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BADGE: Giuthas (pinus sylvestris) pine

SLOGAN: Stand fast, Craig Elachaidh

PIBROCH: Craigelachaidh

There seems no good reason to doubt that Clan Grant was originally of the same ancient royal stock as Clan Gregor. It is true that there is a family of the same name in England, but it is of a separate and different origin, and probably derived its patronymic from the ancient name of the river Cam, which was originally the Granta, or from the ancient designation of Cambridge, which was the Caer Grant of the early Saxons. Early in the eighteenth century, when there seemed some prospect of the proscription of the name MacGregor being removed, a meeting of the MacGregors and the Grants was held in Blair Athol, and it was proposed that, in view of their ancient relationship, the two clans should adopt a common name and acknowledge a single chief. The meeting lasted for fourteen days, and, though it finally broke up without coming to an agreement, several of the Grants, like the Laird of Ballindalloch, showed their loyalty to the ancient kinship by adding the MacGregor patronymic to their name. According to the tradition of the clan, the founder of the Grants was Gregor, second son of Malcolm, chief of the MacGregors in the year 1160. It is said he took his distinguishing cognomen from the Gaelic Grannda, or "ugly", in allusion to the character of his features. It is possible, however, that this branch of Clan Alpin took its name rather from the country in which it settled. In the district of Strathspey is a wide moor known as the "griantach", or Plain of the Sun, the number of pagan remains scattered over its surface showing it to have been in early times a chief centre of the Beltane or Sun Worship. Residents here would be set down by the early monkish writers under the designation of "de Griantach" or "de Grant". This latter suggested origin of the name is supported by the crest of the Grant family, which is a Mountain in Flames, an obvious allusion to the Baal-teine or Baal-fire of the early pagan faith.

The first of the name to appear in written records was Gregor, Sheriff of Inverness in the reign of Alexander II, between 1214 and 1249. It was probably this Gregor de Grant who obtained Stratherick through marriage with an heiress of the Bisset of Lovat and Aboyne. The son of this magnate, by name Laurence or Laurin, who was witness to a deed by the Bishop of Moray in 1258, obtained wide lands in Strathspey by marrying the heiress of Gilbert Comyn of Glencharny; and the son of Laurin, Sir Ian, was a noted supporter of the patriot Wallace.

It may have been about this time that the incident happened which transferred the stronghold, now known as Castle Grant in Strathspey, from the ownership of the once powerful Comyns to that of the Grants. According to tradition a younger son of Grant of Stratherick ran away with and married the daughter of his host, the Chief of MacGregor. With thirty followers the young couple fled to Strathspey and took refuge in the fastness now known as Huntly's Cave, a little more than a mile from the castle, at that time known as Freuchie, Comyn of Freuchie, little liking such a settlement in his immediate neighbourhood, tried to dislodge the trespassers, but without result. Then the MacGregor Chief appeared upon the scene with an armed following and demanded his daughter. He arrived at night, and was received by his astute son-in-law with much respect and hospitality. As the feast went on at the mouth of the cavern, Grant so arranged the comings and goings of his men in the torchlight and among the woods that his father-in-law was impressed with what appeared to be the considerable size of his following, and, changing his mind with regard to the desirability of the match, freely forgave the young couple. Forthwith Grant proceeded to turn his father-in-law's friendship to account. He told him of the attacks made upon him by Comyn of Freuchie, and persuaded him to help in a reprisal. Before morning the united forces of Grant and MacGregor made an attack on Freuchie, slew the Comyn chief, and took possession of the castle. As a token and memento of the occurrence, the skull of Comyn is carefully preserved at Castle Grant to the present day.

The castle did not immediately change its name, for in a charter under the Great Seal in 1442 Sir Duncan Grant is described as "Dominus de eadem et de Freuchie". A succeeding chief, Sir Ian, joined the Earls of Huntly and Mar with his clan in 1488 in support of James III against his rebellious nobles; so by that time the Grants had become a power to be reckoned with. Like most of the Highland clans they had their own story of fiery feud and bloody raid. One of the chief quarrels in which they were engaged remains notable from the fact that it led directly to a notorious historical event, the slaughter of the Bonnie Earl of Moray at Dunibristle on 7th February, 1592. The trouble began when the Earl of Huntly, Chief of the Gordons and of the Catholics of the north, finding himself in danger among the Protestant faction at court, retired to his estates and proceeded to erect a castle at Ruthven in Badenoch, not far from the Grant country. This seemed to the Grants and Clan Chattan to be intended to overawe their district, and difficulties arose when the members of Clan Chattan, who were Huntly's vassals, refused to fulfil their obligations to furnish the materials for the building. About the same time John Grant, the Tutor, or trustee, of Ballindalloch, refused certain payments to the widow of the late laird, a sister of Gordon of Lesmore. In the strife which followed a Gordon was slain, and as a consequence the Tutor was outlawed and Ballindalloch was besieged and captured by Huntly. That was on 2nd November, 1590. Forthwith the Grants and Maclntoshes sought the protection of the Earls of Athol and Moray. They refused Huntly's summons to deliver up the Tutor, and when surprised at Forres by the sudden appearance of Huntly, fled to the Earl of Moray's castle of Darnaway. Here another Gordon was shot by one of Moray's servants. This bred bad blood between the two earls, and later, when the Earl of Bothwell, after an attempt on the life of Chancellor Maitland, was said to be harboured by Moray in his house of Dunibristle, Huntly willingly accepted a commission to attack that place. Here again a Gordon was mortally wounded, and, on the Earl of Moray fleeing along the shore, he was pursued by the brothers of the two slain men, and promptly put to death. Among other acts of vengeance Huntly sent a force of Lochaber men against the Grants in Strathspey, killing eighteen of them, and laying waste the lands of Ballindalloch. Afterwards, when the young Earl of Argyll was sent to attack Huntly, the Grants took part with him at the battle of Glenlivet, and Argyll's defeat there was mainly owed to the action of John Grant of Gartenbeg, one of Huntly's vassals, who, as arranged with Huntly, retired with his men at the beginning of the action, and thus completely broke the centre and left wing of Argyll's army.

The most notable feature in the annals of the clan during the first half of the seventeenth century was the career of James Grant of Carron. The determining factor in the career of this notable freebooter was an event which had happened some seventy years previously. This was the murder of John Grant of Ballindalloch by John Roy Grant of Carron, a son of John Grant of Glen Moriston, at the instigation of the Laird of Grant, who, it is said, had conceived a grudge against his kinsman. A feud between the Grants of Carron and the Grants of Ballindalloch was the result. In the course of this feud, at a fair at Elgin about the year 1625, one of the Grants of Ballindalloch knocked down and wounded Thomas Grant, one of the Carron family. The brother of Thomas, James Grant of Carron, attacked the assailant and killed him on the spot. At the instance of Ballindalloch, James Grant was cited to stand trial, and, as he did not appear, was outlawed. In vain the Laird of Grant tried to reconcile the parties, while James Grant offered money compensation, and even the exile of himself. Nothing but his blood, however, would satisfy Ballindalloch, and, driven to despair, with his life every moment in jeopardy, James Grant finally collected a band of broken men from all parts of the Highlands, and set up as an independent freebooter. His career was that of another Gilderoy, or the hero of the famous MacPherson's Rant. Lands were wasted by him and men were slain, and Ballindalloch, having killed John Grant of Carron, the nephew of the freebooter, was himself forced to flee to the North of Scotland. At last, at the end of December 1630, a party of Clan Chattan surprised James Grant at Auchnachayle in Strathdon by night, when after receiving eleven wounds and seeing four of his party killed, the cateran was taken prisoner, sent to Edinburgh for trial, and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle.

About the same time the famous feud occurred between Gordon of Rothiemay and Crichton of Frendraught, which ended in the burning of Frendraught, with Lord Aboyne, the Marquess of Huntly's son, and several of his friends. Rothiemay had been helped in the feud by James Grant, and it was said the latter had been in treaty to undertake the burning of the mansion.

On the night of 15th October 1632, the freebooter escaped from Edinburgh Castle by descending on the west side by means of ropes furnished him by his wife or son, and fled to Ireland. Presently, however, it was known that he had returned, and Ballindalloch, setting a watch upon his wife's house at Carron, almost secured him. The freebooter, however, shot the chief assailant, one Patrick MacGregor, and escaped. Presently by a stratagem he managed to seize Ballindalloch himself, and kept him for twenty days prisoner in a kiln near Elgin. Ballindalloch finally escaped by bribing one of his warders, and as a result several of James Grant's accomplices were sent to Edinburgh and hanged.

The cateran's final outrage was the surprise and slaughter of two other friends of Ballindalloch, who had received money to kill him. A few days later Grant and four of his associates, finding themselves in straits in Strathbogie, entered the house of the common hangman, unaware of his profession, and asked for food. The man recognised them, and the house was surrounded; but the freebooter made a stout defence, killing three of the besiegers, and presently, with his brother Robert, effected his escape, though his son and two other associates were captured, carried to Edinburgh, and executed. This took place in the year 1636, and as no more is heard of James Grant, it may be presumed that, like Rob Roy MacGregor, a century afterwards, he finally died in bed.

A few years later, on the outbreak of the Civil War, when the Marquess of Montrose raised the standard of Charles I in the Highlands, he was joined by James, the sixteenth Chief of the Grants, with his clan, who fought valiantly in the royal cause.

Twenty-one years later still, in 1666, occurred a strange episode which added a large number of new adherents to the "tail" of the Chiefs of Grant. As recorded in a famous ballad, the Farquharsons had attacked and slain Gordon of Brackly on Deeside. To avenge his death the Marquess of Huntly raised his clan and swept up the valley. At the same time his ally, the Laird of Grant, now a very powerful chief, occupied the upper passes of the Dee, and between them they all but destroyed the Farquharsons. At the end of the day Huntly found two hundred Farquaharson orphans on his hands. These he carried home and kept in singular fashion. A year afterwards Grant was invited to dine with Huntly, and when dinner was over, the Marquess proposed to show his guest some rare sport. He took him to a balcony overlooking the kitchen of the castle. Below they saw the remains of the day's victuals heaped in a large trough. At a signal from the chief cook a hatch was raised, and there rushed in to the kitchen like a pack of hounds, yelling, shouting, and fighting, a mob of half-naked children, who threw themselves upon the scraps and bones, struggling and scratching for the base morsels. "These", said Huntly, "are the children of the Farquharsons we slew last year". The Laird of Grant, however, was a humane man; he begged the children from the Marquess, took them to Speyside, and reared them among the people of his own clan, where their descendants were known for many a day as the Race of the Trough.

At the Revolution in 1689, Ludovic, the seventeenth Chief took the side of William of Orange, and after the fall of Dundee at Killiecrankie, when Colonel Livingstone hastened from Inverness to attack the remnants of the Jacobite army under Generals Buchan and Cannon, at the Haughs of Cromdale in Strathspey, he was joined by Grant with 600 men, The defeat of the Jacobites on that occasion, and the capture of Ruthven Barracks opposite Kingussie, gave the final blow to the cause of King James in Scotland.

Again, during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, there were 800 of the clan in arms for the Government, though they took no active part against Prince Charles Edward. The military strength of the Grants was then estimated at 850 men.

In the middle of the eighteenth century Sir Ludovic Grant, Baronet, married Margaret, daughter of James Ogilvie, fifth Earl of Findlater and second Earl of Seafield, and through that alliance his grandson, Sir Lewis Alexander Grant, succeeded as fifth Earl of Seafield in 1811. Meantime Sir Ludovic's son, Sir James Grant, had played a distinguished part on Speyside. He it was who in 1776, in connection with extensive plans for the improvement of the whole region of middle Strathspey, founded the village of Grantown, which has since become so notable a resort. The same laird in 1793, two months after the declaration of war against this country by France, raised a regiment of Grant fencibles, whose weapons now cover the walls of the entrance hall in Castle Grant.

An unfortunate circumstance in the history of this regiment was the mutiny which took place at Dumfries. The trouble arose from a suspicion that the regiment, which had been raised for service in Scotland only, was about to be dispatched overseas. A petty dispute having arisen, some of the men were imprisoned, and were released by their comrades in open defiance of the officers. This constituted a mutiny. In consequence the regiment was marched to Musselburgh, where a corporal and three privates found guilty of mutiny were condemned to death. On 16th July, 1795, the four men were marched to Gullane links. There they were made to draw lots, and two of them were shot.

On Sir Lewis Alexander Grant succeeding to the earldom of Seafield in 1811 he added the Seafield family name of Ogilvie to his own patronymic. The earldom had originally been granted to James, fourth Earl of Findlater, in 1701, in recognition of his distinguished services as Solicitor-General, Secretary of State for Scotland, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and High Commissioner to the General Assembly, and it has received additional lustre from its connection with the ancient Chiefs of Grant.

[The first recipient of the title was at the time Lord Deskford, second son of George Ogilvie, third Earl of Findlater. It was be who, at the Union, when the Scottish Parliament rose for the last time, exclaimed, "This is an end of an auld sang !"]

The grandson of the first earl of the name of Grant, John Charles, who succeeded as seventh Earl in 1853, married the Honourable Caroline Stuart, youngest daughter of the eleventh Lord Blantyre. With the consent of his son he broke the entail of the Grant estates, and that son, Ian Charles, the eighth Earl, at his death unmarried, bequeathed these estates to his mother. It was the seventh and eighth Earls who carried out the vast tree-planting operations in Strathspey which have changed the whole climate of the region, restoring its ancient forest character, and rendering it the famous health resort it is at the present day. Meanwhile no fewer than three earls succeeded to the title without possession of the estates. The first of these was Lady Seafield's brother-in-law, James, third son of the sixth Earl, who was member of Parliament for Elgin and Nairn from 1868 to 1874. Francis William, the son of this earl, born in 1847, had emigrated in early life to New Zealand. At that time the possibility of his succeeding to the title appeared exceedingly remote. On the death of the eighth Earl, the emigrant's father succeeded to the title, and the emigrant himself became Viscount Reidhaven. He married a daughter of Major George Evans of the 47th regiment, and though he succeeded to the title of earl in 1888, it made no difference in his fortunes, and he died six months later. His son, the next holder of the title, was eleventh Earl of Seafield and twentyfourth Chief of Clan Grant. His lordship's home-coming to Castle Grant was the occasion of an immense outburst of enthusiasm on the part of the clan, and afterwards, residing among his people, he and his countess did everything to endear themselves to the holders of their ancient and honourable name.

The Earl died on active service in the Great War, and while his daughter succeeded to the Grant estates and the title of Seafield, his brother inherited the Barony of Strathspey and the chiefship of the clan. Lord Strathspey, with his wife, son and daughter, returned to New Zealand in 1923.

The Grant country stretches from Craigellachie above Aviemore to another Craigellachie on the Spey near Aberlour. It is a country crowded with interesting traditions. Many a time the wild bands of warriors have gathered on the shores of the little loch of Baladern on its southern border, and the slogan of "Stand fast, Craigellachie !" has been shouted in many a fierce melee. Even as late as 1820, during the general election after the death of George III, the members of the clan found occasion to show their mettle. Party feeling was running high, and a rumour reached Strathspey that the ladies of the Chief's house had suffered some affront at Elgin at the instance of the rival clan Duff. Next morning there were 900 Strathspey men, headed by the factor of Seafield, at the entrance to the town, and it was only by the greatest tact on the part of the authorities that a collision was prevented. Even to the present day the old clan spirit runs strong on Speyside, and the patriotism of the race has been shown by the number of men who enlisted to defend the honour of their country in the great war of 1914 on the plains of France.


Gilroy Macilroy MacGilroy

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