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Mary Queen of Scots


Pitlochry and the Stewarts

The outbreak of religious and social revolution, which we
call the Reformation, affected Pitlochry chiefly through
the changing of property and the displacement of priests. The Church of Moulin belonged to the Abbey of Dunfermline before 1560, so that the revenue of the church was diverted to maintain the large institution almost 100 miles away. In return for this income a canon was sent to Moulin at intervals to celebrate the Mass, but there would not be a resident priest. Two changes took place. In 1560 the lay Commendator of Dunfermline Abbey presented the lands belonging to Moulin Church to Stewart of Foss. It was, however, fully fourteen years before the Reformed Church could supply a minister, Gregor Dugaldson, to serve the spiritual needs of the large parish.

It was in the midst of this ecclesiastical chaos that Mary
Queen of Scots chose to show herself in the valley of the
Tummel and the Garry. In August, 1564, she travelled from Perth and rode with her retainers by the banks of the Tummel up to Moulin and so over Craigower and down to the Garry. Legend has it that at Tigh-nan-Geat, The House of the Harp-Strings, she called for a string to repair her harp and later she presented the instrument to Miss Beatrice Robertson of Lude, in whose family it remained until this century, when it was handed to the Scottish Antiquarian Society. Mary was hospitably received by the Earl of Atholl at Blair Castle and
a great deer hunt was organised in Glen Tilt. Nor was this
the first royal hunt in Atholl, for Sir David Lindsay of the
Mount records that a deer hunt had been arranged in the reign of James V. For Mary something like 2,000 deer were herded together and a noble stag led them. A stag-hound was let loose and the vast concourse of animals rushed off through the line of ghillies, whose only safety lay in lying flat on the ground. Even so, many highlanders were hurt and several were killed. The great deer hunt of 3rd and 4th August resulted in 360 deer being killed, besides five wolves and several roes. And so Mary, well amused and highly pleased,” as an eye-witness says, passed on to Inverness to show her royal smile to the warm-hearted highlanders.

When next we hear the tramp of hoofs and the clatter
of armour in Atholl almost 100 years have passed. It is again a Stewart cause, for Charles is far away in England in 1644 and only his Lieutenant, the grave Marquis of Montrose, keeps his banner flying. James Graham was hiding in a wood at Methven in August of that year and needed Donald the Fair, a Clanranald man, to guide him through the windings of Killiecrankie Pass to the rendezvous at Blair. He slept at Lude House and reviewed in the morning his mixed force of Atholl men and Irish fighters, besides 1620 Macdonalds and Macleans. Instead of a mounted army, Montrose had only three horses of skin and bone. The chieftains possessed flintlocks and a few claymores ; the rest had bows and arrows and stones. The half-naked Irishmen were followed by wild
women and squealing children. Yet Montrose mustered them and led them on the 30th August from Blair Castle down the Pass and up Loch Tummel and over to Aberfeldy to Tibbermore, where he attained a brilliant if bloody victory.

It is recorded that in 1680 Sir Ewan Cameron of
Locheil, doubtless on his way northward to Inverness, met a wolf in the Pass of Killiecrankie and slew it. No doubt the general use of firearms in the Central Highlands was spelling the end of this ferocious enemy of man and animal, and this appears to be the last record of a wolf in Perthshire.

But nine years later the clansmen swept southward with
cries more sharp than those of hungry wolves and claymores keener than their teeth. The most famous of all events in the Pitlochry area took place at Killiecrankie on the 27th July 1689. It resembles Trafalgar and Aboukir and Corunna in that the gallant commander fell in the hour of victory. The hero was in this case John Graham, lately to the Covenanters of the south “ Bloody Claverhouse,” and now to the re-awakened Highlanders the daring general of the Jacobite cause, the all-too-devoted servant of the fleeing James. Graham refused to surrender, though his king had deserted him, and he rallied the Camerons, Macleans and Macdonalds and captured Blair Castle by 27th July, only to learn that
General Hugh Mackay was struggling through the Pass, at
that time the only way north, in single file with pack horses and troops. Locheil urged Claverhouse to engage the enemy and soon the Jacobite outposts had secured the heights above Urrard House. Claverhouse ordered his men to march round and round the hill in order that Mackay might overestimate his strength. They dug trenches for defence on the hills, which I have seen myself. But the fervid Celts could not be restrained for long. With Maclean on the right, Cameron and Macdonald on the left, the Irish and Dundee’s own men in the centre, Glengarry proudly raised the royal standard
in the highland breeze. Throwing away their plaids,
socks and shoes, the clansmen hurled themselves on the
soldiers below them, who, having fired their flintlocks into
the advancing horde, lost precious time in trying to fix their bayonets.

Around the Standing Stone on the flat ground Mackay had deposited the baggage, which neither he nor his
men bothered to retrieve as the enemy swept them to the bottleneck of the Pass. The commander of the Government forces cut across the Garry above the narrow Pass and scaled the birch-clad slope that separated him from Strathtummel, but less fortunate troopers were caught in the narrow defile. One desperate hunted soldier leaped across the dark waters, a distance of sixteen feet without a run, to the opposite rock. The incredulous may smile at the feat, but the same young
desperado returned with General Wade and his men and was identified later with certainty.

But Claverhouse fell. Refusing Locheil’s advice, he led his Lowlanders, and, when they wavered, rose on his
stirrups and, waving his hat on high, urged them on. It was a fateful action. His cuirass opened at the joint and a sniper from a window in Urrard House sent home the mortal musket- ball. As he fell, Johnson, a cavalryman, caught him and the smoke of battle hid them from their comrades. How goes the day ? ‘‘ enquired Claverhouse after a little. ” Well for King James,” cried Johnson, “ but I am sorry for your lord-ship.’’ True to type came thc dying voice, “ If it is well for him, it matters the less for me.” The battle indeed was well won, but victory was more costly than defeat. They returned in sadness to wrap in a highland plaid the body of their inspiring commander and carry him to the quiet little church-
yard of Old Blair, where to this hour he lies with no
splendour but his memory. His cuirass may be seen to-day in Blair Castle, the drab relic of a dashing cavalier.

The victorious highlanders poured down the Pass and
up over Craigower to Moulin and so down to Dunkeld,
chasing before them Mackay’s army of four thousand panic-stricken, scattering soldiers. But the cause was killed when John Graham fell and the Cameronians, embattled in the Cathedral, tested to breaking-point the spirit of the Jacobites and the Rising came to an end.

As the Jacobites passed the Manse of Moulin they little
reckoned that the last minister, Robert Campbell, had shown sympathy with the Stewarts, and his son, the laird of Fonab, was fighting British battles in the Low Countries. Alexander was no Jacobite his eyes roved far beyond the borders of Scotland to the fortunes of the Darien Expedition, which was finally to bring financial ruin to Scotland. It was indeed reported that the first convoy of twelve hundred Scots was in dire peril, so Captain Campbell hurried out to retrieve the position. He captured the fort of Teubocanti and its sixteen hundred Spanish defenders, but ships of Spain had meantime sailed into the Scots harbour in Darien and caught them from the rear. The terms of surrender excluded Campbell, who made a bid for freedom. For months he headed north-
ward on his lonely way through prairie and forest till at last he reached New York and safety. The only relic the captain brought back to Scotland was the gold box which he had picked out of the pocket of the Spanish general who had fallen at Teubocanti. But Scotland hastened to mark the brave occasion by striking a gold medal in his honour, showing a kilted swordsman against a background of palms, stockades and armies. Above his head is the grand legend, “ Quid Non Pro Patria.” The date is 5th February, 1700. The hero returned to live for a time as a country laird on Fonab estate, but he was not a Campbell for nothing. He joined in the hunt for Rob Roy and later fought under Argyle at Sheriffmuir in 1715, hitting Mar’s men hip and thigh right on to Perth. He generously protected Rob Roy after the Rising. He never forgot he was a son of the Manse of Moulin or that
he was a grandson of Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy.
He died in 1724.

If Colonel Campbell fought for the Government, most
of his neighbours in Pitlochry were Jacobites. John the sixth Earl of Mar had been snubbed by George I. in London and knew his fate was sealed at Court. So in 1715 he made for the Braes of Mar and rallied the highlanders for the third time around the Stewart standard. It was supposed to be a hunting party. It was, however, the Hanoverian King they really sought to hunt. Southwards they marched down Glenshee and up Strathardle. At Kirkmichael Lord Tullibardine met Mar, the banner was unfurled and five hundred fighters from Atholl joined the cause. So on they marched to Moulin to rest and refresh themselves. By the time the force had reached Dunkeld on 26th September, 1715, no less than
fourteen hundred men from Atholl had thrown in their lot
with Mar. Many of these were despatched to take part with General Mackintosh at the Battle of Preston on the 14th of November, and most of them were taken prisoner. Among these were Archibald Butter of Pitlochry, Finley Ferguson of Baledmund, and Ferguson of Ballyoukan, Happily, Butter was endowed with remarkably good looks, which, it is alleged, helped to secure his pardon in June 1716. Finley Ferguson was imprisoned in Liverpool. So once again the Jacobite bid for power was frustrated and the clansmen crept quietly back to Atholl.

The sudden and dangerous Rising, however, forced the
Government to open up the highlands for rapid movement
of troops and material. Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, petitioned George I. to raise regiments of highianders in order to disarm the individual native, but George did not trust him. Indeed, he called in his trusty Irish General, George Wade, who within six months perfected his plan of using loyal highlanders organised in six companies of soldiers to lay roads and build bridges fqr forces to move northward to Inverness and southward to Fort William and back to Perth and Edinburgh. He offered sixpence a day extra pay if these soldiers would spend their time on roadmaking rather than loafing in barracks, 402 of them, officers and men.

Wade began in 1725 by persuading the late rebels to
lay down no fewer than 2,685 weapons. By 1726 he had
started on the new road from Fort Augustus to Inverness, and two years later he urged on his three hundred soldiers to drive the new road through Pitlochry and above the Pass of Killiecrankie. Thus he cut out Moulin and the high track over Craigower and the vulnerable windings of the Garry. On the 20th of July, 1728, he could write to Pelham that he was busy on eighty miles of road and on the 27th of August, 1729, he wrote from the Hut at Dalncardoch, for it was summer work only, that the Pretender was on the point of returning. Yes, and it was cheap roadmaking, for 522
miles of road and eleven arched bridges cost no more than £3,528. Compare this with the North Road which in 1926 cost tens of thousands per mile! It was George Wade who decided that these highland companies of soldiers should wear a dark tartan, from which they were named “The Black Watch.” His crowning glory was the bridge at Aberfeldy, completed on 9th August, 1735, before a titled and notable assembly. Most of all Pitlochry will remember Wade for he more than any other mortal decided its bright future by laying down an arterial road which like a magic wand has called into being houses and people in rich abundance.

Wade had no sooner finished his road making than
who should come driving comfortably along his new road to Pitlochry but the Reverend Adam Ferguson for the Duke of Atholl had induced him to leave Killin for Moulin. His had been a trying experience in Perth in 1733 for he proceeded to the county town to tell the townspeople that Mr Wilson was no longer a minister of the church and he was met by crowds of agitated folks who forcibly resisted his action. These were stirring times in religion and feeling ran high Ferguson was hoping to find in Moulin Church that the name of Seceder was unknown. In 1772 he was made Moderator of the General Assembly and lived to see his eighty first year.

Thus it was the same worthy minister who watched
Bonnie Prince Charlie march through his parish in 1745
Actually the old Mansion House of Pitlochry built in 1701
offered Charles hospitality as he passed down the Main Street on the 3rd September, 1745. This house has been known as Prince Charlie's House. But it is now demolished. The Young Pretender was indeed making good progress, for he had supped and danced at Lude House in Blair Atholl the night before. This was the first and last that the people saw of the gay and gallant Charles.

Next year, however, a curious situation developed.
Cumberland, chasing the Jacobites northwards, had ordered Sir Andrew Agnew to advance from Dunkeld and capture Blair Castle. His force of five hundred men passed through Pitlochry and took their objective on 8th February 1746. But at once Lord George Murray pounced on them from Inverness with seven hundred highianders and invaded the Castle, the last to be besieged in Britain. It was quixotic, for Murray was in fact trying to capture and release his own old home. He even threatened to demolish it. Three hundred Jacobites occupied the newly-built stables. The defenders were reduced to one pound of biscuits, a quarter of a pound of cheese and one small bottle of water a day, with only nineteen cartridges left to each soldier. The attackers stole up to the very windows and threw rude jokes at Sir Andrew, the peculiar and testy old commander. The laugh was the other way, however, when a resourceful subaltern placed a
stuffed dummy of Agnew at a window and so drew many
wasted bullets. Murray scribbled his terms of surrender on
a piece of dirty paper, and when no one would dare to
deliver it, it was Molly, the maid at McGlashan’s Inn, who
approached the Castle and delivered it to Agnew himself, but without success. Two cannons were now used, which fired 207 shots into the Castle, 185 of which had been heated red-hot, but the garrison, with a ladle from the kitchen, lifted the balls and plunged them into a tub of cold water. Some marks, however, still remain on the Tower floor. Agnew merely remarked, “ My lad is playing ball against the walls of Blair Castle. Is the loon clean daft knockin’ doon his ain brother’s hoose? ‘‘

Nevertheless, the besieged were soon eating horseflesh. Tullibardine told his brother George by letter of a secret passage into the Castle. Agnew was now in a desperate plight and sent John Wilson, the Duke’s gardener, to Lord Crawford at Dunkeld for help. St. George’s Dragoons and four battalions of Hessian troops, the last mercenary troops in Britain, pushed up to Pitlochry by the fifteenth of April. What a strange sight ! The Prince of Hesse leading one thousand German soldiers from Dalshian
through the village to relieve Blair Castle. They dreaded
the ill-famed Pass of Killiecrankie. On the same day Murray raised the siege and hurried north to Inverness. Agnew told Crawford when he arrived that he had been very dilatory, but entertained him hospitably nevertheless.

When the Duke of Cumberland called at Blar on his
return south from Culloden, Agnew, part-blind though he
was, first of all the garrison recognised the royal visitor.
Blaw, blaw, ye scoundrel! “ he cried to the bugler. “Dinna
ye see the King’s ain bairn? “ Cumberland was suitably impressed with the story of the heroic defence of the Castle and promised to tell the King. Nor did Agnew let him go without reminding him, ” Dinna forget, your Royal Highness, mind ye dinna forget.” And inded it was an unforgettable event for Atholl and the throne.

Now started the Government’s recriminations. Dragoons
hunted down the rebels throughout Pitlochry. Ferguson of
Dunfallandy was out with the Prince, but he was pardoned on account of his excessive youthfulness and also because he acted only under compulsion. Robertson of Faskally was a different case, for he was so passionately devoted to Charles that his name was deliberately omitted from the Acts of Pardon. Troops hunted him continuously. They tracked him to a
farmhouse at Aldour and closed in from all sides. He had
just time enough to creep down a burnside and slip inside
the trunk of an old oak tree, where he hid till they had gone. He finally escaped to France and died presumably in exile.

The Trooper’s Well near the old Clunie Bridge tells a
further story of the Forty-Five “ in Pitlochry. A dragoon
engaged in hunting fugitives stopped at this well to slake his thirst, when McCraw, an Atholl man, hidden on the other bank of the Tummel, shot him dead with a musket-ball. The grand-daughter of McCraw lived to tell the tale within living memory for she died in 1888.

The same year, 1746, heritable jurisdictions were
abolished, which meant that the Stewarts of Balnakeilly and the Fergusons of Baledmund, who had been the dispensers of justice, ceased as lairds to exercise this function. The new jurisdiction was invoked some years later, for in 1760 Stewart of Bonskeid and Stewart of Shierglass met in an inn at the west end of the villace and came to fighting. The dirk that stabbed Bonskeid is still preserved as a bloody relic of the fateful encounter.

In 1758 the heritors were obliged by law to erect a
new Manse for Moulin parish, a poor consolation for Fer-
guson the minister, who lost his wife by death at the same time. Indeed, dangers and disasters seem to punctuate this period, for in 1746 eighteen persons, including four husbands with their wives, lost their lives at the Garry ferry. They were returning from the Moulin Market when the boat was overloaded and capsized. The only survivor was the ferry-man, whose wife fished him out with a boathook. This tragedy roused the community to the need for safer transport and within three years the public subscriptions were so generous that a substantial bridge was erected at the southern end of the Pass. For nearly two hundred years this picturesque structure has given the sightseer a fine view both up and down the river. A large circular aperture beside the arch of the bridge was made to relieve the pressure of the
water in time of flood. Some can still remember when a coach and pair, coming from Strathtummel direction, crashed over the wall into the Garry with fatal results. Owing to excessively heavy war-time traffic, this fine old structure has become too dangerous and an incongruous and ugly Bailey bridge has been thrown alongside it. It will test the skill of the architects to plan a really beautiful and harmonious new structure, but it can and it should be done.

In 1778 Henry Butter bought Faskally House and
removed hence from Corpach near Fort William. He died
in Faskally in 1800.

On Friday, 31st August, 1787, a chaise jogged its
way into Pitlochry from Dunkeld with two travellers inside.
One was a short-tempered teacher of Latin in the High School of Edinburgh and the other was Robert Burns. The poet was looking for fresh subjects for his muse and surely he was guided to the right themes. That very morning had he not foregathered with the immortal Neil Gow with his honest, social brow” and heard his fiddle played with transporting power. In his diary he records : “ Ride up Tummel River to Blair. Faskally, a beautiful romantic nest with grandeur of the Pass of Killiecrankie, visit the gallant Lord Dundee Stone, at Blair sup with Duchess, easy and happy from the manners of that family, confirmed in my good opinion of my friend Walker.”

The volatile Burns could not but be impressed by
the winding waters of the Tummel. As he looked down on
Faskally House, recently acquired by Henry Butter in 1778, it would seem to him a perfect “nest.” The bard could not take his chaise through the original path of the Pass of Killiecrankie, and the “ wild grandeur “ is perceptible not from the riverside but only from the Wade road. The pair of travellers lacked a reliable guide or else Burns would not have called the stone “ Dundee Stone.”

Burns had a letter of introduction from Dr Blacklock
of Edinburgh to the Duke of Atholl and Mr Josiah Walker,
tutor at Blair to the young Marquis of Tullibardine. A
graduate of Edinburgh and a son of the minister of
Dundonald, he latterly became the professor of Humanity
in Glasgow University. When Burns sent his letter of
introduction up to the Castle that Friday afternoon his Grace was away from home, but the Duchess sent the tutor to the inn to insist that the travellers should come to the Castle to stay. They supped that night in the easy and friendly company of the Duchess and her two sisters, daughters of the 9th Earl of Cathcart. Taken round the estate by Walker, the poet “ gave himself up to a tender, abstracted and voluptuous enthusiasm of imagination.” In the drawing-room he behaved with naturalness and dignity and revealed his superior mental qualities. The company was delighted with the conversational brilliance of the ploughman-poet and Burns for his part declared afterwards that these days at Blair were among the happiest days of his life. The ladies pressed him to stay longer and tried to bribe the driver of the chaise
to pull off a horse’s shoe. One legend has it that they hid
Rabbie’s nightgown. But all in vain. Nicol, his irascible
companion, swore that they had no time to waste and urged Burns northwards. But not before Saturday, the 1st September. Burns with Sir William Murray had driven to see the charm of Loch Tummel and that night dined with a very distinguished company including Mr Graham of Fintry. He just missed seeing “ King Harry “, Henry Dundas who became Lord Melville, the most powerful statesman in Scotland.

On the way north from Blair, presumably on Monday,
3rd September, Nicol and Burns stopped the chaise at Bruar Water while the poet revelled in its sylvan beauty. His vivid imagination saw it enhanced by fresh plantings of trees and soon his ready pen made the river appeal to the Duke to shade my banks with towering trees and bonnie spreading bushes.” As the chaise rumbled on to Inverness Burns whiled away the time by brushing up his lines, so by the 5th September the poem was ready for despatch to Josiah Walker, en route for the Duke himself. Thus the most gifted and most patriotic of Scots poets passed through Pitlochry, adding his mead of praise to the grandeur and beauty of the scene. Little did Henry Butter imagine that passing his beautiful romantic nest “ that August afternoon was a son of fame, seeking fresh poetic conquests, nor did Alexander Stewart add this to his Account of the Parish of Moulin.



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