Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Dargie Kirk - Earliest Church North of the Tay?

This is the second of three articles which considers the early history and legends of Invergowrie.  The first looked at the Roman fort of Catermilley (and can be found here), while the third considers the legends of the Goors or Yowes o Gowrie in relation to the deeper significance of the area as a whole.

Dargie Kirk, Satan and the Picts

   The history of St Peter's Church - the Dargie Kirk - is intimately associated with the subject of a future post, the Goors (or Gows or Ewes) of Gowrie, stones were were reputedly thrown by the Devil from Fife as he was enraged at the foundation of the first Christian church north of the River Tay.

  The current ruined church is described by MacGibbon and Ross in The Ecclesiastic Architecture of Scotland:

Between 1153 and 1165 the Church of St. Peter, Invergowrie, was given to Scone by Malcolm IV; but of this early structure nothing whatever remains, and the existing building is probably not earlier than the first half of the sixteenth century. The walls of the structure  are entire, although the west gable hangs in a very tottering manner. The building measures inside about 46 feet in length by 15 feet 9 inches in width. There are two doorways in the south wall, the one towards the west end being round-arched, but not built on the arch principle, being cut out of two large stones. The other doorway is lintelled. There are two windows also in the south wall, the one being round-arched and cusped and having the arch cut out of a single stone. The other window is lintelled and had a central mullion.
   The plain rectangular building may date from the 16th century and could possibly be the third church on the site. Some sources state that the building was in decay by the 17th century and probably out of use by the 18th, though the burial ground continued to be used. Internally it was divided into two parts latterly.  The eastern half was used for internments by the proprietors of Invergowrie House and the western half was used for the same purpose by the owners of Mylefield Estate. The building is on a slight mound - a characteristic of early church sites - and was close to the shore, though land reclamation means it is now some distance from the water.  The only interesting internal feature noted by the authors above was the following: 'Lying inside the church there is the curious cross-like object. It is pierced in the centre, and appears to have had a shaft, which is broken, as shown.'

 The standard 'facts' about the building were summarised by county historian Alexander Warden in the 1880s:

The Church of Invergowrie is said to have been erected of wood by Boniface, a papal missionary who introduced the ritual of the Latin or Western Church into Angus, Archbishop Spottiswood says in A.D. 697, but Mills, in his History of the Popes, says in A.D. 431, being the 8th year of the pontificate of Pope Celestine. It was the first Christian church north of the Tay. Boniface built another church at Tealing, and a third at Resteneth. The church of Invergoueryn was dedicated to S. Peter, Apostle, and, with its emoluments, was given by Malcolm IV. (1153-1165) to the Abbey of Scone, of which he was the founder. The canons served the cure by a vicar pensioner, appointed by the Chapter. The church is believed to have been in the diocese and commissariat of St Andrews. It was erected on a small mound near to where the burn of Gowrie, the Plumen Gobriat in Pictavia  falls into the Tay. The ruins of the church are roofless and covered with ivy. The parish was small and the area of the church correspondingly limited, but at some period it had been enlarged by the erection of an aisle on its north side. With this addition it had been sufficient for the congregation, as the parish was small. The age of the church is unknown, but it is very old. (Angus or Forfarshire, vol. 4, p. 172.)
Macdonald and Laing describe the setting succinctly:

on top of low natural knoll, with burn running close by to N. Ground configuration suggests occupation build-up under church. Knoll enclosed at base by wall to form roughly oval graveyard. This possibly the outline of [early Christian] enclosure, though no [early Christian] structural remains seen...

Gowrie and Angus - The Borderlands

  Invergowrie stands on the border of Angus and Perthshire; more specifically it straddles the demarcation line between Angus and Gowrie, the eastern area of Perthshire. (This is, curiously, also the case with Coupar-Angus to the north.)  Nothing being simple, of course, the exact line has fluctuated over the centuries due to amalgamations of parishes etc.  As this border is an important issue - to be examined below.  

   The place-name Invergowrie, relating to the settlement there, possibly only gained currency in fairly recent times.  There were several farm hamlets in the area before the 19th century, one of them called Dergie or Dargie. Another was named Balbunnoch (or Balbunno), 'the reputed site of a battle in ancient times' (Hutcheson, Old Stories in Stones, p. 6). The building of a paper mill and the coming of the railway in the 19th century coalesced the settlements around Mylefield Feus into one village.  The Burne of Innergowrie was from an early time (1565) the recognised boundary of Perth and Forfar and probably this was the case for many centuries before.  Despite this, there was further confusion because the ancient kirk lay on the left bank of the burn (in Gowrie/Perthshire) while almost the entirety of the lands of Invergowrie lay on the right bank, the Angus side.

   Ecclesiastical history has busily blurred the boundaries here (though we won't worry about modern civil parish changes here).  Between 1574 and 1613 the parishes of Logie (Angus)  and Invergowrie (Perthshire) were merged simultaneously with that of Liff (Angus). The combined territory was then included in Angus. In 1758 this combined parish (named Liff) again grew when it combined with Benvie (Angus) and became known as Liff and Benvie.

    What is important to recognise is that the Angus/Gowrie border here possibly preserves the demarcation between ancient Pictish regions here.  Borders had a deep symbolic significance.  Monasteries were sometimes placed near borders to prevents conflicts in Early Medieval times (an example is Kingarth of Bute, close to the border of Strathclyde and Dal Riada), but also so clerics could have access to powerful groups from both areas.  This may be the case here.

Admiralty map of east coast of Scotland by George Thomas, 1815. Reproduced with the permission of the National Museum of Scotland.

   In the charter of Malcolm IV dated 1162 x 1164 which gave the place to the Abbey of Scone it is called Inuergouerin.  This document states, 'This charter is a gift to God, to the church of the Holy Trinity of Scone, and to the abbot and canons serving God there of the church of Inuergoueren, cum dimidia carucata terre que jacet in occidentali parte ecclesie prenominate nomine Dargoch et cum omnibus pertinentiis ad eandem ecclesiam vel terram pertinentibus in liberam elimosinam, 'with the half ploughgate of land which lies in the west part of the church named Dargoch, together with everything pertaining to the said church or land in free gift.'

  Dargoch is the Dergie or Dargie of later times.  It is also spelled Dargon and Dargo in documents.

  Many sources take the root of Gowrie, as applied to the burn and the whole district, to derive from the native term for 'goat'. Dalgetty states that the local name for the low land between Invergowrie and Longforgan is the Howe of the Goat. The Celtic scholar W. J. Watson. on the other hand, derived the province name from Gabran, ruler of Dal Riada and father of the 6th century potentate Aedan.  The area of course was the whole territory immediately west of Angus, not just the coastal plain north of the Tay known as the Carse of Gowrie.

Saint With Two Names? Curetán and Boniface. St Peter and King Nechtan

   A recent writer on the confused history of the saint sometimes called Boniface and at other times named Curetán warned from the outset of his work that he was not going to provide definitive answers about whether the two were one saint, or separate intertwined clerics.  And neither can I hope to.  There is a record of a bishop named Curetán who appears in a list ratifying Adomnán of Iona's Law of Innocents in 697 AD, protecting the rights of non combatants in Ireland and North Britain.  St Curetán appears in Irish calendars at 16th March.  Other sources for this shadowy figure appear almost deliberately convoluted and contrary.  In the Acta Sanctorum there is a certain preacher to the Picts ascribed to the 7th century termed 'Albanus Kirtinus, surnamed Boniface, by nationality an Israelite'.

   This man - otherwise called Boniface Queritinius - travelled from Italy in the company of wise men and sailed into the Firth of Tay, 'to the mouth of the little river, which now separated the district of Gowrie from Angus and first landed....For in the place where he landed, he built from the foundations a church to be dedicated to Blessed Peter...From there he set off to preach at the village of Tellein [Tealing], three miles [away]...and founded another church dedicated to the name of the same apostle: (he founded) a third at Restenneth...Having stayed there some years...he penetrated the rest of Angus, Mearns, Mar, Buchan, Strathbogie and Moray, instructing the pagan nations in the doctrine of Christ...' and he died at Rosemarkie in the Black Isle, where his shrine was.

   A variant stated that a king of Picts, Nechtan, was baptised and gave the place of his baptistery and the whole region to Kiritinus, and St Kiritinus came 'bearing with him many relics of the apostles and martyrs and other saints, founded a church at the mouth of the River Gobriat in Pictland, and consecrated it.  And he evangelised the Picts and Scots for sixty years, and build a splendid church in Rosemarkie.'

   It is interesting to note, in passing, that Curetán migrated north within the land of the Picts, just like Drostan of Glen Esk (subject of a previous post).  Recent historians have adjusted tour perspective on the power centres of the Picts and advised that the most powerful dominion, sometime known at Fortriu, lay in the north.  So perhaps these early clerics migrated to reach the epicentre of royal power.  A. B. Scott argues (The Pictish Nation, p. 378) that the native Church in southern Pictland was too strong to allow the Romanising incomer Curetán-Boniface to gain a long-term presence in Angus and forced him to journey north.

   Yet another version (in the Aberdeen Breviary) has the saint - this time called only Boniface - arriving with his retinue at Restenneth and being met by the king Nechtan and his army there.

   This king is thought to be Nechtan son of Derile, 8th century ruler, who was in touch with Northumbria and asked the rulers of that Anglo-Saxon kingdom to send him architects to build a church of stone. The long-held conjecture that this church was indeed the kirk of Restenneth is no longer credited - or rather, the current building at Restenneth cannot represent that church. It is worth noting also that a chapel to St. Boniface once stood on a rising ground about half a mile south of Forfar. Its foundations were visible in 1822, when there were traces of graves in its burying ground.

The Followers of Curetán-Boniface

   The Aberdeen Breviary names the ecclesiastical landing parting accompanying Curetán at Invergowrie as 'the most devout men bishops Bonifandus, Benedictus, Servandus, Pensandus, Madianus, and Precipuus'.  Bringing up the rear were 'two shining virgins, the abbesses Crescentia and Triduana'.  Also in the throng were seven priests, seven deacons, seven subdeacons, seven acolytes, seven exorcists, seven readers, plus seven door-keepers and a great multitude of others. Some local names and dedications in the Carse of Gowrie were once thought to some of these followers.  But not all of the names may commemorate these saints.  According to James Murray Mackinlay (Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland, 1914, p. 481):

Among those who, according to his legend, accompanied St. Boniface were St. Pensandus and St. Madianus. The former is still remembered in the name of Kilspindie in the Carse of Gowrie; and the latter, according to Bishop Forbes, in that of St. Madoes higher up the Carse. With more probability, however, St. Madoes may be attributed not to St. Madianus but to St. Modoc. 
And, according to the Rev Philip:

Two of the bishops who are said to have accompanied him were Pensandus and Madianus, whose names are perhaps preserved in Kilspindie and St. Madoes in the Carse of Gowrie. But Johnston derives Kilspindie or Kynspinedy from Gaelic, ceann spuinneadaire, 'height of the plunderer.'
   Arthur Dalgetty, in his local study of Liff, summarises some of the speculation derived from Scott's The Pictish Nation.  Kingoodie, the riverside hamlet just west of Invergowrie, takes its name (according to Scott) from a corruption of Kin-Curdy - the kin element being swapped for kil, 'church', representing an ancient 'church of Curetán'.  Dalgetting adds, 'This would imply that for a time there were two churches at Invergowrie, one at Dargie which adhered to the older Celtic usage, the other at Kingoody following the Roman usage' (The Church and Parish of Liff, p. 36).  But this speculation is far from convincing.  Although there has never been any evidence of an actual church at Kingoodie a group of long-cist burials, possibly dating from between the 6th and 8th century, has been found just north of the headland.

The Rev. Philip also admits some uncertainty about the name:

The meaning of Kingoodie, anciently written Chingothe, Kyngudy, Ceinguddie, Kingudie, Kingaidy, is puzzling...Goodie may be the Gaelic Gaoth, gen Gaoithe, the wind. Ceanngaoithe, or with the article Ceannagaoithe, the headland of the wind. (The Parish of Longforgan, p. 310.)


 Whether Curetán was a Roman papal envoy, a religious representative of Northumbria or a native churchman, it is very probably that he came at the head of a group of priests and founded a significant church at Dargie/Invergowrie.  Why here?  The supposed early date given by some sources (the 5th century) is a red herring.  There may have been an established royal estate in this place, if we judge by (admittedly later) carved stones erected in this locality.  Just to the north-west is the Angus parish of Benvie, with its own Pictish stones, surely representing a place of secular power.  Bullionfield is, as we see, just north of Invergowrie.   The relation of this boulder to even more ancient monuments - un-carved stones - will be considered in the third post. The area was of course already entirely Christian.

   The pattern of possibly ancient St Peter dedications in the area make sense within the context of the story of the coming of this saint, whoever he was.  Tealing and Restenneth show every sign of being very old Christian settlements.  Also important to look at is the site of Meigle to the north - also on the Angus/Gowrie border - and a very important Pictish royal site, which also happens to be dedicated to St Peter.

   As for the king involved, Nechton (or Naition) son of Derile, his story may better be placed in a future piece about Restenneth.  Suffice it to say that this 'philosopher king' - like the saint - is an enigma, well expressed by Thomas Owen Clancy:

Was Naiton an English imperialist flunky? A Romanist stooge, allowing the authority of
the Pope and St Peter into his realm? Or, conversely, a Pictish nationalist, rejecting the insidious Irish influences of the Celtic church?
  It is worthy of note regarding the northern-centric state of current Pictish studies that the recent full length published study of the king by Julianna Grigg, which examines Curetán in some detail does not even mention Invergowie.

The Ancient Carved Stones

The authors Allen and Anderson note that two cross slabs were built into the empty windows of the ruined kirk.  These were put into their Class III monuments, meaning they were later than earlier carved stones, possibly from the 10th century. The stones were donated to the National Museum of Scotland in 1947. Headstones were places into the window vacancies after the slabs were removed.
Andrew Jervise stated in 1855 that the early stones were found in the basement of the church, but giver no further details.

Front and rear of slabs formerly built into the windows of the Dargie Kirk from Allen and Anderson's book

The stones are described by Warden in Angus or Forfarshire, volume 1 p. 27:

The cross is adorned with interlaced tracery of different patterns, with other ornaments. On the reverse are the figures of three men curiously attired, two of which have shoulder brooches, and are evidently ecclesiastics, with scroll work underneath... A fragment of another stone is built into the wall of this church. A portion of a cross is shown, exhibiting the top of the cross and arms, with the circle around same. On the opposite side is a portion of a horse and a figure upon it, above which are the lower parts of the bodies of two or three human beings.

Illustrations of the stones in  Stuart's book. Is one of the clerics Curetán?

The Bullion Stone

   The stone known as the Bullion Stone found just north of Invergowrie in 1934 is a unique artefact (now in the National Museums of Scotland).  I wrote about in previously in a previous post very briefly and none too seriously (it can be found here:  A Word About the Wee Man).  But it deserves more consideration.  This sculpture shows a human figure on horseback, but not a young warrior in his prime.  Rather he is bearded and balding and none too slender.  His mount, going uphill, seems to struggle with its burden.  The rider holds aloft a drinking horn whose terminal - a bird's head - stares back at him quizzically.  The carving is unique.  It has been considered as possibly part of a frieze and this brings to mind the arched stone from the Pictish power centre at Forteviot in Perthshire (also now in Edinburgh) and makes me wonder whether the Bullion Stone, like this one, came from the entrance display of a high status hall or residence here.  If so, it has not been discovered by archaeology and may well have been obliterated by widening of the main Dundee-Perth road.  But it adds another dimension to the Pictish landscape locally.  The visual artist David Watson Hood has a very interesting article about the stone on his website (

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons  Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

A Legend of Invergowrie Burn

   To finish with - as a kind of mental palette cleanser - is a poem by Alexander Hutcheson, who did so much to describe the ancient monuments of Invergowrie and area.  It has little to do with any of the above, apart from a shared location.  He wrote the verse in his boyhood,  and it remembers a real incident when coffin bearers crossed the Invergowrie Burn and lost the body they were carrying in that stream.  The slap which was used as a bridge across that water may well have been another, re-used ancient monument.

'Twas springtime, the bleakness of winter was gone,
The sun on the glad earth brightly shon:
And the rains of night hung in pearly sheen
Upon every leaf with a freshening green.
But alas! The sun and the fostering breeze
That awoke to beauty and life the trees,
That breathed in the air from the earth and the sea,
Like the notes of some witching melodie,
Could not breathe on the human clay, - cold as a stone.
Nor open the eyes from which life had gone:-
In a thatch-covered cottage was weeping and wailing,
Say, what was the cause such a sorrow entailing?
'twas the father, - the husband, - the head, - the provider!
The widow must weep, and her children beside her.
The neighbours were gathered, o'er the coffin they bended,
'Twas lifted, - the procession then mournfully wended,
Solemn and slow were their sad steps who bore him,
That dark home behind and that wide grave before them,
Till they came to the long stone, the burn that crosses, 
All covered with lichens and velvety mosses;
The burn was swollen with the rains of the night
And the foam on its waters was flashing and white:
With the speed on an arrow it hurried below
The long narrow bridge where the mourners must go:
Did one of the mourners tremble with fear
As the roar of the waters grew loud in his ear?
Why trembled his hold so, - why shook every limb?
Why wavered his footsteps, why grew his eyes dim?
The nerveless hand slipped, away went the spoke,
The corse from the grasp of the mourners broke,
One splash in the current, one cry of dismay,
And the coffin was hurrying out to the Tay.
The mourners rushed, - they might rush on forever,
For swifter than they rushed the stream to the river,-
Rushed on to the ocean, the food of the grave
Was soon a black speck on the breast of a wave.

Selected Sources

Allen, J. R., and Anderson, J., The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, 2, volumes (Edinburgh, 1903).

Clancy, T. O., 'Philosopher-King: Nechtan mac Der-Ilei,' The Scottish Historical Review LXXXIII; 2, No 216 (2004), pp. 125-149.

Dalgetty, A. B., The Church and Parish of Liff (Dundee,1940).

Grigg, J., The Philosopher King and the Pictish Nation (Dublin, 2015).

Hutcheson, Alexander, Old Stories in Stones and Other Papers (Dundee, 1927).

Jervise, A., 'Notices descriptive of the localities of certain Sculptured Stone Monuments in Forfarshire, viz., - Benvie, and Invergowrie; Strathmartin, and Balutheran; Monifieth; Cross of Camus, and Arbirlot,' Part III. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 2 (3). Vol 2(3) (1855), pp. 442-450.

MacDonald, A., Curadán, Boniface and the Early Church of Rosemarkie (Rosemarkie, 1992).

Macdonald, A. D. S. and Laing, L. R., 'Early Ecclesiastical Sites in Scotland: a Field
Survey, Part II,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 102 (1970), pp. 129-45.

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T., The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland From the Earliest Christian Times to the Seventeenth Century, volume 3 (Edinburgh,1896-7).

Macquarrie, A., (ed.), Legends of the Scottish Saints, Readings, Hymns and Prayers for the Commemoration of Scottish Saints in the Aberdeen Breviary (Dublin, 2015).

Philip, Rev. A., The Parish of Longforgan (Edinburgh, 1895).

Scott, The Pictish Nation, its People and its Church (Edinburgh and London, 1918).

Stuart, J., Sculptured Stones of Scotland, vol. 1 (Aberdeen, 1856).

Taylor, D. B., 'Long Cist Burials at Kingoodie, Longforgan, Perthshire,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 93 (1959-60), pp. 202-16.

Warden, Alexander, Angus or Forfarshire, 4 volumes (Dundee, 1880-1885).

Friday, 1 March 2019

Dundee Songs...Baffling Meanings?

Does a city get the songs it deserves? I don't know. Folklore and history buffs may do well to skip this article, as I feel myself teetering on the edge of a whimsical abyss. I don't mean here to survey all the wide range of songs about Dundee, just the ones which have strayed across my consciousness fairly recently.

Bonnie Dundee

   Putting The Road and the Miles to Dundee to one side (reluctantly, because it is achingly beautiful), I suppose the most famous title we should consider is Bonnie Dundee - not just as a song, but as a title. John Graham of Claverhouse was either the very Devil to Covenanters or the primal hero to Jacobites. It can't be doubted that he was actually beautiful, in the sense of being physically attractive and also having the kind of innate magnetism which attracting followers to his cause. No mean feat. To the Highland Gaels he was Dark John of the Battles, a prestige that was not accorded to his kinsman, James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose.

   But Bonnie Dundee was originally applied to the burgh and not the man, hard as that is to imagine with images of the town in its full industrial pomp.  The transfer of the title to the man was begun as a poem in the 1820s, which became attached to a pre-existing tune. The poem was written by Sir Walter Scott, as follows, and grafted onto an older tune which honoured the place Dundee.

To the Lords of Convention 'twas Clavers who spoke.
'Ere the King's crown shall fall there are crowns to be broke;
So let each Cavalier who loves honour and me,
Come follow the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Come saddle your horses, and call up your men;
Come open the West Port and let me gae free,
And it's room for the bonnets of Bonny Dundee!
Dundee he is mounted, he rides up the street,
The bells are rung backward, the drums they are beat;
But the Provost, douce man, said, 'Just e'en let him be,
The Gude Town is weel quit of that De'il Dundee.'
Come fill up my cup, etc.
As he rode down the sanctified bends of the Bow,
Ilk carline was flyting and shaking her pow;
But the young plants of grace they looked couthie and slee,
Thinking luck to thy bonnet, thou Bonny Dundee!
Come fill up my cup, etc.
With sour-featured Whigs the Grass-market was crammed,
As if half the West had set tryst to be hanged;
There was spite in each look, there was fear in each e'e,
As they watched for the bonnets of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, etc.
These cowls of Kilmarnock had spits and had spears,
And lang-hafted gullies to kill cavaliers;
But they shrunk to close-heads and the causeway was free,
At the toss of the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, etc.
He spurred to the foot of the proud Castle rock,
And with the gay Gordon he gallantly spoke;
'Let Mons Meg and her marrows speak twa words or three,
For the love of the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.'
Come fill up my cup, etc.
The Gordon demands of him which way he goes?
'Where'er shall direct me the shade of Montrose!
Your Grace in short space shall hear tidings of me,
Or that low lies the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, etc.
'There are hills beyond Pentland and lands beyond Forth,
If there's lords in the Lowlands, there's chiefs in the North;
There are wild Duniewassals three thousand times three,
Will cry hoigh! for the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, etc.
'There's brass on the target of barkened bull-hide;
There's steel in the scabbard that dangles beside;
The brass shall be burnished, the steel shall flash free,
At the toss of the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, etc.
'Away to the hills, to the caves, to the rocks
Ere I own an usurper, I'll couch with the fox;
And tremble, false Whigs, in the midst of your glee,
You have not seen the last of my bonnet and me!'
Come fill up my cup, etc.
He waved his proud hand, the trumpets were blown,
The kettle-drums clashed and the horsemen rode on,
Till on Ravelston's cliffs and on Clermiston's lee
Died away the wild war-notes of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Come saddle the horses, and call up the men,
Come open your gates, and let me gae free,
For it's up with the bonnets of Bonny Dundee!

   Both the tune of Bonnie Dundee and lyrics featuring the title crop up throughout the 17th century.  The Skene manuscript, dating to around 1630, details a simplified version of the tune called they Adew Dundee.  An English version - Bonny Dundee, or Jocky's Deliverence  (included at the bottom of this post) - is a rather coarser ballad which Robert Burns, in his turn, altered for his own ends.  Ironically, poor deluded William McGonnagall, when he alluded to Bonnie Dundee in his verse, knew full well that the attribution belonged rightfully to the town and not to the cavalier.

The Piper o' Dundee

  Another song that is not all it seems to be at first is The Piper o' Dundee.  This song, with its jovial lyrics has been doing the rounds since the early 19th century, if not earlier. One publication which featured it was James Hogg's Jacobite Relics of Scotland. It is, of course, a Jacobite air and some of the names contained in the lyrics can be identified or guessed at.

The piper came to out toun, to our toun, to our toun
The piper came to our toun, and he played bonnie-lie
He play'd a spring the laird to please,
A spring brent new frae yont the seas
And then he gae his bags a squeeze
And play' d anither key
And was-na he a rogie, a rogie a rogie
And was-na he a rogie the piper o' Dundee
He play’d the welcome o er the main
And 'ye see be fou’, ‘and I'se be fain'
And Auld Stewart's back again
Wi' muck-le mirth and glee
He play'd "The kirk he play'd ‘'The Queen’'
The ’Mull - in Dhu’, and ‘Chevalier’,
And 'Lang a wa’, but welcome here,
Sae sweet sae bonnie lie
It's some gat swords and some gat nane
And some were dancing mad their lane
And mony a vow o'weir was ta’en
That night at Amulrie
There was Tullibardine and Burleigh
And Struan, Keith and Ogilvie
And brave Carnegie, wha but he
The piper o' Dundee
   But there is darkness at the heart of this song.  Many sources name the 'piper' himself as James Carnegie of Finavon (Finhaven), and the tune a kind of propaganda for the rebels of 1715 trying to rouse anti government support.  According to George Farquhar Graham (in  Popular Songs of Scotland, 1887) : 

The piper is said to have been Carnegie of Finhaven, who changed sides during the contest in 1715. He was a great coward, if we may believe the Jacobite writers; he certainly ran away at Sheriffmuir, but so many on both sides did the same, that his should not count for much against him.
    Carnegie's propensity to changing sides earned him the enmity of Jacobites.  At a funeral in Forfar in 1728 he was goaded by a certain Lyon of Brigton and calamitously lost his temper.  In his rage he murdered Lyon's kinsman the Earl of Strathmore who tried to intervene between the two men.  He was tried for murder, but was reprieved.  The whole sorry story can be read in my other blog here: Ghosts of Glamis.

Other Dundee Songs

   Due to the allusive dissemination of music, especially in earlier times, it is difficult to pin down songs to precise times, places, and titles, let alone determine who the original composer was. Take, as a case point the Dundee Hornpipe.  This is alternatively known as Brown's Hornpipe, Cincinnati Hornpipe, Cliff Hornpipe, Harvest Home, Higgin's Hornpipe, Kildare Fancy, and in fact many more. 

   Another example is The Bonnet Makers of Dundee.  The burgh of Dundee apparently had an incorporation of Bonnetmakers before any other Scottish burgh. Blue bonnets were worn by the hoi-polloi, with black ones for the more affluent.  Sadly, no known ancient example of a Dundonian bonnet is known to survive.  The tune itself is otherwise known as The Burnt Leg, Sweet Molly, Corby and the Pyett, and is first recorded in the middle of the 18th century.  

   Those who wish to delve even further into the dizzying work of Dundonian songs can consult The Songs and Ballads of Dundee by Nigel Gatherer (1986).  His book contains more than a multitude of tunes and lyrics, not all of which contain Dundee (or even areas/neighbours like Lochee) in their titles.  The author's website is

And, To End With... almost

     Mentions of Dundee are few and far between in modern popular music, it seems to me, though I have not conducted in depth research in this area.  Two examples have recently intrigued/haunted me.  The first is from John Cale's song Half Past France, contained in his 1974 album Paris, 1919 (1973).  The nameless traveller in this song is stuck in a landscape somewhere between Dunkirk and Paris.  He ponders that things are so much different here than in Norway, though obviously not so cold.  Then he had cause to 'wonder when we'll be in Dundee'.  I have absolutely no idea why.

   More recently, equally intriguingly, is the glimmer contained in a song from  Scotland's own Belle and Sebastian.  The song Seymour Stein  (from the 1998 album The Boy with the Arab Strap) evokes memories of a real life meeting between the band and real life music legend and label head Seymour Stein.  The disparity between the American dream and Scottish down to cundie level reality is summed up fine in the line where the band plaintively wonder, 'Has he ever seen Dundee?'  Enough said.


Thursday, 21 February 2019

Catermillie - Roman Remains or Shadow on the Land?

There is sometimes a temptation to see significance in ancient remains beyond their actual importance.  Hence the mania several hundred years ago to ascribe every bit of upstanding archaeological masonry a 'druidic temple'.  The antiquarian spirit is not quite dead yet and never will be as long as wishful thinking is alive.  I cite as example the story - possibly true - the story of the secret Roman road buried beneath Dundee.  A tale was circulated online anonymously a few years ago that there was a bona fide imperial causeway running beneath the cellars of the Arctic Bar in central Dundee. There was further speculation that it may in fact be medieval, if it exists at all.

   Catermillie  is the name of lands almost exactly on the south-westernmost section of the border between the counties of Perth and Angus, at Invergowrie. Local historians have the entrenched opinion that there was a Roman camp here.  The tradition is described as follows by the author of Historical Sketches of Fowlis Easter (pp. 20-21):

Running south from the centre of the village is a road leading to the Invergowrie Station, on the Scottish Central Railway, and to the village of Kingoodie; at the west end is a check-bar, on road leading north to join the Liff Road, which branches off at Invergowrie farm...The lands on the south and west of the Feus form the farms of Bullion and Mylnefield. They formerly were the property of the same family, and Bullion was then called also Catermillie; but since the division of the property one field on Mylnefield farm bears this name. Its origin is from the circumstance that, on these lands, the Romans at an early period formed a fortified camp for the accommodation of 4000 (quatuor millia) men; hence Cattermillie. The fosse and other vestiges of fortification have been swept away by agricultural improvement, and the memory of it is preserved only in history, and the ground plan of the estate.

   But was there actually a Roman presence - whether fortress or camp - here at all?  The author of the history of the parish of Longforgan confirms that, at the very end of the 19th century, there were no traces visible of the fort or camp.  The first record of the supposed military installation here was by William Maitland in History and Antiquities of Scotland (1757,vol. i. p. 215), who states the remains were clear in his day:

about half a mile benorth the estuary of Tay, is a Roman camp about two hundred yards square, fortified with a high rampart and a spacious ditch; but as the southern side appears to have been fenced with triple ramparts and ditches, these I take to have been the northern fortifications of the praetorium, the other sides being demolished by the plow, the vestigia appear but plainly. However, they are sufficient to show that this fortress was of a parallelogram form, about a quarter of a mile in length, which, from its vicinity to the Firth of Tay, I take to have been one of the camps which occasionally contained both the land and sea forces.

   Maitland was a man of Angus (a native of Brechin) and may have known about the remains from hearing locals speak of them.  The technicalities in Maitland's description have been examined by Gordon Mechan, who posed the pertinent question:  are these really Roman remains?  Difficult to say because agriculture was fast encroaching on the site even when Maitland wrote and any remains above ground had been obliterated by ploughing during the course of the next century.

Roman Remains, but meaning what?

Reading the landscape, the supposed fort at Invergowrie makes sense if it is considered that Invergowrie Bay was once an alluring landing place, rather than the silted up site it has become in modern times.  To the west, on the southern bank of the Tay, Carpow was a major Roman fortress, lynchpin in a series of forts and camps which cut deep into native territory, stretching north-east up Strathmore:  Cardean, Stracathro, and the rest. These forts were constructed during the Several campaign in Scotland, between 208 and 211 AD.  An advance base to support and supply these others would be appropriate here.  Gauld proposes a substantial base here, supporting Carpow and hosting provisions brought by sea from the northern campaign from the supply bases at South Shields.

The Name and its Significance

   Charter evidence gives the name as Kether-malyn, before 1292 and Katermalyn,before 1447.  It is later linked with Bullion:  as 'Bulzeon alias Katermalyn' in 1553, 'Bulzion or Catermille' in 1664, 'Bulzeon or Catermille' in 1694.  But what does the name mean?  Many authors have conjectured that it comes from Latin quator millia and signifies 'Camp of the four thousand'.  According again to Gordon Mechan this antiquarian theory originated with Principal Playfair of Edinburgh University. John Playfair (1748-1819), a mathematician and astronomer,  was in fact a local lad.  His father was minister of Benvie, only a mile or two away (and the most south-western parish in Angus).  His theory on the Roman origin for the name was advertised in James Knox's The Topography of the Basin of the Tay (Edinburgh, 1831, pp. 47-48):

we come to the Roman camp of Cater Milley, situated half a mile north of Invergowrie, and about two miles west from Dundee. This camp is now effaced; but it existed in the middle of the last century...Cater Milley, Principal Playfair conjectures to be Quatuor Millia; referring either to the distance from some other station, or to the number of troops it contained. But there is not any vestige, or tradition of another camp being within four miles of this neighbourhood; and, though the area of this station be somewhat greater than that of Orea, and double of that of the permanent camp at Ardoch, it could not, upon the Polybian system, hold 4000 men. Whatever may be the derivation of Cater Milley, there can be no doubt that this was the station, ad Tavum, near to, or upon the Tay. From a calculation made by General Roy, after comparing the dimensions of the different camps supposed to have been occupied by Agricola, during his last campaign in North Britain, he is of opinion, that the number of troops which the Roman commander sent on board the fleet, on returning from the territories of the Horestii, was about 4000. The calculations appear to be accurate; and, being founded upon data with which the General was familiar, there is reason to believe the soldiers sent on board the fleet might amount to that number; and as it is probable they embarked here, this station may derive the name, from the temporary camp of these troops being pitched on the spot where the permanent camp was afterward placed. The advantages of the situation, though still considerable, were probably much more so in the first and second centuries.
   That aside, neat though the suggestion is, what does the place-name really mean?  The first element is Gaelic cathair, which fits.  The second part may either be mileadh, warrior or meallan, knolls or
hillocks (remnants of decayed Roman buildings on the site).

The View From the Air and other Evidence

Although the remains at Catermillie have been utterly destroyed by farming the site of the fort, or the rounded angle of its corner was picked up by aerial reconnaissance and photographed firstly in December 1949.  This showed the location as not far south of the main Dundee-Perth road, on the track leading from the west of present day Bullionfield filling station to Mylnefield Farm. Further aerial surveying in 1990 seemed to confirm this. The only way that this could be shown to be a Roman fort or otherwise would be through archaeological excavation.  The only two bits of solid physical evidence found nearby to indicate an Imperial presence are two solitary coins.  One is a  follis of Maximinus II (Maximinus Daza), 308-314 A.D., minted at Alexandria in Egypt.  The other is of a similar date, a debased tetradrachma of Maximianus I, Herculeus, 286-310 A.D., also minted at Alexandria. What this means for the supposed Severan date of the site is unclear, though of course the two coins could have come from the personal treasure of a local Pictish worthy.

Works Consulted

Alexander Elliot, Lochee: As it Was and As It Is (Dundee, 1911).

W. W. Gauld, 'Roman activity in the Firth of Tay,' Journal of the Perthshire Society of Natural Science, XV (1987), pp. 25-30.

James Knox, The Topography of the Basin of the Tay (Edinburgh, 1831).

Gordon W. C. Mechan, 'Catermilly: a lost Roman fort near Invergowrie.  With notes on two recent finds of Roman coins, '  Aspects of Antiquity, Abertay Historical Society Publication No. 11 (1966), pp. 33-42.

Rev. Adam Philip, The Parish of Longforgan, a Sketch of its Church and People (Edinburgh and London, 1895).

Rev. James Stuart, Historical Sketches of the Church and Parish of Fowlis Easter (Dundee, 1865).

Saturday, 16 February 2019

St Drostan the Wanderer - Droustie of Glen Esk

Saints should possibly still be honoured, even in an irreligious age;  kept in mind in a different way. There is no patron saint of Angus,but if we were to look at the early saints who laboured here, the prime candidate would be St Drostan, even though his reputation and name is stamped over the landscape of widely scattered places in the north.  While we know that this saint was resident in Glen Esk and died further north at Deer, the details of his life are frustratingly brief.  One source is the 12th century notes contained in the 10th century Book of Deer:

Columcille and Drostan, Cosgrach's son, his disciple, came from Iona, by the inspiration of God, to Aberdour.  And Bede, a Pict, was mormaer of Buchan when they came there; and he made the offering of that town to them, in freedom forever from mormaer and from toiseach. They came afterwards to another town; and it pleased Columcille, because it was full of God's grace: and he asked of the mormaer Bede, that it should be given to him.  But he did not give it.  After he had refused the clerics, his son fell ill, and was upon the point of death; whereupon the mormaer went to beseech the clerics to pray for his son, that health might come to him: and he gave to them as an offering the land from the boundary stone of the well to the boundary stone of Gartnait's son's farm.  They prayed, and health came to him. Thereupon Columcille gave that town to Drostan, and blessed it; and he left a curse that whoever should oppose it should not be long-lived or victorious.  Drostan shed tears upon parting with Columcille.  Columcile said: 'Let tear henceforward be its name'.

   There we have succinctly a legend legitimising ancient rights bestowed by a local secular ruler, a link to a saint of greater fame (Columcille/Columba) and a folk explanation of the name of the monastery-dear being Gaelic for 'tear'.  But no mention of Glenesk, unfortunately.  There are possible mentions of the ancient monastery of Deer in the Annals of Ulster in the years 623 and 679 under the name of 'Ner'.

   The 16th century Aberdeen Breviary contains more information about the saint's wanderings.  It states that he was 'born of the royal race of the Scots' and was sent for education to his uncle Columba in Ireland.  He was educated at Dalquongale and became abbot of that place.  After some years he went to live a solitary life in desert hermitages in Scotland and 'build a church in the place that is called Glenesk, leading the life of a hermit there'.  Further detail is scant.  It is related that a blind priest named Simon was restored to sight by the saint, perhaps in Glen Esk.  The saint's time in Angus is not detailed; nor is his foundation or settlement in Deer mentioned, which is strange,  so this story links back to a different origin legend.  The account merely concludes by stating that his bones were laid in a stone tomb. The Martyrology of Aberdeen relates of miracle working relics of the holy man at Aberdour.

Possible Origins and Traces Elsewhere

   Tracking this saint, in terms of geography and even racial origins, is difficult.  Alan Macquarrie believes that he was undoubtedly of Pictish origin and thinks that Dalquongale may represent Dercongal, near Dumfries, also known as Holywood (site of a later medieval abbey).  He also identifies Drostan with a Drostan Dairtaighe ('of the oratory'), whose death is recorded in the Annals of Ulster in the year 719 - a considerable time of course after Columba- at Ardbraccan in County Meath. This was an early Columban church.  A further Irish sources includes this Drostan as one of seven saintly sons of a man named Oengus who crossed from Scotland to Ireland.  Such diffusion of territory ascribed to early clerics is not unusual.  To those so inclined, saints are anything that you want them to be and this extends  as far as experts and scholars who drag up illogical theories for their own satisfaction.  Sp Archibald Scott in his book The Pictish Nation (1918) may make Drostan the son of a prince of the Demetae (Dyfed in Wales), but it is almost certainly untrue.  (Though there is a Llan-Trostroc, now Trosdre, there.)

   Drostan's cult in Scotland seems to have been widely spread as well, but concentrated in the north and east, the old Pictish territories:  Old Deer, Aberdour, Glen Esk, and also in the Inverness-shire district of Glen Urquhart, called St Drostan's Urquhart (Urchardan Mo-Chrostain) in Catholic times.  In this locality there was a plot of ground that Drostan is said to have cultivated while he lived here as a hermit, known as St Drostan's Croft. In St Ninian s Chapel, in the glen, was preserved the saint s cross, and the custodian of the relic had the use of the 'Dewar s (or keeper s) Croft' as a reward for his services. This place was called in Gaelic Croit Mo-Chrostain. The close association of the saint with this place has not entered the traditional written record of the saint.

   Churches in northern Scotland dedicated to Drostan include -   Alvie and Urquhart (Inverness-shire); Aberlour (where there is Skirdurstan, St Drostan's Parish, above Craigellachie) and Rothiemay (Banff); Dunachton, Deer, Insch and Aberdour (Aberdeenshire);   plus Cannisbay and St Drostan's Burial Ground at Westfield (Hallkirk parish)  in Caithness, where the saint is also credited as being the founder of the Chapel of St Tear near Ackergill, Wick; also anciently Ard Trostain at Loch Earn (Perthshire).  A southern outlier is the Church of Mo-Dhrust at Markinch in Fife.

   The feast day of St Drostan was 14th December and fairs were held to him usually around this date.  The one at Old Deer in Aberdeenshire is recorded from the beginning of the 17th century and is certainly much older.  The fair here lasted for eight days, while that at Aberlour lasted three days.  Another fair was held at Rothiemay.  Pope Leo XIII restored the feast of this saint in 1898.

  Apart from the wells in Angus considered below, there were other wells dedicated to the saint at Aberlour, and around five in the area between Edzell and Old Aberdour.  Are we, from all this, to infer that we are dealing with an originally Aberdeenshire holy man?  There is too little evidence to determine that.  We can also go along with the caution of K.H. Jackson by agreeing that 'the "cult" of Drostan was concentrated in the north-west triangle within a curving line drawn roughly from Montrose to Kingussie and thence to the head of the Beauly Firth'.

   It should also be mentioned that the name Drostan was not unique to the saint. Variants include Drostan, Trust, and Trusty (plus Drystan and Trystan) and it was borne by Pictish rulers and possibly other early clerics as well.  The Irish scholar T. H. O'Rahilly equated the origin of the name (like that other Pictish royal name Tarain) to a thunder deity; the original Celtic would have been *Trusto-gnos.

The Settlement in the Glen and Memorials in the Area

Drostan may be one of three locally venerated clerics found on the 'Drosten Stone' at St Vigeans, in southern Angus (see link at the bottom of the page), but this is by no means certain. Colm, Medan and Fergus are three saints supposed to be his acolytes, and these names are found in the countym, but any certain link to the early medieval saint called Drostan is insubstantial indeed.  The linkwith one area of north Angus is very much stronger. We can safely say that the association of Drostan with Glen Esk definitely dates from the 16th century and almost certainly dates from many centuries before this time.  In this area we have Droustie's Meadow and Droustie's Well, plus the church known as Kirk of Droustie.  The well, near the kirk, was described in 1860 as being muddy from long disuse, and by the 1960s was all but obliterated by an infill of rubble and debris.  The chucrh dedicated to the saint is described by Alexander Warden in Angus or Forfarshire (volume 4, 1884):

The ruins of the kirk of St Drostan of Glenesk stand near the north-west corner of the old kirkyard, at the east end of Lochlee, on the left bank of the stream which issues from the loch, and on the south of the road leading up the glen. Down to 1784 it was thatched with heath. It was then covered with grey slates...A new Parish Church was erected in 1803 on the peninsula between the Mark and the Brawny, about a mile to the east of the old kirk ; and a comfortable manse stands near to the church. The site of the manse is called Droustie, and near by it is a fountain called Droustie's Well. As these are corruptions of St Drostan, it may be inferred where his residence had been. The name has been retained for more than a thousand years.

Loch Lee in Glen Esk

   Andrew Jervise states in Land of the Lindsays (1882):

the site of the present manse of Glenesk being called 'Droustie,' and a fountain near by 'Droustie's Well,' it may be inferred that these are corruptions of the name of St. Drostan, and point to the site of his ancient residence and church. 'Droustie's Meadow' is also the name of a piece of ground near the parsonage at Tarfside...
   In his article for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Jervise further says of the relevant places in the glen:

 An adjoining field on the glebe lands of the Episcopal Church, and one of the best fields of the locality, is called Droustie's Meadows...There is, indeed, another place about four miles farther up the glen, also called Droustie, near the old kirkyard and Loch of Lee. It is probable that St Drostan had one of his cells or residences at or near to the meadows, and that this ancient place of sepulture was the burial place of,if not the aborigines, some of his devoted followers...It ought also to be observed, that near to the site of that primitive place of sepulture, there stands a large boulder, with a rudely incised cross upon it. This, too, is said by the peasantry to have reference to the engagement between Bruce and Cumyn ; but, as it was removed within those sixty years from a place nearer both to Droustie's Meadows and to those graves, perhaps (for its original site is quite unknown) it had been connected with St Drostan's Cell at the Meadows, or with the burial place.
  A pool in the river here named the Monk's Pool hints at religious settlement of some date, as does the simple cross carved into the stone which Jervise mentions (though it has apparently been moved from its original location).  Elsewhere in the region, at Newdosk over the border in the Mearns, Drostan had a church dedicated to him  at Piper’s Shade. There was a well here renowned for its curative powers, but jealous local healers tried to poison it. Followers of the saint were outraged and slew the healers, burying them in a rather pagan fashion around the holy spring.

   The site in Glen Esk has all the inferential hallmarks of a small, early Christian settlement, but we will never know for sure, barring extensive archaeological investigation - which seems unlikely.  But, barring challenges from others, I would happily accept Drostan as our primary county saint.

Some Works Consulted

A.O. Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History (2 vols., 1922, rep. Stamford, 1990).

Dom Michael Barrett, A Calendar of Scottish Saints, 2nd. edition (Fort Augustus, 1919).

K. H. Jackson, The Gaelic Notes in the Book of Deer (Cambridge, 1972).

Andrew Jervise, 'Notes regarding Historical and Antiquarian peculiarities of the Districts in Forfarshire, where the various relics now presented to the Museum of the Society were found,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 2 (1855), pp. 64-70.

Alan Macquarrie (ed.), Legends of the Scottish Saints, Readings, Hymns and Prayers for the Commemoration of Scottish Saints in the Aberdeen Breviary (Dublin, 2012).

John Stuart (ed.), The Book of Deer (The Spalding Club, Aberdeen, 1859).

Previous Posts Mentioning Drostan

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Bloody Advocate Mackenzie - Monster or Genius?

There are two men of Angus who were prominent during the time of the Covenanters in the late 17th century and whose reputations have been forever blackened by their roles in prosecuting those whom the state believed to be dangerous religious zealots.  One of these men was John Graham, Viscount Dundee, whom I have briefly written about previously (see my post on Bonnie Dundee). The other man has somewhat slipped back into obscurity in recent times.  However his ill-fame in the minds of hard line Presbyterians earned him an afterlife of ill fame for several centuries.  Sir Walter Scott included him (along with Dundee) in his supernatural rogues gallery in his chilling story 'Wandering Willie's Tale'.

   Sir George Mackenzie was born in Dundee in 1636, though his paternal family were not from the area, having their roots in Ross-shire and the ancient house of the Mackenzies of Kintail. His father, Simon Mackenzie of Lochslin, was the brother of the Earl of Seaforth.  His mother was Elizabeth Bruce, daughter of Dr Peter Bruce, principal of St Leonard's College, St Andrews.  His maternal grandmother, in whose household he spent his first few years, was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Alexander Wedderburn of Kingennie, town-clerk of Dundee.  Simon Mackenzie 'was added to the Burgesses and Brethren of the Guild' of Dundee, 'for his numerous services to the State,' on 3rd June, 1634.  He died around 1666 and his son became a burgess of the burgh in 1661.

 George was educated to the highest standard of his age.  He was said to have devoured all the leading classical authors by the time he was ten.  He went to the universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews, then studies civil law at Bourges.  Back in Scotland, he was admitted to the bar in 1659 and quickly gained a reputation as an accomplished advocate.  He also began to indulge in a talent for writing literature (as detailed below).

   As a criminal judge and member of the privy council, Sir George soon came into conflict with the large body of Scots whose religious stringency set them at odds with the establishment.  This followed his appointment as Lord Advocate of Scotland in 1677. He resigned when King James VII was replaced at the revolution by the Prince of Orange and was a strong opponent of the proposed Union between Scotland and England.  He retired to the University of Oxford and died in London in May 1691.  His body was conveyed by land back to Scotland and his funeral in Greyfriars Kirkyard was attended by all the council, the major nobility and 'a greater concourse of people than was ever seen on any similar occasion.'

Mackenzie as an Author

Apart from highly influential works on legal matters, such as Institutes of the Scots Law, Mackenzie wrote a  range of allegorical and philosophical works which earned him wide admiration, including from discerning men like the poet Dryden, who called him 'that noble wit of Scotland'.  His first published work, a romance called Aretina (Edinburgh, 1660) has allegedly not stood the test of time and critical judgement, for his biographer Andrew Lang states it 'is no longer readable "for human pleasure".'  His follow-up, The Religious Stoic (1663) was a more sober affair.

Achievements and Reputation

Apart from his towering legal reputation, Mackenzie founded what became the Advocate's Library in Edinburgh in 1689. Sometimes held up as an opponent of the prosecution of witches, Mackenzie was not outright sceptical on the matter, though he states that real witches were few er than was popularly believed and he pertinently stated that most confessions were the result of torture. His role in the prosecution of Covenanters and extreme Protestants earned him ill fame. Large scale arrests were followed by some executions, imprisonment, transportation to the West Indies, plus incidents of torture.  Mackenzie was not alone in imposing harsh judgements, but acted according to the precedence of the law.  The leaders of the various extreme factions were often charismatic and sometimes prone, like biblical heroes, to prophecy.  So, Donald Cargill not only prophesied his own violent demise but also foretold that Sir George Mackenzie would die in no ordinary way.  Evidently Mackenzie expired in agony, 'all the passages of his body running blood'.  This is said to have been fulfilled as Mackenzie was seen to be vomiting blood for three quarters of an hour prior to his decease.

Continued Local Connections

In 1665, George Mackenzie  was chosen as Advocate for the town of Dundee, his retaining fee being the moderate sum of £46 (Scots). Most of his estates were held in Angus and eastern Perthshire (Gowrie), including  Bannatyne House, nearby in Newtyle. (A later Mackenzie, Lord Privy Seal James Mackenzie was responsible for building the observatory on Kinpurney Hill in the vicinity.) Sir George also owned the nearby Belmont estate in Meigle, Perthshire, and also Keilor. It was probably here that he made his second wife, Margaret Haliburton, daughter of the Laird of Pitcur (a place now in Perthshire, but formerly firmly in Angus), and they lived together in a house called Shank, near Edinburgh.  Writer Andrew Lang admits very little is known of this lady.  He cites one anecdote to show she may have been in charge of the household finances however.  Very early one morning Lord Tweeddale rode to the house to consult with the lawyer, who was still in bed.  The consultation was conducted from within a four poster bed sight unseen.  When the nobleman came to hand over his gold a lady's hand slipped between the curtains and accepted the gold.  A scrap of gossip states that John Graham of Claverhouse, later Viscount Dundee, had an affair with this lady and that Mackenzie and Graham fell out as a result, but the rumour seems to have been made up by Mackenzie's political enemies.  Mackenzie's brother-in-law incidentally died alongside Claverhouse at the Battle of Killiecrankie. After Sir George's death, his widow married Roderick Mackenzie of Prestonhall, a Lord of Session.

Bannatyne House, Newtyle

Guided to London by an Apparition

You may take the following tale with a pinch of seasoning, or not, at your own discretion.  On evening when Sir George was taking his habitual walk down Leith Walk he was interrupted by an old, eccentric acting gentleman who said:

There is a very important case coming up in London a fortnight from now.  It concerns a large city estate where a false claimant is doing his utmost to disinherit the rightful heir on the grounds that he has no title deeds..  If you will be so good as to visit the mansion house on the grounds of the estate, you will find in the attic an old oak chest with two compartments.  Between the layers you will find hidden the titles required.  I desire you to attend the case.
   Mackenzie heard the address from the old man and watched him walk away.  He thought him insane and did nothing about then  matter. The next night the same man appeared, urging him to take the case and stating he would be well paid.  On the third evening, the same again, with the man urging him not to delay another hour or the matter would be lost.

   His anxiety and sincerity persuaded Mackenzie to ride south on the apparent fool's errand and he arrived the day before the case was due before the courts.  He met the supposed rightful heir and his barrister, both of whom were aggravated by the intervention of this Scottish lawyer.  The barrister was especially scathing and made hateful comments both about Scotland and its distinctive legal system.  But the heir became intrigued and took Sir George into his drawing room.  There was a portrait over the fire of an old man whom the Scot recognised as the person he had met in Edinburgh.  The man informed him that it was his great-grandfather, fifty years dead.   

   Needless to say they went to the old trunk and found the title deeds and the case was won.  Scottish law, via supernatural means, triumphed over its metropolitan counterpart.

Afterlife and Return?

   According to very recent tradition, Sir George does not rest easy in his mausoleum in Edinburgh.  The story of his restless, malevolent spirit is interesting because it seems like a sudden re-occurrence of negative Covenanting propaganda against the former Lord Advocate.  Why it should have cropped up in recent years is a mystery. While the haunting legend is perhaps modern, generations of local laddies regarded the tomb and its occupant as something to be taunted with the following rhyme:

Bluidy Mackenzie, come oot if ye daur!
Lift the sneck and draw the bar!
   The story which erupted in the 1980s or 1990s was that many people have been left with bruises, scratches, even bite marks in the vicinity of his burial place. One newspaper says that around 400 people have been attacked to varying degrees in the locality, with one person being knocked unconscious  The most outlandish story is that of a homeless man who broke into the mausoleum in hope of finding secreted treasure there.  However the floor collapsed beneath him and he ended up in the less than pleasant surroundings of a plague pit.  Whether this actually happened or not is uncertain.  But, if Mackenzie is going to behave like this in his afterlife, he's certainly better off in Edinburgh than in Dundee.

Another view of the mausoleum in Edinburgh.