William M'Combie Smith.

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

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are seen. To the east and north-east the view
is circumscribed by the hills of Brimmond, Elrick,
and Tyrebagger ; but even with this slight draw-
back the panorama is one of rare beauty and

The barony of Lynturk is about 24 miles by
road west of Aberdeen. On the north side
it is within 3 miles of the river Don in a direct
line, on the south side it is within 7 miles of
the Dee. The length from east to west is fully
2^^ miles, the breadth from north to south is over
I mile. The surrounding estates are : on the
north, Carnaveron, Tillychetly, and Tonley ; on
the east, Tonley ; on the south, Tillyfour ; and on
the west, Craigievar, the estates of Craigievar and
Lynturk forming the whole of the parish of
Leochel before its union with Cushnie. The

134 ^-^^^ Family of M'Coiubic.

area of both estates is about 2200 acres, all of
which may be said to be either arable or under
wood, except a small piece of moss. The
elevation varies from under 600 ft. above sea-
level on the west along the Leochel burn, to
slightly over 1000 ft. on the top of the wooded
height south of the mansion-house. A fringe
of unreclaimed marshy ground at one time al-
most surrounded the estate of Lynturk ; but now,
except the small piece of moss between Upper
Farmton and Little Lynturk, the whole is arable
or under wood. The farms are : on the north.
Lower and Upper Farmton, and two at Little
Lynturk ; on the west, the farm and inn of Mug-
garthaugh, and Bridgend ; on the south, Clay-
mill, Drumdaig, and Buffle ; on the east, the
home farm of Lynturk. About half a mile south
of the mansion-house is the school of Lynturk,
endowed by the late Peter M'Combie, Esq. of
Lynturk. The handsome U.P. church and
manse, between Little Lynturk and Muggart-
haugh, was built in place of the old church at

]]HUaiu I\I'Coinbic of Eastcrskene. 135

Buffle, where a Secession congregation existed
in the time of WilHam M'Combie, the grandfather
of the present proprietor. There is also a black-
smith's shop and joiner's shop east and west of
Little Lynturk. The estate of Lynturk is sur-
rounded by a good road, with branches where
necessary to the various farms. The greater part
of Lynturk is fine strong land, some of the land
on Bridgend so long farmed by Mr M'Combie
of Tillyfour being of exceptional fertility, Mr
M'Combie having reaped 13 quarters of oats
per acre one year off the southern slope of the
field on which the stackyard stands. There is
much fine wood on Lynturk, and a sawmill has
long existed in connection with the home farm.
A good deal of the home farm is in pasture,
there being an annual let of parks. As men-
tioned before, besides the modern mansion-house
— a plain two-storey building set in an amphithe-
atre of woods, plantations, and groups of fine
old trees — there is the house of Mr M'Combie's
grandfather, and another built on the site of the

136 The Family of M'Combie.

old castle of Lynturk. On the east side of
Lynturk, on the burn that, rising on the extreme
cast of Tillyfour, flows between Lynturk and
Tonley for some distance, is a small but pictur-
esque cascade known as the Linn of Lynturk,
in connection with which there is a traditionary
Lady of the Linn/ Although there are many
fine views from various points on Lynturk, there
is nothing to compare with those from Easter-
skene, the wall of mountains encircling the vale of
Alford bounding the view almost on every side.

Returning to the home farm of Easterskene,
we find that here, as at Lynturk, part of it is kept
in grass. Several of these grass parks are let
annually, and have an unrivalled reputation for
the quality of the pasture. One field which has
been over forty years in grass, situated in the
corner between the roads leading south and west
from the Kirkton of Skene, has been let at the
extraordinary rent of £c) per acre, which is be-
lieved to be the hiorhest rent ever oriven in this
country for a grazing not in the immediate vicinity

^ Appendix. Note T.

William M'Combie of Easter skene. 137

of a town, if indeed it has been equalled under
any circumstances.

The home farm of Easterskene has for between
forty and fifty years been the home of a herd of
polled Aberdeen-Angus cattle, second in fame
in Aberdeenshire only to that of Tillyfour. The
Easterskene herd was founded in the beginning of
the forties, a prize-winner at the Highland Society's
show having been bred at Easterskene as early
as 1845. Since then animals from the herd have
gained the highest honours, time after time, at the
Highland Society, the Royal Northern, and local
Agricultural Societies' shows. The Easterskene
herd has been conspicuous especially for the
excellence of its bulls — Alaster the Second hav-
ing beat the celebrated Fox Maule from Port-
lethen, that Mr M'Combie of Tillyfour declared
to be " one of the best polled bulls ever ex-
hibited." Caledonian H. and Taurus were High-
land Society winners ; and Paris H., after winning
at the Royal Northern and Highland Society
shows, was sold before he was two years old for
150 guineas. Mr M'Combie sent winners in the

138 The Family of APCombie.

heifer classes at Highland Society's shows in
1869, 1873, and 1875, while Mr M'Combie of
Tillyfour bought many prize-winners from Easter-
skene. So recently as December 1886, Mr
M'Combie, with his Black Beauty of Easter-
skene heifer, bred and fed at Easterskene,
obtained first prize in the polled cow or heifer
class, and prize as Champion Scot both at Bir-
mingham and London. The herd is as strong
and flourishing as ever at the present time, and is
the oldest established herd of note in Aberdeen-

In the manaofement of the home farm of Easter-
skene, Mr M'Combie, in both farming and breed-
ing, has shown an example that ought to be fol-
lowed by every landed proprietor who has the
welfare of his tenantry, and in a wider sense the
good of his country, at heart. There is no at-
tempt at a style of farming beyond a tenant's
means, which can only discourage men of moderate
capital. The bogs and heathery moors have been
reclaimed by degrees at moderate cost. The fine
crops grown at Easterskene are raised by means

William M'Combie of Easterskcnc. 139

and processes within the reach of every intelligent
enterprising farmer. The fine breeding herd has
not been got together by buying right and left
fancy animals at fancy prices, a method resorted
to by many landed proprietors, who form herds
not by their intelligence and skill as breeders,
but by the length of their purses, a system gen-
erally beyond a tenant's means. The Easter-
skene herd has been formed from what was ordi-
nary materials at first, by careful management,
with the result that although fancy animals at
fancy prices have gone out from Easterskene, few,
if any, have been brought in ; the method in
this case being within a tenant's means, and the
result of a nature to encourage a tenant to follow
the method.

All this has been done under Mr M'Combie's
own immediate superintendence. He knows, in
much the same way as his tenants do, the trials,
difficulties, fears, hopes, and rewards of the far-
mer's life. Farmingr with him has not been taken
up in a spirit of dilettanteisfn, but has been an
earnest practical pursuit.

140 The Family of M'Combie.

If, as a practical farmer, Mr M'Combie has
been an example to other landlords, much more
has he been an example to be followed as a land-
lord. No lawyer factor, a class who have been
and are one of the greatest evils in the agricul-
tural life of this country, not even a land-steward,
comes between Mr M'Combie and his tenants.
In the rare cases where a tenant and he cannot
agree as to the value of a farm, an impartial
arbiter is called in. The result is that only in
very exceptional cases is there a change of tenant
other than by succession. You look in vain in
the newspapers for "eligible farms to let on the
estates of Easterskene and Lynturk." Where, as
in the case of Mr M'Combie, a landlord lives on
his estates in the midst of his tenants, and knows
the life of every tenant, as every tenant knows
the life of his landlord, a feeling of mutual trust
and friendship springs up, in which the unity of
interest of landlord and tenant becomes a living
present fact, at work all the year round, and not
a remote abstract idea to be brought forth once a-
year in after-dinner speeches at agricultural shows,

Williavi ]\rConibic of Easterskcne. 141

and now and again at election times, or once or
twice in a lifetime at marriage or coming-of-age

Country people see now and again, often at long
intervals, a flag displayed from the top of the
country seat of the laird, by which it is under-
stood that he is there in person. This has for
long been a " sign of the times," upon which
much might be said, and which is having results
in these latter days. If at Easterskene the dis-
play of a flag was made when the laird was absent
for more than a day, the sight of the flag indicat-
ing his absence would be rarer than that indicat-
ing the presence of most others. While thus
making his duties as a landlord the main business
of his life, Mr M'Combie has given much of his
time to public duties. He has been a Justice of
the Peace for the long period of about sixty years,
and is one of the only two remaining freeholders
of the county, being enrolled as long ago as 1825.
He was also for many years chairman of the pa-
rochial board of Skene, retiring only a year or two
ago, much to the regret of every one on the board.

142 TJie Family of M'Coinbie,

As was to be expected, the Volunteer movement
received his hearty support. Although when the
movement originated he was about sixty years of
age — a time of life when most people are thinking
of retiring from active work — yet, when in his
sixty-fifth year, he undertook the command of the
3d Aberdeenshire Rifle Volunteer Corps, and
held the captaincy until 1870. He was exceed-
ingly popular with his men and brother officers,
and when nearly seventy years of age stood as
straight as any in the ranks, and was the tallest
man in his company of nearly 100 volunteers.

In private life Mr M'Combie is highly es-
teemed as one of the most amiable and hearty of
men, full of genial humour and wit. His store of
anecdotes, illustrative of the social life of Aber-
deenshire in the end of last century and the
beginning of the present, is unrivalled, and it is a
great pity that a collection of these anecdotes has
not been made for preservation, as many of them
will soon be altogether lost, being known to few
of the present generation even in the districts
where they originated. Mr M'Combie has all his

William APC online of Easter skene. 143

life been a great reader, and the collection of
books at Easterskene, especially those relating to
Scottish history, antiquities, and old lore in gen-
eral, was declared by the late Mr Jervise, author
of the ' History of Angus and Mearns,' &c,, who
occasionally visited at Easterskene, to be the best
private collection he knew of. Mr M'Combie is
an enthusiast in Scottish music, and an excellent
judge of it, and has a fine collection of old strath-
speys, many of them in MS., and very rare. He
loves to recall the powers of the late Mr James
Strachan, the famous Drumnagarrow, who used
to be the leading player at the Easterskene balls
many years ago. Mr M'Combie has all his life
been a stanch supporter of athletic sports, and
over twenty years ago capital games were held
at Lynturk and Muggarthaugh. For a good
many years past games have been held at Easter-
skene, where the leading athletes of the present
time, Donald Dinnie, George Davidson, and
Kenneth M'Crae, have appeared; and we happen
to know that any of them, when opportunity offers,
would go to Easterskene in preference to most

144 The Family of M'Combie.

places, if for nothing else than to show their re-
spect for Mr M'Combie, as one who has so hearty
an appreciation of and interest in manly men and
manly sports.

In 1870, Mr M'Combie's popularity as a land-
lord and country gentleman received public re-
cognition when he was entertained to dinner by
his Lynturk tenantry and the leading gentlemen
of the vale of Alford. The following account of
this dinner appeared in the ' Banffshire Journal '
of February i, 1870: "The chief of the clan
M'Combie — the popular laird of Easterskene —
was entertained to dinner on the 21st ult by the
tenantry on his estate of Lynturk, in the vale of
Alford. The chair was occupied by the laird's
cousin, Mr M'Combie, M.P. for West Aber-
deenshire, who is tenant in Bridgend, the largest
farm on the Lynturk estate ; and there was a
great gathering of the chief men of the vale.
The chairman referred to Mr M'Combie as a
kind and considerate landlord, who lets his farms
at moderate rents, who keeps no head of game,
and who lives among his people as an enter-

William H/'Conibie of Bastci^skene. 145

prising improver of the soil, and of the breeds
of cattle ; the winner of many a prize in the
show-yard ; as a warm supporter of the Volunteer
cause, having been for a lengthened period the
captain of the local volunteers ; and as a gentle-
man of the kindest heart and most agreeable
manners. In these observations the chairman
did not say a word more than was due to
Easterskene, and the large meeting cordially
endorsed the sentiments. The laird made a
suitable reply, and proposed the health of the
tenantry of Lynturk, coupled with Mr Hunter,
Farmton, who acknowledged." In addition to
the foregoing, Mr M'Combie has on more than
one occasion been entertained by his Easterskene

In politics Mr M'Combie is a Conservative of
a mild type, and were there more of the same
character, Conservatism would not be at so low
an ebb in Aberdeenshire. He has never, how-
ever, given much of his time nor attention to
politics, nor been an ardent party-man. Some
idea of Mr M'Combie personally has already

146 The Family of M'Cojiibie.

been given while mentioning his height. Until
incapacitated from active outdoor exercise by an
unfortunate accident some years ago, he might
have been cited along with the late Mr Horatio
Ross as an example of the remarkable preserva-
tion of strength in old age. When his portrait by
Mr J. Coutts Michie was exhibited at Edinburgh
in 1885, it was difficult to believe that the hand-
some, vio^orous, and alert-lookino- old man was an
octogenarian ; and one critic thought doubtlessly
that he showed remarkable critical acumen when
he triumphantly asked, "Where are the wrinkles?"
But the critic missed his mark, as critics some-
times do ; for although now midway between
eighty and ninety, Mr M'Combie's forehead is
marked with only the faint outline of one or
two wrinkles, just as the artist has faithfully
delineated in the portrait.

In the difference between the condition of
the estates of Easterskene and Lynturk at
the present time, and their condition when Mr
M'Combie entered into possession, lies the result
of his life's work — a work the value of which

Williaui IM'Contbic of Eastcrskciic, 147

is beyond all calculation. It rests there an ac-
complished fact, that has already borne much
trood fruit, and will continue, as all good work
ever does, to bear fruit in a variety of ways
and for a length of time beyond all human

In bringing our brief memoir to a close, we
feel that in looking back to the solitary figure of
Donald M'Combie arriving poor and friendless
in the vale of Alford some two hundred years
ago, and then looking at the position of his
descendant and representative of the present
day, while enjoying his otiuiii atni dignitate in a
green old age as the respected and honoured
proprietor of two fine estates, and the many
other descendants who have brought respect
and honour on the name of M'Combie — such a
retrospect cannot fail to be an incentive to in-
dividual effort in others, who may learn from it
that prosperity always waits on energetic perse-
verance in well-doing, and invariably crowns it
with success sooner or later. When, again, we
compare the "life of sturt and strife" of John

148 The Family of M'Combie.

M'ComIe of Forter, with the peaceful career
of his descendant at Easterskene, we see the
advance the nation has made from revolution,
imperfect civilisation, and lawlessness, to settled
government, advanced civilisation, and conform-
ity to law.



NOTE A, page 5.

"I OWN that John MTntoshe of fforter, comonly
called M'Comie,"\vas a brave loyall gentleman, and be-
haved very worthily in the King's service. But he
needs not be excepted in this place ; his predecessor, as
he told me and others severall tymes, was a son of the
House of Garvamore in Badenoch, where never a MTn-
toshe treaded till this our age, otherwise than as a
guest or passenger ; so was really Macphersone, as all
the oy'' M'Intoshes in the south are, who tho by ane un-
acceptable mistake they bear yr name, have our nature,
and constantly from age to age loved us better than
them. But if he had been a M'Intoshe as he was called,
he was neither at Glenclova nor at Blaire Castle, or the
seidge of Lethen and Burgie, consequently that part of
the history that concerns the services of the Catana tribus
under the reign of King Charles the first, cannot at all
be ascribed to the M'Intoshes, nor the rescue of Queen
Mary, more than this, except that in contradiction to

150 TJic Family of M'Combie.

comon sence and reason, and the vouched testimonies
of unexceptible witnesses, their bold assertion pass for a
sufficient proofe." — From Sir yEneas M'Pherson^ of In-
vereshie's MS. Memorial to the Laird of Cluny in Bad-
Q.noch., penes M'Pherson of Cluny.

" The care taken by the family historians to record
the natural offspring of William, seventh laird of M'ln-
tc^h, is sufficient proof that they were persons of note.
The manners of the country and the time, both equally
rude, may warrant the inference that the connection of
which they were the issue was sanctioned by some such
imperfect rite as that of handfasting. The mother of
the two elder, Angus and Donald, appears to have been
the daughter of the chief of the tribe of the M'Gillonies
of Lochaber, a considerable branch of the Clan Cameron.
The name of the mother of the three younger has not
reached us ; but from the marriage of her daughter to
a person who was evidently of consequence, we may
infer that she was of honourable rank. Both her sons
seem to have received lands from their father, Sorald or

^ The following notice of Sir /Eneas M'Pherson is given in Douglas's
'Baronage of Scotland,' p. 360, ed. 1798: "/Eneas, afterwards Sir
/Eneas, a man of great parts and learning, and highly esteemed both by
King Charles II. and King James VII. He collected the materials for
the histoiy of the Clan M'Pherson, which is thought a valuable MS.,
is much esteemed, and is still preserved in the family. He was made
Sheriff of Aberdeen by a charter under the great seal from King Charles II.,
dated 1684. His only son died a colonel in Spain, without issue." Sir
/Eneas was the second son of "William M'Pherson of Inneressie, who
married Margaret, daughter of Farquhardson of Wardes " (Wardhouse in
Aberdeenshire, which belonged to the Farquharsons of Invercauld). " His
grandfather, Angus or .Eneas M'Pherson of Inneressie, married a daughter
of Farquharson of Bruickderg " (Broughdearg in Glenshee).

Appendix. 151

Sorlie ; and his descendants for two generations pos-
sessed lands apparently in the neighbourhood of Petty,
the favourite residence of their father. Of the elder,
the Latin History gives the following account; 'Adam
MacWilliam at first settled in Atholl, but afterwards
removed to Garvamore in Badenagh ; and from him are
descended the Macintoshes of Glenshee, Strathairdle,
and Glenisla.' As his father died in 1368 at an ad-
vanced age, and as he was born before his father's
second marriage (of which there was issue), the date
of his birth may be placed in the middle of the four-
teenth century (probably rather before than after
1350), and it is not likely that he long survived the
year 1400. Unless a further clue shall be discovered,
the endeavour to trace link by link the descent of the
Macintoshes of Glenshee, Strathairdle, and Glenisla
from this common and remote progenitor, must be
abandoned as hopeless. [There is no record come down
to us of the particular Thomas M'Intosh from whom
the surname of M'Combie originated. The first men-
tion of M'Thomas as surname seems to be in " Clan
Chattan's Band," Spalding Club Miscellany, vol. iv.
p. 260, where Aye M'Ane M'Thomas is mentioned.
Thomas as Christian name has always been kept up in
the family. — W. M'C. S.] It is, however, vouched in the
most direct manner by the family annalist, whose sources
of information and discriminating accuracy leave no
room for doubt in the matter. He is indeed to be re-
garded as so far a contemporary witness ; for of the
documents from Avhich he compiled his work, it has
been seen that one was written within a century of the


Thc Family of M'Coinbie.

death of Adam M'William, with whose children, at the
farthest in the second generation, this eldest historian
of the Macintoshes (who was also the chief of the clan)
must have been contemporary. The evidence thus far
(that is, to about the year 1500) is unquestionable ; and
by the other two historians, it is carried down in the same
contemporary channel to the year 1550. The writer of
the Latin History wrote shortly after the year 1679 .< so
that the period as to which it was necessary for him to
speak of his own knowledge is less than a century and
a half, a period for which the amplest evidence of
family descent is generally accessible even in the ab-
sence of written proofs, and among a people much less
tenacious of such recollections than the Highlanders.
It will be observed, also, that he speaks of the families of
Glenshee, Strathairdle, and Glenisla as still existing,
Avhich gives additional weight to his evidence." — From
' Notes (MS.) on the Family of Macintosh or M'Combie
of Forthar in Glenisla, in the shire of Angus, descended
from the Family of Macintosh or of that Ilk, Captains
of the Clan Chattan,' by the late Dr Joseph Robertson,
the eminent antiquary, author of ' The Book of Bon
Accord,' &c., written in 1839, penes Mr William
M'Combie of Easterskene and Lynturk. In addition
to the notes by Dr Robertson, the compiler desires to
express his indebtedness to the exhaustive ' Historical
Memoirs of the House and Clan of Mackintosh,' by Mr
Alexander Mackintosh Shaw, for several interesting
facts in the early history of the M'Combies.

Appendix. 1 5 3

NOTE B, page 5.

" To any one at all versant in matters of genealogy, it
will be superfluous to remark that until a recent period ^
illegitimate birth was scarcely counted a spot in a pedi-
gree. The instances are innumerable of lords, earls, and
princes who subscribed and called themselves bastards ;
and there is scarcely a family in the peerage of Scot-
land in which, in some instance, the succession has not
been carried on by an illegitimate son. In 1404, Alex-
ander Stewart, a natural son of the Wolfe of Badenagh,
acquired the Earldom of Mar, which he transmitted to
his natural son, Sir Thomas Stewart." After citing
other cases involving damnatiLin coitum, Mr Robertson
quotes from Feme's ' Blazon of Gentrie, or Glorie of
Generositie,' p. 287 (London, 1586): " Spurii qui ex
damnato coitu procreantur, ita ut tempore procreationis,
non possit esse matrimonium, omni prorsus beneficio
excludantur." " It was," he continues, " perhaps scarcely
necessary to cite these examples, for the history of the
chiefs of the Macintoshes itself furnishes a sufficient
instance. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, on
the occasion of a disputed succession to the chiefship,
the clan chose a bastard brother of a late chief to be their
captain." — Robertson, 'Notes on the Family of Mac-
intosh or M'Combie.' (See also Skene's ' Highlanders

1 A writer, indeed, of the reign of King James VI. speaks thus of the
practice of his day : "Observandum hodie et hoc est, quod bastardi, si a
parentibus suis agnoscantur pro liberis nobilitatem ea parte patris recipi-
unt." — Craigii 'Jus Feudale,' lib. ii. § 21.

154 ^^i

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