Historic Events and People
Crossing the Ford of Frew
The Ford of Frew, at the extreme north-east end of the parish, being in past centuries the most accessible ford in the upper reaches of the Forth, was, in consequence, much frequented by contingents of military and others, and particularly those who wished to evade the garrison at Stirling in their journeyings north and south. On the 13th September, 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, elder son and heir of the Chevalier de St. George, son and heir of James II. and VII., after having landed in the Highlands from France, proceeded with his army by way of Perth, Dunblane, and Doune, crossed the Forth at the Ford of Frew, and halted at the mansion house of Leckie, where he passed the night. The next day he and his nobles passed by the south of Stirling Castle to Bannockburn House, by invitation of Sir Hugh Paterson.
In December following some battering cannon from France, which had arrived at Montrose, were also brought across the ford, previous to the siege of Stirling Castle. On the 1st of February, 1746, immediately after the second battle of Falkirk, we find Prince Charlie returning northwards by the same ford, owing to Governor Blakeney having broken down the bridge at Stirling.
Mr. Macgregor Stirling has preserved the following anecdote connected with the retiring army:
When Charles Edward was understood to be about to recross the Forth in his retreat, a Captain Campbell, with a party of the King's soldiers, came the evening before to the farm of Wester Frew, and inquired particularly at Robert Forrester, one of the Earl of Moray's tenants, where the ford in the neighbourhood was. This respectable yeoman, being more attached to the family in exile than to that in possession, and suspecting that Campbell had no good intention towards what he esteemed a good cause, directed him to a ford very seldom used. Campbell took from a cart some sacks filled with caltrops, and threw these weapons of invisible annoyance into the river. Having done so, he and his party withdrew.
Next day, Charles, with a considerable number of officers, arrived at Boquhan, where they halted and dined. The spot where the army halted, about fifty yards west from the present mansion house of Boquhan, is marked by a well built of hewn stone, and bears the inscription, "Prince's Well," 1790. Forrester's sons and servants, anxious to see the noble adventurer, crossed the river, and remained in the close neighbourhood of the Prince and his staff during dinner. Having finished their meal, the warriors took the proper ford, except the Prince, who, not thinking any information necessary regarding fords he had used, rode through that in which Forrester had seen one of Campbell's men deposit some caltrops. One of those the Prince's horse picked up, and, of course, was wounded.
It is related by the Rev. Dr. Patrick Murray, minister of Kilmadock Parish, that one of the young Forresters told him that he had been apprehensive lest he could find nobody to point out the Prince, and might not be able certainly to say he had seen one who, although he might never wear a crown, was, in the opinion of his father's family, entitled to that dignity.
"But," said Forrester, waxen old when he told the story, "there was no occasion for this anxiety, for there was a something in the brave Ascanius (his poetical name) which should have pointed him out to me, young as I was, as the son of a King among ten thousand."
The Herriship of Kippen
The Parish of Kippen has furnished the scene of several episodes in connection with Rob Roy, among which the most outstanding are - The herriship or devastation of Kippen by Rob Roy, and the abduction of Jean Key by Robin Oig.
Dr. Campbell, in his statistical account of the parish, speaks of a visit paid to Kippen by Rob Roy, which was known as "the Kippen herriship." Rob pretended to have a commission from King James to plunder the rebel Whigs, and might thus be said to be acting under General Cannon, who succeeded Dundee as James's commander-in-chief. Possibly it may be the same foray that is referred to when Ure of Shirgarton's goods, and those of his tenants, were carried off. Mr. Macgregor Stirling, minister of Port of Menteith, in his "History of Stirlingshire," referring to this incident, says:
"The averments of the statist of Kippen that old Rob Roy was a 'robber by profession' is not supported by the instance brought forward, that in 1691 he had headed 'the herriship of Kippen,' which amounts to nothing more than a military diversion by the Laird of Inversnaid in favour of his legitimate sovereign."
Rob Roy had, it would appear, subsequent to his expulsion from his lands, been a contractor for aiding the police of the country, and in the habit of receiving what, in allusion to earlier times when contracts for this purpose had not received the countenance of law, was called "black maill." He asserted an alleged claim on this score, somewhat differently from his accustomed urbanity.
Mr. Stirling of Garden, in 1710, had with his lady gone on a visit from Garden Castle, which stood on an eminence forming an island in what was once a lake, but is now a fertile meadow. On their return they found the fortalice occupied by a party under Robert Roy Macgregor, and the draw-bridge up.
Robert, appearing at a window, thus accosted the ousted owner:
"You have hitherto withheld the reward of protection, Garden, but must render it now."
Garden firmly refused, stating reasons more satisfactory to himself than to the other party, when the latter, bringing a child from the nursery, held it out of the window. The father, partly by the entreaties of the mother, was induced to comply.
The following anecdote is connected with what has been said of Rob Roy's personal prowess. He had been overnight in an alehouse at Arnprior, in company with Cunningham of Boquhan. They had quarrelled, and the latter having no sword, sent home for one, which, however, his family, suspecting a foolish broil, did not forward. He and Robert remained till break of day, when Boquhan, spying a rapier in a corner, insisted on fighting. Robert engaged, but instantly dropped his blade's point and yielded to one who he found was too expert a swordsman.
The Abduction of Jean Key
The following is the story of the abduction of Jean Key of Edinbelly by Rob Oig, youngest son of Robert Roy Macgregor. About 1732 James Key, a native of Strathendrick, with a fortune of £2,000, married a lady of the name of Janet Mitchell. The issue of this marriage was one daughter, Jean, born in October of that year. In 1742 Mr. Key purchased the property of Edinbelly, for which he paid £1,500, the balance going in stock and furniture. In 1744 Mr. Key suddenly died intestate, and his daughter, then in her twelfth year, became heiress of the property and effects. After this she was naturally an object of considerable interest in the valley, and as she advanced in years she had many suitors, among the number being Mr. John Wright, son of the laird of Easter Glinns - a portion of which is now included in the estate of Wright Park - whom she married in 1749, being then in her nineteenth year.
All now went well for a time, but by Mr. Wright's unexpected death, in October, 1750, about a year after marriage, she again became an object of interest. It would appear that Robert Oig got his eye on the young widow shortly after the death of her husband, and he thereafter called at the Black Bull Inn, Kippen, from whence he dispatched a messenger to Wright Park, "desiring leave to visit her." This being refused, the wrath of the Macgregor was roused, and he declared that if "fair wooing would not do, he should carry her off by force."
Mrs. Wright, well knowing the determined character of the clan, advised her daughter-in-law to be on her guard, and for safety thought she had better remove to Glasgow. Jean, however, treated the matter lightly, only removing a few miles further west, to Edinbelly, the home of her mother.
Rob, with his three brothers and five retainers, left Balquhidder in due course, determined on capturing the heiress, and in order to avoid the villages of Aberfoyle and Gartmore, they appear to have taken the old ride track down the west side of Loch Ard and Gartmore, reaching the well-known hostelry at Chapelarroch the same night. The evening being very dark, and a moorland country to be crossed, one of the brothers rode back to Gartmore, and got two local smugglers to act as guides. Shortly after leaving Chapelarroch, Rob received the tidings that Jean had removed to Edinbelly. Arriving at that place, they at once seized the object of their search, and placing her on the saddle behind her future husband, rode off in triumph. The horse of one of the Gartmore smugglers, however, got bogged, and this caused some delay. That night, at the then little inn of Rowardennan, a sham marriage took place, and next morning they crossed Loch Lomond, for the house of Mr. Campbell of Glenfalloch, and ultimately landed at Inverorick.
Meantime, to prevent Macgregor taking possession of the estate, Jean's friends had the property sequestrated, and warrants issued for the capture of the offenders. Some time after, James, Rob Oig's brother, accompanied by Jean, left Lochend House, on the shore of the Lake of Menteith, and rode off to Edinburgh, with the view of presenting a bill of suspension regarding the sequestration of her property. This, however, was bearding the lion in his den, the lady being cared for by the authorities, while James was allowed to return home.
Jean Key emitted her declaration on the 20th of May following, and the Macgregors and their accomplices were summoned to stand their trial at the Justiciary Court at Perth, to be held on the 25th of May, but, disregarding with contempt all such forms of law, they were all, nine in number, declared outlaws. By order of the Court of Session, Mrs. Wright was placed under the care of one John Wightman, of Maulsley, in the Potter Row, near Edinburgh, who was, along with the magistrates, responsible for her safe keeping. By order of the Court she was set at liberty on the 4th of June, and returned to some friends in Glasgow on the 7th of the same month, where she remained till her death by smallpox on the 4th of October, 1751.
Rob Oig was apprehended by a party of military from the fort of Inversnaid, at the foot of Gartmore, and was conveyed to Edinburgh on the 26th of May, 1753. After a delay of some months in prison, he was brought to the bar of the High Court of Justiciary and indicted by the name of Robert Macgregor, alias Campbell, alias Robert Oig, and found guilty of being art and part in the forcible abduction of Jean Key from her own dwelling. He was therefore condemned to death, and was executed at Edinburgh on 14th February, 1754.
The family of Key, of Wright Park and Edinbelly, are buried near to the ivy-clad ruins of the Old Parish Church of Kippen, and the spot is marked by a tombstone bearing the following inscription:
In Memory of
(the last of the name),
of Edinbelly and Wright Park,
who died March, 1848,
aged 72 years,
Jane Laing, his wife,
who died September, 1851.
The Battle of Ballochleam
It may be interesting to record here several old traditions in connection with Boquhan estate. Boquhan, it would appear, had been anciently an appanage of Dundaff, and in possession of the Grahams. The late learned Lieut. General Fletcher Campbell, of Saltoun and Boquhan, in a curious MS. left by him, alludes to a battle in the neighbourhood between Graham of Boquhan and Leckie of Leckie, regarding which we know nothing beyond what is contained in the following reference:
"The ballad," he says, "that celebrates the battle of Ballochleam was still sung by a lady of our days. The Leckies must have been of considerable number at that time if they could cope with the Grahams." The general further tells us that, "in the hollow of one of these fields, searching for limestone, an old tenant found some pieces of brass armour, together with the points of spears, and a great quantity of different bones. He said that he had intended to go on, but a thought came that he might raise up the plague."
Proprietors of Boquhan
In a MS., of date 1793, by General Campbell, we find a passage which, though not vouched, is entitled to credit from the character of the author. Speaking of Sir John De Grahame's castle, he says,
"From these heights the Barons of Boquhan had descended to the dryfields, the ruins of their ancient tower were but lately dug up in the field of Old Hall; and some aged men can remember the old iron door and grated windows. A modern house in the carse with open fields, near the high road, receives the present proprietor," meaning himself.
"There is some reason to think that Boquhan belonged to the Earls of Menteith, of the name of Graham. Sir Colin Campbell of Boquhan's mother, second wife of his father, was Lady Margaret Graham, daughter of the Earl of Menteith. The Earls of Menteith were anciently patrons of Kippen, a presumption of land property in the neighbourhood, more especially in olden times. Succeeding the Grahams, Boquhan came into the possession of Sir Colin Campbell, younger son of Archibald, 4th Earl of Argyle, and, after the death of his elder brother without issue, 6th Earl. He was father of Archibald, 7th Earl of Argyle, and of James, created Earl of Irvine. In modern times it was in the hands of the Cunninghames; it was latterly left by Miss Mary Cunninghame to the late well-known Lord Milton's second son, Henry Fletcher, who, in virtue of a clause in the settlement, took the surname of Campbell, and, dying without issue, was succeeded by his younger brother, John, the accomplished and patriotic Lieut. General, who, as he was the only surviving brother, possessed, under the double name of Fletcher-Campbell, the two estates of Saltoun and Boquhan. They were then divided between his two sons, Andrew Fletcher, Esq., of Saltoun, and Henry Fletcher Campbell, Esq., of Boquhan."
In 1900, Admiral Henry John Fletcher Campbell, R.N., C.B., of Boquhan, who succeeded his father, Henry Fletcher Campbell, sold the estate to Stephen Mitchell, Esq., tobacco manufacturer, Glasgow, who is considerably enhancing the value of the estate by varied improvements. Besides erecting several estate workmen's houses, on the most approved sanitary principles, a handsome porter lodge of Swiss design, admitted to be the finest lodge in the county, has been erected at the approach to the mansion house near Kippen Station.
On the muir of Newmill, close to the highway leading to Fintry, is a small lake called Loch Leggan, about a mile in circumference, and for the most part surrounded with a wood composed of fir trees. There are no visible feeders to the loch - that is to say, there are no burns running into it - yet it is always plentifully supplied with water. A considerable stream issues from it, and this favours the conclusion that the loch is fed from numerous springs. The water wheel of a meal mill, some two or three hundred yards down, is driven by this stream, and the fact of the miller at Broich having always plenty of water favours this theory.
The Crooks of Broich
The stream, increasing as it flows, forms the burn of Broich, whose waters, after passing through a beautiful glen close by the old house of Broich, and the present mansion house of Arngomery, meanders, serpent-like, through the lands of Fairfield, and thus earns the name of the "Crooks of Broich," ere it discharges itself into the Forth. At one time a portion of this burn was employed in floating moss from the plain below.
An Island Dwelling
The Rev. Mr. Wilson has preserved several interesting traditions connected with this loch. One is that a house stood in the centre, that in the hollow there was a spring, with a huge stone upon it, that the stone by some mistake was removed, and the house flooded in consequence. In the old statistical account of the parish, Dr. Campbell, speaking of the loch, says that:
"in the middle there is a cairn, or heap of stones, supposed to be the ruins of an old house, of which, however, no authentic account can now be obtained."
The fact, however, that the remains of a causeway, about 7 feet wide, extends from the north, and runs in a south-westerly direction until it is lost in the loch, and lost in the soil, favours this tradition. Similar cairns have been found in most of the lochs of Scotland, and in some instances, too, causeways, and within the last few years antiquaries have made additional discoveries regarding them, e.g., in Queen Margaret's Loch, near Forfar; in Carlingwark Loch, in Galloway; in Kinellan Loch, in Ross-shire; in the loch of Dowalton, in Wigtownshire (which was drained in the summer of 1863 by the late Sir W. Maxwell of Monreith), and in the Loch of Leys, where from time immemorial the building has been known as the Castle of Leys.
The cairn in the centre of Loch Leggan, with the causeway on the shore, are generally supposed to be the remains of a crannog - an island dwelling erected on wooden piles jointed together - where some of the chiefs or nobles belonging to the parish permanently resided; in any case, where they retreated in times of danger. There have also been found dwellings similarly constructed in other countries as well as Scotland. In Ireland they are very numerous. The Irish crannogs were erected chiefly in bogs or deep morasses, and were called insula fortificata. The Swiss were in the habit of building large villages along the shores of the lakes, on platforms, supported on piles, such as have been found in our Scotch lochs, which they reached by means of gangways. Similar dwellings, too, have been found in Denmark and Hanover, in Savoy and Upper Italy.
The Bloody Mires
Tradition has it that a battle was fought to the north east of Loch Leggan, about the year 1534, at the place which is still known by the name of the Bloody Mires. The battle arose on account of a dispute betwixt the inhabitants of the baronies of Dasher and Arnprior regarding the course of the stream which issues from the loch. Many lost their lives on the occasion. The matter having been brought under the notice of King James V., who was then residing at Stirling, he gave instructions for the stream to be diverted into a channel different from the wishes of the inhabitants, which course it still holds. Two swords and a stirrup and spur were found eighteen inches below the surface by Mr. James Buchan, Arnprior, in 1858, while making a road over a marshy place near the wood known as The Firs, above Arnmore, close to what is called Bloody Mires, and these relics may go towards proving the tradition that a battle was fought here, and, further, that there were dragoons engaged on the occasion of the encounter.
There are no less than five places in the parish which from time immemorial have been known as "Keirs," or forts, viz.:
Keir Hill of Glentirran,
above the mansion house of Boquhan, a portion of which has been used by the family of Fletcher-Campbell as a burying place.
Keir Hill of Dasher,
situated on the west bank of Cuthbertson Glen, on the property of Kirkhill, presently covered with oak trees.
Keir Brae of Drum,
looking eastward on the north side of the burn which separates the farm of Drum from Gateside.
Keir Knowe of Arnmore,
west from the present farm steading of Laraben, scarcely traceable.
Keir Brae of Garden,
on the western boundary of the property of Garden.
The two most perfect Keirs are those of Dasher and Drum. There is also at Garden, to the east of the present mansion house, the remains of what has been known for generations as the Peel of Garden, situated upon a peninsula on the north-west side of what was a morass or loch. This morass was drained many years ago, and is now called the Meadow.
Around this peel there was a rampart, or outer fortification, called a barm-kyn or a berm-kyn, and a ditch, pretty entire until the middle of the nineteenth century. These peel towers were usually three storeys high. In times of danger the cattle were placed in the lower storey, while the second and third storeys were chiefly occupied by the women and children of the family. The battlement, or bartizan, was used as a place of outlook, while near the roof hung a large iron cone, sunk in an iron grating, which was always filled with wood, called the bale or needfire, ready to be lit at a moment's notice.
In the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," Sir Walter Scott thus refers to this rude mode of telegraphing:
"The ready page, with hurried hand,
Awakened the need fire's slumbering brand,
And ruddy blushed the heaven;
For a sheet of flame from the turret high,
Waved like a blood flag on the sky,
All flaring and uneven,
And soon a score of fires, I ween,
From height, and hill, and cliff were seen;
Each with warlike tidings fraught,
Each from each the signal caught."
Now the question is - Who built those Keirs? They have been variously called British, Pictish, and Norwegian. The author of the old "Statistical Account" seems to favour the idea that they were erected by the Romans. They are certainly not Roman remains, for the Romans erected their fortifications on the plains for temporary protection, and they had always a figure, with four right angles or a square, and sometimes an oblong, while the Keirs were all oval, if not circular. Again, they are certainly not Norwegian, as they came from a country where wood was used only in the construction of edifices and it is most unlikely that, being unskilled in the use of stone, the Norwegians would take to it for building purposes in the land of their adoption. Besides, no such edifices were ever known to exist in Norway. We are, therefore, forced to the conclusion that these Keirs were Pictish remains. Like other places of fortification, they were doubtless often destroyed and often rebuilt. This may have continued during the period known as the Viking period in Scotland, and also during the struggles of the feudal ages. Tradition says that the Picts had a city at the confluence of the Goodie with the Forth, in the fifth or sixth centuries, supposed to have been built of clay. It would be in vain, therefore, to dig for any remains of the Picts there.
What were Keirs?
This leads us to enquire, what were those Keirs? Their very existence implies life, energy, skill; that they were the resort of human beings like ourselves, who experienced hopes and fears, joys and sorrows. We cannot doubt that within them, around them, there were deeds of daring, oftentimes dauntlessly displayed. But what were they? Were they mere forts or dwelling places, or places for signalling? It is suggested that it is not unlikely they were used for all these purposes together during times of war and danger, and are what antiquaries call Brochs, the typical form of which is a hollow, circular tower of dry-built masonry, 50 feet in height and 60 feet in diameter, with walls 15 feet thick, containing oblong chambers with vaulted roofs.
Brochs at Coldoch and Drum
In the year 1874 Mr. Graham of Coldoch, on the other side of the valley, had a mound on his estate similar in construction to above description explored, and which was pronounced to be the remains of a Broch, perfect in all its parts. This erection is still preserved in good condition, and believed to be a Broch, notwithstanding the statement of many antiquaries that there were no Brochs south of the Forth. In 1832, Mr. Zuill, farmer at Drum, requiring stones for building purposes, partly opened the Keir Brae of Drum. According to the account of John Logan, Cauldhame, who was employed to give assistance, they discovered a circular building built like a drystone dyke, with flat, rude stones without mortar. They were arrested in their work, however, by the appearance of flags, conveying the idea that it had been a place of sepulture, but no bones were found, only a dark, earthy substance, like bodies crumbled to dust. This, however, by no means detracts from the theory advanced that these remains are Brochs, and had been dwelling places in ages past, as it may have been customary to bury the dead within Brochs, just as it was the practice to bury the dead under the floor of the old church of Kippen, the tower of which still stands in the graveyard.
Peat moss is to be found everywhere in the north of Europe; indeed, many millions of acres are covered with it, yet its study has been very much neglected or overlooked by naturalists and scientific men, who appear to regard it as either unworthy of their notice or at least unworthy of the appliances of scientific research. In its original state the moss in the valley is from ten to thirteen feet deep, one half - the upper - is known as the white or flow moss, the under being black moss, which not only makes the best peats, but it was from this that the peat houses were made by those who were engaged about the beginning of the nineteenth century in clearing the moss from what is now converted into some of the finest arable farms in the valley of the Forth.
A portion of the Burn of Broich was diverted through the lands of Strewiebank, and thence to Kippen Moss, where it was employed in flooding the moss through channels to the Forth. For a similar purpose a steam pump was erected on the banks of the Forth by the proprietors of Blackhouse, and the ruins of the brick building used at this time are still to be seen. This pump forced the water up into lochs, or dams, constructed on top of the moss, and reclaimed a considerable portion of the land on the farms of Blackhouse and Littlekerse.
Roman Relics Found
The operations resulted in excellent meadow and arable lands being reclaimed, while at same time they yielded several interesting Roman relics, which are now preserved in the Antiquarian Museum of Edinburgh. Beneath the moss, juniper, hazel, birch, rowan, and various large trees - oak and pine especially - have been found. Trunks, 60 feet in length, and from 4 to 6 feet in diameter, have been found, indicating the existence of a forest, and the fact that the trees have their roots in the earth is evidence that they grew there. Many of the trees seem broken off near the surface of clay, and have charred wood in large quantities all round their roots, indicating that they were destroyed by fire, while others bear the marks of having been felled with the hatchet.
Reclaiming the Land
The reclaiming of this waste land was discontiaued about 1853, owing to the fishery proprietors on the lower reaches of the Forth objecting to the large pieces of moss being floated down the river completely destroying their fishing nets; while the cost of clearing was also heavy, as it takes not less than £30 to clear each acre, while the rent of an acre, when cleared and cultivated, is, over all, about 30s.
The practice of cutting peats for fuel is also dying out, owing to the expense and labour involved. Scientific research, however, has pointed to the possibility of a new era dawning in utilising this peat moss - which covers ground of most excellent quality - in the manufacture of carpets, articles of clothing, etc. Fabrics woven from it are found to have the toughness of linen with the warmth of wool. Paper of several qualities has been already manufactured from moss, and the many uses to which peat fibres have been applied indicates possibilities that may render the large stretches of moss in the Kippen district a valuable addition to its resources in the future.