainted with a race of hereditary “jongleurs,” “rhymers,” or “bards,” holding their land by service in their craft.41 Two leases here given are the only transactions I have met with among these papers, touching the management and produce of the deer forest. The fifth charter was chosen from its giving a Churchman’s view of the police of the country, – Hibernica et rapinosa regio ubi incolæ vix terras laborare aut habitare ausint propter frequentes furum et latronum incursiones qui in speluncis illic latitant. A lease of Ilan Puttychan gives libert to set six small nets in the loch, but without slaying salmon or red fish; and Donald McKerres has a lease of a half-merk land of Port Loch Tay, with steelbow and “bouage” according to custom, and a right to set three small nets upont he loch. Hew Hay and Cristiane Stennes served the ferry coble of the Cagell, and undertook to keep an honest hostelry at the coble croft, with sufficient ale and bread and other furnishing at all times in readiness to serve the country, with greater provision for courts, conventions, or strangers. The Laird undertook to build them a hall and lofted chamber, with chimneys, doors and windows water tight, meet and convenient for such hospitality; and also to put down rival hostellers and brewsters between Stroncombrie and the wood of Letterellane on the north side of the loch, and between Cronaltane and Ardrananycht in Ardtollonycht on the south; and promised certain impracticable privileges of pre-emption of victuals. The eighth deed is a specimen of an obligation of a tenant, instead of rent to enter into deadly feud with the Clan Gregor, and to make slaughter upon them privily and openly. The reddendo of the tenth charter is curious; besides £10 Scots and forty bolls of oat-meal, the vassal was to pay a gallon of sufficient aquavitæ (the manufacture of his own still, without doubt), also optimam chlamidem coloratam, which is translated, “ane fyne hewed brakane,” and a sufficient “Cuddeich,” which, I believe, means a present given in token of vassalage.
Three leases are granted to craftsmen – the builder of the Laird’s park dikes; the smith of the castle, who took his name from his calling – Patrick Gow; and, thirdly, to Andro Kippen, the gardener of Balloch, whose contract to entertain the garden and its knots, borders, and alleys, orchard and kailyard, and to rear all sorts of flowers, herbs and strawberries, as well as plums, cherries, geans, apples, and pears, – presents to the imagination a curious contrast with the present appearance of the lawn on which the castle stands, th very site where Kippen must have “led his fulyie,” and collected his “middens” before the peat-house door.
Some of the deeds show the care of the stud of brood mares in Glenlochy, which, like the other pasture farms, is here managed on steelbow; and in one, a tenant on Loch Fyne pays a part of his rent in herrings, and furnishes the Earl’s family with white fish and shell-fish during their residence at Castle Kilchurn.
Black John Crerare, a name long after associated with Highland sport,42 has a lease in 1663 of the merk land of Pitmakie and the sheeling of Corriegoir; his service being to be fowler to the Laird, and to go to the hills with a sufficient lying dog and fowling-nets, and kill wild-fowl and moor-fowl of all kinds, and to train up a fowling dog for the use of the Laird.
The charter room at Taymouth is full of letters of correspondence of the most interesting periods of our history. For my present purpose I pass by all, save a few illustrating subjects of domestic and local interest.
A long letter of Lord Breadalbane to his cousin Barcaldine in 1706, preserved the tradition of a characteristic story of King James VI.:- “It is reported of King James VI., when he did see the Earl of Argyll coming into the Abbey close, after Glenlivatt (the battle of Benrinnes, 1594), but with a very small train, he asked, although he knew, who it was, and being told that it was the Earl of Argyll, his answer was, – ‘Fair fall thee, Geordie (Huntly), for sending him home like a subject!’ “
There is a chaacteristic exhortation and encouragement by the Laird to the keeper of his Castle of Glenurchy, who had lost his geir by his service.43 There are two letters concerning supplies of venison and game to the Court, the first on occasion of the christening of Prince Henry, the second when Charles I. was about to visit Scotland in 1633. One letter speaks of terriers and foxhunting as affording sport in Scotland in 1631. Another gives notice of capercailzie in 1651, which soon after disappeared from Scotland, until restored in the present generation to the woods of Breadalbane. Several letters have reference to the famous white hind of Corrichiba, which King James VI. greatly desired to secure, and sent his foresters to attempt it. Mr. Bowie only informs us that “the said Englishmen saw the hind in Corrichiba on 22 February 1622.” The correspondence shows that they failed in their enterprise, and also that they spoke highly of the hospitality of the country. It is not from themselves we learn that the Highland drink was too potent for the Southron!
Before leaving the subject of game and deer, I may mention an early notice of the venison of Breadalbane. The account of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland for August 1506, has the following entry:-
“Item, payit to the Comptrollair for iiij barrellis to Sir Duncane Campbell to salt venisone in, to send in Spanyee, . . . . . ix s.
“Item, for carying of the samyn to Lochtay, . . . . . viij s.”
It is plain that the Catholic King had heard of Breadalbane venison, and, despairing to taste it as it should be eaten, was content to have it salted!
The correspondence about fir seed sent to Lord Lauderdale and the Marchioness of Hamilton (1637), shows an early attention to planting of that kind. The letter of the Marchioness, and others of her ladyship at Taymouth, are characteristic memorials of that remarkable woman, and serve well to illustrate Jameson’s curious picture of her.
Master William Bowie, the inditer of the Black Book, figures in one of these letters as the instructor of John and Duncan, the sons of Robert Campbell, afterwards Sir Robert of Glenurchy.44
Among the charters of lands were found some documents of a less common character, and affecting less substantial rights – viz., the privileges attached to the custody of a certain relic of St. Fillan. Fillan, the son of Kentigerna, was of old reverence in the valleys of Breadalbane, and his monastery in Glendochart was still of such consequence in the time of William the Lion, that the Abbot, whether then a churchman or secularized, was named among the magnates of power to support the operation of a particular law beyond the reach of common legal process.45 It was a century later that a relic of St. Fillan is said (by Boece) to have been the subject of a notable miracle, which Bruce turned to account for encouraging his soldiers at Bannockburn.46 The story may be received as evidence of the reverence paid to St. Fillan in the historian’s time. That it continued afterwards, we learn from the following documents, though, I fear, they show that his relics were degraded to the purpose of tracing stolen goods. The particular one which forms the subject of these instruments, the Coygerach, was known within the present generation in the hands of the family of Jore or Dewar, who so early vindicated its possession. It is the head of a staff or crozier of a Bishop or mitred Abbot, of silver gilt, elaborately and elegantly ornamented with a sort of diapered chasing.47
Two of these documents have been printed before,48 but from imperfect and faulty copies. They are now given from the originals:-
“Hec Inquisitio facta apud Kandrochid xxii die mensis Aprilis, anno Domini millesimo quadringentesimo xxviii., coram Johanne de Spens de Perth, ballivo de Glendochirde, de et super autoritate et privilegijs cujusdam Relinquie Sancti Felani, que wlgariter dicitur Coygerach, per istos subscriptos (etc.), Qui juranti magno sacramento dicunt, Quod lator ipsius reliquie de Coygerach, qui Jore vulgariter dicitur, habere debet annuatim et hereditarie a quolibet inhabitante parochiam de Glendochirde, habente vel laborante mercatam terre, sive libere sive pro firma, dimidiam bollan farine, et de quolibet in dicta parochia habente dimidiam mercatam terre ut predicitur, libere vel pro firma, modium farine, et de quolibet in ista parochia habente quadraginta denariatas terre, dimidiam modij farine. Et si quivis alius inhabitans dictam parochiam magis quam mercatam terre haberet nihil magis solveret quam ordinatum fuit de una mercata terre. Et quod officium gerendi dictam reliquian dabatur cuidam progenitori Finlai Jore latoris presentium hereditarie, per successorem Sancti Felani, cui officio idem Finlaius est verus et legittimus heres. Et quod ipsa privilegia usa fuerunt et habita in tempore Regis Roberti Bruys et in tempore omnium regum a tunc usque in hodiernum diem. Pro quibus commodis et privilegijs, prefati jurati dicunt quod si contigerit aliqua bona vel catalla rapta esse vel furanta ab aliquo dictam parochiam de Glendochirde inhabitante, et is a quo ipso bona vel catalla rapta essent vel furata, propter dubium sue persone vel inimicitias hostium, eadem bona vel catalla prosequi non auderet, tunc unum servum suum vel hominem mitteret as eundem Jore de le Coygerach, cum quatuor denariis vel pare sotularum, cum victu prime noctis, et tunc idem Jore abinde suis proprijs expensis prosequetur dicta catalla ubicunque exinde sectum querere poterit infra regnum Scotie. Et hec universa per dictam inquisitionem fuerunt inventa, anno, die, loco et mense prenominatis. In cujus rei testimonium sigillum Johanis de Spens ballivi antedicti presentibus est appensum, anno, die, et loco supradictis.”
Another instrument, not hitherto printed, records that on the 9th of February 1468, Margaret de Striveling, lady of Glenurquha, –
“In curia de Glendochyrt tenta apud Kandrocht Kilin per balivum ejusdem a Johanne McMolcalum McGregour petiit firmas suas de terris de Coreheynan. Qui Johannes respondebat plane in facie prefate curie coram omnibus ibidem existentibus denegauit et dixit quod non accepit assedationem dictarum terrarum a dicta domina Margareta sed a Deore de Meser et quod non tenebatur in aliquas firmas de terminis elapsis quia solvit illas dicto Deor’ a quo accepit prefatas terras. Testibus, Colino Campbel de Glenurquhay milite, domino Mauricio McNachtag et domino Roberto McInayr, vicariis de Inchecadyn et Kilin, Johanne de Stirling, etc.”
The next is a letter of King James III. –
“LITERA PRO MALISEO DOIRE, COMMORAN’ IN STRAFULANE.
“JAMES be the grace of God King of Scottis to all and sindri our liegis and subditis spirituale and temporale to quhois knaulege this our lettre salcum greting. Forsemekle as we haue undirstand that our servitour Malice Doire and his forenearis has had ane Relik of Sanct Fulane callit the Quegrith in keping of us and of oure progenitouris of maist nobill mynde quham God assolye sen the tyme of King Robert the Bruys and of before, and made nane obedience nor ansuere to na persoun spirituale nor temporale in ony thing concernyng the said haly Relik uthir wayis than is contenit in the auld infeftments thereof made and grantit be oure said progenitouris; We chairg you therefor strately and commandis that in tyme to cum ye and ilkane of you redily ansuere, intend and obey to the said Malise Doire in the peciable broiking joicing of the said Relik, and that ye na nain of you tak upon hand to compell nor distrenye him to mak obedience nor ansuere to you nor till ony uthir bot allenarly to us and oure successouris, according to the said infeftment and foundatioun of the said Relik, and siclike as wes uss and wount in the tyme of oure said progenitouris of maist nobill mynde of before; And that ye mak him nane impediment, letting nor distroublance in the passing with the said Relik throu the contre, as he and his forebearis wes wount to do; And that ye and ilk ane of you in oure name and autorite kepe him unthrallit, bot to remane in siclike fredome and liberte of the said Relik, like as is contenit in the said infeftment, undir all the hiest pane and charge that ye and ilk ane of you may amitt, an inrun anent us in that pairt. Gevin undir oure priue sele at Edinburgh this vj day of Julij, the yere of God jm iiijc lxxxvii yeris and of our regnne the xxvij yere.
The Coygerach of St. Fillan was long afterwards known in the Highlands of Perthshire. the last of these deeds was registered as a probative writ at Edinburgh, 1st November 1734; and M. Latocnaye, who made a tour in Britain in 1795, gives this notice of the Relic. – “Ayant vu l’announce d’une fameuse relique, en la possession d’un paysan aux environs, nous avons demandé à la voir. Elle ressemble assez au haut bout d’une crosse d’évêque, et est d’argent doré. Le bon homme qui nous l’a montré, et qui gagne quelque peu d’argent avec elle, vraisemblablement pour augmenter notre intérêt, nous a dit très sérieusement, que quand les bestiaux étanient enragés, il suffisait de leur faire boire de l’eau passée par l’intérieur de sa relique; l’eau bouillonne sur le champ quand le remède ne veut pas opérer (d’où on pourrait conclure qu’il opère souvent), et que l’on venait de plus de cent milles chercher de son eau… Quoiqu’il en soit, j’ai été charmé de trouver une relique parmi les Presbytériens.”49
The Relic, it is believed, has been for some years in Canada, but whether it retains its virtues in the New World is unknown.
Such are the materials which a Highland charter-room has afforded for illustrating some centuries of Highland life. They will not be slighted as a mere collection of antiquarian curiosities, if they are found to throw light on the state of property and the institutions of an interesting district, and to exhibit early forms of life and progressive changes of manners in its pastoral people. There is enough of romance in the glimpses here opened of the rough life of “the good old time,” and it is pleasant to think that while much is changed, every change has been for the better. The district, which these papers show us in so wild a state of lawless insecurity, has for the last two centuries steadily improved; and the progress has not been more marked in the face of the country than in the moral and physical condition of the people, and their social happiness.**