Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page

CLAN FARQUHARSON

BADGE: Lus nam braoileag (vaccineum vitis idea) Red whortleberry

SLOGAN: Cairn na chuimhne

It is said of an Earl of Angus, chief of the great house of Douglas, in the days of James V, that at Douglas Castle, far in the Lanark fastnesses of Douglasdale, he laughed at the threats of Henry VIII of England. "Little knows my royal brother-in-law", he said, "the skirts of Cairntable. I could keep myself here against all his English host". With much more justification might the Farquharson chiefs of bygone centuries have laughed at the threats of their most powerful enemies. Upper Deeside, which was their clan country, was so surrounded with a rampart of the highest mountains in Scotland, and so narrow and few were the approaches to it through the defiles of the hills, that even the kings of Scotland themselves must have hesitated to attack so formidable a fastness.

In the earliest times, as it is to-day, Upper Deeside was a favourite resort of royalty. Just as Queen Victoria and King Edward and King George have made their way thither in the autumns of more recent years, for the hunting and the fishing and other Highland delights which the district affords in royal abundance, the early Scottish kings arc said to have resorted thither in their time. Craig Coynoch, or Kenneth, is said to take its name from the fact that from its summit in the ninth century Kenneth II was wont to watch the chase; and not far off, at the east end of the bridge over the Cluny, stood Kindrochit Castle, the residence of Malcolm Canmore and later kings, from which the neighbouring village took its name of Castletown of Braemar. Among other traditions of royal visits at that time the great Highland Gathering still held here each autumn is said to have been founded by the mighty Malcolm, who offered a prize of a purse of gold, with a full suit of Highland dress and arms, to the man who could first reach the top of Craig Coynoch. Here Clan Farquhar, or Finlay, has been settled from the days at least of King Robert the Bruce.

According to tradition and family history the chiefs of the Farquharsons were lineally descended from the great ancient Thanes of Fife. They emerge into the limelight of history early in the fourteenth century in the person of a redoubtable Shaw MacDuff of Rothiemurchus. It was the time when the great house of Comyn, previously all-powerful in many quarters of Scotland, was going down before the might of the Bruces, their junior competltors for the Scottish crown. The Comyn chiefs had their headquarters in Badenoch, and Shaw MacDuff with his followers performed prodigies of valour in driving them out of that country. As a reward King Robert the Bruce is said to have appointed him hereditary chamberlain of the royal lands of Braemar, about the upper waters of the Dee, on the other side of the Cairngorms from his original patrimony. Here ever since, with vicissitudes more or less dramatic and romantic, the Farquharson chiefs have remained settled.

The son of Shaw MacDuff, founder of the family, was a certain Fearchar who lived in the reigns of Robert II and III. From him the clan takes its name of Mac'earchar, or Farquharson. He married a daughter of Patrick MacDonachadh, ancestor of the Robertsons of Lude. His son Donald also married a Robertson, of the family of Calveen; and his son again, another Fearchar, married a daughter of Chisholm of Strathglas. This Fearchar left a large family; several of whom settled in the Braes of Angus, and became ancestors of respectable families there. From Finlay Mor, the grandson of this Fearchar, the clan took its name of Finlay, otherwise MacKinlay or Finlayson.

The clan was a member of the great Highland confederacy of Clan Chattan, and of course played a part in the many feuds in which that confederacy was embroiled. Constantly in those early days the Croistarich, or Fiery Cross, was sent hurrying through these glens of the Upper Dee, and brought the Farquharson clansmen racing hotfoot to their immemorial gathering place at the foot of Glen Feardar, where still stands their famous "Cairn of Remembrance", Cairn-a-Quheen. As late as the end of the eighteenth century, according to the writer of the Old Statistical Account, "Were a fray or a squabble to happen at a market or any public meeting, such influence has this word over the minds of the country; people that the very mention of Cairn-na-cuimhne would in a moment collect all the people in this country who happened to be at said meeting to the assistance of the person assailed".

The Cairn of Remembrance is said to have had its origin in a curious custom of the clan. Each man, as he came to the gathering-place at the summons of his chief, brought with him a stone, which he laid down a little way off. On returning after the raid of battle each survivor lifted a stone and carried it away. The stones which were left were then counted and added to the cairn. In this way the number of the dead was ascertained. Each stone on the great heap, therefore, represents a Farquharson who fell long ago in some one of these forgotten encounters.

The slogan of Cairn-a-Quheen played its part in rousing the clan not only in many of the local clan feuds, but in not a few of the great battles of the country. Finlay Mor, already referred to, carried the royal standard at the battle of Pinkie, where he fell with many of his clan, in 1547. From this fact Finlay Mor's second son Donald got the name of Mac-an-Toisach, or "son of the leader". From him descended the Farquharsons of Finzean, who, on the death without male issue of James Farquharson, tenth chief in succession from Fearchar, son of Shaw, succeeded to the chiefship of the clan. The present Farquharsons of Invercauld are desoended from Catherine, the surviving daughter and heiress of this house, who was known, in Scottish fashion, as Lady Invercauld. This lady married Captain Ross, R.N., who again, by the custom of Scotland, took the name of the heiress, and so handed on the ancient name of the Farquharson chiefs.

When the civil wars between Charles I and his English and Scottish Parliaments broke out, towards the middle of the seventeenth century, the Farquharsons were from the first on the side of the king. The National Covenant was signed in 1638 as a protest against the king's attempts to force the English Liturgy upon Scotland. To this Covenant the Farquharsons were opposed, and Donald Farquharson of Monaltrie raised several hundreds of the clan and joined the Gordons who were defending the town of Aberdeen against the Earl of Montrose, who was then leader of the Parliament troops on the side of the Covenant. Six years later Montrose, who had refused to sign the second or Solemn League and Covenant, of 1643, and who was now a Marquess, took up arms on the side of the King and was joined by the Farquharsons "with a great number of gallant men". Later, in 1651, when Montrose had perished on the scaffold, and the young Charles II had come to Scotland to make a bid for the throne of his ancestors, the Farquharsons joined that prince, and, following him to England, took part in the battle of Worcester, where he was defeated.

Fifteen years later there occurred on. Deeside an incident which illustrates well the fierce spirit which still survived among the gentlemen of the clan at that time. The event is commemorated in the well-known ballad, "The Baron 0' Brackley", and the leading personages were John Gordon of Brackley, near Ballater, and John Farquharson of Inverey, above Braemar. According to the Gordons Brackley had, in execution of legal warrant, poinded some of Farquharson's cattle. Thereupon Farquharson raised his followers, marched down to Brackley, and proceeded to drive away both his own and Gordon's cattle. Upon Brackley sallying forth to prevent this, the Farquharsons fell upon him and slew him and his brother. The ballad makes out that Brackley and his brother were the only men in the house, and that they sallied out as a result of the taunts of Brackley's wife, a daughter of Sir Robert Burnet of Leys, who forthwith engaged in a shameless liaison with Farquharson. The ballad concludes:

O fy on you, lady! how could ye do' sae?
You opened your yetts to the fause Inverey.
She ate wi' him, drank wi' him, welcomed him in;
She welcomed the villain that slew her baron.
She kept him till morning, syne bade him be gane,
And shawed him the road that he shouldna be ta'en.
"Through Birss, and Aboyne", she said, "lyin' in a tour,
Ower the hills o' Glentanar you'll skip in an hour".
There is grief in the kitchen, and mirth in the ha';
But the Baron o' Brackley is dead and awa'.

For this deed Inverey was prosecuted, and lay in outlawry for many years. He is said to have been fierce daring, and active, and is remembered on Deeside as "the Black Colonel".

When the revolution took place the Farquharsons turned out, Inverey among them, and joined Viscount Dundee. After the battle of Killiecrankie, in which Dundee fell, Inverey had again to go into hiding. On this occasion his castle was burned and he himself only escaped in his shirt. His hiding-place still known as the Colonel's Cave, may be seen in a glen above the village of Inverey.

The Farquharson country, however, was presently to see a still greater and more famous event. About the end of the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, the Farquharsons had effected an excambion with the Earl of Mar, by which they exchanged the Haugh of Castletown, near Braemar, for the lands of Monaltrie farther down the valley. Soon after this transaction the Earl built on the haugh the stronghold now known as Braemar Castle. After the battle of Killiecrankie King William's government placed a garrison in this stronghold to keep the country in subjection; but the clansmen rose, besieged the place, forced the soldiers to retire under cover of night, and, to prevent a similar encroachment in the future, burnt the Castle. The Earl, however, had it restored, and it was here that in 1715, insulted by the new Hanoverian king, George I, he summoned the Highland chiefs for the great hunting-party at which the rising in favour of James VII and II was planned. Braemar Castle was crowded to overflowing on that occasion, and the principal meetings were held at the neighbouring house of the Farquharson chief, Invercauld. It was accordingly from the dining-room at Invercauld, still preserved in the modern mansion, that the fiery cross was sent through the glens preparatory to the raising of that "standard on the Braes of Mar", on the little mount in Castletown at hand which was to mean so much of sorrow and disaster for the clans and their chiefs. As an immediate result in this neighbourhood, Braemar Castle was again burned by Argyll's forces in 1716, after the battle of Sheriffmuir.

Meanwhile the Farquharsons had formed part of Mar's army which, under Brigadier Mackintosh, was thrown across the Forth, and marched into England as far as Preston. A noted figure on that march was Fearchar gaisgach Hath, "the Grey Warrior". This hero had taken part as a lad with the Marquess of Montrose in the Jacobite victories of 1645, and he lived to see his last remaining son fall, and the hopes of the Jacobites extinguished, at the battle of Culloden a hundred years later. After that event, at the extreme age of 115, he wandered the country, desolate and forlorn, visiting the graves of those who had fallen in the last conflict, and known far and near by the name above given him. On the way into England in 1715 in the attempt to defend the house of a widow from plunder from a band of Lochaber men he received a wound, but this did not prevent him going on with the expedition.

At Preston, when Brigadier Mackintosh and the little Jacobite army found itself on the eve of being attacked by Major-General Willis and the Government troops, John Farquharson of Invercauld, at the head of a hundred chosen Highlanders, took up position at the long narrow bridge over the Ribble, and there is little doubt he would have made good its defence against his assailants long enough to afford the Jacobites time to effect their retreat. His force was, however, recalled, and the calamitous surrender of the little Jacobite army in the town soon followed.

The Farquharsons were again out at the rising of 1745. They were mainly instrumental in defeating the Macleods at Inverury, and gave an excellent account of themselves at the battles of Falkirk and Culloden. The disastrous issue of the rising at the latter battle brought sorrow and ruin to many of the clan. After that event, Charles Farquharson, the "Meikle Factor of the Cluny", was forced to take refuge in the cave known as the Charter Chest, in the face of Craig Cluny above Invercauld. It was the place in which the chiefs in time of danger were wont to conceal their most precious possessions, and so secure was the spot that for ten months Farquharson lay concealed in it while his house, within earshot below, was occupied by soldiers of King George.

Evidently the Government was impressed by the need for laying a strong hand on the Farquharson country. About 1720 the forfeited Mar estates had been purchased from Government by Lords Dun and Grange, the latter being a brother of the Earl of Mar, Ten years later, however, Farquharson of Invercauld had purchased the lands of Castletown from these owners. About 1748 he leased Braemar Castle, with fourteen acres about it, to the Government for ninety-nine years at a rental of £14, and they proceeded to repair the house, build a rampart around it, and place a garrison within its walls. Four years later that shrewd and intrepid pacifier of the Highlands, General Wade, carried his great military road through Deeside, and in the course of doing so built across the Dee what is now known as the Old Bridge of Invercauld.

But there were to be no more Jacobite rebellions and from that day to this the Farquharson country on Deeside has remained in steady repute as a peaceful and law-abiding district. The days were over when the laird of Invercauld could undertake, for the payment of certain blackmail by the city of Aberdeen, to keep three hundred men in alms for the landward protection of the burgesses. Successive chiefs have devoted themselves to the extensive improvement of their estates. In the first half of the nineteenth century one of them, in the course of a long possession, planted no fewer than sixteen million fir trees and two million larch on his estates, besides building as much as twenty miles of good roads throughout the neighbourhood; and since the coming of the Royal family to the neighbouring estate of Balmoral in 1848 Invercauld has seen the constant entertainment of Royalty itself. Among other alliances, the Farquharson chiefs have twice inter-married with the ducal house of Atholl.

While there have been many distinguished cadet houses of the clan, it should be noted that a number bearing the name in the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray are in reality descendants of the Comyns, having changed their name after the final overthrow of their house, and adopted that of Farquharson as descendants of Fearquhard, son of Alexander, the sixth laird of Altyre.

SEPTS OF CLAN FARQUHARSON

Coutts Farquhar Finlay Finlayson Greusach Hardie Hardy
Lyon MacCaig MacCardney MacCualg MacEarachar MacFarquhar Machardie
MacKerchar MacKerracher Mackinlay Reoch Riach

Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page


e-mail to:fnsnclr@btinternet.com