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

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Online LibraryLachlan ShawThe 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 text (page 5 of 37)
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from its superior richness or from the more civilized and
less warlike state of its inhabitants, frequently the prey
of thievish marauders. Indeed, Moray-land was pro-
verbial as a region wdiere every Highland kateran sought
his prey. In the Rental of the church lands in the year
15G5 we find no admixture of Highland names,* but, on

*Xame3 from the lieidal of the Bishoprick of Moray, 1565,
in the Baronies of Spynie, Kiuedar, Birney, RafibrJ.





The following yames seem





noip ujicommon or di.i-










Gcnot Lesk





Yeman Puggat





Brabanere (Bremnor)





Glatswrycht Muldonycht





GillemicheU Weland














111 the baronies of Arclauch,





the few names are Ross and





Rose ; in Keith, Ogilvie, Gor-





don, and liuntlv; in Kilniyles,





Fraser; in Strathspey, Grant.

The ancient names of places remain much the same to tlie
present time, not^vithstandi^lg the change; of spelling and slight
ciiauge in pronunciation. TuUibarden is a name which fre-
(juently occurs in the Claarters ; the situation is described as
lying south-east of the Lossie, and is no doubt the Barden of


the contrary, such as are purely of Lowland origin, and
common around Elgin at the present day. It was not
till comparatively recent times that the declining feuds
of inveterate warfare and the prejudices of clanship per-
mitted of an admixture with the neighbouring Gordons,
Grants, or MThersons.

The Lowland situation of Moray, joined to the amenity
of its soil and climate, must have pointed it out as a
desirable locality for our first religious establishments.
It was early visited by the Culdees. .Subsequently, about
the beginning of the 11th century, numerous religious
establishments from Italy planted the Roman religion in
the Province, and, from that period till the Reformation,.
the Church engrossed the chief sway, and held extensive
possessions in the district. A bishoprick was established
about the year 1100. The Abbey of Kinloss, and the
Priories of Urquhart, Pluscarden, and Kingussie, besides
several other religious houses and hospitals, quickly
followed, and the Province was regularly subdivided into
parishes, and churches or chapels were erected in each.

But, if our records of the early history of the Province
be meagre and unsatisfactory, it may not be uninteresting
to look back upon the state of the county a century ago ;.
and, by drawing a picture, for which materials are not
wanting, set it in contrast with the existing state of
things. In this way, the rapid progress of recent improve-
ment will be brought more vividly under view.

At a remote period the greater part of the plain of
Moray was covered with ancient forests of native growth,
and these were dense and luxuriant in proportion to the
fertility of the valle^^s. We have proof of this in the
large trunks of oaks and pines still imbedded in our
mosses, and in the channels of many of our streams. In
the Black Burn or Lochty, near its junction with the
Lossie, many large oak -trunks may still be seen lodged

the present farm so called. These lands belonged to an offset
from the ancient family of De Moravia, conjectured to be of
Flemish origin, and either gave to, or derived tlie name from,
the Tullibardens of Perthshire. The Morays of Abercairney
are also a branch of the same family, from which stock also
sprung the noble family of Sutherland, and, in all probability,
the famed Douglas, which afterwards, transported to the south,
of Scotland, became so conspicuous in its warlike ainials.
VOL, I. ;j


in the mud of its channel, and these undoubtedly had
belonged to the " Sylvce Caledonia" of ancient historians.
When cultivation began, it was on the upper sloj^es of
uur hills, in the most accessible and securest positions,
when as yet wolves and other wild animals possessed the
valleys. Ridges indicating this early cultivation are still
visible, but such un)-)roductive spots were gradually for-
saken, as the lower grounds were burned and cleared of
their thickets. At first, no doubt, pasturage was more
practised than tillage, but latterly a comjiaratively larger
([uantity of grain was raised in proportion to the number
or wants of the inhabitants ; but a mere fraction in respect
to what the art and enterprise of modern times can pro-
duce from the soil. Wheat is mentioned by the early
historians as not uncommon in the county ; but, we
suspect, it became less plentiful at a subsequent period,
oats and barley being the chief grains raised. The land
was formerly portioned out into mailens, crofts, and small
farms, and leases to any extent were by no means general.
There was neither capital nor enterprise among the
tenants to carry on the extensive farming concerns now
so common. A number of those small tenants congregated
together in villages, such as those of Ur(][uhart, Duflus,
the Keam, Alves, kc. The arable land around these
was portioned out into small strips or ridges, of which
each one shared alternately. Their respective flocks and
cattle all pastured together on their commons ; and when
their crops were taken off the fields the whole range of
country was laid open to the community. This ar)-ange-
ment, which still prevails on some parts of the Continent,
was, no doubt, first adopted on a princijile of self-protec-
tion, as well as sociability, during a rude and turbulent
state of society ; but it was the worst possible for the
purposes of an active and efficient agriculture. In those
periods green crops, artificial grasses, and all those pro-
visions for winter sustenance, were almost entirely un-
known. The animals destined for winter food were
slaughtered in the end of the year and used as salt
provisions ; while, in severe winters, it was with con-
^siderable difficulty that the remaining stock was kept
alive. In spring they were so lean and exhausted that
they had frequently to be lifted up from the ground and
led to the pastures. Hence a general phrase for lean and



poor animals was that they were " at the lifting." The
agricultural implements were of" the most rude and
primitive description. A simple ])loughshare, with a
very inartificial adjustment of its })arts, to which were
yoked four, and often six, cattle, with one or two drivers,
and a ploughman to guide the whole, creeped like a snail
through the field, and did little more than scratch up
the weed-bouud surface. The immatured and unmixed
manure was scattered about very sparingly; the seed,
without much regard to selection, was deposited, and a
few scrapes of a light harrow finished the process. The
simple pannier, borne on the horse's back, began to give
way, as roads improved, to the slede, or sledge, and the
kelloch. The former was a rudely constructed frame of
wood, dragged without wheels on the ground ; the latter
was a similar frame mounted on wheels, which were often
composed of two semicircles of solid board, joined in the
middle, and fixed into an axle which revolved in two
hoops of wood attached to the bottom of the frame.
Upon this mounted framework was fixed a conical wicker
basket, capable of holding about a third of a modern cart
load. The accompanying harness, which was generally
of home manufacture, consisted of hemp or horse hair
ropes, thongs of half tanned hides, and twisted straw —
the whole knotted together and tied to wooden pins.
The exertions of man and beast were much in accordance
with the primitive nature of their adjustments. The
labours of the field were pursued with much coolness and
deliberation. A few hours of work in the summer morn-
ing (for they allowed the spring almost to elapse before
they commenced), and a hearty breakfast, prepared them
for a long sleep during the hottest part of the da}^ when
tlieir work was again resumed in the evening, if nothing
more interesting came in the way. Yet, with all this
freedom from hard work, the daily comforts of the general
population were not upon that sumptuous scale which
would excite the envy of the present day. They had
heavy contributions to pay out of their scanty incoming.s.
The lords of the soil and the claims of the Church were
both to be satisfied. Notwithstanding the fertility of the
Province, famines fi'om inclement seasons were by no
means unfrequent. The year 1743, or the " dear year," is
memorable in ]Moray, as well as over all Scotland. In


the summer of that year, in consequence of the failure
of the previous harvest, thousands of destitute beings
wandered among the fields in search of whatever could
satiate the famishing demands of hunger, devouring sorrel
and other wild plants, aud the leaves and stems of the
yet unfilled peas and beans. Many perished from abso-
lute want, and more from consequent disease and debility.
A grievous scarcity occurred even so late as 1782, the
memorable year of the " frosty har'st." The food of the
peasantry was of the most simple nature. Wheaten
bread, except among the gentry in towns, was a rarity
seldom seen. Oat, rye, barley, and pease bread wei'e the
chief staples of existence. Cultivated vegetables were
also rare throughout the county. As yet the inestimable
potato had not become a general article of culture. This
root was introduced into Scotland about the year 1728,
but only began to be generally cultivated in Mora3'shire
about the middle of last century. It is a connnon tradi-
tion that kail and cabbage were introduced into the north
of Scotland by the soldiers of Cromwell, and Dr. Johnson
shrewdly remarks that, supposing this to be true, it is
diflicult to conceive what the people had to eat before
this time. But, besides that the kail plant (Bras><lca)
is indigenous to Scotland, we suspect that the Saxon
emigrants were long before that period acquainted with
the culture and use of a vegetable so much prized in
their native countrj". It is quite true, however, that
even kail-yards were a rarity among our peasantry so
late as half a century ago. A farmer then, and even long
afterwards, deemed it below his notice to cultivate a
garden. A variety of weeds and herbs from the fields,,
among which were the savoury mugwort and nettle,
were usually collected to add a relish to their oatmeal
soups. Unskinned peas boiled into a soup were also a
favourite dish in some parts of the county. Sowins, or
oatmeal bran fermented to a slight degree of acidity,
forjned then a universal dish, and is peculiar as a regular
article of food to the northern parts of Scotland. Sour
cakes of a similar composition as sowins, with aromatic
seeds, were also an essential luxury at Christmas feasts.

Bees must have hocn cultivated to some extent in the
county, especially in the neighbourhood of towns, for we
find " ane stane of wax " as the entry fee of a burgess of


Elgin in 1540, and "ane pund of wax to St. Giles' wake "
as a fine imposed on a common culprit. Meal-mills were
not so general, or so cheap, or convenient, as on all occa-
sions to allow the ancient quern to be altogether dispensed
with. Pot-barley was prepared by first softening it in
water and then beating off* the husks in a hollow stone,
using for this purpose a wooden mallet. This was gene-
rally the operation of a Saturday night, as the delicacy
was one peculiar to a Sunday dinner. As rents and
Church contributions were paid in kind, we suspect few
•of the live stock or their productions were consumed at
home. Milk, even, was a rarity, except for a few months
in summer. Home-made beer among the more wealthy
supplied its place. Fish were an occasional luxury. But
shoals of herrings were as yet permitted to swarm around
the coasts without being turned to an}^ account. Dried
fish were eaten with home-grown mustard, bruised by the
revolution of a stone bullet in a wooden box. After the
county was denuded of its woods, peat became the chief
article of fuel, the importation of coal being of rare
occurrence. From the low countries of Duffus and
Drainie an annual expedition was made to the hills,
consisting of all the youth of the district, with their
horses and conveyances, in order to bring home heather
for winter fuel ; and few families considered their domestic
arrangements complete, without a snug stock of this article
laid up for the season. In return for this visit, the
natives of the hills made an annual pilgrimage to the
seaside at the period of Lammas-tide, when the waters of
the ocean were supposed to possess a peculiar medicinal
efiicac3^ Almost all the clothing of the country people
was the product of their own llocks and fields. Wool
was spun and manufactured at home, and dj^ed mostly
with the roots and herbs of the district. And flax was
raised in their fields and converted into liuen. The dress
of the people was very simple and unvaried. A light
blue or gray cloth, or "hodden grey," was the universal
material. Short knee-breeches and long stockings, in
•cold weather surmounted by boot-hose, a long or short
coat, according to circumstances, and a broad flat blue
bonnet, with a red "tap," formed the equipment. The long
dress coats were of an ample size and unvaried cut, with
huge round brass buttons curiously ornamented. Such a


coat lasted sometimes for two or three genenitious, and a
■' well-hained " one of this description may even yet be seen
occasionally at kirk or market, forming a singular con-
trast to the modern fashions. The females also dressed
plainly in home manufacture, and wore the high muslin
mutch, or the flat toy, the originals of both of Avhich are
still common among the Norman and Flemish peasantry.
The modern sub-divisions of labour were then much less
practised than at present. The first pair of bellows intro-
duced into the Keam of Duffus was looked on as a rarity,
and often, on loan, made the round of the whole village.
A long wooden tube, with a bore through the centre, by
which the tire was blown upon from the mouth, had long
})reviously been applied by the more ingenious part of
the population as a substitute. On the whole, if there
was not the unceasing activity, and intelligence, and
bustle of the present day, there was a simplicity, and an
undisturbed uniformity of existence, the actual amount
of enjoyment between which two conditions w^e leave
philosophers to determine.

In their seasons of festivity, the stated periods of which
were at Christmas, the New Year, Halloween, and at
their weddings, baptisms, and, however incongruous, even
at funerals, they held f(^rmal feasts, and gave themselves
up to the pleasures of eating and drinking. In Avinter,
matches of football were favourite amusements.

Sir Kobert Gordon writes as if, in his time, they were
rather addicted to the pleasures of the bottle ; this,
perhaps, they may have inherited along with their Scan-
dinavian descent : but it was the fault of former times,
not, we hope of the ])resent. " In the low lands," says
this author, " along the coast, the natives suffer inconveni-
ence from the want of turf or fuel, which is the only
hardship experienced by that happy region, and that is
only felt in a few ])laces. It nnist be owned that they
generally counteract the cold by hard drinking, but those
who exert themselves industriously in the hibours of
agriculture little feel or care for it." And again he
remarks — " The drink of these provinces is beer, either
with hops, or more commonly without hops, after the old
manner. There is plenty of foreign wine, and cheap
enough, in all the towns. I remember when I was a
boy, on my way home from Paris, finding wine at Rouen


much dearer than it sold, a few months afterwards, on
the Moray coast. Both had been brought from Bordeaux,
but the difference was caused by the lowness of our duty.
But besides wine they have their native liquor, called
aqua vltce, and when that is to be had, which is seldom
wanting, they reject even the most generous wines.
This liquor is distilled from beer mixed with aromatic
plants. It is made almost everywhere, and in such
abundance that there is plenty for all. They swallow
it in great draughts, to the astonishment of strangers,
for it is excessively strong. Even the better classes are
intemperate, and the women are not free from this dis-
grace. Travelling in the depth of winter, in the severest
cold, fortified with a jug of this liquor, and a few small
cheeses — for they care little about meat and bread — they
perform immense journeys on foot without inconvenience."

In later times illicit distillation became a great nuisance
in the county and a source of demoralization to thousands
of the lower orders. A change in the excise laws, how-
ever, put an entire stop to this traffic, and the conse-
quence has been that the attention of these smugglers
was diverted from their unlawful and precarious traffic
to the honest culture of the soil, and thus many hitherto
neglected wastes are now smiling in all the richness of
fertile cultivation. The glen of Rothes, the sloping hills
of Kellas, and the upper vale of Pluscarden, are pleasing
examples of this circumstance.

We have no means of ascertaining the population of
the county previous to the census of recent dates. Like
the rest of Scotland, it probably remained long nearly
stationary, or sometimes retrograded. In recent times it
has progressively and greatly increased, notwithstanding
the declamations against new improvements and the
extravagance and enervating luxury of the times.]
(Rhind's Sketches of Moray.)

40 TTOLEMY'S extent of ancient CALEDONIA.




pTOLEMY, speaking of Caledonia (or rather
^ of Sijlva Caledonia), says that it extended
" A Lelalonio Lacn usque ad iEstuarium Var-
aris."* It is generally allowed that, by the
yEstuarium Vararis, is meant tJie Firth of Moray,
and hence some have conjectured that Moray
was anciently called Varara. But it is of the
Firth, not of the country, that Ptolemy speaketh,
and firths were denominated from the rivers that
emptied into them — 2i^JEstuarium Tai,Bodotrics,
GlotcB, the Firths of Tay, Forth, Clyde. Varar,
therefore, must be the name of a river that falleth
into the Firth of Moray, and a river of that name
there is, which enters into the very head of that
Firth. It is now commonly called the Biver of
Beauly, and the Highlanders call it Avon na

* Traiislation — From Loch Fyne as far as to the Firtli of

Beaulv. (Kd.)


Manach, i.e., the Monk's Biver, because the Priory
of Beauly stood on the hauk of it ; but the true
name of it is Farar. It floweth out of Loch
Monar, in the hills of Eoss, and the valley
through v^hich it runneth is called Strathfarar.
Now, the Eomans did, and we do, often change
the digamma F into Y, as in knife, knives; shelf
shelves, &c. Agricola's fleet coasting along
would search every firth and bay, into the head
of it, to know if it communicated with the
Western Sea or not; and having come to the
head of this firth, and finding a river falling into
it called by the natives Farar, they changed the
F into V and called it Varar, and from it they
named the Firth yFstuarium Vararis, but this
gave no name at all to the country.

The only name by which I have found the
country called is Moravia, or Moray. Hector
Boece writes, that, in the 1st century, a colony
from Moravia in Germany settled in this country,
and gave it the name of the country from which
they came. But he did not consider that at that
time the country called Moravia was called
Marcomania, and the inhabitants Marcomani
and Quadi {Tacit, cle Mor. Germ. cap. 42).
Others, finding the word Murejf in some ancient
manuscripts, and Bief, signifying Bent, will have
it called Mtireff, from the abundance of that
grass growing on the sea shore. But, in my
opinion, those have changed the V into F, and


made it Mureff, instead of Murev or Miirav.
The Highlanders call it Murav or Morav, from
the Celtic words Miir or Mor, the sea, and Taohh
or Tav the side, and in construction Morav, i.e.,
tJie sea side. This, I think, is the true notation
of the name, answering to the situation of the
country, hy the side of the sea.


Ptolemy doth not touch this point, nor doth
any ancient writer that I know. I cannot he of
oi^inion that Moravia comprehended no more
than the plain and champaign ground by the sea
side, wliicli is all that is strictly called Moray in
om- day. But I include within the province or
country, as it was before the division of it into
counties or shires, all the plain country by the
sea side, fi'om the mouth of the Eiver Spey to
the Kiver of Farar or Beauly, at the head of the
Firth; and all the valleys, glens, and straths situ-
ated betwixt the Grampian Mountains south of
Badenoch and the Firth of Moray, and which
discharge rivers into that Firth. And I incline
to give the country this large extent for the
reasons following : —

The plain country by the sea side, from Spey
to Ness, is always called Moray, and I see no
reason for extending it eastward beyond the
mouth of Spey ; but that it extended westward
to the River of Beauly is probable, from the


notation of the word Morav; for so far the Firth
extends, and the country taking its name from
the Firth, it is reasonable to extend the one as
far as the other. This is much strengthened by
what we find in Dalryinple' s Collection, p. 199 —
" That King Alexander I. pursued the Moray-
men that conspired against him from Innergoury
over Spey into Murray-land, and at the Stockford
above Beauly passed over to Koss." This fixes
the boundaries both to the east and west, viz.,
the Kivers of Spey and Beauly. The situation
of the country of Boss, northward from Moray,
confirms this. Its name Boss signifieth a penin-
sula, or a head or point of land jutting out between
rivers or firths; and it is the Firth of Moray
with that of Tain that form this peninsula, or Boss.

The bounds by the sea side being thus fixed,
Moray extended towards S.S.W. to the head of
Loch Lochy, on the borders of Lochaber. This
• one observation throweth abundant light on this

Our historians agree that the castle of Urqu-
hart in Moray held out bravely for King David
Bruce against Edward Baliol. This castle did
not stand in Urquhart, near Elgin; for there
are no vestiges of a fort or castle there nor any
tradition that there ever was such a fort. But
on the west bank of Loch Ness there was a strong
fort, the walls whereof do still remain.* This

* This ancient Strondiold, the ruins of which now form so


showeth that Loch Ness, with the glens around
it, was in the country of Moray. And that the
whole coui'se of the River Spey, even to Loch-
aber, was in the province or country of Moray
maybe gathered from King Eobert Bruce's chai-ter
of the Comitatus Moraviensisto Thomas Eandulph
Earl of Moray. To all which, let me add, that
the Highlanders always did, and as yet do, march
and bomid the countries by the hills and rivers.

picturesque au object on the south side of Loch Ness, about
two miles from Drumnadrochet, is supposed, from the designa-
tion of "King's House," which was given to it in the 13th
<'entury, to have been originally a royal castle, and to haA'^e
formed one of a chain of forts which extended along the
Caledonian valley from the German Ocean to the Atlantic. It
stands upon a peninsulated rock, jutting out into the loch,
<\t the extremity of the western promontory of the Bay of
Urcpihart, and is separated from the mainland by a deep fosse.
The lofty massive walls, now greatly dilapidated, Avhich sur-

Online LibraryLachlan ShawThe 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 text (page 5 of 37)