William M'Combie Smith.

Memoir of the family of M'Combie, a branch of the Clan M'Intosh; online

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that we hear no more of the Farquharsons making
personal attacks on the M'Comies, They had

M'Comie Mors Feud zvith Broughdearg. 65

evidently thought that, being now old, and having
no one to depend on for help but his own family
and dependants, he could be attacked with im-
punity. Finding now their mistake, they would
doubtless have been glad to have let the quarrel
drop; and had the M'Comies given up their
claim to free forestry in Canlochan, there might
have been no further trouble. But the fact of
Robert Farquharson's being driven out of the
forest showed that his tenure of it was still very
precarious. Fearing, however, any longer to
attack the M'Comies personally, the Farquharsons
seized some of the M'Comies' cattle in 1672,
whereupon John M'Comie " persewed a spulzie"
against Robert Farquharson before the Sheriff
of Forfar, and got letters of caption against him.
It is worthy of remark here that John M'Comie
sought redress in a legal way. But a new diffi-
culty arose, as Robert Farquharson swore " no
man should take him alive," an oath he made
good. Accordingly, when Alexander Strachan,
the messenger of the burgh of Forfar, went to
take Broughdearg, he had to return baffled. So


66 The Family of M'Combie.

matters stood when, on the 28th January 1673,
Robert Farquharson went to Forfar " for his own
defence of the said persuit" John M'Comie was
aware of Robert Farquharson's going to Forfar
on this day, and is said in the indictment to have
spoken to his sons " thir words, or to the lyk
purpose : Goe to Forfar ; arme yourselves with
your pistolls and swords ; take my servant with
you, and bring him dead or alyve. That severall
tymes befor that he said he should have his lyff
for the many affronts and injuries he had done
him, tho' he should ware two of his best sones in
the querrell ; and who wotild or durst speir after
it?'' According to the account given by the
Farquharsons, when they reached Forfar, Robert
Farquharson was informed that " the Court
wes done ; whereupon, having no other bussie-
ness at Forfar, he returned, and wes in his
journey homewards," when he was attacked
by the M'Comies. John, Alexander, James, and
Robert, sons of John M'Comie, and J. Burn,
T. Fleming, D. Guthrie, and D. M'Intosh, their
servants, had gone to Forfar to watch the result

M'Comie Mo7^'s Fetid with Broughdcarg. 67

of the action before the Sheriff. It is probable,
therefore, that the Farquharsons had returned
homewards before reaching Forfar, when they
heard of the M'Comies being present in some
strength. Be this as it may, when the M'Comies
heard that the Farquharsons were on their way
home again without having put in an appearance
before the Sheriff, they got Alexander Strachan,
the burgh messenger, so that they might act
legally, and went in pursuit of the Farquharsons.
By the time they had got the messenger, they
were in some uncertainty as to where the Far-
quharsons were. It is said in the Farquharsons'
indictment, that at the house of Torbeg, " they
with ther durks and swords stobbed the beds and
other places where they imagined him (Robert
Farquharson) to have been lurking. . . . Alse did
swear every persone they did meit, if they had
seen Robert Farquharson." At length they met
a poor man, whom they threatened to kill if he
would not tell : said man, "in fear of his lyff,"
told them the Farquharsons were on their way
to Loggie. Being informed of which, " the said

68 The Family of M'Combie.

Alexander and James M'Comies, and the other
remnant persones above named, threw away ther
plaids and betook themselves to ther armes, and
in a hostill and militarie pouster, persewed and
followed after the saids Robert and John Far-
quharsons, and the said Alexander ther brother,
to the lands of Drumgley, where having over-
taken the said Robert, they most cruellie and
inhumanlie invadit and assaulted the saids Robert
and John Farquharsons, and the said Alexander
ther brother, and gave them severall shotts and
wounds in ther bodies, heads, and hands, off the
which the said Robert Farquharson dyed im-
mediatlie upon the place, and the said John Far-
quharson wes woundit, and therefter dyed of
these wounds within days." This is the account
of the Farquharsons, which, be it observed, gives
no details of the fight, the reason for which we
can understand in the light of the details given
by the evidence brought forward by the M'Comies.
The evidence of the messenger, that should have
been impartial and trustworthy, is unfortunately
contradictory and unreliable. There was first

M'Comie Moi's Feud with Brotighdearg. 69

produced "an execution of caption," which he
wrote at "the desyre of the M'Comies — but re-
ceived neither good deid nor promise of good
deid at that time for giving thereof" The exe-
cution of caption was to the effect that Robert
Farquharson, " being chairged in his Majestie's
name to render him prisoner to me — most con-
temptuouslie disobeyed, and made resistance by
drawing of ane sword against me and my assist-
ants, whereupon I brack my wand of peace."
This is in accordance with the M'Comies' de-
fence — viz., that the messenger called on them
as assistants, and that they were acting legally
in trying to capture Robert Farquharson. The
letter next produced was written to James Far-
quharson of Laidnathie, because David Fenton,
in Loggie, a friend of the Farquharsons, told him
the Farquharsons were all at Kilimuir, and were
to take messenger's life unless he would write
some such letter. The letter states, that " I wes
not within sex pair of butts when he (Robert
Farquharson) was killed, and likewise I do declair
I never spoke with him that day." Lastly, we have

70 The Family of M'Combie.

what professes to be the messenger's impartial
account of the matter as follows : " As to the
matter of fact, declares that he did not speak
with Brughderg that day, nor wes near him be
the space of sex or seven pair of butts when he wes
killed, but cryed to him about that distance to render
himself prisoner, and the M'Comies also cryed,
who were running after Brughderg ; does not
know whether he heard either of them, but cryed
he woidd be taken be none of them, and ran through
a mosse and the M'Comies after him." In the
indictment by the M'Comies against the Far-
quharsons, the account is so circumstantial and
graphic, as to carry conviction of its truth along
with it. It is certain that the messenger, armed
with a legal warrant, cried to Robert Farquharson
to surrender ; it is also certain that Robert Far-
quharson heard this, as he replied that " he would
be taken be none of them." After this, John
M'Comie, believing that he was acting legally,
overtook Robert Farquharson, and, be it observed,
did not attempt to slay or even injure him, but
merely "so secured him as that he wes not able

M'Comie Mors Fejid with Broughdearg. 71

to doe any present hurt." And here he gives
proof of the mildness of disposition which led
his father to doubt his courage. He wanted to
make sure that Robert Farquharson should no
longer escape answering for the seizure of his
father's cattle ; but he also wanted this to be
effected, if possible, without undue violence, and
without bloodshed. While holdine Robert Far-
quharson, he was of course incapable of defending
himself from any other one who chose to attack
him, and it was while in this position that John
and Alexander, brothers to Robert Farquharson,
"presented ther guns, and came so near them
that the months of ther guns toiUched the said
John his flank, and fyred upon him, and so
disinabled him that he fell to the ground, and by
the sa7ne shotts killed Robert Mcintosh, the corn-
p leaner s other son, dead to the ground ; and ther
being nothing to satiat ther inveterat hatred and
malice but the said John M'Intosh lyff and his
sons, the said John Farquharson in Cantsmilne,

Farquharson his son, Thomas Creighton in

Milntown of Glenisla, came in cold blood near to

72 The Family of M'Combie.

the Mosse of Forfar, wher the said John M'Intosh
wes yet alyve lying in his wounds, and ther with
ther durks and swo7^ds stobbed and woundit the said
yohn MTntosh untill he dyed." More cowardly
and dastardly butchery — for it was not fighting —
was never perpetrated. From first to last there
is no account of any Farquharson attacking a
M'Comie in an honourable and straightforward
manner ; and now, after shooting John and Robert
M'Comie almost in cold blood, they made no
further stand, as it was offered to be proved, on
their behalf, that the wounds of which Robert
Farquharson died on the spot, and John Far-
quharson his brother died a few days after, we^'-e
received in the back.

The bodies of the slain men were, it is said,
brought home by different routes, by the advice
of prudent counsellors, lest there might be a fresh
outbreak between the two families and their ser-
vants and adherents, if they should meet together
in the then excited state of their feelings. The
M'Comies were buried in the churchyard of

M'Comie Mors Fend with Broughdearg. 73
We can form some idea of the feelinofs of orrief

o o

and exasperation that filled the heart of John
M'Comie, from the following expressions, cited
during the trial as being used by him after the
intelligence of what he termed the murder of his
sons, reached Crandart. It is stated that " sev-
erall tymes, when friends wer endeavouring a
mediation betuixt them, the pannall's expressions
severall tymes wer that all was to no purpose,
the sword behoved to decyde it ; that since the
murder he wished he wer but twenty yeeres of
age again, which, if he wer, he should make the
Farquharsons besouth the Cairn of Month thinner,
and should have a lyff for ilk finger and toe of his
two dead sones." As to Mr Angus, " he houndit
out " the others to the pursuit, and said to his
sister, when lamenting the loss of her brothers,
"She had no reason to lament for them, since
they hade gott the lyff they wer seeking."

The trial of both parties took place on various
days from the 2d to the nth of June 1673. On
the one side, John M'Comie of Forter, pursuer,
" for himself, and in name and behalf of the rem-

74 The Family of M'Combie.

nant kin and freinds of the saids John and Robert
M'Intoshes." The others named on the side of
the M'Comies were, James, Alexander, and Mr
Angus, sons ; Thomas Fleyming, in DaHnamer,
John Burn, David Guthrie, Donald M'Intosh,
and Donald Gerters, tenants and servants — in
all ten persons, besides John M'Comie, senior.
On the other side, Helen Ogilvie, relict of the
deceased Robert Farquharson of Broughdearg ;
Alexander Farquharson, his brother; James, Alex-
ander, and John Farquharsons, his uncles, "for
themselves, and in name," &c., were pursuers.
The others named on the side of the Farquhar-
sons were: "John Barnot, in Dunmae ; Donald
M'Vadenach, in Burghderg; George Patton, ser-
vitor to Burghderg; Thomas M'Nicol, also ser-
vant; Duncan M'Coul of Kero ; Thomas Creigh-
ton, in Milnetoun of Glenila ; Alexander Farqu-
harson, in Belnaboth ; John Farquharson, in Bel-
naboth ; John Farquharson of Dunnieday ; James
Farquharson, in Milne of Ingzeon ; William Far-
quharson, his sone ; John Farquharson, in Cants-
milne ; Farquharson, his sone." In all, in-

M^Comie Mors Ferid with Broiighdeai'g. 75

eluding, as in the case of the M'Comies, the two
slain, eighteen persons.

The result of the trial as regards the main
charges — viz., the deaths near the Moss of Forfar
— was that each of the pursuers abandoned their
case, both parties seeing that to follow the
double action to the end would only be to bring
several of the survivors on both sides under the
severest penalty of the law. We have already
seen that of those on the M'Comies' side, James
M'Comie and Alexander M'Comie, his sons, and
Donald Gerters, John Burn, and David Guthrie,
his servants, were outlawed as fugitives. On the
9th June, Duncan M'Coul of Kero ; Thomas
Creighton, in Milnetoun of Glenila ; John Far-

quharson, in Cantsmilne ; Farquharson, his

son, " being ofttymes called," for their share of
the raids of Crandart and Kilulock, and the three
last mentioned for killing the wounded John
M'Comie, and having been duly summoned,
and " not enterand and compeirand," the Lords
Commissioners of Justiciary "decerned and ad-
judged the haill forenamed persones to be

76 The Family of M'Combie.

denunced our Soveragne Lord's rebells, and
ordained them to be put to the home, and all
ther movable goods and gear to be escheat and
inbrought to his Majesties use, as fugitives frae
the lawes, for the crymes above specified — which
wes pronunced for doome." ^

That the Farquharsons had now enough of the
feud which they themselves had originated, and
been the agressors in, and were now in dread of
the old chief whom they had thought to have
subdued, is evident from the fact that, on the
same day on which the several actions were
abandoned by both parties, " Helen Ogilvie, re-
lict of the deceast Robert Farquharson of Brugh-
derg, craved law-burrowes of the said Johne
M'Intosh of Forther, and made faith that she
dreadit him bodylie harme and oppression;" where-
upon the Lords Commissioners ordered him to
find caution. " In obedience whereof the said
John M'Intosh, as principall, and Thomas Oliver,
of Westmiln, in Glenila, and Thomas M'Intosh,
merchant in Montrose, as cautioner and sovertie

^ Appendix, Note N.

Death of M'Comie Mor. 77

for him, gave caution, in form according to Act of
Parliament." Item, i6thjune: "Thomas Fleym-
ing, in Dalinamer in Glenila, was set at libertie,
upon caution to appear on 15 days' notice." He
had stood prisoner with John M'Comie and his
son, Mr Angus.^

And now, after a long and most eventful life,
John M'Comie, the M'Comie Mor, died in peace,
in his own house at Crandart, before 12th Janu-
ary 1676.- His sagacity and unconquerable spirit,
his chivalrous courage and extraordinary personal
strensfth, marked him out as a true leader of men
in revolutionary times such as those in which he
lived. That he was the most remarkable man of
his time in the district in which he lived, is indis-
putably proved by his traditionary fame even at
the present time. In few districts in Scotland has
the memory of a man who died over two hundred
years ago been kept living so vividly by tradition,
as has that of M'Comie Mor, in Glenshee and
Glenisla. He was buried in Glenisla churchyard,
beside his two sons who were killed at Drum-

^ Appendix, Note O. - Appendix, Note P.

78 The Family of M'Combie.

gley. Not many years ago, the late Rev. Mr
Simpson, Free Church minister of Glenisla, told
the late Mr J. B. M'Combie, advocate, Aberdeen,
and great-great-great-grandson of M'Comie Mor,
that he was present in Glenisla churchyard,
when, in digging a grave in the spot pointed
out by tradition as the burying - place of the
M'Comies, some immense bones were exhumed,
which Mr Simpson and others who saw them
had no doubt were those of M'Comie Mor, or
one of his sons.

Of John M'Comie's seven sons, John and
Robert were killed, as already narrated. James,
who was outlawed in 1673, for not appearing to
stand his trial, on finding the main action de-
parted from by both parties, returned, and had
doubtless had little trouble in eettine the sen-
tence of outlawry reversed. Accordingly we find
that, on the 12th January 1676, "Jacobus M'ln-
tosh de Forther " was served nearest lawful heir
to Robert M'Intosh, his younger brother, who
had been portioner of Gambok, in four acres of
arable land of the town and lands of Easter-

M'Comie Mors Family. 79

Denhead, near Coupar - Angus (which he had
doubtless inherited from his mother's family), in
the field called Cottarbank ; in the piece of un-
laboured ground at Corshill ; and with common
pasturage in the Soidmyre.^ From the same
source^ we learn that Thomas M'Comie, son of
John M'Intosh, alias M'Comie, of Forther, was
served nearest heir to the foregoing James, his
elder brother, on January 2, 1677. Of Mr
Angus, the late Mr William Shaw, of Milton of
Blacklunans, in the letter already quoted from,
says that James M'Intosh, there referred to, "told
me that it was an Angus M'Comie, alias M'In-
tosh, that restored Forter to the Airlie family ;
that this is seen in the process between Sir David
Wedderburn of Ballindean and the Airlies."
From the ' Registrum Magni Sigilli,' lib. Ixix.
No. 51, it appears that there was a charter under
the Great Seal, of date 15th December 1682,
granting to Alexander M'Intosh the lands of
Wester Innerharitie, in the parish of Glenisla,

1 Inquisitionum Retornatarum Abbreviatio, vol. ii. p. 1125, i8n.
- Ibid., vol. ii. p. 5962.

8o The Family of M'Combie.

and sheriffdom of Forfar. Alexander, it will be
remembered, had been outlawed with James in
1673. There remains now only the youngest son,
Donald, from whom are descended the well-known
M'Combies of Aberdeenshire, and whose history
we now proceed to take up.

But before doing so, let us take a last look at
Crandart, where, on the death of M'Comie Mor,
and the subsequent dispersion of his family,
the fortunes of the M'Comies seemed for ever
wrecked. Of the old Ha' of Crandart little re-
mains. The outlines of the old house can still be
made out as regards the ground-plan, and the
sides of the door and one window of the pres-
ent farmhouse, and another in the steading, with
their moulded corners, and the threshold-stone,
were taken from the old Ha'. Besides these
stones, there are two stones with inscriptions
still left from the old mansion-house. One of
these is built into the south end of the west
wing of the present steading at Crandart. On
it is the following inscription : —

Memorials of ]\rCouiie Mor. 8i

I'M. OP E . c .



l6 60

The other stone was, unwarrantably we beheve,
removed from Crandart, first to Dal-na-Sneachd,
across the Isla, and from thence to Balharry,
where it now is. The inscription on it is —


GODS . HELP • TO • GOD • BE • AL •


16 I I 60

At Balharry it possesses little interest for any
one, and we think it a great pity it was ever
removed from Crandart. At Crandart it would
be in its original home, and would be a silent
memento of him who placed it there — the hero in
tradition and history, of Glenshee and Glenisla,
M'Comie Mor.




T T is easy to see that many events from 1660
to 1673 had tended to exhaust the resources
and weaken the position of the M'Comies. The
litigation with Lord Airhe concerning the right
of free forestry in Canlochan, terminating in two
Acts and Decrees of the Scottish Parhament
in Lord AirHe's favour, must have cost John
M'Comie much money, as he, in that and the
subsequent trials, employed the best counsel of
his time. The loss of the forest itself as a
grazing and hunting ground, when at last given
up, must have caused a serious diminution of

Settlement in Aberdeenshire. 83

income. Then, again, the legal conflict with
Lord Airlie was almost immediately followed by
the exaction of the Government fine of £ 1 800, a
very large sum in those times. Although there
are substantial grounds for believino- that the
bond granted to the Farquharsons, under the
circumstances already narrated, was never paid,
yet the resistance of its payment must have
entailed very considerable law costs. All this,
followed by the great trial in 1673, must have
reduced the fortunes of the family to a very low
ebb. We have seen that the old chief did not
long survive this ; and the facts relating to the
history of the family for some time afterwards
are very meagre. There can be little doubt
but that the property was burdened by debt ere
this time,^ and that the surviving sons of John
M'Comie, finding it impossible to make headway
longer at home, one by one set out in search of
better fortune. Of the subsequent fortunes of
those who remained south of the Grampians we
have no authentic record, and the history of the

^ Appendix, Note Q.

84 The Fainily of APCoiiibie.

M'Comies must now be transferred from Perth
and Forfar to Aberdeenshire, where the young-
est son, Donald M'Comie, settled, while still a
very young man, towards the end of the seven-
teenth century. The date of the migration of
Donald M'Comie from Glenisla to the vale of
Alford is not known exactly, but was probably
between 1676 and 1680, as by the Poll-book
for Aberdeenshire of date 1696, we find him
married to Janet Shires, and tenant to the yearly
value of ^10 in a holding at Edindurnoch, now
Nethertown of Tough. In addition to his poll-
tax as tenant, he was taxed six shillings additional
as a tradesman. From this it is evident that he
had been a considerable time in Aberdeenshire
previous to 1696. There can be little doubt but
that, owing to the circumstances above mentioned,
and from his being the youngest son, he brought
little into Aberdeenshire except a few personal
effects. There has always been a tradition that
he brought a few relics with him from Crandart,
which have, unfortunately, not been preserved in
the family. Looking back on the circumstances

Donald APCoviie, Maws of Toiilcy. 85

of Donald M'Comie in 1696, they are about as
unpropitious as could be ; and the subsequent
slow but steady rise of the family in fortune and
influence, through no sudden accession of for-
tune, but by steady unremitting perseverance and
prudence, is of itself sufficient proof that its for-
tunes were laid by a race of men who, however
impeded they might be by adverse circumstances
for a time, could rise superior to all ill-fortune, if
unconquerable will and strength of purpose could
effect it.

Of the personal history of Donald M'Comie
little has come down to the present time, his
life having evidently been one of uninterrupted
industry, free from any remarkable incident.
From the parish records of Tough we gather
that he was frequently employed as a valuator,
which shows that he had come to be looked
upon as a man of sound judgment, and to be
held in considerable reputation. Before his
death he became tenant in Mains of Tonley,
in Tough, where he died in 17 14. His stone ^ in

^ Appendix, Note R.

86 The Family of M'Covibie.

the churchyard of Tough is amongst the oldest,
if not the oldest one in it with an inscription.
There is a tradition that when the people of
Tough were visited by the cateran, Donald
M'Comie sometimes got these troublesome vis-
itors away with as little loss as possible to the
community, not, as his father, "big M'Comie in
the head of the Lowlands," used to do, by the
terror of his sword, but by his persuasive words
addressed to them in Gaelic. In Glenshee, the
early home of his father, Gaelic was the ordinary
language of everyday life, and is still spoken
there, although we are sorry to say it is fast
dying out. Donald M'Comie was therefore
familiar with it, and all who know the High-
landers know how their heart warms to any one
who can address them in their own tongue,
especially when they meet with one who speaks
it where they believe it is unknown. It is not
difficult to understand, therefore, how he came to
have such influence with the wild cateran.

Donald's son Robert became tenant in Find-
latrie, also in Tough, and overlooking Lynturk.
His life seems to have been spent like that of his

Robert J\rCo??ibie, Findlatrie. 87

father, in peaceful industry, which was soon to
bear fruit, as the rapid rise of the family after
his time is evidence that he was laying a good
foundation on which his descendants could raise
a lasting superstructure. He married Isobel
Ritchie, daughter of Mr Ritchie, Farmton of
Alford. One of his sons, Robert, was out in
1745, and in 1746 escaped with difficulty from
the rout of Culloden. After the battle he was
overtaken by three dragoons, of whom he asked
and fortunately obtained quarter. Scarcely, how-
ever, were they out of sight when a single dra-
goon overtook him, and on his refusing quarter,
Robert M'Combie drew his pistol and shot the
horse, and after a brief combat slew the rider.
After this he managed to get home in safety,

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