"Green vale of Cabrach where the lambent waters flow,
A glistening mirror to the golden broom,
Think not that I forget thee when I go
Or fail to carry happy memories home.
What tho' the wind blow cold from off the eastern sea,
It floods the vale with scent of birch and peat,
Nor dims the purple distance o'er the lea,
Nor stirs in sheltered bank the noonday heat.
The Cabrach moorland farm creeps upward to the heath,
Mingle green corn and whin and russet ling,
Lesmurdie's burn, quick emptying to the stream beneath,
Adds its low voice where Deveron's ripples sing".
Taking our course through the Cabrach from Dufftown, we must pass through the Glacks of the Balloch. On the left, about the middle of the pass, is the site of a cairn which formerly stood there. Many conjectures have been made as to its origin and purpose, such as that it covered the bodies of those who fell in some long-forgotten battle, or was a monument to their victory ; but the most popular is a version of the "hidden treasure" story, which is always fascinating and never lacks believers. The tale is of a bull's hide full of gold, hidden below the cairn and watched over by the fairies. It is always risky to meddle with anything belonging to the "Good People", and either from incredulity or fear, no one seemed inclined to open the cairn and find out the truth, until at last one man summoned up courage to make the attempt. He went secretly at night and commenced to make a hole in the centre. As he worked he saw ghostly forms flitting round him, while ghostly voices sounded in his ear ; still he kept to his task and the hole got deeper and deeper, but the forms pressed more and more closely upon him, and presently the stones he flung out came flying back at him. Then his courage began to wane, and he decided to wait for daylight. Picture his astonishment and awe when morning revealed the cairn intact, with no trace of his night's labour remaining. Looking upon this as a sign that the treasure was not for him, he made no further efforts, and the cairn remained undisturbed until about thirty years ago. By that time superstition was nearly dead, and as in winter the pass was frequently blocked with snow, which drifted in the shelter of the huge pile of stones sometimes to a depth of 50 ft., and as, also, here was a fine supply of road metal without the trouble of quarrying it, the cairn was taken down and is now spread over the surface of the roads in such small fragments as would puzzle any spirit to put together again. Nothing whatever was found in it, and as the ground below was not disturbed, the secret remains a secret still.
From the opening of the pass a good view is obtained, the Lower Cabrach beginning to spread out before us. Right ahead is the Buck, overtopping all, while nearer at hand are the hills of Blackwater, with a few scattered farms and crofts in the valley at our feet, from which the hospitable smell of peat-fires rises to greet us. On the left of the road there is to be seen in August a large peat-stack, the property of Glenfiddich Distillery, which obtains its supply of fuel from the moss a short distance up in the Garbet hill, so the Cabrach deserves some of the credit of the fineness of the whisky. On the right a cart track breaks away, leading first of all to the farms of Badchier, then to Glenfiddich and Blackwater. The Charach burn has its source in these hills, and flows N.E. for a mile or so, then taking a right angle turn follows the road down to the Deveron. From its source to this turn the ground slopes towards it on both sides, and the valley is known as Badchier, a Gaelic name meaning, according to some authorities, "Hind's thicket". Though not many trees now remain, no doubt in times past the ground was well covered with the small thick wood which the deer find such excellent shelter for their wives and young families. Mr Macdonald (to whose "Place Names in Strathbogie" we are indebted for most of the interpretations of Gaelic names which we give) says that the original form of the word was "Badtchear", which seems to point to the Gaelic "Bad-t-siar" as its derivation, that is "the place of the west", and that the name is given as this the most westerly cultivated ground in the parish.
There are not so many houses here as there used to be, even within the last ten years, for the story of emigration and depopulation of the country districts is the same here as elsewhere in Scotland. Four or five houses are all that remain in Badchier, perched on the slopes on either side of the burn. The same families have lived in them for generations : a Smart and a Jopp were tenants in 1784, and their descendants still carry on the farms of Westerton and Badchier ; while Mr Maconochie of Broomknowes is descended from two families whose representatives have been in or around Badchier for 150 years. The best-known of these was Peter Cameron, who was at Broomknowes in 1804. At that time the barony of Invercharrach exercised certain rights of service, called "binnage", over the crofters of Badchier, who were compelled to supply labour every harvest to the tenant of Invercharrach. Besides the farms we have named, there were also included in this service those of Todholes, Burntreble, Crofthead and Tomnavowin. Peter Cameron had on one of these occasions sent his young daughter to help at the harvest. In the friendly "kemping" match on the field she was left far behind, and being chaffed and made the subject of jokes, which were perhaps rather free, her father was so annoyed when she told him about it that he made up his mind to beg the Duke to remove this burden on the tenants. So when the "tacks" were almost out he repaired to Gordon Castle and represented the case so strongly to his landlord that he readily agreed that the Badchier tenants should in future hold their land directly from himself, and thus do away with the "binnage".
Returning to the main road, two or three small crofts are seen to the left, on the slope of the Garbet hill, and behind them is a pretty wood of fir and larch, one of the very few plantations in the Cabrach. [Since this was written much of the wood has been cut down.] They belong to the Lesmurdie estate, which extends from the Muckle Balloch to the burn of the Soccoch, three miles further on, and embraces the land on the left side of the road. The next farm on Lesmurdie is Rhynturk, so called from a fancied resemblance to the snout of a boar in the hill above. It occupies one of the most commanding positions in the Cabrach, and has a fine view.
Almost opposite, on the other side of the burn, is Todholes, a name which indicates the presence of foxes in the vicinity. As already stated, this farm was included in the "binnage" of Invercharroch, and was farmed by Peter Cameron, along with Broomknowes. On the same side of the road Burntreble is next. Here the Charach burn receives two tributaries, and consequently the name is usually thought to mean "three burns". This though plausible, is however, incorrect, for the name is a corruption of Gaelic "triopall" ("a gathering"), and could be equally applied to four or five burns. The tributary on the left is Luie, the burn of the calves, which flows down from the N.E. slopes of the Garbet Hill, making a deep gully between it and the Kelman Hill. In the gully are two farms, Ardluie, or Aluie, and Findouran, a name that puzzled Mr Macdonald, and Bodiemullach (the clump on the ridge), which is more a croft than a farm, so small is it. Now we come to Bridgend, the nearest approach to a village the Cabrach possesses. At Bridgend is "The" shop, with the Post and Telegraph Office, the Blacksmith's and five other occupied houses. There is another small shop at Crofthead. Not so long ago, indeed within the last thirty or forty years, there were no fewer that eight tradesmen at Bridgend, all of whom found plenty of work : two shoemakers, a tailor, a dressmaker, a blacksmith, a merchant, a weaver and a joiner, but now that people find it so much easier to visit a town and have acquired a taste for town products, these country workers have sadly diminished in numbers. But there is no other blacksmith in the parish, and a great inconvenience it must be to fetch a horse with a dropped shoe for five miles, from the High Cabrach, to be shod at Bridgend.
Bridgend is backed by the hill of Tomnavoulin, pronounced locally Tam-a-ooin, and an accommodation road leads round the base of it to the farms of Tomnavoulin and Shenval. The first-named has a pleasant situation on the S.W. slope of the hill. The name, according to Mr Macdonald, is the Gaelic Tom-na-mhuilinn, the hill of the mills, so called from its nearness to the Milltown. From here the ground rises again to the farm of Shenval (Gaelic Sean-bhaile, old town).
This, from its associations, is one of the most interesting places in the district. Though now only one farm, in the early part of last century there were three or more farmers cultivating the land here, and earlier still there was, farther up the Blackwater, a collection of houses almost numerous to be called a village. At the present time the Shenval comprises a good-sized dwelling-house, with a large steading and a farm of about a hundred acres of arable land, with hill pasture also, occupied by Mr Macdonald. Though windy and cold, there being no trees to make a shelter, and the site being so exposed on the top of a hill, the bareness and exposure had a very decided advantage in troubled times. Malcolm Canmore built up here one of those forts, the line of which extended from Burghead and Duffus to Cairn-na-Mounth. No trace of the fort remains, but near by are some large hollows, surrounded by a sort of earthwork, which are said to have been fortifications, and have even been attributed to the Romans. This explanation of them, however, is obviously not the correct one, for not only do these hollows bear no resemblance to the usual well-authenticated Roman camps and fortifications, but it is extremely doubtful whether the Romans ever penetrated so far north inland. To the unimaginative eye they look far more like disused quarries, and as there is some tradition of lead being found in the Cabrach, they may be old workings. At present their use is to afford comfortable shelters for the sheep.
The Castle at Shenval claimed to have sheltered Edward I. in his march, denying that honour to the Castle of Invercharroch, and perhaps this visit accounts for the name of "King's Haugh" given to the stretch of haughland of about 10 acres near to the Slochs, the so-called fortifications. Here are the remains of quite a number of cottages arranged like a street, possibly at one time occupied by the labourers employed on the farms of King's Haugh and Horseward, which lies still farther up the stream. These signs of habitation explain the name of Shenval (the old town), for the near neighbourhood must have been comparatively thickly populated, and so one can better understand the choice of this place for the building of the Roman Catholic Chapel. In 1804 Shenval was divided into three parts, leased by four persons, and the Horseward was also leased. In 1824 Shenval was still divided in three, and the Horseward was tenanted by Janet Robertson, who is said previously to have farmed the King's Haugh. The Duke of Gordon had spent some time at the Shenval in his boyhood, and while there was not treated with the courtesy and kindness he expected by the mistress, whose delinquencies were, however, more than made up for by the maid, Janet Robertson. When, therefore, the goodwife journeyed to Gordon Castle to have her lease renewed, the Duke coolly told her she had no business with him, and gave her farm to another tenant, first allowing the servant to choose a part of it for herself. She fixed on the King's Haugh, but finding it too windy, asked to be transferred to the Horseward, for which she paid £7 annually.
Leaving the Shenval, it is a pleasant walk past the farm of Tomnavoulin and over the hill, descending at Crofthead, where there are two cottages, one of which used to be the post office, while the other is a small general shop. From here a rough road leads down to a foot-bridge across the Charach burn, and after passing the school joins the Huntly road (which we left at Bridgend) at the gate of Milltown of Lesmurdie. Close by and just above the school, a flight of steps cut into the brae makes a short way to the Church. From the road is another flight of steps to the Manse door, and here, being quite out of breath with the climb, let us pause and look around, for it is a truly lovely view that meets us. The hills here form a wide basin, from which there seems at first to be no outlet : green and purple they lie, fold on fold, with here a clump of trees and there a burn, their grassy and heathery slopes scattered over with sheep. Below the Firbriggs a deep cleft shows the course of the Blackwater, and a the foot of the hill of Corinacy, on the left, flows the Deveron, its farther bank edged with a fringe of birches. Opposite to us is the Richmond Hotel, and just beyond it the road disappears round a corner on the way to Upper Cabrach. It all sounds simple and idyllic enough, but the charm lies mainly in the play of colour-never the same for two hours together, and always beautiful, whether under the grey sky of autumn or the brilliant sunshine, in the early morning or at sunset of a winter day, when the afterglow is almost Alpine in its beauty. Some measure of it is perhaps gained from the "I'm-a-Monarch-of-all-I-survey" feeling that one has in standing on this high terrace and looking down and around. As a full description of the Church and Manse is given in another chapter, we will leave them for the present, noting in passing that the name of the site is Sunnybrae. Just below the Manse a cottage used to stand, inhabited by Alexander Stewart, kirk officer, known as "Pachles". After his death in 1874 the house was occupied for a short time by his daughter, and then pulled down and the stones used for building dykes. On a rising ground, loking like an island in the centre of the basin, is the farm of Invercharroch, one of the best in the Lower Cabrach. Time was when this was the seat of a barony, with lordship over much of the surrounding country, and the Castle of Invercharroch was well known to many famous people as a half-way house and resting-place. Among them should be noted Edward I., who is said to have stayed here on his march through the North of Scotland in 1296, though possibly (as remarked above) Edward really stayed at the Castle of Shenval, for in the diary of his march kept by one of his suite it is stated that at "Interkerachte" there were but "11j maisons sans plus en une valie entre deux montagnes". So perhaps the troops camped at Invercharroch, on the haugh of Delmore, while their leader lodged at Shenval, the Castle of Invercharroch being built later. Robert Bruce is also said to have rested here, and David I. and James II. Are among the royalties who have honoured it; while more than likely the "Gaberlunzie Man" passed this way in his wanderings about Strathbogie. Mary Queen of Scots, too, is credited with having spent a night under the castle roof, though to be sure, if she slept in all the houses that claim the honour, the poor lady must seldom have passed a night in her own bed. Among others, General Lesly, "the Great Marquis", and Graham of Claverhouse lodged in our Castle, the last-named giving his name to it, for it was alternatively called "Claver Castle". But it is disappointing to find so little really authenticated information about this historic spot, and all we know is that the Castle was still standing in 1725, and that probably it fell into ruin soon after. Between 1850 and 1860 a portion of it remained and formed part of the garden wall. Below the present farmhouse there is a large knoll, on which the cattle stood, surrounded by trees, but most of its stones have been used for building, so that it is now impossible to trace its extent or design. The garden was to the N.E. of the present one, and a number of good trees grew close by, but of these only one or two remain. Thus, interesting as Invercharroch may be to the antiquary or historian, the casual eye discerns nothing to distinguish it from any other farm "toun", except its unique situation, which commands the valleys of the Deveron, the Blackwater and the Charach burn, and which no doubt inspired the original builders. The name means the mouth of the stony bottom (burn). Its form has varied with the years, some of the earlier spellings being Interkerachte, Inverkerack, Enuercheroche, Inverquherrauche.
The last incident of note in connection with Invercharroch was the pursuit and attempted arrest of its master, Lieutenant Roy, of the Scottish Royals, after Culloden. He escaped through the help of a devoted servant-maid, who was killed by a volley discharged through the door she was in the act of barring. The laird of Lesmurdie resided there for some time until about 1725, and John Taylor, grandfather of John Taylor, Boghead, to whose historic researches we have referred, was born at Invercharroch in that year, leaving it for Milltown of Lesmurdie some time previous to the '45. Apparently Lieutenant Roy succeeded the Taylors, and after his flight it became the property of the Duke of Gordon.
In 1750 the tenant of Invercharroch and Badchier was John Fife, whose rent amounted to œ16 2s 9d. In 1784, Wm. Ferror, "&c", were tenants, paying for it yearly œ21 11s. From 1784 to 1803 Wm. Ferror had Invercharroch on a 19 years' lease, at a rental of £43 (a great advance), while seven different persons held the crofts of Badchier at a total rental of £24 15s. In 1804 Wm. And Alex. Forbes had Invercharroch and Burntreble for £65 per annum, and in 1824 Alex. Forbes paid £65 for Invercharroch alone ; while Jas. Jopp and Jas. M`Combie had crofts on it worth respectively £17 10s and £17 18s 6d. In 1838 Jas. Merson became the tenant, and the two crofters remained. Jas. Merson was the grandfather of the present tenant, Mr William Merson, and the father of Dr Merson, now of Hull, and of the late Rev. David Merson of Stamfordham.
On the hill at the farther side of the basin are the two Ardwells, Gaelic Ard-bhaile (the high town), Upper and Nether, with the inn. The first stands high up on the face of the Firbriggs, in a cold and windy spot. Originally there were two farms here, but both are now merged in one. The road passes by the house of the Nether Ardwell, which is much more sheltered and has a small plantation to the N.W. which keeps much of the wind off the garden. In the early part of last century there were no fewer than 13 dwellings at Nether Ardwell ; now there are but two farm-houses, one of which is also the inn, and a cottar house behind. The Richmond Hotel, formerly known as the Grouse Inn (locally known as "the Airdwell"), has been an inn for a fairly long period, at any rate since the beginning of the last century. It is well known among a circle of fishers who return year after year to enjoy the sport provided in the Deveron and Blackwater, so generously granted by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon ; and before the erection of the shooting lodge in the Upper Cabrach, the Duke's tenants or guests resided here. As very little custom can be had in the winter, the innkeeper, Mr John Watt, cultivates a farm also. His father, Mr Wm. Watt, who died in 1912 at the age of 85, occupied the farm all his life, but took over the inn only in 1876 ; before that it was in the hands of Wm. Stewart.
Turning back from the Ardwell and the Upper Cabrach road for
present, we continue the journey down the river, coming first to
Milltown of Lesmurdie, which belongs to Mr James Taylor. The Taylors
have occupied the Milltown since shortly before Culloden, when Mr
Taylor's great-grandfather removed from Invercharroch. The land owned
by Mr Taylor was originally part of the Lesmurdie estate, and was
purchased by him from the late Colonel Leslie. Here, as at most other
"touns" of the Cabrach, there were several houses, occupied by the
farmer, the miller and the joiner, while in a corner of the steading
was a building used for some years as a school.
The earliest mention of a mill is in 1549, when a charter was granted by Mary to Jas. Strathauchin and Elizabeth Abircrummy, his spouse. Again in 1562 mention is made of it, when it is recorded that "Alester M`Grasycht, being bastard, and dying without heirs, escheat of the mill was granted to Jas. Strathauchin, Laird of Lesmurdie", so that for nearly 400 years the mill stream has run chattering sparkling down from the "intake" below the Manse to the wheel at the Milltown. The little stream has witnessed many changes, and has had variety of work, for from grinding corn it passed to threshing corn, and now its power is used to supply electricity for lighting the house and steading.
From Milltown we still keep down the river on it left bank. Within easy distance of each other are four farms, all of which were lately tenanted by members of the Taylor family. These are Tombain (the white knoll), Tombally (the spotted knoll), the house of which is now not occupied, both farms being worked together by Mr John Horn, on the hill above the road ; and farther down the river, Mains of Lesmurdie and Boghead, both below the road. At Mains, the most important farm on the Lesmurdie estate, is the Lodge of Lesmurdie, once no doubt a pleasant dwelling, overlooking one of the best pools on the river ; but now, the trees having grown so closely about it, it is dark and damp, and from long neglect quite uninhabitable. Mains comprises two farms, the other being Cauldstripe, the tenants of which were transferred to Badymullach, and one good farm made of the two. Mr Cran, tenant of the Mains, apparently finds even this not too large for his energies, for he is also tenant of Findouran, another farm formerly tenanted by a Taylor, whose hill land marches with his. Until about 1837 there was a distillery at the Mains.
Boghead was until lately the residence of Mr John Taylor, who may claim to be the first historian of the Cabrach, for though he never published anything he busied himself in research, and to his notes we are indebted for many of the particulars herein contained. Mr Taylor's literary interest and activity are the more remarkable in that he attended school for only six weeks, all his knowledge otherwise being self-acquired.
The next three farms are grouped together-Drywells, Easterton and Forteith. The steadings of all remain, but the house of Drywells only is inhabited. Easterton is constantly mentioned in the Lesmurdie charters, and must have been of some importance. Forteith (cold homes), may have been so called because of the prehistoric graves found there, but Mr Macdonald's more prosaic explanation is that the land slopes to the burn of the Soccoch, and so faces the north-east.
Farther back in the hill are two cottages at Craigluie (the rock of the calves), where there were two farms. A great part of the land is now uncultivated, and the cottages are empty. In one of them there lived for a number of years Mr David Rattray, who was born in the Cabrach, but had been a teacher in Glasgow for a long period. When he retired from work, he thought there was no place like the Cabrach, so here he came, and what a change it must have been from the city to this quiet spot among the heather, with his bees. He died in 1908 at the age of 83, and since his death no one has occupied the house.
The majority of these farms are on the Kelman Hill, which is one of the most interesting parts of the Cabrach to the antiquary, for on it are nearly all the remains of a primitive race that have been found in the parish. The principal of these are the graves, of which a dozen or more have been discovered at different times on the farm of Forteith. A very circumstantial account of them, written about 1862, says:-"The stone cists ... are of one description, the bottoms, sides, and ends of them being formed of a sort of green stone found in the hill beyond the ruins of the ancient settlement, while the upper or covering stone must have been taken from a basaltic rock on the opposite side of the river ; and considering their vast size, and the distance and elevation to which they had to be carried, it becomes a curious problem to ascertain how in those primitive times such heavy blocks could have been carried thither. From the fact that most of these cists are bedded upon charcoal, and that they also contain quantities of the same material, it has been conjectured that it points to the destruction of the wives of the chieftains whose bones are interred in the rude stone coffins ; for acting on the axiom that it is not good for a man to be alone, when a chieftain died, they sacrificed his widows that their spirits might accompany him on his journey to the great hunting-land beyond the grave". (The writer has surely got his ideas a little mixed, for the "happy hunting-grounds" of the West and the Suttee of the East are not generally associated with the Picts, while even the polygamy is uncertain.) "The skeletons, so far as they have been seen in the eleven cists that have been opened here, have been of enormous proportions, and would seem to point to the chieftains of those days being chosen, like Saul among the Israelites, for their extraordinary physical stature. One of the skulls that were found was large enough to contain within it the head and hair of one of the largest men in the Cabrach (whose head measures 23 ins.), and from the general appearance of the bones, all had evidently been giants as compared with the present generation of men. The skulls were all flattened or receding in front, like those of the American Indians, and a remarkable feature of all that were found in anything like a good state of preservation was that not a bad tooth was seen, and what was stranger still, all the front teeth were almost square. From the length of he cists, which did not exceed four feet, these large bodies had to be crushed or doubled up, and such of them as have been found in the best state of preservation were always got in a half-reclining position, with their legs doubled up, so that the knees nearly approached the chest, and the breast of each a rude clay urn was placed on which rough ornamental lines were cut, which were usually different from each other, save that round the bulge or widest part of the body of the urn a strip of carving like herring bone was found upon them. All the bodies were laid due east and west, with the heads towards the east, and from the circumstance that everything found in relation to them pointed in some way to the morning sun, or was of a circular form, it is presumed that they belonged to the ancient fire or sun worshippers. We may also mention that at a neighbouring hill there are evidences of the remains of a flint manufactory, where the well-known arrow heads had been prepared ; and such of those ancient weapons as have been found can yet be easily traced to the different districts where they had been made from their difference of colour. The extent of ground which this encampment covered cannot now be well ascertained, for the remorseless hand of agricultural improvers has rooted out a great deal of what not long since remained of this Caledonian city. There is reason to believe, however, that it had been miles in extent, and extended from the wood at the top of the Kelman Hill along the farms of Boghead, Drywells, Easterton, and Forteith, and following the Caledonian road had crossed the water and extended to the brow of the opposite hill".
Thus the "Rollicking Rambler" of 1862, but in the accounts given in the Proceedings of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, some of these particulars are contradicted. (See appendix.)
The details are meagre, and though wishing to know everything possible about these cists and other remains, and therefore not despising any source of information, we are inclined to think that the "Rambler", not being a professed scientist, has, in his wish to make the facts interesting, drawn on his imagination. We may be sure that such careful observers as those who opened and examined the cists, and subsequently reported the facts to a learned Society, would not have been mistaken about the size of the skeletons or the position of the urns and so on, while the idea of the widow sacrifice is too grotesque to contemplate seriously.
Alexander Robertson, F.G.S., of Elgin, excavated and examined several cists in 1851 and after a detailed description of the materials, size, position and contents of the same he says-"There can be little doubt that sepulchres of very various dates, and containing the remains of people of very different races and creeds, are included by antiquaries under the denomination of primeval cists. Those to which this paper refers may, I think, be characterised as follows: Cist without any superficial mound, either of the nature of barrow or cairn, the chamber about three feet or a little more in length, and containing a single unburnt skeleton, and an urn, either empty (when the cavity happens to be likewise) or showing by the character of its contents that it had not when first deposited held any solid matter ; with or without chips of flint and traces of iron in their vicinity ; with or without ornaments of jet, or other similar mineral, but without weapons. Cists of this peculiar class have been found in considerable numbers in dry, generally somewhat elevated spots all along the eastern coasts of Scotland, and they have also occurred, although apparently in fewer numbers, on its western side. They are far from rare in some parts of Germany, and indeed the figure of one at Rossleben, in Prussian Saxony, in Prof. Kruse's Deutsche Alterthümer might, except that the floor, like the other sides, is formed of slabs of stone, and that the urn is different, very well serve as an illustration of some of those at Lesmurdie.
Similar cists appear to have been found in England, Ireland,
Denmark, Sweden, and in various others of the northern states of Europe
; but there is too often such a want of precision in the published
accounts of these antiquities, that it seems premature to attempt to
found any ethnological generalisations upon them, although they may, I
think, be pretty safely regarded as Teutonic. As to the absolute or
even the comparative time of the mode of sepulture referred to, little
can be said, but its era must, at all events, be advanced from the
so-called Stone Period to the so-called Iron-Period. Whether it was
practiced during the earlier or the more advanced ages of the latter is
also quite uncertain ; it seems, however, very likely, from the
elaborate character of the work expended on the cists, and the infinite
variety of the ornaments sculptured on the urns, that such a custom
could either have been invented, or carried into execution, by a very
rude or uncultivated people. My own impression is that the antiquity of
these sepulchres has been very much over estimated".
The other remains consist of the foundations of houses and of larger buildings, thought to have been military stations, and altars. Heaps of burned grain near the altars point to the sacrifice of first fruits, the altars being made by placing a flat stone on four or five uprights, and this form, with the burned grain, and the circular house-foundations carries out the idea of sun-worshippers. On the hill opposite, across the river, we have ourselves found several evidences of those early inhabitants. On a point overlooking the inn, where the ground is flat, about 50 yards below the peat road, are several circles, which are about 11 paces in diameter, and are formed of single stones, more or less flat, placed at a distance of a few inches apart, whilst at a point nearly S.E. there is a gap or doorway of 4 feet in width. On the face of this hill is also a line of hollows (some hundreds of yards apart, 6 to 8 feet in diameter, and about 4 feet deep), which are variously thought to have been pitfalls for catching deer, lookout posts, and the holes left after digging up tree trunks for firewood. Farther round the hill towards Upper Cabrach, in a hollow called the Howe of the Hawk's Nest, is a large stone, 2 ft. 7 ins. by 3 ft. 8 ins. by about 6 ins. at its thickest, having on its flatter side some marks which a lively imagination can see to be the serpent of the Druids, and which the natives declare to be "Sculptured Stone", but it is probable that the sculptor was simply Nature.
The settlement, being beside the road which is pretty generally known as the Caledonian Road, was most likely inhabited by one of those Caledonian tribes, which, under Galgacus, repulsed the Romans in their attempt to explore the northern parts of Britain ; but more we cannot say.
A most fantastic theory as to the derivation of the name Kelman was that put forward by a Cabrach man, who imagined that the people that had settled on the hill came form Kiel in Holland, and that they named the hill after their native place, and the Deveron from a stream near to it, which rises in the Doufrefield mountains. In pursuance of this theory, he sought out everyone named Kelman that he could find, and observed that they all had a squat, Dutchman-like appearance, and further that Cabrach butter and Kiel butter were alike excellent and superior to that of other districts. We believe Mr John Taylor to have held a somewhat similar view, but do not know his reasons, though no doubt they had a firmer foundation than the foregoing. Our own opinion is that Kelman comes from the Gaelic Cella (a hut) and monadh (a moor), and means thus the moor of the huts, the present spelling having been adopted in the erroneous idea that the hill was named from the family of Kelman.
The next three farms, Soccoch, Greenloan and Belcherry, belong to the estate of Beldorney. Soccoch, frequently and wrongly called Succoth, is from Soc (a point of land), a name given on account of the natural features of the place. Greenloan (or Guestloan) is from loan, a protected place between dykes for cattle ; Guest is probably ghaist, from the eerie appearance of the white stones in the dyke at twilight ; and Belcherry is Eastertown, the most easterly cultivated land in the Cabrach, or as it was at one time, the eastern boundary of Lesmurdie. There were formerly one or two crofts at the top of the hill on Belcherry, and a smithy at the same place.
Below Belcherry, a convenient footbridge across the river takes us to the Daugh of Corinacy, which includes all the farms on the right bank of the river in Lower Cabrach, and also the farm of Bank, now reckoned in Upper Cabrach. The first place we come to is Tomnaven, the little hillock of the river. Formerly it comprised both Upper and Lower Tomnaven, and there was a flourishing distillery in the early part of last century, and for some years a private school. Now, like so many other of the Cabrach touns, it is inhabited by one family only. Further up the river another farm has disappeared entirely. This was Berryleys, between Tomnaven and Hillock of Echt. This latter still preserves the name of the Forbes property near Aberdeen. At the boundary between Hillock and Auldtown was the site of the first Secession Church. Some part of the walls of the second building still remain, while the foundations of the manse are seen on the opposite side of the burn. Auldtown and Newton are names which explain themselves, and between them is Pyke, or more correctly Pyketillum, the origin of its name being lost in obscurity ; the house stands on a knoll and has a splendid view up and down the river, it is now occupied by one of the gamekeepers, the farm being incorporated with Auldtown.
After passing the Newton, we come to a large semi-circular hollow in the bank, made, it would seem, by the action of the river, which has since changed its course. It looks, to the ordinary non-geological observer, as if in former ages the river had stopped here, making, in fact, a lake, and that in course of time the water wore down the softer part of the barrier, cutting through just below the present intake pool, and wearing into the Craig of the Mains. Still, more likely, the river swirled round this hollow, making it ever more and more regular, till one spring a big spate came and changed the river-bed to its present place, leaving this amphitheatre dry. If the Cabrach folks followed the example of some of the English villagers, and produced pastoral plays in the open air, here is the theatre ready, wanting only a little draining to make it the equal of many of the classic open-air stages.
Just where the river has broken through the bank is the Mill
Corinacy, a meal mill, and also a small saw-mill. The road on this side
of the river soon after crosses an iron bridge,
built in 1913 to replace a suspension foot-bridge and ford, which at
times in heavy spate was very dangerous, the river rising so quickly
that sometimes a farmer who had crossed easily in the morning found on
his return that it was impossible to get his horse and cart home.
A right-of-way follows the river on the Corinacy side, a pretty walk through a birch wood. This walk can be continued by either of two foot-bridges, one at Dalriach and one opposite the hotel, to join the road leading to Upper Cabrach.
Dalriach is one of the two remaining farms included in the Dauch of Corinacy, the other being Bank, on he Upper Cabrach side of the hill above us. In a Retour of 1681 there are mentioned Glascory and Dalreoch, called Bank. Glascory (the grey Corrie) was the name originally borne by Bank, and possibly when this retour was made, it was just beginning to be known as Bank, and so there was a confusion in the name. This seems a credible solution of the difficulty about these names which puzzled Mr Macdonald. Dalriach is now a croft occupied by a keeper, but when it was a farm it embraced all the land on that side of the river from the Burn of Bushroot to the boundary of Auchmair, and included some fine haugh lands now given over to sheep. At Bushroot itself were one or two houses, and the hill for some distance up was cultivated. The extent of the fields may yet be discerned, though the heather is rapidly encroaching.
Bank lies in a very commanding position on the S. side of the hill, and from it a view of nearly the whole of the Upper Cabrach may be had. Mr Gordon, late farmer there, and uncle of the present tenants, was a man of great intelligence and considerable learning, and interested himself in the antiquities and history of the Cabrach. His brother Dr Gordon, was in the habit of spending his holidays at Bank, and he wrote some account of the stone cists, &c., several of which he had seen opened.