IX. Fair Helen of Ardoch, pp.195-220.

[Heroines of Scotland Contents]

Oh! grief, beyond all other griefs, when fate 

First leaves the young heart lone and desolate 

In the wide world, without that only tie 

For which it lov’d to live – or fear’d to die; – 

Lorn as the hung-up late, that ne’er hath spoken 

Since the sad day its master-chord was broken. 

                                                                                           – Lalla Rookh

URING the sixteenth century, and for some time previously, the estate of Cromlix, lying on the south-western marches of Perthshire, was owned by a knightly family called Chisholm. This surname (partly Norman and partly Saxon), first appeared in Scotland, on the Border, in the reign of Alexander III., when those who bore it, and who were apparently of Norman origin, held lands in the counties of Berwick and Roxburgh. From this house the head of the Clan Chisholm was probably descended. That sept, however, disclaim any such relationship, maintaining that they are a genuine Celtic race; but they are not known in history till about the time of James IV.; and we find that in 1335 one of the Border Chisholms married the daughter of the Constable of Urquhart Castle, in Inverness-shire: which fact proves that these Chisholms had connection with the north long before we hear of the Caln. This question, at the best, is of little moment to our present object; for although doubt exists as to whether the founders of the Chisholm Clan were Norman or Celtic, it is indisputable that the Cromlix Chisholms were a branch of the Border line – the first Chisholms who possessed Cromlix, in the fifteenth century, being Edmund, a son of the Chisholm of Teviotdale. Edmund of Cromlix was twice married, and had children by both unions. His first wife was a widow lady, Margaret SInclair, of the house of Dryden, who brought him two sons: and on her death he wedded Janet, daughter of James Drummond of Coldoch, younger brother of John, first Lord Drummond, and by her had two sons and three daughters. Honours flowed in upon the family. They obtained the offices of Hereditary Baillie and Justiciary of the ecclesiastical Lordship of Dunblane; and three Chisholms became successively Bishops of that see – the last two during the reformation era. 

   Edmund’s eldest son, James (by the first marriage), was a man of great learning, who chose to enter into holy orders. He was made chaplain to James III., and having been despatched on a royal mission to Rome, in 1486, while the Bishopric of Dunblane was vacant, Pope Innocent VIII. was so much impressed with his talents and his peculiar fitness for preferment in the Scottish Church, that he forthwith nominated him to the See, and he was consecrated next year. Bishop James wore the mitre for the long period of forty years, and in his old age resigned the dignity in favour of his half-brother, William, but retained the fruits of the benefice in his own hands till his death in 1534. William was accordingly appointed by Pope Clement VII. in that disastrous year, 1527, which saw the ancient capital of the world assaulted and sacked by the Imperial troops of the Constable of Bourbon. The consecration of the new Bishop of Dunblane took place at Stirling, on 14th April 1527, and was conducted by Archbishop Dunbar of Glasgow, Chancellor of the Kingdom; Bishop Crichton of Dunkeld; and Bishop James Chisholm. As was natural in the circumstances, the Chisholms of Cromlix, laymen and ecclesiastics, being so intimately connected with the Romish Church and hierarchy in Scotland, were uncompromising enemies of the Reformed principles and party. When Bishop William descried the coming storm, he proceeded to make as much of the temporalities under his charge, by alienating large portions of the living of Dunblane, and bestowing them upon his own kindred. He saw the Papal power overthrown in Scotland, but did not long survive the catastrophe, as he died in 1564. This prelate is said to have been a man of merry mood, and a keen votary of music, like many another old Scots churchman. Tradition records of him that the old Scots air, Clout the Caldron, was so especially his favourite, that he never tired of hearing it played or sung, and so enthusiastic was he in its praise that he used to declare that if he were going to be hanged – and truly the hanging of a bishop was not so improbably a contingency in those rough days, – he would go cheerfully to the gallows, if Clout the Caldron were played to him all the way! 

    He was not the last Romish Bishop of Dunblane. By his interest, in 1561, a Papal brief was procured appointing his nephew, also named William Chisholm, as his colleague and successor in the See of Dunblane. The second William did what in him lay to complete the dilapidation of the episcopal property. Devotedly attached to the Romish faith, he attained high favour with Mary, Queen of Scots, and was employed by her in various affairs of state. In particular, he was one of the Commissioners who adjudicated upon the question of divorce betwixt the infamous Earl of Bothwell and his wife, the Lady Jane Gordon. The Bishop’s exertions in support of the Popish cause rendered Scotland too hot to hold him, and he therefore took farewell of “the banks of Allan water,” and crossed to France, where he was made Bishop of Vaison. He still continued a prime mover in all the Papal intrigues set on foot in his native country. But towards the close of his life he seemed to contract a disrelish for the political sphere in which his lot had been cast, and resigning his office in favour of a third William Chisholm, his nephew, he became a Carthusian Friar at Grenoble, and died at Rome. 

   Throughout the half-century following the Reformation, the Knights of Cromlix, true to their family proclivities, were mixed up with most of the Popish schemes and plots in Scotland. But, meantime, we shall turn our attention to an earlier legend. 

   The old Castle of Kilbryde – some distance north-west of Dunblane – crowning a wooded eminence that overhangs a rugged and gloomy ravine, was the scene of a foul crime in the annals of the house of Cromlix. 

   The baronial strength of Kilbryde was built in 1460, by Sir James Graham, a gallant warrior, whose bravery gained him the chivalric cognomen of “Sir James of the Bright Sword.” One of his descendants, Sir Malise Graham, a fierce and lawless Knight, but young and handsome, wooed the Lady Anne, a daughter of Cromlix. They pledged their mutual faith and troth, and their union was expected; but suddenly a coldness became apparent on the part of the fair dame; for she had come to the knowledge of some of her lover’s dark deeds, and at length she frankly told him that unless he made restitution for grievous wrongs which he had perpetrated, and abandoned his evil courses, her hand should never become his. Sir Malise was indignant, but smothered his wrath, suspecting that some nobler or wealthier suitor had knelt at her feet, and that ambition tempted her to seek a pretext for breaking her engagement. Full of this ungenerous thought, and wincing under the reproof she had given him, and which his pride could not brook, he left her presence, meditating revenge. His evil passions had never known restraint, and now they hurried him on to dastardly guilt. In a few days, the Lady Anne accompanied a gay hawking or hunting party, and in the ardour and confusion of the sport, her palfrey broke from her control, galloped off at random, and she was far separated from friends and attendants. In short, before she could check her horse’s speed she found herself lost in the wilds. To add to her distress, the excited animal took new fright and threw her to the ground. She lay for a space in a deep swoon. When she came to herself, she felt that she was not much hurt, and was able to make her way slowly in search of some habitation. But all was desolate moorland around: her palfrey was nowhere to be seen: the day had overclouded, threatening a storm. Fortunately, as she deemed, she was soon met by the Knight of Kilbryde, walking alone, who greeted her with glad smiles, and pressingly invited her to his castle, which was within easy reach. Without hesitation, she consented, and thither they turned their steps, Sir Malise supporting her on his arm. The Knight’s demeanour was gentle, and he manifested towards her the tenderest care, and never spoke of their last interview, which had seemed the prelude of a final estrangement. But she thought it strange that he led her by a circuitous route towards Kilbryde, and then straight into the rocky glen below the Castle. When they reached the wildest part of the ravine, the false and vindictive Knight drew his dagger, and stabbed the lady to the heart! “This,” said he, “be the reward of thy broken vows!” She sank at his feet, and expired with scarce a moan. No one had seen Sir Malise leading the lady across the moors, or into the glen: no eye, save that of Eternal Justice, witnessed the crime. The murderer was calm and collected. He concealed the corpse under the thick brackens, obliterated all marks of the deed, and strode on carelessly to his castle. At midnight he stealthily descended to the ravine, and searching out the spot where his victim lay, dug a grave, and his her in it. 

   Lady Anne’s disappearance in the field caused her friends much uneasiness: she was anxiously looked for everywhere; but it was judged that she had turned and gone back to Cromlix. When the party rode home they learned with dismay that she had not arrived there. Away they hurried in all directions: and evening fell, and there was no Lady Anne. A sorry night was passed. Morn might restore her? Idle fancy! 

She came not in the dawning forth, she came not all the day; 

And the morrow came – but never came she more. 

Her palfrey was found dead at the bottom of a crag over which it had blindly precipitated itself. But where was she? If hope lingered in fond beasts, it was but a feeble flame, soon to sink in the darkness of despair. Still no breath sullied the name of Sir Malise: and he, too, seemed overwhelmed with grief for her loss. The mystery was impenetrable – sealed, as it was, by the hand of Death. The secret grave in the Glen of Kilbryde, covered by wild-flowers and the dropping fern, could have told a tale of horror: and, at length, there were signs as if that lone grave were giving back its dead. The menials of the castle began to whisper of a white-robed lady, with blood streaks on here skirts, who, now and then, in the gloamings, and under the moonlight, glided to and fro in the ravine, wringing her hands. No one had courage to watch, far less to approach her, though sometimes she beckoned eagerly. These stories reached the ear of Sir Malise: and he laughed and frowned them down. His own fate was at hand: he was mortally wounded in a needless fray which his rash violence had provoked; and he died and made no sign. 

   Changes at Kilbryde kept the spectre-superstition in abeyance for a season. But gradually the story revived, and gathered strength. The lady with the blood-smears on her white drapery was frequently seen in the ravine, wringing her hands and beckoning. The successor of Sir Malise, a fearless youth, his nephew, pledged himself that if ever she appeared to him he would follow and question her. His word was soon brought to the proof. On a calm autumn night, as the moon was on the wane, he was returning to the Castle, unattended, when the shadowy form crossed his path in the depths of the glen, and gliding onwards, waved her hand towards him. True to his pledge, he pursued the figure, calling to it to stop. It paused at a secluded nook, and pointing significantly to the earth at its feet, melted into thin air! Graham rushed forward, and marked the spot. Next day he caused it to be dug up; when the mouldered remains of the murdered lay were discovered, and recognised as those of Anne Chisholm by a ring on her finger which bore her name. They were then removed to the consecrated ground of her family burial-place; and the spectre walked no more. There is another legend of Kilbryde which states that shortly before the demise of any member of the Graham family, the person’s wraith was seen wandering in the vicinity of the Castle. The Grahams held Kilbryde till 1643, when their failing fortunes caused the sale of castle and lands to Sir Colin Campbell of Aberuchill. 

   All the knights of Cromlix, descendants of Edmund, the founder of that house, were named James. The fifth Laird was Sir James Chisholm, born in the latter part of the sixteenth century. In his youthful days, during his father’s lifetime, he was sent to France, possibly on some political mission, but rather we should think, for the purpose of completing his education, as was then the fashion for scions of noble Scottish families. The young man, had his own secret inclinations been consulted, would have elected to remain at home. It was the old, old story. He was deeply in love; and we may imagine the regret with which he contemplated exile from Scotland and his fair inamorata. The object of his affections was Helen Stirling, of the house of Ardoch, by whom he was tenderly beloved in return. She was gifted with wondrous grace and beauty, so much so that she was known all over the district by the flattering title of “Fair Helen of Ardoch.” The young people had been brought up together almost from childhood, and the parents of both were by no means inimical to their attachment, although they prudently considered that the lovers were still too young to think of matrimony. But they vowed eternal fidelity to each other; and doubtless young Cromlix was borne up under the pain of separation by the fond hope that when his term of absence had expired, and he came back to his native shore, he should then be entitled to claim the hand of Helen Stirling. Before he departed, however, it was necessary to arrange for a stated correspondence with the lady, which it was wished should be concealed from their relatives, and to accomplish this, Cromlix suggested that he should bespeak the good offices of a friend in the district, a young gentleman of his own age (but whose name has not lived in tradition), to whom should be entrusted the receiving of the letters of both parties and the conveying of them to their respective destinations: that is to say, Cromlix should address his epistles to Helen under cover to his friend, by whom they would be privately delivered, and Helen should commit her answers to the same hand that they might be despatched abroad. The confidant readily undertook the delicate trust: and Cromlix set sail for France, little dreaming, as the Scottish hills faded over the blue waters, that his love for Helen Stirling was destined to be cruelly crossed, and that he was to embalm its memory in a lyric which should survive as long as Scottish song found an echo in sympathetic hearts. 

   The fair Helen was the daughter of William Stirling, brother of the Laird of Ardoch. As we understand the genealogy (which has been somewhat confused by various writers), the Laird himself, Helen’s uncle, married Margaret Murray, daughter of one of the seventeen sons of Sir William Murray of Tullibardine. The seventeen sons of Tullibardine were a remarkable Perthshire family. It is said, on the authority of an old document – “The Declaration of George Halley in Ochterarder,” dated in 1710 – that they “lived all to be men, and that they waited all one day upon their father at Stirling, to attend the King, with each of them one servant, and their father two. This happened shortly after an Act was made by King James the Fifth, discharging any persons to travel with great numbers of attendants besides their own family, and having challenged the Laird of Tullibardine for breaking the said Act, he answered he brought only his own sons, with their necessary attendants; with which the King was so well pleased, that he gave them small lands in heritage.” Murray of Strowan was one of these sons, and his daughter, Margaret, brought her husband, the Laird of Ardoch, a still more numerous issue. She had 31 children! Their father was dead in 1617, when James Vi. came down from England to visit his native kingdom, and as he made a triumphal progress from Perth to Stirling, he passed by Ardoch, where the widowed lady awaited him, with all her sons and daughters about her, grouped on the lawn. The King drew bridle, and marvelled greatly at the sight of so many olive plants, and their mother still a hale-looking dame. “How many are they, madam?” he enquired. “May it please your Majesty,” she answered, with a smile, “I want but ane to mak’ out the twa chalders” – sixteen bolls going to a chalder. The King, who loved a joke, laughed heartily, and dismounting from his steed, sat down upon a stone, where he was served with a savoury collop and other refreshments. One of the children – the youngest, a boy of three years – was afterwards known as the Tutor of Ardoch, and survived till 1715, when he died at the ripe old age of 111, and to the day of his death his health was so good that he could drink a bottle of ale at a single draught. 

   Soon after young Cromlix reached France, his preconcerted correspondence with Helen Stirling began, and it was continued for some time with strict punctuality on both sides – this constant interchange of sentiment affording the best consolation for absence and hope deferred. Cromlix was a youth of parts: he was reflective and observant, and had a touch of poetic feeling; and we may be sure that the epistles of such a writer would be doubly interesting, as they would necessarily embrace sketches of society and manners in la belle France which was then, as now, the mart and mirror of fashion in Europe. Thus, the love-letters went and came: and we can fancy how the Maid of Ardoch, who had never seen richer state than that of the poverty-stricken court of the Scottish Regents and their boy-sovereign, would be dazzled with life-drawn pictures of the splendour in which the galaxy of dames surrounding Catharine de Medicis and Margaret de Valois lived and moved at the Court of Paris. These souvenirs of her lover would be treasured up by the fair recipient, as the never-failing solace of her solitary hours. 

   As the months crept on – as a year was wearing away, the intervals between the letters from France grew gradually longer. This, at first, was not much noticed, and at all events was easily excused, as Cromlix spoke of his many avocations and still expressed the same ardency of attachment. But, after a protracted period, no letter appearing, Helen was alarmed lest sickness or death had overtaken him. She ascertained, however, through private enquiries at his father’s house, that several letters had recently been received there from him, and that he was still in good health. She wrote, pressing to hear from him, and gently chiding his apparently negligence. Patiently she waited – patiently, far beyond the time which should have brought a reply; but reply there was none. The confidant himself was troubled, but could offer no explanation. He wrote in his own name, trusting that Cromlix would answer; but the letter was never acknowledged. What did this persistent silence import? Had the young Scot been captivated by some beauty of the French capital? Had he forgotten his solemn vows to Helen Stirling? Bitter was the suspicion; but Helen could not deem him so unworthy, and hoped that his faith and honour were still untarnished. She waited a further space, during which she heard of his constant correspondence with his own family, who boasted that he was rising to high estimation in France. but not a word was deigned to Helen of Ardoch. There could only be one way of accounting for this cool, systematic neglect. And now the confidant informed her that he was assured by a person of credit in Paris, which whom he had communicated on the subject, that Cromlix had utterly forsaken her, and was deep in love with a noble French lady, whom he was shortly expected to wed! Heavy was the blow to Helen Stirling, though it only realized the fears which had been fixing themselves in her mind. The cherished ideal of love and truth was destroyed. In the first flush of indignation, she committed to the flames all the letters of the false swain; but the sacrifice instead of allaying her anguish, only served to embitter it: and yet her womanly pride revolted against a sorrow which sprung from so flagrant a wrong: and she strove to banish Cromlix from the heart in which he had been so long enshrined. 

   A new trouble arose. The confidant, who never came into her presence without expiating against his friend’s perfidy, made an unexpected avowal. To her extreme astonishment and regret, he declared himself her admirer. Fortune had now dealt bountifully with him: the death of a near relative had put him into possession of broad lands and ample wealth: and so he knelt at Helen’s feet, and proferred all. Was he to be rejected? Helen might have done so: probably she would have done so, had she been left to herself; but her parents, wise in the world’s ways, were of another mind, and counselled her to accept his hand. She hesitated – she procrastinated, and would give no response. Silence, in this case, meant the very opposite of consent. The lover was urgent: the proposed match seemed extremely advantageous; and, at length, overborne by family considerations, Helen yielded reluctantly. Why reluctantly? Could she still dream of Cromlix? She was loaded with the good wishes of her kindred, and the marriage-day was set. That day soon dawned. But the fair bride, in all her rich adornings, was pale as death, and full of sighs and tears. The bridal party assembled. The sun shone out brightly in happy omen. The ceremony was performed. Now came a startling scene. Immediately on the entrance of the gay company into the banquetting hall, some secret whisper seemed to have reached the bride’s ear; for to the amazement of all, she turned to her husband and denounced him as the blackest of traitors! Cromlix, she exclaimed, had been foully betrayed by the villain in whom he trusted. His letters, and her letters as well, had been kept back: of this she was well assured: and Cromlix had already landed in Scotland, and would vindicate his honour and avenge his and her wrongs! Had a thunderbolt fallen in the midst of the glittering circle, it could not have caused greater consternation. The bridegroom stared and trembled, without the power to utter a word. Fair Helen again spoke, vowing in presence of heaven that she would never acknowledge him as her husband, until Cromlix should, in her own hearing, clear him of all that she had alleged. Meantime she should not quit the protection of her father’s roof. The unhappy bridegroom – overwhelmed with shame and dismay – sought not to oppose her resolution, but amid shouts of angry derision, departed with his train! So closed the nuptials of Fair Helen of Ardoch. 

   Young Cromlix had indeed landed in Scotland, the victim of sorrow and despair. He had been grossly deceived and slandered. He declared that after a short period of constant correspondence, he had written again and again, but no answer from Helen was returned; and the confidant on being applied to informed him that as she had changed her affections, she desired that he should think of her no more. Smitten by Helen’s charms, this man had suppressed the letters that he might cause a breach and supplant the favoured lover. On the homeward voyage, Cromlix sought relief for his lacerated feelings by pouring forth his grief in a simple melody, which has survived for nearly three centuries, as a monologue of hopeless love: 


Since all thy vows, false maid, 

               Are blown to air, 

And my poor heart betrayed 

               To sad despair, 

Into some wilderness, 

My grief I will express, 

And thy hard-heartedness, 

               O cruel fair! 

Have I not graven our loves 

               On every tree, 

In yonder spreading groves, 

               Though false thou be? 

Was not a solemn oath 

Plighted betwixt us both, 

Thou thy faith, I my troth, 

               Constant to be? 

Some gloomy place I’ll find, 

               Some doleful shade, 

Where neither sun nor wind 

               E’er entrance had: 

Into that hollow cave, 

There will I sigh and rave, 

Because thou dost behave 

               So faithlessly. 

Wild-fruit shall be my meat, 

 ⁠               I’ll drink the spring; 

 Cold earth shall be my seat: 

 ⁠               For covering 

 I’ll have the starry sky, 

My head to canopy, 

 Until my soul on high 

 ⁠               Shall spread its wing. 

I’ll have no funeral fire, 

               Nor tears for me: 

No grave do I desire, 

               No obsequies: 

The courteous redbreast, he 

With leaves will cover me, 

               And sing my elegy 

With doleful voice. 

And when a ghost I am, 

               I’ll visit thee, 

O thou obdured dame, 

               Whose cruelty 

Has killed the kindest heart 

E’er pierced by Cupid’s dart; 

No grief my soul shall part 

               From loving thee. 

To the version of “Cromlet’s Lilt,” given in Mr. James Maidment’s Scottish Ballads and Songs (1859) are appended two pieces in the same style of thought and versification, the first, professing to be “Her Reply” (that is, the lady’s reply) and the second headed “Another Reply” – in both of which she appears as the deceived and not the deceiver; but it is unnecessary to quote these, as it has not been pretended that either one or other was the composition of Helen of Ardoch, and they are both inferior, in point of poetic merit, to the lyric which tradition attributes to the genius of young Cromlix. 

   The false confidant was thoroughly unmasked. He attempted no defence of her perfidy, and seemed tacitly to relinquish all claim to his bride. Speedily were proceedings instituted on Helen’s part for a legal dissolution of her marriage, and no opposition being made, she accomplished her purpose. Thereafter, with the full approbation of both their houses, she gave her hand to the heir of Cromlix. 

   The maid of Ardoch’s story has been variously told. The narrative contained in Robert Burns’ “Observations on Scottish Songs” is best known, but very inaccurate in several important particulars. In what we have written above, however, we have endeavoured to present, as nearly as possible, the actual circumstances. 

   Thee after-career of young Cromlix was generally prosperous, although, in that turbulent age, the sky of his fortunes was sometimes darkened by a passing cloud. His lady brought him two sons and two daughters. He succeeded to the family inheritance and knighthood on the decease of his father, and became a favourite with King James VI., who made him one of the Members of the Royal Household. Still, Sir James Chisholm, while occupying so high a position at Court, was an ardent though secret partisan of the Popish faction, and eventually risked his life and lands by his participation in their designs. But it must be remembered that this was the side to which his family had been long attached; and now his uncle, the second Bishop of Vaison, was the prime adviser, and his brother John was an active agent, in all the schemes of the party. By that party Sir James was regarded as “a man confident and wise, and very little suspected.” His hand was deep in the mysterious affair of what was called the “Spanish Blanks,” – a formidable conspiracy whereby the Popish leaders in Scotland sought to obtain Spanish aid in seizing supreme power. It was planned that an army of 30,000 Spanish soldiers should be landed on the western coast, where the Popish lords would join them with all their forces. This was in the end of 1592. Sir James Chisholm was selected by the plotters as the most proper envoy to go to Spain on this daring business; but he was dilatory in his preparations, and at the eleventh hour another gentleman, George Kerr, brother to the abbot of Newbattle, was appointed in his room. This person was arrested on shipboard in the Clyde, having in his possession a number of treasonable papers which disclosed the germs of the plot. 

   This event threw the country into great consternation and confusion. The King vowed with apparent sincerity, that he would bring the traitors to justice; but, the principal delinquents, who stoutly denied all share in the matter, could not be arrested, and only one of their subordinate accomplices, David Graham of Fintry, being seized, suffered death on the scaffold. On 15th February, 1592-93, Sir James Chisholm, called of Dundorne, was ordered by the Privy Council to be denounced for not appearing to answer “touching his practising and trafficking in sundry treasonable matters against the true religion,” etc. But Sir James kept warily out of the clutches of the law, until the danger should, as he hoped, blow over. The Kirk, whose fears were thoroughly aroused, was implacable. The Synod of Fife, which met in September, 1593, took up “the impunity of that most monstrous, ungodly, and unnatural treason,” declaring “the pride, boldness, malice, busyness, and going forward of these enemies in their most pernicious purpose, arising out of the said impunity and bearing with of the king, so that now they not only have no doubt, as they speak plainly, to obtain liberty of conscience, but also brag to make us fain to come to their cursed idolatry, before they come to the truth.” Accordingly the reverend Court excommunicated the Earls Angus, Huntly, and Errol, Lord Hume, Sir Patrick Gordon, and Sir James Chisholm; and sentence of excommunication was something to be dreaded in those days, even by the highest in the land. Meanwhile the three Earls, protesting their innocence, and confident in their own power to protect themselves against King and Kirk, petitioned that they might be brought to trial for their alleged crimes; and this was also imperiously demanded by their ecclesiastical denouncers. It was therefore appointed that the trial should take place at Perth, on 24th October, 1593. Immediately the Kirk issued an injunction to the Moderators of all Presbyteries to cause every minister within their respective bounds to warn noblemen, gentlemen, and burgesses to appear at Perth, in warlike array, on the day of trial, for the purpose of upholding the independence of the Court. The Earls, on their part, mustered their followers to attend them to Perth, and arranged to have their quarters in the Watergate. “Had things been allowed to continue in this state, and the muster taken place at Perth,” says Tytler, “a few days more might have kindled the flames of civil war in the country, and deluged it with blood; but at this crisis, James wisely interdicted the trial from being held at Perth, and resolved that a solemn enquiry into the conduct of Huntly, Angus, and Errol should take place before commissioners to be selected from the nobility, the burghs, and the kirk.” The embroglio still deepened; the Earls rose in open rebellion, and defeated the royal troops at the Battle of Glenlivat, in October 1594; but were subsequently overpowered by the advance of the King in person, and rendered homeless fugitives on the hills. 

   Our chief concern, however, is with Sir James Chisholm, who being clear of the guilt of rebellion, was enabled to make his peace. At the General Assembly, which met at Montrose on 24th June 1595, he appeared and tendered his contrite submission. “In the eight session,” says Calderwood, “Sir James Chisholm compeared in presence of the whole brethren, confessed with humility his apostacy from religion, for which he craved God’s mercy; declared he professed with us the true religion, renounced the Antichrist and all his errors, and craved from his heart to be received into the bosom of the Kirk. The Assembly concluded he should be relaxed, and thereafter the form of his satisfaction to be set down. So, in the ninth session, he was relaxed from the process of excommunication led against him, he humbling himself upon his knees, and acknowledging his offence.” 

   Sir James was succeeded in Cromlix by his eldest son James, who dying without issue, his brother John became Laird. but he, too, left no children, and at his death the estates went to a branch of the Drummonds, with which noble family the Chisholms had been repeatedly connected by intermarriage.

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