THE troubles in Sutherland and Caithness had been scarcely allayed, when a formidable insurrection broke out on the part of the Clan-Chattan against the earl of Moray, which occasioned considerable uproar and confusion in the Highlands. The Clan-Chattan had for a very long period been the faithful friends and followers of the earls of Moray, who, in consequence, had allotted them many valuable lands and possessions in recompense for their services in Pettie and Strathern. The clan, in particular, had been very active in revenging the death of James, Earl of Moray, who was killed at Dunibristle, upon the marquis of Huntly; but his son and successor being reconciled to the family of Huntly, and needing no longer, as he thought, the aid of the Clan, he dispossessed them of the lands which his predecessors had bestowed upon them. This harsh proceeding occasioned great irritation, and, upon the death of Sir Lauchlan, their chief, who died a short time before Whitsunday sixteen hundred and twenty-four, they resolved either to recover the possessions of which they had been deprived, or to lay them waste. While Sir Lauchlan lived the Clan were awed by his authority and prevented from such an attempt, but no such impediment now standing in their way, and as their chief, who was a mere child, could run no risk by the enterprise, they considered the present a favourable opportunity for carrying their plan into execution.
Accordingly, a gathering of the Clan to the number of about two hundred gentlemen and three hundred servants took place about Whitsunday sixteen hundred and twenty-four. This party was commanded by three uncles of the late chief.1 “They keeped the feilds (says Spalding), in their Highland weid upon foot with swords, bowes, arrowes, targets, hagbuttis, pistollis, and other Highland armour; and first began to rob and spoulzie the earle’s tennents, who laboured their possessions, of their haill goods, geir, insight, plenishing, horse, nolt, sheep, corns, and cattell, and left them nothing that they could gett within their bounds; syne fell in sorning throw out Murray, Strathawick, Urquhart, Ross, Sutherland, Brae of Marr, and diverse other parts, takeing their meat and food per force wher they could not gett it willingly, frae freinds alseweill as frae their faes; yet still keeped themselves from shedeing of innocent blood. Thus they lived as outlawes, oppressing the countrie, (besydes the casting of the earle’s lands waist), and openly avowed they had tane this course to gett thir own possessions again, or then hold the country walking.”
When this rising took place, the earl of Moray obtained from Monteith and Balquhidder about three hundred armed men, and placing himself at their head he marched through Moray to Inverness. The earl took up his residence in the castle with the earl of Enzie, his brother-in-law, and after the party had passed one night at Inverness, he dispatched them in quest of the Clan-Chattan, but whether from fear of meeting them, or because they could not find them, certain it is that the Monteith and Balquhidder men returned without effecting any thing after putting the earl to great expenses. The earl, therefore, sent them back to their respective countries, and went himself to Elgin, where he raised another body of men to suppress the Clan-Chattan, but who were equally unsuccessful in finding them out, although they pretended that they had searched for them through the country.
These ineffectual attempts against the Clan, served to make them more bold and daring in their outrages; and as the earl now saw that no force which he could himself bring into the field was sufficient to overawe these marauders, he went to London and laid a statement of the case before King James, who, at his earnest solicitation, granted him a commission, appointing him his lieutenant in the Highlands, and giving him authority to proceed capitally against the offenders. On his return, the earl proclaimed the commission he had obtained from his Majesty, and issued letters of intercommuning against the Clan-Chattan, at the head burghs of several shires, prohibiting all persons from harbouring supplying, or entertaining them, in any manner of way, under certain severe pains and penalties. Although the Marquis of Huntly was the earl’s father-in-law, he felt somewhat indignant at the appointment, as he conceived that he or his son had the best title to be appointed to the lieutenancy of the north; but he concealed his displeasure.
After the earl of Moray had issued the notices, prohibiting all persons from communicating with, or assisting, the Clan-Chattan, their kindred and friends, who had privately promised them aid, before they broke out, began to grow cold, and declined to assist them, as they were apprehensive for their estates, many of them being wealthy. The earl perceiving this, opened a communication with some of the principal persons of the clan, to induce them to submit to his authority, who, seeing no hopes of making any longer an effectual resistance, readily acquiesced, and, by the intercession of friends, made their peace with the earl, on condition that they should inform him of the names of such persons as had given them protection, after the publication of his letters of interdiction. Having thus quelled this formidable insurrection, without bloodshed, the earl, by virtue of his commission, held justice courts at Elgin, where “some slight louns, followers of the Clan-Chattan,” were tried and executed, but all the principals concerned were pardoned. The court was formed in the earl’s own name, and in the names of the laird of Innes, the laird of Brodie, Samuel Falconer of Knockorth, and John Hay, commissary of Moray, his depute, and before whom were summoned all such persons as had held any communication with the clan, or harboured or supplied them, every one of whom, it would appear, attended, to avoid the penalty of contumacy, or being put to the horn, a proceeding by which the person refusing to attend was declared a rebel to the king, and his property forfeited for his Majesty’s use.
As the account which Spalding gives of the appearance of the accused, and of the base conduct of the principal men of the Clan-Chattan, in informing against their friends and benefactors, is both curious and graphic, it is here inserted: “Then presently was brought in befor the barr; and in the honest men’s faces, the Clan-Chattan who had gotten supply, verified what they had gotten, and the honest men confounded and dasht, knew not what to answer, was forced to come in the earle’s will, whilk was not for their weill: others compeared and willingly confessed, trusting to gett more favour at the earle’s hands, but they came little speid: and lastly, some stood out and denyed all, who was reserved to the tryall of an assyse. The principall malefactors stood up in judgment, and declared what they had gotten, whether meat, money, cloathing, gun, ball, powder, lead, sword, dirk, and the like commodities, and alse instructed the assyse in ilk particular, what they had gotten frae the persons pannalled; an uncouth form of probation, wher the principall malefactor proves against the receiptor for his own pardon, and honest men, perhaps neither of the Clan-Chattan’s kyne nor blood, punished for their good will, ignorant of the laws, and rather receipting them more for their evil nor their good. Nevertheless thir innocent men, under collour of justice, part and part as they came in, were soundly fyned in great soumes as their estates might bear, and some above their estate was fyned, and every one warded within the tolbuith of Elgine, while the least myte was payed of such as was persued in anno 1624.”2
Some idea of the iniquity of the administration of the laws at this time may be formed, when it is considered that the enormous fines imposed in the present instance, went into the pockets of the chief judge, the earl of Moray himself, as similar mulcts had previously gone into those of the earl of Argyle, in his crusade against the unfortunate Clan-Gregor! This legal robbery, however, does not appear to have enriched the houses of Argyle and Moray, for Sir Robert Gordon observes, that “these fynes did not much advantage either of these two earles.” The earl of Moray, no doubt, thinking such a mode of raising money an easy and profitable speculation, afterwards obtained an enlargement of his commission from Charles the First, not only against the Clan-Chattan, but also against all other offenders within several adjacent shires; but the commission was afterwards annulled by his Majesty, not so much on account of the abuses and injustice which might have been perpetrated under it, but because, as Sir Robert Gordon observes, “it grieved divers of his Majesty’s best affected subjects, and chieflie the Marquis of Huntlie, unto whose predicessors onlie the office of livetennendrie in the north of Scotland had bein granted by former kings, for these many ages.”
There seems reason, however, for supposing that the recall of the commission was hastened by complaints to the king, on the part of the oppressed; for the earl had no sooner obtained its renewal, than he held a court against the burgh of Inverness, John Grant of Glenmoriston, and others who had refused to acknowledge their connexion with the Clan-Chattan, or to pay him the heavy fines which he had imposed upon them. The town of Inverness endeavoured to get quit of the earl’s extortions, on the ground that the inhabitants were innocent of the crimes laid to their charge; but the earl frustrated their application to the privy council. The provost, Duncan Forbes, was then sent to the king, and Grant of Glenmoriston took a journey to London, at the same time, on his own account; but their endeavours with the king proved ineffectual, and they had no alternative but to submit to the earl’s exactions.3
The quarrel between the laird of Duffus and John Gordon younger of Embo, which had lain dormant for some time, burst forth again, in the year sixteen hundred and twenty-five, and proved nearly fatal to both parties. Gordon had long watched an opportunity for revenging the wrong which he conceived had been done to him by the laird of Duffus and his brother, James, but he could never fall in with either of them, as they remained in Moray, and, when they appeared in Sutherland, they were always accompanied by some friends, so that Gordon was prevented from attacking them. Frequent disappointments in this way only whetted his appetite for revenge; and meeting, when on horseback, one day, between Sidderay and Skibo, with John Sutherland of Clyne, third brother of the laird of Duffus, who was also on horseback, he determined to make the laird of Clyne suffer for the delinquencies of his elder brother. Raising, therefore, a cudgel which he held in his hand, he inflicted several blows upon John Sutherland, who, as soon as he recovered himself from the surprise and confusion into which such an unexpected attack had thrown him, drew his sword. Gordon, in his turn, unsheathed his, and a warm combat ensued, between the parties and two friends who accompanied them. After they had fought a while, Gordon wounded Sutherland in the head and in one of his hands, and otherwise injured him, but he spared his life, although completely in his power.
The laird of Duffus, and all his friends and retainers, looked upon this attack as highly contemptuous, not so much on account of the personal injury which John Sutherland had sustained, but of the cudgelling which he had received. Duffus immediately cited John Gordon to appear before the privy council, to answer for this breach of the peace, and, at the same time, summoned before the council some of the earl of Sutherland’s friends and dependants, for an alleged conspiracy against himself and his friends. Duffus, with his two brothers and Gordon, came to Edinburgh on the day appointed, and, the parties being heard before the council, Gordon was declared guilty of a riot, and was thereupon committed to prison. This result gave great satisfaction to Duffus and his brothers, who now calculated on nothing less than the utter ruin of Gordon; as they had, by means of Sir Donald Mackay, obtained a Strathnaver man, named William Mack-Allen (one of the Siol Thomais), who had been a servant of Gordon’s, to become a witness against him, and to prove every thing that Duffus was pleased to allege against Gordon.
In this situation of matters, Sir Robert Gordon returned from London to Edinburgh, where he found Duffus in high spirits, exulting at his success, and young Embo in prison. Sir Robert applied to Duffus, hoping to bring about a reconciliation by the intervention of friends, which he thought would be readily acceded to by Duffus, who was the original cause of the discord; and he trusted, at all events, that Dufus would stop his proceedings against the earl of Sutherland’s friends and followers. But Duffus refused to hear of any arrangement; and the more reasonable the conditions were, which Sir Robert proposed, the more unreasonable and obstinate did he become; his object being to get payment of great sums of money awarded to him against Gordon by the lords, in satisfaction for the wrong done his brother.
Disappointed in his endeavours to bring about a reconciliation, Sir Robert applied himself, with all the diligence in his power, to get the fine imposed upon Gordon mitigated, and finally succeeded, by the assistance of the earl of Enzie, who was then at Edinburgh, in getting the prosecution against the earl of Sutherland’s friends quashed, in obtaining the liberation of John Gordon, and in getting his fine mitigated to one hundred pounds Scots, payable to the king only; reserving, however, civil action to John Sutherland of Clyne against Gordon, before the lords of session.4
Sir Donald Mackay, always restless, and desirous of gratifying his enmity at the house of Sutherland, endeavoured to embroil it with the laird of Duffus in the following way. Having formed a resolution to leave the kingdom, Sir Donald applied for, and obtained, a license from the king to raise a regiment in the north, to assist Count Mansfield in his campaign in Germany. He, accordingly, collected, in a few months, about three thousand men from different parts of Scotland, the greater part of whom he embarked at Cromarty in the month of October sixteen hundred and twenty-six; but, on account of bad health, he was obliged to delay his own departure till the following year, when he joined the king of Sweden with his regiment, in consequence of a peace having been concluded between the king of Denmark and the emperor of Germany.5 Among others whom Mackay had engaged to accompany him to Germany, was a person named Angus Roy Gun, against whom, a short time previously to his enlistment, Mackay and his brother, John Mackay of Dirlet, had obtained a commission from the lords of the privy council for the purpose of apprehending him and bringing him before the council for some supposed crimes. Mackay could have easily apprehended Angus Roy Gun on different occasions, but having become one of his regiment, he allowed the commission, as far as he was concerned, to remain a dead letter.
Sometime after his enlistment, Angus Roy Gun made a journey into Sutherland, a circumstance which afforded Mackay an opportunity of putting into execution the scheme he had formed, and which showed that he was no mean adept in the arts of cunning and dissimulation. His plan was this:- He wrote, in the first place, private letters to the laird of Duffus, and to his brother, John Sutherland of Clyne, to apprehend Angus Roy Gun under the commission he had obtained; and at the same time, sent the commission itself to the laird of Duffus as his authority for so doing. He next wrote a letter to Alexander Gordon, the earl of Sutherland’s uncle, who, in the absence of his brother, Sir Robert, governed Sutherland, entreating him, as Angus Roy Gun was then in Sutherland, to send him to him to Cromarty, as he was his hired soldier. Ignorant of Mackay’s design, and desirous of serving him, Sir Alexander sent two of his men to bring Gun to Sir Alexander; but on their return they were met by John Sutherland of Clyne and a party of sixteen men who seized Gun; and to prevent a rescue, the laird of Duffus sent his brother, James Sutherland, Alexander Murray, heir. apparent of Aberscors, and William Neill-son, chief of the Sliochd-lain-Abaraich, with three hundred men to protect his brother John. And as he anticipated an attack from Sir Alexander Gordon, he sent messengers to his supporters in Ross, Strathnaver, Caithness, and other places for assistance.
When Sir Alexander Gordon heard of the assembling of such a body of the earl of Sutherland’s vassals without his knowledge, he made inquiry to ascertain the cause of such a proceeding; and being informed of Gun’s capture, he collected eighteen men who were near at hand, and hastened with them from Dunrobin towards Clyne. On arriving at the bridge of Broray, he found James Sutherland, and his brother, John, and their whole party drawn up in battle array at the east end of the bridge. He, thereupon, sent a person to the Sutherlands to know the cause of such an assemblage, and the reason why they had taken Gun from his servants. The bearer of the message was also instructed to say, that if they pretended to act under a commission, he, Sir Alexander, would, on their producing it, not only desist from all proceedings against them, but would assist them in fulfilling the commission; but, that if they held no such commission, he would not allow any man to be apprehended in Sutherland, and particularly by the earl of Sutherland’s vassals, without his permission, – and that failing production of any commission, he would insist upon their immediately delivering up Gun into his hands. As the Sutherlands refused to exhibit their authority, Sir Alexander made demonstrations for passing the bridge, but he was met by a shower of shot and arrows which wounded two of his men. After exchanging shots for some time, Sir Alexander was joined by a considerable body of his countrymen, by whose aid, notwithstanding the resistance he met with, he was enabled to cross the bridge. The Sutherlands were forced to retreat, and as they saw no chance of opposing, with success, the power of the house of Sutherland, they, after some hours consultation, delivered up Angus Roy Gun to Sir Alexander Sutherland, who sent him immediately to Mackay then at Cromarty.
As such an example of insubordination among the earl of Sutherland’s vassals might, if overlooked, lead others to follow a similar course, Sir Alexander caused the laird of Duffus and his brother of Clyne, with their accomplices, to be cited to appear at Edinburgh on the sixteenth day of November following, to answer before the privy council for their misdemeanours. The laird of Duffus, however, died in the month of October, but the laird of Clyne appeared at Edinburgh at the time appointed, and produced before the privy council the letter he had received from Mackay as his authority for acting as he had done. Sir Alexander Gordon also produced the letter sent to him by Sir Donald, who was thereby convicted of having been the intentional originator of the difference; but as the lords of the council thought that the laird of Clyne had exceeded the bounds of his commission, he was imprisoned in the jail of Edinburgh, wherein he was ordered to remain until he should give satisfaction to the other party, and present some of his men who had failed to appear though summoned. By the mediation, however, of James Sutherland, tutor of Duffus, a reconciliation was effected between Sir Robert and Sir Alexander Gordon, and the laird of Clyne, who was, in consequence, soon thereafter liberated from prison.6
The year sixteen hundred and twenty-eight was distinguished by the breaking out of an old and deadly feud among the Grants, which had been transmitted from father to son for several generations, in consequence of the murder of John Grant of Balindalloch, about the middle of the sixteenth century, by John Roy Grant of Carron, the natural son of John Grant of Glenmoriston, at the instigation of the laird of Grant, the chief of the tribe, who had conceived a grudge against his kinsman. Some years before the period first mentioned, James Grant, one of the Carron family, happening to be at a fair in the town of Elgin, observed one of the Grants of the Balindalloch family eagerly pursuing his brother, Thomas Grant, whom he knocked down in the street and wounded openly before his eyes. The assailant was, in his turn, attacked by James Grant, who killed him upon the spot and thereupon decamped. Balindalloch then cited James Grant to stand trial for the slaughter of his kinsman, but, as he did not appear on the day appointed, he was outlawed. The laird of Grant made many attempts to reconcile the parties, but in vain, as Balindalloch was obstinate and would listen to no proposals. An offer was made that James Grant should go into banishment, and that compensation should be made in money and goods according to the usual practice, but nothing less than the blood of James Grant would satisfy Balindalloch.
This resolution on the part of Balindalloch almost drove James Grant to despair, and seeing his life every moment in jeopardy, and deprived of any hope of effecting a compromise, he put himself at the head of a party of brigands, whom he collected from all parts of the Highlands. These freebooters made no distinction between friends and foes, but attacked all persons of whatever description, and wasted and despoiled their property. James Grant of Dalnebo, one of the family of Balindalloch, fell a victim to their fury, and many of the kinsmen of that family, suffered greatly from the depredations committed by Grant and his associates. The earl of Moray, under the renewed and extended commission which he had obtained from King Charles, made various attempts to put an end to these lawless proceedings, but to no purpose; the failure of these attempts served only to harden James Grant and his party, who continued their depredations. As John Grant of Carron, nephew of James Grant, was supposed to maintain and assist his uncle secretly, a suspicion for which there seems to have been no foundation, John Grant of Balindalloch sought for an opportunity of revenging himself upon Carron, who was a promising young man. Carron having one day left his house along with one Alexander Grant and seven or eight other persons to cut down some timber in the woods of Abernethie; Balindalloch, thinking the occasion favourable for putting his design into execution, collected sixteen of his friends, and having armed them, went to the forest where Carron was, and, under the pretence of searching for James Grant and some of his associates against whom he had a commission, attacked Carron, who fought manfully in defence of his life, but being overpowered, he was killed by Balindalloch. Before Carron fell, however, he and Alexander Grant had slain several of Balindalloch’s friends, among whom were Thomas Grant of Davey and Lauchlan Mackintosh of Rockinoyr. Alexander Grant afterwards annoyed Balindalloch and killed several of his men, and assisted James Grant to lay waste Balindalloch’s lands. “Give me leave heir (says Sir R. Gordon), to remark the providence and secrait judgement of the Almightie God, who now hath mett Carron with the same measure that his fore father, John Roy Grant of Carron, did serve the ancestour of Ballendallogh; for upon the same day of the moneth that John Roy Grant did kill the great grandfather of Ballendalloch (being the eleventh day of September), the verie same day of this month wes Carron slain by this John Grant of Ballendallogh many yeirs thereafter. And, besides, as that John Roy Grant of Carron was left-handed, so is this John Grant of Ballendallogh left-handed also; and moreover, it is to be observed that Ballendallogh, at the killing of this Carron, had upon him the same coat-of-armour, or maillie-coat, which John Roy Grant had upon him at the slaughter of the great-grandfather of this Ballendallogh, which maillie-coat Ballendallogh had, a little befor this tyme, taken from James Grant, in a skirmish that passed betwixt them. Thus wee doe sie that the judgements of God are inscrutable, and that, in his own tyme, he punisheth blood by blood.”7
The earl of Moray when he heard of this occurrence, instead of taking measures against Balindalloch for this outrage against the laws, which he was fully entitled to do by virtue of the commission he held, took part with Balindalloch against the friends of Carron. He not only represented Balindalloch’s case favourably at court, but also obtained an indemnity for him for some years, that he might not be molested. The countenance thus given by his majesty’s lieutenant to the murderer of their kinsmen, exasperated James and Alexander Grant in the highest degree against Balindalloch and his supporters, whom they continually annoyed with their incursions, laying waste their lands and possessions, and cutting off their people. To such an extent was this system of lawless warfare carried, that Balindalloch was forced to flee from the north of Scotland, and to live for the most part in Edinburgh to avoid the dangers with which he was surrounded. But James Grant’s desperate carcer was checked by a party of the Clan-Chattan, who unexpectedly attack ed him at Auchnachyle in Strathdoun, under cloud of night, in the latter end of the month of December, sixteen hundred and thirty, when he was taken prisoner after receiving eleven wounds, and after four of his party were killed. He was sent by his captors to Edinburgh for trial before the lords of the council, and was imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh, from which he escaped in the manner to be noticed in the sequel.
About the time that James Grant was desolating the district of the Highlands, to which his operations were confined, another part of the country was convulsed by a dispute which occurred between James Crichton of Frendret, or Frendraught, and William Gordon of Rothiemay, which ended in tragical consequences. These two gentlemen were near neighbours, and their lands lay adjacent to each other. Part of Gordon’s lands which marched with those of Crichton, were purchased by the latter; but a dispute having occurred about the right to the salmon fishings belonging to these lands, an irreconcilable difference arose between them, which no interference of friends could reconcile, although the matter in dispute was of little moment. The parties having had recourse to the law to settle their respective claims, Crichton prevailed, and succeeded in getting Gordon denounced rebel. He had previously treated Rothiemay very harshly, who, stung by the severity of his opponent, and by the victory he had obtained over him, would listen to no proposals of peace, nor follow the advice of his best friends. Determined to set the law at defiance, he collected a number of loose and disorderly characters, and annoyed Frendraught, who, in consequence, applied for, and obtained a commission from the privy council for apprehending Rothiemay and his associates. In the execution of this task, he was assisted by Sir George Ogilvy of Banff, George Gordon, brother-german of Sir James Gordon of Lesmoir, and the uncle of Frendraught, James Leslie, second son of Leslie of Pitcaple, John Meldrum of Reidhill, and others. Accompanied by these gentlemen, Crichton left his house of Frendraught on the first day of January, sixteen hundred and thirty, for the house of Rothiemay, with a resolution either to apprehend Gordon, his antagonist, or to set him at defiance by affronting him. He was incited the more to follow this course, as young Rothiemay, at the head of a party, had come a short time before to the very doors of Frendraught, and had braved him to his face. When Rothiemay heard of the advance of Frendraught, he left his house, accompanied by his eldest son, John Gordon, and about eight men on horseback armed with guns and lances, and a party of men on foot with muskets, and crossing the river Deveron, he went forward to meet Frendraught and his party. A sharp conflict immediately took place, in which Rothiemay’s horse was killed under him, who being unprovided with another, fought manfully, for some time, on foot, until the whole of his party, with the exception of his son, were forced to retire. The son, notwithstanding, continued to support his father against fearful odds, but was, at last, obliged to save himself by flight, leaving his father lying on the field covered with wounds, and supposed to be dead. He, however, was found still alive after the conflict was over, and being carried home to his house died within three days thereafter. George Gordon, brother of Gordon of Lesmoir, received a shot in the thigh, and died in consequence, ten days after the skirmish. These were the only deaths which occurred, although several of the combatants, on both sides, were wounded. John Meldrum, who fought on Fendraught’s side, was the only person severely wounded.
The marquis of Huntly was highly displeased at Frendraught, for having, in such a trifling matter, proceeded to extremities against his kinsman, a chief baron of his surname, whose life had been thus sacrificed in a petty quarrel. The displeasure of the marquis was still farther heightened, when he was informed that Frendraught had joined the earl of Moray, and had craved his protection and assistance; but the marquis was obliged to repress his indignation. John Gordon of Rothiemay, eldest son of the deceased laird, resolved to avenge the death of his father, and having collected a party of men, he associated himself with James Grant and other free-booters, for the purpose of laying waste Frendraught’s lands, and oppressing him in every possible way. Frendraught, who was in the south of Scotland when this combination against him was formed, no sooner heard of it than he posted to England, and, having laid a statement of the case before the king, his majesty remitted the matter to the privy council of Scotland, desiring them to use their best endeavours for settling the peace of the northern parts of the kingdom. A commission was thereupon granted by the lords of the council to Frendraught and others, for the purpose of apprehending John Gordon and his associates; but, as the commissioners were not able to execute the task imposed upon them, the lords of the council sent Sir Robert Gordon, tutor of Sutherland, who had just returned from England, and Sir William Seaton of Killesmuir to the north, with a new commission against the rebels, and, as it seemed to be entirely out of the power of the earl of Moray to quell the disturbances in the north, they gave the two commissioners particular instructions to attempt, with the aid of the marquis of Huntly, to get matters settled amicably, and the opposing parties reconciled. The lords of the council, at the same time, wrote a letter to the marquis of Huntly to the same effect. Sir Robert Gordon and Sir William Seaton accordingly left Edinburgh on their way north, in the beginning of May, sixteen hundred and thirty. The latter stopt at Aberdeen for the purpose of consulting with some gentlemen of that shire, as to the best mode of proceeding against the rebels; and the former went to Strathbogie to advise with the marquis of Huntly.
On Sir Robert’s arrival at Strathbogie, he found that the marquis had gone to Aberdeen to attend the funeral of the laird of Drum. By a singular coincidence, James Grant and Alexander Grant descended the very day of Sir Robert’s arrival at Strathbogie from the mountains, at the head of a party of two hundred Highlanders well armed, with a resolution to burn and lay waste Frendraught’s lands. As soon as Sir Robert became aware of this circumstance, he went in great haste to Rothiemay-house, where he found John Gordon and his associates in arms ready to set out to join the Grants. By persuasion and entreaties, Sir Robert, assisted by his nephew, the earl of Sutherland, and his brother, Sir Alexander Gordon, who were then at Frendraught, on a visit to the lady of that place, who was a sister of the earl, prevailed not only upon John Gordon and his friends to desist, but also upon James Grant and his companions-in-arms, to disperse.
On the return of the marquis of Huntly to Strathbogie, Rothiemay and Frendraught were both induced to meet them in presence of the marquis, Sir Robert Gordon and Sir William Seaton, who, after much entreaty, prevailed upon them to reconcile their differences, and submit all matters in dispute to their arbitrament. A decree arbitral was, accordingly pronounced, by which the arbiters adjudged that the laird of Rothiemay, and the children of George Gordon, should mutually remit their father’s slaughter, and, in satisfaction thereof, they decerned that the laird of Frendraught should pay a certain sum of money to the laird of Rothiemay, for relief of the debts which he had contracted during the disturbances between the two families,8 and that he should pay some money to the children of George Gordon. Frendraught fulfilled these conditions most willingly, and the parties shook hands together in the orchard of Strathbogie, in token of a hearty and sincere reconciliation.9
The laird of Frendraught had scarcely reconciled himself with Rothiemay, when he got into another dispute with the laird of Pitcaple, the occasion of which was as follows:- John Meldrum of Reidhill had assisted Frendraught in his quarrel with old Rothiemay, and had received a wound in the skirmish, in which the latter lost his life, for which in jury Frendraught had allowed him some compensation; but, conceiving that his services had not been fairly requited, he began to abuse Frendraught, and threatened to compel him to give him a greater recompense than he had yet received. As Frendraught refused to comply with his demands, Meldrum entered the park of Frendraught privately in the night time, and carried away two horses belonging to his pretended debtor. Frendraught, thereupon, prosecuted Meldrum for theft, but he declined to appear in court, and was consequently declared rebel. Frendraught then obtained a commission, from the lords of the privy council, to apprehend Meldrum, who took refuge with John Leslie of Pitcaple, whose sister he had married. Under the commission which he had procured, Frendraught went in quest of Meldrum, on the twenty-seventh day of September, sixteen hundred and thirty. He proceeded to Pitcaple’s lands, on which he knew Meldrum then lived, where he met James Leslie, second son of the laird of Pitcaple, who had been with him at the skirmish of Rothiemay. Leslie then began to expostulate with him in behalf of Meldrum, his brother-in-law, who, on account of the aid he had given him in his dispute with Rothiemay, took Leslie’s remonstrances in good part; but Robert Crichton of Couland, a kinsman of Frendraught, grew so warm at Leslie’s freedom, that from high words they proceeded to blows. Couland then drawing a pistol from his belt, shot at and wounded Leslie in the arm, who was, thereupon, carried home apparently in a dying state.
This affair was the signal for a confederacy among the Leslies, the greater part of whom took up arms against Frendraught, who, a few days after the occurrence, viz. on the fifth of October, first went to the marquis of Huntly, and afterwards to the earl of Moray, to express the regret he felt at what had taken place, and to beg their kindly interference to bring matters to an amicable accommodation. The earl of Moray, for some reason or other, declined to interfere; but the marquis undertook to mediate between the parties. Accordingly, he sent for the laird of Pitcaple to come to the Bog of Gight to confer with him; but, before setting out, he mounted and equipped about thirty horsemen, in consequence of information he had received that Frendraught was at the Bog. At the meeting with the marquis, Pitcaple complained heavily of the injury his son had sustained, and avowed, rather rashly, that he would revenge himself before he returned home, and that, at all events, he would listen to no proposals for a reconciliation till it should be ascertained whether his son would survive the wound he had received. The marquis insisted that Frendraught had done him no wrong, and endeavoured to dissuade him from putting his threat into execution; but Pitcaple was so displeased at the marquis for thus expressing himself, that he suddenly mounted his horse and set off, leaving Frendraught behind him. The marquis, afraid of the consequences, detained Frendraught two days with him in the Bog of Gight, and, hearing that the Leslies had assembled, and lay in wait for Frendraught watching his return home, the marquis sent his son John, viscount of Aboyne, and the laird of Rothiemay along with him, to protect and defend him if necessary, They arrived at Frendraught without interruption, and being solicited to remain all night they yielded, and, after partaking of a hearty supper, went to bed in the apartments provided for them.
The sleeping apartment of the viscount was in the old tower of Frendraught, leading off from the hall. Immediately below this apartment was a vault, in the bottom of which was a round hole of considerable depth. Robert Gordon, a servant of the viscount, and his page, English Will, as he was called, also slept in the same chamber. The laird of Rothiemay, with some servants, were put into an upper chamber immediately above that in which the viscount slept; and in another apartment, directly over the latter, were laid George Chalmer of Noth, Captain Rollock, one of Frendraught’s party, and George Gordon, another of the viscount’s servants. About midnight the whole of the tower almost instantaneously took fire, and so suddenly and furiously did the flames consume the edifice, that the viscount, the laird of Rothiemay, English Will, Colonel Ivat, one of Aboyne’s friends, and two other persons, perished in the flames. Robert Gordon, called Sutherland Gordon, from having been born in that country, who lay in the viscount’s chamber, escaped from the flames, as did George Chalmer and Captain Rollock, who were in the third floor; and it is said that Lord Aboyne might have saved himself also, had he not, instead of going out of doors, which he refused to do, ran suddenly upstairs to Rothiemay’s chamber for the purpose of awakening him. While so engaged, the stair-case and ceiling of Rothiemay’s apartment hastily took fire, and, being prevented from descending by the flames, which filled the stair-case, they ran from window to window of the apartment piteously and unavailingly exclaiming for help.
The news of this calamitous event spread speedily throughout the kingdom, and the fate of the unfortunate sufferers was deeply deplored. Many conjectures were formed as to the cause of the conflagration. Some persons laid the blame on Frendraught without the least reason; for, besides the improbability of the thing, Frendraught himself was a considerable loser, having lost not only a large quantity of silver plate and coin, but also the title deeds of his property and other necessary papers, which were all consumed. Others ascribed the fire to some accidental cause; but the greater number suspected the Leslies and their adherents, who were then so enraged at Frendraught that they threatened to burn the house of Frendraught, and had even entered into a negotiation to that effect with James Grant the rebel, who was Pitcaple’s cousin-german, for his assistance, as was proved before the lords of the privy council, against John Meldrum and Alexander Leslie, Pitcaple’s brother, by two of James Grant’s men, who were apprehended at Inverness and sent to the lords of the council, by Sir Robert Gordon, sheriff of Sutherland.10
The marquis of Huntly, who suspected Frendraught to be the author of the fire, afterwards went to Edinburgh and laid a statement of the case before the privy council, who, thereupon, issued a commission to the bishops of Aberdeen and Moray, Lord Carnegie, and Crowner Bruce, to investigate the circumstances which led to the catastrophe. The commissioners accordingly went to Frendraught on the thirteenth day of April, sixteen hundred and thirty-one, where they were met by the Lords Gordon, Ogilvie, and Deskford, and several barons and gentlemen, along with whom they examined the burnt tower and vaults below, with the adjoining premises, to ascertain, if possible, how the fire had originated. After a minute inspection, they came to the deliberate opinion, which they communicated in writing to the council, that the fire could not have been accidental, and that it must either have been occasioned by some engine from without, which was highly improbable, or raised intentionally within the vaults or chambers of the tower.11
During James Grant’s confinement within the castle of Edinburgh the north was comparatively quiet. On the night of the fifteenth of October, sixteen hundred and thirty-two, he, however, effected his escape from the castle by descending on the west side by means of ropes furnished to him by his wife or son, and fled to Ireland, Proclamations were immediately posted throughout the whole kingdom, offering large sums for his apprehension, either dead or alive, but to no purpose. His wife was taken into custody by order of the marquis of Huntly, while drinking in his gardener’s house in the Bog, on suspicion of having aided her husband in effecting his escape; and by desire of the privy council, who were made acquainted by the marquis of her arrest, she was sent to Aberdeen to be there tried by the bishops of Aberdeen and Brechin, as the council had appointed. After undergoing an examination, in which she admitted nothing which could in the least degree criminate her, she was set at liberty.12
James Grant did not remain long in Ireland, and returned again to the north, where he concealed himself for some time, only occasionally skulking here and there in such a private manner, that his enemies were not aware of his presence, By degrees he grew bolder, and at last appeared openly in Strathdoun and on Speyside. His wife, who was far advanced in pregnancy, had taken a small house in Carron, belonging to the heirs of her husband’s nephew, in which she meant to reside till her accouchement, and in which she was occasionally visited by her husband. Balindalloch hearing of this, hired a person named Patrick Macgregor, an outlaw, to apprehend James Grant. This employment was considered by Macgregor and his party a piece of acceptable service, as they expected, in the event of Grant’s apprehension, to obtain pardon for their offences from the lords of the council. Macgregor, therefore, at the head of a party of men, lay in wait for James Grant near Carron, and, on observing him enter his wife’s house, along with his bastard son and another man, at night, they immediately surrounded the house and attempted to force an entry. Grant perceiving the danger he was in, acted with great coolness and determination. Having fastened the door as firmly as he could, he and his two companions went to two windows, from which they discharged a volley of arrows upon their assailants, who all shrunk back, and none would venture near the door, except Macgregor himself, who came boldly forward and endeavoured to force it; but he paid dearly for his rashness, for Grant, immediately laying hold of a musket, shot him through both his thighs, when he instantly fell to the ground and soon thereafter expired. In the confusion which this occurrence occasioned among Macgregor’s party, Grant and his two associates escaped.
Shortly after this event, James Grant apprehended his cousin, John Grant of Balindalloch, by the following stratagem:- On the night of Sunday, the seventeenth of December, sixteen hundred and thirty, while Balindalloch was at supper in his own house, Elspet Innes, wife of James Grant, entered the house, and whispered a few words in Balindalloch’s ear. After supper was over he rose from table, and, putting his wife’s plaid about him, he left the house with his sword and target in his hand, and forbade any person to follow him. His wife, however, went out after him, along with James Grant’s wife, to the mill of Petchass, the place of assignation. On arriving there, James Grant, on a watchword being given by his wife, came out of the mill, shook hands with Balindalloch, and saluted his wife in a friendly manner; but this greeting was scarcely over, when a party of twelve men, whom James Grant had concealed, rushed out of the mill, and, seizing Balindalloch and his wife, carried them to Culquholy, three miles from Petchass. After remaining a short time there, they released Balindalloch’s wife, who returned home with a sorrowful heart; and after muffling Ballindalloch’s face and chaining him to one of the party, they crossed and recrossed different rivulets, that he might not have any idea of the place of their retreat, or whither they were conducting him. At last they arrived at Thomas Grant’s house at Dandeis, about three miles from Elgin, on the high road between that town and the Spey, where they took up their lodging and unloosed the shackles from Balindalloch’s arm. James Grant ordered him to be watched strictly, whether sleeping or waking, by two strong men on each side of him. Balindalloch complained of foul play, but James Grant excused himself for acting as he had done for two reasons; 1st, Because Balindalloch had failed to perform a promise he had made to obtain a remission for him before the preceding Lammas; and, 2dly, That he had entered into a treaty with the Clan-Gregor to deprive him of his life.
Balindalloch was kept in durance vile for twenty days in a kiln near Thomas Grant’s house, suffering the greatest privations, without fire, light, or bed-clothes, in the dead of winter, and without knowing where he was. He was closely watched night and day by Leonard Leslie, son-in-law of Robert Grant, brother of James Grant, and a strong athletic man, named McGrimmon, who would not allow him to leave the kiln for a moment even to perform the necessities of nature. On Christmas, James Grant, and his party, having gone on some excursion, leaving Leslie and McGrimmon behind them, Balindalloch, worn out by fatigue, and almost perishing from cold and hunger, addressed Leslie in a low tone of voice, lamenting his miserable situation, and imploring him to aid him in effecting his escape, and promising, in the event of success, to reward him handsomely. Leslie, tempted by the offer, acceded to Balindalloch’s request, and made him acquainted with the place of his confinement. It was then arranged that Balindalloch, under the pretence of stretching his arms, should disengage the arm which Leslie held, and that, having so disentangled that arm, he should, by another attempt, get his other arm out of McGrimmon’s grasp. The morning of Sunday, the twenty-eighth day of December, was fixed upon for putting the stratagem into execution. The plan succeeded, and as soon as Balindalloch found his arms at liberty, he suddenly sprung to his feet and made for the door of the kiln. Leslie immediately followed him, pretending to catch him, and as McGrimmon was hard upon his heels, Leslie purposely stumbled in his way and brought McGrimmon down to the ground. This stratagem enabled Balindalloch to gain a-head of his pursuers, and although McGrimmon sounded the alarm and the pursuit was continued by Robert Grant and a party of James Grant’s followers, Balindalloch succeeded in reaching the village of Urquhart in safety, accompanied by Leonard Leslie.
Sometime after his escape, Balindalloch applied for and obtained a warrant for the apprehension of Thomas Grant, and others, for harbouring James Grant. Thomas Grant, and some of his accomplices, were accordingly seized and sent to Edinburgh, where they were tried and convicted. Grant was hanged, and the others were banished from Scotland for life.
After Balindalloch’s escape, James Grant kept remarkably quiet, as many persons lay in wait for him; but hearing that Thomas Grant, brother of Patrick Grant of Culquhoche, and a friend of Balindalloch, had received a sum of money from the earl of Moray, as an encouragement to seek out and slay James Grant, the latter resolved to murder Thomas Grant and thus relieve himself of one enemy at least. He therefore went to Thomas’ house, but not finding him at home, he killed sixteen of his cattle; and afterwards learning that Thomas Grant was sleeping at the house of a friend hard by, he entered that house and found Thomas Grant, and a bastard brother of his, both in bed. Having forced them out of bed, he took them outside of the house and put them immediately to death. A few days after the commission of this crime, Grant and four of his associates went to the lands of Strathbogie, and entered the house of the common executioner craving some food, without being aware of the profession of the host whose hospitality they solicited. The executioner, disliking the appearance of Grant and his companions, went to James Gordon, the bailie of Strathbogie, and informed him that there were some suspicious looking persons in his house. Judging that these could be none other but Grant and his comrades, Gordon immediately collected some well armed horsemen and foot, and surrounded the house in which Grant was; but he successfully resisted all their attempts to enter the house, and killed a servant of the marquis of Huntly, named Adam Rhind, and another of the name of Anderson. After keeping them at bay for a considerable time, Grant and his brother, Robert, effected their escape from the house, but a bastard son of James Grant, John Forbes, an intimate associate, and another person, were taken prisoners, and carried to Edinburgh, where they were executed, along with a notorious thief, named Gille-Roy-Mac-Gregor. This occurrence took place in the year sixteen hundred and thirty-six. The laird of Grant had, during the previous year, been ordained by the council to apprehend James Grant, or to make him leave the kingdom; and they had obliged him to find caution and surety, in terms of the general bond appointed by law to be taken from all the heads of clans, and from all governors of provinces in the kingdom, but chiefly in the west and north of Scotland; but the laird could neither perform the one nor the other.13
Amongst the freebooters who about this period infested Lochaber, was a party of the Clan-Lauchlan, who carried on a system of depredation and plunder which extended even to the lowlands. In the year sixteen hundred and thirty-three, Alexander Gordon of Dunkyntie, nephew of the marquis of Huntly, and his eldest son, while hunting with a small party, at the head of Strathdoun, fell in with some of these outlaws driving away some cattle which they had stolen. They endeavoured to rescue the prey, but Dunkyntie and his son were both killed in the attempt. Some of the clan were, however, afterwards apprehended, and suffered the last penalty of the law for this aggression. The clan continued their spoliations notwithstanding, and during the following year they descended into the lowlands as far as the lands of the laird of Eggell, at the head of the Mearns, whence, after killing some of his servants, they carried off some cattle, which they drove away to the Braes of Mar. On perceiving their approach, the Farquharsons of Braemar collected together and attacked them; but after a short skirmish, in which some lives were lost on both sides, the Farquharsons, owing to the comparative inferiority of their numbers, were forced to desist, and to allow the Clan-Lauchlan to carry off their booty. As soon as the lords of the council received notice of these law less proceedings, they summoned Alain Mac-Dhonuill-Dubh, chief of the Clan-Cameron in Lochaber, to appear at Edinburgh, to answer for not preventing them. Allan obeyed the summons, and both he and his eldest son were imprisoned until the Clan-Lauchlan should be brought to justice: but they were afterwards released on giving surety to preserve the peace in Lochaber.14
By the judicious management of the affairs of the house of Sutherland by Sir Robert Gordon, his nephew, the earl, on entering upon the management of his own affairs, found the hostility of the enemy of his family either neutralized, or rendered no longer dangerous; but, in the year sixteen hundred and thirty-three, be found himself involved in a quarrel with Lord Lorn, eldest son of the earl of Argyle, who had managed the affairs of his family during his father’s banishment from Scotland. This dispute arose out of the following circumstances:
In consequence of a quarrel between Lord Berridale, who now acted as sole administrator of his father’s estates, and William Mac-Iver, chieftain of the Siol-Mhic-Imheair, in Caithness, the former removed the latter from the lands and possessions he held of him in Caithness. Mac-Iver thereupon retired into Argyle, and assuming the surname of Campbell, as being originally an Argyle man, sought the favour and protection of Lord Lorn. His claim to be considered a Campbell weighed powerfully with his lordship, who wrote several letters to Lord Berridale in his favour, as well as to Lord Gordon, the earl of Sutherland, and Sir Robert Gordon, to intercede for Mac-Iver with Lord Berridale. They, accordingly, applied to Lord Berridale, but without success, as his lordship was as inflexible as Mac-Iver was unreasonable in his demands. Seeing no hopes of an accommodation, Mac-Iver collected a party of rebels and outlaws, to the number of about twenty, and made an incursion into Caithness, where, during the space of four or five years, he did great injury in Caithness, carrying off considerable spoils, which he conveyed through the heights of Strathnaver and Sutherland.
To put an end to Mac-Iver’s depredations, Lord Berridale at first brought a legal prosecution against him, and having got him denounced rebel, sent out different parties of his countrymen to en snare him; but he escaped for a long time, and always retired in safety with his booty, either into the isles, or into Argyle. Lord Lorn publicly disowned Mac-Iver’s proceedings; but the inhabitants of Sutherland encouraged him by giving him a free passage through their country, as they were rather pleased to see the Siol-Mhic-Imheair and their chief, who were the chief instruments of the earl of Caithness’ outrages against themselves, at such deadly variance with Lord Berridale. In his incursions, Mac-Iver was powerfully assisted by an islander, of the name of Gille-Calum-Mac-Shomhairle, who had married his daughter, and who was well acquainted with all the passes leading into Caithness.
At last Mac-Iver and his son were both apprehended by Lord Berridale, and hanged, and the race of the Siol-Mhic-Imheair was almost extinguished; but Gille-Calum-Mac-Shomhairle having associated with himself several of the Isles and Argyle men, and some outlaws of the Clann-Mhic-Iain-Dhuinn, who were dependants of Lord Lorn, continued his incursions into Caithness. Having, on one occasion, when retreating from Caithness, taken some cattle out of Sutherland, the earl of Sutherland sent a party of men in pursuit of them, who apprehended some of them, and upon being brought to the earl, they were executed. Gille-Calum, however, returned next summer with a more powerful company, which he divided into two parties. One of these, at the head of which was Gille-Calum himself, went to the higher parts of Ross and Sutherland, there to remain till joined by their companions. The other party went through the lowlands of Ross, under the pretence of going to the Lammas fair, then held at Tain, and thence proceeded to Sutherland to meet the rest of their associates, under the pretence of visiting certain kinsmen they pretended to have in Strathully and Strathnaver. This last mentioned body consisted of sixteen or twenty persons, most of whom were of the Clann-Mhic-Iain-Dhuinn. They were under the command of one Ewen Aird; and as they passed the town of Tain, on their way to Sutherland, they stole some horses, which they sold in Sutherland, without being in the least suspected of the theft.
The owners of the stolen horses soon came into Sutherland in quest of them, and claimed them from the persons to whom they had been sold. The earl of Sutherland, on proof being given of the property, restored the horses to the true owners, and sent some men in quest of Ewen Aird, who was still in Strathully. Ewen was apprehended and brought to Dunrobin, and upon being questioned about the horses, he affirmed that they were his property, and had not been stolen. The earl of Sutherland, notwithstanding, ordained him to repay to his countrymen the monies which Ewen and his companions had received from them for the horses, the only punishment he said he would inflict on them, because they were strangers. Ewen assented to the earl’s request, and he remained as an hostage at Dunrobin, until his companions should send money to relieve him; but as soon as his associates heard of his detention, they, instead of sending money for his release, fled to Gille-Calum-Mac-Shomhairle and his party, leaving their captain a prisoner at Dunrobin. In their retreat, they destroyed some houses in the high parts of Sutherland, and, on entering Ross, they laid waste some lands belonging to Hutcheon Ross of Auchincloigh. These outrages occasioned an immediate assemblage of the inhabitants of that part of the country, who pursued these marauders, and took them prisoners. The remainder escaped either into the isles, or into Lorn. The ten prisoners were brought to Auchincloigh, where Sir Robert Gordon was at the time deciding a dispute about the marches between Auchincloigh and Neamore. After some consultation about what was to be done with the prisoners, it was resolved that they should be sent to the earl of Sutherland, who then happened to be in pursuit of them. On the prisoners being sent to him, the earl assembled the principal gentlemen of Ross and Sutherland at Dornoch, where Ewen Aird and his accomplices were tried before a jury, convicted and executed at Dornoch, with the exception of two young boys, who were dismissed.
The privy council not only approved of what the earl of Sutherland had done, but they also sent a commission to him and the earl of Seaforth, and to Hutcheon Ross, and some other gentlemen in Ross and Sutherland, against the Clann-Mhic-Iain-Dhuinn, in case they should again make any fresh incursion into Ross and Sutherland.
Lord Lorn being at this time justiciary of the isles, had obtained an act of the privy council in his favour, by which it was decreed that any malefactor, being an islander, upon being apprehended in any part of the kingdom, should be sent to Lord Lorn, or to his deputies, to be judged; and that to this effect he should have deputies in every part of the kingdom. As soon as his lordship heard of the trial and execution of the men at Dornoch, who were of the Clann-Mhic-Iain-Dhuinn, and his dependents and followers, he took the matter highly amiss, and repaired to Edinburgh, where he made a complaint to the lords of the council against the earl of Sutherland, for having, as he maintained, apprehended the king’s free subjects without a commission, and for causing them to be executed, although they had not been apprehended within his own jurisdiction. After hearing this complaint, Lord Lorn obtained letters to charge the earl of Sutherland and Hutcheon Ross to answer to the complaint at Edinburgh before the lords of the privy council, and he, moreover, obtained a suspension of the earl’s commission against the Clann-Mhic-Iain-Dhuinn, on becoming bound, in the meantime, as surety for their obedience to the laws.
Sir Robert Gordon happening to arrive at Edinburgh from England, shortly after Lord Lorn’s visit to Edinburgh, in the year sixteen hundred and thirty-four, learned the object of his mission, and the success which had attended it. He, therefore, being an eye-witness of every thing which had taken place at Dornoch respecting the trial, condemnation, and execution of Lord Lorn’s dependents, informed the lords of the council of all the proceedings, which proceeding on his part had the effect of preventing Lord Lorn from going on with his prosecution against the earl of Sutherland. He, however, proceeded to summon Hutcheon Ross; but the earl not being disposed to abandon Ross, he, at the suggestion of Sir Robert Gordon, Lord Reay, and all the gentlemen who were present at the trial at Dornoch, signed and sent a letter to the lords of the council, giving a detail of the whole circumstances of the case, and along with this letter he sent a copy of the proceedings attested by the sheriff clerk of Sutherland, to be laid before the council on the day appointed for Ross’s appearance. After the matter had been fully debated in council, the conduct of the earl of Sutherland and Hutcheon Ross was approved of, and the commission to the earl of Sutherland again renewed, and Lord Lorn was taken bound, that, in time coming, the counties of Sutherland and Ross should be kept harmless from the Clann-Mhic-Iain-Dhuinn. The council, moreover, decided, that, in respect the earl of Sutherland had the rights of regality and sheriffship within himself, and as he was appointed to administer justice within his own bounds; that he was not obliged to send criminals, though islanders, to Lord Lorn or to his deputies. This decision had the effect of relieving Sutherland and Ross from farther incursions on the part of Lord Lorn’s followers.15
The disaster at Frendraught had made an impression upon the mind of the marquis of Huntly, which nothing could efface, and he could never be persuaded but that the fire had originated with the proprietor of the mansion himself. He made many unsuccessful attempts to discover the incendiaries, and on the arrival of King Charles at Edinburgh, in the year sixteen hundred and thirty-three, the marquis made preparations for paying a personal visit to the king, for the purpose of imploring him to order an investigation into all the circumstances attending the fire, so as to lead to a discovery of the criminals; but falling sick on his journey, and unable to proceed to Edinburgh, he sent forward his marchioness, who was accompanied by Lady Aboyne and other females of rank, all clothed in deep mourning, to lay a statement of the case before his majesty, and to solicit the royal interference. The king received the marchioness and her attendants most graciously; comforted them as far as words could, and promised to see justice done.
After the king’s departure from Scotland, the marchioness and Lady Aboyne, both of whom still remained in Edinburgh, determined to see his majesty’s promise implemented, prevailed upon the privy council to bring John Meldrum of Reidhill, who had been long in confinement, on a charge of being concerned in the fire, before them; but although strictly examined three successive days, he utterly denied all knowledge of the matter. He was, notwithstanding, brought to trial, and it having been proved by the evidence of Sir George Ogilvy, laird of Banff, and George Baird, bailie of Banff, who were endeavouring to bring about a reconciliation between him and Frendraught, that, on the evening before the fire took place, he had remarked that unless such a reconciliation took place immediately, it would never happen, as Frendraught would be burnt before the next morning, he was condemned to be hanged and quartered at the cross of Edinburgh. At the place of execution he persisted in his innocence, although he fully admitted the conversation between him, Sir George Ogilvie, and George Baird. A domestic servant of Frendraught named Tosh, who was suspected of being a party concerned in the fire, was afterwards put to the torture, for the purpose of extorting a confession of guilt from him; but confessed nothing. The marchioness, thereafter, insisted on bringing him to trial before a jury; but Tosh’s counsel resisted this, as being contrary to the law, which did not admit of a person who had been tortured without confessing any guilt, of being brought to trial. The objection being sustained, Tosh was instantly liberated from prison.
The condemnation and execution of Meldrun, in place of abating, appear to have increased the odium of Frendraught’s enemies. The highlanders of his neighbourhood considering his property to be fair game, made frequent incursions his lands, and carried off cattle and goods, and the Gordons were equally annoying. In the year sixteen hundred and thirty-three, Adam Gordon in Strathdoun and his two sons headed a party from the Caberoch, and wasted Frendraught’s lands, and carried off a considerable quantity of goods; but Frendraught having pursued them, he recovered the property, and having taken three of the party prisoners, hanged them at Frendraught. The marquis of Huntly, to show that he was not in any way implicated in this proceeding, apprehended Adam Gordon, and imprisoned him at Auchendun; but, being watched very negligently, he escaped. About the end of the following year, he again, at the head of a party of outlaws, made another incursion upon Frendraught’s lands; but he was again frustrated in another attempt to carry off a number of cattle belonging to Frendraught’s tenants, who, at the head of a party of his tenants and servants, overtook them in Glenfeddigh, rescued and brought back the cattle which they were driving away.
On another occasion, about six hundred highlanders, belonging to the Clan-Gregor, Clan-Cameron, and other tribes, appeared near Frendraught, and openly declared that they had come to join Adam Gordon of Park, John Gordon of Invermarkie, and the other friends of the late Gordon of Rothiemay, for the purpose of revenging his death. When Frendraught heard of the irruption of this body, he immediately collected about two hundred foot, and one hundred and forty horse men, and went in quest of these intruders; but being scattered through the country, they could make no resistance, and every man provided for his own safety by flight.
To put an end to these annoyances, Frendraught got these marauders declared outlaws, and the lords of the privy council wrote to the marquis of Huntly, desiring him to repress the disorders of those of his surname, and failing his doing so, that they would consider him the author of them. The marquis returned an answer to this communication, stating, that as the aggressors were neither his tenants nor servants, he could in no shape be answerable for them, – that he had neither countenanced nor incited them, and that he had no warrant to pursue or prosecute them.
The refusal of the marquis to obey the orders of the privy council, emboldened the denounced party to renew their acts of spoliation and robbery. They no longer confined their depredations to Frendraught and his tenants, but extended them to the property of the ministers who lived upon Frendraught’s lands. In this course of life, they were joined by some of the young men of the principal families of the Gordons in Strathbogie, to the number of forty horsemen, and sixty foot, and to encourage them in their designs against Frendraught, the lady of Rothiemay gave them the castle of Rothiemay, which they fortified, and from which they made daily sallies upon Frendraught’s possessions; burned his corn, laid waste his lands, and killed some of his people. Frendraught opposed them for some time; but being satisfied that such proceedings taking place almost under the very eyes of the marquis of Huntly, must necessarily be done with his concurrence, he went to Edinburgh, and entered a complaint against the marquis to the privy council. During Frendraught’s absence, his tenants were expelled by these Gordons from their possessions, without opposition.
When the king heard of these lawless proceedings, and of the refusal of the marquis to interfere, he wrote to the lords of the privy council to adopt measures for suppressing them; preparatory to which, they cited the marquis, in the beginning of the following year, to appear before them, to answer for these oppressions. He accordingly went to Edinburgh in the month of February, sixteen hundred and thirty-five, where he was commanded to remain till the matter should be investigated. The heads of the families, whose sons had joined the outlaws, also appeared, and, after examination, Letterfourie, Park, Tilliangus, Terrisoule, Invermarkie, Tulloch, Ardlogy, and several other persons of the surname of Gordon, were committed to prison, until their sons, who had engaged in the combination against Frendraught, should be presented before the council. The prisoners, who denied being accessary thereto, then petitioned to be set at liberty, a request which was complied with, on condition that they should either produce the rebels, as the pillagers were called, or make them leave the kingdom. The marquis, although nothing could be proved against him, was obliged to find caution for all persons of the surname of Gordon within his bounds, that they should keep the peace, and that he should be answerable, in all time coming, for any damage which should befal the laird of Frendraught, or his lands, by whatever violent means; and also that he should present the rebels at Edinburgh, that justice might be satisfied, or make them leave the kingdom.
The marquis of Huntly, thereupon, returned to the north, and the rebels hearing of the obligation he had come under, immediately dispersed themselves. The greater part of them fled into Flanders, and about twelve of them were apprehended by the marquis, and sent by him to Edinburgh. John Gordon, who lived at Woodhead of Rothiemay, and another, were executed. Of the remaining two, James Gordon, son of George Gordon in Achterles, and William Ross, son of John Ross of Ballivet, the former was acquitted by the jury, and the latter was imprisoned in the jail of Edinburgh for future trial, having been a chief ringleader of the party. In apprehending these twelve persons, James Gordon, son of Adam Gordon of Strathdoun, was killed, and to show the privy council how diligent the marquis had been in fulfilling his obligation, his head was sent to Edinburgh along with the prisoners.
The activity with which the marquis pursued the oppressors of Frendraught, brought him, afterwards into some trouble. Adam Gordon, one of the principal ringleaders of the confederacy, and second son of Sir Adam Gordon, of the Park, seeing no place of retreat left for him, nor any means of escape from the zeal of his pursuers, resolved to throw himself on the king’s mercy. For this purpose, he made a private communication to the archbishop of St Andrews, then chancellor of Scotland, in which he offered to submit himself to the king’s pleasure, and promising, that if his majesty would grant him a pardon, he would reveal the author of the rebellion. The archbishop, eager, it would appear, to fulfil the ends of justice, readily entered into Gordon’s views, and sent an especial messenger to London to the king, who, at once, granted Adam a pardon, which he forthwith transmitted to Scotland. On receiving the pardon, Gordon accused the marquis of Huntly as the author of the conspiracy against Frendraught, and with having instigated him and his associates to commit all the depredations which had taken place. The king, thereupon, sent a commission to Scotland, appointing a select number of the lords of the privy council to examine into the affair.
As Adam Gordon had charged James Gordon of Letterfourie, with having employed him and his associates, in name of the marquis, against the laird of Frendraught, Letterfourie was cited to appear at Edinburgh for trial. On being confronted with Adam Gordon, he denied every thing laid to his charge, but, notwithstanding of this denial, he was committed a close prisoner to the jail of Edinburgh. The marquis himself, who had also appeared at Edinburgh on the appointed day, viz., fifteenth of January sixteen hundred and thirty-six, was likewise confronted with Adam Gordon before the committee of the privy council; but although he denied Adam’s accusation, and “cleared himself with great dexteritie, beyond admiration,” as Gordon of Sallagh observes, he was, “upon presumption,” committed a close prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh.
When his majesty was made acquainted with these circumstances by the commissioners, and that there was no proof against the marquis to establish the charge against him, both the marquis and Gordon of Letterfourie were released by his command, on giving security for indemnifying the laird of Frendraught in time coming for any damage he might sustain from the Gordons and their accomplices. Having so far succeeded in annoying the marquis, Adam Gordon, after collecting a body of men, by leave of the privy council, went along with them to Germany, where he became a captain in the regiment of Colonel George Leslie. To terminate the unhappy differences between the marquis and Frendraught, the king enjoined Sir Robert Gordon, who was related to both, the marquis being his cousin-german, and chief of that family, and Frendraught the husband of his niece, to endeavour to bring about a reconciliation between them. Sir Robert, accordingly, on his return to Scotland, prevailed upon the parties to enter into a submission, by which they agreed to refer all questions and differences between them to the arbitrament of friends; but before the submission was brought to a final conclusion, the marquis expired at Dundee upon the thirteenth day of June, sixteen hundred and thirty-six, at the age of seventy-four, while returning to the north from Edinburgh. He was interred in the family vault at Elgin, on the thirtieth day of August following, “having,” says Spalding, “above his chist a rich mortcloath of black velvet, wherein was wrought two whyte crosses. He had torch-lights in great number carried be freinds and gentlemen; the marques’ son, called Adam, was at his head, the earle of Murray on the right spaik, the earle of Seaforth on the left spaik, the earl of Sutherland on the third spaik, and Sir Robert Gordon on the fourth spaik. Besyds thir nobles, many barrons and gentlemen was there, haveing above three hundred lighted torches at the lifting. He is carried to the east port, doun the wynd to the south kirk stile of the colledge kirk, in at the south kirk door, and buried in his own isle with much murning and lamentation. The like forme of burriall, with torch light, was not sein heir thir many dayes befor.”16
The marquis was a remarkable man for the age in which he lived, and there are no characters in that eventful period of Scottish history, so well entitled to veneration and esteem. A lover of justice, he never attempted to aggrandize his vast possessions at the expense of his less powerful neighbours; a kind and humane superior and landlord, he exercised a lenient sway over his numerous vassals and tenants, who repaid his kindness by sincere attachment to his person and family. Endowed with great strength of mind, invincible courage, and consummate prudence, he surmounted the numerous difficulties with which he was surrounded, and lived to see the many factions, which had conspired against him, discomfited and dissolved. While his constant and undeviating attachment to the religion of his forefathers, raised up many enemies against him among the professors of the reformed doctrines, by whose cabals he was at one time obliged to leave the kingdom, his great power and influence were assailed by another formidable class of opponents among the turbulent nobility, who were grieved to see a man who had not imitated their venality and rapacity, not only retain his predominance in the north, but also receive especial marks of his sovereign’s regard. But skilful and intriguing as they were in all the dark and sinister ways of an age distinguished for its base and wicked practices, their machinations were frustrated by the discernment and honesty of George Gordon, the first marquis of Huntly.
1 Spalding says, that the party were commanded by Lauchlan Mackintosh alias Lauchlan Og, uncle of the young chief, and Lauchlan Mackintosh or Lauchlan Angus-son, eldest son of Angus Mackintosh, alias Angus William, son of Auld Tillie. Hist. of the Troubles and memorable Transactions in England and Scotland. Edin. 1829.
2 Hist. pp. 3, and 4.
3 Vide the petition of Provost Forbes to the king, “in the name of the inhabitants” of Inverness; printed among the Culloden Papers, No. 5, p 4.
4 Sir R. Gordon, p. 397, et seq.
5 A considerable number of gentlemen, chiefly from Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness, joined Mackay, some of whom rose to high rank in the army of Gustavus Adolphus. Among these were Robert Monroe of Foulis, and his brother, Hector; Thomas Mackenzie, brother of the earl of Seaforth; John Monroe of Obisdell, and his brother Robert; John Monroe of Assynt, and others of that surname; Hugh Ross of Priesthill; David Ross and Nicolas Ross, sons of Alexander Ross of Invercharron; Hugh Gordon, son of Adam Gordon of Culkour; John Gordon, son of John Gordon of Garty; Adam Gordon and John Gordon, sons of Adam Gordon George-son; Ive Mackay, William, son of Donald Mackay of Skowry; William Gun, son of John Gun Rob-son; John Sinclair, bastard son of the earl of Caithness; Francis Sinclair, son of James Sinclair of Murkle; John Innes, son of William Innes of Sanset: John Gun, son of William Gun in Golspie-Kirktown; and George Gun, son of Alexander Gun Rob-son.
6 Sir R. Gordon, p. 401. et seq.
7 Hist. p. 416.
8 Spalding says that Frendraught was “ordained to pay to the lady, relict of Rothiemay, and the bairns, fiftie thousand merks, in composition of the slaughter.” – P. 5.
9 Sir R. Gordon, p. 446, et seq. Spalding, p. 5.
10 Sir R. Gordon, p. 241. — Spalding, p. 6, et. seq.
11 Ibid. p. 11.
12 Ibid. p. 14
13 Continuation of the History of the Earls of Sutherland, collected together by Gilbert Gordon of Sallagh, annexed to Sir R. Gordon’s work, p. 460. Spalding, p. 41,
14 Gordon of Sallagh’s Continuation, p. 461; Spalding, p. 22
15 Gordon of Sallagh’s Cont. p. 464, et seq.
16 Spalding, p. 43.