Lachlan Shaw.

The history of the province of Moray. Comprising the counties of Elgin and Nairn, the greater part of the county of Inverness and a portion of the county of Banff,--all called the province of Moray before there was a division into counties online

. (page 27 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

phersons.] B. G.. (The Neiu Monthly Magazine, I., 142.
London, 1821. Also The Book of the Chronicles of Keith,
&c., pp. 37, 43). (Ed.)


[Sitaation, Soil, Climate. — The Spey, on quitting the
parish of Laggan, winds, in a variety of beautiful curves,
through a level fertile meadow, intersecting the parish for
its whole length, nearly 17 miles, to its extremity at the
east. Its breadth from the banks of the river extends to
either hand almost 10 miles; but of this extent the
vicinity only of the river, and the valleys along its tribu-
tary streams, are inhabited, the rest being a wilderness of
mountain pasturage, where a few huts are thinly scattered,
for the accommodation of those tending cattle in .summer.
These mountains extend southward to the banks of the
Tay, and northward by the sources of the Findern, in the
parish of Moy and Dalarossie, to the lake and the river of
Ness. The name in its literal import signifies the head
of the fir- wood ; but the firs have retired to such a
distance that it has lost all right to that appellation.
There are, however, several aller and willow trees inter-
spersed on the banks of the Spey ; and though parts of
the rising grounds on the south are clothed in natui-al
groves of birch and hazel, yet the country in general
appears destitute of wood. The River Truim separates
the south side of the })arish from Laggan at the west ;
and the Feshie, holding a course nearly parallel for ]5
miles through the Grampian Hills, forms its boundary on
the east. The extent between these is divided by the
Tromie nearly into equal parts ; but holding a shorter
course its stream is proportionally less, yet larger than
the Gynag and Calder, considerable brooks sent into Spey
from the north. From the windings of the river in the
meadows of Ivinguisie, it may be inferred that its noted
rapidity takes place only in a linver part of its course.
The alluvion of Feshie, therefore, in an era extremely
remote, has deposited a bed of gravel at its influx, which
has expanded the Spey into a lake called Loch Inch,
about a mile in breadth, and almost two in length,
which, with all the rivers that have been mentioned,
contains trout and pike, salmon, and charr. Some years
ago, the proprietors concerned in tli(^ lake laid out almost


£500 in making a cut through this bar, but through
want of sufficient declivity in the ground the draining of
the lake misgave, but the regurgitation at each swell of
the river ixpon the meadows, about its western end, has
been in a great measure by this means taken oft'. The
soil in the meadows is sandy slime, the sediment of the
water, incumbent on a light loam, which rests on a bed
of clay ; and in the higher grounds it is also in general a
light loam, with a mixture of sand. This district, how-
ever, is but little adapted for the production of grain.
Storms are frequent in every season, and frosts are
uncommonly intense ; they begin early in autumn and
continue late in the spring ; and heavy falls of rains are
frequent in the harvest months, so that the crops are
always uncertain. From the great elevation of the
country above the level of the sea the climate is naturally
cold, and though from this it might be regarded as healthy,
yet the low meadow grounds have so little declivity that
every flood overflows them ; the stagnation of the water
renders them swampy, and produces noxious vapours.
Hence rheumatisms, consumptions, and their kindred
complaints, are frequent.

State of Proi^erty, — The parish is possessed by 6 pro-
prietors. The only family seat is that of William Afac-
pherson, Esq., of Invereshie, pleasantly situated on a
rising ground, near the skirt of a wood above Loch Inch,
and, as its name imports, at the influx of the Feshie into
the Spey. His valued rent in the parish, including Killy-
huntly and Ballnespick, is £G91.

Clunie, Benchar, and Invernahaven, on the banks of
the Spey, with Phoiness and Eterish on those of the
Truim, the estate of James Macpherson of Belville, Esq.,
amount to the valued rent of £461 18s. 4d. Scots. Land
in the district of Lich appertaining to Mackintosh of
Mackintosh, amounts to £160 Scots. Major George
Gordon's estate of Invertromie is £80 Scots. (^olonel
Macpherson of Cluuy has the lands of Noods and Bialled-
beg, £273 6s. 8d. And the rest of the parish appertains
to the Duke of Gordon, valued at £1,763 ; making the
whole valuation of the parish equal to £3,929 Scots.

The cultivated farms are in general of inconsiderable
extent, and the habitations mean, black, earthen hovels,
darkened by smoke, and dripping upon every showoi'.


Barley, oats, rye, and potatoe are the produce of the culti-
vated ground, but the quantity obtained is not sufficient
for the support of the inhabitants. Black cattle is their
primary object, for the payment of their rents and for
other necessaries. The whole number of sheep does not
exceed 7,000 : part of them, and of their wool, with a few
guats and horses reared in the hills, are also sold. Black-
smiths and weavers excepted, there are few mechanics of
any kind ; there being no village, they have no centre of
traffic nor place of common resort, so that a variety of
necessaries must be brought from the distance of more
than forty miles. The wool which might be manufactured
in the country must be sent by a long laud-carriage to
buyers invited from another kingdom; and Hax, which
might prove a source of wealth to both landlord and
tenant, must be neglected, because people skilled in the
various process of its manufacture are not collected into
one neighbourhood.

State Ecclesiastical. — Upon the establishment of the
Presbyterian government, the Presbyteries of Elgin,
Aberlour, and Abernethy made only one. In the yeai-
1707 Elgin was disjoined, and in two years thereafter the
other two were also separated into their present inde])en-
dent jurisdictions; and, in the present arrangement, Kin-
guisich makes the first ])arish in the Presbytery of Aber-
nethy. The stipend, lately augmented, is £100 sterling.
The rent of the glebe is £12, and as there is no manse the
landlords pay £15 sterling for the hire of a house to the
minister, who resides on a commodious farm at a littk'
distance from the church, which has been lately rebuilt
in a very neat and handsome fashion. The right of
patronage ajipertains to the Duke of Gordon. The salary
of the school is £11 6s. Sd. sterling and £'1 as clerk of the
session, with the concomitant fees, and the perquisites of
that office ; the number of scholars varies li-oni 20 to -50.
The poor on the parish roll amount to more than .")0, and
the only })rovision for their necessities is the contributions
of the people in their assemblies for social worship. They
are all of the national Church, amounting to the number
of 1,8013 souls.

Miscellaneous Info nitation. — There are some Druid cir-
cles, which bear testimony of the many generations which
have succeeded each other in this part of the countr\-.


The remains of the Roman encampment, the green
mount on which the ruins of the barrack remain, rises on
a marshy plain to the height of 60 feet, the area of its
summit measures 860 by 180 feet. It is supposed to be
wholly artificial, and some of the old people mention that
on sinking the well within the barrack, planks of wood
were found laid across each other at equal distances from
near the surface to the base. It was originally the situa-
tion of the Castle of Ruthven, the seat of the Cumings,
Lords of Badenach. After the rebellion, in the year
1715, it was purchased by Government, and a spacious
handsome barrack was erected, consisting of two buildings
placed parallel, and two bastions in the diagonal angles,
connected by the ramparts ; it could have accommodated
2 companies of men and several horses. The party
quartered here joined General Cope on his route to Inver-
ness in August, 1745, leaving only Serjeant Molloy and a
dozen men, who, in September thereafter, maintained the
barrack against 200 rebels, for which gallant defence he
was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. In February,
1746, being again besieged by 300, under General Gordon
of Glenbucket, and some cannon, for 3 days he made such
a good defence as procured the most honourable capitula-
tion; the buildings were then destroyed by fire, and its
desolated walls now only remain.

Several years ago a mine was opened, where some
pieces of very rich silver ore were dug up, but no attempt
has been made to ascertain whether it be worth working
or not.

The people are in general distinguished by their
moderation in religious opinions. In.stances of theft are
very uncommon, more flagrant crimes are now unknown.
They are brave but quarrelsome, they are hospitable but
addicted to drunkenness, they are polite but little to be
depended on for the sincerity of their professions. Their
genius is more inclined to martial enterprise than to the
assiduous industry and diligent labour requisite to carry
on the arts of civil life.] (Survey of the Province of


Lieth on the head of the river Spey, and
extendeth on both sides of the river, about 10


miles in length. In the north end it is about
4 miles broad, besides Delwhinny that is 2 miles
in the hill of Drimiochter.

On the west side of the river, 6 miles above
Kingnsie, stood the fine modern house of Clunie,
which was burnt in 1746 ; and the estate of
Clunie forfeited, by the Clan-Act, to the Duke of
Gordon superior.

Six miles above Clunie is Garva, at the foot of
the hill Coryerack, where the military road lead-
eth to Fort Augustus. At Garva there is a
stone bridge over Spey, and bej'ond it there is
no land inhabited on the west side of the river,
which hath a course of about 8 miles further into
the hills.

On the east side of the river, 6 miles above the
water of Truim, is Strathmasie, the heritage of
MacPherson of Strathmasie. And here the nwi-
let of Massie falleth into Spey.

Four miles fai-ther south is Laggan, likewise
Aberarder, and other lands pertaining to the
Laird of Macintosh, and Galagie pertaining to
the Laird of Grant.

All the rest of the parish is the property of the
Duke of Gordon. The Church of Laggan stand-
eth here at the north end of Loch Laggan. But
as this is beyond the bounds of the Province of
Moray, and the river of Spean issuing out of
Loch Laggan runneth into Lochaber, I here
break off.



Is about 10 miles long, and apparently a mile in general
breadth. It is embosomed among mountains, the declivi-
ties of which are for the most part covered to the water's
edge with birch, intermingled with a large proportion of
alder, rowan-tree, aspen, and hazel, the latter peeuliarh-
remarkable for its uncommon size. All are grey with age.
On the south side two small islands are seen, with ruins
almost crumbled down to the water's edge. The one is
called Castle Fergus, also Eilean an Righ (King's Island),
which, though it may have been occupied by the Lairds
of Cluny, has its erection ascribed to the first of our
Scottish kings, Fergus, who used this as a hunting-seat.
Several of these early monarchs are said to have been
buried here. The adjacent isle, Eielean nan con (Dog's
Island), is said to have been Fergus' dog-kennel ; and the
height to the south, in front of which the Marquis of
Abercorn erected in 1886 a large and beautiful shooting-
lodge, is called Ardverkie or Fergus hill. Here Queen
Victoria, and Prince Albert, and the Royal Family, quar-
tered part of the autumn of 1847.

Lord Henry Bentinck, as assignee of the Marquis of
Abercorn, rents these extensive wilds, including Loch
Errocht side, as a deer-forest, from Cluny-Macpherson.
A small lake intermediate between the loch just men-
tioned and Loch Laggan, and which throws into the latter,
at its east end, the river Pattoch, is the true summit-
level of the country. It thus stands above all the other
lakes which contribute to the waters of the Tay, Spey,
and Spean. While standing on any of the heights here-
abouts, the traveller cannot but remark the evidences of
the former submergence of the country under the sea;
and also perceive how distinct the central chains of gneiss
and mica-schist mountains are, from the group of higher
and rougher Alps which bend away towards Ben Nevis
and Gleucoe. Fine white and blue granular limestone
abounds all along Loch Laggan and the neighbouring
ridges; and hence the fertility of which is gradually
stealing over the brown wastes.

S. Killens Church, The " little aul' Kirk of Laggan," is
worth notice. Besides a very small altar-stone, it has two
little side-altars, under rounded arches. At the south

296 THE aul' kirk o' laggan.

entrance is a large round granite baptismal font, capable
of immersing the infants. In the oldest version of the
ballad, of " Sir James the Rose," founded on fact, reference
is made to the churchj^ard of Laggan. The doorway is
not 3 ft. wide, and in both sides there is a grove, as if it
had been closed in the manner of a portcullis, and a hole
in each side may have been for the reception of a wooden
bar. Near one side of the door is an eyelit or oilct, for

Mrs. Grant, Laggan, a graceful authoress, favourably
known to the public of last generation, by her " Letters
from the mountains," and other captivating literature, and
whose domicile in her w^idowhood was a favourite rendez-
vous for the literati of Edinburgh, was the wife of Rev.
James Grant, minister of Laggan, 1775-18()L (Ed.)

[Sitiiation, Soil, Climate. — Although this parish be the
highest in Scotland, in its elevation above the level of the
sea, yet its Gaelic name, properly na-lac, signifies the
hollow, expressing the appearance of the face of the
country, composed of deep and narrow valleys. It is
separated from the parish of Boleskin on the north, by a
vast and lofty ridge of almost inaccessible rock, named
mo7iuleie, the grey mountain. From that quarter, there-
fore, it can only be approached by the military road from
Fort Augustus to Stirling, which forms the continuation
of the boundary of the province on the west. It is con-
ducted over the mountain of Corryarioch to the inn of
Garvamore, the ferthest and most westerly habitation
within the limits of the province. The road is formed
along the western bank of the river Tarff, across its
sources, to the summit of Corryarioch, towering far be-
yond, and above many an intermediate height. The
road winds through stately trees in the deep groves of
Inverisha, which are terminated, as the vallej^ rises into the
mountain, by lofty naked cliffs of picturesque and varied
form. A number of torrents, streaming from the higher
parts of the mountain, is poured with impetuosity over
the precipice, and dashing down from shelve to shelve,
broken with all the wild varieties of the rock, and foam-
ing in their fall, exhibit some of the most romantic cas-
cades that can be imagined. Some venerable pines wave


among the rocks, seeming to watch over the incessant
murmur of the torrents as they hasten their confluence to
the central rivulet, the farthest branch of the deep-roaring
Spey ; while wreaths of birch adorn the more gentle
declivities, where the foundation of the precipices have
shot into the bottom of the glen. The summit of the
mountain, attracting many heavy volumes of mist, is
generally involved in clouds, which the Alpine blast rolls
down in condensing fogs around the lower hills, with the
chilling cold and penetrating damp of sleety rain, mingled
with snow ; deeply impressing all the terrors of this
dreary, though elevated solitude. If the summit can be
attained with an unclouded sky, the landscape is immense
and transportingly sublime. The whole horizon around
is an arrangement of distant mountains, far beyond all
possible enumeration, immeasurably extended to the West-
ern Isles, and to the eastern shore. Some tracts of country
are generally conceived by intermediate clouds, through
which the more lofty hills raise their dun heads like
islands in the deep, giving a noble expression to the
immense extent of the lower world around, exhibiting a
scene of boundless magnificence, lighted up under an
azure heaven, and basking in the blaze of meridian day,
enchanting for a time the mind, while it shares in the
sublimity of a prospect, partaking so much of infinitude,
and impressing the admiring imagination with its rela-
tion to the universe, without boundary and without end.
The descent is more immediately precipitous in 17
traverses cut across the eastern face of the mountain to
its bottom : at which the Spey having collected its infant
streams into a fair but inconsiderable lake, winds east-
wards in growing majesty, progressive towards the Ger-
man ocean ; receiving from the Grampian mountains on
the south, the river Masie, about the middle of the parish:
which is bounded by the similar course of the Truim,
from Drumuachter, at the east.

Parallel to the Masie, at the distance of 2 miles,
the river Pattach holds an opposite course, towards the
great lake of Lochlaggan ; the environs of which form a
separate district in the south-west extremity of the
parish. The lake is of great depth, with bold rocky
shores rising into rocky mountains. Coill-more, the
sreat wood, the most considerable remain of the Cale-


donian forest, extends 5 miles along its southern side ; the
scone of many historical traditions: its waters, abounding
with charr, and various kinds of trout, are discharged by
the river Spean into the Atlantic ocean near Fort Wil-
liam. There are several smaller lakes : one bears the
appellation of loch-na-ri;jh, the king's lake ; all of them
stored with large black trout of the most delicate kind.

The air, though generally moist and cold, is, upon the
whole, pure and healthful. The climate is extremely
variable, exhibiting a difference strikingly perceptible at
the distance of each 2 or 3 miles : it is often rain on one
side of the river, while it is dry on the other.

The soil along the banks of the river, though rich, deep,
and capable of producing as weighty crops as in the king-
dom, is however but little productive, from the destructive
influence of inundation, mildew, and frost. The higher
lands on the declivities, although stony, produce more
certain crops than the meadows on the plain, being ripened
more early by the reflection of the sun from the rocks.
The lauds in the district of Lochlaggan, though higher,
and in a climate still wetter than the banks of the Spey,
are less liable to mildew and frost, from their being laid
upon a bed of lime-stone rock.

State of Property. — The Duke of Gordon, and Colonel
Macpherson of Cluny, possess the parish : the valued rent
appertaining to his Grace is £1202 9d., and that to the
Colonel is £599 Scots. The land is occupied partly by
gentlemen, holding farms from £30 to £100 sterling of
rent, and by shepherds, who hold sheep-farms of from £30
to £190 sterling of rent: the lower and most numerous
class of tenants are the people, whose rents vary only
from about £3 to £Q sterling. The rent of land, in
general, seems to be on the rise: but the sheep-farms only
seem capable of bearing any considerable advance ; al-
though the value of such farms depend so much on the
seasons, and on the markets, yet a high idea of their value
is in general entertained : in the sj)ace only of a dozen
years, the rent of one has advanced from £30 to £190. The
sheep-farms are all on the estate of Cluny, and exceed not
the number of 5 : they at present support about 12,000.
The other farms, stocked with black cattle, sheep, and
horses, support about 2000 sheep, IGOO cattle, and horses
barely sufficient for labouring the ground. The best


wedders sell at from 12s. to 16s.; those belonging to the
poorer tenants, from 7s. to 9s.; wool unwashed sells about
8s. the stone; smeared wool, about 5s.; cows bring from
£4 to £6 ; steers from £3 to £4 ; and horses of a small
but hardy breed from £5 to £G. The mean quantity of
meal produced in a temperate year is about 2450 bolls ;
but that is not sufficient for the support of the inhabi-
tants. Only one-third of that quantity was produced by
the crop of 1782. The advantage of enclosures, and the
comfort of commodious habitations, are now perceived ;
and the tenants, at their removal, are allowed the value
of the dykes and buildings on their respective farms.
There are in the parish 7 tailors, 6 weavers, 8 carpenters,
3 masons, and 1 blacksmith, but no shoemaker regularly
bred : the common people make their own shoes.

State Ecclesiastical. — The minister occupies a commo-
dious farm, on the estate of the Duke of Gordon, near the
Church, which was rebuilt in a central situation in the
year 1785. The glebe is let for £12 of rent; and £20 is
allowed by the proprietors for the parsonage buildings.
The right of patronage appertains to the Duke of Gordon.
The stipend, which is £70 sterling, is said to exhaust the
tithes; but the proprietors of late, from personal regard to
Mr. Grant, have promised to make it £100 during the
remainder of his incumbency. The parochial school in
the midst of the parish is an appointment of XIG 13s. 4d.
sterling, with the customary fees and perquisites of office:
the number of scholars from 50 to 80. The Society for
propagating Christian Knowledge maintain two schools
in the western wings of the parish. The provision for
the poor arises only from the contributions of the people
when in Church. The members of the National Estab-
lishment are 12G2 ; and 250 of the Church of Rome.

Miscellaneous Information. — In the midst of the Coill-
more is a place distinguished by the name of the ard
merigie, the height for rearing the standard. It has been
held sacred from remote antiquity, as the burial-place of
7 Caledonian kings ; who, according to tradition, lived
about the period when the Scots, driven northward of the
Tay by the Picts, held their seat of government at Dun-
keld. It is likewise, by tradition, represented as a distin-
guished place for hunting : and it abounded in deer and
roe till they were lately expelled by the introduction of

800 ST. Kenneth's chapel, loch laggan.

sheep, -with whom they never mingle. The kings, it is
said, and their retinue, hunted on the banks of the lake
for the greater part of almost every summer: which is
rendered probable by its vicinity to the parallel roads of
Glenroy which must have been formed solely for the
purpose of betraying the game into an impassable recess,
and could not have been executed but by the influence
of some of the first consequence and power in the State.

In the lake are two neighbouring islands : on the
largest, the walls remain of a very ancient building, com-
posed of round stone laid in mortar, untouched by the
mason's hammer. Here their Majesties rested from the
chase secure, and feasted on the game. The other, named
ellan-na-kwne, the island of dogs, was appropriated for the
accommodation of the hounds; and the walls of their
kennel, of similar workmanship, also remain.

Near the midst of the parish is a rock SOO feet of
perpendicular height: the area on the summit, 500 by
250 feet, is of very difficult access, exhibiting considerable
remains of fortification ; the wall, about 9 feet thick, built
on both its sides with large flag-stones without mortar.

Near the eastern end of Lochlaggan, the venerable
ruins of St. Kenneth's Chapel remain^in the midst of its
own consecrated burying-ground, which is still devoutly
j>referred to the other.] (Survey of the Province of

Having run over the valley of Spey that
covereth the whole Province, I now return to
the mouth of that river, to describe the Low
Country : And begin with


Extendeth in length, 4^ miles from the sea
southward on the bank of the river, and generally
it is but half a mile broad, except the south end
that is a mile in breadth.

The Church standeth near the river, over
against the Church of Bcllie, and about half a


mile west from it ; 3 miles east from CJrquhart,
and 3 J miles north from Dimdurcos.