Saturday, 7 November 2015

Bonnie Dundee

John Graham of Claverhouse, later Marquis of Dundee, was born on his family's estate at Glen Ogilvy in the Sidlaw Hills in 1648.  He was destined to be a man of legend, like his relative, Montrose, but it could be argued that his legend, the resonance that it remembered of the man, is several shades darker in the popular imagination.  As 'Bloody Clavers', Graham is cursed as a persecutor of the Galloway Covenanters, though anyone searching honestly through his military career in search of atrocities is facing a fruitless task.  Yet the same man was the first Jacobite hero, who raised the standard for King James VII on the top of Dundee Law in 1689.  And, as 'Dark John of the Battles', Claverhouse captured the imagination of the Gaels who served under him in a way which Montrose never did.

   But legends linger and fester in some instances, born of hatred and propaganda.  At the Battle of Drumclog, in June 1679, the cup of wine presented to Dundee turned into clotted blood, and a basin of water he plunged his feet into boiled over.  His horse was said to have been a gift from Satan himself and it had the power to easily gallop up sheer cliffs. Many traditions of the man proliferated after his death at the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27th July, 1689.  A story told among members of the Cameronian sect states that he was not slain merely by an enemy bullet but rather shot by a silver button taken from the coat of one of is own servants; this was the only way to be rid of a supernatural being.  Yet another rumour insists that he was killed by a Hanoverian spy in his own ranks.

   On the night before that fatal battle, Dundee was thrice visited by the bloody spectre of a man named John Brown, from Priesthill in Ayrshire, whom he had put to death four years previously.  The ghost pointed to its head, then down towards the ground where the battle would be fought, implying that Brown would meet Dundee there.  On the very day of the engagement a preacher called Bruce of Anwoth informed his Covenanter congregation that Dundee would no longer be 'a terror to God's people'.  Bruce had received a vision of John Graham's richly deserved death.  On the day after the battle the Earl of Balcarres awoke at his home in Fife and saw is friend Dundee standing at his bedside, gazing sorrowfully at him.  Balcarres cried out and the ghost vanished.  When Graham's corpse was stripped after the battle, he was found to be wearing a garment marked with the Templar Cross, symbol of that ancient and secret order of mystics.

   Lore of the man Dundee is sadly lacking in his native county, perhaps because none of his campaigns was conducted here.  But one wild tradition says that he still aunts Claypotts Castle, his one time home, especially around Halloween when flashing lights and odd sounds emanate from the building.  Satan and a host of witches and warlocks are reputedly on hand to join in the weird revels.  Although Dundee spent very little time at this partiular castle when he was alive, he apparently as made up for it in is afterlife.

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