The Braemar highlands: their tales, traditions and history
By Elizabeth Taylor
Another legend gives the origin of a trio of names —Lumsden, Mulloch, and Coutts
It runs thus : On one occasion the Danes were terribly incensed against Malcolm Canmore, and came against him with an army of 30,000 men, under the command of General Mullock. The Scottish king could only raise 7000 men, whom he marched through Athole, Glen Tilt, and Braemar to Culblean, where the Danes were encamped.................
..........After the battle was over, Malcolm, much fatigued, retired to his castle on Loch Kinoird, and, so the legend goes, on lying down to sleep was sadly annoyed with a continued howling which assailed his ears. Calling the captain of his guard, Allen Durward, he instructed him to go and ‘coutts’,ie. still these dogs, as.he could get no sleep for them.
The captain and some of his men proceeded forthwith to still the dogs, but found, to their great amusement, that the howling did not proceed from dogs, but from some babies which had recently made their appearance. As they knew his Majesty would fully appreciate the joke, they returned to tell him of their non-success, and to suggest that the only way they could carry his orders into effect was by naming them Coutts.
To this comical mode of couttsing Malcolm gave his sanction, and the children were afterwards taken under the royal patronage. On growing up, they were put into possession of a great part of Cromar, and kept themselves a distinct clan. This Clan Coutts, during one of its feuds with the Clan Allen of Corgarff, were cut off to one man near the Vannich Hill.
While residing for a short time near the place in Corgarff, I found that the local tradition of the battle ran thus :—
“Near a hill in Corgarff called Diedhsoider a smart battle took place between the Clan Coutts and Clan Allen of that place, about the year 1508 ; and some miles farther up Corgarff, where the Vannich Hill rises, near a hunting-shiel belonging to Sir Charles Forbes, is a large stone known as the 'Clach Couttsich', where the captain of the party was killed, the rest having all been cut off save one. This.one surviving Coutts had three sons, from whom sprang three distinct families of Couttses, whose distinctive appellations, or tee-names, being none of the most refined, I may as well leave them unrecorded.”
[Note: we have researched the location of Clach Choutsaich, Diedsoider and Vannich. Information, photos and maps are posted under the "Places" tab.]
BY JOHN GRANT, GLENGAIRN.
....... ...The origin of the Couttses has been always recounted to me as
given in the Legends. Another way of it is, that some Macdonald
from Skye, with a few men, cut down so many of the Danes flying
from the battle of Monandawin, at the steps of Ordie, that Malcolm
Canmore ordered that Cuts should be his name, which became
softened into Courts. The Couttses seem to have continuedpro-
prietors of Westercoul until the beginning of last century. When
they came into possession of these lands is difficult to ascertain.
They suffered severely in the wars of the Covenant ; for on one
occasion the laird was heavily fined, and on another the house was
burnt. Their rival, the Clan Allan, were, as is very certain, Stuarts,
and were said to be of the Royal Family. We are warranted in
•■believing that both are very old families, though scarcely dating to
the days of King Malcolm. All the Allanachs of the Braes of Mar
axe Stuarts, who came thither from Strathdown.............
........... Malcolm was much fatigued when he returned to his
shooting-box in Loch Einnord ; 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 "
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 be 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 Corgarff. After it had
continued for many years, the Couttses resolved to root out
their foes, and gathered, young and old, for that purpose.
They came good speed, and beat the Clan Allan at the Burn
of ITaigh-an-t-saighdeir (the soldier's tomb); but, too
rashly squatting, down in the places of those they had
ousted, they allowed the vanquished to reassemble in the
Hearing of this, the chief of Clan Coutts
hastily assembled a few followers and hurried away, leaving
orders for the mass to follow close after. The Clan Allan
met this small party on the Vannich, and cut them to pieces.
There is a stone, called Claoh a 'Chouttsich, where they fell.
The Couttses, " like ilka dog," had their day. The loss of
their chief caused their ruin. All the clan except one very
poor man perished.
He luckily had three sons, and at his
death apportioned them his goods and chattels as follows :
— To the eldest, " an lair bhan" (the grey mare), and from
him, therefore, came " Couttsich na larach baine " (grey
mare Couttses); to the second, "bolla 'mhin eorna" (a boll
of bear-meal), thence father of " Couttsich a' bholla 'mhin
eorna " (the boll of bear-meal Couttses) ; and to the third,
all the worthless traps he could pick up about their bothy,
the progenitor of " Couttsich cac chon " (the dog-dirt
Couttses), dog-dirt being an elegant term to imply the
worthlessness of the last son's inheritance.....
.........." Dowie was the day Jock Tarn married,
For Culbleen was burnt and Cromar harried."
Jock Tarn lived at the Leys, it appears. On that occasion,
it is handed down by tradition that the pipers took their
stand on Knock Argaty, and the wild pibroch rang through
the whole country, while Gilderoy and his men drove off
the inhabitants' herds and flocks. They took their way
with these over the Kore and Drum; the largest of the
despoiled proprietors followed to offer ransom. They could
not, however, come to terms, as the laird would give but
one half-crown a-head of redemption for the cattle.
Whether about those times, or somewhat later, I cannot
say, but on an errand similar to Irving's, Coutts, one of
the Auchterfoul or Westercoul family, with a neighbour —
likely another Coutts — was despatched with all the money
the country could raise to buy back their cattle. The
rogues absconded with these monies, and it is asserted the
progenitor of the great Coutts & Co. — one of the pair —
first raised the wind in this mauner.
Lord Braco, who had supplanted Allancuaich and Dal-
more, was a favourer of the established Government. In-
vercauld himself was an old man, and what influence he
possessed he freely used for the same party as Braco : his
son had a commission in the Black Watch. But these two
proprietors' opposition was of little moment. The whole of
the district was Jacobite — rich and poor, young and old,
men and women ; ami be opinions what they may, all must
allow that the heroes of the '45 were a noble, chivalrous,
disinterested, brave, and gallant band.
Chief among the men of Mar shine conspicuous Charles
Gordon of Blellack and Pronie, commonly known as "Muckle
Pronie," the correspondent of the Laird of Stoneywood;
ohiefer, Francis Farquhurson of Monaltrie, called the Baron
Ban, or Fairhaired Baron ; chiefest, James Farquharson of
Balmoral, brother of Peter of Inverey. He was, on account
of the incapacity of his nephew Fmlay (see the Lejend of the
Inverey 8),, to all intents and purposes the head of the Inverey
branch of the family, and took the foremost place in raising
And who followed them to the battlefield ? Who donned
the white cockade? Who drew the broad claymore? and
who drove over the necks of the foes of Prince Charlie?
Let me think now. There was Patrick Fleming of Auch-
. intoul, the fourteenth laird of the name — Patrick the Little
■ — little, I allow, but how dexterous, how active, how
hardy! Was there among the Highlanders a swordsman
so skilled— so quick of eye— so cunning in the tricks of
fence ? Few and rare indeed they must have been. A cer-
tain Coutts, vapouring with a bright new claymore, was
passing Auchintoul :
"A proper weapon," quoth the laird. "I think you
ought to give it to me."
" Bv no manner of means," returned the Coutts. " I
trust I can use it as well as any of the Fleming name."
" Say'st so, friend ; and what if I take it from you with
my mother's distaff? "
" Verily it shall be thine to have and to hold."
The little Fleming ran for his weapon, and the pass at
arms commenced, and ended also, for one cunning hit over
the fingers, and the sword fell from the Coutts' hand, and
passed out of his possession. It was handled to some purpose in the '45, you may believe. " Prospere procede
et regna," O Little Fleming of Auchintoul !