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

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to him, to proseciite with fire and sword, by all kind of gud order, the hail bounds of the
strath Coigach pertaining to M'Leod, his eldest brother, likewise my strath of Lochbroom ;
quhilks straths, to your Majesty's great dishonour, but ony fear of God, ourselve, hurt and
skaith, that he hath wasted with fire and sword in such barbarous and cruel manner that
neither man, wife, bairn, horse, cattle, corns, nor bigging has been spared, but all barbarously
slain, burnt, and destroyit, quhilk barbarity and cruelty, seeing he was not able to perform
it but by the assistance and furderance of his neighbouring ylesmen ; therefore beseeches
your Majesty, by advice of Council, to find some sure remeid wherebe sick cruel tyrannic may
be resistit in the beginning, otherway nothing is to be expectit for but dailie increasing of
his malicious forces, to our utter ruin quha possesses your Majesty's obedience, the considera-
tion quharof and inconveniences quhilk may therein ensue I remit to your Heighness guid
consideration. Of whom, taking my leif, with maist humble commendations of service, I
commit your Majesty to the holy protection of God eternal, at the Canonry of Koss, the 3d
day of January 1596.

Your Majesty's most humble and obedient subject,

Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail. *

It was not till Sir Rorie Mackenzie became the owner of Coigeach in 1606
that the Islesmen were reduced to obedience, when raids, such as the one described
in the above letter, ceased. The barony of Coigeach was given to Sir Rorie
Mackenzie by Kenneth, Baron of Kintail, who acquired the barony from tlie
ancient owner, Torquil Macleod of the Lewis.

The principal messuage of the barony was the town and manor-place of

^ History of the Mackenzies, MS., by Dr. George Mackenzie, where the letter is transcribed,
but not quite accurately.


Ullapool, then called Wllabill. Sasine was given to Sir Eorie Mackenzie upon
the ground of the town and lands of Ullapool, as the principal messuage of the
barony of Coigeach.

The barony is described in the Sasine as lying in the Earldom of Ross and
sheriffdom of Inverness, and in the old descriptions of the barony of Coigeach,
the tower, fortalice, and manor-place are also mentioned, without any particular

On the same day, Kenneth INIackenzie, Baron of Kintail, received sasine of the
lands and baronies of Coigeach, LeAvis, "Watterness, and Assint at the same town
and manor-place of Ullabill. In this sasine the manor-place of Ullabill is called
the principal messuage of these baronies, and also the principal messuage in the
barony of Coigeach. Torquil Macleod of the Lewis, and Margaret Nein Angus
MacAllister, his spouse, received at the same time sasine of the barony of Strath-
conan.^ The barony of Coigeach was included in the barony of Tarbat at its
erection, in 1678, in favour of Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat.

In the district of Coigeach there are several " duns " which are supposed to
have been at one time fortalices or places of defence, though nothing of them now
remains but the foundations. One of these was situated in Western Coigeach, on
the shore side, at the foot of the township of Polglas, which was formerly called
Poll an Dimain, after the " dun." The point next to Achillbui is also called after
it liudha 'n Dunain. The site of the fort is of an oblong shape ; the foundation is
covered over with the debris of the building. A grassy loch behind it is con-
nected with the sea by a little channel. No tradition is extant regarding this
building. A second " dun " was situated on North Kenchillish, on a rocky
eminence at the seaside, half a mile north-west of the farm-house. It is
still named Doune Cann, and tradition bears that it was named after a Cann
mac Righ Alba. From him also Strath Ceannard derives its name. There had
been a large building here ; and it is said that a good deal of the walls was
shipped away to Stornoway and elsewhere as building material. A third dun
was at Achmolmory, near Langwall, in Strath Ceannard, situated on a rock,
with a rocky gorge on either side. It had been a small place, but from its
situation it must have been of great strength. Part of the walls still remains.
There is no tradition bearing on it. There was another castle of defence in Loch

1 Instruments of Sasine dated 1st January Particular Register of Sasines for Inverness
1606, and recorded 3d February, same year. — and Cromartie.

VOL. II. 3 K


Achall in the glen of Ehidoracli, of which the walls appear when the loch is
very low in summer. There is a secret place still pointed out where the owner
of the castle concealed his boat Avhen he came ashore.

The district of Coigeach is one of four into which the extensive parish of
Lochbroom is divided. These are the Aird, or height of Coigeach, Lochbroom
proper, the Little Strath, and the Laigh. There is a great extent of coast, and
the appearance of the coast from the sea is magnificent. Along the coast of the
Atlantic the shore is bold and rocky. The principal mountains in Coigeach are
Stac, Cumhill-Mhor, and Big Eock. In it are the fine valleys of Strath ceannard
and Rhidorach, the former watered by the water of Ceannard, and the latter by
the finely wooded lake of Achall and the river of Ceannchruinn or Ullapool.
The hills were formerly well stocked with game, but the introduction of exten-
sive sheep-farming has rendered it less abundant. Salmon are found plentifully
in the rivers, and the fishery on the coast occupies a good number of the
inhabitants. The polar lights are often visible with grand and brilliant effect.

Among the men of merit connected with Coigeach and Lochbroom was Mur-
doch M'^Leod, or in Gaelic, Murcha M^Iain 'I'Uilliam, a poet of considerable
merit. He was bred to the Episcopal CUmrch, but never took orders, nor obtained
a church. He was related to the best families in Coigeach and Assint. His poems
are of a religious turn. A better known poet was Norman M'^Leod, or Tormaid
Ban, the author of many well-known poems in the Gaelic tongue. One of his
sons became minister of Rogart, in Sutherland, and another a professor in the
University of Glasgow. His most popular production is the well-known song of
Caberftiidh, in celebration of the Mackenzies, which is included in Mackenzie's
Collection of Beauties of Gaelic Poetry.



rriHE first Earl of Cromartie made considerable additions to his patrimonial
■*- inheritance as well as to the castles. One of his principal territorial
acquisitions was the Barony of Cromartie, situated in the parish and county of
Cromartie. The earliest name of the county is Crumbathyn or Crumbathy. It
was from the name of this estate and county that Lord Cromartie took his title
when he was created an Earl in 1703.

It was in the year 1684 that Lord Tarbat purchased Cromartie from Jonathan
Urquhart, the last laird of that name, and he had a Great Seal Charter of it,
dated 29th April 1685. Lord Tarbat obtained, on 16th June 1685, an Act of
Parliament ratifying the judicial sale by the Lords of Session. The Act
narrates that the King had granted a signature on 29th April 1685, ordain-
ing a charter to be granted to Lord Tarbat and his heirs, of the castle, tower,
fortalice, and manor-place of Cromartie, and several lands described in the
rights of Sir John Urquhart of Cromartie, and Jonathan Urquhart, his son ; and
also the constabulary and constable office and fee of the castle of Cromartie, the
superiority of the town of Cromartie, salmon-fishings, ferry-boats, and harbour of
Cromartie, with the heritable ofiice of sheriffship of the shire of Cromartie, and
heritable office of bailiary within the bounds of the lands, with power of appoint-
ing courts and clerks, with the patronage of the kirk of Cromartie, and school
thereof. The whole lands are thereby disjoined from all other Earldoms, etc., and
are united into the Barony of Cromartie, and the castle thereof is appointed
to be the principal messuage.^

Macbeth first appears in history as Thane of Cromartie, or, as it was called in
his time, Crumbathy. Wyntoun, in his Chronicle, narrates Macbeth's dream that
he was first Thane of Crumbathy, then Thane of Moray, and then King of Scot-
land. After he had successively held the two Thaneships, according to the dream,
Macbeth took steps to insure that the dream as to his royalty should succeed
also, "VVyntoun's account is : —

A nycht he thowcht in hj's dremyng,
Dat syttand he wes besyd he Kyng
At a Sete in hwntyng ; swa
Intil his Leisch had Grewhundys twS,.

^ Acts of Parliament, vol. viii. p. 513.


He thowcht, quhile he wes swa syttand,

He sawe thre wemen by gangand ;

And )>ai wemen J?an thowcht he

Thre werd Systrys mast lyk to be.

De fyrst he hard say gangand by,

"Lo, yhondyr t>e Thayne of Crvvmbauchty !"

De toyir woman sayd agayne,

" Of Morave yhondyre I se he Thayne."

De thryd han sayd, " I se he Kyng."

All Hs he herd in hys dremyng.^

The Castle of Cromartie may have been occupied by Macbeth as his official
residence as thane of the district. The Castle was certainly of great antiquity,
and it has been described by a native of Cromartie in a very graphic manner. He
writes : —

" Directly behind the site of the old town [of Cromartie] the ground rises abruptly from the
level to the height of nearly a hundred feet, after which it forms a kind of tableland of con-
siderable extent, and then sweeps gently to the top of the hill. A deep ravine, with a little
stream running through it, intersects the rising ground at nearly right angles with the front
it presents to the houses ; and on the eastern angle, towering over the ravine on the one side
and the edge of the bank on the other, stood the old Castle of Cromarty. It was a massy,
timeworn building, rising in some places to the height of six storeys, battlemented at the
top, and roofed with grey stone. One immense turret jutted out from the corner whicli
occupied the extreme point of the angle ; and looking down from an altitude of at least 160
feet on the little stream and the straggling row of trees which sprung up at its edge, com-
manded botli sides of the declivity and the town below. Other tuiTets of smaller size, but
l)ierced like the larger one with rows of little circular apertures, which, in the earlier ages, had
given egress to the formidable bolt, and in the more recent, when the crossbow was thrown
aside for the i:)etronel, to the still more formidable bullet, were placed by pairs on the several
projections that stood out from the main body of the building, and were connected by hang-
ing bartizans. There is a tradition that sometime in the seventeentli century, a party of
Highlanders, engaged in some predatory enterprise, approached so near the Castle on this
side, that their leader, vshen in the act of raising his arm to direct their march, was shot at
from one of the turrets and killed, and that the part\', wrapping up the body in their plaids,
carried it away.

" The front of the castle opened to the lawn, from which it was divided by a dry moat,
nearly filled with rubbish, and a high wall indented with embrasures, and pierced by an arched
gateway. Within was a small coiirt flagged with stone, and bounded on one of the sides by
a projection from the main building, bartizaned and turreted like all the others, but only

^ Wyntoun's Chronicle, vol. i. p. 225.

- 1 i *

' I T M

;>- f

^ 4 ^



three storeys in height, and so completely fallen into decay that the roof and all the floors
had disappeared. From the level of the court a flight of stone steps led to the vaults below ;
another flight of greater breadth, and bordered on both sides by an antique balustrade, ascended
to the entrance ; and the architect, aware of the importance of this part of the building, had
so contrived it that a full score of loopholes in the several turrets and outjets which com-
manded the court, opened directly on the landing-place. Round tlie entrance itself there
jutted a broad, grotesquely-proportioned moulding, somewhat resembling an old-fashioned
picture frame, and directly over it there was a square tablet of dark blue stone, bearing in
high relief the arms of the old proprietors ; but the storms of at least five centuries had
defaced all the nicer strokes of the chisel, and the lady with her palm and dagger, the boars'
heads and the greyhounds were transformed into so many attenuated spectres of their former
selves — no inappropriate emblem of the altered fortunes of the house. The windows, small
and narrow, and barred with iron, were thinly sprinkled over the front ; and from the lintel
of each there rose a triangular cap of stone, fretted at the edges, and terminating at the top in
two nobs fashioned into the rude semblance of thistles. Initials and dates of the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries were inscribed in raised characters on these triangular tablets. The
aspect of the whole pile was one of extreme antiquity. Flocks of crows and jays that had
budt their nests in the recesses of the huge tusked cornices which ran along the bartizans,
wheeled ceaselessly around the gables and the turrets, awakening with their clamorous cries
the echoes of the roof. The walls, grey and weather-stained, were tapestried in some places
with sheets of ivy, and an ash-sapling, which had struck its roots into the crevices of the
outer wall, rose like a banner over the half-dilapidated gateway." ^

One of the earliest known charters of lands in Cromartie was granted by
William de Monte Alto to David of Denoon, of a davach of Fernenes, in the tene-
ment of Cromarty, in exchange for the land of Kyppen, and of two mai'k-lands
of Denouen. The charter, like many of the early charters, is without date ; but
from the attesting Avitnesses, it is ascertained that it must have been granted
between the years 1252-1272. It is in the following terms : —

OitNiBUS hoc scriptum visuris vel audituris, Willelmus de Monte Alto, salutem in Domino :
Nouerit vniuersitas vestra me dedisse, concessisse, et hac presenti carta mea confirmasse Dauid
de Donouen illam dauatam terre de Fernenes que iacet inter alias dauatas de Fernenes, in tene-
mento de Orumbauthin ; scilicet, in escambium pro terra de Kyppen quam pater mens dicto
Dauid dedit pro homagio et seruicio suo, et in escambium duarum marcarum terre in terra de
Donouen ; quas quidem duas marcatas terre idem Dauid tenuit de fratre suo ; ita videlicet,
quod ilia dauata terre de Fernenes que iacet propinquior castro deCrumbauthin, excepta quedam
alia dauata terre de Fernenes, remanebit dicto Dauid et heredibus suis : Tenendam et haben-
dam de me et heredibus meis sibi et heredibus suis in feodo et hereditate, in pratis, pascuis, et
pasturis, in moris, maresiis, et molendinis, in siluis et in aquis, in fontibus et in aqueductis

1 Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland, by Hugh Miller, pp. 129-131.



sine ducendis, cum omnibus aliis aysiamentis et iustis pertinenciis suis, et libertatibus que ad
dictam dauatam terra poterit pertinere, per suas rectas diuisas, libere, quiete, pacifice, ple-
narie et honorifice ab omnibus auxiliis, consuetudinibus, exactionibus, et demandis seculari-
bus : Reddendo ipse et heredes sui, mihi et heredibus meis, duas marcas argenti per annum,
scilicet, vnam marcam ad Pentecosten, et vnam marcam ad festum Sancti Martini in yeme, et
faciendo forinsecum seruicium domini regis quantum pertinet ad illam dauatam terre. Et si
forte contingat, quod absit, quod ego vel heredes mei dictam dauatam terre de Fernenes, cum
pertinenciis, dicto Dauid uel heredibus suis warantizare non poterimus, ego uero et heredes
mei dicto Dauid et heredibus suis, infra quadraginta dies, sine more dispendio, per visum pro-
borum hominum de tanta terra quantum dicta dauata terre de Fernenes tunc valebit, sine
cautela uel cauillacione aliqua, in loco competent! ad plenum prouidebimus. Et [vt] hec mea
donacio et concessio rata et inconcussa in perpetuum permaneat, huic scripto sigillum meum
apposui ; hiis testibus, domino Roberto episcopo de Ross, domino Willelmo comite de Ross,
domino Willelmo Francisco, domino Willelmo filio Augustini, domino Johanne vicario de
Innernes, Galfrido Sures, burgense de Innernes, Malcolmo clerico, et miiltis aliis.^

The granter of that charter having been owner of Cromartie, was claimed by
Sir Thomas Urquhart as one of his Urquhart ancestors, but with no better autho-
rity than the earlier ancestors claimed by Sir Thomas. William de Monte Alto
was one of an Anglo-Norman family who came to Scotland in the twelfth cen-
tury, and the name of Monte Alto was gradually changed to Mowat, in the same
way as the name of Montefixo became changed to Mushet.

In the regulations made by King Edward the First for the government of
Scotland in 1304, " Mounsieur William de Mohant" is stated as the "Viscunt
de fee" of Crombathyn, or heritable Sheriff of Cromarty.

The next charter of Cromartie shows that it belonged to King Robert the
Bruce. He granted a charter to Sir Hugh of Ross, son and heir of William
Earl of Ross, of the county and burgh of Cromartie. The charter is dated at
Arbroath, 5th December 1315. It is in the following terms : —

RoBERTUS Dei gratia Rex Scottorum, omnibus probis hominibus tocius terre sue, salutem.
Sciatis nos dedisse, concessisse et hac presenti carta nostra confirmasse Hugoni de Ross militi,
filio et heredi WiUelmi comitis de Ross, dilecto et fideli nostro, pro homagio et seruicio suo,
totum uicecomitatum et burgum de Crumbathy, per omnes rectas metas et diuisas suas. Tenen-
dum et habendum dicto Hugoni et heredibus suis de nobis et heredibus nostris, libere, quiete,
plenarie et pacifice ; cum omnibus liberetenentibus, burgensibus, libertatibus, comoditatibus,
aisiamentis et singulis aliis pertinenciis, tarn infra burgum quam extra, ad dictum vicecomi-

Original Charter apud Robert Haldane, Esq., W.S., as agent for the late Mr. W. Stevenson.

^ c»ai

^ev^ya ' 5dW t>Jj (Mhmta 4tteS)ia^ ^maarn^
aitotii^ -^jCnaftt^ . J^j/iiftjjgb dfi^'Sb !^ft/fer^



Sc^ - i»o6

•migOn^V riPbui^JMlfe Ci^fe^«!r(j)^a,. /WTO





tatum seu burgum spectantibus sen aliquo tempore de iure spectare valentibus. Faoiendo
inde dictus Hugo et heredes sui nobis et heredibus nostris fonnsecum seruicium quantum ad
dictam terram pertinet, pro omni alio seruicio, exactioae seu demanda seculari. Salua nobis
custuma que dicitur Malatouta : In cuius rei testimonium, presenti carte sigillum nostrum
precepimus apponi. Testibus — Bernardo, abbate de Abirbrotboc, cancellarionostro, Alexandre
Senescalli, Gilberto de Haya, Ptoberto de Keth et Hugone de Erth, militibus. Apud Abir-
brotboc, quinto die Decembris, anno regui nostri decimo.'

The following is a translation of the charter : —

Robert, by the grace of God King of Scots, to all good men of his whole land, greeting :
Know ye that we have given, granted, and by this our present charter confirmed, to our
beloved and faithful Hugh of Ross, knight, son and heir of William Earl of Ross, for his homage
and service, the whole sheriffdom and burgh of Crumbathy, by all their right bounds and
divisions : To be held and to be had by the said Hugh and his heirs, of us and our heirs, freely,
quietly, fully, and peacefully, with all free tenants, burgesses, liberties, commodities, easements,
and all other pertinents, as well within the burgh as without, belonging, or that may at any
time rightfully belong, to the said sheriffdom or burgh : The said Hugh and his heirs performing
for the same to us and our heirs the forinsec service pertaining to the said land, for all other
service, exaction, or secular demand : Reserving to ourselves the custom which is called
Malatout. In witness whereof we have commanded our seal to be affixed to the present
charter. Witnesses — Bernard, Abbot of Abirbrothoc, our chancellor, Alexander Steward,
Gilbert de Hay, Robert de Keth, and Hugh of Erth, knights. At Abirbrothoc, the fifth day
of December, in the tenth year of our reign.

On the above charter, the editor of the National Manuscripts of Scotland, in
which work it is printed,^ observes that it is "not so remarkable for the extent of
territory granted, although that includes the whole little county of Cromarty, as
for the unconstitutional gift of a free royal burgh : interposing a subject superior
between the sovereign and those whom he was specially bound to protect in all
their franchises. The great Prince made a similar unconstitutional grant to
his nephew Eandolph, of all the burghs within his vast territorial earldom of
Moray, — Inverness, Elgin, Forres, and Nairn. Such things passed unchallenged
under the successful and popular King. It was in the reign of his unworthy
successor, David ii., that the Parliament of Scotland declared such grants uncon-
stitutional, and prohibited them."

In the succeeding reign of King Da^id Bruce the lands and burgh of
Cromartie were granted for the first time to Adam of Urquhart, with whose

1 Original Charter belonging to Colonel ^ Part ii. No. xxi. The Charter is there

Ross of Cromarty. quoted as at Kilravock.



descendants Cromartie continued till the middle of the seventeenth century, when,
becoming embarrassed, the Urquharts were obliged to sell the estate.

There is an early charter granted by William Earl of Koss and Lord of Skye to
Adam of Wrchard, son of William of Wrchard, of the lands of Brehe or Brae. It
bears to be granted for the service done and to be done to the Earl, and was to be
held of him in blench farm for payment yearly of a pair of white gloves. The charter
is dated at Dingwall the 6tli of January 1349. It is in the following terms : —

Omnibus hanr: cartam visuris vel audituris Willelmus comes de Rosse, dominus de Sky,
eternam in domino saliitem. Noueritis vniuersi nos dedisse, concessisse et hac presenti carta
nostra confirmasse Adamo de Wrchard filio quondam Willelmi de Wrchard, pro lideli seruicio
suo nobis impenso et impendendo, totam dauatam terre nostra de Brehe cum pertiuenciis :
Tenendam et habendam dicto Adamo et heredibus suis de nobis et heredibus nostris in per-
petuum,in feodo et hereditate, per omnes metas suas et rectas diuisas, in boscis et planis, moris
et mareseis, aquis et stagnis, pratis, pascuis et pasturis, et viis, et semitis, viaariis et piscariis,
aucupacionibus et venacionibus, hominibus, legiis et natiuis eiusdem, cum molendinis et bra-
cinis, curiis, placitis et qiierelis, ac cum omnibus aliis commoditatibus, libertatibus et asia-
mentis, ad predictam dauatam terre de Brehe nunc spectantibus vel aliquo tempore in futurum
spectare valentibus, tam non nominatis quam nominatis, libere, quiete, plenarie et honorifice :
Reddendo inde annuatim nobis et heredibus nostris ipse Adam et heredes sui vnum par cerote-
carum albarum, nomine albe firme, ad festum Pentecostes, sine aliqua alia solucione, exac-
tions, seruicio seculari seu demanda inde faciendis, que per nos vel heredes nostros de predicta
dauata terre de Brehe exigi poterunt vel demandari quoquo mode. Et facieudo domino nostro
Regi seruicium inde debitum et consuetum. Nos vero Willelmus comes de Rosse antedictus et
heredes nostri prenomiuatam dauacam terre de Brehe cum omnibus pertinentiis suis, vt predic-
tuni est, prefato Adamo de Wrchard et heredibus suis contra omnes homines et feminas waran-
tizabimus, acquietabimus et perpetualiter defendemus. In cuius rei testimonium sigillum
nostrum autenticum presenti carte nostre fecimus apponi. A])ud Dyngevale, sexto die Januarii,
anno Domini m""" cce"^" quadragesimo nono : Coram hiis testibus, venerabili patre in Christo
domino Rogero Dei gratia Episcopo Rossensi, Fratre Donaldo eadem gratia Abbate Noue
Farine, dompno Roberto priore Belli Loci,^ Hugone de Rosse fratre nostro, Johanne de Haya,
consanguineo nostro, Roberto de Munro, Willelmo de Morauia, Willelmo de Clyne, Willelmo
Marescallo, teuentibus nostris, et multis aliis.^

Another early notice of the lands of Bray occurs in a notarial instrument,
certifying that on the 9th day of January 1437, there appearerl, in presence of the
notary public and other witnesses, a noble man, Walter of Innes, knight, Lord of
that Ilk, and delivered to be read and transumed a certain letter of our Lord the

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