Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Ogilvy-Lindsay Feud. Beardie!

One of the most famous ghosts of Glamis Castle does not belong there at all, though he was a famous character in Angus and beyond during his lifetime in the 15th century.  Earl Beardie (nicknamed after his beard) was also known as the Tiger Earl (because of his ferocity), and his given name was Alexander Lindsay, the 4th Earl of Crawford.  He was chief of the house of the ‘lichtsome Lindsays’, who were one of the most powerful kin groups in Angus, until their decline in the 17th century.  The chief opponents of the Lindsays were the Ogilvy family and the feud between the two kindreds rumbled on for over a century.

    One tale dates the rivalry to the early 14th century, when Lindsay of Finavon Castle invited local lairds to compete in an archery competition.  Twenty-four competitors lined up on the castle lawn, watched by their ladies sitting beneath the shade of a chestnut tree.  After many feats of skill, David Ogilvy, squire of Lord Ogilvy of Inverquharity Castle,  laded his arrow in a bulls-eye already hit by Lindsay’s man.  Lord Ogilvy then shot a falcon on the wing, an act which Lord Lindsay was too drunk to replicate.  The contestants then moved inside the castle.  Ogilvy recklessly accused Lindsay of being jealous of his ability, so Lindsay  set a more difficult challenge.  Each man was to shoot an arrow through  the twelve candle sconces fitted to the wall and hit a falcon held by a servant at the far end of the hall.  Lindsay loosed his arrow and killed his own henchman.  Ogilvy’s shot struck the bird.  Lindsay furiously challenged Ogilvy to a duel on Kelpie’s Haugh.  The combat was long and fierce, but finally Lindsay gained the advantage.  But, just as he was about to deliver the mortal blow, Lindsay dropped dead.

    This story is probably a literary fiction from the 19th century.  The real root of the feud was the wild temperament and greed of Alexander Lindsay, Master of Crawford, son of David, the 3rd Earl of Crawford and his wife Marion Ogilvy.  Sir Walter Ogilvy of Carcary and Lintrathen had been granted the lands and castle of Bolshan (in Kinnell parish) by Arbroath Abbey, around 1422.  He was mad a baillie of the abbey at the same time.  When this knight died in 1440, the office and possessions passed to Sir Walter Ogilvie of Airlie.  The Master of Crawford purchased another office from the abbey, becoming Justiciar, but he was removed from the position after embezzling large sums of money.  Sir Alexander Ogilvy, 2nd baron of Inverquharity, was appointed Justiciar in Lindsay’s place.

    Soon the vengeful Lindsays were raiding Ogilvy lands in Kinnell and stealing their cattle.  Sir John Ogilvy retaliated and the conflict escalated,  One minor skirmish occurred at Leys, south of Kinnell, with the Lindsays coming off best, as this old rhyme remembers:
                                                      At the Loan o the Leys the play began,
                                                      an the Lindsays o’er the Ogilvys ran.

    One of the Ogilvy troops in this fray was a giant man with the old Angus name of Irons.  Despite his strength, Irons was slain and his giant boot and spur were hung up in the Ogilvy aisle of Kinnell church.  Above this aisle was written this legend:
                                                     While girse grows green and water runs clear,
                                                     let nane but Ogilvys lie here.

     After the aisle collapsed in 1766, the common folk of the parish were allowed to be buried here.
   The Ogilvys and Lindsays met several times to try to resolve their differences, but to no avail.  They agreed to meet each other in combat  at Arbroath Abbey on 24th January, 1446.  Unfortunately the Master of Crawford did not inform his father, the Earl, about the forthcoming battle and the horrified Earl only found out a few hours before.  A manuscript of the Hamilton family, who fought alongside the Lindsays, takes up the tale:

                               The Erle of Crawfourd, being then at Dundee, posted in all
                               haste to Aberbrothock, and came there just as both parties
                               [were] ready to begin the fight...designing by calmness to
                               take up the quarrel [he] went too forwardly to demand a
                               parlie with Alexander Ogilbie for his sons.  But before he
                               could either be known or heard, he was encountered by a
                               commone soulder, who thrust him in the mouth with a
                               speir which lair him upon the ground...

     While the mortally wounded Earl was carried back to Finavon Castle, the Lindsays furiously attacked the Ogilvys.  Five hundred of the latter were slain, against a hundred Lindsays.  Among the Ogilvy allies to escape was Sir John Seton, brother-in-law of Sir John Ogilvy.  He had been travelling north to claim the inheritance which would make him the first Earl of Huntly.  He had stayed the night at Bolshan Castle and the code of hospitality obliged him to fight for his hosts until the last meal he had received from them had been digested.  Among the Ogilvy allies in the fray were Oliphants, Gordons and Forbes.  It seems there may be a resonance of the bloody battle remaining.  Forbes Inglis, in his book Phantoms & Fairies, Tales of the Supernatural in Angus and Dundee (2010), mentions visitors to the Abbot's House in Arbroath Abbey have sometimes been unsettled by an uncanny atmosphere.

    Sir Alexander Ogilvy of Inverquharity was wounded in the fight.  The Lindsays took him to Finavon, not as a prisoner, but because it was feared that he would not survive the longer journey to his own home. He was tended by his cousin, Marion Ogilvy, Crawford’s wife.  Crawford himself suffered appalling agony before he died, exactly a year after he and the Earl of Douglas had raided ‘St Andrew’s Lands’ in Fife, a deed which caused him to be excommunicated.  Some people believed that his fate was the result of the curse of Bishop Kennedy of St Andrews.  His body lay unburied for four days until the excommunication was lifted.

    Crawford’s death seems to have driven Marion Ogilvy insane, for she removed the pillow from her husband’s death bed and used it to smother the helpless Sir Alexander Ogilvy.  The Lindsays made a gleeful rhyme about the murder, playing on the words Ogilvy and Ugly:

                                                      Ugly you lived, and Ugly you died,
                                                      and now in an Ugly place you lie.

     Inverquharity’s own brother, Thomas Ogilvy,  betrayed the family by fighting on the Lindsay side at Arbroath, and he was later rewarded by gaining the lands of Cortachy and Glen Clova.

     After the battle and the death of his father, Alexander Lindsay, now 4th Earl of Crawford, continued to rage against his enemies.  For ‘a gret tyme [he] held the Ogilbys at great subjecciounn, and tuke thair gudis, and destroyit their placis’.  One of his main targets was the recently completed castle of Inverquharity.

    Crawford allied himself with the Douglas family and became a major player in the rebellion against King James II which arose when the king killed the 8th Earl of Douglas.  At 11 a.m. on Ascension Day, 18th May, 1452, Crawford’s army met the king’s forces under the Earl of Huntly at the Battle of Brechin.  Huntly won the day, helped by a large defection from his enemy, led by one Collace, or Sir John Collessie, of Balnamoon, apparently disenchanted by not receiving a grant of the lands of Fern from Crawford.

Ruined remains of Finavon Castle

    After the bitter defeat, Earl Beardie fled back to his home of Finavon Castle , called for a cup of wine, and declared that, rather than having been defeated, ‘he wud be content to hing seven years in hell by the breers ‘ his e’en [eyelashes].’  Huntly had planned to follow Crawford, but was forced to flee north when the Earl of Moray invaded his own lands.  Crawford took the opportunity of his absence to burn down Kinnaird Castle, home of Huntly’s ally, Walter Carnegie.

    A legend says Beardie was warned of defeat years before when his wife encountered a strange old minstrel wandering by the Lemno Burn.  Hearing mention her husband, she brought him home and the Earl ordered him to speak.  When the old man predicted the murder of Douglas the defeat at Brechin, Crawford hanged the minstrel from an iron hook hung high on Finavon’s eastern wall.

    King James II was furious with Crawford after the defeat and swore he would make the highest stone of Finavon its lowest.  But Crawford courageously approached the monarch and begged mercy for his family and vassals, though none for himself.  The king forgave him and Beardie received him, bare foot and in sack cloth, on the Renet Green before Finavon.  The king entered the castle, climbed to the keep, and dislodged the highest stone, and so fulfilled his promise.  Crawford entertained the king for three days at the castle.

    It was long believed by the Lindsays that they had lost the day at Brechin for the same reason that the Ogilvys were defeated at Arbroath:  their uniform contained that deadly fairy colour, green.  The family later swore:
                                                     A Lindsay in green
                                                     should never be seen.

    But, strangely enough, the Lindsay tartan, as it is known today, does contain green.

    A story says that Beardie fled to Spain after his defeat and battled against the Moors.  He brought back a Spanish chestnut tree which he planted in the courtyard of Finavon.  It was called Earl Beardie’s Tree, or the Covin [Company] Tree, because nobles gathered beneath it to drink  before they went hunting.  The chestnut was the largest in Scotland and Earl Beardie was fiercely proud of it.

    One day a messenger from Lindsay of Careston stood under the tree while he waited for an answer.  Being bored, he cut a walking stick from a branch of the tree.  Crawford had the boy strung up from the chestnut.

    ‘The ghost of this luckless person,’  Andrew Jervise wrote in The Land of the Lindsays (2nd edition, 1886), ‘still wanders between Finhaven and Cariston, and is the constant attendant of benighted travellers, by some of whom he is described as a lad of about sixteen years of age, without bonnet or shoes, as is known as Jock Barefoot.  His freaks are curious and withal inofensive, and on reaching a certain burn on the road he vanishes in a blaze of fire.’

    Jock seems originally to have been an elemental or nature sprite, A rhyme gives him the character of a tree spirit:

                                                       Earl Beardie ne’er will dee
                                                       nor poor Jock Barefoot be set free,
                                                       as lang’s there grows a chestnut tree.

     The Covin Tree is said to have withered and died after Jock’s execution.  Actually the tree was killed by the sever winter of 1760 and later toppled during a storm.  A Mr Skene of Careston Castle made a table out of the timber.  The table later came into the ownership of the Earl of Aboyne (Marquess of Huntley) and was housed in Aboyne Castle.

     Six months after receiving the king at Finavon, the Tiger Earl ‘tuik the hot fever’ and died there.  His body was buried in the family crypt at Greyfriars, Dundee.  He has gained a certain niche celebrity in supernatural circles by regularly appearing as one of the star attraction ghosts who haunt Glamis Castle (of which more later...)

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