In those days, one Nathalan, an illustrious scion of a noble house, was born at Tullich. His education was particularly attended to, and he grew up an accomplished scholar, as well as a distinguished saint. His warm heart was inflamed with the love of God. He yearned after a better world, and spent his time in the contemplation of heavenly things. Nature spoke to him of the Almighty alone. The trees with their rich foliage, the flowers of various hue and sweet of perfume, the fruits and crops of the earth, the very grass of the field, proclaimed to him the marvellous might of the Creator. And though of noble birth, he became a cultivator of the soil, as he found that employment most suited to raise his every thought to God. With his own hands he tilled a little farm, and sowed and reaped his crops in due season.

A famine came, and sorely pressed upon the neighbourhood, and starvation brought the poor to the verge of the grave. Nathalan opened his little stores, and distributed amongst them the produce of his fields to the last grain, so that on the return of spring, though his fields were ready, he had not wherewith to sow them. His farm was close by the Dee, and on its banks lay fine beds of sand. This he gathered, and had his fields all sown over with sand, as if it had been the best of grain. And, lo! wonderful to telí, never did Tullich witness such plentiful crops.' Barley, oats, and the different grains he was wont to sow, grew up and ripened in amazing abundance. One autumn morning, a goodly array of men and women went out with Nathalan to reap the ready harvest; the heavens, however, suddenly darkened, rain fell in torrents, the wind blew a hurricane, the mountaim streamlets waxed large, and rushed down head long in frothy fury. The Gairn, red with clay and sand, making deafening riot, raged its utmost. The Dee raised its dark swollen waters, over-flooded its banks, and began to inundate Nathalan's golden fields. Alas for poor human nature ! the reapers, Nathalan too, murmured against the goodness of the Most High. It was but the complaint of a moment, and in that moment the heavens became serene. The day waxed bright and beautiful as before. The angry waters subsided. Heavily did Nathalan's conscience smite him with grief. Straightway he bound an iron chain round his right ankle, and made it fast with lock and key, vowing that it should not be unlocked until he craved forgiveness for his sin, an humble pilgrim before the shrine of the Apostles, at Rome. He vowed, and, as he ended his vow, threw the key into the neighbouring Dee, The spot, bearing out the truth of our story, is to this day called the Key Pool.

After a long painful pilgrimage we find Nathalan reached the Eternal City. Asking pardon, revolving pious thoughts, he knelt and prayed at the many shrines of Rome, and then only he went in search of some meagre food. He met a little boy, from whom at a low price he procured a fish. The fish was opened, and in it was found, still unrusted, the very key he had thrown into the Dee, far away amidst the hills of Mar. With pious gratitude he received it, as a mark from God that his sin was cancelled, and unlocked the iron of a long penitence. The fame of the Scottish pilgrim's sanctity pervaded Rome, and became known to the Pope, by whom, shortly after, Nathalan was consecrated bishop. Until a good old age he edified all Rome by his humility, piety, and the exercise of many virtues. He bethought him, however, of his native hills, and with the Pope's blessing and consent hé sought again the banks of the Dee. We may imagine the joy and rapture of his countrymen. Before his death, he built at his own expense three

churches—one at Tullich, one at Coull in Cromar, and one at Bothelim; and, rich in many virtues, he rendered his soul to God. The Reformation has almost swept the memory of St Nathalan from amongst us. The Mason Lodge of Ballater bears his name—an honour by no means, we dare make bold to think, much to St Nathalan's liking. Śt Nathalan died on the 27th of January, and on that day his feast was celebrated with much piety and devotion in these parts. Down to the days of Knox he was held in much veneration; and many

the diseased, many the afflicted, who came in humble pilgrimage to the Church of St Nathalan at Tullich, and, through God's mercy and his intercession, returned home cured, and comforted, and -Nathalan is the Saint of the Braes o' Mar.

the sick, many

Long, long ago, the Braes o' Mar were the favourite hunting bounds of the kings of Scotland.

They had a hunting-seat on Donside at Kildrummy, one in Cromar, on an island of Loch Kinnord, and one in Braemar at Castletown.

Creag Choinnich, or Kenneth's Craig, had its name from King Kenneth, who used it as a heading hill, and sometimes as a lookout to see how his royal hunts through the strath below were conducted. Macbeth's last flight was through the Braes o Mar.

The stone where he was slain by Macduff is seen to this day in Lumphanan.

But most remembered of all the early Scottish monarchs is Malcolm of the Big Head.

Long, long ago, during his first stay in Cromar, some of his turbulent thanes, taking exception to his big head, wished to have it off. It is not distinctly known whether they intended to replace it by a neater piece of workmanship. The scheme went wrong, through the blundering of Allan-Mac-lan-Dhorsair'Ic-Dhaulain (Allan the son of John the door-warden, the son of Daulin). This fellow was door-warden to Malcolm, a huge fellow as you could have seen. When the thanes in a body came to Malcolm's chamber, he shut the door in their faces, and though ten or twelve of them applied shoulders and feet to it, Allan-Mac-lan-Dhorsair-'Ic-Dhaulain, with his shoulder on the other side, kept it closed against them all. Malcolm, not relishing this squabbling, called through a window down into the court on his guard, who speedily hastened to his presence. Not having time to wait for the dispersion of the thanes, who blocked

up the door, they hacked them down with their halberts, and thus put a stop to their proceedings relative to Malcolm's big head.

Malcolm had a taste for the big-natural that he should; and so, having proof of the bigness of Allan-Mac-Ian-Dhorsair-'IcDhaulain—the man, not the name-in the affair with the thanes, he made him lord of Coull and Migvie. The people of the country, however, having no idea of the grand and big, instead of continuing his old name to the laird, called him simply after his former office, Allan Doorward. From him came the family of the Durwards, once so mighty on the Braes o' Mar.

The Durwards were long in Cromar. They built two splendid castles, the ruins of which are yet seen, and, to connect them, constructed a causeway through the low grounds of the country, then mostly under water, from Coull to Migvie. The old hospital for the sick and wounded at Kincardine O'Neil was due to them. They were great warriors too, and fought in the holy wars. Like every family, they had many feuds, but the most bloody was with the Ogilvies. The bravest races, however, like the simplest individual, are only for a time. There were wild things done in the two castles. The sounds of mad revelry disturbed the silence of the night, and the uproar at one castle could be heard at the other for the sons of Allan-Mac-IanDhorsair-'Ic-Dhaulain were giants. Their substance ran down like the casks of wine they quaffed so freely of, and their lands were sold to the Menzieses. The representative of the family went to Gairnside, where some of his descendants yet live. But they did not cease to have connection with Cromar, for still “the kirk-bell of Coull” tolls of itself at a Durward's death.

Long, long ago, far from relishing the exception to his big head, Malcolm thought so well of it, that he determined to publish some more editions, and took to himself a wife. The year following, while in Cromar, he had the luck, with other game, to bag a ptarmigan, and when deep in his cups after dinner, dangling the bird by its legs, exclaimed,-

“Oh that I had all the Danes thus! I would cut off their heads at one blow, and seize the Danish crown."

Would you venture, my liege,” said the queen-mother, going up to him, “ to repeat those words in my brother's court s'

Certes, with all my heart," cried the king. Twelve of his best men were picked out, and they accompanied the queen and himself to Denmark, where they met with a hearty welcome.

When they sat down to dinner, each of the twelve had a dagger thrust into his sleeve, and was by Malcolm seated between two Danes. He was a jolly fellow, and soon told over the story. The Danes leapt to their feet; but his faithful twelve did each for their two, and they sailed immediately for“ auld Scotland.”

Cleverly as Malcolm had managed, the Danes did not see the beauty of the affair, but, waxing very wroth, landed an army of thirty thousand men in Scotland under Mulloch. Malcolm could only muster seven thousand. He marched them through Athole, Glen Tilt, and Braemar, to Culblean. On Saturday afternoon, twelve scarecrows presented themselves before him, informing him they were the Thane of Argyle's contingent. Malcolm in a fury ordered them home straightway, and, resolving to meet the Danes with what force he had, pushed forward a few miles that same evening. The twelve lanky Argyle men, wearied and worn, felt no heart to recommence their long journey back on the day of their arrival, and therefore concealed themselves among the camp-followers in the rear.

The Scots occupied the then wooded moor that stretches from Loch Dawin to the hills rising eastwards, and the Danes the heights sloping from these hills down to Mill o' Dinnet. Both armies respected the Sunday, and on Monday morning the battle began. Then came the tug of war. The twelve Argyle men, anxious to get a good view of the fight, and casting about for this purpose, arrived at the top of a hill overlooking the plain. Here the Danish general had perched himself to watch the enemy's movements. Luckily for his future glory, the Argyle men despatched him at once, and he had the honour of giving his name of Mulloch to that hill. The Danes had now pushed forward into the plain, and were on the point of gaining the day, but, receiving no orders, stood still a breathing-space. At this moment the Argyle men, showing themselves, gave a loud cheer. The Danes began to waver. The Scots pushed on, led by our friend Allan the door-warden. There was no resisting them now. Malcolm left his station-named, after the battle, Monday of the Dawin, and contracted Monandawin-and rushed forward with his nobles. The heights were taken. The Danes fled. At the hill of Mortlach they attempted to make a stand. The burn which runs down from it is called even now the “Bleedie Burn.” They were again routed. Further down they faced round again, and were again put flight. Here Malcolm, in transports, exclaimed to his warriors, “Bu sibh-fhein na Gaisgich”. (you are indeed heroes). Thence the name of Drum-na-gaisge (the height of heroism). The pursuit continued to the sea-side, where the Danes were exterminated.

In those times great numbers of the houses were still of the kind called Picts' houses—excavations in a dry brae, with sidewalls of the rudest masonry inclining inwards, and capped over with long stones. A low narrow passage, with a bend, led from this to the upper world, and a hole through the roof permitted the escape of smoke. In a hole of this kind one of the poor Danes hid himself. When the fury of the people had passed away, he crept out, made himself friends, married, and settled in the country, under the appellation of Lum's Dane (Lumsden), a name that has been continued to his descendants.

Malcolm was much fatigued when he returned to his shootingbox in Loch Kinnord; and when he laid down his big head to sleep, not a wink could he get from the continued howling that assailed his ears; so he called on our friend Allan Durward, now captain of his guard.

“Go, Allan,” said he, “and coutts these dogs, for I can't sleep a bit with their howling."

Allan, with some of the guard, went away, and found the howling proceeded from some dozen babies, whom it was not easy to “coutts,” or still. They were queer customers in those times, and kept up a joke. This one got spread through the country, and the babies were named “Couttses,” that being the only way they could “coutts” them. But Malcolm, though he rather liked a joke of his own, could not be bothered with the Couttses' constant nightly chorus, and in disgust set

off for Braemar. The old Roman road, over Culblean and up Deeside, was then in good repair, and he soon arrived at his castle of Ceann Drochaide, in Castletown of Braemar, where he afterwards generally put up during the hunting season.

The Couttses, though they had not the honour to please his gracious majesty, continued to thrive, strange to tell. In a short time they came to possess the greater part of the west side of Cromar, and became a mighty clan. Among the feuds which they thought it honourable to maintain, was one with the Clan Allan of Čorgarff. After it had continued for many years, the Couttses resolved to root out their foes, and gathered, young and

« VorigeDoorgaan »