William Fraser.

The earls of Cromartie; their kindred, country, and correspondence (Volume 2) online

. (page 41 of 56)
Online LibraryWilliam FraserThe earls of Cromartie; their kindred, country, and correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 41 of 56)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

endeavoured to stop and hinder their building that castle. On his return home
into Sutherland, he left a company of men at Milntoun for their defence against
the Eosses, until the greater part of the house was finished ; which kindness the
Monros of Milntoun acknowledged long afterwards.^

The Monro Aisle at the Church of Kilmuir Easter is a building of archi-
tectural taste ; on the wall is engraved an eagle, the armorial crest of the Monros.

The Monros were early proprietors of Milntoun. One of the lairds, about the
time of Mary Queen of Scots, was named Andrew Monro, and he is popularly
known in the district as "Black Andrew Monro," whether from his personal
appearance or the bad actions with which tradition associates his memory is
unknown. In the year 1849 a large quantity of human bones were dug up in a
vault of the old castle of Milntoun near the dungeon. The bones filled a cart, and
were interred in the churchyard of Kilmuir Easter. The bones were readily
believed by the common people to be the remains of the victims of Black Andrew
Monro, who, as feudal proprietor, did many cruel deeds. One of these is still
narrated, that on the fixing of disputed marches between the adjoining properties

1 Cromartie Writs, Bundle 2 Y, No. 433. ^

2 Genealogy of the Earls of Sutherland, Ijy Sir Eobert Gordon, p. 146.


of Milntoun and Balnagowan, he caused a pit to be dng, and an old woman
who gave evidence unfavourable to him to be buried alive with her head down.
The place is called to this day Callich or Galley stone or grave, meaning
the burial-place of the old woman. The gallowshill of the barony of Milntoun is
situated on the march between Milntoun and Balnagowan, near the manse of
the Free Church minister of Logie ; and the Drowning Pool, used for drowning
of women, is adjacent to that manse. Near the Gallowshill and Drowning Pool
human bones were found when excavations were made for the Dingwall and
Golspie Eailway.

The fate of Black Andrew ]\Ionro Avas very striking. After issuing one of
his arbitrary orders that all his female servants should work in harvest-time in
a state of nudity, he was coming out of his house to see that his order was duly
obeyed, when he fell down his own stairs and broke his neck. The field in which
his female servants were then at harvest-Avork is still pointed out, situated between
the old castle of Milntoun and the shore of Cromartie, directly opposite to the
present mansion-house of Tarbat.

After Sir George Mackenzie acquired Milntoun from the Monros in 165G,
the mansion of Milntoun became one of the principal residences of Sir George.
His mother, Dame Margaret Erskine, styled " Ladie Tarbatt," was resid-
ing there in 1658. Sir George made considerable additions to the mansion-
house of Milntoun, and changed the name from Milntoun to New Tarbat.
After the death of the first Eax'l of Cromartie that name was occasionally
changed into Tarbat Castle, and ultimately into Tarbat House, now the proper
name of the new and present mansion, which was built when the former castle
became dilapidated. According to an entry in the Kalendar of Fearn, the old
house of Milntoun was burnt down accidentally by the nest of a jackdaw, which
had been built in some j^art of the house, having taken fire. The entry
in the register quaintly records that on "The 19 of May 1642, the hous of
Miltoun was brint negligentlie be ane keai's nest." Adjoining to the old Castle
of Milntoun on the north is a large earthen mound, which is popularly called the
" Pipers' Mount," from a tradition that the pipers of the Barons came and played
the bagpipes around it.

The Viscount of Tarbat, in a letter in 1 ^81, gave his son, the Master of Tarbat,
instructions about the building of New Tarbat.^

^ Letter, vol. i. pp. 55. 56.

New Tarbat was the principal residence in Eoss-shire of the first Earl of
Cromartie. When he finally retired from public life he made New Tarbat his
retreat, and there he ended his days. As a mansion it was considered, says
the minister of the parish in the Statistical Account, the " pride of Eoss both for
situation and policy, which contained the largest forest trees in the country." A
representation of it is given in this work, from an original architectural drawing of
the old mansion now in the present House of Tarbat.

The last Earl of Cromartie, while he was Lord Tarbat, made considerable altera-
tions on Tarbat House. In the year 1728, he contracted with tradesmen that
they should throw down that part of it called Monro s Old JFork, being two sides
and one gable, to clear and rid the foundation, and then to build up and erect
the walls and gable, being the wester mid-gable of the house, to the same
height and thickness as before, which is alike with the rest of the house. Fifteen
windows were to be in the side walls.^

Some of the oldest inhabitants at Milntoun village remember assisting in
taking down the mansion-house of Tarbat when the new house was being built.
They describe the great hall as having been of dimensions so large that the music
of a fiddle playing at one end of the room could not be heard at the other end.

Lady Anna Sinclair, Viscountess of Tarbat, was infefted in liferent in the
manor-house, gardens, orchards, etc., of New Tarbat and others, on 17th Janu-
ary 1G89, on a precept contained in a charter under the Great Seal, dated 4th
December 1688 f and Margaret Countess of Wemyss had also a liferent of the
manor-house of New Tarbat, and of the lands of New Tarbat, Milntoun of Meddat,
and others, in 1700, on her marriage with George Viscount of Tarbat.

On his own resignation, the first Earl of Cromartie obtained from Queen Anne
a charter of resignation, dated in 1707, to himself in liferent, and to his grandson,
George Master of Macleod, of the barony of Tarbat, and also the half of the manor-
place of Fearn, formerly called the Monastery of Fearn, the lands of Easter and
Middle Geanies, and the superiority of the said half Abbacy of Fearn, afterwards
called the Barony of Geanies, the Chaplainries of Tarbat, and many others, with
the heritable office of Sheriff of Cromartie, all of new erected into the Barony
OF Tarbat.

John second Earl of Cromartie resided at New Tarbat in the lifetime of
his father. Writing to Lord Cromartie from Tarbat, on the 24th April 1706,
^ Cromartie Papers, vol. i. No. 64. 2 Cromartie Writs, Bundle 4 B, Nos. 8, 9.


after speaking of wainscoting, flooring, raising of stormlieads, etc., which were
going on at Tarbat, he says : —

" The information your Lordship had of my being forced to ly in the drawing-room uas
falls, for my uife only stayed ther till her bed-chamber and closet in the third storie uas
finished (I mean neu floored and lyned) ; so, if your resolution of coming north this season
hold, ther's no doubt of your Lordship's haveing accomodation, I mean, the first or second
apartment uhich you pleas to chouse, and the pavilion-room for you[r] daughter. So, if your
Lordship pleases, ther's no necessity of your going either to Castelleod or Cromerty. Tho'
Tarbat uer not your ouu house, as your oldest son, I justly pretend to the honour of your
staying with me. Ther's more uant of furnitore then room in Tarbat ; but if a part of the
furnitor left at Castelleod uer added to uhat is allreadie here, nothing would be uanting. As
to horss provisions, your Lordship needs not doubt (as I formerly wi'itt) but care uill [be]
taken that they shall not uant. It's treu ther uas never greater scarcetie of stra, but neu
grass uill soon suply that uant. Catboll is gon up the countrie to see your Strathpeffer rent
shiped. I expect her doun the river this nixt ueek. My uife gives your Lordship her
humble duety. She and your tuo grandchilderen are, God be thanked, in good health. — I am,
your Lordship's most obedient sonn, MacLeod." ^

Some notices of the bibliothec or library at New Tarbat occur in the letters.
Norman Macleod, chamberlain to John second Earl of Cromartie, writing to his
Lordship from New Tarbat, on the 27th of September 1717, says : —

" I am hopefull, now that your Lordship is married, as wee here, that you will winter
yett att bonie New Tarbatt, where I am shour your Lordship will be much easier then in the
hurie of the city, and certainly much cheaper. ... I am afrayd the books vp in the
biblithek will be much the worse. Ther has been no fyre ther since your Lordship went
away. Inshculter took away the key with him, and told itt was your Lordship's orders to
him to keep itt, or send itt to your Lordship to Edinburgh. I hope dhuring the tyme I
had it itt was as weell looked afftter as itt has been since, or ever shall [be], by any hand it
comes too." -

And again, writing from the same place, on 17th October 1717, he says : —

" I had the honour of your Lordship's, daitted the firstt of this month, and did acquantt
Doctor Georg M'Kenzy, who came here Mononday lastt, and saw all your Lordship's books
boxed vp, and took a nott of ther numbers as they were a boxing, with the demenshions, butt
had no tyme to make ane exact cattolcge, which, he said, would take him ten or twelve days
tyme att least. The nott he is to send your Lordship, per this postt, by which your Lordship
will see the number of foUios, quarttos, and octavos. I have sent ane express this day to

1 Letter at Tarbat House. 2 /^/cJ.

VOL. II. 3 I

Inverness, being informed tliat ther's a Bruntiland boatt tlier returning in a few days fur
Bruntiland ; and if shea be nott hyred befor my express comes ther, I know he will preffer
me to severall others, the skipper being my old acquantance. I have all the boxes locked
and clossed vp this nightt, exceptt five, quhich wants covers, and never had any, except
shutters withoutt locks. I will have shutters made for them to-morow, and naill them, and
then shall have each box sealled, according to your Lordship's order, to waitt the verie firstt
occasione." ^

The third Earl of Cromartie also resided at New Tarbat, as well as Castle
Leod, till his forfeiture, in 1746, when his estates, including New Tarbat, became
the property of the Crown. The mansion-house was not merely neglected ; it was
even dismantled of its principal ornaments. The fine trees were cnt down, and
sold at Leith for timber. Much of the ground within the policy was parcelled
out in lots to disbanded soldiers and sailors, and the most elegant and best fur-
nished house in the three counties was allowed to fall into ruins. '^

Tarbat House could boast of a fair collection of family portraits from the time
of Sir Rorie Mackenzie, the tutor of Kintail ; and it appears from inventories of
furniture that there were a number of other portraits, and also fancy paintings.
At a sale of part of the furniture in the year 1752, the prices obtained for several
of the pictures were somewhat arbitrary. A picture of cocks and rabbits brought
£1, 10s. ; another of a fool with a cabbage-stock sold for a guinea ; while a portrait
of King Henry the Eighth only realised 10s. 6d., or half the value of the fool and
his cabbage, and only about a third of the value of the cocks and rabbits.

John Baillie, factor on the forfeited estate of Cromartie, writing to Mr. John
Mackenzie of Meddat on 10th May 1750, says, — " All the repairs which the
Barons have allow'd to be done is not much, which is no more than to keep the
roof water-tight." Again, on the 24th, he writes that the Barons had ordered
him to repair the office-houses most commodious for holding the victual-rent of
the estate, and keep the mansion-houses water-tight ; and he asks his correspon-
dent to keep them water-tight — that is, to keep and mend the roof and slates
what is necessary ; but there is no allowance for the windows but to secure them
by the shutters. This was all he could do if he were on the spot ; and he was to
see what was absolutely necessary for keeping the mansion water-tight, and agree
accordingly. Again, writing on 30th May of the same year, he says, — " By last

1 Letter at Tarbat House.

- Original Statistical Account, Kilmuir Easter, vol. vi. pp. lSG-7.


post I sent an excerpt of the Barons' order for keeping water-tight the mansion-
houses, which is all I could get from them."^

The sale of the wood is referred to in a letter from John Mackenzie of Meddat
to the third Earl of Cromartie, on 3d October 1760, in these words, — " Your
Lordship wou'd hear that a great deall of the wood and planting about Xewtarbat
was ordered to be sold by publick roup, which was done the 26th September.
Captain Forbes took care to preserve as much of the pollicie as he cou'd."^

In the grounds around Tarbat House there are still many large trees, several
of which are believed to have been planted by Sir Robert Innes during the short
time that he held Milntoun after the Monros. A great beech-tree, near Tarbat
House, was called Queen Mary's tree. It was upwards of a hundred feet in height,
and it required a whole week to cut it down. So large was the tree that no force
was equal to remove it, and it was left in the ground and buried where it grew.
On the acquisition of the estates by John Lord Macleod, son of the third Earl, in
the year 1784, his Lordship did much to restore the place to its ancient beauty
and grandeur. He extended the policy, and planted many thousand trees. He
pulled down the old house and built a mansion-house upon a modern plan. The
house was completed by Lord Macleod's cousin and successor, Captain Kenneth
Mackenzie of Cromartie. The mansion-house of Tarbat thus erected by Lord
Macleod is still one of the principal residences of the Cromartie-lNIackenzie
estates, and the policies have been still further improved by succeeding owners. ^

1 Letter at Tarbat House. - Ibid. are now the property of Mr. Macleod of Cad-

^ The original baronies of TarLat and Tarrell boll, whose ancestor acquired them.



A S sliowu in the Memoir of Sir Rorie Mackenzie, the lands first acquired by
-^ him were those of Culteleod, which were granted to him by his father, Colin
Mackenzie of Kintail, along with the lands of Glenskauyth, Kirkton of Fodderty,
Ballyemwldie, the Wsies, Meikle and Little, all in the earldom of Ross and shire
of Inverness. The charter by the Laird of Kintail is dated at Chanonry of Ross,
7th October 1585.^

The oldest spelling of Culteleod is Contaneloyd, or Culchaloid. The lands of
Contaneloyd and Dryne were originally part of the Earldom of Ross, and subse-
quently came into possession of the families of Mowat of Loscragy and Denowne of
Davidstoun. On 27th May L507, John Mowat of Loscragy granted to his
brother, Alexander Mowat, and Isabella Leslie, his spouse, a charter of half of the
lands of Easter Dryne and Contaneloyd, in the lordship of Ross. Culteleod and
Dryne were acquired from the owners by John Mackenzie of Kintail. Sir Rorie
Mackenzie also acquired the lands of Inchveandy and Ochterneid, and mill called
Tympanmill, in the earldom of Ross and shire of Inverness, by a charter from his
brother, Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail, dated 23d April 1601. Sir Rorie also
obtained from Colin Lord of Kintail, his nephew, the lands of Inchrorie, with the
mill and mill lands thereof, and the davach lands of Davachnaclerich, and the
shealing called Garbet, in the year 1619.

The lands thus acquired by Sir Rorie Mackenzie were successively inherited
by his son. Sir John, and his grandson, Sir George Mackenzie, who obtained the
whole of these and other lands, to be erected into the barony of Tarbat in the year
1678, as has been shown in the chapter on the Barony and Regality of Tarbat.

In the fourteenth century the lands of Inschrorie belonged to the family of
Urquhart, sheriffs of Cromartie, who were styled Lords of Inchrorie. Adam of
Urquhart, son of William of Urquhart, obtained from William Earl of Ross
a charter of all the land of Incherury, in Ross, with its pertinents, KeddetoUe
and Scilutt, for homage and faithful service, and for paying one penny ster-
ling, if asked, and giving three suits yearly at the three chief pleas of the
granter's court at Kunardy. The charter is dated at Dingwall on the 30th of
September 1338.-

1 Cromartie Writs, Bundle xxi., No. 1, at Tarbat House. ^ Charter, supra, pp. 317-9.

Shortly after, on the 18th of February 1348, Adam of Urquhart, Lord of
Incherurie, and Sheriff of Cromartie, grants in alms-gift to Grod and St. Mary, and
a chaplain to say mass in the chapel of St. Mary of Inschrorie for the souls of
William Earl of Ross, and of his parents, and for the granter's own soul, and
his parents' souls, and the souls of all the faithful dead, five merks of yearly rent
from the lands of Inschrorie, with a croft of land called the Alehouse Croft, in the
territory of Inschrorie, with a site in the town of Inchrore, for a suflBcient manse
to the chaplain, and pasturage for one horse, twelve cows and one bull, and four-
score sheep on the lands of Inschrorie, and the right of having fuel from the
woods of the granter. The charter bears date at Kilcoldrum, 18th February 1348,
and was witnessed by Donald Abbot of Xew Fern and others.^ The lands of
Inshrorie and Dachnacleroch were excambed by Thomas Urquhart of Cromartie to
Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail, for the Kirklands of Cullicudden, lands of Little
Feme and others, by contract of excambion dated 28th March 1608.-

The chief residence of Sir Rorie Mackenzie was Culteleod, or Castle Leod,
which has been already briefly described in the Memoir of Sir Rorie.

The situation of Castle Leod and its surroundings, with high hills and long
stretching straths, is one of the most attractive in the Highlands. The castle itself
is also a very fine specimen of the baronial mansion. It is built of red sandstone,
and presents a very commanding appearance. In many parts of it the walls are
from seven to eight feet thick, and the high baronial hall measures thirty-two
feet by twenty-one feet, exclusive of the recesses. The fireplace at one end is
upwards of ten feet long and five feet high, with stone seats at each side. On the
ground floor, and literally on the ground, is the dungeon, with a strongly-chained
oak door. In the sides of the walls the wood-sockets which held the chains for
the prisoners are still to be seen. The cell is of small dimensions, and must
have been very uncomfortable quarters when filled with i)risoners. Two views of
Castle Leod are given in this work, and also a drawing of a fragment of a stone
there, showing the antlers of a stag grasped by a hand.

Castle Leod was a favourite residence of the Earls of Cromartie, and especially
of the third Earl. Many of Lord Lovat's letters refer to his visits to Castle Leod,
which always gave him pleasure ; and the Earl of Cromartie, when in Devonshire,
expressed his desire that he had rather been at the foot of Ben Wyvis than amid

1 Charter, supra, pp. 319-320.

- Contract of excambion, Cromartie Writs, Bundle viii., No. 4, at Tarbat House.


the finest scenery in England. The scenery of the vale of Strathpeffer, in which
Castle Leod stands, is too well known to need any description. The spa is a
favourite resort for drinking the mineral waters in the summer season.

In the Confirmation of the Ecclesiastical Statutes regarding the cathedral
church of Ross, given by Pope Alexander the Fourth, dated 11th June 1257,
printed in this work, the teind-sheaves of Fodderty and Edirdore, except the teind-
sheaves of a davach of Aleyn, are allotted to the Archdeanery of Ross ; the teind-
sheaves of Rosemarkie and Cromartie equally to the deanery, chantry, chancery,
and treasury ; the deanery has the teind-sheaves of Kilmuir South, except those
of a half-davocli of Aleyn ; the chancery has the teind-sheaves of Suddy and
Kinettis. To the Bishop's prebend are allotted the teind-sheaves of the kirks of
Nig and Tarbart ; to the chantry the teind-sheaves of Kilmuir and Tharuedale.^

Edirdore is supposed to be derived from eadar dlia mlmlr, between two seas,
i.e. Loch Beauly and Cromartie Firth. The castle of Ethirdover, built by King
William the Lion in his expedition to the North in 1179, has been identified
with Red castle in the parish of Edirdore, now called Killearnan.

In the parish of Fodderty, in which Castle Leod is situated, are many places
and objects of interest. The mountain Ben Wyvis, or Ben Uaish, which rises to
the height of 3426 feet, has never been known to be free of snow, though in the
summer of 1826 it was nearly so.

Knock-Farril, a hill on the south side of the Strath, has at the top a well-marked
specimen of a vitrified fort. The ruins on the top surround a space of an acre,
and, like all such forts, it is seen from great distances and many points. Those of
Craig-Phadric, near Inverness, and Dunskaith, on the northern Sutor of Cromartie,
can be seen. These forts are supposed to have been heights for raising beacon-
fires to warn the country of invaders. Sir George Stewart Mackenzie of Coul, in
advocating this view, says, " There is a regular chain from Knock-Farril and
Craig-Phadric along the great valley of Lochness to the west coast, and others
are in sight towards the east, so on the appearance of an enemy on either side of
the island tlie Avhole country, from coast to coast, could be informed, perhaps
within the short space of an hour." And he supposes that Knock-Farril had been
the beacon-post for the Castle of Dingwall, which formed the principal residence
of the ancient Earls of Ross. To the south of Knock-Farril lies Loch Ussie,
near which lived Kenneth Odhar (Oure), the well-known seer of the Mackenzies.
1 Confirmation, supra, pp. 315-317.








He pretended to the second sight, through the possession of a white stone, like a
pearl. Before his death he threw this stone into Loch Ussie, foretelling that it
would be found many years after, and that the finder would also have the second
sight. He prophesied evil days for the Mackenzies of Kintail.

North of the burial-ground at Fodderty lies CroirM-an-Teamj)uil, or Temple
Croft, in which several kist-vaens, or stone coffins, have been found, containing
bones and ashes.

Half-way between Castle Leod and the Spa of StrathpefFer there is a stone
with an eagle cut upon it, called Clach an Tiompaln, which is said to mark the scene
of a struggle between the Mackenzies and Monros. Tradition bears that the Lady
of Seaforth was carried off from Kinellan by a party of the Monros, who were
overtaken near Castle Leod by tlie Mackenzies, and defeated with great slaughter,
and the Lady of Seaforth rescued. Clach an Tiompain was set up by the Monros
over the remains of their clansmen. But the true account of this skirmish will
be found in Lord Cromartie's historj^, infra, pp. 484-486. A drawing of the
Monro stone is given in this work. Kenneth Oure is said to have prophesied
that ships will yet be seen moored to this stone.

At the west end of Park, on a small eminence, are a number of standing
stones, placed in a circle, from which two rows of similar stones run to the east,
forming a rectangle. These are supposed to commemorate the battle of Blair-na-
park from the district where it was fought. This battle was fought towards the
end of the fifteenth century, betAveen the Mackenzies and the Macdonalds, headed
by Gillespie, cousin of the Lord of the Isles. An account of that battle is given
in Lord Cromartie's History of the Family of Mackenzie.

The Castle of Brahan, which has been for centuries one of the principal resi-
dences of the Seaforth Mackenzies, is situated in the parish of Fodderty.


TN the Memoir of Sir Rorie Mackenzie of Coigeach, the history of Coigeach
-*- has been given in connection with the former owners, the Macleods of Lewis.
During the feuds about the Lewis, Coigeach and Lochbroom were plundered
and laid waste by a raid of the Lewismen, led bj^ Torquil Dubh, son of Rorie
Macleod of the Lewis by his third wife. An account of it is given to King
James the Sixth by Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail, in the following letter : —

Please your Majesty, — Torquil Dow of the Lewis not contenting himself with the
avouit misknowledging of your Heiness authority, wherebe he has violat the promises and
compromit made before your Majesty, now lately the 25th day of December last, has ta'n
upon him, being accompanied with 7 or 800 men, not only of his own, but ylands neist adjacent

Online LibraryWilliam FraserThe earls of Cromartie; their kindred, country, and correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 41 of 56)