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Braemar Highlands
Part the Third - Chapter VI

The Black Colonel—continued

NOBODY should take in strangers, unless they ken weel about them. Na, they shouldna dee that; for when the Colonel went to the West Countrie, a gentleman took him in, and he carried off one of his daughters. It was said he married her; but what syne! He had his ain wife living at Inverey. That cam’ o’ takin’ in strangers.’

As this quondam wife, or Annie Ban, i.e. Fair-haired Annie, is intimately connected with the Colonel’s future history, I have permitted an old lady, descended of the Farquharson race, to introduce her, before I proceed further with it.

As the Colonel still refused to make his submission, the purpose of burning his castle was resolved to be carried out. The Colonel, ignorant of this fact, was going on in his usual course of every-day life; and reckless enough it was, if we may take the day before the burning of the castle as a fair specimen. Here is the traditional account of it.

Alastair M'Dougal, the Colonel’s henchman, was possessed of extraordinary strength. As a proof of it, it is said that, when in want of fuel, he would go to the woods and lay hold of a birch tree, pull it up by the roots, and drag it home after him. This day Alastair was in extra spirits; and as he stepped up and down the stair, kept singing, in a voice not over gentle:

‘A good soldier never wanted a weapon/ etc.

A pistol fired at a shield hung on the wall was the Colonel’s mode of summoning his servants. And when Alastair, thus summoned, entered the room, the Colonel sprang at him with his drawn sword ; his terrier also rushed forward to join ill the melee. Alastair, with the greatest nonchalance, seized the terrier by the fur of his neck, and rammed it right on the point of the sword. The Colonel, to avoid hurting his favourite, dropped the weapon; and M‘Dougal, picking it up, swung it round his head, and sang as before :

‘A good soldier never wanted a weapon' etc.

Such were the home pleasures of the Black Colonel, and thus did he occasionally test the valour of his followers..

The same day on which these incidents occurred, the laird of Daldownie, his brother-in-law and friend, came to pay him a visit. After dinner the two were unusually jolly together, so much so as to lead to the remark that it was surely before something. So it was a squadron of dragoons had already left Aberdeen, and were on their way to accomplish the oft-repeated threat of burning the castle.

Wild, reckless, and daring as the Colonel was, he still held a place in the affections of his people; and one of the lowest of them was at this time the means of saving his life, at least his liberty. A beggar woman was about Aboyne when the dragoons rode up. As beggars then were the great newsmongers, and welcomed according to the budget they carried, she hung about them until she learned the mission on which they came.

On hearing also that the officer in command intended to stay where he was until night, she formed her purpose. So, getting away as quietly as possible, she relieved herself of her wallet, some say her ‘hose and shoon’ also, and set out with all her might for Inverey, determined that the Colonel should not remain ignorant of the danger that threatened him.

The faithful creature was just in time; for when she reached the castle she could hear the clanging of the troopers’ horses on the rough bed of the Dee, as they I crossed the ford a little to the east of the castle. She succeeded in giving the alarm. Immediately the Colonel and Captain Shaw sprang from their beds and fled, just as they were not an instant was to be lost.

The two made for the Ey. It was unfordable from a recent storm; but the Colonel cleared, it with one bound, at a spot still pointed out, and called in consequence ‘Drockaide-an-Leumj i.e. The Bridge of the Leap. Shaw, an immensely powerful man, with the desperate energy of one fleeing for life, pushed through the stream, and but a few minutes after stood beside the Black Colonel on the top of Creagan Chait.

Ignorant of this escape, the soldiers drew near very cautiously. A great reward was set on the Colonel’s head, and this they hoped to win: so the castle was quietly surrounded, then the gates were stormed; anon they yield, and shortly the castle was swarming with soldiers. But though every crevice and nook was searched, it was all in vain—there was no Colonel there.

Fire was then set to the castle, and a guard set to the door to prevent the Colonel’s escape, for they believed he still lay hid within. To the guard’s great joy, he saw a tall person, sparingly dressed, a bundle of clothes under arm, trying to escape from the flames.

‘Yield or die!’ cried the guard, seizing the person by the arm. The arm was disengaged with a twitch; and a retort not over delicate was accompanied with such a smack on the face, that the dragoon lost his balance and rolled down the steps. His assailant followed leisurely, and jumped lightly over his prostrate person. This intrepid heroine was no other than Annie Ban.

The dragoon was terribly enraged, and to wipe out his disgrace would have taken condign punishment on Annie, but was prevented by the others. This exploit of hers had so conciliated their goodwill, that they allowed her to depart in peace, bundle and all. This was important, as it contained the Colonel’s clothes, and those also of his friend Captain Shaw. Their exposed situation on the top of Creagan Chait made the want of them sorely felt.

By and by the party on the top of the hill was attracted by the red light gleaming from the castle windows. They could but too easily divine its cause. Both looked sadly on, Shaw not daring a word of sympathy, when suddenly the .Colonel burst out a laughing in the most extravagant manner.

‘Are you mad?’ inquired Daldownie.

‘Wait a minute' was the reply, accompanied with another frantic burst of laughter.

And as Shaw still expostulated as to this untimely mirth, the Colonel informed him, by way of explanation, that the charter-room was full of powder.

‘The last thing in the world to laugh at; it will blow your castle to pieces.’

‘Yes, and blow them to pieces at the same time.’ And as they spoke the hills were lighted up with lurid blaze. The heavens seemed rent asunder, and for a moment the earth shook to its very centre. The dreadful noise repeated itself again and again, as the more distant hills gave back their echoes; then all was still—the work of desolation and death was accomplished. Still, to the Colonel’s great disappointment, there were not so many of the soldiers killed as he anticipated, as the powder, instead of blowing out the walls, exploded into the air. After burning Inverey, the soldiers gave the new castle (Braemar) also to the flames, then withdrew. Thus the Colonel was left a houseless wanderer.

After the burning of the castle, Mrs. Farquharson with her family went to live with the Coloners brother Charles at Balmoral. Anne Ban got shelter in a cottage at Ruigh-an-t-Seillieh in Glen Ey. The Colonel had a peculiar claim upon its occupants, as will be seen after. As for Colonel Farquharson himself, his residence was in the cave formerly noticed in Glen Ey; and to this place his favourite Anne often resorted, to beguile his weary hours.

At last death, relentless death, carried off that beautiful, high-spirited, but unfortunate girl. The Colonel greatly regretted her, and composed a deeply pathetic Lament, in which he deplored her loss, and wished that it had been his first wife instead of the second that had died, etc.

His wife, hearing this, was very much displeased; and at one time, when M‘Dougal the Colonel’s servant was at Balmoral’ she bribed him to make a parody on the Lament.

M‘Dougal agreed to do it, as he too was much annoyed to see the Colonel so taken up about a girl, instead of seeking to revenge the defeat at Tullich and the burning of the castle. Having succeeded in parodying the Lament, he took an early opportunity of trolling out in the most sonorous manner the following:

‘Alas! thou art gone, Anne,
Leaving me in deep sorrow;
But never shall thy memory depart,
Until I get bear bread and butter.’

He had parodied the whole, but the Colonel did not wait to hear more, but went and ordered all the butter and bear bread to be found in the two Invereys to be brought to his presence. Then he ordered M‘Dougal to appear. On entering the room he was ordered to sit down at the table; and no sooner was he seated than the laird seized two loaded pistols and levelled them at his head.

‘Eat!’ cried the Colonel, pointing to the store before him. M‘Dougal was filled with dismay, but began to eat; and still he ate, and ate, but the lairds look relented not. It seemed to be not only eat or die, but eat and die and this went on until absolutely more would, not enter, for up to that point the laird’s tightening finger on the trigger stimulated his flagging energies.

The Colonel then kicked him out, expecting he would die. He did not die, however, but the new version of the Lament was never repeated. M'Dougal had touched the Colonel on a tender point, and the irritation occasioned by that touch was not easily allayed; and still wishing to get rid of him without incurring the odium of murdering, he sent M‘Dougal with a letter to the young Baron of Braichley, stating that this was the man who shot his father. The scheme did not succeed : the sum of the Baron’s answer was, ‘that if he did, it was no fault of his.’

Shortly after this affair the Colonel had a narrow escape from falling into the hands of his pursuers. He had for some time been putting up in a house at Altchlar, and was on this day, from fatigue or some other cause, sound asleep. A party of dragoons, by some means informed of this (perhaps by M‘Dougal by way of reprisals), came over by the ford at Allen-quoich right down on Altchlar. Again the faithfulness of one of his people saved him, by shouting through the window, in phrase significant enough to the Colonel, though not understood by the soldiers. And starting up, he drove out a window to the back, and escaped into a wood behind the house.

'He was tired now of this work,’ he said, ‘and was resolved in some way to get rid of the villanous' Whigamores. It was not very long until he got the opportunity of putting this resolution, whatever it was, into practice. A very large party of dragoons arrived at Braemar; and as it was pretty late, they turned their horses into the castle park, and kindling fires, made themselves comfortable for the night.

Towards morning a yell suddenly burst from Craig Choinnichy and a noise was heard as if a multitude of men were rushing down its steep sides—men, too, bent on destruction, for the bullets in hundreds were hissing over the park. Another yell then rose, louder and wilder than before. So the Whigamores, as the Colonel termed them, mounted and fled ; those at least who could, and those whose horses had run wild were in evil plight. Many of them were thrown into the river, and asked to carry the Black Colonel’s compliments to their commander inAberdeen, or to “ Rigk William na or it!' i.e. King William the Cruel, in London, and say that the Black Colonel did not care a bodle for them. This was the last incident of note during the life of the Black Colonel. His exploits did not end with life, however; so I may close this account of it with one or two of his posthumous feats.

On his death-bed he gave express orders that his body was to be laid beside Anne Ban, in the churchyard of Inverey, and not in the family burying-ground at Castleton. His relations did not heed his wishes, but had him conveyed to Castleton, and buried there with all the usual Highland ceremonies. Next morning (so the legend goes) the coffin, with all its contents, lay above ground ; and this went on for a time, the laird’s remains rising through the night, and the relations burying them on the morning.

As they still refused to attend to his wishes, he began to pay them nightly visits ; and such sights and sounds greeted their eyes and ears night after night, that they were glad at length to let him have his own way. So one morning all met in the churchyard as by appointment, each surprised at the sight of the other; but the gruesome looks of all revealed plainly that they had been favoured with a special visit.

As at least six weeks had passed in this contest, the exhalations from the body were such as to put serious obstacles in the way of its removal. But as they were now quite in earnest about it, they fell upon an expedient, which was to draw it up the Dee on a sort of raft; and at length it was safely deposited in the burying-ground at Inverey, beside his much-loved Anne.

As to the coffin really having risen night after night, no one can believe that ; but it is a fact that after a lapse of six weeks he was towed up the Dee and buried at Inverey. One old lady, who died a few years ago, told me that her grandmother had seen the procession.

The other posthumous exploit of the Colonel was of a nature somewhat similar, and occurred only some six years ago. A travelling or beggar woman was found drowned near the Linn of Dee; and as the weather was very stormy, it was necessary to bury her in the nearest churchyard, or Inverey. Whether it was that the stone had been removed, or that no stone had marked the spot where the Colonel lay, I do not know, but it so happened that the grave which they opened was that of the Colonel. This they knew by the remains of the plate, etc. etc., which they found in it.

Two of the young men present, though forbidden by the others, took some of the Colonel’s teeth by way of memento. The night after this, the sister of one of these young men—who, it is said, knew nothing of the taking of the teeth—had a visit from an old man who demanded his teeth.

I forget the particulars exactly; but, so far as I remember, the visit to the sister not being effectual, the Colonel called on the delinquents themselves, and continued to do so until they were obliged to go and put the teeth again into the grave whence they took them.

Being somewhat amused with this account, I took some pains when in the locality to ascertain the truth as to the re-interment of the teeth. It really did take place ; but the young men who were the actors in the scene, feeling now somewhat ashamed of the affair, say as little about it as possible.

The death of the Colonel took place about 1700. His son Colonel Peter succeeded him. He was again succeeded by his son Finla, an imbecile. In the next generation the race became extinct.

To bring out more clearly the social usages of the period, I may give the legend explanatory of the peculiar claims the Black Colonel had upon his tenants of Ruigh-an-t-Seillich.

In the chapter regarding the surnames found in Braemar, I noticed a traditional account of the ‘Fir M'Donalds' One of that race acted as gilliestreine or groom to McKenzie, laird ofDalmore. And the laird having on one occasion received an invitation from Grant of Tullochgonmi to be present at the wedding of his daughter, sent this gilliestreine with his excuse, as it was not convenient for him to be present. The marriage did not meet Dalmore s approbation. The reason was that the girl was young, very young, and pretty, while the would-be bridegroom was very old ; but his lands were broad and his purse heavy, and that with his intended father-in-law made up for the lack of everything else.

If Dalmore had any sinister intention in sending M'Donald, who was a very handsome young man, to Speyside, he was not disappointed. A severe snow-storm kept the two young people in perilous proximity for some days ; and before he left Speyside, plans were laid which eventually outwitted Miss Grant’s father and her intended husband.

Dalmore, on his groom’s return, made his way into the heart of the secret, by saying inquiringly, ‘ Pity the lassie should be given to that nasty old bodach.’

‘What say you, laird, if I took her from him yet?’

‘I say you shall have the best farm on the Dalmore if you do.’

‘It’s a bargain, then,’ replied M‘Donald, and set off to get his plans in operation. As M‘Kenzie and Grant were great friends, none of the Dalmore tenants were allowed to render any assistance; but it did not matter. The Black Colonel, whenever he heard of it, supplied as many men as were requisite for ‘the bit fun.’

On the marriage evening M‘Donald and twelve men reached a sheep-cot near Ttillochgorum, where festivities were going on in real Highland style. A stranger made his appearance in the course of the evening, and was, as usual on such occasions, so warmly welcomed, that he soon made himself quite at home. And having asked permission to dance with the bride, he slipped a ring into her hand, for which she had been anxiously looking. It was a token that all was ready.

She contrived to slip away unobserved ; and hastily dressing herself for a journey, made her way as fast as possible to the sheep-cot ; and very soon the whole party were on their way to Braemar. It was a new version of Jock o’ Hazeldean, when the lady was missed. Unfortunately the snow on the ground discovered the secret of the flight ; and the command being given to arm, the whole bridal party set out in pursuit.

By this time the Mar men with their prize were far in advance. But as the snow lay deep on the ground, it was a weary road ; and the lady, quite overcome, was unable to proceed farther. They carried her then by turns, but, despite all they could do, were overtaken at the Derry Dam ; and drawn up on each side of the stream, both parties prepared for battle. But Alastair M'Dougal, the Colonel’s henchman, came forward, and, swinging his ponderous battle-axe round his head, dared the best man among them to cross the ford. M'Donald also came forward, and addressing Tullochgorum, told him that his daughter was with them by her own consent; and though there were an hundred instead of ten to one, it would be better for them to go quietly home than attempt to force a passage across the ford. So the Strathspey party wisely concluded to do so ; and James of the Fir had his marriage celebrated in Braemar on the following morning.

Dalmore, afraid of consequences, refused to fulfil his promise of the farm. But the Black Colonel again came to the rescue, and gave them that of Tomlice at Corriemulzie; and from that time the M'Donalds followed the Invereys.

The first Christmas after this event Dalmore spent with his ally, Grant of Tullochgorum. The succeeding one Grant came to spend at Dalmore; and when about to leave for Strathspey, M'Kenzie said he would surely never think of going home without seeing his daughter.

'A daughter,’ he replied, ‘that brought shame on her fathers house little deserves a visit from Tulloch-gorum.’ .

‘Toots, man! I carry my head as high as Tullochgorum, yet visit her, and so does Inverey.’ And finally M‘Kenzie prevailed. The Black Colonel, hoping that Grant would be induced to visit his I daughter, had supplied them liberally with all that I would be necessary to give him a worthy reception. Mrs. McDonald, thus prepared, was ready to welcome them in.

‘A fine trick was that you played us, my lady,’ was Tullochgorum’s salutation. His daughter made no reply; but handing her little boy to Dalmore, she went out for her husband. M‘Kenzie quickly transferred his charge to the grandfather’s knee. The right chord was touched; and when the son-in-law appeared, a complete reconciliation was effected.

The Colonel, who had been on the watch, soon dropped in, and the day was made one of great festivity. Before they parted, it was agreed that the Colonel was to give them the farm of Ruigh-an-t-Seillich in Glen Ey; and Grant was to stock it well with sheep and cattle. Hence the claim the Colonel could make on the M'Donalds for a shelter to his favourite after the burning of the castle.

There are a multitude of other collateral traditions ; but as a fair sample has been given in that respecting the abduction of Miss Grant, it is needless to multiply them. I will therefore only give, ere passing to the last great epoch in Braemar history (the risings of 1715 and 1745), the traditional account of the M'Kenzies of Dalmore.

The origin of the family and their settlement in Braemar has been already given in a former chapter. It will be observed that there is a discrepance between the traditions which state that Dalmore was the gift of James IV., and that which makes Kenneth M'Kenzie shepherd to Invercauld, and Dalmore the gift of Finla when Kenneth married his daughter. This difficulty I cannot explain, unless perhaps the king and Finla had settled it on the occasion of the incognito visit before mentioned. The fact, however, is certain, that Beatrix Farquharson and Kenneth M'Kenzie settled down on the place now known as Mar Lodge, their descendants possessing the estate until a little before the rebellion of 1745, when it was sold to Duff of Braco, for, it is said, the trifling sum of two thousand pounds.

M'Coinnich Mor na Dalach, who went to the rescue at the Caimwell' was the son and successor of Kenneth ; Big M‘Kenzie was again succeeded by his son John, and John by a second Kenneth, who died about 1710. His successor, Seumas Mor na pluice, and two of his sons, were killed by the Katrin in Glen Ey about 1725. The next and last laird of the Dalmore was Donald M‘Kenzie, who sold his estates to the Duffs.

In the time of Seumas Mor na pluice, who was contemporary with Peter, son of the Black Colonel, occurred the stormy rising of 1715, which with that of ‘’45/ 30 years later, form a distinct period in Braemar history, from the important changes to which it gave rise. To some details of these risings, but especially the changes consequent on them, the following chapters will be devoted.

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